Category Archives: Georgia

The Angry Mob.

I’ve lived in Georgia since I was old enough to have an opinion. That means just about every opinion I’ve ever had has been formulated based on circumstances and influences of my peachy roots. Just recently, I was pressed with the question of whether I was part of the angry mob that’s tanking everything good in politics or just a subject of their shenanigans. I realized that at one point I was, but I have long grown out of that.

I’ve made a career out of saying and doing things that are unpopular. Speaking truths FullSizeRender (22)when they didn’t want to be heard or even when they were deemed inappropriate. It’s been a journey that has gone over mostly well across the state as I’ve worked in politics and established a writing portfolio. I’ve watched as the general public becomes more angry and disenfranchised with the government and the political system as a whole. My career of off-the-cuff thoughts and tidbits usually places me in the category of “unpopular” thinking, and I’ve come to terms with that.

But just because something is unpopular, doesn’t make it any less true and that’s why an angry mob is dangerous.

I’ve been faced with the challenge that every time I write an article or a column, I’m starting from scratch. I must assume that no one knows who I am, where my heart is, or the consistency I have demonstrated over the last 5 years in my writing. I can’t fault people for their lack of knowledge in that territory -it is my responsibility to articulate my thoughts and beliefs on paper without invoking too much emotion or heart. But the lack of emotion ticks off the angry mob and invokes a new emotion-based campaign that is a complete and utter derailment…and it happens nearly every single time.

If you think I’m talking about Donald Trump supporters, you’re sort of right. I am. But it goes so much deeper than that. This trickles down to our state and local governments, too. It has penetrated every aspect of discussion of politics and religion, or the lack thereof.  This is personal because I’m seeing what it’s harming.

The emotional campaigns spread like wildfire because humans have hearts and humans thrive off of drama, not fact. The emotion and the drama culminate into a volcano of rage, grudges, and vendettas and begins formulating in pockets and factions in communities across the country. Soon enough, the angry mob forms.

The angry mob can be two people, two hundred people, or two million people. The angry mob can, and has, included elected officials. The number or profession of people in the mob isn’t as important as the M.O. of the mob.

You see, the angry mob doesn’t listen. They won’t hear reason and they won’t allow justification. The angry mob is incapable of understanding that a “different” opinion doesn’t mean a “wrong” opinion. The angry mob has emotion cycling through the rudder so fast that everything else is just noise.  

The angry mob chastises those who are offended by everything from Indian rituals to confederate memorials and atheist thoughts, but is the first to say the opinion of someone else is offensive to them. The angry mob shouts at the TV because the mainstream media  is feeding them lies. This same angry mob praises social media and alternative media outlets for offering a different perspective – when they share that perspective.

The angry mob is selective in their battles in the sense that they do what is politically or professionally expedient. They may stand for transparency in one instance, but back down when the controversy turns a corner or spreads because they may know someone, they may have a vested interest or one of dozens of other reasons, but the angry mob is not consistent. The angry mob wants the lights shone on their neighbors so long as that light doesn’t cross the property line. The angry mob, mistakenly, protects their own and nearly always finds someone else to lynch.

The angry mob sends “anonymous” emails late at night, harasses people they don’t know on social media, has to apologize for the nasty things they said behind a computer screen when the time comes to meet in person, and uses the Internet as a crutch to say they’re doing something and affecting change. But they are not.

The angry mob says they want transparency, change, hope, freedom, consistency, openness, accountability, and every other buzz word. They do…until it’s their town, their issue, their industry, or their guy. They do until the tables are turned and the mirror reflects the reality that, just like everyone else, they are imperfect.

In reality, the angry mob want clouds and baby photos. They want Instagram shots of champagne, fancy shoes and delicious dinners. The angry mob isn’t ready for anything better because better requires discomfort before pleasure.

