As lawmakers prepare for the convening of the 2020 General Assembly at the first of the year, they should prepare themselves to do the people’s business, do it in serious and meaningful ways and be transparent with all transactions.
It happens every year: Lawmakers introduce bills that amount to little more than political grandstanding and pontificating.
We elect representatives and senators to represent our interests, and we have every reason to expect that in just 40 short days they can focus on meaningful legislation while passing a common-sense budget.
Pandering to either an extreme conservative or radically progressive base does not serve the people of Georgia.
Introduce legislation that is reflective of good law and that has a chance of passing.
Extreme measures that fire up a political base or make for good sound bites on television are just a waste of our time and our money.
Do not use committee meetings or the floor of the House and Senate for speech making and campaigning for your next term.
If you serve your district and represent the interests of the people you were elected to serve, you will most likely be reelected but that should be your motivation for supporting or rejecting any piece of legislation before you.
In the past, for example, some lawmakers knew full well that a bill allowing firearms on the state’s college campuses was not a good idea, was opposed by law-enforcement agencies and even the board of trustees of the College System of Georgia, but they still voted in favor.
Why would a representative or senator vote for something they knew was a bad idea?
Sadly, in many cases, it was simply because of a strong and influential gun lobby that also funneled money into campaigns. They also knew that a very vocal and influential part of their party favored campus carry and the vocal part of the party could sink them in a close election.
The people of Georgia deserve better representation.
Lawmakers should fully disclose any interests which they are beholden to and go beyond campaign finance disclosure laws, fully explaining their reasons for any controversial votes cast. Transparency should be more than a campaign pledge, it should be the way of doing business, every day.
The General Assembly exempts itself from the Georgia Open Meetings Act and Open Records Act.
So, it is not illegal for state lawmakers to operate behind the scenes in closed, even clandestine, ways — it is just wrong.
The people’s business should always be out in front of the people.
CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times. He is the vice president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.