Friday, March 27, 2015
What a week! So much happened! Congratulations to Representative Allen Peake of Macon, who fought long and hard to get medical marijuana for the ones who needed it. He never gave up, even when the Governor said “No” to the Bill until the people spoke so loudly that the Governor got the message. Too bad Legislators like Peake are becoming extinct in our State Legislature.
I have spent much time here this year exposing the tomfoolery and skullduggery under the Gold Dome. This week, a prime example of these shady, underhanded antics took place at the eleventh hour. You can bet your booty that much backslapping and high-fiving took place over this one. Nothing gets the adrenalin flowing for a politician than “getting one over” on the other side.
Allow me to explain. There was an innocuous Bill introduced by the Senate, SB 127, waiving the late fees, fines and civil penalties regarding late campaign disclosure filings by some local officials from January 2010 to January 2014. The purpose was to make right a wrong due to the computer system screw-up of the Ethics Commission and their general incompetence. This was a non-controversial Bill sure to pass. By the way, this Bill appears to exonerate our own Monroe County Commissioner Larry Evans and make him eligible for a waiver and/or refunds of fees, fines and penalties.
Then you have House Bill, 891, introduced to limit the early voting days from 21 to 12 and to limit weekend voting hours. Further, local counties must choose between one day of Saturday or Sunday voting, but not both. This Bill did not make it past the cross-over day and appeared dead. Low and behold, the language was added at the last minute by substitute to SB 127, to sneak it through un-noticed and un-debated. This is nothing more than voter suppression of the minority vote. It’s latter day Jim Crow legislation passed by sleight of hand. All of this is done in the name of “just politics.”
Far and away the biggest shocker for liberals and Democrats this week was when the much respected and well known Legislator from Dekalb County, Mary Margaret Oliver, betrayed her Party, her supporters, and the children of our State. It was apparent Governor Deal did not have enough Republican votes to pass his ill-conceived plan to re-segregate our schools and sell them to the highest private bidder. The Democratic Caucus was solid in their stand against protecting our children. Then Mary Margaret Oliver appeared out of nowhere and not only did she vote for Governor Deal’s plan to destroy public education in our State, but she took to the Well of the House and spoke on its behalf. Her reasoning was lame and lacked substance, but her support alone swayed enough of her loyal Democrat colleagues to give Governor Deal the votes he needed. There is enough evidence for a reasonable person to assume there is more to this story than we may know.
I have an explanation for Mary Margaret Oliver’s abrupt turn-around. These are not my words. In fact, these are the words of a Republican member of the State Legislature, David Stover, (R-Newnan). This partial transcript is as printed in the AJC.
Representative Stover stated:
“I’m here today to refute the theory of the divine right of a single authoritarian branch of government. So many times here in the capital we forget that we’re elected to serve those that elected us to these positions. In fact we’re pressured to have only one branch of government. Somehow we have lost our way in the legislative process.
The executive drives every decision under the Gold Dome. We worry what will happen if we vote against the governor’s bill or the lieutenant governor’s bill. The answer is quite simply, punish those who disagree with these bills. Gone are the days of passing bills and overriding the governor’s veto. Gone are the days of telling the Governor,’I appreciate what you’re trying to accomplish, we want to work on these bills and make them better to pass the bill.’
Instead we’ve replaced our branches of government with a single branch. The legislative process works to pass the governor’s bill, no matter how good or bad the bill. … The right of conscience is paramount to voting our principles.”
Saturday, March 21, 2015
I can’t wait to hear the words “sine die.” Those will be the words spoken by the Georgia Speaker of the House when they adjourn the 2015 session in less than ten days. We need for them to get out of town! Havoc has been kept to a minimum this year. However, with so many hundreds of bills floating around, we won’t know until the handkerchief is dropped what may happen.
The future of the two most controversial Bills still remains uncertain. There’s the Governor’s Bill that allows him to take over failing schools and re-institutes segregation. Then there’s the Religious Freedom Bill that makes most anything you do legal as long as you assert, “It’s my religious belief”.
