Today’s Courier Herald Column:
The Georgia General Assembly is still a couple of weeks from “crossover day” – the day where a bill must have passed either the House or the Senate for it to receive consideration by the other body and become law this year. As crossover day approaches, those with a vested interest in getting their bills through the General Assembly double down on efforts to seal passage by all means available.
Much of this activity is behind the scenes, as bills often appear late in the process, and pass with little public scrutiny or fanfare. Such is the business of lawmaking. But there is a good bit of civic and media focus on lawmakers during the entire session, and legislators would hate for the public to spend their time trying to determine what was really going with those highly technical bills that only affect the well heeled clients of the lobbyists who peddle them. There are always a few bills reserved for Kabuki Theater that can draw attention and focus so that the real work can continue undisturbed.
It seems that a lot of Georgians who are not gay, immigrants, or Muslim spend an awful lot of time worrying about what gays, immigrants, and Muslims are doing. Bills designed to make sure Georgians do not succumb to these seemingly nefarious folks occupy a good bit of the Kabuki legislation docket. This is not to say these activities are a total waste of time. Legislators will often use their support for such needless legislation to assure voters that they are fighting to make sure their constituents will not have gays, immigrants, or Muslims sneak up on them and convert them when they’re not looking.
House Bill 242 passed the House Judiciary Non Civil Committee on Thursday, along party lines. The bill from Representative Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) will put a swift halt to all the Judges in Georgia who are imposing Sharia Law in divorce cases. All none of them.
The fact that House Minority Leader Stacy Abrams noted that “there has been no demonstrated evidence that this is needed” does not deter Representative Coomer, according to Walter Jones of the Morris News service. Coomer noted that the states of South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee are also considering similar legislation. Clearly, when the theme of this legislative session is competitiveness with nearby states, Georgia cannot stand idle as other nearby (i.e. Southern) states pass us in creating laws that play upon the majority’s fears of a small religious minority, whether they have any impact in reality or not.
Meanwhile, the public spectacle in the Senate on Thursday was at the usually unexciting Regulated Industries Committee. Senate Bill 401, a bill that would expand the use of solar power by allowing expanded ownership and financing options of solar panels on electric customers’ properties, received its fair and impartial hearing.
The bill receives a good bit of support among Senate Leadership, and has been received well by the public. WSB and CNN consumer advocate Clark Howard testified in support of the bill, which would allow more peak production of electricity at a time when various coal powered plants are scheduled to be taken off line due to their inability to be upgraded for new air quality requirements. It seems the bill is a win-win for everyone involved…except Georgia Power, who is aggressively working to kill the legislation.
After receiving a lot of fanfare in the Kabuki Theater, the bill will likely quietly die along the way in one committee or another. With cameras rolling and a celebrity consumer advocate testifying to the good of the bill, lobbyists working the halls were informing legislators that Governor Deal “didn’t want to have to veto the legislation, but he would if he has to”. That’s capitol speak for “please don’t be the legislator who votes for this bill, as you would hate to have to explain to the Governor why you made him veto legislation that the public wants, would you?” Barring significant pressure on legislators and the Governor, the sun has likely set on the solar bill for this session.
These bills and others like them will likely fill the public stories about the goings on under the Gold Dome from now until crossover day. Meanwhile, these same legislators who will be loudly complaining about Obama’s crony capitalism this fall will be putting the final touches on bills that set up various venture capital funds to – say it with me – “create jobs”. But it’s really too complicated for legislators to explain how Washington using public money to fund pet projects of powerful friends is bad, while doing it at the state level is a gold standard for competitiveness.
It’s much easier to scream “hey, look over there! Sharia!” and continue about the “people’s” business. Just never forget that some people are more equal than others.