Crime or election reform?

That’s the choice Georgians face on July 19 when those two heavyweight topics will be on the agenda at two separate political functions.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced recently she will host a U.S. Senate Committee on Rules & Administration field hearing in Atlanta on the Peach State’s newly-installed election reform. Klobuchar chairs the committee, also known as the U.S. Senate Rules Committee,. It oversees congressional rules and procedures as well as federal elections and contested elections.

The hearing is a response to the recent national wave of election reform legislation. It is the federal committee’s first field hearing in 20 years. 

The Atlanta hearing will be at 10 a.m. at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd NW in downtown Atlanta.

Georgia Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, scheduled their legislative meeting on Atlanta’s rising crime rate for the same day. The House Public Safety & Homeland Security hearing will be at 11 a.m. at the State Capitol in 406 CLOB.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston did not respond to emails from Atlanta Civic Circle seeking comment about the hearing and the choice of the hearing date, but veteran political observer Charles Bullock III weighed in on what could be viewed as a dueling partisan showdown.

“It’ll deflect coverage from the Klobuchar hearing,” Bullock told Atlanta Civic Circle. “Then another consideration might also be that this would give a reason and excuse why Republican legislators could not show up to testify at the Klobuchar hearings.” 

Bullock is the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor and University Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia.

Bullock also noted that Republicans may be signaling with their hearing that “there’s no legitimate basis for the Klobuchar hearings and therefore we’re concentrating on what many Georgians would think would be the leading concern in the state, or at least in Atlanta — crime.”

Atlanta’s crime rate has soared during the last year. Murders are up 36 percent while shootings are up nearly 40 percent, according to the latest data from the Atlanta Police Department.  Arrests meanwhile are down more than 30 percent. More than 250 police officers have left APD in the last 18 months, leaving APD severely short-staffed.

“The Republicans clearly are going to say there’s no problem with the Georgia [election reform] law,” Bullock said. “Therefore coming here and holding hearings in Georgia to the extent it’s focusing on SB 202… it’s a wild goose chase. Therefore Republicans can say ‘we’re dealing with a real problem. Democrats are dealing with a no problem.’ ”

You can watch the Georgia House of Representatives Public Safety & Homeland Security hearing here.

You can watch the U.S. Senate Rules Committee field hearing here.

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