Legislators head home with more to show for 2015 than in past years

(AJC Photo / Bob Andres)

(AJC Photo / Bob Andres)

To judge the 2015 legislative session that ended shortly after midnight Thursday, recall the situation as I summarized it after the 2014 session:

“As Georgia’s legislators … prepared to adjourn for the year, a lot of people who put a lot of work into the session found themselves wondering why they had bothered. Advocates for charter-school kids, foster kids, autistic kids and seizure-prone kids joined business groups, religious groups, cityhood proponents and most taxpayers in watching legislators abandon their causes in the final days and hours of the session.

“Fingers were pointed. House leaders expressed disbelief at senators’ intransigence on minor changes to benefit charter schools and an ever-diminishing medical marijuana bill for those kids with seizures. Senators expressed equal exasperation at the House’s refusal to pass an autism insurance mandate and a scaled-back privatization of the state’s foster care and adoption services.”

Now consider what was accomplished in 2015:

Deal, in remarks last night to each chamber, called this year’s session “one of the most significant … in the recent history of this state.” I can’t argue.

Yes, there are other issues still on the table: A broad tax reform plan was unveiled to much fanfare and promptly went into hiding, though the transportation bill calls for a bill to be introduced next year; an update to the state’s school-funding formula and other reforms are in the hands of Deal’s education reform commission with a package of legislation slated for 2016; a big-picture look at health care remains but an idea; pension reform barely made the radar; the religious-liberty bill again fell apart under a wave of evidence-averse criticism plus the outright hysteria witnessed in Indiana over the past week.

But if there were fears that, after punting on the biggest issues in 2014 because of an election, legislators would shirk them again in 2015 because their plates were too full, they proved unfounded. Lawmakers proved they can work through a number of important, much-debated issues without the session dragging on too far into spring. There’s no reason they can’t do the same again in 2016 — and beyond.

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33 comments
Plumb Krazy
Plumb Krazy

Again, I dont know where you went to school but a 29-25 vote in the Senate is not 2/3rds in support of a 900 million dollar the first year tax increase.. Again,  we are going to work to replace 3 Senators and at least 9 Reps in South Ga.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

What does "educationally disadvantaged" mean?  My guess is, it can be interpreted as " wealthy parents want to get out of a traditional public school, so they claim he is being disadvantaged by his surroundings there, and therefore can move ahead of others in the line for charter school, thus bringing in higher scores and other trappings of financial advantage to the charter, who then won't have room for yet another (poorer) kid suffering in a public school full of poor achievers."  In other words, an out for taking one child over another, by claiming the wealthier kid is suffering in his current school.


May not be what the wording says, but that is what it means.  And, BTW, what is that bill number?



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Wascatlady So quick to think the worst of people ...

"'Educationally disadvantaged students' means all or a subset of the following: students who are economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, migrant students, limited English proficient students, neglected or delinquent students, and homeless students, as each such subset is defined by the State Board of Education in accordance with federal education guidelines and regulations.""

That's the definition. It started in HB 474, which didn't pass, and was added to HB 372, which did. The text of 372 hasn't been updated online yet, so here's a link to 474: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20152016/HB/474


MarkVV
MarkVV

johnnyReb: “The RFRA laws should and may be written that business owners cannot refuse service to people based on age, sex, race, or sexual preference except should providing said service be in contradiction to the owner's religious freedom. “


This one is an even better articulation of support for discrimination. It does not even limit the freedom to discriminate to a religious objection to sexual preference. It would allow racial discrimination based on religion, as well as age and sex discrimination. It illustrates what I called “the notion of the supremacy of the religious feelings of any group of people over the laws of the society.” The above statement should be shown to all those who claim that our society has overcome bigotry.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@MarkVV - bigotry is in the eye and mind of the beholder.


Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution.


A person should not have to give up Liberty and abandon his religious beliefs to start and keep a business.


The best example is the pizza joint who has been terrorized by the radical Left.


They will gladly sell pizza to gays, but do not want to participate in a gay wedding by catering the affair.


That's a sensible position especially when there are many other similar businesses in the area who have no objection to catering a gay wedding.


