The 5th District is covered in yellow as pollen season hits early due to a historically warm winter, and we're about to get covered in election campaign mud as the political landscape shifts to the November elections. Before we launch headlong into figuring out which candidate will save the world vs. which candidate will condemn us to a new dark age, its worth taking a look at what the 2012 Georgia General Assembly Session accomplished.
Frankly, it reminded me of that high budget, but otherwise bad, disaster movie of a few years back: The Day After Tomorrow, where global warming froze the planet and forced the US President to move to Mexico.
First of all, there was a ton of money spent on things that won't do a whole lot when you look at the big picture. There were no significant (and to be honest, not many insignificant) bills that would create jobs, in spite of all the Chamber types in the halls looking for handouts. Even the controversial partisan throw down over the Charter School bill HR 1162, at most, affects less than 15 schools and is neither the end of public education nor its salvation, despite both its detractors and proponents trying to tell you otherwise. Meanwhile, the budget seemed to be more about rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking boat than trying to produce something meaningful in the way of a public policy on how we invest our tax dollars.
Secondly, there was pseudoscience. Admittedly, here the pseudoscience was right wing pseudoscience about abortion, but just like in the movie, it was about going back to the ice ages. Only, it's just the women we're sending into the cold dark past. Bills preventing state health insurance from covering abortions [SB438], and a bill allowing employers to not have to cover birth control if they have "moral objections" (which means, yes, we're actually refighting the issue of birth control from the '50s and '60s) [SB460] passed the Senate but, thankfully, died in the House. However, HB954, which restricts abortion to the first 20 weeks without exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother while creating inhumanly high barriers when there are issues of extreme birth defects or an unviable fetus actually passed the legislature and will likely be signed into law by Governor Deal.
Thirdly, there was collateral damage and the death of a lot of supporting characters. A bill to allow MARTA to continue to use money it receives from tax revenue to at least partially fund operations failed in the House. The result will be a ton of service cuts that further imperil an already shaky MARTA system and the even shakier TSPLOST vote scheduled for later this year. Similarly, bills to improve our ethics laws (even ones championed by Republicans) and a bipartisan bill that would have promoted solar energy, which actually would have helped to create some jobs, failed to see the light of day since the air was being sucked out of the room by allegedly "sexier" electioneering issues.
This finally leads us to the over-the-top bad acting (lots of it). Folks on the right stood up and tried to demonize the free speech of unions (and only unions) with SB 469. It would have turned most picketing into a crime in the event the boss being picketed felt "threatened". Of course, the only actual incidents we have of organized protests threatening violence in Georgia deal with the more extreme anti-abortion folk, but remember, this is ACTING. It's not about facts. That bill died on Sine Die but the debate and kabuki continues.
There was also a concerted and successful effort to blame and frighten the poor by demanding they take drug tests to get TANF benefits (which is basically food money for poor children, by the way) that resulted in the passage of HB861 that now sits on Governor Deal's desk. The same crowd that says asking the wealthiest businesses and Americans to pay their fair share in taxes is class warfare are using nothing less than class warfare to bash low income and poor people to win elections.
Of course, probably the most damaging bill to our economy that passed cut unemployment benefits for everyday Georgians so that big business won't have to pay back the huge tax holiday savings they lobbied for during previous years and that bankrupted our unemployment trust fund in the first place. Republicans actually had the nerve to talk about making everyone share the burden, when really the burden is mostly on poor families. Apparently, Republicans still favor bailouts of big business in Georgia. Who knew?
So, aside from the bad disaster movie comparisons, all of this makes me want to ask: What sort of vision do these right wing Republicans have for Georgia, other than bailing out big corporations at the taxpayers’ expense while racing to the bottom on almost any other issue like health care, immigration, education, and job creation? This is an important question to ask as campaign season is officially upon us. We need to be asking who has a vision for a strong and prosperous Georgia that works for all our citizens, and who deserves a "Razzie" at the voting booth on election night.