Tag Archives: Ed Setzler

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.

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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.

Regionalism: Unrepresentative, Unaccountable and Hardly Elected

After the recent Braves debacle, and yes, regardless of what side you were on, it truly was a debacle, regionalism has once again been brought to the forefront in our state. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand regionalism, if they’ve even heard of it before. They fail to see the unconstitutional premise of the initiative and the failed outcomes stemming from the increased level of bureaucracy and unaccountability.

The concept of regionalism, while the term seems rather self-explanatory, is actually quite complex due to its continuous evolution. Beginning in 1998, legislators began working to formally structure government on a regional level by implementing HB 1650 and establishing a 21-member Regional Advisory Council (RAC) which was refined with different ‘region lines’ the following year. In 2008, the legislature, through HB 1216, again reorganized and divided our state into 12 regions with elected and appointed representatives which were to be limited to one county commission chair and one mayor for from each region. In 2010, this project was expanded by HB 277 to include another 12 regional transportation councils which would have taxing authority and eminent domain privileges and a self-selected executive round table. In addition, a citizen review panel is appointed for each region, yet they have little authority to control the actions of the councils or roundtable. The Atlanta Regional Commission, known as ARC, was created on the premise of uniting 10 metro counties and is now the trailblazer for many of the tragic development projects we hear about every year in Georgia and dates back to 1947 but has evolved significantly since.

Arc.2013Sure is pretty, isn’t it?

It’s true that most people support counties working together and it’s true that most counties enjoy ‘sharing’ costs. It’s also true that many voters want to see their elected officials working as zealous advocates for their communities. But most wouldn’t support the concept if they knew it was mandated and involuntary. Counties are forced to work together to support initiatives and share funds that may never offer any benefit to their citizens or businesses. Essentially, regionalism reduces local control, circumvents the Georgia Constitution (Article IV, Section IV), reduces (and sometimes eliminates) transparency, diminishes accountability, redistributes wealth, creates an unnecessary [4th] level of bureaucracy and applies a one-size-fits-all approach to development that allows appointed members of a board to evade the whole ‘representative’ aspect of governing. Elected officials bring in vested ‘friends’ as appointees and the commission quickly becomes a one-way (light-rail, of course) train headed to Spendersville at our expense.

“We have a significant number of “citizen” members on the ARC Board who have absolutely no accountability to the voting public at all,” says Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown. “The thought of a mandated regional governance and taxation structure producing the likes of the regional T-SPLOST and Concept 3, by unanimous votes, no less, is a worrisome proposition.”

Regionalism isn’t all that popular, either- mostly because Georgia cannot execute the necessary engines, if you will, correctly. Maria Saporta of Maria’s Metro (who is very pro-transportation spending) recently said, “Regionalism is about investing in regional assets that serve the entire 10-county or 20-county region”. While this, like most things, sounds like a sound solution to so many local problems, regionalism requires county participation and an intermixing of funds that most taxpayers don’t even know about. It allows governance by an unelected, unchecked board with no recourse for voters, citizens or taxpayers.

Earlier this year, the GA GOP voted in favor of a resolution rejecting regionalism as a whole and supporting legislation that would repeal applicable measures. Americans for Prosperity has shed a critical light on issues surrounding regionalism and their own Matt Roy summed up an exemplary explanatory article asking, “When has more or bigger government resulted in an efficient outcome?”

Proposed remedies are lacking. Representative Ed Setzler currently has HB 195 in the hopper, which allows regionally cohesive projects without the mandate by allowing forthcoming initiatives to be at the discretion of the voters in the affected counties. Cooperation would no longer be mandatory, and elected officials would again be accountable to the people who elected them to work on projects that are in the best interest of their area. Wouldn’t that have been nice with the Braves stadium? And wasn’t that a more representative way to decide the fate of the T-SPLOST?

We don’t need regionalism. We see often why these things don’t work. A government close to home is the most effective, the most accessible and the most responsive. It’s the same reason the states don’t team up by region to accomplish things. Cooperation isn’t a bad thing and as Andre Jackson of the AJC stated, “Such cooperation where it’s mutually desired is in keeping with current best practices”. Arranged marriages are nice, but everyone usually ends up happier when you get to pick your own spouse.