Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 25: Fulton County bills moved forward with Republican push

Day 25: Fulton County bills moved forward with Republican push

Wednesday 02/27/2013. Twenty-Fifth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. Today was the committee hearing of the bulk of the Fulton bills I mentioned before. There was more bills added to this already long list, among them a batch that dealt with the judicial system of Fulton. Given that these are local bills, the chair of the Intragovernmental Coordination Committee Rep. Chuck Sims (R-Ambrose) mentioned that these bills were not to be debated in the floor of the House, so the presentation in this committee was all the ‘debate’ there was going to be of these bills. Moreover, given that these bills fulfilled the requisites of the local bill, he can just sign them and considered them passed, which meant there was not even a need for debate.

Most of the presentation of the debate was held by actual Representatives of Fulton (quite unusual), among them freshwoman Rep. LaDawn Jones (D-College Park), Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague (D-Red Oak), Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) and Rep. Virgil Fludd (D-Tyrone), which did a great job presenting with both passion and fact their positions, and why they were against all these bills, which when put together, just have the objective of weaken the County Commission of Fulton, and give more power to its wealthy north portion. All the bills were voted to a 6-6 tie, being the same members voting for their same positions, Democrats against, and Republicans in favor. It is worth to mention that Democrat Rep. Bell and Jones requested meetings of the Fulton Delegation with its Chairwoman and co-signer of most of these bills Rep. Riley (R-Johns Creek) several times to discuss them, but their requests were never addressed. The tie was broken by Chair Sims always in favor of the bills. The bills need to be reviewed by the State Department before can be effective.

In the almost 2 and a half hours meeting, these are some paraphrasing of the testimonies that showed you what happened:

It changes the current form of the Board of Commissioners from 5 Commissioners and 2 at large to 6 County Commissioners to 1 at large. Nobody has a problem with adding an extra commissioner to the north part of Fulton. The problem is the way the south part is being redrawn. There was a Resolution by the current County Commissioners against this bill.
“This bill reshapes the south part of Fulton with no respect for the communities’ integrity, and would make three current Board Commissioners to run against each other. This is nothing more than gerrymandering over people. This is doing what is best for the party, not what is best for the citizens” (Rep. LaDawn Jones, D-College Park).
“They are trying to destroy Fulton County” (Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague, D-Red Oak).
“There was a proposal of redistricting by the county board of commissioners. It was denied” (Rep. Fludd, D-Tyrone).
HB171 passed with a vote of 7-6 and it is going to the local bill calendar for Friday.

Bill that has for objective to remove the power of the Board of Commissioners to elect or appoint the Election Board. The argument in favor of the bill was that this past elections the Election Board has done a controversial job. Therefore the Board of Commissioners should not have the discretion of choosing them.
HB347 tied 6-6. Chairman Sims broke the tie and passed the bill. HB347 is going to the local bill calendar for Friday.

It changes the Tax Commissioner of Fulton from an elected position to be appointed or elected by the Board of Commissioners.
“So we just said that the Board of Commissioners should not choose the Election Board, but now we want them to choose Tax Commissioner” (Rep. Patty Bentley, D-Reynolds).
HB346 tied 6-6. Chairman Sims broke the tie and passed the bill. HB346 is going to the local bill calendar for Friday as well.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 24: Trayvon Martin rally

Day 24: Trayvon Martin rally

Tuesday 02/26/2013. Twenty-Fourth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. Today was the rally remembering Trayvon Martin organized by Senator VincentFort (D-Atlanta). It was a great event, and it counted with a wide array of participants going from Legislators to students from the University Center.

Regarding legislation, I got the chance to see some bills presented in committee. Couple of bills that caught my attention were HB324 by Representative Matt Dollar (R-Marietta) and SB122 by Senator Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta).

I reported HB324 when it was introduced, given that it was also cosponsored by Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), author of the HB87 of 2011, and what I heard regarding Rep. Dollar. After inquiring around about it, the current version of this only would reduce the paperwork for financial aid, which is not bad. It is worth to mention that the Board of Regents had to create a whole new system to check this in 2010 to address the fear of some legislators (among them Matt Ramsey) of undocumented students “sucking tax payers’ dollars”, despite the fact that undocumented students are not eligible to any kind of financial aid or even in-state tuition since 2007. Given that, undocumented students (the very few that still are in the University System of Georgia) pay out of pocket money for their out-of-state tuition, which covers fully and more the expenses of their education. It was interesting to observe Rep. Dollar and Rep. Ramsey talking about this bill, and yet looking for a way to avoid mentioning where this whole paperwork mess came from. Keeping an eye on HB324, you never know when anybody would try to add something to it, and can make it go from harmless to something totally different.

