Tag Archives: Georgia general assembly

“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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Why the Christian Right is Wrong on Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty

Before anyone strokes out, let’s preface with this: While I struggle with how to classify religious liberty – Is it a social issue? Is it a fundamental issue? A Constitutional one? Simply something we will forever fight as the culture of society changes? – I do support religious liberty.

For the sake of ease of understanding and frame of reference, let’s consider a same-sex couple seeking to have a wedding/civil union/grand party – whatever the state allows – and they are seeking vendors for various services. They live in a moderately-sized city where there are multiple options for attire, cakes, DJ’s and venues.

We have to first consider a premise that most conservatives, but not all Republicans, would agree with: Under no circumstance should any business be forced to do anything. Whether the mandate be for hours of operation, location, employee diversity or minimum wage, the government has no place. Who you serve, how you serve, when you serve is a slippery slope.

But that slope slides both ways (pun not intended). Religious liberty is a teetering topic just perched upon the peak of the mountain waiting for anyone to slip on a banana peel forcing an avalanche down either side. When a business starts refusing business to a certain type of people, folks immediately and unfortunately jump back to the pre-Civil Rights Movement days where we saw hatred oozing from segregated areas. On the other side, we have folks operating under a system of government that neither respects private enterprise or religion. At that point, what good are we?

But it isn’t the same. While religious freedom is our first and fundamental God-given right so sacred that it is enumerated in the Constitution, religious liberty goes a tad further. Religious liberty expands to freedom of belief through practice, not just observance. It goes beyond Christianity, and much to the chagrin of the Left, it also protects the atheists and the agnostic.

So back to our same-sex couple looking for vendors. The argument that a person shouldn’t want someone who doesn’t support what they’re doing to perform a service for them’ is one of the lousier arguments out there for any political argument. Please stop using it. No, of course no one wants to consider sabotage or hap-hazard work because of, in their case, their sexual orientation and that’s likely not going to be the what happens with a business owner. I don’t see a service provider jeopardizing their reputation of quality. Perhaps principle, but not quality of a product. So what is the real protection for those who feel religious liberty protections would only spread hatred and discrimination?

The market. The free market generally cleanses communities of these businesses as citizens see fit. Consider Melissa Klein, the New York baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple and was subsequently forced to shut down her business over the controversy. The correct way for a business to be put out of business is through reduced patronage, not because the government has regulated it into oblivion and the pending legal costs from a civil suit tank the entire operation. We should pause when the federal standard is more protective of limiting government than that of Georgia (or any state). In Georgia, you can sue someone for not performing a service for you.

And in fixing it, one size doesn’t fit all. Look at the demographics just in our state. In Atlanta, we tend to be a little more tolerant. A business unwilling to serve a gay couple, for instance, would likely face substantial blow-back versus that in rural Georgia where citizens would probably pay for a one-way ticket out-of-town for a couple to be patrons elsewhere. Each community is different and blanket laws won’t solve what some would consider ‘morality issues’. And let’s be realistic: cultures vary. We support that with our “Not in our town!” mentality about everything. Why is this any different? Trying to legislate humans into being what some folks consider ‘good people’ is a recipe for failure. If a business is turning away revenue – there must be a substantial cause for that and who are we to decide if that cause is worthy or not?

While the Hobby Lobby case seems to be dominating the news market, there are many more cases like this popping up all around our state and nation. Our classrooms, our small business owners – they’re all wading through this muddied mess of law versus morality and while we’ve tried to fix it, we’re only making it worse.

So far, here’s where I think we’ve messed up:
Going back to our double-sided ski slope, we have to recognize that this is yet another issue where we are on the chopping block in the media and we likely won’t win. Having said that, we should still be sensitive to the tone and wording. ‘Religious freedom’ means something different to a lot of folks as opposed to ‘religious liberty’. Many see ‘freedom’ as ‘ability’ and ‘liberty’ as ‘protection’. We should acknowledge the distinction.

The conversation may not have started the properly. So much of legislation is first about teaching and educating. When we teach and educate, the conversation travels both ways and we ended up with better legislation. We’ve charged an issue literally clinging to our guns and our religion and it has fogged the entire debate. Hobby Lobby brought out some zealots and the media clung to them. We have to distance ourselves from Hobby Lobby and those zealots. Our argument needs to be crafted two-fold: First, that this isn’t just about Christians, it’s about all religions. We are here to protect the religious liberty of all. And second, this is about the role of government.

We also handed the note to the wrong carrier pigeon. This is where the Christian Right comes into play and can make a difference. My long-time establishment friends will be proud to hear me say this, but it seems like a more moderate person has to carry a bill and be the talking head. I commend those across various states who have put themselves in the line of fire because others are unwilling. It’s noble, but it may not be effective. It’s why Congressman Broun can’t carry the torch. Because this is about religion, but not one specific religion.

So to sum up:

  • Religious liberty at its core is about limited government.
  • The current messengers for religious liberty may not be the right ones at this time.
  • The term ‘religious freedom’ could be damaging to the cause because again, people don’t understand.
  • We’re living in an era where the ‘general public’ might not understand what the end goal is so the first step is conversation, not legislation. You can’t drop a knowledge bomb on someone without first offering a firm definition of what is to be done.

As for the couple looking for vendors, if they want to limit the role of the state for issues like, oh say, marriage, they must understand that government should also be limited elsewhere.

Constitutional Values? You will rally for these bills…

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

As Constitutional conservatives, bills worth following include the following:

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

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

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

Raw Milk Sans Social Unrest

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

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

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

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