February 1, 2017

When the Georgia Legislature's in Session, No One Is Safe

Georgia Report

Photo Credit: House Photo Office

More than a century ago, New York Surrogate Judge Gideon J. Tucker handed down a legal decision that included this observation of state lawmakers: "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session." I think of that famous quote every year when the Georgia legislature cranks up again, and our lawmakers usually manage to live up to it.

Last year, for example, Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) was nailed by the authorities in Rabun County when he was driving at 72 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone. It was later determined that his blood-alcohol content level was .225—more than two and a half times the legal limit. Taylor had a Glock 36 pistol strapped to his waist. Did we mention that this gun-toting legislator with the high blood-alcohol content also had several teenaged passengers in his vehicle?

This year, we have seen an interesting twist on the old saying: It was the legislator whose life, liberty and property were in danger. Rep. Gerald Greene (R-Cuthbert) represents a large rural district in southwest Georgia. His district was hit especially hard by the tornadoes and severe weather that recently killed 16 people in South Georgia.

Greene was driving home last week, carrying thousand of dollars in donations intended to help the victims of the storms, when he made a stop on Victory Drive in Columbus. An unidentified assailant shot Greene in the leg with a .22 caliber pistol.

House Speaker David Ralston’s office initially said that Greene had been shot at a convenience store where he had stopped for gas. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer dug a little deeper into the story and found out what really happened.

For those not familiar with it, Victory Drive is one of the main thoroughfares in Columbus, and is dotted with strip clubs and adult entertainment venues that go by such names as the Foxy Lady Lounge and the Carousel Lounge. The address where Greene’s shooting occurred, according to police reports, was the Foxes Cinema, which offers a variety of DVDs, magazines, toys and video booths.

“There are convenience stores with gas pumps about a mile north and south of the Foxes Cinema, but both are located on the west side of Victory Drive, a road divided by a median,” the Ledger-Enquirer reported. “The Foxes Cinema is on the east side of Victory Drive.”

We don’t know all the details of the Greene incident at this time, but I suspect he’s going to have to do a lot of explaining to the folks back home.

As you can see, this year’s legislative session is already off to an interesting start, and I think it will become even more intriguing before we get to the end of it.

The gaming industry lobbyists are back to make another pass at adopting legislation that would legalize casino gambling in Georgia—although they don’t like it when you call them “casinos.” The bills introduced in the House and Senate refer to the gaming establishments with the euphemism “destination resorts.”

Gambling legislation did not make it to the floor of either chamber for a vote last session. Nearly every lobbyist at the capitol has been put on retainer by one or another of the gaming interests as they double down on their bets to get the package approved this year.

At the same time, gun-loving lawmakers will most likely pass another bill to allow firearms on college campuses. This legislation passed last year, but Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it. Will the governor be able to withstand the pressure this year if the same bill is put on his desk?

That’s the legislative agenda for the new session: guns, gambling, casinos and money. What could possibly go wrong?