No, Employers shouldn’t get tax breaks for paying student loan debt

I’ve seen a few articles circulating the social media networks lately following the bill introduced by Congressman Rodney Davis which would grant employers a tax break, up to a certain amount, for loan assistance they offer their employees. recently ran an Associated Press article on the issue as well.

Essentially, The Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act proposes making a maximum of $5,250 a year in employer payments for student loan debts tax-free for the worker, and eligible for tax breaks for the employer.

I don’t know where to begin. We’ve over-incentivized student loans for so long causing what we now know to be the “student loan bubble” that is, in fact, on the verge of collapse, and the first step of a solution is to make sure the student gets an “untaxed gift” because someone else pays for something that is considered a burdensome debt?

We, as a nation, created this monster when we opened the flood gates of student loans to everyone – regardless of major, institution, amount, or ability to repay. Then we expanded the payment plans to be income-based, staggered, deferred, anything at all to make it “easier.” We allow interest on student loans to be tax-deductible much like a mortgage. But let’s face it: It isn’t working. The average amount of student loan debt of the 2014 graduating class was nearly $30,000 and almost 14% of those in repayment are in default.

I’ve been open and honest about my student loan debt. It’s suffocating and probably a mistake. Some days I wish I hadn’t gone to grad school, because the percentage of my work that entails what I learned is minimal, but I did and I recognize my own personal responsibility about it. I have to pay it back no matter what the cost and no matter long it takes. No one made me pull out a loan for school.

You wouldn’t ask your employer to include a loan reimbursement for your mortgage, or your car, or your credit card debt, or starting your side small business as part of your benefits package (the latest could be managed by Lendgenius for short term loans). What is the difference here? The student loan operation is already so far from the reality of life. You don’t pay your mortgage back based on income. You can’t refinance your house at a lower amount because you lose your job or take a pay cut.

This is the federal government we’re talking about here. If you offer a tax deduction for it, you’re encouraging a subsidy.

By continuing to manipulate the market and incentivize different behavior, we’re only pushing the already overloaded bubble one step closer to explosion. The correct answer is not to talk about the deductions taxpayers get for “something else,” because any tax deduction is a step away from lassiez faire economics. What we don’t pay now, we’ll be paying for later.

When this $1.2 trillion bubble bursts, it will be worse than the mortgage crisis. Except this time, it won’t be the big banks the fail. It will be federal government. And let’s not trick ourselves into thinking it’s a conservative foundation to use the government to incentivize someone to do anything.

I’ve said it before – if you’re unwilling to payback an investment you made into yourself, you’ll never be willing to pay back anything


Let the Klan have their damn road.

The battle between the Georgia Department of Transportation and a north Georgia chapter of the Ku Klux Klan has been raging on for over three years now, usurping valuable resources, time, and money of taxpayers.

It’s made for unusual bedfellows, including legal representation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for…the Klan. While it speaks to the integrity of the ACLU and equitable protection under the law, the criticism has not been spewed sparingly.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last three years, here’s a quick rundown:

Because of the controversy, the Georgia Department of Transportation has stopped accepting new applications for the ‘Adopt-a-Highway’ program. They are supposedly planning to restructure their policy. If I were them, I would wait to restructure anything until the courts have ruled once and for all.

To me, it seems like the solution is fairly simple. If the problem is the use of tax dollars to provide the sign and print names of organizations and groups that the state doesn’t endorse, then allow the organization to adopt the highway and then have them pay for and install their own sign.

If the GDOT, a state agency, cannot fairly and equitably apply the program policy to all applicants, the program should be suspended indefinitely, any already adopted roads should be revoked, and the signs should be taken down. Maintenance should resume being performed by GDOT.

The First Amendment – and all the others – were crafted with the intention that they would be protected even when it made us uncomfortable. Free speech isn’t always pretty. If the previous ruling is overturned, the Court is essentially saying that the concern over the possibility of hate speech trumps Constitutional rights. The Klan is responsible for indefensible things, but if they are cleaning up trash and erecting a sign, those are not illegal activities. What is the grounds for denial? You also muddy the waters between what an actual chapter is responsible for versus the people participating within that chapter.