The angry mob doesn’t show up when it counts or when it hurts. The angry mob is a group of hypocritical Monday morning quarterbacks who won’t fill the stands in the rain. The angry mob runs off of emotion alone and never offers a solution. The angry mob establishes a villain in every story. The angry mob lobs bombs because it’s the only way to retaliate for hurt feelings.

The angry mob is destroying us because they’re silencing the very truth they’re demanding.

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10 Worst Bills to Pass the House by Crossover

The 2015 legislative session has been rather…interesting. Between the slow start over what would actually happen with Transportation and the Budget to the abrupt ending which halted just about every piece of pending legislation that had a ‘NO’ vote attached to the transportation tax, most of us have been spending our days that it will just hurry up and be over. Despite that, however, the House has still managed to pass some pretty awful legislation. Trending in the ‘Top 10 Worst’ are 1) expanded powers for the Governor, 2) creation of new Commissions, and 3) strengthened mandates for individuals and small businesses.

10. The AMENDMENT presented by Rep. Ed Setzler to HB 429 – (Ron Stephens)
The bill makes sure that if you’re given a diagnosis of 2 years or less to live, your insurance company cannot deny you the use of a drug if your doctor deems it necessary and appropriate. The amendment disallows people from traveling to other states for the purpose of assisted suicide and then requesting the insurance company cover such costs.
So, in the same passage, we mandate that a company cannot deny coverage while also mandating a certain type of coverage that cannot be covered. Together these two concepts do not make sense. The amendment passed 105-61. The bill passed 170-0.

9. HB 418 – (Rep. Bert Reeves)
This bill disallows anyone in alternative sentencing programs (first offender, diversion, etc.) Crying_little_girlfrom serving on a grand jury as they would had they been convicted of a felony. Arguments in favor of the bill say it is a conflict of interest as these people may (if they live in the same county as their sentencing) be reporting to the District Attorney. On the contrary, these programs are supposed to be classified as ‘not a felony,’ so what is the purpose if we are still going to rescind rights? Further, these alternative sentencing programs are similar to those that have not yet been convicted. We are setting bad precedent.
HB 418 passed the House 139-40.

8.  HB 416 – (Rep. Carl Rogers) 
The “Consumer Information and Awareness Act” demonstrates just how cumbersome the legislature can be. This mandates that all health practitioners wear name badges of ‘sufficient size’ font. With little room for enforceability or true need, ‘common sense’ was cited with regard to how to determine ‘sufficient size.’  The problem? At some point, consumers assume a risk and if they are concerned about the legitimacy of their health care provider, perhaps they should find another one. HB 416 passed the House 151-21.

7. HR 395: (Rep. Gerald Greene)
boy cry
In an effort to waste as much time and money as possible while documenting more ‘per diem’ days, a study committee was created to evaluate Georgia-Alabama relations to address regional issues. Somewhere, we must have outlawed telephones and emails if this is necessary. Passed 164-2.

6. HB 288: (Rep. Katie Dempsey)
This bill adds two members appointed by the Governor to the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, a council on which he already has 3 appointed members. Why don’t we just repeal the Board and have it directly under his discretion?
This bill passed the House 161-7.

5. HB 3 – (Rep. Barry Fleming)
This bill, revised from it’s original form with a $25,000 fine and a felony charge, now only makes Little-Girl-Cryingit illegal to enter into a transaction with a student athlete which would damage their eligibility or revoke their scholarship eligibility. These contracts would otherwise be legal and are only prohibited under the regulation of the NCAA. The bill also tips the scales to the person on the other side of the transaction, not the student athlete – providing an unbalanced punishment. This isn’t how contractual agreements should be managed. HB 3 passed 145-27.

4.  HB 296  – (Rep. Randy Nix – 69th)
This bill allows children classified as ‘refugees’ under federal law to qualify for ‘special needs’ scholarships if they have ‘limited proficiency’ in English. While this may not seem so bad on the surface, the precedent for classifying ‘limited proficiency in English’ as a special need is a very dangerous precedent – especially with concerns over immigration.
HB 296 passed the House 155-16.

