Chances are you didn’t. What’s more, it’s likely the term Crossover Day has no meaning to you at all. That’s great news for most Georgia legislators. It’s terrible news for Georgia citizens.
Crossover is the day in Georgia’s legislative session when proposed laws must be passed by either the House or the Senate — or placed in the circular file for another year.
Here’s something else you probably don’t know. Georgia is one of the few states in the nation that fails to place a limit on or ban on gifts given to legislators by lobbyists. In fact, it’s a time-honored tradition for Georgia’s legislators to be wined, dined and entertained by industry leaders and special interests who know they’re more likely to get favorable treatment for doing just that.
Last Thursday, two bills — one in the House and one in the Senate — that would have placed a $100 limit on gifts to legislators failed to cross over. You may be wondering what the failure of two bills in Georgia’s legislative process has to do with consumerism.
From your consumer investigator’s perspective, the failure of those two bills represents almost everything that prevents Georgia from becoming an economic powerhouse and more livable community.
Every year men and women from across the state travel to Atlanta to consider and pass legislation that is supposed to be in the best interest of Georgians. Every year, a whole lot more people convene in Atlanta, flush with cash, sports tickets and other perks, for the sole purpose of influencing the votes of those elected leaders.
In the end, the legislators have a real good time, the special interests get their way and very little happens to benefit you. Our traffic congestion doesn’t get addressed, our education shortfalls aren’t repaired and our ethics laws remain weak if nonexistent.
This legislative session, there was a collective effort to change the outcome. Georgia’s Tea Party Patriots and the nonpartisan government watchdog organization Common Cause Georgia led a campaign to create awareness of our lobbyist problem and achieve the passage of a gift ban.
The groups raised awareness, embarrassing relationships between lobbyists and lawmakers were exposed and lots of columnists like me wrote about it. In the end, nothing happened … Why?
Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) likes getting lobbyist gifts and sees nothing wrong with it. Ralston and his family enjoyed a $17,000 lobbyist-funded holiday trip to Europe in 2012. Ralston assigned House Bill 1105 to the House Rules Committee, where it could be kept safely under wraps until it died — for lack of action — last Wednesday. The same treatment took place in the Senate. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville) who claims to be for limits to lobbyist gifts, assigned the bill to the Senate Rules Committee.
Both Cagle and Ralston had help killing the bills. District 67 state Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Winston) and Senate Rules Committee chair Don Balfour (R-Snellville) made certain both bills never got a hearing in committee.
Here’s the bottom line. Politicians like freebees. Lobbyists provide them, because freebees help lobbyists and their special interests get their way. You don’t have a lobbyist in Atlanta. Meanwhile, public opinion polls show Georgians overwhelmingly support bans or limits on lobbyist gifts.
If you want your interests protected in the next session, find ways to support a candidate who reflects your views, WILL support the gift ban and will run against David Ralston in Blue Ridge. Ralston doesn’t think you care enough to take my advice. He and his colleagues have been right about that for decades.
For great consumer advice and companies you can trust, visit www.TrustDale.com, watch Dale on TrustDale TV weekends on Fox 5, and listen to TrustDale Radio Saturday afternoons on Newstalk WSB.