January 8, 2016 Radio Commentary

2016 Session Convenes Next Monday

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, January 8, 2016 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Next Monday our senators and representatives report to work at 10:00 o’clock to begin this year’s 40-day legislative session. Among the legislators will be eight new representatives and two new senators, who won special elections since last session.

If I were a new legislator, I would be astonished to learn that 786 bills and resolutions are still alive from last year’s session and I would be even more astonished to know how critically important some of those bills are.

For example: If I were a new representative, I might ask Representative Ron Stephens why he waited until the last week of last session to introduce two highly controversial bills. One is H.R. 807 that would change the State Constitution to authorize the building and operation of six resort casinos in Georgia. The other is his 127-page H.B. 677 that would legalize and regulate those six resort casinos. Then, I would ask him why he thinks Georgia needs an industry that charges a half-million-dollars to simply apply for a license. If the application is accepted, the license will cost the applicant $25,000,000 or $10,000,000 depending on where the casino will be located. Even if the application is turned down, the half-million-dollars won’t be refunded.The new senators might ask Senator Beach the same questions, since his S.R. 135 was carried over to amend the Constitution so horse racing and pari-mutuel betting could operate in Georgia. His bill dedicates the net gambling proceeds to education and organizations supporting the horse industry. And they should ask Senator Curt Thompson about S.R. 143, also a constitutional amendment authorizing horse racing, pari-mutuel betting, but his bill would authorize casinos, as well.

Then, there’s Senator Thompson’s S.R. 6 that would change the Constitution, so 21-year-olds could buy, use and grow recreational marijuana. And there’s another one on the horizon. Senator Harold Jones II pre-filed S.B. 254 on December 29th, poised for official introduction during the session. His goal is to reduce the charge of felony marijuana possession to a misdemeanor.

I’ve said all that to say this. When the Georgia General Assembly convenes Monday morning at ten o’clock, they’ll face 786 bills that were carried over from last session and during the next 40 days they’ll introduce almost 3,000 more. The bills will be debated and voted on and all of us will be affected by the outcome of each one. It’s important that you tell your legislators how they should vote, because these issues WILL change the culture. For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadyler, your Capitol correspondent.