Category Archives: State

Is GMO labeling too much government?

Label-It

It’s rare that I don’t have a concrete opinion on an issue but I recently had a conversation with someone over whether or not GMO labeling is something that should come to Georgia. Whether you believe in the dangers of Genetically Modified food, it matters not in this case. There is a growing movement for ‘truth in food’ and labeling in states around the country and it’s only a matter of time before the conversation comes to Georgia. We should be prepared because the point of contention is the role of government in consumer information.

In a quality conversation, we should consider all sides of the legislative sphere and not just what benefits us. So let’s begin.

Currently, only Vermont, Maine and Connecticut have passed legislation requiring labeling and Colorado and Oregon put it on the ballot where it previously failed. The Center for Food Safety has a comprehensive list of states with pending initiatives, including Georgia as soon-to-be-Former State Rep. Josh Clark introduced legislation during the 2014 session.

Keep in mind that similar legislation applies only  to food grown or manufactured in that state. In considering the role of government, many would agree that this should be done at the state level (unless you’re viewing this the same way many view cigarette labeling). When considering effectiveness, one at least has to acknowledge that random states passing legislation could be disjointed and choppy. The responsibility of raising awareness would still fall on grassroots organizations and on informed consumers. In today’s America, that is a lot to ask.

So, some questions I have:

  • Would it drive food manufacturers out of Georgia? This obviously wouldn’t be an option for agriculture as their land is here but food companies who process manufactured food (food that isn’t from the earth and is made solely from…’other stuff’), would they simply up and leave the state?
  • What undue burden would this place on our farmers? By far one of the most important ones. Does it apply to produce stands? Is there a revenue bench mark? And if so, that then draws into question whether the law is just and applicable across the board.
  • What is the cost on businesses? How much will it cost them?
  • What does labeling entail? Sometimes it’s ingredients and sometimes it’s the process. If it’s simply the ingredients, that’s useless because companies will just change their process to skirt around compliance. That’s what they did with MSG in the early 2000’s.

There is already a movement called the Non-GMO Project with a lot of steam and zazz behind it. Many would say that projects such as this will weed out the -via the free market- those companies that have no desire to be transparent.
To their credit, there are a large number of companies backing labeling – currently over 650. Some of the organizations in favor of food labeling include: Odwalla, Chipolte, Stonyfield Farm, Organic Valley, Eden Foods and Numi.
Some of the larger players against GMO food labeling include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, Nestle USA, Hormel, Kellogg, Land O Lakes, and Du Pont.
The counter to that argument is two-fold: First, only organizations that are NON-GMO are labeling. Those are using GMO products are not indicating so. Secondly, sometimes it is indeed the role of the government to inform the uninformed so long as we are operating under the current system with the FDA and State Agriculture Commissioners.

As you can see, the possible ramifications are quite complicated and the grey area seems to muddy the black and white. Georgia doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being Liberty-minded when it comes to agriculture or food rights (see Delbert Bland’s Vidalia Onions and previous raw milks legislation) but I hope they can at least start the conversation. It would be to our benefit that this process be slow as the quick things they do generally don’t help We, The People. And I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a little part of me that wanted to stick it to big companies that are doing shady things with a lack of transparency….but that doesn’t make good policy and it still doesn’t answer the question of whether or not that is the role of government when consumers have a choice.

 

 

Setting the Record Straight

Friday I wrote a blog on third-party voting which focused on poor messaging tactics and an inability to drive voters to the polls. Nowhere in the article was a specific candidate mentioned negatively by name. All of this sparked a colorful and lengthy dialogue in the comments section. In said comments section, Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) took to a full-blown monologue for Governor Deal, essentially using my blog as a platform for the Governor, mostly because he is a Floor Leader. The retort below is a simple attempt to illustrate how people become symptoms, and then causes, of this vicious cyclical problem we call politics.

