Politics is the study of power. Viewed in a vacuum, politics provides us the clearest lens through which to understand man. Logic, science, and ambition brought us from of African plains to the stars. Yet, no matter how far we march from our humble beginnings, we are still predatory animals. Modern humans seek power to improve their social standing in societies just as our ancestors fought to move up the ranks of their tribes.
Future posts will pontificate on how power shifts between players at the state and federal level, but it’s the New Year. New years are a time for prediction. Georgia politics gets bloody, and 2015 is shaping up to be a big year. Here are a few topics to keep your eye on for this year.
It’s not going away. The defeat of HB 885 did not kill the movement. The legalization crowd has made more gains in the past two years than in the past twenty. At this point, it’s not a question of whether we legalize marijuana, but how the state does so.
Representative Allen Peake (R-Macon) introduced the Haleigh’s Hope Act on 11/17/14. This bill received House Bill 1 designation. That means that Georgia’s medical marijuana laws will be debated under HB1. Representative Peake prefiled this legislation prior to the official start of the year in order to garner as much PR as possible for his bill.
HB1 provides for the regulated use of medical cannabis to treat certain medical conditions. It only permits non-smoking medical cannabis, in the form of liquid, pill, or injection administration, and explicitly states that HB1 is not designed to legalize the use of cannabis for recreational purposes. Only certain patients have access to the treatment and may only receive the treatment through licensed, registered entities with the State of Georgia. The bill also provides for infrastructure to ensure strict oversight for medical cannabis.
As it’s currently written, HB1 is fairly vague on how it aims to accomplish its goals. The stated goals are to provide access to medical marijuana for certain patients, to allow patients who legally obtain medical marijuana in other states to use it here, and to regulate the drug in a safe and effective manner.
Representative Peake secured a strong coalition in 2014 to get the previous Georgia medical marijuana bill, HB885, passed in the State House. It failed in the State Senate. HB1 differs from HB885 in that it’s vague. HB885 was clear in how it aimed to restrict medical marijuana and how it steered clear of violating constitutional issues, such as the allowing medical marijuana sales or transportation to cross state lines. HB1 is broader in its aims. In other words, it’s a stronger bill with more flexibility for advocates favoring medical marijuana. As such, there may be backlash in the House.
Several non-profits have advocated in favor of passing a medical marijuana bill for Georgia. The Epilepsy Foundation and the MS Society are both adamantly in favor of medical marijuana. Several key members of the legislature are just as adamantly opposed to opening the doors to medical marijuana in Georgia for various reasons. These legislators will make their views heard in the very near future.
We’re betting that this bill passes in 2015. Although contentious, the Republicans lack the energy to fight marijuana. Weed is not a wedge issue in modern times. Moreover, a limited medical marijuana bill designed to help children suffering from epilepsy is unlikely to stir up as much controversy as a bill to decriminalize. Opponents will argue that this is a slippery slope to legalization, and they may be right. Regardless, this bill will get sold on the backs of sick children. It will pass.
Larry Bost, from Marietta, Georgia, introduced a plan to create a monorail. The proposed monorail would run along the existing interstate system surrounding Atlanta. His proposal provides for 15 stations, 7 outside the Perimeter, 7 along I-285, and 1 inside the Perimeter. The selling point here is that the monorail can be built in the center of the existing highways and requires no land purchases. The cost estimates range from $10 million to $100 million per mile of track, as per the Monorail Society. Yes, monorails have their own society. Those figures are national figures and it’s theorized that Atlanta’s monorail would be on the cheaper end.
Great idea. Never going to happen. Call me a cynic, but if you were to bet against Georgian politicians investing in infrastructure, you’d beat the house almost all the time. Infrastructure projects lack glamour. There is no sex appeal in repairing bridges. The only thing Georgians hate more than traffic is taxes. Paying for the monorail requires millions of dollars to come from somewhere. Given the recent flop of the SPLOST campaign, we’ll bet against this one as well.
But it really does make a lot of sense.
Expect this man to make some moves. Urbane and popular, this man is the future of the Georgia Democratic Party. He maintains a reputation for competency even after snowpocalypse’s debacle. It’s okay, though. No one could have seen it coming. Inside sources consider him the likely next candidate for governor. The only things standing in his way are Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter. Carter remains popular with Georgia Democrats. Expect bloody political battles behind the scenes for leadership positions.
The real question here is whether Mayor Reed’s ambition outpaces his sense. The reality is that it will be very, very difficult for an African American from inner city Atlanta to carry rural Georgia. The governorship requires a candidate to appeal to more than just the metro area. That being said, he rallies his base as well as President Obama and possesses genuine political talent. Mayor Reed may outgrow his office and find himself in a Congressional seat.
Isakson Wins 2016
Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) is one of the quintessential establishment Republicans. Never afraid to toe the line, he casts his votes in favor of every Republican cause in Washington. As a result, he sidesteps controversy. Unless he’s found in bed with a dead woman or a young boy, he’s going to clobber whatever sacrificial lamb the Democrats send to challenge him. Oh, by the way, he already announced his intent to run again.
Prediction? He’s here to stay.