Tag Archives: 2015 legislative session

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.

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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.

Context.

I think one of the most enjoyable, and every now and again unsatisfying, things about writing is watching yourself evolve. The internet never goes away so every last thought is somewhere, floating. As a blogger, you grow and in politics you evolve, too. Or shrink, or die.

But evolution is slow and happens over time. If it isn’t slow, it’s just inconsistency. Sometimes inconsistency can be espoused by the carrier of legislation, by someone else supporting it, or a personal reason that’s changed your perspective. Sometimes things just bring about emotion in us. Context.

I offer an example.I saw this photo on the internet about a week ago.

politic

When I saw it, it was tied to an “opt-in truth-in-labeling” group about food product transparency. It had no words of commentary, just the photo. I thought to myself, “I like that! And heck yes I agree!!” ::air fist bump:: I took a screenshot and went about my merry way.

Last night, I was scrolling the ‘Ferguson’ hashtag and saw the same image. It irritated me. I took a screenshot again- not knowing it was the same thing- but I thought in my head “What IS this? We don’t know what exactly happened. People are acting ridiculous” and I actually said aloud, “We will never really know.” Again with no commentary, just the photo. Set my phone down and that was that.

Later last night, I noticed a double in photos on my phone. I remembered that the exact same photo, both without additional commentary other than a hashtag identifying the topic, brought about entirely different perspectives about the same words. ONE word of context.

In politics, context is everything. I don’t like grey area but it all falls in there. There is no black and white. In fact, without context, politics is nothing. Nonexistent. Just a bunch of angry, opinionated people having breakfast once a month.

Those of us who like to label ourselves as most consistent probably struggle with this the most but have to acknowledge that context is the basis of the process.

What is most terrifying: Our principles can be contextual, too. Consider some of the following:

  • Ethics legislation
    Principle: We MUST have ethics reform. At any cost.
    Context: The legislation was ineffective and messy. But who votes against ethics? Only a fool, right? Unless, of course, the legislation is poorly written and a baseless campaign stunt to say, “Look what I did!” But who votes against ethics?
  • The Marketplace Fairness Act (or E-Fairness)
    Principle: I’ll never vote for a tax increase.
    Context:  It’s a tax increase. And without said tax increase, you’re technically allowing some businesses to operate in a different tax bracket. Small , local businesses can suffer with the additional burden others don’t – especially in more rural counties. Sure, the movement should be to zero and not upward, but if we can’t have it our way, should it at least be just?
  • Or a bill that allows cross-county warrants for wiretapping. Said legislation is an expansion of the police state and hovers over that line of our 4th amendment rights.
    Principle: I’m against any/further infringements on the 4th Amendment.
    Context:  It’s actually a bill that returns the control to local departments. This allows local agencies to operate, not just the huge statewide organizations, over their jurisdiction which can double up (often in metro ATL). The wiretap warrants are already allowable under law, so if THAT won’t be repealed, what’s the next option? Local or large force?

**not advocating for or against any of the above, simply recognizing the different light that context sheds on various things. I repeat, no advocating.

  • Farm subsidies
    Principles: I am against subsidies in any capacity
    Context: Our agricultural system is so broken and the government has such a choke hold over the entire industry that farmers cannot survive without being submissive. Unless the system is completely overhauled, without subsidies, nothing will be locally grown.
    ^^Actually advocating there

These are just a few examples and the list goes on.  It’s also true that (more than likely) context is used to deceive us. Using the death of a child to expand the reach of government and regulate businesses or the use of fear of your church becoming a war zone with “guns everywhere” generalizations is wildly inappropriate, too. Context to tug on those heart-strings and make you feel like government will put a big ‘ol Band-Aid over the hearts of those grieving mothers or protect you from the dangerous drivers of Uber only exacerbates the distrust in government. Using the love of a certain football player to sanction, fine, and criminalize something that is legal in the real world reminds us that people often times can’t see past the end zone.

It’s not often that government has good intentions. They rush. They mess up. A lot. But I think it’s important to recognize not only the legislation and repercussions during analysis but also the intent. WHY is this proposed? WHO is it benefiting? From WHERE did it arise? WHY does this legislation need context at all?

We are just as ineffective as some of those who represent us if we don’t remember context. This is a reminder to myself as much as it is to everyone else. We shouldn’t consider anything at face value… regardless of the source. Because even sources have context.