But that is not good enough for the terrorists, no, they are only happy when the heavy hand of big brother is involved and Liberty is gone.


If not catering a gay wedding is offensive to gays, what about the trampling of religious freedom of the business owner?


There may be bigotry, but it is on both sides of this debate.


And, the war has only begun.


MHSmith
MHSmith

@MarkVV



Excellent display of your own firebrand "notion of the supremacy" toward all who disagree with your feelings on practically everything you want to associate with, or blame on, religion...


Many "bigots", religious ministers like "Martin Luther King"  simply use, "THE CONTENT OF SOMEONE'S CHARACTER TO DISCRIMINATE".






Starik
Starik

So, are you shutting down your blog this weekend again? Let people talk.  It's the internet.  Tell me, Kyle, how do you interpret this sign posted in a business..."We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone."  Those signs were everywhere in the South in the '60s, and everybody knew what they meant.

MHSmith
MHSmith

@Starik


Let me know when and where you see those signs posted at any business today and those signs weren't only in the South.  


Needless to say my concern is not cakes and flowers. 

Starik
Starik

@MHSmith @Starik So? We knew then what the signs meant, and we know now what the "religious freedom" acts mean now.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@MHSmith @Starik Let me know when and where you see those signs posted at any business today


Because they cant. Not because they don't want to.


 and those signs weren't only in the South.


Most of them were

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

The little weasel George Stepahopoulos can be blamed for the premeditated attack on Pense.  More on the premeditation in a minute.  Pense is to be blamed for not being better prepared.  Did he expect the little rascal to throw him soft balls?  And Pense had dreams of running for president?  Forgetaboutit.


Stepahopoulos you may recall kicked off the Dems War on Women propaganda when ambusing Romney on the free birth control issue similar to his attack on Pense.  Both were well planned in advance in coordination I am sure with Dem operatives.  Little Steffie has a slick presentation but he is the devil in disguise.


Blame aside, I have not heard one person give a credible explanation on how its OK to trample the religious liberty of a business owner who refuses to provide services to a gay ceremony so that the gay party is not harmed?


The Left is using the word "discrimination," but its far from that as compared to our racial discrimination history.


The RFRA laws should and may be written that business owners cannot refuse service to people based on age, sex, race, or sexual preference except should providing said service be in contradiction to the owner's religious freedom.  That would be consistent with the Hobby Lobby ruling that kicked off the RFRA laws in the first place.


Those on the Left who find such a stipulation unacceptable overlook that other businesses are likely available to provide the service without exception.  And that forcing a business owner to provide the service against his religious beliefs is unconstitutional.


Pence and gang, plus now Arkansas have folded like a cheap tent letting media and hypocritical corporation leaders dictate law instead of the people who elected them.


It was no accident that voters put Republicans in control of both houses of congress and most state governors.  The actions of Indiana and Arkansas, the reluctance of Georgia, etc. is completely contrary to voter wishes and there will be a price to pay for those politicians abandoning the base on the issue.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

I'll give them credit for the transportation funding. It's not nearly enough, but it's a much better step than the last decades of neglect. 

Claver
Claver

"pension reform barely made the radar"?  I thought Georgia's pension was in decent shape.  What is the problem?

MHSmith
MHSmith

The religious freedoms bill will be back next year, the legislator should take Gov. Deal's advise stick to the 1993 federal law now on the books.


Those businesses who are issuing ultimatums of boycott DISCRIMINATION against  this state should think long and hard before continuing this political posturing. These sort of actions work both ways. People can buy anything Walmart and the others sell elsewhere, so your DISCRIMINATION boycott can, in the end, hurt you more than if you had simply kept your businesses out of politics altogether.      

Caius
Caius

@MHSmith  Walmart is in it up to their neck and I predict it will cost them zero customers.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@MHSmith  A fine articulation of hostility towards those who oppose discrimination.

MHSmith
MHSmith

@Caius @MHSmith


Doubt it. They lost my business and I feel confident, those who like me are concerned about government forcing churches to perform services against our religious beliefs share my sentiments, so your prophesy just failed. 