3.  HB 310: (Rep. Alan Powell)
Another change from the Office of the Governor is the creation of  the Board of Community project-365-fall-seven-20100913Supervision and the Department of Community Supervision. In a 119-page explanation of what the bill actually does, the bill includes language to expand executive power to “be liberally construed so that its purposes may be achieved” (huh?!), expands powers formerly held by the Department of Corrections, and creates a new layer of bureaucracy overseen by the executive branch, essentially creating a new police force.
HB 310 passed 164-5.

2.  HB 315 – (Rep. Chad Nimmer)
The name change of Georgia’s Technical School System to ‘The Career College System of Georgia.’
Putting the enormous administrative costs and the burden on Technical Colleges to re-brand aside, we are still left with a lack of ‘need’ to actually do this. The technical colleges do not want it and the new name sounds like a headquarters for home economics. Students and employers alike thrive off of the name ‘technology’…an actual buzz word across industries.
This legislation, stemming from the Office of the Governor, seems to be more of a power grab to better position schools within the Board of Regents than anything that will benefit the students or the technical schools. HB 315 passed the House 122-40.

1. HB 170: (Rep. Jay Roberts) – The Transportation Tax
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Each point from increasing the motor fuel tax to 29 cents per gallon and the diesel tax to 33 cents per gallon, to including the locals in the mess when they aren’t properly allocating funds to transportation, is bad news. This is one of Georgia’s largest tax increases in state history. It also raises the hotel/motel tax, which will negatively affect tourism, without substantial explanation or justification. The only positives coming from the bill are the repeal of the Delta tax credit and the electric car tax credit, both of which were addressed in standalone legislation.

A bill that divided not only the House, but also the Republican caucus has low-end estimates of $700 million in tax increases. Representatives from across the state have publicly condemned the action of ‘taxing first’ and assessing later. Supporters of the bill consistently struggle to distinguish between ‘need’ and ‘the end game,’ saying they simply couldn’t get there without taxing despite the overwhelming number of sales and income tax exemptions that could have been repealed. Their closing argument? You should have attended the meetings around the state in 2014. Unfortunately, these meetings were aimed at the ‘Why?’ not the ‘How?’
Passed 123-46.

Not much commentary is appropriate or needed. #EverythingIsAwful. We’ve been told over and over that ‘they’ll fix it in the Senate,’ but that hasn’t exactly worked out well in the past and it isn’t an example of good governing.

Is This What Freedom Feels Like?

On the calendar today for a vote is a bill to reduce the restrictions with regard to ‘consumer fireworks.’ HB 110 seeks to expand the definition of consumer fireworks, as described in the bill, include:

“any small fireworks devices containing restricted amounts of pyrotechnic composition, designed primarily to produce visible or audible effects by combustion, that comply with the construction, chemical composition, and labeling regulations of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission”

Whatever that means.

Currently, Georgia is one of the few states in the Southeast to have such restrictive laws for consumer purposes which usually send Georgians across state borders for purchases. Many of our bordering states, including Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina, allow for the sale of consumer fireworks, with licensing procedures and oversight.

The bill does the following:

  • Adequately defines ‘consumer fireworks’ and what is not a firework, such as model rockets fireworks and sparklers
  • Outlines that consumer fireworks cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18 and in any form other than a face-to-face sale
  • 16 & 17 year-olds can possess consumer fireworks so long as they are aiding an adult to a nonprofit or licensed group
  • Sale of consumer fireworks are lawful with license from Safety Fire Commissioner and the Fire Marshal is the enforcer
  • Buildings/tents selling consumer fireworks must comply with NFPA 1124 (federal) standards
  • To obtain a license as a corporation, you must pay a $5,000 license fee PER COMPANY, PER LOCATION. Renewals are $1,000 annually.
  • Temporary licenses for nonprofit organizations are for 90 days and $200 per location
  • You cannot obtain a license and sell fireworks unless:
    • you’ve NOT been convicted of a felony (an interesting parameter, but in line with other states)
    • Have liability and product  insurance of at least $2 million
  • Subject to excise tax
  • Violations are civil penalties with $10,000 fine.

