The national headlines may be dominated by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but Setzler, Unterman, and the other lawmakers at the Georgia state Capitol have had at least as much effect on your lives.
With the Supreme Court sending the biggest issues of our time back to the states for action, it’s time for Georgians to shift their attention back home, too.
Do you know who your state representative is? How about which district you live in?
Do you know who your local district attorney is or when he or she is up for reelection? Did you know that district attorney is an elected office in the first place?
You should know as much or more about those offices as you do about the race for governor or president.
I make the same case to groups that invite me to speak about “Georgia politics.”
They’re usually looking for predictions about which party will win the White House in the next election or whether the filibuster could be eliminated in the U.S. Senate.
But I tell them the real question they should ask is who will chair the state Senate Judiciary Committee, which, among other things, reviews changes to gun regulations, or the state House Health and Human Services Committee, which considers changes to abortion laws.
State Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, chairs the health committee and in 2019 pushed her GOP colleagues to include an exception in the abortion bill to allow women to terminate “medically futile” pregnancies.
The former nurse told a packed committee hearing room at the time that requiring women to carry those pregnancies to term “would literally put them under psychiatric care.”
She was also one of five Republicans who voted against the bill, while seven more were excused from the vote when the bill passed the House without a single vote to spare.
Along with Gov. Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, every member of the state House and Senate will be up for election in November, if they’re running again.
And up and down the ballot, races are giving voters two distinctly different paths for Georgians to choose from.
The race for attorney general, which is usually a sleeper , puts Attorney General Chris Carr against Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan.
Carr is pushing for House Bill 481— the state’s abortion law — to be implemented as soon as possible, while Jordan told reporters Monday she won’t defend it in court if she’s elected.
“I would not defend it because I do not believe it is lawful,” she said.
Jordan opposed H.B. 481 when the Senate considered it, speaking at length about seven previous miscarriages and her belief that the law would not just endanger women’s lives, but subject them to investigations even after a miscarriage.
Elected district attorneys from around the state, including in Augusta, Athens, Macon and Savannah, have also said they do not plan to bring prosecutions under the law.
They join several Metro Atlanta DA’s, including Fulton County DA Fani Willis, DeKalb County DA Sherry Boston, and Douglas County DA Dalia Racine, who said after the court decision that they also won’t prioritize violations of H.B. 481.
The moment is bringing the power of local officials, from state senators to local prosecutors, into stark relief.
After the Supreme Court decision came down overturning Roe v. Wade, I was inundated with emails from readers. Some were enraged at the decision by the court and felt powerless to change it. Others wanted Georgia’s six-week ban to be enacted, no matter who wins the next election.
The answer for both is the same. Think globally, vote locally. The days of not knowing what’s happening in your own backyard are over.
It’s easy for Democrats to obsess over U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, but a more productive use of their time would be attending a debate in the Georgia state Senate.
Republicans go wild over AOC, but she holds far less power in Georgians’ lives than the state Senate president Pro Tem.
You do know who that is right? State Sen. Butch Miller is a Gainesville Republican who staunchly opposes abortion and separately, slipped a bill in at the last minute this year that cleared the way to ban transgender athletes from school sports.
But Miller won’t be back in the Senate next year after losing his race for lieutenant governor in the GOP primary.
I wondered at the end of that contest whether GOP voters really didn’t think he was conservative enough — or, more likely, if they just hadn’t paid enough attention to his role before the election to even know who he was.
For everyone who has reached out to me in the last week worried about the future of the state and the country, either sick that your daughters won’t have the same rights you did, or certain that the state is changing too much too soon: Do your homework. Know the issues.
The action is in the states. Your attention needs to move there, too.