The purpose of the program was to bridge the gap where the DOT fell short and allow the community to participate in keeping roads clean. ANYONE from the community should be able to do that – even if we don’t like them. I would imagine if you had the opportunity to get to know everyone in the state who adopted a road, there would be others you didn’t like, too. That isn’t grounds for denial.

This isn’t about the Klan. It’s about the proper role of government. The Klan should be allowed to adopt their stretch of highway.

A Domestic Violence Database? No, thank you.

It’s hard to see any story detailing domestic violence. The pictures, the comments, and the police reports all illustrate a complete violation and misappropriation of trust. It’s difficult to understand. Luckily, the number of organizations dedicated to stopping or slowing domestic violence in our communities is growing – which is beneficial since most of it boils down to the resources that are readily available. Lately, though, there’s been an even greater push to create a database of domestic violence offenders. We’ve seen one at the national level, but what about as organized through the state? What does that entail and what are the unintended consequences?

It’s an interesting concept in and of itself and a demonstration of what we’ve evolved into as a society. Some guy (or girl) asks you out, you say yes, and then head to the desktop to google whether or not they’re on ‘the database.’ How…romantic.

I’ve long battled with the idea of the sex offender database, specifically here in Georgia, because of the ‘catch-all’ nature of it. I wholeheartedly believe the public should have the most access to information as possible – and crimes against persons (excluding minors) are all public information. But our database for sexual offenders is inherently flawed as it is defined in the law. How would a domestic violence database be any different?

  1. Trying to catch those guilty of domestic violence charges will be about as effective as using a hammock to catch water. In Georgia, we call it ‘family violence’ in the Georgia code and it blankets any felony or “offenses of battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass.” Sometimes people are charged with crimes that may be similar to what they did, but not exact. Will you include people who are convicted? Or just charged? Or those who have a report filed against them? Does it have to be a first hand report? What’s the burden of proof?
  2. There is grey area in the law. We’ve seen the unintended consequences of the 17-year-old sleeping with the 16 year-old spending the rest of his life on the sex offender registry. How do we ensure this doesn’t happen with this second database?
  3. Databases create an entirely different class of people. By placing them on a database, we’re essentially saying they are too dangerous for society and we should all ‘watch out.’ If the public is endangered, should those people not still be in prison? And are we declaring that there are absolutely no exceptions and that no one can ever change? Are we also going to place domestic violence offenders on the same playing field as those who commit sexual offenses of a high and aggravated nature?
  4. Who will pay for it? If it’s a nonprofit or third-party organization, the buck stops there. That can’t even be regulated – there is no penalty from making a public record more public. But if it is run by the state, or local agencies, someone has to maintain those records and verify the information provided in the records, which is costly.
  5. It’s hard to say that a database will cut down on the the occurrence of domestic violence. Setting all judgment aside, domestic violence happens for reasons beyond the scope of what a database could ever prevent. Circumstances, internally and externally, make some women more vulnerable and keep many domestic violence victims from leaving. I personally know this to be true.

I am of the belief that we have a moral obligation to weigh who will be harmed in the process of ‘doing good’ and trying to protect victims. The possibility of negative consequences should be addressed before a database is constructed, especially if done by the state, since “fixing” problems is almost impossible. As we’ve already seen, attempting to alter the sex offender registry in any capacity is political suicide.

The idea may seem like a good one, but for now, we should hold off. In the meantime, women (and men) will have to be responsible for types of people they date.

Are the police being properly policed?

When I moved to South Georgia, I decided there wouldn’t be much I would say “no” to. I was going to try new things, keep an open mind, and learn as much as I could about everything. One of those things was participating in the Citizens Police Academy near my town. I joined for many reasons, but one reason in particular was my fascination with how much people in smaller communities love their police officers. Writing for All On Georgia, we frequently share articles about the police department and the sheriff’s office and comments usually never stray from ‘Way to go!’ and ‘Great job, guys!’ I was like a bug to the light on this issue, especially coming from Metro Atlanta where the public-police partnership is basically non-existent.

