Politics: Ga Amendment 1, Portion of Revenue from Outdoor Recreation Equipment Sales Tax Dedicated to Land Conservation Fund Amendment (2018)

This is another easy one.  This initiative allows Georgia to use sales tax from sporting goods to be put in a trust fund for conservation.  Honestly, my mind was made up when I saw it was supported by The Conservation Fund, The Georgia Conservancy, Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Park Pride, and The Trust for Public Land.  Several of those organizations I would trust to support this law if they thought it would actually be useful –  not just a squeeze on people to get money for other uses.

It also will expire in 10 years and can be extended in 10-year increments.  I like laws that expire.  I think there should be a constitutional amendment for any law to have to be re-written/extended in X time.  Any law older than N should be automatically expired (ie those funny laws from the 1800s that are just weird now).  Now, should that be 5, 10, 50, 100 years? I dunno.  I’d want to hear other opinions to settle on that number.  I’d be happy just starting the conversation.

Anywho. This was another easy one – a yes.

Politics: Ga Amendment 2, Establish a State Business Court Amendment (2018)

This is an easy one for me.  The gist of this bill is to take businesses from elected judges and allow them to go into a court with appointed judges.  And yes, it has to get passed by the State house & senate.  The GA house is currently 115 R to 64 D; the senate is 37 R to 19 D – so I think unless those get pretty drastically changed we will get a “business court” that leans towards businesses.

For me, this bill is 100% about the judges being appointed instead of elected.  I will grant, they only get 5-year “terms” and they have to be approved and blah blah blah.  I am 3-4 steps removed from them and frankly, I’m also kind of pissed the GA wants to build a special place JUST for businesses.  Why not a special court of rapists? Or murders? Or black people? Or women? Or…. it’s bullshit.  If “corporations are people” (grumble grumble grumble) they need to have to deal with the same court system every other person deals with.

 

Politics:Ga Amendment 3, Forest Land Conservation and Timberland Properties Amendment (2018)

I had no clue how to vote until I looked up what politicians were saying about this particular amendment.  It was so confusingly written (and honestly, that includes the original language they were editing.  UGH).

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to revise provisions related to the subclassification for tax purposes of and the prescribed methodology for establishing the value of forest land conservation use property and related assistance grants, to provide that assistance grants related to forest land conservation use property may be increased by general law for a five-year period and that up to 5 percent of assistance grants may be deducted and retained by the state revenue commissioner to provide for certain state administrative costs, and to provide for the subclassification of qualified timberland property for ad valorem taxation purposes?

Who Do What???

Then I read what Governor Nathan Deal said, “Georgia’s working forests generate significant economic investment in our local communities due to the contributions of those who replenish and protect our natural resources. This legislation supports our timber growers and lessens the economic burden of producing quality products that sustain numerous industries, from construction to manufacturing.”[4]

I added the underline.  In my experience this is coded language for “helping my rich buddies.”   See when I looked at the actual text – this applies to timer land 200 acres or more.  200 acres.  That’s a LOT of land.  The cheapest plot I could find listed in GA was 1/4 of a million dollars ($225,000) for just over 200 acres.  (ok, there was one listed for $190k but it wasn’t contiguous.  It was broken up across several plots.  ONLY $190k you guys….)

I also read this write-up by UGA (PDF) and it sounds like it’s making it easier for people with timber on their 200+ acres of land to get tax breaks.  Specifically, “They introduce more options for forest landowners in Georgia when it is time to choose which tax incentive program to use and grant more flexibility to landowners to keep their land in forests.”

What really convinced me how I’m going to vote is this analysis in the Calhoun Times, “f it is not necessary for some compelling purpose to give this tax break, it is questionable whether this one type of property should receive a reduced tax valuation as opposed to other types of real property: homes, factories, stores or farm land.”

Thank God for a lawyer making it make sense.  I agree.  I don’t see a compelling reason (or the law makers have done a terrible job of presenting it) for timber owners of 200+ acres get a tax break no one else gets.  IF this is “conservation” they did NOT explain that AT ALL.

In other words, if I don’t understand an amendment my reaction of “fine, i’ll vote AGAINST” was justified (lol).  This is why I try really hard to find information on these things.  I don’t know about y’all but it’s confusing and frustrating, but finding some other sources…. that helps a lot.

Politics: GA Amendment 4, Marsy’s Law Crime Victim Rights Amendment (2018)

This one I struggled with.  On the surface it is a great idea and I 100% support it.  There are so many good reasons!  And yet… this is where I really struggle with the American “justice” system.