That’s a lot of government, and much is federal guidelines, but $5,000 is very steep for a corporation to pay a licensing fee. Alabama requires $2,000, while South Carolina permit permanent stands for just $200. Tennessee can require up to 4 different permits, but none exceed $350 so you’re still not looking at more than $1,400. The fee is paid to the Safety Fire Commissioner, but the bill as written doesn’t indicate where the money goes. (Perhaps transportation?!)

Does this expand the size and scope of government with a new agency or commission? No. But there isn’t much wiggle room to say it feels free.

Does it still largely prohibit certain groups and organizations from selling consumer fireworks in Georgia? Yes.

Will people still travel to other states for purchase? Probably not.

This firework legislation is indicative of everything we are facing under the Gold Dome: overreaching federal guidelines, special interest groups watering down bill language, restrictions on what should be the free market.
Here, we are starting with a ban, and this bill seeks to remove the band and impose strict oversight with several things Liberty-minded people oppose. But on the flip-side, the revenue will stay here. So what do you do? Do you take the inch even though you asked for a mile? Is some better than none? I guess it depends on how much you love the sound of freedom.

No.

So far in Georgia, not a single bill has failed in the Republican-led House or Senate in 23 legislative days. And it’s not because we have chambers just oozing with Liberty-minded reform or ideas full of resounding restoration of state sovereignty that will loosen the grip of the federal chokehold. For the last two months, I’ve watched the legislative session and each day, I wonder if our elected officials are even aware that there are two buttons on their desk: the one that is for ‘YES’ and seems to be worn down, and one fairly shiny one which is used for ‘NO.’

Contrarily, as a whole, Republicans are often characterized as ‘The Party of No.’ Whether it’s nocoming from our party meetings or from under the Gold Dome’s around the country, we seem to back ourselves into a corner as being anti-this and old-timer-that.

“No, you can’t be a Republican if you’re gay or have had sex before marriage,” says a GOP in South Carolina. “No, you’re not the right type of Republican,” say our GOP leaders.

“No, you won’t be guaranteed due process and equal protection under the law,” say many of our legislators who want to expand practices like civil forfeiture and no-knock warrants.
“No, you can’t dissent in a public forum because I have an (R) next to my name, so take a hike.”
“No, we won’t protect your privacy because public safety.”
Also in that category, include property rights and the Second Amendment. Don’t get greedy.
“Just move the ball down the field.”
“Come back next year.”

NO.

We are embracing the wrong kind of ‘No.’ Some of us kind of like the word ‘No.’
Now, I know I’m muddying the waters between political gain and party principles here, but daily I deliberate where we draw the line. The two do intertwine.

no1

We are the party of individualism – at our monthly meetings and in our legislatures. As an individual, I no longer care what a study says or what other states are doing. I am not interested in federal guidelines or ‘how it’s always been done.’ I am unimpressed by your vote which enables you to come back and ‘ask for something’ later. Un-im-pressed. I’m interested in someone who understands the use of discretion and the power of the word No. The command of the word, the negated color red, whether you’re standing alone or with a group of 50.

No, you will not advocate to expand the size and scope of government. Not for economic development and not for raccoons.
No, you will not vote to usurp local control.
No, you will not pander to the children. Or vote to tell someone how to parent.
No, you will not press YES for your own personal advancement.
No, you will not silence the individual.

I still consider myself a Republican. Some days begrudgingly, but I do. And as Republicans, we should pressure our fellow conservatives to say ‘yes’ to the word ‘no.’
If something provides a legitimate business model which in turn provides for personal accountability and responsibility, it’s fine by me. Our answer should be ‘No, don’t inhibit them.’
If a solution, medical or non-medical, approved or not approved, mainstream or not, works for just one person, it’s fine by me. Our answer should be ‘No, don’t inhibit them.’
If something satisfies someone else and largely doesn’t affect me or my everyday life, it’s fine by me. Our answer should be ‘No, don’t inhibit them.’

