House leaders must meet tests of high moral and ethical standards
Amazingly, it is now mid-December and Christmas is just a matter of days away. After the holidays the Georgia General Assembly will convene for the second year of the current two-year term of the legislature.
As I have written in recent weeks, the issue that will dominate the upcoming legislative session more than any other is our state’s budget due to economy.
November revenue numbers were released last week and the picture remains bleak with a more than 17 percent drop compared to last November.
While it will be difficult, you may rest assured that the General Assembly will again make the tough and necessary choices to balance our state’s budget in the upcoming session.
The purpose of this update is to provide a bit of information on a couple of the legislative initiatives I and some of my colleagues will be working on this year. Much of my focus is on criminal justice issues by virtue of my service on the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee and chairing its sub-committee that deals with substance abuse and crimes against children. I am co-sponsoring several initiatives that will be considered by the Committee this year.
In recent years there have been several instances in Georgia where a high school teacher has engaged in a sexual relationship with a student and not been subject to criminal punishment because they raised the defense that it was a consensual relationship, per Georgia’s statutory rape law. I believe that is the wrong result.
There is no circumstance where a Georgia teacher, coach or school administrator should engage in a sexual relationship with a child under their care. In that regard, several of my colleagues and I will be working to enact legislation that will remove consent of the minor as a defense for any school employee charged with engaging in a sexual relationship with a student. We will work diligently to get the bill to the governor’s desk for his signature.
Earlier this year it was reported a child in DeKalb County committed suicide as a result of persistent bullying at his school. As a parent, I cannot imagine a more heart-breaking tragedy. This is an example of the absolute worst outcome imaginable in what is an all too common issue faced by our state’s children in their formative years.
After a review of our state’s laws addressing bullying, it became clear an update is necessary. I am cosponsoring legislation aimed at providing school systems additional tools in their effort to identify and combat bullying in Georgia school systems. Included in the bill are provisions to require the Department of Education to develop a model bullying policy that the school systems can use to supplement their existing policies and an elimination of several state laws that limit the discretion of schools to address bullying when it occurs before it elevates to a more serious situation.
I also wanted to use this column to provide an update on all that has been going on with the leadership of the Georgia House of Representatives. As it has been reported in recent days, the Speaker of House Glenn Richardson has resigned as speaker and from his seat in the legislature.
It was the end of a disturbing string of events that began with his announcement of a suicide attempt followed by a number of revelations regarding his past conduct and the circumstances surrounding his divorce.
While I continue to pray that he gets the mental and spiritual help he needs to heal as a person, it became very clear, very quickly as new information came to light that Glenn Richardson in no way deserved to remain in a position of leadership and trust in the Georgia House.
In that regard, I and many other rank and file members made it clear to the House leadership that he needed to resign or we would remove him. Thankfully, he chose to resign.
After Speaker Pro-Tem Mark Burkhalter announced last week that he would not be offering himself as a candidate for the position of speaker to pursue other career endeavors outside of government, the process was set in motion that will result in an election of a new speaker and speaker pro-tem, the top two leadership positions in the Georgia House.
Several Republican House members have announced their candidacy for each of these positions and there undoubtedly will be more leading up to next Thursday’s caucus nominating election.
I have not determined who I will support but have made it clear to the candidates that have called me asking for my vote I will only support a candidate that shares my conservative belief in limited government and individual empowerment and responsibility.
Further, I will only support a candidate that I believe will meet the moral and ethical standard that the citizens of this state deserve from the holder of such an important position. I will keep the community posted as the process moves forward.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t offer my sincere congratulations to the Sandy Creek Patriots for winning the Georgia State High School Football Championship, the first for a Fayette County high school. Congratulations to Coach Walker, his assistant coaches and all of the players on such an amazing accomplishment.
When the legislature reconvenes in January I will, as I have done in the past, continue to provide updates on matters pending before the General Assembly. Please call on me if I can be of service.
On behalf of my wife Missy and our children, I hope that all of the citizens of this great community have a blessed and peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.
[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.]