So the text on the ballot will be:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide certain rights to victims against whom a crime has allegedly been perpetrated and allow victims to assert such rights?

The rights include things like telling a victim of a felony (rape, assault, etc.) of court dates; when the accused is up for parole or release.  And the tv ads I’ve seen focus on the idea of how a woman would feel seeing her assailant at the grocery store, at her work, or he shows up at her house.  OH! The humanity!

Yes.  This happens.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 29% of federal violent crimes convicted are arrested again.  BUT in this article the award-winning journalist Nancy Mullane followed over 900 convicted of murder and found less than 10% were re-arrested for anything (and none for murder).  Do these people deserve to have this crime follow them the rest of their lives?  I don’t know if kin would be considered “victims” under this law (I couldn’t find out in timely manner) and it bothers me.

You see, the 29% sound bad – that’s 1 out of every 3!  But the BJS also says “A sixth (16.1%) of released prisoners were responsible for almost half (48.4%) of the nearly 1.2 million arrests that occurred in the 5-year follow-up period.”  so a bit more than 1 out of 6 (16% is 6.25/100) make up HALF – that’s a lot (and honestly what I expected).  The other information I couldn’t find from the BJS report (which I find very disturbing) – how many of these offenders are arrested for a similar crime? Are they being arrested for drunk driving for beating up another person (robbing, raping, etc.)?

But the BJS only looked at federal criminals – The U.S. Sentencing Commission looked at states as well – over 25,000 released inmates and there are some interesting stats.  (PDF of the report) “When considering only the “most serious” post-release offense committed by those who were rearrested, assault was the most prevalent. About one-fourth (23.3%) of those rearrested had an assault rearrest as their most serious post-release event over the study period. Other common “most serious” offenses were public order (15.5%), drug trafficking (11.5%), and larceny (7.7%)” (bold is mine)

This is the issue I have – if someone commits a crime, they are burdened by that forever in our system.  more than 3/4 do NOT commit a similar crime.  But…

Is 1/4 enough? Yes.  For me it is. So despite my struggle that released/ paroled/ “rehabilitated” people coming out of the justice system should get a chance to stay clean… the 1/4 who even might go back and hurt their victim again (the stats don’t say anything about criminals going back after their accuser, but it IS possible). That is also 1 out 4 who are likely hurt someone. I don’t know that it’s the best solution but it is at least better than nothing.

So I’m going to vote “yes” but I don’t like this solution.  I would rather we look at giving those released better tools to prevent recidivism than focus on just “protecting victims.”  I get that this sells better (I mean, who can’t feel sympathy for the woman opening the door on the man who attacked her before!) but this isn’t a GOOD solution.  I think it’s a terrible solution. But it DOES help protect the vulnerable in our society.  So reluctantly, I think it’s better than doing nothing.

Politics: Ga Amendment 5, School Sales Tax Referendums Amendment (2018)

Amendment 5 would amend the Georgia Constitution to authorize a school district or group of school districts within a county to call for a sales and use tax referendum. The referendum called by the school districts would then have to be approved by a majority of the qualified voters residing within the limits of the county.
https://ballotpedia.org/Georgia_Amendment_5,_School_Sales_Tax_Referendums_Amendment_(2018)

When I first read this amendment, I felt annoyed.  It isn’t the job of the school board in a county to figure out taxes.  BUT – the argument is that Local Board of Education (LBOE’s) were empowered in the 1990’s for SPLOST projects already… ok, now I’m less annoyed.

I STILL have a gut feeling that the legislative body is trying to foist responsibility onto the local politicians instead.  In the exact same breath, that might be good – the local LBOE in a place like Fulton County might be grateful to be able to process requests themselves.  Smaller boards however may find it more burdensome.

So which is more important, the time of the smaller boards which would benefit from having “experts” help make such rulings or freedom for larger counties/boards that could use more dexterity?  Either way, the voters would need to approve it…

Ok, so I think I’m going to vote “yes” on this one.  I still have some faith that people want educated children and MIGHT actually approve such a tax.  I could be wrong, but I think it isn’t a terrible idea…. I think.  I hope.

Politics: Why I believe in legislation

I don’t believe legislation is the fix for everything, but I think it can help.  Specifically, when we are talking about the current beloved topic of “legislating morality.” And this isn’t simple to me – I have struggled a lot with the abortion topic over the years.  So setting that one aside (It’ll have to be another post someday), I want to talk about why I support some “morality legislation.”