Personally, I’ve never had a terrible experience with any law enforcement officer. I grew up in a community where the cops talked to kids, came by the neighborhood pool, and talked to you about listening to your parents. I’ve also had the opportunity to talk several courteous officers with a mild sense of humor out of giving me a traffic ticket – or ten. But it’s amazing what the media can do when they have the ability to push an agenda 24/7.

Like most, I was mortified by the story of the DeKalb officers who entered the wrong home and ended up shooting the homeowner and fatally wounding his dog. Like most, my heart aches to see the calls for violence against officers around the nation for no reason other than their employment status. Like most, I have read the news articles, seen the live coverage, and watched on social media as the respect for the thin blue line fizzles into an untouchable pixie dust while all-things-policing have become racially charged and politically motivated. There’s a huge problem between the public and police right now.


(Photo: Lansing State Journal)

Just recently, I saw an article out of Michigan go viral. A “well-behaved” teenager was pulled over by an officer for flashing his lights. The article, which included body camera footage, was cluttering my Facebook feed for days, featuring the officer as some sort of animal who yanked a kid from a car, threw his phone into traffic, and emptied his weapon. SEVERAL news articles would have you think that. CNN’s headline read, “Cop kicks teens phone out of hand, shoots 7 times.” HuffingtonPost’s said, “Unarmed Teen Flashed Lights at cop and ended up dead.” The body camera footage might even have you thinking that, too, considering what was released is cut off as soon as the actual scuffle begins, but an independent Google search shows you images of the officer in the hospital, bruised and bloodied. That picture didn’t appear in one viral article, but it isn’t a hoax and certainly changes the dialogue about the incident.

I don’t know the full extent of what happened there. I can only draw conclusions from the information that is available, but it’s getting old watching people draw conclusions from a single source with one issue when in other aspects of life, they’ll trust anyone but the mainstream media. Many of my anti-government friends who question everything else reported by the media are quick to jump to the defense of anyone but the officer when a scuffle emerges.

In the story from Michigan, the teen may have been unarmed, but I’m not sure how that’s relevant in a physical fight. You don’t need a weapon to kill someone and being a police officer doesn’t make you any less of a person. If it were your husband, or son, or father, how long would you want them to wait before fighting for their life? ‘Public servant’ doesn’t translate to ‘public sacrifice.’

Consider this video from Laurens County back in the late 1990’s. The dashcam video shows three and a half minutes of heartwrenching and gruesome footage of a standoff between Deputy Kyle Dinkheller and a deranged veteran who ends up loading a rifle in front of the deputy, charging him, and emptying the magazine – killing Deputy Dinkheller. All of this is on the video. If you watch it, you would stare -dumbfounded- wondering why the deputy didn’t fire sooner.

(WARNING: The video is graphic and horrific in language and content)

It’s difficult to place ourselves in their shoes, and I am glad we hold our public servants to such a high standard of integrity and expertise, but I also know that I am not cut out to be a cop. Are you? I think back to a few weeks ago when my CPA class had to use a gun simulator on a traffic stop that escalated. We were given a gun and had to decide when to ‘use force’ on our aggressor. It was a computer game, essentially, and the ‘perpetrator’ scared the living daylights out of me when he started moving and shaking and whipping his hands in and out of his pockets. I KNEW what was coming on a game and I still reacted by firing all six bullets in my gun. And on my ride-along, we responded to a call in an area that I know that if I lived in it, I would probably walk around with my gun drawn 24/7. So, I ask again…your judgement casts easy, but would your glass house weather the storm if the shoe was on the other foot?

I also have to wonder if the people who are so angry about law enforcement officers have actually had a bad experience themselves, or if they are just living vicariously through stories and victims in the media. These stories are happening – there is no denying the incidents – but is it as often as we are led to believe?

It is almost cliche now to say ‘there are bad people in every industry,’ but it’s true. It’s just not every industry that has open records requests and the media breathing down their neck on a daily basis. When I make a mistake in my job, I fix it and the world keeps spinning. When an accountant doesn’t properly balance a sheet, the world continues turning. When a board of elected officials votes to do something unscrupulous, the world. keeps. turning.