SB122 proposes to give a temporal license to people that are in theprocess to renew their immigration paperwork. No bad neither. On the presentation of the bill, the discussion focused on the fee that this temporal license would cost.

I am happy the way this session is addressing immigration. Hope stays like that until the end. Keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 23: Ethics Bill clear the House. Still allows trips, does not have limits for lobbyist gifts, and proposes that everybody at the capitol to be a registered lobbyist

Day 23: Ethics Bill clear the House. Still would allow trips, does not have limits for lobbyist expenditures, and proposes that everybody at the capitol has to be a registered lobbyist.

Monday 02/25/2013. Twenty-Third day of the Georgia Legislative Session. Among the most relevant thing today was the vote in the floor of the House of HB142 and HB143, the attempts of ethics reform in the House by Speaker David Ralston(R-Blue Ridge). So after much discussion and amendments in committee, both bills passed with overwhelming majority vote. HB142 is the more controversial,as it is the one that refers to the lobbyist registration and lobbyist gifts to legislators. HB143 is referred to the disclosure reports and campaign donations.

After the long campaign by organizations such as Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform, the proposal of speaker Ralston does not included any limit gifts like we saw in the rules of the Senate introduced at the beginning of the session, it still would allow trips as the one that ignited all this campaign (although lobbyists cannot pay for the fly tickets), legislators still can receive game tickets for the Georgia University System sponsored games (UGA, GATech, etc.) and now also requires that anybody that wants to talk with Legislators to support or oppose legislation at the Capitol or Coverdell Legislative Office Building (office building next to the Capitol that holds most of the offices of the legislators) has to be a registered lobbyist ($25 annual register fee).

After all the controversy and secrecy that covered this attempt of reform (the online versions of the bill were not close to the one being worked in the subcommittee/committee, advocate groups were not consulted for suggestions regarding the proposal, but even avoided to talk about it) one cannot help but wonder what is the reform this bill is really supporting, and whether is only a save face for the scandals we have witnessed this past year regarding lobbyist gifts.

HB142 and HB143 now go to first readers on the Senate where it will be referred to a committee.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 22: North Fulton wants to secede and become Milton County again

Day 22: North Fulton wants to secede and become Milton County again

Friday 02/22/2013. Twenty-Second day of the Georgia Legislative Session.
Yesterday I mentioned the crisis that is affecting Fulton County. I got more information today. The master plan is to separate the wealthy residential North Fulton (Alpharetta and surroundings) from the rest of the County. This north part of Fulton was formerly known as Milton County, and it was assimilated to the original Fulton County (the city of Atlanta then) to save it from bankruptcy during the Great Depression, together to the already bankrupted Campbell County (South Fulton). To accomplish the secession of North Fulton (Milton) there has to be an Amendment to the Georgia Constitution. Ergo, our band of seven plus Rep. Tom Rice (R-Norcross) from yesterday created an intricate series of five House Resolutions to accomplish the Constitutional Amendment and recreation of Milton County through Referendum. The resolutions are HR275, HR276, HR277, HR278 and HR279. You can access them here by selecting 'HR' in the top left corner of the webpage, and typing the correspondent number

I try not to be partisan, but the case of Georgia is so serious deserves an exception. And is that I cannot muster any other reason why these Legislators, all Republicans, had such a strong will against Fulton, nowadays ‘coincidentally’ Democrat, poorer, and very minority diverse. It is even more puzzling that it was good to be annexed when Milton was a rural community broke up by the Depression, but now that is back on its feet suffers from this urge to stab its benefactor away and cut off any attachment with the community that saved it from financial turmoil less than a century ago.

In a happier note, today was also a press conference from OFA supporting gun control and the Trayvon Martin rally of next Tuesday. It was hosted by State Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah).

Day 21: The end for Fulton County?

Day 21: The end for Fulton County?

Thursday 02/21/2013. Twenty-First day of the Georgia Legislative Session.
Yesterday we mentioned the lengthy hearing with some legislators of the Fulton County Caucus. This is the reason why. There are three bill introduced curiously by the same gang of representatives, all of them Republican, which would have a very strong effect in Fulton County.

