Sine die, 2013

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Thursday night, March 28, just before midnight, the gavel came down and brought the 2013 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly to a close.

As always, the challenges were many, but it turned out to be a very productive session. I wanted to write a column and mention a couple of the more high profile items that were adopted this year and will write a subsequent column with a list of many of the bills that passed that did not receive as much media coverage.

I hope this will be helpful as residents seek information on what the General Assembly worked on during this session.

As always, the budget was of primary importance on the agenda for the 2013 session. House Bill 106 establishes the state budget for Fiscal Year 2014, running from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.

The measure calls for a little above $19 billion in state spending and closely mirrors Gov. Deal’s original budget proposal, but includes a number of changes made by the House that benefit education, healthcare, and economic development.

Among additions made by the House are $38.3 million for Equalization Grants for education, $489,475 for continued expansion funding of all programs that provide physician residency training, $25.7 million for road projects throughout the state, and $4.3 million to help the Georgia Bureau of Investigation retain experienced, certified personnel who are on the front line of working to keep our state safe.

As a side note, this budget was the tenth budget produced by a Republican-controlled legislature since the voters put Republicans into the majority in the 2004 elections. In that time per-capita state spending, when adjusted for inflation, has declined more than 20 percent and we continue to be one of only seven states that retains our AAA bond rating.

With a growing state and a challenging economy during that time, I believe that is a testament to sound and conservative fiscal policies. Living within our means and making tough choices have been and will continue to be the hallmarks of government in Georgia.

A bill that I worked on in conjunction with Governor Deal’s office is HB 487. The measure is a comprehensive reformation of the Georgia code involving the regulation of Class B coin-operated amusement machines.

These are games that can be played where participants earn points/tickets that can be refunded for merchandise on the premises.

Unfortunately, bad actors are providing cash payouts for these machines, which has created illegal gambling locations throughout the state.

The GBI testified in one committee that the illegal misuse of these machines has created a more than $100 million black market illegal gambling industry in Georgia.

The major shift of this bill is to move the oversight responsibilities of these machines from the Department of Revenue to the Georgia Lottery Commission. The Ga. Lottery Commission has a vested interest in eliminating these bad actors because under current law the Ga. Lottery is the only game method that can offer cash payouts.

The bill requires every one of these machines to be linked into a centralized monitoring system so the dollars going through the machines can be tracked to the penny.

The law enforcement community believes this will give them the informational resources to identify and prosecute bad actors. The measure was strongly supported by the GBI, the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association.

The General Assembly also debated and ultimately passed a measure dealing with ethics in government in Georgia. House Bill 142 will strengthen Georgia’s ethics laws by placing a $75 limit on each expenditure made by an individual lobbyist on an elected official. The bill also bans gifts of tickets to athletic, sporting, recreational, musical concerts and other entertainment events from lobbyists to state officials.

HB 142 also restores power to the Georgia Government and Campaign Finance Commission by giving it rule-making authority.

Finally, HB 142 clarifies and broadens the definition of who must register as a lobbyist so that it applies to anyone who is compensated for or has their expenses reimbursed in an amount greater than $250 if attempting to influence legislation.

The measure is a result of compromise between the House and the Senate. While it is not a perfect bill, I believe it is a big step forward and is responsive to the vote by citizens in July overwhelmingly in favor of a $100 gift cap for Georgia elected officials.

In addition to these bills, the General Assembly approved House Bill 55 to ensure that law enforcement can get the wiretaps needed to combat drug trafficking in our state.

This bill resulted from a recent ruling made by the Supreme Court of Georgia that placed a multitude of wiretaps in jeopardy of being found illegal.

The court found that superior court judges did not have the authority to issue wiretaps for criminal investigations where law enforcement would listen to the captured conversations in a location outside of the judge’s jurisdiction.

This decision was particularly problematic because modern technology makes it easier than ever for criminal enterprises to extend beyond one small area or jurisdiction, and the technology necessary to capture those criminal conversations is too expensive to purchase for each of the state’s 159 counties.

Judges, therefore, need the ability to grant statewide wiretaps, so that law enforcement can launch effective investigations against large scale organized crime.