What I’ve found is that when an officer does do something wrong, other officers are quick to point that out or condemn the action. Very few of them are looking to cast the wide net and taint the entire force or industry, if you will. And if you talk to your local officers, you’ll find that most of them don’t look at the world the way the media portrays them to be looking at the world.

This isn’t a defense of the bad ones, but rather a question of whether or not we are fighting the right fight, or just fighting to fight. I don’t know what the answer is. We cannot disarm law enforcement officers and we certainly cannot disarm the media. The difference is that the media comes out unscathed while exacerbating what is a very bad time to be a police officer in the United States. Perhaps the activists who would like to see reform on aspects of policing should save their energy for stories which expressly show wrongdoing, so not only can proper action be taken, but when there is a ‘victory for the public,’ it is not at the expense of the integrity of a movement.

Why Are Conservatives Against Early Release for Drug Offenders?

In a few weeks, the bi-partisan panel put together to assess the drug sentences of thousands of prisoners will release the first 5,500 federal inmates.

The news headlines would have you worried thousands of murderers and rapists will soon return to the streets of our hometowns and utter chaos will ensue. But that simply isn’t the case.

The offenders who are set to be released have been vetted by a judge who weighs whether there is a threat to public safety. Many are non-violent offenders who are serving time for crimes without a victim. Some are serving under mandatory minimums and could be facing decades in prison for simple drug charges that happened in their late teenage years. In many of the cases, however, the average sentence will be cut by a little over two years.

Even those conservatives who do not believe the United States is suffering from the ‘War on Drugs’ can give credit to the fiscally conservative and limited government arguments in favor of releasing many of these inmates. Here are just a few:

  1. It saves taxpayers millions of dollars every year. The cost of incarcerating non-violent offenders is astronomical. The Federal Bureau of Prisons said in 2014 that the average cost of annual incarceration of federal inmates is $30,619.85.
    • For just the 5,500 released in phase 1, consider this:
    • $63,791.35 (avg 25 months of incarceration shaved from sentenced) X 5,500 (No. of inmates) = $350,852,425.
    • It’s estimated that nearly 40,000 inmates could benefit from early release. Just considering the average of 25 months off the sentence, that’s $2,551,654,000.
  2. It makes taxpayers money. Inmates released early are placed on parole or probation, both of which have fines associated with them on a monthly basis. City and state governments both stand to gain financially from those fees. The average is about $100 per month on probation.
  3. Conservatives are supposed to oppose federal control. Aside from trafficking across state lines, why do we have federal drug laws? If conservatives feel that drug laws are absolutely necessary to the degree they are in place today, why at the federal level? Should it not be left up to the state? Shouldn’t each state have the authority to govern their drug laws as they see fit?
    • Remember: Everyone in Georgia who is benefiting from the CBD oil under Haleigh’s HOPE Act is committing a federal offense by bringing it here and possessing it. The State of Georgia simply granted amnesty for those possessing it under Georgia law. Are conservatives for or against that?

Currently, nearly 50% of the U.S. prison population is made up of non-violent drug offenders and as of September 2015, over 200,000 people sat in federal prison and more than 93,000 of them because of drug offenses. Just in federal prison.

Conservatives cannot deny the issue that smacking both taxpayers and the legal system in the face: we’re spending too much where it doesn’t count and we’re allocating resources and responsibilities to the federal government where we shouldn’t be.

Where did our souls go?

Saturday morning I covered the Wiregrass Festival in Reidsville for work and true to form, I got lost leaving to head home. I went east, instead of west, and ended up out on Highway 147 outside Reidsville city limits.

If you’re not familiar with Reidsville, it is home to two of Georgia’s prisons: Georgia State Prison – a maximum security facility and former home to the electric chair for Georgia – and Rogers State Prison – a medium security prison with just under 1,500 male inmates. Both are visible from the highway, but there is nothing to see.

