Brad Smith (jesus_h_biscuit) wrote,
Brad Smith

Tort reform at top of GOP's 2005 'common sense agenda'

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/15/04

Senate Republicans announced Monday they will push a "common sense agenda" in the 2005 General Assembly that includes significant tort reform legislation.

GOP leaders also said they were pre-filing bills on education, jury strikes and road and infrastructure funding, but none on the so-called moral issues that Democratic critics predict will dominate the first session in which the GOP will control both the Senate and House.

"Mainstream Georgians want a common sense agenda that is not ideological, radical or partisan," Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) said Monday.

Johnson said in an interview that he expects legislation to be introduced requiring a woman to wait 24 hours to have an abortion. But he said such a bill likely will come from an individual legislator, not the GOP leadership. Such legislation has been proposed many times in past years but then-majority Democrats blocked it, calling it an attack on a woman's right to an abortion.

The 2005 General Assembly convenes in January. Other bills will be pre-filed over the coming weeks.

Johnson said that four of the five pre-filed bills have been introduced previously. But he said they should have a better chance of passing in the session that starts in eight weeks, when Republicans will control 34 of the 56 Senate seats and 99 of the 180 House seats.

State Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome), chief sponsor of the tort reform legislation, said the new proposal differs from the bill that died in the final hours of the 2004 legislative session after months of wrangling between the powerful medical lobby and the state's trial lawyers.

The new legislation encourages out-of-court settlements and calls for a "Texas-style" aggregate cap on noneconomic damages of $750,000, compared to last year's $250,000 cap, Smith said. Critics oppose caps, saying victims of malpractice would suffer.

"We've had two years of experience working through the issue," said Smith, a lawyer

The other bills would revise the state's formula for funding road projects, make it easier for government to go into partnership with private business on infrastructure improvements and give equal jury strikes to the prosecution and defense in criminal trials. Currently, the defense can strike four jurors, the prosecution two.

Under a new measure, the state Department of Early Care and Learning would be required to develop resources to help parents of children up to age 5.

"We focus an awful lot on the older children, but some of the studies have shown the learning that takes place in those very first years sort of sets the standard for the rest of the childhood," said Smith, the bill's sponsor. "We want the parents to be able to lean on and rely on some of the resources the state can make available."

In the House, state Rep. Glenn Richardson of Dallas, the Republicans' nominee as the next speaker, has promised closer scrutiny of any legislation that is introduced. Bills that do not reduce the size of government, strengthen the "traditional" family structure, cut taxes or increase personal responsibility will "face a difficult course," he said last week.

Senate Minority leader Michael Meyer Von Bremen (D-Albany) said he had not seen the Republicans' proposals to comment in detail. But he said "certainly I think they would be wise to introduce legislation that's common sense and not radical."

"GOP leaders also said they were pre-filing bills on education, jury strikes and road and infrastructure funding, but none on the so-called moral issues that Democratic critics predict will dominate the first session in which the GOP will control both the Senate and House."

Yes indeed, you cannot employ base level common sense by going after the initial flawed reasoning that won your seats in the first place, the very bullhorn issues that you touted all along as a means of twisting the arms of the Evangelical moralists which we ALL know have never given thought to anything other than indiscriminately casting the proverbial first stone. Fucking Republicans, I swear to Dog.

Marriage is amendment's only subject

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/16/04

A myth abounds that judges rule just on the law. It's not so. The challenge to the constitutional amendment on gay marriage, approved by 76.2 percent of the more than 3.2 million Georgians, is a perfect example.

The amendment is in two paragraphs. The first declares: "This state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state."

The second paragraph is the one four members of the Georgia Supreme Court can use to substitute their preferences for those of 2,454,912 Georgians. It says:

"No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage. The state shall not give effect to any public act, record or judicial proceeding of any other state or jurisdiction respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state or jurisdiction. The courts of this state shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce or separate maintenance with respect to any such relationship or otherwise to consider or rule on any of the parties' respective rights arising as a result of or in connection with such relationship."

The challenge, filed last week in Fulton County Superior Court, contends the amendment violates the state constitution's prohibition against multiple subjects in a single amendment. The underlying contention is that marriage is one subject and same-sex unions is another, and that the amendment prohibits state recognition of both.

After voters in Louisiana approved a similar, but more detailed, amendment on Sept. 18, a judge declared it unconstitutional because, in his opinion, it pertained to two subjects: same-sex marriage and civil unions. In both states, opponents' strategy was first to keep it off the ballot, then to challenge it in court as flawed before voters had a say, and now to argue that approval was invalid because voters were misled.

Presiding Justice Leah Ward Sears and Justice Robert Benham dissented from the majority's decision to let democracy run its course before hearing a challenge on the single-subject rule. By failing to direct a trial court to hear arguments on whether the amendment is one issue or two, "the majority fails in its duty to protect Georgia voters from coercion and fraud," Sears wrote.

The Georgia amendment is headed back to the state Supreme Court, whatever the outcome in Fulton. Its fate in the high court could well depend on when it hits the docket. The deciding vote could be Chief Justice Norman Fletcher, who is retiring next summer.

Whether the amendment covers one issue — marriage — or two is more a matter of opinion than law.

The first paragraph of the amendment is essentially meaningless. The only thing it protects is the word "marriage." Not the institution, the word.

The line has already begun to blur, as a result of a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision directing the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Though Georgia doesn't recognize same-sex unions from other states as marriages, news accounts of same-sex Georgians united there identify them as married. The media's tendency to shorthand makes legal clarity necessary.

The amendment just approved does that. The second paragraph elaborates on the definition of marriage. The state can't alter marriage by defining it differently, nor can it recognize another state's attempt to do so. Nor can the courts in Georgia apply the laws of marriage to other personal relationships.

That doesn't mean that the state cannot compassionately and properly ad-

dress the legal issues of committed partners. As issues of inheritance, ownership, decision-making, visitation and others arise, legislative remedies should be found. The state can, if the General Assembly chooses, recognize that two people are in a legally committed relationship.

It's not marriage, nor marriage by another name. It is, however, recognition that same-sex couples exist, may be devoted to each other for life and are entitled to rights and protections consistent with that expectation.

• Jim Wooten is the associate editorial page editor. His column appears Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

You just don't know how happy I'm going to be when this thing is declared null and void, if for no other reason than the fact that it is written so poorly that it borders on the absurd. It proves that rational, thinking people in this state and indeed the nation by and large are really, REALLY fucking stupid. Consider the south's historical problem with discrimination, and it's propensity to make efforts to enshrine discrimination into state laws and constitutions. Consider that this would be the first time in the history of the State of Georgia that an act of discrimination against a sect of society would be used to amend the goddamned constitution. Did you get this far without your eyes filling up with blood? Good - then I challenge you to speak to as many people as possible about just how wrong this entire issue is, and how shameful it is that it has gotten this far.

And since I'm on this roll, if you voted Republican but against Amendment One, I'm sorry to inform you that you DID in fact cast a vote to ban same sex marriage. Within days of the election, President Shrub made it clear that he would seek to ban same sex marriage at the Federal level, which in case you didn't realize, trumps the state. If that's a surprise to anyone, please kill yourself. Did I mention that Vice President Hypocrite has gone on record as being in favor of leaving it to the states to decide? He, with his big ol' dyke daughter who makes about as much sense as fucking for chastity?

Also, someone alert the media who for whatever reason have failed to realize that no one who actually reads the Jeannette Walls' "The Scoop" column gives a fuck if Britney Spears can write a poem. We don't even care if she gets sucked up into Goatse's asscave, for that matter.
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