House Bill 55 is a very narrowly tailored response to the court’s decision that does just that. It allows the superior court judge with jurisdiction over a particular crime under investigation to issue a statewide warrant for wiretaps, a power these judges were always thought to have prior to the court’s decision.

Thank you again for giving me the honor of serving on behalf of Fayette County in the Georgia General Assembly this year. Please never hesitate to contact me if I can be of service or address any question or concern you may have regarding your state government.

[Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) was first elected to the District 72 post in December 2007. He is a law partner with Warner, Hooper, and Ramsey, P.C., in Peachtree City. His email is matt.ramsey@house.ga.gov.]

PTC Observer
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Rep. Ramsey

What laws, rules or regulations have you or your party taken off the books this session? What laws, rules or regulations have been limited in any way?

You can just list them here, you don't have to go into great detail, just give us the long list of the legislation turned back and/or deleted from the thousands of these on the books.

Looking forward to seeing your long list.

Now, once you've done this for us, give us the entire list of new rules, notices and laws the last session created.

Thanks for you prompt attention to this.

The Apolitical ...
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Georgia Should Lead In Calling For Constitutional Convention

Dear Matt,

I hope you are part of the process whereby the states call for a constitutional convention to address our corrupted federal government.

This is what the voice of Georgia citizens would like our state legislature to accomplish: restore the powers delegated to the states which have been compromised or eliminated by the unconstitutional actions and policies of a leviathan, central government.

We must put this beast back within the boundaries established for it.

Peace and Justice and Truth

William King
The Apolitical President

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Mr. King - Be

Be very careful what you ask for my friend, you may be surprised at the outcome, our "leaders" are considerably less honorable and certainly less educated than the men of the 18th Century. Man to man you will not find any equivalency today.

It will be the very beast that you want to slay that will decide the outcomes of any convention.

tgarlock
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Mr. King, listen to PTCO's wise . . .

. . . caution about a constitutional convention, which could turn upside down since liberal urges appeal to warm and fuzzy feelings while fiscal discipline, states' rights and controlling big govt requires focused discipline. Which has been winning for the last 60 years as the masses get more plugged in to the voting process?

Terry Garlock

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Don't tamper with the masses or their vote

Harmony can be reached by ethical leaders combining 'warm, fuzzy, feelings with disciplined financial planning. There are women who cooperate with their 'head of household' who do this daily. Most men realize that absolute power is fleeting and often a myth in real life situations. Cooperation, listening to a different point of view, and working diligently to find a workable solution has been proven successful at the kitchen table and 'conventions'.

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Thank you, DM, for . . .

. . . demonstrating my point. The liberal dedication to symbolism and feelings, as opposed to nuts-and-bolts boundaries and discipline, is precisely what has bloated our federal govt and mired the US in a quagmire of entitlements and debt we cannot possibly pay. When applied to foreign policy as the narcissistic, incompetent windbag we call a president has done, we find the US in weak retreat around the world and impotent in the face of a Russian bully. But of course all we have to do is seek to hold hands and sing "Feelings!" and all will be just fine according to liberals. Will you guys never learn that peace comes through strength? Will you never learn that however much you want blissful consensus and cooperation, human nature hasn't changed since cavemen beat each other with clubs, and good people seek their own advantage while the evil people will always dream of the opportunity to slit your child's throat?

Terry Garlock

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PTCO
Quote:

and certainly less educated than the men of the 18th Century. Man to man you will not find any equivalency today.

Really? Some women have surpassed the gentlemen of the 18th century ! Many men and women are using their knowledge to meet the challenges of today. The gentleman of the 18th century did no more/no less.

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DM - Where

do you see in my post that I was comparing women to men?

The gentlemen of the 18th Century, were better educated than the men of today, at least the elite of the 18th Century compared let's say to a typical Harvard graduate today, Mr. Obama for example. Sorry, DM that's a fact. I'll grant you that knowledge is better and more specialized today than the 18th Century, but I'll stand by my statement on education. Certainly education that could bring about a better document than the US Constitution through a modern day Constitutional Convention.

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PTCO

Don't call your reality based on your perceptions facts! Education is based on knowledge - and mankind is undoubtedly more knowledgeable today. Wisdom is the operative word in comparing the 18th Century to the 21st Century. The wisdom shared in the writings of the 1st Century often when applied today prove beneficial.