The large white stone sign on Wikipedia is nothing like the real life image. Surrounded by high, sharp fences, the outdoor areas were a dusty brown. The brick was faded and even the sidewalks on the outside were dilapidated. Guard towers in every corner shadowed the buildings and the grounds. The parking spots for the Warden and just about every powerful position below him were vacant, and even though it was a humid 85 degrees outside, the premises just looked cold. It’s nothing like you see in the movies.

It was upsetting and brought tears to my eyes. If it’s this ugly and dingy on the outside, what is it like on the inside? I was upset for the *one* person I personally know to be in there wrongfully. I was upset for everyone who has been in there after a wrongful conviction – or even serving time for a crime without a victim. I was even upset for the ones that are guilty – “the monsters.”

Before we go any further, this isn’t an anti-prison post. I am not a bleeding-heart liberal. I am not anti-punishment. I believe in a justice system – maybe not ours – but I believe we should have one. I think there should be a system of restitution, but as it currently operates, I don’t believe our system is one of reformation. There are dangerous people in the world and laws are in place to handle them. Prison shouldn’t be a cake walk. It shouldn’t be luxurious with high-thread count sheets and delicious foods and personal trainers. It should, however, be used sparingly.

But I want to know when we decided we wanted to forget these people and why we stopped praying for these people? When did we start saying “Hooray!” when someone’s life is changed because they chose not to make good decisions or are incapable of doing so? We all want beautiful communities filled with wonderful people and souls as good as ours. Does prison accomplish that? For some, the punishment probably isn’t nearly harsh enough, for others, it changes the course of their lives forever. Should we revel in that?

Not far from the beautiful sprawling farmland and the quaint downtowns of Small Town America are people we are ignoring as part of our society. We place them out on a county road to pretend it isn’t happening. No one has to see it. No one has to hear it. No one has to think about it.  And we do it in the name of justice. On a Saturday, the small parking lot sits half empty because even the family members of some of these inmates have forgotten them.

Yes, the Bible tells us “an eye for an eye, but it also tells us much about our enemies – and many consider the prison population to be our enemies, across the board terrible. In Acts 7: 60 – And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” and Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

It didn’t used to be like this. We’ve always believed in punishment, yes, but we didn’t find it heartwarming or rewarding to watch someone be locked away. What’s changed? Surprisingly, it’s society – not the victims. If you turn on the television, forgiveness and compassion are overflowing. The families of the victims of the Charleston Church shooting were publicly offering forgiveness within days of the massacre and that doesn’t seem to be uncommon. It’s us – the regular people – that are the problem.

The criminal justice system will not see any reform until perception changes on the outside – and that starts with you and me. It’s interesting: the description of Georgia State Prison says renovations and expansions have taken place because of the “growing crime rate,” but the only thing that’s grown is the number of things we’ve made punishable by prison time. We’ve allowed that.

There will always be terrible people in this world and many of them belong in prison for their crimes. No one can deny that. But just because they belong there doesn’t mean we should banish them from our hearts and minds forever. That’s what leads to social injustice…for everyone.

Military Pension Tax Exemptions a Terrible Idea

Freshman legislator Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) announced earlier this week that he plans to introduce a bill that will exempt military exemptions from Georgia income tax. According to Walter Jones, Petrea “said he would pay for his plan by boosting the tax on cigarettes 28 cents per pack, leaving the 65-cent total below the national average of $1.60. That shouldn’t put Georgia retailers at a disadvantage, but it would help discourage some youngsters from taking up smoking and developing an unhealthy habit.”

So, not only will this bill help veterans and help attract retiring veterans to Georgia, it’s going to help the children as well. Great.

As a purist, I am against any more income tax exemptions or sales tax exemptions. And I am againsteye roll every single one we have on the books. Exemptions don’t provide for limited government – they actually make for more government. “Exemption” essentially means special treatment, and while I firmly believe our veterans should always be our first priority, this is an instance where the “solution” either needs to be applied broadly or not at all.

The tax code in Georgia is already overflowing with exemptions. Pipe organ sales. Mercedes-Benz. Film industry tax credits. They all serve a purpose at some point, but never sunset and then the tax code just complicates more and more and more.

