Time for Georgia Republicans To Put Up or Shut Up on Six Key Issues


image8There are currently six important issues that will be a litmus test for Georgia Republicans that claim to support capitalism, free-markets, and just good ol’ fashioned freedom and limiting government intrusion.

Republicans sure like to use those terms “liberally” during the campaign trail if you will pardon the irony. Four of these bills deals with issues more easily understood but two are a bit more nuanced. I am of course speaking about solar panels, beer laws, medical marijuana, and electric car sales. These are the four that are pretty straightforward and easy to grasp.

The two more nuanced bills deal with no-knock police raids and religious liberty. They are harder to grasp because they actually do the opposite of what their titles would suggest. For that reason it gets a bit more complicated to casual observers not following it closely. Once people understand they do the exact opposite there is resistance.

Four Bills That Would Pass Overwhelmingly If Georgians Could Vote

1) Solar Panels-  House Bill 57 is designed to make it easier and more affordable for consumers to put solar panels on their homes by allowing them to use third-party companies to install and own the systems. Utilities resisted the idea before winning restrictions that would protect their territorial monopolies. Consumers thinking about adding solar panels to their house would benefit tremendously with more competition and options. The only people opposed are energy companies and other middleman who now enjoy a monopoly resulting in higher prices to consumers.

2) Tesla Electric Car Sales –  House Bill 393 would allow Tesla Motors to sell an unlimited number of its electric cars directly to consumers without using independent new car dealers. The Georgia Automobile Dealers Association fought the effort initially, but now backs a revised version that at least could prevent other car makers from following in Tesla’s footsteps. I can’t think of one car buyer that wouldn’t prefer to buy directly from a manufacturer if they had that option instead of paying a dealer many thousands to simply take delivery and then try and screw you with upsell.

Car dealers are called “Stealerships” with good reason and few smart consumers ever use them again once any free warranty services have expired. Only recently I had a dealer lie to me about what was wrong with my car, but luckily I knew enough about cars to know they were full of crap. Their quote was $2,300. My actual repair costs were $600 for parts and labor total from an independent shop. I bought the alternator and hub assembly brand new off of Amazon as well instead of using refurb parts from the dealership.

The other repair they quoted in that $2,300 was for bad the tie rods. This was completely unnecessary as they were fine but few average customers would have known to get a second opinion. Here is the final kicker, they also didn’t diagnose the bad alternator and said it was a dead battery. I am sure they would have found the alternator once they had my car in their shop though and had replaced my perfectly good battery and stuck me with a $3,000 bill instead. Get a second opinion people whenever a stealership gives you a repair bill!

3) Craft Beer LawsSenate Bill 63 would allow customers of craft brewers to take beer to go, but it hardly makes the process seamless. Local beer makers wanted to sell their drafts directly to consumers, something the state’s beer wholesalers and retailers opposed and Prohibition-era laws prevent. Instead, even under the legislation, craft brewers and their customers will have to engage in some ridiculous workarounds: charging consumers for a tour and giving limited samples of beer for “free” that can be taken home or, in the case of brewpubs, allowing customers to leave with limited amounts of beer that they ordered with a sit-down meal.

In each case, they would be restricted to a single container of beer. It is insane that Georgia is still one of the last holdouts for this bizarre three tier system that seems more like a law suited for the old Soviet Union than in a capitalist country. Even in the former Soviet republic of Georgia by the same name as us brewers ARE allowed to sell directly to consumers. For more on this law read  Craft Beer Buzzkill at Creative Loafing which does a fantastic job of explaining the idiocy of the status quo.

4) Medical Marijuana – HB-1 HB 1 legalizes cannabis oil with a maximum amount of 5% THC, the psychoactive part of the marijuana plant that makes users high. The oil can be used to treat nine qualifying medical conditions: cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, mitochondrial disease, sickle cell disease, and fibromyalgia. There was an amendment to add sickle cell disease to the list at the request of Democrat Rep. Stacy Abrams and other African Americans, whom the disease predominantly affects.

Gone from the original HB-1 are:  Glaucoma, AIDS, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, Muscle spasticity disorder, PTSD, Autism, Tourette syndrome, A terminal illness that involves severe pain, nausea or wasting. Peake removed those in the hopes of placating the Senate where lobbyists and loons have more sway. I have written extensively about this issue on this site.

Those four bills above are fairly clear cut and easy to understand. Regardless of your political leanings, if you are a typical voter you want to be able to buy products cheaper and more directly without lots of layers of regulations and middleman which are companies who do little but add to the price like parasites and add no real value. They are protected monopolists sucking off profits from the manufacturers and hiking pricing to consumers. They should be an anthema to real Republicans but these lobbyists line their pockets so instead they are their best friends and get their way more often than not.