Ok, so first off, that is such a bullshit term in my opinion.  200 years ago, we thought putting out a child to die in the woods was an understandable if tragic choice people had to make. 100 years ago cutting off a limb to save a life was entirely “normal and acceptable” (again, tragic).  Today society allows black people to get shot when buying a candy bar.  Can we agree that it’s tragic at least??? (Do we really have to ask people to find death tragic?)

As society, we agree “murder” is wrong.  Premeditated killings are “wrong.”  That is actually morality.  By that logic, the death penalty IS murder, but a society we allow THAT murder.  So even is something as “simple” as murder we have exceptions.  We give different definitions of killing someone like “self-defense” and “manslaughter” when it isn’t premeditated and depending on other factors as a society (all expressed through legislation) we have a variety of reprieves and punishments we think “are right” for those acts.

So when we have a segment of the population that, for one reason or another, just CAN’T seem to figure out how not to murder other people; we legislate the morality for the “good of all.”  And yes, it is a very slippery slope.  This could very easily turn into applying [my] morality on people (my here being whoever is writing the law).  And in fact, that does happen.  Just look at the various definitions of what constitutes rape across various states/jurisdictions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_regarding_rape

So they might need to be revised after being written as we continue to evolve and learn.  I accept that.  The idea of “no means no” has transmuted into “only yes means yes” just in the past 10 years or so – and the distinction is important there.  So Rule #1 is:

#1 – No law should be set in stone. Anything might need to be revised.

Can we agree that as we learn more, we revise information?  I recently learned sperm don’t swim! (https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/uow-sca050412.php)

Ok, so if we agree that new information can change “morality” laws – what ISN’T morality?  I mean, is stopping as a red light because it’s “moral?”  I mean, if you take my first bit far enough – YES.  Because WHY do we stop at red lights?  So we don’t kill each other?  And we’ve decided the morals of murder are bad.  But that eventually turns in reducto ad absurdum – we also require stopping at red lights to keep traffic moving on all the streets, not just for the pushy people.

Which is a great example to lead into my 2nd rule.  Pushy people; Type A; Aggressive/Assertive; etc.  We all can think of someone who fits this mold (and if you can’t, it’s probably you).  1,000 years ago these are the people who became tyrannical lords  (*cough* William the conqueror *cough*).  Now they become tyrannical managers or just frustrated assholes.

Because, we (as a society) decided that sometimes having compassion like Mother Teresa or Ghandi or MLK Jr – it’s a good thing!

And this is important for an “enlightened” society (in my opinion).  We recognize that strength of conviction and strength of arms/voice are not the same thing.  Which is what drives Trump crazy because he can’t understand why his strong-arming doesn’t win him the kind of acclaim that MLK Jr got (much less Obama).  We have decided to recognize a value in smart and not just strong (overall, obviously some people still like “strong” over “smart”).

So I would argue this is rule #2:

#2 – Give as much value to the words spoken softly as those yelled from the rooftops.

This very much also comes from my personal belief and I will own it – I’ve written before about the tattoo I want.  That very strongly informs me that those who are “weak” and “helpless” and NOT “worthless” accordingly – and in fact those of us with the strength SHOULD stop and make sure our less-strong-“neighbors” have our arms & voices to BE heard.  This is the foundation of things like the #metoo, #blacklivesmatter and #whyIdidntreport – all of which are voices who have historically been beaten down, abused and ignored.

And lastly, this leads to my third rule which I think should almost be #1, but I think it needs the previous 2 to really support it:

#3 – Consider who this could hurt.

And sometimes we can’t tell.  There is an intersection I drive through every day that gives me road-rage because people don’t know the difference between and merge and a turn lane…. but when it was designed the road-builders couldn’t see how people would try to subvert their GOOD plan. Whoever designed it thought people would respect things like “don’t cross a solid white line” (Citation from an attorney in GA).  They don’t and it causes MASSIVE back-ups (seriously, I’m going to get a dashcam and record.  The days people don’t get in the turn-lane; buttery.  The days they do… log jam!)  But I’m not mad the designers of the path – they never expected it to be used this way and had no idea.

And this is where the rules loop.  Because we might not realize immediately the law hurts someone (stop & frisk; war on drugs; a poor definition of rape; etc.) but over time we LEARN.  Admitting we screwed up, the law didn’t achieve what we intended/wanted/etc. and going back to Rule #1 – changing it.  This is how we improve.