The worst part about this is that no one in their right mind will have the ability to vote NO unless they want to see a primary opponent sending mail pieces claiming they ‘voted against veterans.’ The horror of principles of limited government.

The logic is circular and only perpetuates a problem we continue to face every cycle.

  1. Man introduces feel-good tax exemptions for a class of people
  2. Exemption reduces revenue
  3. Budget doesn’t get reduced
  4. Shortfall
  5. Need more revenue
  6. Create new tax
  7. Complicate tax code

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I am not advocating for the Georgia General Assembly to continue to raise taxes, and I am certainly not pushing for our veterans to be punished. But sin taxes cannot be our fallback, unless the plan is to have alcohol selling for $120 a liter and pack of cigarettes to be priced at a mere $25/pack.

All this will do is create more problems somewhere else on down the line. But on a positive note, it will give anyone who voted for the $900 million tax increase for transportation a little boost with constituents.

Which Georgia Republican Will Take Up Transgender Policies?

The firestorm stemming from the early release of transgendered inmate Ashley Diamond is dwindling but the flame fanning when it comes to the bigger picture of transgenders in Georgia is still wildly ablaze.

While serving a sentence for robbery, Ashely Diamond, who was born a male but is now living life as a female filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice after the Georgia Department of Corrections stopped administering hormone therapy. Georgia and federal law both prohibit incarceration facilities from stopping medication that was part of an inmates lifestyle prior to entering prison, however, furthering a transition through surgery or additional hormone drugs is not permitted. Once the DoJ ruled the Georgia DoC must administer the hormones, Diamond filed another lawsuit alleging repeated rape and assault charges. Shortly after, Diamond was released after serving only 3 of the 12 year prison sentence. The Georgia DoC says early release is common, but others speculate that Diamond was released because no one knew what to do with her and the lawsuits and negative publicity seemed unending.

The majority of the issues around Diamond’s case arose because Diamond was living life as a female…in an all-male prison.

This may have been the first case of its kind in Georgia, but it certainly won’t be the last. The decision to either enact a law, or push for the Georgia Department of Corrections to establish a policy, is on the shoulders of Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly. While the issue certainly isn’t sexy, or politically expedient, it is necessary.

It becomes complicated when you consider that neither the state of Georgia nor the federal government have enacted any type of policies that address things like this. It’s even messier when you consider there’s no manual that describes where a person needs to be in the transition process to be recognized by the state as another gender. What needs to happen? Do birth certificates get re-issued? Amended? What goes on with Social Security cards? While these are federal issues in some cases, what has to occur in order for a person to be legally recognized as another gender so that they are assigned to the appropriate prison facility? Where do basic human rights start and stop with transgendered adults?

What obligation does the state have in protecting these people?

As I have previously mentioned, we are far beyond societal resistance. Faith and morals can convict you in your own home, but our state needs to catch up…and quick. Otherwise, we quickly open the door for lawsuits when inmates are raped and assaulted in prison because of our own decision to place them at risk. It can and will happen. What’s worse is that is spans far beyond prisons.

The prison stories seem to be unendingHospitals. Schools. School bathrooms. It will cost Georgians millions, and even if the state wins, that costs money, too.

It is no longer about whether or not you agree. This isn’t a private business baking a cake. This is a state-funded operation that is going to cause problems continuously if something isn’t done. Permanent isolation? Separation dorms for transgendered people? Try something. Start somewhere. Otherwise, lawsuit settlements are paid by taxpayers. We can’t keep turning a blind eye simply because we don’t know what to do. Georgia needs to work toward a policy. Now.

Gov. Deal Bakes Cake, Offers Bites to Eat, Too

Yesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Confederate Memorial Day has quietly been removed from state calendars along with Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Both memorial days will now be referred to using a neutral term of ‘state holiday.’

While I’m not certain I support the elimination of memorial days that are, whether we like it or not, integral parts of our state history, I’m more disappointed by the fact that the elimination of the holiday has zero consequences for the employees.