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(Photo from AJC)

In his diatribe, Rep. Coomer covered many things but what struck a nerve with me was his applause of Governor Deal’s signature on language in the comprehensive gun bill which essentially removed power from the Governor’s office during a declared state of emergency. Within the banter, he first said the media had nothing to do with this language passage and then later acknowledged that he and I discussed it in an [uncomfortable] face-to-face meeting before again saying the media pressure never happened. I know his claims to be false because I am the person who wrote the article on Peach Pundit which, within 18 minutes of publishing, prompted a text message from the Governor’s office to the sponsor of the bill to schedule a meeting about HB 100 (after years of ignoring the bill and the sponsor). I know all of these things to be true and so does Rep. Coomer – despite his attempt to tell me otherwise publicly. To be clear, this is not about me getting credit. It’s about being honest with The People, because the normal everyday people never know the inside baseball. It’s, again, about shaping a campaign message to be something that it is not. These types of things create a breakdown in trust between elected officials and citizens.

Additionally, Rep. Coomer indicated that I erred in implying that he and I differ philosophically because he and I have only had one in-person conversation. To that, I offer this: Legislators have voting records. I watch many, including his. Voting records, in turn, reflect one of two things: 1) That you’re principled and your ideology is consistent, or 2) That you’re not principled and your votes reflect yet another colorful amalgamation of who you’re accountable to. This leads me to my next point.

In my blog, I also made mention of plans to skip races on the ballot in November. Rep. Coomer took me to task saying,

“I really do believe that if any person, especially a conservative or libertarian, has a mature sense of responsibility to their state and community, has enough raw information…and has the mental capacity of critical thinking…then he or she will come to the conclusion that Nathan Deal should be reelected…”

Basically, if you don’t agree with Rep. Coomer, you’re a complete idiot that lacks the mental capacity for critical thinking. I propositioned him, asking why he had the right to sit on the House Floor and abstain from casting a vote but I was not granted that same privilege. He didn’t respond, but records show me that since being elected, Rep. Coomer has missed over 100 votes in 160 days of legislative service.

I’ve watched from the gallery as Rep. Coomer sat idly in his seat during votes, but this photo of Rep. Coomer sitting on the House Floor during the vote of Senate Bill 65 in 2014 - watching, waiting to see what everyone else is doing is quite compelling, mostly because this was controversial legislation that dealt directly with the freedoms and liberties of the mentally ill.

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In this photo, you can see that Rep. Coomer (indicated by the yellow arrow) is deeply intrigued by the vote of SB 65 (red arrow) and his name on the voting board (green arrow). When looking at the House Clerk website, you can see that he ultimately did not cast a vote, despite the fact that he was sitting in his seat. Now THAT’S intriguing.

Consider House Rule 133: “When the question is put, every member within the chamber shall vote unless the member is immediately and particularly interested therein or unless the member is excused by the House. A motion by a member to be excused from voting must be made before the House divides or before the call of the yeas and nays is commenced, and it shall be decided without debate. The member making the motion may briefly state the reason why it should prevail. In every case where the seat of a member is being contested, the sitting member and the contestant shall both retire from the House before the vote is taken.”

Coomer was also the sponsor of a bill (HB 516) during the 2014 session where the entire House Leadership got up and walked out during the vote so they wouldn’t have to be on record casting that vote. Did the gentleman from Cartersville speak up? And why not? What did he have to lose? Is this adequate representation for the people of his district?

It is a fact that in the monologue above, I made a complete example out of Christian Coomer. But that is a consequence of opening Pandora’s box. He engaged the conversation with me on my blog.  It’s not one-sided. And never did I say I wasn’t voting for his guy. I simply opened the conversation about voting tendencies this cycle. When elected, you have to be willing to answer the tough questions and I offered him every opportunity to do so while he made baseless implications against me and continued to blur the Deal campaign message into some irrelevant sloppy essay.

Elected officials are supposed to represent The People. More importantly, they are to be the example. This elected official, and a floor leader for the Governor no less, had no problem glossing over my factual points, shaming others, shifting blame and furthering the distrust and nasty image Georgia Republicans are battling right now. The image that we are out of touch, care only about ladder-climbing, and will try to squash any opposing opinion at any cost. People just want the truth and to know what to expect. Principles. If we can’t do things in a principled way, we shouldn’t do them and we don’t deserve the positive results.

