Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

March 23, 2014

The 2014 legislative session

-- — It’s an election year for the governor, Senate, and House. Those seeking re-election could not raise funds during the 2014 legislative session, which ended this week with little fanfare. The 40-day period allotted for the General Assembly was over in the blink of an eye this year, weeks earlier than normal.

By the last legislative day, elected officials were doing their best to ensure an easy trip back to their seats next year by passing popular special-interest legislation. The powerful NRA lobby got the gun bill it wanted, so now you can take firearms into most government buildings, schools and churches, although churches can opt out. The bill also lessens or repeals laws, such as the one that banned guns in public housing, and strengthens the legal defense for using deadly force in the face of a violent attack.

Those who receive welfare benefits will have to be drug tested, and although legislators said they know it probably won’t withstand a court test, they passed it anyway. Considering that the vast majority of those receiving benefits are children, one wonders what might happen to them if their parents or guardians can’t pass a state-mandated drug screen.

Lawmakers also continued their shortsighted refusal to expand Medicaid, even passing a bill that would prohibit the governor from doing so, in a continuing but futile fight against Obamacare. The state’s refusal to participate with the federal government is costing hospitals millions of dollars in lost reimbursements that would more than make up for the state’s Medicaid expansion.

Lost reimbursements drive up health-care costs for everyone, but apparently party politics is more important to Georgia than providing health care to its citizens.

Legislators also failed to legalize medical marijuana for children with specific seizure disorders, failed to require autism coverage for children, and failed to overhaul the foster-care system.

Among the millions in tax-cutting measures awaiting Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature is $17 million in bonds to expand a parking deck for the Atlanta Falcons stadium and a multi-million dollar tax break for Gulfstream.

The 2014 election year is shaping up to be a contentious, albeit entertaining, one.

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