And this is where #3 also has a caveat about accepting data.  Accepting the fact that there were factors you didn’t see or didn’t know about – that’s ok.  And as a society, we need to give a little grace.  If someone comes out and says, “You know, I’ve learned some things I didn’t know 1, 5, 10 years ago and now I think….” we should reward them.  They are not “flip-flopping” – they are learning.  Learning is good.  Your whole life.  GOOD.

Anyway, as we go into November I am going to be looking for candidates who follow my three rules:

  1. Admit things might need to evolve/change
  2. Give value to the quiet, less-heard people
  3. Consider who a change might impact
    1. Accept data that disagrees with your preconceived notions on the impact

The candidates who are willing to get anywhere NEAR this philosophy – they’ll get my vote.  Because I don’t want to go backwards.  I like antibiotics to prevent gangrene.  I don’t want anyone to leave their child to die in the woods.  I want to continue moving on to perfection.

Politics: Memorial to McCain

I didn’t want to post while the emotions raged, but I DO want to talk about John McCain.

For as long as I can remember – and as long as I’ve been voting (2004 was my first Presidential election), John McCain has been on my list of Senators I respect – even when I don’t like everything he says/does.

In 2008 if he had chosen a better running mate, he might have been able to sway might vote.  It would have been hard because voting for the first black president was kind of amazing and special. And honestly, between the two I thought we needed Obama in the WH more – I wanted McCain to stay in the senate (my same argument why I don’t want Elizabeth Warren in 2020 -I want her right where she is doing what she’s amazing at doing).

Anyway.  I won’t say I like everything he ever voted for or ever said. I didn’t.  Sometime I vehemently opposed things he supported .  He was pro-life and I am strongly pro-choice.  He voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act in 2009 (*growl*)  which helps protect workers to sue for pay discrimination.  Just some examples, but let’s say I’m glad he wasn’t my senator ’cause I would have been calling his office regularly to tell him how I felt about him (just ask my current Senators).

But at the end of the day – I respected him.  I listened to his speeches and might disagree with his methodology, but I didn’t always disagree on his conclusions.  I remember listening to him talk about Israel having as much right to self-defense as the US and thinking, “that makes sense.”  Now, how they self-defend… I will admit that’s not my area of expertise.

He served this country in Vietnam – he wasn’t drafted either.  He went to the Naval Academy (volunteered) at a time when that was NOT a popular choice socially.  If he planned to go into politics at that point (which I doubt, but anywho) he probably was being told it was political suicide.  He did it anyway.  He was decorated for his service.  He suffered as a POW – was tortured – and had permanent mobility loss because of it.  He paid for my respect on that front if no other.  And his service is something he could hold up the rest of his life and I would bow my head and say “thank you.”  No matter anything else – he believed in the freedom America fought for.

I think it speaks highly that Joe Biden – another long-time Washington “insider” – and John McCain were good friends.  They are diametrically opposed on a lot of issues, but outside the state house they could be friends.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve heard McCain talk about healthcare costs being the issue – not insurance.  I agree.  I disagree a “tax credit” is the solution (ah, moneyed priviledge thou art adorable).  He struggled (voted both ways at various times) about banking regulations and I think he learned/evolved over time that stupid+money=bad (and greedy=stupid).  Which meant stupid tended to clutter the banking/Wall Street industries.  I don’t remember specifics, but I do know I tended to lean more in favor of his statements with banking than I did with most GOP reps.

He was a bit of warhawk which bothered me, but at the same time I know that he has access to intel I don’t have and frankly, he has much better frame of reference for what that war would entail in the cost of time, money, and lives.  Hell, honestly if he thinks the cost is “worth it” I trusted his analysis better than most politicians because he understood there was a high likelihood of others being treated the way he was – and he still thought it was worth that cost. That gave him credibility I can’t give to a lot of the politicians on capital hill right now.

Basically, my “relationship” with McCain as a national figure was always “it’s complicated” because I respected him.  A Lot. Like, a hell of lot.  He also did some really dumb things (*cough*Palin*cough*) and he was firmly entrenched in the GOP while it has been setting itself on fire and giggling maniacally about “lies” that can be utterly debunked with very simple statistics.  He also appeared to really struggle with how to help this country tackle the difficult issues it faces without compromising some of his firmly held beliefs (whether religious or economic).  He believed in capitalism.  He wanted so badly for it to be the ultimate, best solution. And he tried damn hard to make solutions that solved problems like monopolies work within that belief-set.

Respect even when I disagree.