The other Bill I’ve been following for you, the Medical Marijuana Bill, passed out of Committee and on its way to the Senate Floor. While I have not seen the actual Bill that will be voted on and we don’t know what the directives will be, it is reported that with most conditions, you will have to be close to death to warrant approval. It’s disappointing that the condition of Fibromyalgia was removed. There is currently no drug on the market that helps the debilitating effects of this mysterious condition.
A member of the Bush royal family, Jeb, made an appearance at the State Legislature this week. Being true to his base, he endorsed the Religious Freedom Bill. Then he continued (and this is a direct quote), “A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality would automatically shift focus “ to people of conscience” who may not want to provide services for a gay marriage.” Services for a gay marriage? Does he think that’s what it’s about? Does he think it’s about florists, cake bakers, caterers, tuxedo rentals, bridal gown businesses, and people invested by the power to perform marriages? NO! This Bill is about the Hobby Lobby’s of this world (and there are plenty of them) who will use religious belief to discriminate against gays and women. This Bill may sanction domestic violence in the name of religion. The Bill does not protect children from abuse or harsh punishment by their parents because of their religious beliefs.
What I find most offensive is the term he used, “people of conscience”. This term used to describe a progressive liberal believing in social justice. Now the term has morphed into a code word meaning racists, homophobes, or anti-semetics. As a fairly liberal Democrat, I used to describe myself as a “person of conscience.” I can no longer say that because it has a whole new ugly meaning.
Truth is, of all the Republican Presidential wannabes, I thought Jeb Bush might be the most palatable to Democrats. But, last week he stated that the Federal minimum wage should be abolished, WHAT?? The Federal minimum wage is $7.25. The State of Georgia’s minimum wage is $5.15. Yes! All of us in Georgia will vote for Jeb Bush because we want our wages to go down $2.10 per hour.
Also, at the State Capitol last week. Jeb Bush posed for a picture with Georgia’s most notable rapper, Ludacris. Bush immediately tweeted the picture and bragged about being with Ludacris. Considering Ludacris’ song in 2008 disparaging Jeb’s then-President brother, I think that was ludicrous!
Friday, March 13, 2015
This week I considered writing about Hillary’s emails but 1) you already know what I think about that, and 2) I’ll have lots of opportunities to expound on that subject as the Right will continually conjure up more conspiracy theories. At least this new so-called “scandal” gives Fox News something new to talk about besides Benghazi. Benghazi. Benghazi.
I have to admit that I’m jaded from discussing the antics of the Georgia General Assembly but I feel obligated to mention the Bills I’ve been following here; the Medical Marijuana Bill, the Religious Preservation Act (that keeps changing names to make it sound more palatable), and the Destruction of Public Education Bill, a.k.a. Opportunity School Districts. How appropriate that last Friday, the 13th was Cross Over Day! Cross Over Day is the deadline for a Bill to pass from one chamber to another to have a chance of winning final approval this year. All of the aforementioned Bills are still alive.
The suspense is building and it’s going to be a battle royal, especially with the Religious Freedom Bill. The proponents of this Bill picked up a key supporter last week, the Wiccans, witches that worship nature. They sent a letter to Senator Josh McKoon, sponsor of the Bill, thanking him for legislation giving their religion legal standing. Also, last week one of Georgia’s most prominent citizens, Sir Elton John, spoke out against this Bill as being discriminatory.
With all that out of the way, I’m most anxious to talk about the Dixie Chicks. Yes, the Dixie Chicks! In case you are too young to remember or have forgotten about this trio that dominated country music in the late 90’s with hit after hit, let me enlighten you. In March 2003, they had the number one album on the U. S. charts, called “Home.” And the number one single with “Travelin’ Soldier.” They were revered entertainers.
It was at this time in our history when President George W. Bush and the Neocons in the GOP were working America into a dither about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and demanding war. The world’s largest anti-war protest was held in Italy and the Dixie Chicks were performing in London. That night, the Dixie Chicks went from most loved entertainers in America to the most hated. Why? Because the leader of that Texas group, Natalie Maines, dared speak her disapproval of war and by saying, “Just so you know, we are ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.” Only two sentences! Their punishment for disrespecting the President on foreign soil was harsh and swift. They were threatened, their children were threatened, and there was no place they could go without a demonstration. They and their music were banished from all of country music.