Quote:

DM - Where do you see in my post that I was comparing women to men?

Sorry, just reacting to the exclusion of women in your statement. The founding fathers wrote a document that can be/ has been amended to put into practice the original meaning of the words found in our Constitution to be inclusive of all citizens in our country. a better document than the US Constitution? PTCO please share what you would want to see in this BETTER document.

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The Apolitical - Mr. King
Quote:

restore the powers delegated to the states which have been compromised or eliminated by the unconstitutional actions and policies of a leviathan, central government.

Before we can join together to bring ethics back to 'government' - which state powers do you feel need to be reinstated?

Thanks!

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The Tenth Amendment

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
It would be nice if we didn't wish it away and let the commerce clause mean whatever the federal government wants it to be. So what would be state powers or powers not delegated to the federal government and not prohibited to the states? How about social security, Medicaid, Medicare, health care in general, education,standards, energy, etc.
The problem with the federal government owning all of these things is that the government has the power to regulate every aspect of your life. From what you are allowed to eat, what you are allowed to do on your own property, what you wear, and even if you are allowed to gather freely.

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10th Amendment

Regulations that have been reversed:

Prohibition of liquor
Prohibition of marijuana
There are other regulations, supposedly for our protection , security, health etc, - but under our system of government, we, the people have been able to challenge/change what 'the people felt was unfair. What strategies do you want to change and why?

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DM - Most

of them; unfortunately if you can name one regulation reversed, I can name more than 100 that have been instituted in their place. We are being smothered in regulations, rules, notices and taxes. In 2012 alone, 595 presidential documents; 24,690 rules; 20,090 proposed rules; 33,580 notices and 80,050 pages in the federal register.

This does not include the 73,954 pages in the Federal Tax Code.

In 1936, when the socialist came to power, they could manage only just 2,200 pages in the federal register.

Good grief DM are you blind?

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PTCO

Which of these regulations that you and those who are so upset about have you not been able to contest and reverse? How have these thousands of actions made your life in this country so unbearable? What are you doing, what is your representative in Congress doing to make the changes that will improve the status of the American citizen today and the United States of the future? You may be surprised that those with a different ideology may agree with some of your concerns. As Americans, there are issues where agreement is possible.

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Legislative Cancer - DM

We can diagnosis this cancer, we can even attempt to treat it, but in the political process, the tyranny of laws has no cure. It has a life of its own and it will inevitably kill the host that feeds it, along with the individual freedom the host was designed to protect.

The Congress DM has abdicated its power to an out of control bureaucracy that feeds on the hearts, minds and hopes of its citizens. It is a cancer that has a life of its own.

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PTCO
Quote:

We can diagnosis this cancer, we can even attempt to treat it, but in the political process, the tyranny of laws has no cure. It has a life of its own and it will inevitably kill the host that feeds it, along with the individual freedom the host was designed to protect.

If the founding fathers had believed this, the United States would be non-existent. They left the process that denied them freedom. The 'cancer' can be cured/has been cured by taking the action/activity out of the hands of those who abuse it and use power for their own benefit rather than the benefit of all American citizens.

Quote:

The Congress DM has abdicated its power to an out of control bureaucracy that feeds on the hearts, minds and hopes of its citizens. It is a cancer that has a life of its own.

Exactly!! Why do we allow a certain portion of the electorate to return this misguided Congress to power? Why do we allow media to feed us 'talking points' instead of talking and listening to each other? To have different points of view in how
to reach common goals is healthy. We have a Congress today that can be 'bought'; who marches to the beat of the all mighty dollar; who does not listen to the will of the people or their fellow members. How can this be changed? By at least 80% of the registered voters going to the polls!!! Democrat, Republican, Independent, just so long as they elect men and women who work for the American people with their focus on what is good for their constituents. The American people have given this Congress the lowest rating in our history; we have a national political party that has lost the support of the majority of women; minorities, and our youth-the future of our country . Why? One aspect of the cancer that is trying to destroy us is our basic fear and distrust of our fellow citizens because of perceived 'differences' - these differences being based on old prejudicial concepts of acceptability. Let's look at the WORDS of our governing document; apply these words to all of our citizens - and when we demonstrate the 'freedom for all' that our country professes, we will have gained our own self respect as well as the respect of humankind.

