by Bill Simon
After winning reelection for Governor, Lt. Governor, state house seats and state senate seats last November, did the elected members of the Republican Party close their eyes and gleefully clap their hands and think to themselves “Oh-boy!..Oh-boy!..Oh-boy!…Oh-boy! NOW we can triple the size of Georgia government like I always wanted to do!!!”?
Because THAT is the impression one could easily derive from the unending supply of state government-expanding/citizen-rights restricting bills being pushed through this session. Bills like:
HB 310 (alternatively referred to as the “Let’s turn Georgia back into the prison colony we’ve always aspired to be”) will create a leviathan of new government entities, along with an “invitation” to the federal government to give us more money, and thereby give them the ability to extend their tentacles deeper and more widespread in our state. Here’s a brief summary of HB 310 (now in the State Senate):
1) It allows the Governor to establish an office with police powers that essentially enable him to have a personal, politicized force remarkably similar to what would exist in a police state.
2) It allows the Governor to grow the size of government with three new large, powerful entities: a Board of Community Supervision, a Department of Community Supervision, and a Governor’s Office of Transition, Support, and Reentry.
3) It removes the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by subjecting accused citizens who have not been convicted of a crime to excessive restrictions and conditions.
4) It increases federal control of state law enforcement by imposing reliance on federal grants and coercing law enforcement to adhere to undisclosed federal guidelines.
5) It decreases accountability and transparency of local justice systems by adding layers of state regulations that are not valuable in local administration.
Then, there’s SB-8 (alternatively known as “How to use government to punish a business you just don’t like operating”), which is due to be heard in the House Committee on Juvenile Justice today (March 19th) at 4:00pm in 506 CLOB.
SB-8 was a companion bill to the now-dead HB 244 bill which, while the main premise appeared to be honorable in that it was written on the premise of helping address the problem of human/child sex-trafficking in this state, it proceeded to jump-off the track and launch itself into a “WTF?” direction. Examples of what I am talking about include language that:
1) Expands civil forfeiture practices, placing the burden on the accused (not convicted, but merely accused) to prove their innocence to get their property back. We should be looking to reform this practice in Georgia, not add to the list. This bill allows for confiscation of direct AND indirect property.
2) Increase taxes on adult entertainment businesses…thus taxing the businesses who are not guilty of a crime other than entrepreneurship in Georgia – simply because some legislators do not like that type of businesses. Now, here is the definition in the bill that I find of particular interest (Lines 167-171) for how the main definition for an “Adult entertainment establishment” is defined:
“(A) The entertainment or activity therein consists of nude or substantially nude persons dancing with or without music or engaged in movements of a sexual nature or movements simulating sexual intercourse, oral copulation, sodomy, or masturbation;”
Now, apparently, Senator Renee Unterman (the primary sponsor of this bill) has either never danced herself, OR, she isn’t very well-read. Because, the poet Robert Frost made this observation about 100 years ago about dancing: “Dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire.”
So…using the good poet’s line of reasoning, in reality, ANY dancing in ANY establishment BY Adults can, and, likely, will be interpreted by someone to be of a sexually-related nature.
Kinda makes this entire section of SB-8 about fining a business (essentially, that is Unterman’s intent, to fine and punish the strip-club industry) that just allows people to voluntarily congregate…to view other adults voluntarily deciding to dance nude…when there are other people who may similarly dance (maybe even Unterman herself, if she knows how to dance to rock and roll) with their clothes on.
3) Create yet another state commission (consisting of 8 people, 4 of whom are appointed by the Governor) to oversee funds for assistance to victims that is already active in the non-profit sector. Sorry, but it is not the duty of government to see to it that victims are healed. Government doesn’t do this for domestic violence (in fact, in Georgia courts, they have a tendency to kinda seek to inflict as much harm as possible on domestic violence victims because things like restraining orders don’t cross county lines…but, that’s an issue for another time).
In an article published on January 31st, 2015 on HuffingtonPost.com, it was reported that:
“A 2012 report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that 76 percent of trafficking transactions for sex with underage girls started on the Internet, World Pulse pointed out. Those findings go hand-in-hand with a 2014 study that discovered 70 percent of child trafficking survivors surveyed were at some point sold online .”
Soooooo…70% to 76% of child-sex trafficking transactions originate and are likely arranged and delivered on the basis of people engaging in communication via their cellphone, their tablet, or their desktop computer.
This SB-8 legislation’s sole goal is, really, to set-up a new state commission charged with applying for and sucking-down more FEDERAL DOLLARS to solve a problem that the writer of the bill does not adequately address to solve. People who believe that in order to solve a problem you need to form a new state-level commission and supply it with federal dollars and/or confiscated dollars from a business not proven to be directly connected to causing the problem, are people who are either stupid or crazy. Either way, they should not be allowed to remain in such a position as State Senator.
And then, there’s HB-430 (alternatively called the “Let’s shop this no-knock warrant to an untrained, ignorant-on-search-warrants, traffic-court judge to get DA Danny Porter’s search warrant against his political enemy signed if this Magistrate won’t do it” bill). This bill is out of the House committee and is now in the House General Calendar, ready to be thrown on the House Floor at any time.
Several parts are especially troubling. 1) Police can now get a search warrant if their “probable cause” consists of a peace offer thinking you are about to commit a crime, and, of course, this law gives immunity to peace officers who are wrong on that assumption, and if they kill anyone or destroy property in the execution of the warrant? Too effing bad. You, Mr. Citizen, can just die for all the State cares about what one of their agents decides to do.
2) Lines 45-46: “(4) ‘Judicial officer’ means: (A) Any judge of a court of this state”
Note that this definition does not specify that a magistrate judge, which has been used for decades (if not, perhaps, a century or two) to be the only duly authorized judge to sign-off on a search warrant…but “Any judge of a court of this state.”
So, a Superior Court judge…or a Probate Court judge…or a traffic court judge will, under this bill, if passed, be authorized to sign-off on a search warrant.
3) And then there’s secret search warrants, probable cause extended to include crimes “about to be committed”, inclusion of specific surveillance methods in the Code, expanding who can apply for and issue search warrants (so it can include all Department of Correction officers, right?), allows surveillance without regard to jurisdiction, limits defendants’ right to suppress illegally gathered evidence (including a weird substitution of “constitutional” for “lawful” that is really pernicious), and officers are immune to virtually all legal restrictions on their behavior when they’re in performance of their official duties in “ferreting out offender or suspected offenders of the law or in secretly watching an individual suspected of violating the laws…”
And the best part (i.e., worst part for innocent citizens), Lines 634-636: “A good faith reliance on a court order or legislative authorization shall constitute a complete defense to any civil or criminal action brought under this part or under any other law.”
Who wrote this bill? All five main sponsors are retired law enforcement officers, prosecutors, or employees of district attorneys’ offices. The sixth is an economic development/Chamber attorney.
If HB-430 passes, it will be impossible to pretend we still have rule of law governing searches and seizures. Unless “whatever the State wants to do” counts as rule of law?
Thank you, Rep. Efstration, Rep. Reeves, Rep. Atwood, Rep. Ballinger, et al. for your support of ZERO Fourth Amendment protections for the people you claim you represent in this state.