But maybe the problem is me. Maybe I have the wrong understanding of what our principles mean and what our Party stands for…at the local meetings and under the Dome. Someone is wrong, though, because No. We can’t all be right.

I’m Tired.

This article is for all my Republican and Democrat party member friends who complain that government is broken, but believe the folks they elect somehow *already* know what the ‘right thing to do’ is. It’s for my Libertarian and Anarchist friends who spout off on social media and leave it at that. A brief reminder, if you will, that none of you are doing enough. 

It’s hard not to be negative. When you’re an idealist like me, it’s even harder. A couple of people have texted me since session started and asked, “Seriously – how hard is it for you to work at the Capitol?” It’s really freaking hard because I’m not just advocating for or against one bill, but a general reform of government and the process. Daily. So, generally, I opt for being snarky to mask the complete loathing for the process and the system. And most of you all.

To be perfectly blunt, I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of the laziness. I’ve noticed, especially advocating for the opposition of HB 244/SB 8 table flipthat I’m not alone in my opinions, but that means so very little. People make up every excuse as to why they don’t have time or why they can’t do something. I can lay out the email addresses with what to say so all you have to do is copy-paste. We see this with petitions for FreedomWorks and grassroots organizations trying to mobilize people to lobby their elected officials. Uber. Craft Beer. Transportation. Everything you need within 3 clicks. And people won’t do it.

I’m tired of people thinking a once-a-month dinner social or happy hour is sufficient for activism. Or the people who think the political parties are the end-all, be-all. If that is your mindset, I can’t even begin to tell you everything you’re missing. How did you affect change this month? What do you have to show for progress?

I’m tired of the lack of prioritization. We all need an outlet, but obsessing over the The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, The Bachelor, fighting over whether or not ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is the demise of our society, and losing friends over football games? None of these things change our lives. They don’t. Yet they consume us.

I’m tired of people not recognizing that we have it easy. We live in an information age that allows us to instantly share information with the click of a mouse. We should be the most educated generation, we should know all the ways we’re failing our brand and The People…and yet, we fall short because we are sharing videos of Bostonians running around in the snow with only swim trunks and the latest BuzzFeed article that tells us “Which Disney Duo You and Your BFF Would Be”

I’m tired of pet issues and people not recognizing that every bill that passes through actually does affect them. If it’s not you this time, that only means it’ll be you next time. What reason have you given the state for it not to be?

I’m tired of people not understanding perpetuity. Every time we pass something, it is precedent. It is permanent. It might, maybe, if-we-try-really-hard one day be repealed but that’s just a strike through. It stays on the books. Nothing is erasable. Everything will be referenced at a later date.

I’m tired of being disappointed by the people I’m surrounded by because they don’t realize that by not paying attention to why we are afforded such a lovely life, it won’t be long before we no longer have such a life. Actually do something – today. Oh, and the stones you occasionally throw when something blatantly affects you…you’re throwing them from the cheap seats.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Google Search Confirms HB 244/SB 8 Falsities?

I wrote extensively last week about the Georgia Republicans waging a war on adult entertainment establishments and expanding civil forfeiture practices in our state with no data to back up their legislative premises.  I have a hard time understanding why a $5,000 OR 1% gross revenue annual fine is necessary for these establishments without cause. And why only the adult entertainment industry?

So, I did a little Google search last night. I spent a significant amount of time sifting through sex trafficking articles. Below is a list of industry-related examples and sources:

You’ll note that none of the above are industries included in the legislation. House Bill 244 and Senate Bill 8 both exclusively call for adult entertainment establishments. Wrongfully and dishonestly. There’s no doubt it sometimes happens in these establishments. But what about every other industry?