When one reads these bills, cannot but conclude the effects of these are going to be weakening the government, budget and labor rights of Fulton, which happen to be most of the city of Atlanta. What good it is going to come out of this? I still have not heard it yet. Also, to add up even more spice to it, the bills are in fast track in the Capitol, with a good chance to pass Crossover and become law.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day 20: Trayvon Martin Rally, Georgia budget presentation, Fulton County hearing

Day 20: Trayvon Martin Rally, Georgia budget presentation, Fulton County hearing

Wednesday 02/20/2013. Twentieth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. 10 days until Crossover Day (which is the deadline for bills to switch chambers). We started the day with a press conference from State Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), to present two bills of his authority, SB146, meant to ban assault weapons, and SB147, a bill to circumscribe the stand your ground self-defense argument to habitations and not public places, in clear reference to prevent tragedies like the Trayvon Martin. Also, Senator Fort announced a rally organized next Tuesday February 26 at 5pm at the Steps of the Georgia State Capitol to remember the legacy of Trayvon Martin and to support common sense gun regulation.

In the afternoon we got a report from our friends of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute regarding the budget, sponsored for the Democrats House Caucus.

In the evening we have a very lengthy and intense hearing with the Fulton Caucus officials. ‘Coincidentally’ only Democrats showed up; Republicans held a majority of 1 vote in the Caucus. Not looking good at all. More updates relating that coming.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 19: Execution of a disabled halted, Medicaid expansion lobbying, and juvenile justice reform moves on

Day 19: Execution of a disabled halted, Medicaid expansion lobbying, and juvenile justice reform moves on

Tuesday 02/19/2013. Nineteenth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. After the long break of V-Day, the legislation came back with a vengeance. Well, more than the legislation, the events around it. Today was the lobby day for Cover Georgia, a coalition of health advocates that among others is supporting the expansion of Medicaid. Another report came out this past week showing how beneficial for Georgia the expansion of Medicaid would be. Not only for the beneficiaries, but also for the economy as job creations result of this extension of services provided.

En the early afternoon, we have a press conference rising awareness of the case of Warren Hill, a man condemned to death with an IQ of 70, and scheduled for execution today Tuesday 19th at 7pm. It is relevant to mention that Georgia is among the states with the harshest policies in to prove mental disability on death sentences, asking for ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.Despite the fact that every doctor that has revised Warren Hill has concluded he suffers from mental retardation, the fact that he is functional (a disabled that participates in society) prompted Georgia to sentence him to death. The Georgia Supreme Court has denied his appeal, and the Board of Pardons and Paroles has not given him a hearing. 30 minutes before his scheduled execution, the 11th Circuit of Appeals of the US Supreme Court agreed to review his case (stay of execution as it is called). Follow updates of this case in Facebook and Twitter.

In the afternoon, the Judiciary Civil Committee of the House passed HB242, a reform of the Juvenal judicial system of the state. The 200 page bill was presented for third time in the committee, and it was finally passed after the review of about 30 amendments. This reform has been on the works for about 6 years now, so it was a pretty big deal the fact that finally has a chance to be passed by the legislature. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day 18: GA Unions Support Immigration Reform. V-Day.

Day 18: GA Unions Support Immigration Reform. V-Day.

Thursday 02/14/2013. Eighteenth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. Today we had a great press conference sponsored by the Georgia Unions supporting Immigration Reform. The press conference had the format of a panel, with great presentations of all the speakers. I seriously need to find out how to take pictures and record videos at the same time with my camera, there were moments I wish I could upload right now. (Rep. Pedro Marin pulling a ‘MarcoRubio’ on top of the list) The presentations were clear supporting a path for citizenship, and also a consideration to make take border security and immigration reform as two separated issues. I agree with that.

Happy V-Day Everybody.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day 17: House Dems Shared Responsibility Public Hearing

Day 17: House Dems Shared Responsibility Public Hearing

Wednesday 02/13/2013. Seventeenth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. Today was the third of the public legislative hearings held by the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representatives.

This is a quick summary of the bills presented:

  • HB303: The Gun Safety Act, sponsored by Rep. Pat Gardner and co-sponsored by Rep. LaDawn Jones. This bill will ask for strengthen background check requirements for the mentally ill who seek weapon permits. 
  • The Foreclosure Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Rahn Mayo and co-sponsored by Rep. Able Mable Thomas. This bill will change the current foreclosure judicial process to give it consumer protections. This bill has no number yet.
  • HB47: The Right To Cure Act, sponsored by Rep. Billy Mitchel and co-sponsored by Rep. Darryl Jordan. Bill to allow homeowners to resolve delinquency without a bank. 
  • HB117: Social Media Privacy Act, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Scott and co-sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jones. Bill to prohibit employers from requesting username, password, or other means of accessing personal social media of employees or prospective employees, with certain exceptions.
  • HB167: Family Energy Credit, sponsored by Rep. Karla Drenner and co-sponsored by Rep. Karen Bennett. Bill to provide income tax credit up to $250 per year for families with an income up to $75000.
  • HB148: Tax Accountability Act, sponsored by Rep. Kim Alexander and co-sponsored by David Wilkerson. This will created an independent panel to review tax subsidiaries, tax credits and tax abatements.

