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Richardson to allow Collins to vote for state House speaker
Representative in Iraq can cast proxy ballot
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Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson acted quickly Thursday to clear the way for state Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, to vote by proxy in next week’s vote for speaker and other party officers of the GOP.

Richardson’s action came on the heels of an e-mail sent by Collins to all 105 House Republicans in which he accused party leaders of dragging their feet in his request to be able to vote by proxy in the caucus while on active duty in Iraq.

Richardson in an e-mail to House Republicans, said that he had drafted a change in the rules that will allow Collins to participate.

"We are all very appreciative and supportive of his service to our country," Richardson said in his e-mail. "And, I hope all of you will join me in not only thanking Doug for his service but wishing him a prompt and safe return."

Collins, 42, is a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve and holds the rank of captain. He reported for active duty in Iraq in September and will remain there until January. Under Richardson’s proposed rule change, only caucus members who are on active duty in a branch of the armed forces can designate an eligible member of the caucus to vote their proxy.

Richardson, who will be standing for re-election as speaker, has asked state Rep. Amos Amerson, R-Dahlonega, a retired Army colonel, to present the rule change at Monday’s caucus meeting.

"I hope you will adopt this unanimously at our meeting on Monday," Richardson wrote.

The caucus meeting is expected to bring the first challenge to Richardson from within his own party. State Rep. David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, announced earlier this year that he would be a candidate for speaker. Collins and state Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, were among a group of lawmakers who support Ralston.

Also to be elected is a new majority whip. State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, who held the post, was not a candidate for re-election to the General Assembly. He lost a Republican primary race for Congress in the 10th district against Paul Broun, who was elected to his first full term on Tuesday.

Republicans, who gained control of the House four years ago, suffered a slight setback on Tuesday with a net loss of two seats to Democrats. They still maintain a 105-75 advantage in the House.

The controversy of Collins’ inability to vote resulted in quite a stir among Republican lawmakers after Collins sent an e-mail Wednesday outlining his efforts that started months before he left.

Rep. Bobby Reece, R-Sugar Hill, took issue with state Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, chairman of the majority caucus.

"Basically as I see it, Rep. Collins went over your head by contacting the Speaker’s office only after waiting patiently for weeks because you did not follow up with him after saying you would do everything you could, and now you’re sorry Doug thought he had to send all of us a note a day after the election to tell us about his bad experience," Reece wrote Roberts in an e-mail that was copied to Republican House members.

Collins could not be reached by e-mail in Iraq to comment on the decision by Richardson.