70% of child victims are sold over the internet.  Every day. Read that again. 70%. An exceeding majority of sex trafficking is known to originate over the interwebs (and the private sector is already targeting this issue) but we are going after one teeny, tiny industry. That is despicable.

The bill also calls for what some might consider a “government-organized charity.” So I wanted to see what types of 501(c)3 non-profits were already out there operating:

  1. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center
  2. The Polaris Project
  3. A21.org
  4. The Not-For-Sale Campaign
  5. The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women
  6. Out of Darkness
  7. Coalition Against Traffic in Women
  8. Daughters Rising
  9. Slavery No More
  10. Love146

And considering Google returned 1,450,000 results, I can say with certainly that there are plenty more. The industry to help and counsel these women and children is alive and thriving. We don’t need our state government to set up another fund and commission to do so.

Utah seems to be taking a much more reasonable approach, where they are removing a current requirement for prosecutors to prove fraud or coercion for a conviction. North Dakota is increasing penalties for convictions and statute of limitations for victims. Same with Texas. These other states aren’t waging a war on businesses.

A judge in India, where human trafficking is painfully prevalent, said this is a social issue, not a legal one…one that the courts cannot solve. “Implementation of guidelines is in the hands of enforcement agencies.” I could not agree more.


Click here for background and resources to contact House committee members about this legislation.

Hidden Problems with the “Hidden Predator Act”

House Bill 17, also known as the “Hidden Predator Act” has really got my buttons all kinds of pushed. The bill, pre-filed back in December and now making its way to the Judiciary committee, seeks to extend the statute of limitations on sexual assaults, battery, child molestation and things of the like from 5 years to 35 years…from the day victims reach adulthood. It would also allow for a blanket grace period of two years for anyone who previously missed out filing for a civil case under current law giving them from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2017 to take legal action. (Smells like ‘not due process’).

We should note that these atrocities do happen to children and many times, nothing is filed until adulthood whether it be because they cannot tell a parent, they don’t want to tell a parent or they simply don’t understand that what happened to them is wrong. The reason doesn’t matter. Current law allows for victims to come forward for up to 5 years following their 18th birthday.

So, the question becomes: how many years after a sexual assault should someone be allowed by law to file for civil recourse?

To put it plainly, there are a couple of reasons I don’t believe the current law should be changed:

  • Victims of assault are either going to come forward or they aren’t. This is something we know. Many people spend years coping with these things silently and privately and it usually has nothing to do with a statute of limitations for civil recourse.
  • 35 years from the age of 18 is a long time. That’s age 53. And that’s assuming that the assault happened during the late teen years. For those who became victims at an even younger age, memories could be dating back 50 years. No offense to my older friends but depending on whether or not a criminal case produced a conviction, I have a hard time believing the case could be adequately assessed with little to no evidence other than “he said, she said.”
  • Civil damages don’t fix anything. Placing a dollar amount on a life-changing events cheapens what happens to many people. While at age 18 you may have no idea how a victim will manifest the pain and suffering, age 53 gives them far too much leeway of life mistakes and glitches which may or may not be associated with an assault. We would basically open the door for extortion.
  • Allowing victims who were previously not able to come forward because of a statute of limitations to retroactively file a suit during a two-year grace period is not how our justice system is supposed to work.

I ranted about this issue on Facebook and the public responses were interesting, but the private responses were more compelling. I heard from lawyers, who aren’t usually my go-to on these types of things, who urged that this was not a good idea and not good law. I also heard from a few victims. Some who were victimized as children and some as adults. Not one of them was in favor of the legislation.

Altering the statute of limitations in cases like this will not increase the amount of justice served.  Our legal system doesn’t serve as a “catch all” for justice and we shouldn’t expect for legislation to enable to do so.