When I worked on my first real campaign, I had to learn that my actions –good and bad- reflect upon my candidate. The same goes for those most closely aligned with leaders in the political realm. It’s why endorsements are tricky. But if your glass house is actually Saran Wrap, you shouldn’t throw stones. Because that’s even messier. And perhaps those stones illustrate that you aren’t the best messenger for this particular message. Perhaps some time needs to be spent evaluating the symptoms and causes of ‘the demise of the public servant’. Perhaps you should sit back quietly and graciously knowing that your constituents haven’t yet noticed that you are only carrying the torch of political expediency.

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(Photo WN.com)

A Case for Food Stamps…

I sometimes read the Huffington Post. Sometimes because I’m bored, sometimes because I love torturing myself with extreme opposition, and sometimes because I’m feeling super open-minded. Today was the latter of the three.

I came across the article ‘This is What It’s Like To Be A Single Mom on Food Stamps‘. If you have a few minutes, I recommend reading it in its entirety. The mother is from a suburb outside of Atlanta and she makes a compelling case for needing help.

I’ll preface noting that my biggest problem with the article, especially with it being featured on Huffington Post, is how it somehow manages to make it seem like this is the norm. Unfortunately, it is not. Putting that aside, I think there is some real value in what the article highlights: that this was the only option at the end of the rope.

This single mother of two details her struggle of a divorce with a financially uninvolved father, medical issues and trying to get a job after being a stay-at-home mom for 13 years in a suffering economy while chronicling the shame and heartbreak over accepting (and then using) state benefits.

I am not an advocate of the food stamp or the WIC programs and I cannot imagine that I ever will be. I would go as far as to say I believe it to be an illegal practice on behalf of the state. But I am an advocate for compassion and solutions. As conservatives, we are consistently framed as wanting to remove social programs (and we do!) but are willing to leave families and children without another option. It makes us look bad and it’s one of the reasons we lose elections. I’m kind of over it.

The non-profit sector was intended to be a third branch, a bridge if you will, between the private sector and the public sector. Nonprofit organizations were originally created to fill the gap where the government could not -or was not legally supposed to- fill in. We have far overstepped that boundary and are looking at years of reform, but why aren’t conservatives looking at specific organizations to which we can direct needy families?

Faith aside, there are lists a mile long of organizations ready, willing and able to offer short and long-term assistance to varying groups of people: young, old, male, female, veterans, those addicted to various substances, those in recovery, those unwilling to work, those unable to work. The list goes on. A quick Google search provides a list of over 37,000 nonprofits JUST IN GEORGIA with over $96,598,629,441.00 in assets. Now, we know that all of those aren’t need-based organizations, but there certainly is no shortage on available ‘help’. What’s more is that again, faith aside, more often than not, these organizations project ideologies of conservatism, individualism and ultimate personal responsibility without being overtly ‘in your face’.

So what gives? Why are we not placing a wedge between the state social programs and the people? I will say that legislating specific organizations into ‘helping’ isn’t the solution. Take MADD for example: The Georgia legislature created a monster out of that organization by mandating their services through the state sentencing programs. But we have to change the direction we are sending these people. We don’t make information readily available and then we wonder why they default to the state. Why aren’t these organizations Step 1 on the HHS websites? Why doesn’t the state first suggest what is now considered the alternative?We, as a state and a people, can connect the needy with the willing organizations. We need to make the alternative the norm. We just need a pathway and discussion to do it.

Change doesn’t happen without conversation. It’s time to tweak the conversation and shift our focus to the real solutions. Otherwise, we are only contributing to the problem and I see our fight as no more than a tug-o-war with the liberals of ‘keep a program v. kill a program’.

Loitering on Punk’d

Am I on an episode of punk’d? No, seriously. Am I?
Newly elected State Rep. Sam Moore has introduced legislation that would eliminate the crime of loitering in the State of Georgia, remove circumstances in which citizens would need to identify themselves to law enforcement officers, (as it stands now, you must provide identifying information, even if it is only a first-tier encounter) and also amend circumstances for convicted sex offenders.