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Good Morning DM

Hope you slept well.

I am already tired I am afraid, put in a long night. I would suggest that the masses can be just as wrong as individuals, especially if those masses' votes are paid for by the very people that you rail against. Democracy doesn't work DM, no matter how much you think it does. It only leads to what you complain about and has given us the mess we have today.

We need to adopt a Republic form a government.

"A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circlue of our felicities." - Thomas Jefferson

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Thomas Jefferson

Worked hard with others in developing the guideline for the United States.

Do we have members of Congress who:
1. Implement a wise and frugal government

2. Restrain men from injuring one another

3. Allow citizens the freedom to pursue their own goals using their own industry and desire for improvement

4.Take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned??????

There are talking points from the left and the right to address these issues. But the current left and right representatives are proud of the fact that they are not talking to each other. Jefferson would have proposed sending them home! Democracy works. Politicians are not!

There are issues where the right and left could discuss and reach some agreement to benefit the people . Hope you enjoy the rest of your day!

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DM - Nice Try

The problem is that compromising principles requires that you have them. The left has no principles, they are devoid of principles, their fundamental belief is the end justifies the means. They are without honor because they are corrupt.

Their excuses abound for their treachery. They like to muse that they don't see life as it is, but as they think it should be. They claim that they are intellectually superior to all those poor people who can't make decisions on their own. That they are sent among us to protect us. At least that's how they justify getting stinking wealthy off the masses. Using laws, codes, notices and regulations to line their pockets at the expense of others, they "create" whole new "markets" for their crony capitalist friends. Controlling the tools of production is the method (means) and all with marginal results (ends), they gain even more power to continue enriching themselves.

So, I ask you DM, why would any honorable person compromise their principles based on individual life, liberty and property to move to the left? You can't act a little wrong and be right. These principles are not for sale DM.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...."

The wistful good intentions (abuses) of the left continue, until the final solution. The left uses government power, the press and the bureaucracy in the elimination of all opposition to their "vision" by spying on it, demonizing it, regulating it and taxing it. It's 1934 all over again.

"L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs" - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux 1100 AD

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PTCO - please keep expressing your views. Thanks!
Quote:

The left has no principles,

And you do? Supressing, eliminating the right to vote for all government employees?

Quote:

The wistful good intentions (abuses) of the left continue, until the final solution. The left uses government power, the press and the bureaucracy in the elimination of all opposition to their "vision" by spying on it, demonizing it, regulating it and taxing it. It's 1934 all over again.

Of course the 'right' does not use the press, etc., etc., etc. - and the left has elimated all opposition? Thanks for your enlightening information. Nite!

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DM - Thanks

I will.

It's all about outcomes DM. You complain about results and you forget history and the ultimate outcome of social democracy that is repeated over and over again. It would be amusing if it wasn't for the fact that the final solution costs millions of lives. You may not live to see it but the outcome is inevitable under this system of government.

Mob rule always leads to the gas chamber. Mobs have no heart, no conscience and no accountability for their actions. Their "leaders" desire only power and wealth. They generally come to power from nothing, make their way in life through government entitlement/work, build nothing but hate and divisions among people as a method to take power and keep it. The masses vote for them because they are given crumbs as the "leader" eats cake. Ah yes, social democracy no better system for the tyrants of the world to enrich themselves on the toil of the masses. All in the name of "good intentions", no matter the outcomes.

As for voting, I stand on the Republic principle of representative government, one without hidden agendas and without conflict of interests. What do you stand for DM? Social democracy no matter the ultimate outcome.

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PTCO

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Bribes limited to $75 - This is a success??

Matt Ramsey thinks that limiting bribes to state legislators to $75 " will strengthen Georgia’s ethics laws." Of course, you can spend much more if you bribe the ENTIRE legislature at once with a big party.

Nice try Matt, but this is the proverbial lipstick on a pig. Only by banning ALL gifts will you politicians ever win the respect of the voters.

Mr. Ramsey, I hope all Fayette County voters will remember your unwillingness to champion a meaningful ZERO tolerance bribery bill when they go to the polls.

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