From the AJC:

Gov. Nathan Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said the state still intends to celebrate the days even if it doesn’t “spell it out by name.”

“There will be a state holiday on that day,” he said. “Those so inclined can observe Confederate Memorial Day and remember those who died in that conflict.”

Democrat legislators, liberal groups around the state (and nation), and even some employees have long been lobbying for their Confederate-based state-recognized paid days off to be eliminated – at least the language of the holidays.

This decision is solely in the hands of the Governor until the Georgia legislature passes something concrete and permanent, and based on Deal’s most recent announcement, it seems those holidays will cease to exist as the history books now read. As for the state employees…they will still have their paid day off.

Here’s how this works: If you aren’t going to recognize the day for what it really means, it isn’t necessary to give state employees a day off. We close banks and government agencies for MLK Jr. Day, New Year’s Day, and Christmas, and we formally recognize the Holocaust Memorial Day and President’s Day. George Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday are all on various calendars. They’re on the calendar because they represent an era or person in history.

History shouldn’t just be erased because of knee-jerk reactions from public dissent. More thought should have been put into this issue. A loud minority is clamoring about the existence of Confederate holidays, memorials, statues, and figureheads and managed to become loud enough for the Governor to hear on this one. Action was taken, and will likely continue to be taken. But it should be done slowly and it should be evaluated for what it is.

Now, something deemed “terrible” was removed from a written calendar, disguised as something else, and used as a reward for employees.

You don’t get to have your cake and eat it, too. Either recognize the memorial days for what they are and give the employees their paid time off, or don’t. Please don’t play puppeteer. .

Photos below courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:


“I’m Sorry I Raised Your Taxes”

We’ve all heard about it by now. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston plans to introduce the “Pastor’s Protection Act” during the next legislative session.

Let’s call a spade a spade. This is actually the Legislator’s Protection Act. Don’t be fooled, people. This is an apology, an olive branch, a caucus career saver, the “I’m sorry I ran over your dog” bouquet of flowers. The ice pack the punk offers you after slugging you in the jaw.

The same man who spent two sessions making sure the religious liberty bills never hit the House floor for a vote now wants to swoop in Cavalia style with a unicorn horn to the tune of Flash! by Queen and introduce this bill to appease a very specific group of the Republican electorate. To save the souls of the Republicans who went out on a limb to appease him and the Governor this spring.

Forget about Representative Sam Teasley and Senator Josh McKoon. Forget about the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the various groups of united religious denominations, and any Georgian of faith

You can close your jaw. I’m telling the truth. I know I’m telling the truth because folks on both sides of the issue will admit this is the least necessary aspect of the religious liberty controversy. It would only apply to clergy. Not churches. Not businesses. It wouldn’t do much. This is an easy way out for a feel good bill.

While this certainly isn’t a religious liberty bill, the issues have the same roots. This initiative comes on the heels of the Supreme Court decision that has the far religious right up in arms. The same religious right that was mortified by the legislative priority list for the General Assembly last session, what with the taxes, the expanded government, the strippers. The same religious right that turns out election after election. Religious liberty is a hot button issue that will be at every candidate forum come spring 2016.

And the truth is that Republicans who voted in favor of the $900 million tax increase for transportation faced heat at home. (Unless they quit or took an appointment.) Constituents are angry, the grassroots and Tea Party folks are still nailing them to the wall and when polls came out illustrating that voters overwhelmingly didn’t care for the tax, it was clear that the Republican caucus needed a plan.

The truth is that there are plenty of people who would appear more qualified and genuine carrying a bill like this. But it isn’t about that. It’s about an agenda. An agenda that will protect a a particular group of the caucus.

It isn’t supposed to be about who gets the credit. It’s supposed to be about quality legislation and doing the right thing. And if that means Ralston carries this bill, so be it.

But this, this is why people hate politics. It’s manipulative, calculated, and disingenuous. It’s everything they say it is and more. And worse. And then the voters have to make a decision. What is our priority when we head to the ballot box? Civil liberties? Or lower taxes? Because only some Republican districts get representatives with both.