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The problem, which has just about everyone up in arms, is here:
1033Because loitering would no longer be enforceable, law enforcement would be unable to prohibit convicted sex offenders from “hanging” where minors congregate.

This is because the proper time and care of educating and informing the public on WHY the issue is important to Rep. Moore and his cause, and also what the potential ramifications are, were not given. Instead, this bill drops, Moore comes out swinging in defense of his bill and everyone is screaming he hates children.

As a staunch advocate of Liberty and a person who understands the true brokenness of the criminal justice system, this is a terrible, awful, up-to-no good bill– not necessarily because of the intent, but because of the ramifications and because we have now prohibited civil discourse.

Loitering – if not on private property- probably shouldn’t be a crime. It’s harmless for most and generally applies to bored teens in bagging jeans. But how do you handle the sexual registry aspect that pertains to loitering? We argue that parents have a reasonable expectation that their children will be safe when they send them to school. It’s why we hate gun-free zones. It’s why we support armed teachers in schools. If this is an attack on Republicans and conservatives who don’t necessarily support criminal justice system reforms, this is wrong.  If this is an attempt to make Republican colleagues look less conservative, this is wrong. If our goal is to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, how do you circumvent the issue of protecting those who cannot protect themselves? I don’t say this often, but I do find this to be one of those special times where perhaps an alternative measure should be implemented, but at a minimum, prepared.

Let’s also talk about the national stage. What happens when someone not familiar with the Georgia Liberty movement, like oh say CNN, picks this and blasts headlines about Republicans in Georgia who want to allow convicted sex  offenders to be around children?  Take a look at the headline from the Cherokee Tribune. Unfortunately, now the environment is too volatile and hostile for the community, and fellow legislators, to have the conversation about this legislation.

Paging the Heartless Conservative

Disclaimer: The following blog is not in defense of current law. I fully understand the concept of disobedience to unjust laws. While reading, please keep in mind that good policy stems from laws that are applied equally and across the board. No law, positive or negative, should target a specific group of people.

Today there is a Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Meeting for House Bill 965, the 911 Medical Amnesty Bill. You can read the bill here, but essentially, HB 965 (which is what I like to call a “heart-string bill”…tug tug) would provide protection against arrest for drug or alcohol-related charges for people who call 911 on behalf of those facing a life-threatening overdose and would in turn allow expanded access to medication used to halt overdose reactions. Representative Sharon Cooper is the primary sponsor of this bill.  Currently, 16 other states (and D.C.) have similar laws and 13 other states are considering 911 Medical Amnesty laws.

I’ll be frank: I don’t like the bill. I don’t particularly care for laws that would help (or hurt) a certain group of people. We call these laws unjust. Similar to Haley’s Hope Act (the medical cannabis legislation), which privileges a very specific group of people with access to a different type of healthcare while excluding a plethora of other diseases, HB 965 limits legal ramifications for those who over-consume. Some may argue that this is because of use and/or possession, not the sale of such drugs. Regardless, this legislation specifically limits legal prosecution of some simply because they used too much of a certain illegal substance.

Proponents of the bill claim that people should not have to choose between death and legal repercussions for their loved ones in the chaos of an overdose. This argument can play for both teams. Certainly one would agree that survival is the first priority, but are we really trying to take the road less traveled to tell friends and family that you didn’t call 911 when you encountered someone who overdosed because you were afraid of the legal ramifications? I’ll also note that if, as conservatives, we value life as much as we claim we do, we shouldn’t use fear of legal ramifications as a driving force for decision making.
I could make the same argument for self-defense. “I was scared to shoot the man rummaging through my home, holding a knife, because it’s illegal to kill someone.” There could be legal repercussions from actions taken in those situations, yet, people still make the choice to defend themselves.
Another argument is that anyone who legally takes opioid medication (like Percocet, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Methadone, Lortab, etc) could benefit from this legislation as well. Unfortunately, this logic is flawed. If someone is prescribed a medication, the likelihood of failing to call 911 over legal ramifications is next to zero. In fact, a large portion of overdose cases from these types of medicines come from legal prescriptions and legal dosage levels.
(Also, point of personal privilege: The word “Amnesty” has horrific connotations due to immigration reform. One would think that conservatives could come up with a better word to use in the title of the bill..yes? no? maybe?)