Few voters would be opposed to more options to buy their solar panels, their cars, or be against allowing a beer manufacturer the right to sell their product to a consumer. Although there are some fringe loons opposed to medical marijuana, 84% of Georgia understands and wants to see medical marijuana bill passed.

So the conundrum for many Republicans is can they keep campaign promises and voters happy or keep their corporate lobbyists happy and keep big donations rolling in?

Religious Liberty and Ending No-Knock Searches Poorly Named

image7As I wrote above, those four issues above are pretty straightforward and easy to understand but two other important issues are a bit more confusing because they are using a typical Republican tactic of naming something the opposite of what it really accomplishes. I suppose Democrats have just as bad a habit of that as well so it is fairer to say this is a non-partisan political tactic of creating catchy euphemisms out of pretty heinous legislation. All politicians are guilty of this.

The so-called Religious Liberty Bill is actually anything but. A more apt name would be the “Let’s Legislate Hate So We Can Legally Discriminate”. This bill is opposed by constitutional scholars who worry about unintended consequences and harms. It is also opposed by some District Attorney’s and others that worry about child abuse and endangerment. It is also opposed by a wide coalition of religious leaders.

No one had been clamoring or asking for this bill so it really seems suspiciously timed. There is already Federals laws not to mention the Constitution which guarantees religious freedom. The homophobic and bitter state Senator from Columbus named Josh McKoon only created this bill as a bulwark against the SCOTUS decision coming soon that will legalize same sex marriages in all states. He can deny it all he wants, but his supporters are not ashamed to say they want to be able to shun gay patrons from their businesses and this bill would allow them to do so. That is their only reason for supporting this bill and they aren’t ashamed to tell anyone that asks them either.

The other more nuanced bill is one that purports to put limitations or restrictions on no-knock searches. Actually there are around three bills but it is too complicated to go into all three here. Nationally there is a strong movements against these types of no-knock raids that often result in death or injury. Garland Favorito just wrote an excellent article that explains who are behind these bills and why they are dangerous. Basically, many feel the primary purpose of these bills  is to prevent law enforcement from being held criminally liable for crimes committed during highly profitable, illegal raids. Ironically, the Georgia General Assembly proposes to remove this protection of accountability just as the public all across America is demanding more accountability from law enforcement and judges.

My thoughts on no-knock searches are very simple. I think they should only ever be used in instances where the life of a hostage is threatened or a life can be saved. No exceptions! 

I do not think the search for drugs is ever worth the risk of the life of police entering the house, an innocent citizen when police get bad info like they did with David Hooks and so many others. I also don’t even think it is worth the life of a drug dealer since these military style assaults are inherently dangerous and risky for everyone involved. Finding some drugs 90 seconds faster without an announcement that you are the police is not ever  worth anyone’s life for a drug arrest.

Lives are more important than any property including drugs. These raids are simply about profit since police are able to confiscate cash, homes, cars, and pretty much anything they want if any drugs are found.

When you barge into a house in the middle of the night and people are asleep and the police give no real warning you are naturally going to think you are being robbed. Imagine you are in a deep slumber, maybe you even took a sleeping pill which makes you more groggy and suddenly you hear a loud crash as your door is smashed in with a battering ram. Your hear strangers rushing towards your bedrooms where your family is sleeping. You will still be sleepy but likely your first thought is danger is approaching. Chances are if you have a gun you will grab it and start firing to protect your life and that of your family resulting in your almost certain death and possibly the life of a policeman as well. And for what? So they can possibly find some drugs and confiscate your house? That is insane!

The police argue they need no-knock searches because otherwise drug dealers would have a chance to flush it down the toilet if they gave an announcement and waited a minute or two before busting down the door or God forbid told people they are the police and have a warrant.

My reply that  is so what. Who cares if some marijuana gets flushed down a toilet if lives are saved? It might allow a few small time dealers to dispose of some drugs but big dealers with a lot of drugs and paraphernalia wouldn’t have time to hide it all even with a lot of time. If they are a big time drug dealer there is no way they would be able to flush kilos of cocaine or marijuana down a toilet if they even had 10 minutes. Also doing these raids at night instead of daytime is more risky for all involved including the police. Not having late nick no-knock raids would certainly save a lot of innocent peoples lives so ending them is a small price to pay.

