by Bill Simon
Is Three Times Going To Magically Be The Charm for Georgia Opponents of Free Speech?
Now we know why kids today tend to be rather disobedient of laws and established rules of an orderly society: Because Georgia’s state legislators continue to demonstrate how utterly clueless they are on the simple concepts of Free Speech (as protected by the US Constitution and subsequent SCOTUS decisions), and clueless on what our Georgia Constitution means when it says in Article I, Section I, Paragraph X that “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, retroactive law, or laws impairing the obligation of contract or making irrevocable grant of special privileges or immunities shall be passed.”
History Lesson 101: On May 17, 2011, Governor Deal vetoes SB 163, dealing with Campaign Communications, in which the Legislature attempted to make it a requirement that anyone engaging in any kind of political free speech had to disclose who paid for the communications if they spent over $500, along with some other requirements.
History Lesson 201: In the 2015 Legislative Session, clueless legislators again write a bill numbered SB-127 attempting to regulate political free speech, as well as violate the Ga Constitution on passing a retroactive law that cancels-out previous fines and violations of state ethics laws…and that bill goes thru a few more gyrations until it died last year in a Senate conference committee on Sine Die.
Present Day Lesson: State Reps Barry Fleming, David Wilkerson, Virgil Fludd, Terry England, Alan Powell, and Jay Powell are sponsoring HB-370, a re-formulated SB-127 that has two simple sections: Section 1 that attempts to regulate political free speech (that was vetoed back in 2011 by Governor Deal), as well as violate SCOTUS decisions like the 1994 Decision on McIntyre v Ohio Elections Commission, and Section 2 that seeks to retroactively allow for political officials who, between the dates of January 1, 2010 and January 10, 2014, were accused of violating state ethics laws on campaign disclosures, as well as paid the fines in cases they agreed to pay fines, to write a letter to the state ethics commission and have their records purged, AS WELL AS have their money that they paid for fines refunded back to them at their request.
In short, HB-370 can alternatively be called the “Governor Deal Ethics’ Record Nullification and Ethics’ Fine Refund Act”. This law, if passed, would also apply to any other elected official who was remiss in following state ethics laws, and paying fines between the dates of 1/1/2010 and 1/10/2014. But, this section was clearly written to benefit only Nathan Deal to nullify his ethics issues and ethics fines he’s paid.
AND…would you like to know how I know this Section 2 is related directly to Governor Deal, and only Governor Deal? Because on Line 96 of this year’s HB-370, the following is written: “(g) This Code section shall be repealed by operation of law on January 31, 2019.”
Now, why would Section 2 expire then? Because Deal will have completed his term thru some date in January 2018 (the day his predecessor gets sworn-in), and January 31, 2019 is an end-date for when campaign disclosures thru December 31st of the previous year are due.
HB-370 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Ethics Committee in Room CLOB 307 on Tuesday, February 9 at 1:00PM. Will there be a majority of state senators who are stupid and crooked enough to pass this bill out of committee…a bill that specifically violates free speech decisions, as well as the Georgia Constitution that prohibits retroactive/ex-post facto laws?
We’ll know within approximately 21 hours…
P.S. That McIntyre v Ohio Elections Commission SCOTUS decision has a fascinating feature on this website (if you go to the page and click the links in the lower-left portion of the page); it has the audio of the 7-2 majority’s decision, as well as audios of the concurring decisions by Clarence Thomas and Justice Ginsberg.
BUT…maybe UGA-educated Georgia legislators like Barry Fleming, Alan Powell, et al. are so much smarter about the case law than SCOTUS is. If so, it sure is a mystery why, in the 200 some-odd history of the UGA law school, that no UGA law school graduate has ever been nominated to sit on SCOTUS…very, very, very puzzling, indeed. Note: No, I am not saying Alan Powell is a lawyer…Barry Fleming is, though, as is David Ralston. Both are UGA-“educated” (sic) lawyers.
P.S.S. Hey, here’s a helluva idea, Barry Fleming! Will you write a law that allows people who have been given a speeding ticket and paid a fine, and/or been given a DUI ticket and paid a fine and had points assessed against their insurance record, between these same dates of 1/1/2010 and 1/10/2014, be given the chance to write a letter to the particular jurisdiction to request their record be wiped-out, and refund their fine money?
I’m sure Alan Powell will go for this as your co-sponsor, Barry…you know, he cannot write any bill on his own…I’m not even sure he can read…but I know he can talk a good bullsh*t game as he gets his talking points straight from the Governor’s Office….will someone in the State House please read this issue of Political Vine to Alan Powell?