Now, I understand that many times drug overdoses are directly correlated to addiction and disease, but the role of the legislature is not to enact laws that categorize to what groups of people the law is applicable. Addiction is a sickness and painful for everyone involved but we cannot discredit current laws on the books. We don’t need another feel-good, tug-at-your-heart-strings law. If the law is good for one, it should be good for all and should be applied equally and justly.  Sometimes good intentions make bad policy. This is one of those times.

78% of Georgians are Anti-Second Amendment?

It’s a surprise to absolutely no one by now that campus carry is an issue close to my heart. As a Georgia State University graduate, I believe students deserve better and I feel the state is wrong in hindering their right to protect themselves. Because of this, it irritates me greatly when someone tells me “No one really cares about campus carry” or “It’s just not a hot topic right now”. Oh but it is– in Georgia and across the nation– so you can imagine my confusion upon the release of the AJC poll recently stating 78% of Georgia voters oppose legalizing weapon possession on college campuses. Well, I’ll be darned. I thought this was an interesting tidbit of information so much so that several folks did some investigating and this is what we found.

Let’s discuss by playing the circle game:

  • Jay Bookman is the AJC writer here and polling connoisseur.
  • Bookman’s boss at the AJC is Bert Roughton …the Senior Managing Editor.
  • Mr. Roughton’s wife is a lady named Melinda Ennis Roughton.
  • Mrs. Ennis Roughton holds the ever-so-ironic occupation of Co-Head for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in Atlanta.
  • She is also Executive Director for Georgia’s WIn List, (the Democrat organization looking to elect liberal women to higher offices in Georgia).
  • Georgia WIN will be having their annual Legislative Breakfast on January 30th and the keynote speaker is Jay Bookman.

Now, I am not discrediting the entire poll (which is available here: AJC POLL January 2014) but I do want to consider EXACTLY who was polled.
We’re talking about respondents of which:

  • 41% believe the Georgia economy is not in good shape,
  • 47% believe we should expand Medicare through the ACA,
  • and only 38% of the respondents had children in schools in Georgia.

Nowhere in the poll was the concept of the campus carry act explained: that it would only apply to legal weapons carry permit holders (those over the age of 21 or honorably discharged military)– meaning, people who likely already conceal carry everywhere else in the state.
People uninformed on the issue hear, “Do you want to give college kids guns to take to take to their beer pong matches?” I take great offense to firing off questions (see what I did there) to an uninformed electorate.

I simply can’t help myself in being suspicious of ulterior motives by the AJC here when the reporter et. al is in the sack with the anti-gun lobby and the questions mislead the public. The issue is a Constitutional one….and this poll leads us to believe that 78% of Georgians don’t stand for the Constitution. Again, I am just shocked to my very core that the AJC would seek to mislead.

Constitutional Values? You will rally for these bills…

I’ll keep this short and to the point. The Georgia legislative session has begun and because of the shortened session, the gas pedal is down for legislation. If I were a betting gal, I’d put money on the bad ones getting rammed through while the ones that restore our liberties face a Christie-like traffic jam.

As Constitutional conservatives, bills worth following include the following:

  • HB100 — concerning the Governor’s executive power over firearms and ammunition in a state of emergency. I wrote a full article on this bill, which you can read here. The bill has a substantial number of legislative signers but currently lacks support from the Governor’s office. We’ll keep waiting, but some folks struggle letting go of their own power. If I had to pick *one* piece of legislation to pass this session, it would be this one.
  • HB195 — regarding regionalism. This one is complicated, so if you missed all the articles, catch up here and here.
  • HB25 — a jury nullification bill. If you don’t understand jury nullification, you can read here and see why it’s necessary in a time where our justice system is quite twisted.
  • HB512 — This is a comprehensive gun bill that died on the last day of the 2013 session and included campus carry. In order for this to be considered a “good” bill, two things need to happen: 1) the term “mentally ill” needs to be narrowly defined because as the bill currently stands, those receiving court-mandated counseling and care would not be able to obtain a carry permit (this includes alcohol and drug counseling for people who are convicted of DUI) and 2) the training mandate for students is removed. Don’t mandate me, bro.
    Some are suddenly touting this as a property rights thing. This is only what we’ve been saying for 223 years.
  • HB699 – pertaining to warrantless surveillance by law enforcement and state agencies which also has a complete article detailing the parameters and evils. What I like most about this bill, which I tell you here, is that it actually monetarily charges the people who violate this law.
  • HB 707 — which deals with the Affordable Care Act and essentially nullifies the law in Georgia. There are several arguments that the bill wouldn’t actually do anything other than make a statement to the federal government and could be turned over in court. These are justifiable concerns, but Georgians are waiting for our elected officials to stick up for us and also to show they have courage. This is an opportunity. In addition, it’s an initiative by the People.
  • HB 718 — for raw milk. This is an easy one!! Full article here, but if this doesn’t pass, I will lose all hope for the Georgia legislature. Restoring a simple consumer right should be a quick and painless vote for all Republicans.

Other notable pieces of legislation include:
HB 181 - prohibiting EBT users from using ATMs to obtain cash
HB560 - a drone bill, though I’d rather just see a resolution encouraging dealing with this with other Constitutional rights. Jokes. Sort of.
HB733 – Georgia Religious Liberties Act of 2014 for students in public schools

It’s worth noting that many of these initiatives are not new and are ones many of us have been following for quite some time. If you want to contact your legislators, you can find their contact information here. I also fully support any bill that repeals an existing law. Next week I’ll be posting the bills I would like to see fail…because everyone loves a good hit piece.

Raw Milk Sans Social Unrest

Georgia has a raw milk bill!
Representative Scot Turner (along with co-sponsor Reps Allison, Brockway, Caldwell, and Spencer) filed HB 718 on Monday.
Currently, raw milk is technically not illegal in Georgia but it can only be purchased for animal consumption (pets, livestock, etc) and you can’t sell it. You see what they did there?

If you’ve ever had raw milk, you understand that the consistency is a bit difficult and it smells like cow, but this issue isn’t about flavor. This also isn’t about the gross process of pasteurization and homogenization to get that “safe” gallon you buy ever week. This is about government overstepping it’s bounds and the legislature finally offering a remedy. Currently, we look to an organization that says alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs are “safe” but the possible dangers of raw milk are so horrific, it must be heavily regulated on the state and federal level. So allow me to articulate a few arguments in favor of raw milk:

  • Raw milk is not dangerous for you because you don’t HAVE to drink it. Certainly there is an assumed risk in consuming any type of food/drink, but we cannot fully be “protected” by any government entity. I am allergic to peanuts. They can make me very sick but peanuts are not illegal.
  • On the premise that raw milk should not and will not be illegal, citizens of Georgia should have the freedom to trade, barter, consume, sell and purchase goods and services.
  • If consumers are willing to accept the risk, they should have the freedom to choose what kind of milk they want to drink. Right now, state law forces people to take raw milk to the black market (yes, people, our government over-regulation has taken us to the black market for milk) where the “all or nothing” mentality actually allows more health and safety concerns.
  • The current law criminalizes a behavior that has been legal since the dawn of time. It’s only been in the recent progressive decades of reliance on government to tell us what is and isn’t okay that the raw milk ban has congealed (Again, see what I did there?) People survived for hundreds of years on raw milk.

This issue is about personal responsibility and making your own decisions. If you rally for lower taxes, limited government, and less regulation, raw milk legalization should be on your radar. Don’t be scared. The best thing about raw milk is that if it terrifies you, you can simply get in your vehicle, drive to Publix and purchase the milk of your choice from the grocery. Choices are good. So, we can infer that choosing to support HB718 is an excellent choice if we want more choice and less government interference. :)

We teach our kids that if you skip class, you’ll fail…

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the growing trend of unrepresentative and unaccountable regionalism in Georgia. If you missed it, you can catch up by reading this.

