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“THE PEOPLE OF GEORGIA AND THE NATION MUST MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 14, 2011) — Rep. Mark Hatfield, the sponsor of the Presidential Eligibility Assurance Act (HB 401) currently before the Georgia House of Representatives, was gracious enough to grant The Post & Email an interview regarding the status of the proposed legislation given that there are two remaining days in the legislative session. Hatfield stated that if the bill is not acted upon by Wednesday, March 16, 2011, it will be “dead.”
The Post & Email had previously reported on Hatfield’s original introduction of the bill last year.
Hatfield’s biography can be found here.
MRS. RONDEAU: The Post & Email published a story about your first proposal of this bill last spring. Was it introduced after the legislative session ended?
REP. HATFIELD: No, it was toward the end of the session last year. At that time, though, it was introduced as House Bill 1516. It was proposed late in the session in order to start a conversation here in Georgia over this issue and get it out there for public consumption prior to introducing it this year.
MRS. RONDEAU: So there wasn’t time for anyone to act on it then?
REP. HATFIELD: Exactly. It was at the very end of the session.
MRS. RONDEAU: What has happened since you introduced it again this session?
REP. HATFIELD: I’ve spent a lot of time and effort in crafting the original bill. It’s called the Presidential Eligibility Assurance Act, and it would require any presidential or vice-presidential candidate, in order to gain access on the Georgia ballot, to submit an affidavit which would state that they are in compliance with the Article II, Section 1 requirements of the Constitution, namely that they meet the natural born Citizenship requirement; that they’re at least 35 years of age; and that they have been 14 years a resident of the United States.
One of the things I put in the affidavit requirement was that the affiant say that he or she has never held dual or multiple citizenship and had allegiance solely to the United States. I believe those requirements are part of the natural born Citizenship requirement that’s laid out in the United States Constitution. In addition to the affidavit, the candidate would be required to append to the affidavit documentary evidence that would show compliance with Article II, Section 1. The bill expressed a requirement for the production of a certified copy of the candidate’s first original long-form birth certificate, but in the event that a candidate did not have such a birth certificate, then there were other forms of documentation that would be acceptable and would satisfy the requirement. We included in the bill a list of possible types of documentation, but it was non-exclusive. For example, it included birth records, hospital records, baptism records, passport records, school records, college records – all different manner of records that might be used as evidence. But the requirement as to any of those records to be submitted would be that you have to produce certified copies of original documentation. So summary documents or computer-generated, non-original documents would not be acceptable.
It also included a provision that said that the Secretary of State would have the right to challenge the qualifications of a candidate for president or vice president if in the judgment of the Secretary of State, the candidate did not meet the requirements for holding office. Also, any registered voter of Georgia would be able to challenge the qualifications of such a candidate under procedures that are laid out in the bill. Finally, there was a provision that said that any member of the Electoral College from Georgia who cast a vote for a candidate who was not certified by the Georgia Secretary of State as being qualified under the Article II, Section 1 requirement would be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. That was the original bill.
MRS. RONDEAU: It sounds very comprehensive.
REP. HATFIELD: I think it is. Let me tell you some of the background on it.
In advance of even having the bill drafted, I went to the leadership of the House and talked through the bill with the leadership extensively and was given the green light to proceed with it. I felt that I had the support of the leadership behind the bill. So I went out and I really worked the bill. I was able to get 94 signatures, including my own, of representatives on the bill as co-sponsors. There are 180 members in the Georgia House of Representatives, and it takes 91 votes to pass a bill, so with 94 signatures, we had enough co-sponsors to guarantee passage of the bill.
I think it took some people, including people in leadership, by surprise that I was able to be that successful in getting support for the bill. Well, the next thing that happened was when the bill was introduced and then it got out in the Atlanta media market that the bill had been introduced and had the support of 94 House members, the liberal Atlanta media just went nuts about it. They started to just skewer not only me, but everyone in the House who had signed on to the bill, and began to make fun of the whole concept. You know how it’s been.
MRS. RONDEAU: They call us “birthers” and worse.
REP. HATFIELD: Yes, and that’s a derogatory term. I do not take well to that. I don’t consider myself a “birther.” I’m just a legislator who’s trying to do the right thing here. The media in Atlanta got a hold of it, and we were called everything from racist to you-name-it…it was said. I think it was disturbing to a lot of people who probably were not prepared for that sort of vitriol, but I was not surprised by it, because when I introduced it last year it got a lot of attention and I got a lot of positive feedback from a lot of people all over the country, but I also got a lot of negative feedback.
I went on various shows, including MSNBC on the Ed (Schultz) Show and had to argue with him as to why the bill was necessary. So you get a feel for the kind of reaction you’re going to get to legislation like that.
The bottom line is that after the bill was introduced and got out there in the media, it took on a life of its own. Then all of a sudden, the leadership just went cold on the bill totally. We did have a hearing on the bill; it was assigned to the Governmental Affairs Committee and to the subcommittee on elections, where we had a hearing on it. We had the votes to pass it out, and I thought the hearing went very well. It was very calm; I thought it was an intelligent discussion, and I think we had the votes there to pass it out. But the chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, who was there as part of the subcommittee asked to postpone taking a vote on it because he felt that there were some amendments that needed to be drafted and wanted us to come back on another day and take the vote.
Well, of course, the chairman had signed off on the bill, so I assumed that he was going to do everything, and he had told me that he was going to do everything necessary, to push the bill through. So then the next thing I know, he approached me early one morning; I believe it was the very next week, and said that he had decided that the bill wasn’t going any farther and that he would not hear it any further.
MRS. RONDEAU: Did he have the final say on that?
REP. HATFIELD: I guess in his committee, he would have the ability to say he didn’t want to hear it any further. I asked him what the basis was for his saying that, and he indicated that he had talked to the Secretary of State’s office and that they already had the ability to challenge qualifications of candidates. I said, “I don’t think they’ve got the ability as laid out in this bill, but even taking you at face value on that assertion, the problem is that we do not have the ability in Georgia law to be able to require these candidates to produce the documentation. And that is really ultimately the most important thing: that we have the opportunity to receive documentation that would prove that a candidate is eligible.” He agreed with me that that is not part of Georgia law but nevertheless would not change his position on it and allow it to go forward.
That same day, I found out that there were representatives who had signed on to the bill who were then going in and taking their names off the bill. On one day, we had over 20 representatives who went and took their names off, just like that. That just doesn’t happen, you see; that’s not something that is a coincidence.
MRS. RONDEAU: What do you think caused them to do that?
MR. HATFIELD: I don’t know. I know now that the leadership will not allow the bill to move; it goes beyond just the committee chairman; the leadership of the House will not allow the bill to move. But what is causing them to take that position, I do not know, because no one seems to want to discuss the reasoning behind it. I have had a couple of representatives who have said to me, “We just don’t need to pick this fight right now.” I don’t know exactly what that means; you can read different things into that, but whatever the answer is, I’m not aware of it because they’ve never given me the benefit of knowing exactly what was going into the decision-making process.
That’s what led up to the events of the last few days. We are approaching, very quickly, legislative day 30. Today was legislative day 29. We have a 40-day legislative session, but we have a rule that says that any legislation that does not pass one house or the other by day 30 is dead for the year. In other words, it’s not going to be considered further if it hasn’t passed one chamber or the other by that legislative day 30. So we’re staring legislative day 30 in the face; it’s coming up the day after tomorrow on Wednesday.
Editor’s Note: The conclusion of our interview with Rep. Hatfield will follow shortly.