Walmart needs us more than we need Walmart.  

MHSmith
MHSmith

@MarkVV @MHSmith


Fine articulation against corporations like Walmart, whose CEOs are making threats of discriminating boycotts against customers in states where religious freedoms laws have been passed that can discriminatingly shop some where other than Walmart in boycott.  


Smart businessmen know it is good to keep their politics out of their business. It can be very bad for the bottom line.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Georgia needs a new slogan, how about, "Just wait til next year!".  It works for the Bulldogs, the Braves, the Falcons, and the Georgia State Legislature.


You are right, they got more done than usual, so I give them a "YIP!"  Last year I gave them a "boo" so progress was made.   Next year they are promising a YIP, YIP, Hooray year complete with tax reform finally, so we will see.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Among the positives - the Georgia religious-liberty bill has died the well-deserved death. Perhaps the best words about these state bills are those of the North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory,  that such a bill “makes no sense” and asked “what is the problem they’re trying to solve?”

ALibNotToBeMessedW/
ALibNotToBeMessedW/

The religious liberty bill fell apart because Indiana exposed it for the sham that it is - legalized hatred and intolerance under the guise of something that sounds ok because it is infused with god.  You want a real religious liberty law?  Put a bill forward that is identical to the federal law and there will be no issue getting it passed.


I'd still love to know why we needed one in the first place.  But much like Gov. Pence's refusal to answer basic questions, I'm not surprised an answer was never given.  

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Don't mess with this lib "You want a real religious liberty law?  Put a bill forward that is identical to the federal law and there will be no issue getting it passed."

Tell us, what are the differences?

ALibNotToBeMessedW/
ALibNotToBeMessedW/

@Kyle_Wingfield @Don't mess with this lib

The federal RFRA solves for a situation where the federal government passes a law, having nothing at all to do with religion / god / religious practice / etc., but which has the unintended consequence of affecting a person's right to practice their religion.  For example, federal drug laws that prohibited Native Americans from ingesting peyote as part of their (centuries old) religious practices.


Indiana's law*, as originally constructed, would have given Bubba, the proprietor of Bubba's Bountiful Straight BBQ, the right to say to Dave, and his friend Bill, both of whom display certain stereotypically gay characteristics (but both of whom may - or may not - in fact be homosexuals): "sorry, boys, but I can't serve you my bountiful straight BBQ on account of the fact that doing so would violate my religious beliefs."


If you are willing to offer an explanation as to why Indiana needed to pass the law that it passed (before it got modified), I'd love to hear it.


*  I'm limiting this to Indiana since I haven't read the text of the GA bill in a while and am not now going to because it is a moot point.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Don't mess with this lib "If you are willing to offer an explanation as to why Indiana needed to pass the law that it passed (before it got modified), I'd love to hear it."

I assume you were referring to the "private parties" aspect of the law. I recommend you read (at least) the first part of this Q&A with one of the foremost experts on this topic to understand why the Indiana provision is a distinction without much of a difference: http://www.vox.com/2015/3/31/8319415/indiana-religious-freedom-discrimination

Second, Georgia's bill didn't even include that provision.

ALibNotToBeMessedW/
ALibNotToBeMessedW/

@Kyle_Wingfield @Don't mess with this lib

I just read it but don't agree; I guess we are left with "agreeing to disagree."  Re: Georgia's bill, I took a quick gander at the bill and on its face it looks virtually identical to the federal one.  Assuming it is, I have no issue and don't know why it wasn't passed (or, put differently, our legislators should have had the gumption to move forward).  Would still love to know why even need it, though...

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Don't mess with this lib @Kyle_Wingfield Too many supporters of the bill were railing "erotic liberty" is encroaching on our "religious liberty", so the message got tainted. 

A supporting non-discrimination amendment can be made to the satisfaction of all sides. Not sure why the amendment proposed would have "gutted the bill" like McKoon claimed. 

Look forward to next year when a better (and better realistically publicized) bill gets put forward with protections against discrimination.

332-206
332-206

Grading on a curve...