Sine Die 2014

I think I’ve finally recovered from my first Sine Die experience. I spent almost 16 hours at the Georgia Capitol on Thursday and it was quite the experience. I wanted to be there for not only the experience but also to give my support to HB 60. I wanted to be doing something rather than sitting back and spectating from home but I had no idea how I could possibly be useful.

I reached out to Jerry Henry, friend and Executive Director of GeorgiaCarry.Org (GCO) on Wednesday and he encouraged me to come on down and join him and others and assured me that while there’d be some standing around, there was also plenty to do. That’s all I needed to hear.

I got there at 9AM and found my way in and up to the third floor which houses the General Assembly. I immediately found myself speaking to others. Of course, I was wearing my bright orange “Guns Save Lives” button which seemed to be a bit of a beacon to others. Before the session began at 10AM, I had spoken with random strangers, Rep. Alan Powell, GCO lobbyist William Woodall and NRA lobbyist Daniel Carey. I then went into the House Chamber to view from the gallery for a bit and was there for the House Resolution in memory of the father of Rep. Rick Jasperse, who had just passed away a couple of weeks prior. It wrapped up with every single House member and gallery attendant rising in applause. The solitary exception was Kathryn Grant with Moms Demand Action. She was seated right in front of me and she ignored the entire thing. I found this to be completely disrespectful and rude. But not surprising, given their terrible displays of behavior throughout this entire legislative session.

I then met up with fellow GCO members and leadership just a few minutes later and the rest of the day was spent in complete awe of the insane political jockeying and posturing which occurs. I can’t even tell you how many reps we spoke to about HB 60 and helping clear up some of their misunderstandings of the bill. I like to think that may have helped some of them in making their decision on where they stood. It’s amazing that so many of them do not understand current law and proposed law. I understand that they have hundreds of bills to deal with during a session but bills become laws which have the potential to greatly affect our lives and they need to be given the consideration they deserve. This requires knowledge and understanding. I believe that we, as involved constituents, can help provide that.

It was also amazing to see what a playground the House and Senate floors really seem to be. It was like a room full of kindergarteners and the teacher had lost control a good bit of the time. I’d say that less than half of them were actually at their desks at any given time while in session.

Although you often hear that most of the work is done off the floor, this became clear to me, especially in regards to HB 60. Alan Powell took the lead on trying to get us an even better bill than the one the House had in front of them to vote on Thursday morning. I can’t even describe the bouncing back and forth, the games, the detaching and re-attaching of provisions and the behind-the-doors meeting of Speaker Ralston and Lt. Governor Cagle and the posturing and intimidation tactics. Holy crap. I’m tired again just thinking about it.

And, as they say, all’s well that ends well. And it ended well. It came down to the 11th hour (literally, it was 11:20), which was expected, and we stuck around to thank our representatives who worked so hard to get this bill through and make Georgia a safer , freer place for law-abiding citizens.

As for the experience, it was a good one. I think it’s important to realize that our say doesn’t just end at the ballot box. We can do more than sit at home and bitch. We can get out there and influence and support and guide our elected officials, form relationships with them and hold them accountable.

This legislative session has been very informative for me. I’ve grown in experience and knowledge and I’ve found that I enjoy it. A year ago, I’d have never imagined that by this point I’d have testified in front of two committees, found myself in multiple media sources and participated in Sine Die. Previously, I’d only emailed and called my elected officials. It’s been a big step to get involved but I’m glad I’ve jumped in.

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And the Votes Are In

The Georgia Senate finally pulled out HB 60 (the new HB 875) for a vote. Those guys are some tricky bastards. They put in an amendment for hunting suppressors, knowing the House will hate that because they are beholden to the Department of Natural Resources and the DNR hates it. Because, you know, poaching is apparently a massive and widespread problem in Georgia. Hmmm.

A second amendment that was added was church opt-in. This one was a “blink and miss it” one that was snuck it by perhaps the quickest “voice vote” in Georgia history. Cagle wanted it that way. This way, it’s nearly impossible to know who voted for it and he can take the heat for it. He doesn’t care, he has no challenger in this election.

The problem with church opt-in is that it’s a pile of crap. Very few churches will make the move to opt-in, preferring to avoid the topic altogether. The Senate knows this, so they think they can pat us on the head and send us on our merry way and then, proud of their “sweeping” gun bill and their “stand for the Second Amendment” in an election year, they will fail to re-address any gun rights for years. Um, no. You see, I already bought a bunch of crap from the legislature LAST session when SB101 died and I’m not in the market for any more.

It seems most likely that HB60 will end up in Conference Committee now, with three senators and three representatives left to make a deal for both chambers to pass through. This is a risk to be sure, as it could very well die in committee but I’m willing to take that risk, as if it does die, then there’s no gun bill this year. People may get voted out. And then we can come back at it next year. Not exactly what I’d like, but I’d prefer it to having a bad bill shoved down my throat with no likely opportunity to come back to it for a long time. And, if we have to re-address it next year, the hope is that we have a new governor (David Pennington, please!) who doesn’t do his damnedest to kill gun bills behind the scenes and some fresh folks in the legislature.

I’m hoping that in conference committee that the house gives on the hunting suppressor language and the senate gives up church opt-in. That would actually be a win-win for the people of Georgia. Most states already allow suppressors for hunting and most states also respect the private property rights of churches. Georgia needs to get with it.