Now we move along to part 2, detailing the attendance of such members of this wonderful taxing authority with eminent domain privileges. To properly illustrate such atrocities, I present to you the following graphic:
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The number of members on the Atlanta Regional Commission fluctuates with election cycles, appointments and the tide of political relationships but the above chart is not comprehensive of the total board. As noted, it simply details the ARC members who neglect their responsibilities the most.

One of my favorites is the row detailing the attendance of one of regionalism’s biggest proponents– Kasim Reed, who managed to miss at least 50% of the meetings every year (and up to 70% in 2012). You should also note that attendance records aren’t getting any better. While there has been some turnover in ARC membership, there has not been some improvement of attendance.
Anita Thomas of Fulton County missed 4 meetings in 2012. She was only on the board for 4 meetings in 2012. What gives? Some folks missed all the meetings and then stepped off of the board, like Mickey Thompson and Aaron Turpeau. Why bother, folks?

If all of these people are missing all of these meetings, who IS there to do the work? Essentially, because of low attendance to these not-so-public meetings, a few select members –even fewer than the glorious group of self-selected non-elected officials– are making important developmental decisions for all of metro Atlanta. Part 3 [forthcoming] will detail the incestuous occupations of such members of the Atlanta Regional Commission and the direct benefits for each member based on approved developmental projects.

Isn’t regionalism sounding a little more shady with every chart see you see? (See what I did there?)

Electronic Location Tracking: An Opportunity to Limit Warrantless Searches

spying

That pesky Constitution. It really is stirring up some controversy these days and slipping back into legislation across the states.

I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. We all have. “Cellphone data spying. It’s not just the NSA” and “DC, Maryland and Virginia cops spying on cell phone data” or more recently “Reports: NSA and GCHQ are spying on virtual worlds, gathering data on gamers“. Private entities are speaking out against the measures, too. They’re everywhere. Literally. Every day it seems we wake to another breaking story about privacy infringements and agency tracking tactics with only stagnant blank stares from legislators on the federal level. Frustration ensues but nothing happens.

So I present to you HB699 authored by State Representative John Pezold (R-Columbus). HB699 essentially details “relating to searches with warrants, so as to narrow the circumstances of when location information for electronic devices may be disclosed without a search warrant; to provide for definitions; to provide for exceptions; to provide for a civil penalty and enforcement; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes”. You can read the full text of the bill here, but HB 699 essentially tightens the reins on the out-of control location spying and tracking by law enforcement without a warrant. My favorite part of the bill is the part where it provides punishment parameters for the government entities that violate the statute and allows for suppression of such evidence in court. (I will agree that there is no ‘price’ for our freedoms being compromised but this bill certainly does more to protect our liberties than current practices by law enforcement agencies.)

There is a slight problem, though. As of pre-filing on November 25th, it was a lonely Mr. Pezold and Rep. Scot Turner (R-21) as official signers on the bill.  I find it interesting that a bill like HB41, dealing with water and sewer fees, has more signers than one that strengthens our Constitutional rights and it’s perplexing to me that 1) there aren’t more bills to protect our 4th amendment rights, and 2) that fellow legislators aren’t calling Representative Pezold to help with the initiative. Personally, I want to know where every elected official stands on this, through the House and Senate and up to the Governor. And you should want to know, too. If they don’t support it…primary. It’s time to stop foregoing liberties because “everyone else” is doing it. The justification for “security” that is most often used in these instances is not applicable. A warrant suffices- and they’re not that hard to get, but at least it’s through a process. HB 699 will cease the circumvention of our 4th amendment rights when it comes to location tracking on electronic devices.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already said the use of such devices does constitute a search.  Montana has similar legislation too HB699 and other states have worked to push electronic privacy initiatives, but we’re a long way from where we should be. It’s time for Georgia to step up. Call your legislators. Tell your friends to call their legislators. It matters. It’s not often that we get good bills anymore and HB699 needs support. This bill is a #McWin.