This is a pic from a immigration panel that took place in the University of West Georgia.

Day 16: Guns is Schools Bill HB35 Update

Day 16: Guns is Schools Bill HB35 Update

Tuesday 02/12/2013. Sixteenth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. We had the review from committee of the HB35, bill meant to allow schools personnel to carry concealed weapons in school property. This is the second time the Committee of Public Safety and Homeland Security reviews this bill, and since the previous meeting last week, I admit the subcommittee assigned to improve the bill did a serious job making it workable. As for the current version, the bill puts the whole discretion in the Education Board of the district in which the school is located, from allowing the school to be part of the program, to discretion on checking the training and eligible personnel, to costs of implementation. Given the current budgetary crisis of the school system, I doubt many schools will have the chance to adopt this new policy.

HB35 is clearly an attempt to address the issue of safety in schools, especially after the tragedy of Newtown and our very own local shooting. Although the bill is more workable now, its proposal as a real safety solution still lingers in incertitude when its implementation is considered. Gun control is taking much national attention lately, but there is a social singularity that needs to be considered when thinking in long term solution for the issue: the lack of acknowledgment we as society give to the destructive power of a gun. When we see so many cases of accidental shootings and misuses of weapons, it is legitimate to ask whether the solution to a problem of violence is to add more potential to violence to the equation, especially if we see such intense emotional attachment to guns as we have witnessed by the most vocal supporters of the Second Amendment.

HB35 was approved by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, and it is ready to get a date to be in the floor of the House.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 15: Education Package

Day 15:  Education Package

Monday 02/11/2013. Fifteenth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. Today was the second legislative public hearing held by the House Democratic Caucus, this time referred to education. Promising stuff. As we mentioned on the entry of Day 13, HB54, that changes back the GPA requirement for HOPE recipients from 3.0 to 2.0 for Technical schools. The bill already counts with Governor Deal support. The bill is sponsored by minority Leader Stacey Abrams, and co-sponsored by Rep. Craig Gordon.

Other bills presented:
  • HB 221, bill that will require open records of schools and programs participating in Student Scholarship Organizations (SSO) and contributions. Currently, Georgia tax payers money allocates $50 million to SSOs. Sponsored by Rep. Brian Thomas and Rep. Nikki Randall.
  • A bill by Rep. Simone Bell and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (no number yet), to make sure private schools that accept SSO tax money does not discriminate based on race, gender, national origin, religion, sexuality or disability.
  • HB 166, which will guarantee parents to take work leaves to go to school conferences and medical appointments on benefit of their children. By Rep. Roger Bruce and Rep. Tonya Anderson.
  • HB 19,bill to deter school drop outs. By Rep. Keisha Waites and Rep. Hugh Floyd.
  • A bill addressing cyber bulling by Rep. Pam Dickerson and Rep. Carolyn Hugley.
You can check the current language of the bills and their statuses here.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Day 14: Pro Gun Rally

Day 14:  Pro Gun Rally

Friday 02/08/2013. Fourteenth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. The high event of the day did not happen inside the Capitol, it happened outside. Given the relevance gun control has taken, there was a pro-gun rally outside the Capitol. I do not own a weapon, and I have not used one in my life yet. I do have family members that are gun enthusiasts, and I have been considered going to a shooting range to try to understand that strong attachment some people have towards weapons. Maybe I end up liking guns as well. So since I have to cover this rally before the next meeting, I was curious about its development, and the argument pro-gun people use to address the gun control discussion.

If anything, the rally was very colorful to say the least, with people sporting from hand guns to riffles, to XVIII-century outfits. Like I said, maybe I got there in not the best moment. But frankly, having a gentleman on full reenactment outfit saying something like “owing guns is not about hunting, or sport, or self-defense, is about standing up to the government”, and the whole crowd exploding on cheers, well, what can say.