It’s a sensitive subject and my heart aches for every victim, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out about consequences of legislation. I think the intent is good and pure, but I don’t believe it will accomplish its intentions. 35 years for a statute of limitations is simply too long, and a backdated chance at civil justice isn’t in the best interest of our state. Please oppose, and ask your representatives to oppose, House Bill 17.

Local Police Departments Hosting Scanner Info Indefinitely?

License Plate Scanner

A point of contention for the law enforcement community for some time has been public dissent over the use of police license plate scanners. While the scanners are costly to departments, the real point of contention has surrounded when the data is collected, where it is stored, and for how long. This is a growing issue considering 71% of police agencies now use the scanners (increasing to 85% over the next 5 years) with success rates of ‘identifying’ crime as low as 0.005%- 0.0017%.

These cameras take upwards of 100 photos per minute without the use of human oversight. Local and county police departments as well as sheriff’s departments collect and store driver information anywhere from 30 days to a year, while some departments never purge the data. Essentially, individual police forces are establishing a database for millions of drivers, the majority of whom have never even committed a crime.

With the constant headlines around the issue, statistics have consistently shown that many law enforcement agencies have no policy for erasing the data and even overlapping departments have conflicting protocols. In Minnesota, the information collected is erased within 48 hours whereas California has no policy is in place to outline guidelines for purging information collected via license plate scanners.

Organizations such as the ACLU and national leaders like Rand Paul have long opposed the collection, and now storage, of this information without cause which helped halt a national database that was proposed by the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year and led the push for New Hampshire to ban the cameras all together.

Now, it looks like the initiative is coming to Georgia. Enter Representative John Pezold (R-Columbus). Representative Pezold is drafting legislation which will require that all departments -local, county and Sheriff – delete stored license plate numbers and information within 30 days of collection. The legislation would also prohibit any Georgia agency, other law enforcement agency, or federal agency from obtaining, viewing, or transferring the information without a warrant or cause, barring interstate or multi-agency issues.

Opponents of the legislation will likely offer a two-pronged argument:

  1. Setting a state standard circumvents local control. Perhaps, in a sense, but we are talking about privacy concerns of civilians that are currently protected at the varying discretion of elected and appointed officials.
  2. 30 days is too long.

If you support the use of license plate scanners, this will likely mean nothing to you. If you would like all license plate scanners in the state of Georgia banned, this legislation will not satiate your concerns, but it will impose restraints on the system under which we are currently operating.

Ballot Access Legislation Coming in 2015?

Over the course of the last election cycle, I spent a lot time complaining about the need for ballot access reform. Georgia is currently rated 50th (that’s worst, for those of you playing at home) in the nation for ballot access for third-party candidates, or “independents” since our state only “recognizes” two political parties under election law. “Rogue candidates.” The rebels without a cause. What it means to be recognized as a political party is also defined by state law.

Georgia currently requires these candidates to obtain signatures from 5% of prospective voters. If you’re running for Congress, that’s about 18,000 signatures – and no third-party has been on a general election Congressional ticket since 1943. Whether you’re running for county commission or Governor, you have 180 days to collect the signatures and then turn them in accordance with the qualifying period outlined specifically for independent candidates. This mess unfolded publicly for both Jeff Amason in House District 21(who obtained far more than 5%) and  candidates like Bill Bozarth in Atlanta during the last general election. There is no doubt the process is a bureaucratic, unequal mess.

And we’ve sort of tried. During the 2011-12 legislation session, Secretary of State Brian Kemp recommended by way of Rep. Mark Hamilton and HB 949, along with many other ballot access reform initiatives, a reduced number of signatures required for third-party candidates. Not perfect, but a step in the right direction. The legislature denied this and passed almost every other ballot reform measure in HB 899.

ballot access

Support for fewer barriers to entry goes back further than that, though. A similar bill was introduced by the late Rep. Bobby Franklin and, wait for it,…David Ralston, pre-speakership days. In fact, Ralston was the first signer on HB 927 in the 2005-2006 legislative session. The bill, which is worded in so many ways that I adore, states the following:

BA_section2

Consistent petition standards for all public offices. What a novel thought. The legislation reduced the number of signatures required to 2% of voters based on numbers from the last election. While this legislation is contradictory in and of itself, seeing as though ‘consistent’ would imply that everyone, even “Republicans” and “Democrats” are subjected to the same rules, the mere introduction of the legislation indicates that we have a problem. In September, 58% of Americans favored third parties. It’s time to stop ignoring this issue.

