As Ray Charles croons in his beautiful, emotional paean to his home state, Georgia has been on my mind. And not for any good reason. Georgia, it seems, is fighting mightily to win the dubious accolade of the ‘worst state in the union’. The state General Assembly is in session. The state capitol in Atlanta has been buzzing with several rather disturbing new bills on the slate. If three of them pass, we will indeed be the worst state in the United States of America.
If things go according to the majority party’s plan, and there’s no reason to doubt it will, we will have what has been dubbed ‘the worst gun legislation in the country’ by Americans for Responsible Solutions. This organization, you may remember, was founded by Gabrielle Giffords, the US Congresswoman who was shot in the head at point blank range. Ms. Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, started the organization after her slow and painful recovery, from what was an act of such ferocious, bestial brutality, it should have ended her life.
The Georgia ‘Safe Carry Protection Act (House Bill 875) will allow Georgians to carry concealed guns practically everywhere – in schools, college campuses, bars, churches, government buildings and airports. Feel safer already, don’t you? I shudder to think of an unbalanced parent/teacher/lunch lady walking around the corridors of my child’s school, packing heat. Bars, what perfectly sensible places to carry a loaded gun! Don’t see any fallout there do you Senators? Someone explain to me what a devout churchgoer imagines he needs to protect against in a place of worship. Is God carrying a gun perhaps? The whole idea of guns anywhere and everywhere is monstrous and preposterous. The same bill, if turned into law, will expand Georgia’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ statute. This means you can protect yourself with deadly force if you feel threatened with physical harm, anytime, anywhere. This law in Florida, took young Trayvon Martin’s life and allowed his killer to walk free. It will also remove fingerprinting requirements for gun license renewals and disallow the state to maintain a gun ownership database. Way to make it easier for police forces across the state, dear legislators.
Not being satisfied with threatening our security by allowing guns anywhere and everywhere, Georgia legislators are busy on another bill which will punish Georgia’s children and consign them to the dustbins of university admissions offices. Senate Bill 167 wants to dismiss the Common Core Standard that Georgia adheres to, that keeps Georgia students on par with the rest of the country. This one action will isolate Georgia students from the rest of the country while negating the gains made by Georgia school systems over the last eight years. Or, as one headline put it “Georgia Senate throws students under bus. House gets ready to run them over again”. It forbids the state school systems from adopting any practice that even smacks of national standards. They see the Common Core Standard as a federal intrusion into states’ rights. Never mind that it was the governors of several states that came up with the idea several years ago to standardize education across the country, so that students from some states, like Georgia in particular, did not suffer too much in the college admission race. Maureen Downey writes in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “imagine telling Georgia doctors they couldn’t use any cancer treatments developed by medical teams or labs outside the state. Patients would riot in the streets. So should parents over this piece of legislation.”
And so we come to the third piece of potential legislation that makes us seem cruel. This legislation is also the one that will raise the least resistance from most citizens. House Bill 772 wants to enact law that would make it necessary to pass a self-paid drug test to qualify for the food stamp program. There is no direct correlation between the two. It is not as if a person who receives food stamps can exchange them to get drugs. Then why make it a correlation? Let junkies die of starvation in their squalid holes, seems to be the unspoken thought behind it. While the country has spent millions on the drug war, border interdictions and mandatory jail sentences, little has been done in a sustained, organized way to handle the drug problem at the real source, the addict himself. Why tack on mandatory drug testing to food stamps, a program to help the poorest among us? And to make the applicant pay for the drug himself/herself. That is punishing the poor indeed. Fortunately,the sheer unconstitutionality of this bill seems to doom it from the get go.
What if all these bills go into effect as laws? Georgia would the worse for it. One would expect Georgia to be marching into the future as a technology paradise. Some of these move seem to be drawing Georgia back toward its secessionist past.