If that is the true belief of these people, maybe somebody should start considering planning some fundraisers to buy some tanks and drones, for starters. Otherwise I would like to hear what is the master plan to stand against the most powerful military of the world. 

I left the rally with strong mixed feelings. To my gun-enthusiast friends, a word from a fellow gun-control sympathizer. Review your talking points, and your rhetoric. Messaging like the used in this rally not only reinforces every negative stereotype there is against you and your cause, but actually made you sound like a conspirator, which shriek of irony given that many of you call yourselves patriots. 

I am planning to assist to the next pro-gun rally I hear about. I hope my impressions of it are different then.

Day 13: Speaker Ralston’s Paris trip still possible under his current Ethics bill. Governor Deal supports GPA back to 2.0 for HOPE recipients

Day 13:  Speaker Ralston’s Paris trip still possible under his current Ethics bill. Governor Deal supports GPA back to 2.0 for HOPE recipients.

Thursday 02/07/2013. Thirteenth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. There was an update by the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform regarding the Ethics bill (HB142) proposed by the Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). One of the most controversial parts of the bill is the registration and definition of lobbyists. We remember on the original version of it, the bill required that anybody that likes to talk with a legislator in the Capitol would have to pay the lobbyist fee of$300. The update puts down this lobbyist fee to $25. However, the new price comes with a catch. The new version of the bill also requires that everybody with this $25 lobbyist license will have to fill reports twice a week of their endeavors in the Capitol, with a fee up to $10000 if fails to do so. How is this not a deterrent for regular citizens for getting involved in the live in the Capitol?. For starters, nobody seems to understand how this ‘lobbyist license for everyone’ requirement improves the ethics in the state. If anything, this only distracts from the main concern of the bill: it still has exemptions such that can allow such as the Paris trip of Speaker Ralston of last year. On its current version, this bill fixes nothing of what it claims to do, and it just diverts time and attention from what is the real ethical concern in the Capitol: Unlimited gifts to lawmakers by interest groups.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Day 12: Economic Security Package of the House Democratic Caucus & Alzheimer’s Bill

Day 12: Economic Security Package of the House Democratic Caucus & Alzheimer’s Bill

Wednesday 02/06/2013. Twelfth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. Among the main events today, we got the Alzheimer’s bill introduced by Sen. Rene Unterman (R-Buford) passing the Senate.

Also, we got the first of the public hearings of the House Democratic Caucuson the Economic Security package. The next hearings:

The Educational Opportunity package
Monday, February 11 at 3:30 PM
room 230 in the Capitol.

The Shared Responsibility
Wednesday, February 13 at 2:30 PM
room 216 in the Capitol.

Budget Review & Update
Wednesday, February 20 at 2:30 PM
room 230 at the Capitol.

Also, it was Georgia State University Day at the Capitol. Could not resist to share. (Pics from the GSU Facebook page)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 11: ‘Gun Control’ bills Georgia Style

Day 11: ‘Gun Control’ bills Georgia Style

Tuesday 02/05/2013. Eleventh day of the Georgia Legislative Session. We got more information regarding gun control in Georgia, concretely, bills. I am going to put in this list the bills I mentioned before here as well, so we can have them all in one list.

  • HB29. Author: Tea Party member and gun enthusiast Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw).This bill wants to allow guns in colleges and universities.
  • HB35: Author: Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville). Bill that authorizes that one or more administrators to carry weapons inside schools.
  • HB27. Author: Tea Party member and gun enthusiast Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw). This bill removes the authority of the Governor of banning guns when declaring a state of emergency. HB100 is very similar to this.
  • HB100. Author: Delvis Dutton (R-Glennville). In addition to remove the authority of the Governor of banning guns when declaring a state of emergency, the bill specifies the use of court in case any member of the state government tries to 'take your guns'.
  • HB26. Author: Tea Party member and gun enthusiast Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw). Third bill authored by Rep. Gregory, and the most impactful in relaxing gun possession. This bill would allow weapons in parks, historic sides and recreational areas. Also, the bill reduces many restrictions for gun possession, changing ‘license holder’ to ‘lawful weapon carrier’ in several instances of the Georgia Code. A ‘lawful weapon carrier’ is defined in the bill as any person who is not prohibited by law from possessing a weapon, but that not necessarily has a license.
  • SB88/HB90: Author: Se. Bill Heath (R-Bremen) -yeah, the Senator that ran away from the media few days ago-, and Rep. Stephen Allison (R-Blairsville). These two bills are exact copies of each other, so it is the same bill introduced in both the House and the Senate simultaneously. Ergo, literally this bill has the double of possibility of going through. This bill penalizes any state government official that tries to enforce federal gun control legislation in Georgia.
  • HB89. Author: Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson). Bill that enounces that weapons manufactured in Georgia do not have to comply with federal regulation or registration.
  • SB101: Author: Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville). Bill that allows guns in public housing.
  • SB74: Author: Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville). Bill that issues gun permits to persons 18-21 years old that have finished basic military training.
  • HB120. Author: Rep. Pedro Marin (D-Duluth). Bill meant to make safety gun education mandatory in order to carry a pistol or revolver.
  • SB33. Author: Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta). Bill to ban assault weapons and over sized magazines.

