Friday, January 27, 2012

Breaking Legs -- Georgia's 2012 Legislative Session

Politics is theater and it seems this has never been more true! And, in the tradition of the theater adage that signifies good luck, we pray the actors on stage  in Georgia’s Gold Dome -- our elected officials – “break a leg” this year.

 In theater, because it’s considered bad luck to wish an actor good luck, they instead wish the opposite.  There are multiple theories for the genesis of this tradition: one quotes the practice of curtsying, placing one foot behind the other, which “breaks" the line of the leg. Another points to ancient Greece, where folks stomped to show appreciation…and if long enough, they would break a leg. My favorite (and probably most apropos to politics) is ancient Rome,  where blood thirsty spectators urged gladiators to “break a leg” -- essentially wishing them good luck by requesting they keep their lives and only cripple their opponents!
 So back to the present. The 2012 legislative session began on January 9 and it promises to be active. Here are seven issues to track (one for each day of the week):

1.   SB 127 – the rewriting of Georgia’s arcane Juvenile Code.
2.   Bill(s) to introduce financial need requirements for HOPE scholarships

3.   HB 644 – implementation of the Affordable Care Act – the state’s design of a health insurance exchange product (even while participating in a national lawsuit);

4.   T-Splost – July’s ten-county transportation referendum to fund regional transportation projects

5.   HB 663 – revisions to “expungement” law regarding specific arrest records; this issue is seen as critical to facilitate employment opportunities

6.   Unemployment Benefits – the governor’s budget proposal to cut the amount and length of unemployment benefits

7.      Tax changes - Special Joint Commission recommendation for a $1 increase on tobacco and 1% grocery tax to offset a reduction in state income tax.

In the chambers of our political theater, we need our public representatives to “break a leg” and function smartly and respectfully. And, in the tradition of good audiences, we acknowledge our responsibility to be present, pay attention, and provide consistent, critical review.

Our communities are counting on it.