The story of the Dixie Chicks begs the question, where is the public outrage and demand for retribution for the forty-seven (47) U. S. Senators who signed a letter to the Ayatollah of Iran written by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) that was by definition treasonous. Cotton is so new to the Senate the tea is still wet behind his ears, but what’s the excuse for Georgia’s Senior Senator, Johnny Isakson? I never had him pegged as an insurrectionist.
I must say it’s been interesting listening to the Senators varied excuses and backpeddling. The most honest, and yet appalling excuse I have heard for signing the letter was by Senator John McCain. The signing took place at a Senate luncheon. He said, “It was kind of a very rapid process. Everybody was looking forward to getting out of Washington to flee a snowstorm.” He also stated, “I sign lots of letters.” That is very frightening to think that not many of the Senators even read the letter before affixing their signature. I think I’d rather believe that excuse than that it was a deliberate attempt to weaken the President, thus the entire Presidency in the eyes of the world just for spite.
Back to the Dixie Chicks. Is it just me or do you think there’s something wrong with a country that holds their entertainers to a higher standard of conduct than their highest elected officials?
Friday, March 6, 2015
RACE TO THE BOTTOM
There are two weeks left in the 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly. You need to sleep with one eye open as long as those rascals are in town. The earlier tomfoolery of the legislators has given way to unadulterated skullduggery.
The Bills that I have been following for you are changing and moving so quickly that I can barely keep up. In the time it takes to run to the bathroom, something major happens to a Bill. That’s exactly what happened to Senator Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta. He was a victim of the “ole bathroom trick.” He checked in with the Committee Chair and then sprinted for the bathroom. When he returned, the Religious Freedom Bill, aka Religious Discrimination Bill, had been placed on the table and passed out of Committee.
My optimism last week regarding the Medical Marijuana Bill, HB1, was premature. Forget everything I said! The Senate has lowered the strength of the oil from 0.5 to 0.3 and only wants it to be available to young children. There is also a consideration to make this into a five-year FDA medical study. There’s no telling what the final law will look like. This week, Senator Renee Unterman, R-Buford, entered the fray. She is Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. She is now advocating for the oil to be administered by academia. That one makes me scratch my head. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to get my medicine from a doctor. She was the one responsible for killing the Bill last year. Unterman is holding HB1 hostage for a favorable vote by the House body on her sponsored Bill regarding Autism. Like I said, “skullduggery.”
And then there was the vote on the Senate Resolution allowing for amending the Georgia Constitution to allow Governor Deal, junk dealer by trade, to take over failing schools. To pass, two-thirds of the Senate body had to vote for it. It did; with exactly 38 votes and not one to spare. This ill-conceived idea to destroy our public education system, as we know it could have been stopped dead in its tracks if one more Senator had voted “Nay.” That one person was Senator Donzella James, D-Atlanta. James sold out the Democratic Party and the children of her own race to Governor Deal, in exchange for his support of her Bill to make South Fulton a City. When it came time to take the vote, she just stood there and did not vote. The worst kind of “skullduggery.” Now you see if a Democrat does something self-serving, I call them out, too. (Note: Democratic Senator Nan Orrock did not vote either but I have been unable to verify if she was present.)
Some may take exception to my statement that Senator James sold out the children of her own race. You may say, “But Governor Deal is trying to help poor Black children.” No he’s not! And Senator James knows that. If segregation was in the best interest of Black children, then why did we ever have integration?
I used to be proud of our State of Georgia, the Empire State of the South. Georgia was seldom included in jokes made about Southern states, Georgia was different from let’s say, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Our Capitol City’s slogan was “Too Busy to Hate!” We were progressive. We took care of our people. Now I see Georgia spiraling down. Georgia is consistently the butt of jokes on late night television. We are the first in nothing and near the bottom in everything. Oh. I forgot. Georgia is tied for number one with Texas for executions in 2014. Also, this week, Gallup released their Poll commissioned for Healthways Well Being Index. Georgia was second only to Texas for uninsured citizens. That logically equates to more people dying due to lack of healthcare. Mississippi even has more people insured than Georgia. Shameful!