These are not even all of them, as I chose to mention the bills that I consider most impactful. As I mentioned yesterday, there are bills that represent both of the national tendencies here, although quite extreme when referred to ‘give guns to the good guys’. Also, once again, we witness that relentless eagerness of Georgia to challenge the federal government, just like we saw it during the Medicaid expansion debate, HB87, the petition for session from the US after the presidential elections, etc. 

In a class, a professor mentioned that this behavior is a product of the relations between North and South, and can be recalled all the way to the Civil War. However, Georgia (and the south) will not move forward, develop and catch up with the rest of the nation (and world) as long as it holds its own political interests above the interests of its citizens. Keeping feeding this old grudge is only relevant for historical novels and movies.

Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennessaw) author of three bills meant to reduce gun control and to allow carry them in public places (Picture: Marietta Daily Journal).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Day 10: Gun Control

Day 10: Gun Control

Monday 02/04/2013. Tenth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. The rumor in the hall today was gun control. During the week off after the inauguration of President Obama and MLK Day, a bill asking to allow guns in universities and colleges in Georgia took the attention of media. The bill is HB29, and it is sponsored by Rep. Charles Gregory(R-Kennesaw).

Last week we saw a different approach presented by the House Democrats in their Opening Session Press Conference: The Gun Safety Act, sponsored by Rep. Pat Garner (D-Atlanta). This bill will ask for strengthen background check requirements for the mentally ill who seek weapon permits. Also, we reported last week that Rep. Pedro Marin (D-Duluth) introduced HB120, which will ask for mandatory safety gun education when getting a pistol or revolver. We have heard the effort of other legislators in the works as well. Keep you posted.

We can see the both philosophies of gun control represented in these bills. On one side, we have Rep. Gregory asking for more guns for the ‘good guys’, whereas Rep. Garner and Rep. Marin support more education and control. GATech was used as a reference for the report linked to Rep. Gregory’s bill. GATech is well known for being a top-notch science university in the country, and for demanding very high levels of effort from their students. Would giving guns to stressed, overworked, sleep-depraved, sharp-intelligent students safer? Moreover, would having more guns out there make everybody safer?We just had a shooting incident in a middle school last week here in Atlanta. Thegun totter was a 15 year old teenager. Would have ‘good guys with guns’ in the middle school a solution?

Laws alone would not stop a disturbed shooter from getting a weapon. However, ‘getting a gun’ should not be the easiest item in the check list in the shooter(s) of Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, etc., especially if getting a gun is the best chance we have to check a potential perpetrator. Tragically, evidence proves otherwise. Let’s work to change that.

(Thanks to fanpop for the pic)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Day 9: SB 24 Hospital Bed Tax Bill & Senator Heath hiding from reporters when asked why he defends $150000 Chip Rogers job at GPB

Day 9: SB 24 Hospital Bed Tax Bill & Senator Heath hiding from reporters when asked why he defends $150000 Chip Rogers job at GPB

Bills like SB24 are either attempts of the State Government to save face and claim Georgia is dealing with the crisis of Medicaid by itself while still refusing Federal money (politically convenient as Georgia is one of those staunchly states that refuses anything that is coming from the Obama administration, regardless if it is good for the state), or a strategy to get a political distraction to discretely take the Federal Aid. For the best of Georgia, let’s hope for the second.

Also, an interesting video of Senator Bill Heath hiding from a reporter when asked why he defends the $150000 made-up job of former Senator Chip Rogers at GPB. Former Senator Chip Rogers renounced to the state Senate to take a job on GPB, his salary being the double ($150000) than any other producer of GPB. The move created major discomfort among donors and workers as well, to the point of one producer quitting her job as protest. When questioned how GPB would pay so much to Chip Rogers after having constant cuts on its personnel and furlongs, GPB communicated that Chip Rogers salary would be paid fully with Georgia tax payers’ money.