Today is one of my favorite Mondays.
Tonight, I will cheer for my alma mater, Alabama, as the Crimson Tide plays to win the college football national championship. I’m also hoping Kirby Smart brings all of his success at Bama back to UGA and Athens, the city I now call home.
But first, Better Georgia will start its fifth legislative session at the Gold Dome.
The big difference between football and Georgia’s legislative session is that what our lawmakers do is no game. The consequences of our lawmakers’ actions are real. The consequences impact Georgians across the state.
As the gavel falls this morning, here’s just some of what we’re watching:
Gov. Nathan Deal is working hard to gut Georgia’s public schools as we know them with a clever shell game he calls education “reform.” The reform he seeks is to allow more corporations to profit from our schools. But before these education companies can make any profit, the governor must first reduce Georgia’s financial commitment to each public school student. His reform package would permanently lock in deep cuts to the school budget.
The so-called religious “freedom” bill, championed by state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), has already failed in various versions two years in a row and is back for a third push. This unnecessary legislation would grant businesses and individuals a right to discriminate against minority groups, and has no place in a thriving, multicultural state like Georgia. Major corporations and state leadership alike have already expressed no interest in accepting this proposal in any form, and Better Georgia will continue working to prove that any bill that carves out religious exemptions for discrimination has no place in our communities.
The watered-down medical cannabis legislation passed last year left Georgia patients still unable to access the lifesaving medicine they desperately need. It is illegal to grow or produce cannabis in our state and federal law prohibits people from buying cannabis and transporting it across state lines. We’ll keep a close eye on HB 722, filed by state Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), which seeks to allow controlled in-state marijuana cultivation and expand the number of qualifying conditions to include other serious ailments like glaucoma, autism, Tourette‘s and PTSD.
Sen. Josh McKoon is at it again, resurrecting a proposed amendment that has already failed to make it through the Assembly. SR 675 would amend the constitution to establish English as the official language of Georgia, despite the fact that a 1995 law already did just that. This proposal brings to mind the 2004 amendment banning same-sex marriage even though it was already illegal. Like the 2004 measure, SR 675 is a waste of time and money in a thinly-veiled attempt to boost right-wing turnout in a big election year.
There’s more, of course.
Our rural hospitals are still in crisis thanks to lawmakers’ inaction on closing the Medicaid gap that leaves more than 600,000 Georgians without health insurance.
Casino lobbyists are making a swing at expanding gambling in Georgia.
Georgia’s craft beer breweries still can’t sell beer to brewery visitors, because Georgia’s tax department re-wrote a law passed by legislators last year.
The list go on.
We will keep you posted throughout the legislative session on bills and lawmaker actions that impact equality, common sense, fairness, and transparency for every Georgian.