Not arresting as many small time dealers who MIGHT be able to dispose of drugs and evidence in small quantities is a small price to pay if it means people like David Hooks would still be alive or Baby Bou Bou wouldn’t be disfigured for life from a grenade thrown in his crib. Shouldn’t lives of thousands of innocent people matter more than a few extra drug arrests?

Instead of raids in the middle of the night while people are asleep they should instead be doing surveillance and triple if not quadruple checking their info and sources to make sure they never kill and maim more innocent people.  Judges also need to be far more cautious and diligent about signing off on warrants.

Police should stop people when people leave their homes and are in their cars and it is safer. Then they can show their warrant and search the house if warranted.  At the very least they should serve warrants in the daytime and clearly identify themselves as police and stop wearing these all black ISIS style garb. The typical American faces more danger from these rogue assaults by police using terroristic tactics with military garb and weapons  in no-knock raids than we face from ISIS or Al Qaeda. How many Americans were killed by ISIS this past month vs. how many innocent Americans were killed by police? So tell me again who the real threat is….

Around 3 Americans are killed every day by police and around 1,100 in a year. I am sure many are justified but a very high number are not justified and many innocent Americans are executed in their homes while asleep by police. Our police have become so trigger happy that we should at least be able to have one safe bastion where we can feel safe from being killed mistakenly by the police which is our own home. Home is no longer our castle when you live in a police state.

Will Georgia Legislators Listen to Their Constituents demanding more safeguards from police abuse or the lobbyists from the police themselves along with prosecutors? Any no-knock bill needs to at least meet a standard that it would have prevented David Hooks from being killed or Baby Bou Bou from being maimed for life with a grenade. Anything below that threshold is unacceptable. And when police screw up they need to be held accountable and liable for their crimes!

wizozNormally the lobbyists will win out every time. But social media is beginning to counter some of that back room dealings as people become more involved. Before Facebook and Twitter, few people in Georgia would have even known anything about those six issues I mentioned above. But now it is very easy for people to share information and speak to politicians directly and gain information beyond local newspapers who are also controlled by lobbyists from their advertising dollars.

The lobbyists are still paying the big bucks to campaigns so they still have plenty of clout among the inscrutably corrupt politicians who think their primary job is to simply get re-elected not to actually ever do anything positive for their constituents.

If these various bills could be written in simple terms and put to a voter initiated referendum I think Georgia voters would overwhelmingly support buying solar panels from third parties with less restrictions at a cheaper cost. They would also support allowing medical marijuana to sick and dying people in need and would support something far more comprehensive than even the original HB-1 bill.

Georgians also think it is insane that people can buy their car or beer directly from the manufacturer and rightly scoff at the notion they need a middleman when they can buy practically anything they want directly from China without these restrictions. Citizens in the Peach state are also opposed to no-knock searches and certainly do not want to legalize them or make them even easier. Many people are now more afraid (rightly so) of being killed by police than by a criminal and this is a shame and a disgrace.  I am also confident that most Georgian’s are tired of seeing our state mocked as backwards by most of the country and would oppose discrimination laws under the false disguise of “religious liberty”.

There are no Voter Initiated Referendums in Georgia

But alas, the people in Georgia won’t ever get to vote on any of those bills. In Georgia there are no voter initiated referendums which allow citizens to have any direct say. Without these types of referendums the lobbyists will continue to exert an extraordinary amount of influence over our legislators and laws. Without term limits in place, these legislators rely on big bucks from all these special interest to get re-elected again and again. The only referendums you will ever see in Georgia are ones cooked up by legislators who have a bad habit of naming them the opposite of what they do and then lots of lobbyist that will benefit buying ads to support their position.

But you will never see a medical marijuana referendum like the ones in states like Alaska, Colorado, Washington, or Oregon here in the Peach state because our legislators are too afraid of giving the people any direct say. That would mean less payola from their lobbyist pals who own them and would have instead focus their dollars on TV commercials in a voter referendum. Our politicians don’t want o let people in Georgia have any real voice it seems like other states.

What Georgia really needs is a few House and Senate members who care more about the people than the lobbyist to propose a bill to allow voter initiated referendums. Now that would be the real game changer for Georgia to move forward. Not only on those six issues, but on so many other needed laws where politicians lack the guts to fight special interests. 

We will soon see if words and phrases like freedom, capitalism, less regulations, consumer protection and choice, liberty, and all the other ones you so often read on the campaign trail were just a lot of hot air or not. The Republicans who control the House, Senate, and executive branch will have to put up or shut up in 2015. Most Democrats have already come out on the right side on all these issues and stand with the voters so if they fail the GOP will have to bear the full blame.