GOP within reach of supermajority at Georgia Legislature

Georgia Republicans are within reach of a two-thirds “supermajority”of the state Legislature, thanks both to Election Day and a timely announcement Wednesday by one of the Capitol’s few independent lawmakers.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd, I-Milledgeville, said he may join Republican ranks and has reached out to Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. He has not reached a final decision, but the move would erase what Democrats touted Tuesday as a victory: winning enough seats to block GOP domination on issues that could alter the state constitution.

Kidd did not set a deadline for when he would make a decision, although it follows his win Tuesday over a Democratic challenger. The bulk of Kidd’s district, however, backed Democratic President Barack Obama — a potential complication that House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams said Kidd should heed.

“I don’t know what he’s going to do, but it’s certainly up to him to make a choice,” Abrams said. “Choices have repercussions.”

Republicans held 115 of 180 House seats and needed five more to meet the two-thirds threshold. In the Senate, Republicans held 36 of 56 seats and needed to pick up two to gain a two-thirds majority.

Unofficial election results showed a final House tally of 119 Republicans, 60 Democrats and 1 independent — Kidd.

The outcome in the Senate was clearer. Following Tuesday’s elections, the GOP is assured of 37 seats in the Senate, one shy of its goal. But that mark will likely still be met following a special election in January.

Kidd’s announcement aside, Ralston was in a celebratory mood.

“I am very pleased the House GOP had a historic night by growing the caucus to the largest number in modern times in Georgia,” Ralston said. “I think this is a clear indication the people of Georgia appreciate the positive focus we have placed on job creation and competitiveness, and I look forward to carrying that agenda forward into the 2013 session.”

A supermajority is one so large Democrats would be unable to block proposed changes to the state constitution. Republican supermajorities in both the House and Senate could have a profound effect on legislation in Georgia.

Constitutional amendments need two-thirds support in both chambers to get on the ballot. If the majority Republicans no longer need the support of the minority Democrats, they could be freer to pursue stronger limits on spending, taxes and abortion, and creation of private school vouchers. All those issues have been raised in recent years.

Many lawmakers, however, don’t always vote in lockstep with their respective parties, Kidd said.

“The vast majority of us are middle-of-the-line thinkers anyway,” he said. “There are Republicans who are elected who are interested in representing their constituency, who are not going to agree with the Republican Party 100 percent of the time. Nor would I.”

An example, he said, was Tuesday’s successful charter schools amendment. To reach this year’s ballot, the measure had to get 120 votes in the House and Senate. It did so through a coalition of mostly Republicans and some Democrats.

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