There’s an almost discernible sense of seriousness in the air instead of the usual dread of an upcoming slapstick performance.
Should this actually come to pass it would mark a desperately needed change in the impression that the legislature has created for itself, both within the state and outside it, of being more fixated on such as sex and guns than dollars and sense. Instead of being considered a deliberative body it has for a long, long time (including the period of Democratic domination) been viewed as largely a slapstick act … and not a particularly funny one either although it certainly has given the national audience a lot of laughs.
Being laughed at is not good for business, which the current government leadership vows is its main desire to achieve for Georgia. Such involves far more than taxation policy, important though that may be. It is also very much about the appearance that Georgia provides, the image it has both within and without.
This is not meant to imply the legislature never has done anything worthwhile or serious. Such actually dominates and its members, as a whole, are a well-meaning and fairly intelligent bunch no matter how any citizen might feel about this or that of what is done. The problem has long been that it is always the sideshows that steal attention away from the main acts and also become what is remembered.
There’s a different mood at the moment, an impression that serious things are about to take center stage — Shakespeare and not vaudeville.
BESIDES the unavoidable and center-stage budget act that has little chance of turning out particularly well as less really never provides the taxpayers with more, there are subplots afoot with considerable dramatic potential of the sort capable of evoking prolonged audience applause.
Just donning a cloak of purity regarding ethics in the form of gifts from suitors begging favors would greatly change the impression and often bad taste left among the public. While capping gifts for such as dinners and entertainment at $100 (per time, not per session which would be even better) is the currently talked about position nothing at any time for any reason should be preferred. For one thing, it is a whole lot easier to police.
That’s not meant to imply such items might not have value as “part of the job” in gaining information about pending action. After all, the Braves, Falcons and even beach resorts are part of the state’s economy and tax base with which familiarity might be useful. However, if that’s the case why not just increase the legislators’ expense accounts so that — once a year, let’s say — they can see what sitting in the stands (not the suite seats) is like? Or go Dutch on an after-hours or weekend business dinner with a lobbyist.
Campaign contributions can look bad enough, but that’s free speech by golden tongues. Freebies are an entirely different matter and the public knows it.
Similarly, continuing and expanding the reform of crime-and-punishment issues so that rehabilitation takes precedent over extracting a pound of flesh in cases where bodily harm was not done or threatened would do much to soften the misimpression that Georgia is still of a Simon Legree frame of mind. This change of heart is probably more due to the impossible economics of paying the nightly motel bills of 50,000 people the state doesn’t allow to leave but sometimes it takes an empty wallet to prove the error of its ways to government.
EQUALLY encouraging is the pledge to take up the elimination of regulatory red tape, although that is currently aimed more at social services to the disabled, elderly and mentally ill than to where the need is actually greatest: starting and doing business and creating jobs in Georgia. Again, it appears as though the expense of such overhead is the driving force behind it being targeted in an time of budgetary tightness rather than a heartfelt intention to get help to those needing it faster … and in larger amounts.
Nor should it be overlooked that much of the regulatory weight was originated by past legislatures and often for good reason — in reaction to trying to remedy and avoid future instances of bad things having happened that all the checks and balances of paperwork sought to prevent. In the realm of social services the dumping of red tape is harder, and more dangerous, than it would be regarding free-enterprise matters.
Nonetheless, if the General Assembly actually sticks to “serious stuff” for a full session and makes the sort of progress toward general improvement that is supposed to be the reason for its very existence it would make for an excellent start to repairing what has become a very poor image for a deliberative body whose past antics have always, and somewhat unfairly, rubbed off on all its individual members … and the ordinary citizen’s opinion that most of those elected are less actors on a larger stage and more clowns in a circus.
Indeed, by this time there usually have been orations and prefilings of legislation signaling the worst is about to come — you know, bills suggesting all women pregnant outside of wedlock be machine-gunned to death and all women pregnant inside of wedlock be required to carry automatic weapons at all times to defend themselves.
NO DOUBT some legislation involving social issues and trying to negate individual choices that are not now, and never have been, the business of a government will doubtless arise. The General Assembly’s leadership would do themselves, the state and their own image a great favor by vigilantly watching out for this past tendency.
Certainly individual legislators have every right to propose whatever they wish, even though it so often appears for purposes of political grandstanding or accumulating of campaign war chests. That does not mean the General Assembly as a whole should be derailed, as so often in the past, and lose valuable time better spent of serious matters of more general importance.
It might well be wise to relegate all such legislation wearing greasepaint and fright wigs to committee hearings set for the 41st day of the 40-day session.
It will take more than one session to repair past damage done to the deliberative seriousness of Georgia’s elected representatives of the people — and to the rub-off effect that the entire state public must similarly be enthralled by the freaks in the sideshows.
However, simply getting started on such a path, and the apparent possibility that due to changes in the General Assembly where the number of fire-eaters and bearded ladies has either been reduced or removed from center stage, it has become possible and this should be almost cheering to the public. Well, at least reason to be hopeful or prayerful.
NOW, LET’S all keep our fingers crossed that some attention-desperate clowns don’t ruin the opportunity.
There’s nothing worst to watch than a bad reality show without redeeming value. Those should be kept on television, not beneath the Golden Dome.