Forty days of frenzy at Georgia legislature leaves children behind

By Saba Long

Forty. It is a number of biblical significance. Oftentimes in the Old Testament, God used the number 40 as a time period of intense trials and testing of the peoples’ faith. Goliath terrorized the Israelites for 40 days before a young shepherd boy hurled a stone toward his forehead. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and was then tempted by the devil.

And in just 40 days, the Georgia General Assembly blazed through the legislative session in what seemed to be a race to take the logic out of lawmaking.

Too frequently, Georgia’s children take the proverbial bullet for legislators and “suits” lacking the spine to stand up to interest groups and the old way of doing things. We saw it firsthand this session with the attempted rush job at privatizing foster care. But perhaps where this behavior hurt Georgia families the most was with the failure to pass the medical marijuana and autism insurance bills.

A personal friend of mine watched with deep disappointment the hacking of and eventual demise of the autism insurance bill. He and his longtime partner have already spent thousands in healthcare costs associated with their toddler’s autism.

Even lawmakers in Alabama, hardly perceived as a forward-thinking state, passed Carly’s Law legalizing medical-grade marijuana used to control seizures for those with severe neurological difficulties. Access to life-changing healthcare options should not have such an emotional, detrimental impact on our society.

We may be in the Bible Belt, but I find myself wondering if the scriptures I grew up reading are somehow different than those read by our lawmakers. Surely the nonviolent words and actions of Christ have become lost in translation to legislators who deem it necessary to allow guns in churches and find it acceptable to encourage discrimination against minority groups.

Some say these bills were too controversial to vote the “wrong way” in an election year. Even as we lament Washington gridlock, by not adequately vetting them as candidates, we silently allow our lawmakers here in Georgia to practice the same selfish behavior that ultimately hurts the state and its citizens.

Standing behind your vote seems to be a thing of the past for our state’s legislators – and by no means is this limited to the chambers within the Gold Dome. Constituents can and do respect elected officials who thoughtfully articulate opposing views.

The frenzy of this legislative session cannot yet be fully assessed, as a number of bills were piecemealed together in the final moments, and are not yet available for public review.

The primary election is just weeks away. It is doubtful the 40 days of ludicrous lawmaking we just witnessed will cause much change in the voting booth.

But it should.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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