Georgia legislators have begun prefiling bills for the upcoming session of the General Assembly. The proposed bills may be reviewed at http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/, under “prefiles” for each house. Few bills are so far prefiled in the Senate. Several are already pending in the House. Here is a selective summary of some of house bills filed so far (caveat: these descriptions are taken solely from the bill descriptions on the website; I have not read the bills):
House Bill (“HB”) 2 : “Georgia Right to Grow Act”, relating to the right to grow food crops and raise small animals in private property so long as used for human consumption by the occupants, gardeners or raisers and their households.
HB 3 : “Constitutional Tender Act”, requiring the exclusive use of gold and silver coin as tender in payment of debts by or to the state
HB 12 : “Georgia Food Freedom Act” to exempt from local regulations certain retail sales of Georgia-grown agricultural or farm products directly from the producer to the consumer as food for human consumption
HB 24 : Substantial revision of Evidence Code
HB 25 : To clarify that post secondary education is a state and local public benefit and to reserve post secondary education benefits to citizens and lawfully present and eligible aliens
House Resolution 5 : A resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia so as to remove provisions relative to decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court binding other courts and thereby provide that persons who are not parties to judicial actions shall not be bound by decisions of those courts
Senate Bill 3 : “Georgia Public Works and Contractor Protection Act”; relating to security and immigration compliance and clarifying certain provisions and requirements relating to public employers’ verification of employee work eligibility
All told, legislators have prefiled 25 bills and 8 resolutions in the House of Representatives. In addition to the ones described above, there are bills and resolutions regarding “prenatal murder”; proposing to repeal the Governor’s power to suspend or limit the sale or transportation of firearms during an emergency; to repeal statutes pertaining to drivers’ licenses’; to prohibit certain forms of surveillance without search warrants; to prohibit use of forced entry in the execution of a search warrant; to repeal the authority of the Governor to issue mandatory vaccination orders; to prohibit income taxes; to eliminate provisions for a utility to recover from its customers the costs of financing associated with the construction of a nuclear generating plant; to abolish the Department of Human Services; to abolish the State Road and Tollway Authority; to provide that federal reserve banks and branches located in Georgia shall not be exempt from state income tax; to require the Department of Human Services to establish regulations governing the use of psychotropic medications for foster children in state custody ; to amend the Georgia Constitution to abolish and prohibit all property taxes; to amend the Georgia Constitution to prohibit the taking of private property through eminent domain; to amend the Georgia Constitution to prohibit land use, zoning laws, ordinances and resolutions; and to amend the Georgia Constitution to remove the power of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to remove and discipline judges.
Many of these proposals hit me as, at best, questionable; at worst, ridiculous. Consider, however: might there be antecedent regulations and authorities, even of long pedigree, that should be reconsidered and either modified or eliminated? Risk lies in excess of either conservatism or activism. Thoughtful analysis and discussion is hard work. Leads me back to Sir Blackstone:
The mischiefs that have arisen to the public from inconsiderate alterations in our laws, are too obvious to be called into question; and how far they have been owing to the defective education of our[legislators], is a point well worth the public attention. The common law of England has fared like venerable edifices of antiquity, which rash and unexperienced workmen have ventured to new-dress and refine, with all the rage of modern improvement. Hence frequently its symmetry has been destroyed, its proportions distorted, and its majestic simplicity changed for specious embellishments and fantastic novelties. For, to say the truth, almost all the perplexed questions, almost all the niceties, intricacies and delays, (which have sometimes disgraced the English, as other courts of justice,) owe their original not to the common law itself, but to innovations that have been made in it by acts of [the legislature]; “overladen” (as Sir Edward Coke expresses it) “with provisoes and additions, and many times on a sudden penned or corrected by men of none, or very little judgment in law.” This great and well-experienced judge declares, that in all his time he never knew two questions made upon rights merely depending upon the common law; and warmly laments the confusion introduced by ill-judging and unlearned legislators. “But if,” he subjoins, “acts of [the legislature] were after the old fashion penned, by such only as perfectly knew what the common law was before the making of any act of [the legislature] concerning that matter, as also how far forth former statutes had provided remedy for former mischiefs, and defects discovered by experience, then should very few questions in law arise, and the learned should not so often and so much perplex their heads to make atonement and peace, by construction of law, between insensible and disagreeing words, sentences and provisoes, as they now do.” And if this inconvenience was so heavily felt in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, you may judge how the evil is increased in later times, when the statute-book is swelled to ten times a larger bulk; unless it should be found, that the penners of our modern statutes have proportionably better informed themselves in the knowledge of the common law.
Blackstone, Sir William; Commentaries on the Laws of England (15th Edition); republished in Classic Reprint Series, Forgotten Books; pp 9-10. Read by the Author at Oxford University at the opening of the Vinerian lectures, 25 October 1758.
May we pray for such wisdom in our legislators.