On Friday, May 2, the chairperson of the Houston County Democratic Party-- Fenika Miller -- was featured in a story on Macon and Warner Robins' CBS affiliate, WMAZ-TV, and explained why two local ballot questions pertaining to "Stand Your Ground' laws will appear on the May 20 primary ballot.
The ballot questions which will appear are 'non-binding', but it provides registered Democratic voters an opportunity to express how they feel about particular issues such as Stand Your Ground along with Medicaid expansion and prioritizing public school funding in Georgia.
On a side note, the issue of guns has become a front and center issue. Republican Governor Nathan Deal had recently signed legislation which would vastly expand where Georgians can legally carry firearms,
House Bill 60, which passed in the final hours of this year’s legislative session, allows Georgians to legally carry firearms in a wide range of new places, including schools, bars, churches and government buildings.
Miller hopes the ballot questions responses will have an impact on whether the Majority Leader of the Georgia House, Rep. Larry O' Neal, and that he will feel compelled to hold legislative hearings in regard to Georgia's Stand Your Ground law.
O’Neal, a conservative Republican, represents House District 146, which encompasses areas such as Bonaire, Perry and conservative precincts in Warner Robins.
Half the city of Warner Robins--Houston's largest city with a population pushing 70,000-- is either African-American (37 percent) , Hispanic (7 percent), Asian (3 percent) or of two or more races. It is very conceivable that the 'International City' and home of Robins Air Force Base will be a majority-minority city in the next five years.
Despite the growing diversity in Warner Robins, voter participation has been an issue.
This is one of the contributing reasons why Republicans such as O' Neal may be slow to act. However, if local registered voters in Warner Robins, Centerville and Perry could out in largr numbers in 2014 and then it could have an impact.
O'Neal, a Bonaire, Georgia resident was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2001. He has served as the Governor’s Floor Leader and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee prior to his election as Majority Leader. As Majority Leader, he is a member of all House Committees.
Miller, a progressive Democrat, is serving her second term as Houston County's leading Democrat and even though Republicans has had a stronghold over electoral politics for decades, she believes two local ballot questions could force legislators to take a closer look at the issue.
Miller told WMAZ the following about attempting to influence O' Neal to use his powers in the Republican-dominated General Assembly:
"He can nudge them into reforming and amending, or repealing and ending the Stand Your Ground Law in Georgia."
On the May 20 primary ballot, the Stand Your Ground questions will look like the following:
Question #6 on the ballot asks to repeal the law. Question #7 asks to reform it.
Question #6: "Should the Georgia Legislature repeal the GA Stand Your Ground Law (O.C.G.A. 16-3-23.1) and return to the settled common law on self-defense?"
Here's the text of Question #7: "If the Georgia Legislature elects not to repeal the GA Stand Your Ground Law (O.C.G.A. 16-3-23.1), should the Legislature amend the current law to remove ambiguity and restore the duty to retreat outside of one's home or place of business?"
Miller wants Houston Democrats to answer "yes" to both.
Miller is not only the chairperson of the local Democratic party, but she is the leader of a local group called "New Vision", an organization that advocates social activism. Shortly after the Trayvon Martin verdict, Miller had combined forces with Joshua Generation, a group of young local ministers.
The collaboration produced “Candles for Justice: Lifting up Prayers and Lighting up the Night.”
Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said last year after the Trayvon Martin verdict that he sees nothing wrong with Georgia's "Stand Your Ground" law and doesn't see a need to repeal the law which was enacted in 2006.
"I do not see anything out of the ordinary in terms of that statute, it is very similar to the statutes in other states including the state of Florida. It would be an issue that would be very emotionally charged," says Deal.