Whether legislation should eliminate signatures for an ‘unrecognized’ party, or we stop using parties on the ballot (Georgia Washington didn’t like them!), or we start messing around with the qualifying fees as a barrier to entry is still up for debate. One thing is for sure: no candidate should have to sue the state to be on the ballot. That’s not a government run by The People and Georgia needs to do better. Perhaps we can shoot for 49th. Regardless of whether you will ever vote for a third-party or not, the inequity based on political affiliation is resounding.

What legislation will actually look like if it comes about in the upcoming session -if it even does- is still to be determined. Rumor has it that legislation will indeed be introduced, perhaps by Rep. John Pezold (R-Columbus). But you know what they say about rumors: Only good ones are spiced with truth.

Gurley legislation is for whiners and tax collectors

As someone who doesn’t keep up with football, who doesn’t like grandstanding, and who believes in a very limited government, you can imagine my despair for the pre-filed HB 3 by Representative Barry Fleming (R-121), “Education; programs; person solicit transaction with student-athlete; provide sanctions”

Aside from the riveting title, the bill is just bad news. HB 3…

Todd Gurley

…and then the jersey number. It’s no coincidence.

The bill summary says: “To amend Part 14 of Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (which you can find here), relating to other educational programs, so as to provide sanctions for persons that enter into or solicit a transaction with a student-athlete that would result in sanctions to the student-athlete; to provide for related matters; to provide for an effective date; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.”

Though I went to UGA for graduate school, I don’t have a “team” or a vested interest in this argument. If you do, I hope you can set them aside in considering what this legislation is actually doing. Let’s consider the following:

  1. Whether you believe student athletes should be able to collect salaries, funds, fees or kickbacks is not relevant here. The legislation strictly pertains to would-be ‘offenders’ who solicit student athletes. The rest isn’t under consideration.
  2. The bill calls for sanctions on the person who attempts to or enters into a contract/transaction with a student athlete for a purpose that would likely (love the wording) suspend eligibility for performance, participation, or scholarships. Sure, the student athlete would still risk school and NCAA punishment, but we are talking about the legal system. Laws are supposed to be equitable and just. Essentially, the legislation would make one party of the contract more culpable than the other even though both parties are freely and voluntarily engaging in this behavior. We don’t need to enact legislation to tip the justice scales when we have consenting adults. Organizational sanctions are sufficient if this behavior is to be discouraged.
  3. The legislation effectively makes entering a contract punishable under the law (and with a $25,000 sanction and a felony on your record, no less). Something that is otherwise legal with any other human over the age of 18 in Georgia. I have looked for precedent and justification or even something remotely similar under Georgia law, but I haven’t been able to find anything. There is a lack of “legal need” for this bill. This won’t make us safer and it isn’t protecting anyone…if that’s your logic behind government as a whole.
  4. Government is reactive. Sometimes too reactive. It seems as though we try to win hearts and then influence people because the premise of a bill may not be good. If this wasn’t Georgia and our state wasn’t swarming with UGA fans, this probably wouldn’t have come about. If it weren’t for the outrage over the season’s ups and downs with Todd Gurley, we may not be having this conversation.

A lot of times we hear people telling us to take the person out of the politics and they’re referencing the sponsor of legislation, but I’m not exactly a fan of the heart strings bills that use poster children to disguise expanded government. Pre-filed bills are often shells, too, which will be amended later, but this one is bad in premise and I hope our legislators – and football fans -are able to see that.