With this General Assembly session within striking distance of coming to a close this year, once again the question lingers concerning the power brokers, influencers and those who seem to buy their way under the Gold Dome. Is lasting and real ethics reform ever going to happen? Following an overwhelming vote by the people in a straw poll indicating they wanted to see real ethics reform, there was great hope this session would produce such a product. Many of us are disappointed and are still waiting for the day when accountability will redound back to the elected officials rather than shifting great responsibility on the lobbyists or citizens.
Could it be that the real issue is not how many lobbyists there are? Could it be that it is not how much money is spent by individual lobbyists on any certain legislator? Could it be there is a stronger and more powerful group who vie for the way legislation is passed? Could it be the overwhelming issue is how much money can be discovered coming into the coffers of the state treasury? As an observer of legislation and legislative action, I have noticed that at some point in discussions about certain bills there is always the money question. The question is usually not with a concern about what the bill is and the impact it will have on the citizens as to their cost but the issue seems to come down to how much money will come into the local or state tax coffers when the bill is put into law.
Two examples stand out this term. The liquor crowd is always looking for ways to open more outlets to sell booze even if it means decreasing the required distance between their outlet and a school building. Another example is the concern that by outlawing certain dangerous fireworks in Georgia, revenue is lost to other states. Our citizens are crossing the state line into Tennessee and Alabama to purchase fireworks that cannot be sold legally in Georgia, and thus we are losing the tax revenue from the sales.
We could argue long and passionately our positions for and against alcohol and the danger it is to society. We could also argue concerning the dangers involved with explosives contained in the larger fireworks handled by unskilled hands. Given the reality we will most likely never reach agreement on either, the benefits of or the dangers of alcohol and fireworks of any size or type, let us move the argument forward to the real issue. The issue, as I see it, is not the product but the real issue is the concern over the loss of revenue to the other states touching Georgia. With the arguments that some lawmakers use, we are hearing them say that money trumps the safety of the citizens. From where I stand, the main issue should not be the loss of revenue but the ultimate safety of the citizens of the state of Georgia.
Should we be more concerned about safety of our citizens than how much more money we can make from more booze outlets, and fireworks sales? Tell us in comments.
Follow Ray Newman on Twitter — @RayNewmanSr.