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House Bill 461: Meaningful legislation or a re-election tactic for 2012?

Matt Hickman

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Yesterday I watched more than 10 hours of debate on the Georgia House floor. Most of the bills were well drafted and encouraged economic development, increased public safety or reduced environmental degradation.

But one bill, House Bill 461, did none of these, and will surely die as it travels to the national level, or hopefully when it crosses the hall to the Senate.

H.B. 461 is formally known as the “Health Care Compact.” Its supporters believe that the compact will exempt states that pass it from following the Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or as some have called it, “Obama Care.”

The Health Care Compact affords states the right to regulate their own health care policies and not follow the guidelines of the PPACA. It sounds great if you like smaller government and local control.

But here is the hang-up that everyone who voted for the bill is aware of: the compact has to be approved by the United States Congress and sent to President in order for it to be law and deemed constitutional. Without this approval, it does nothing. The Compact is almost certain to fail in Congress, if it ever makes it there, because the Senate has a Democratic majority and will definitely be rejected by the President, who drafted the PPACA.

The Compact passed the Georgia House with a 108-63 vote following party lines, with a few minor exceptions. So the question looms: Why would the Republicans pass a bill destined to fail and waste time debating a bill when real issues are on the line?

The Answer: 2012

In an era of polarized politics in an especially polarized state, where anything anti-Democrat is innately pro-Republican, seemly anti-Obama bills look great as campaign season begins to take shape. For the 2012 Georgia General Assembly elections, candidates will undoubtedly bring up healthcare reform.

Fortunately for the more than 100 Republicans who voted for the moot H.B. 461, it sounds great to say upon the ears of uneducated voters that they voted to remove ObamaCare from the state, when in fact they did no such thing.

What they did was waste time on the floor when they could have been debating serious issues like the $1.2 billion shortfall in the budget, the $72 million dollars Clayton County needs to operate its school system properly or the poor public transportation abound in the state, among countless other problems the state is currently facing.

But instead they spent time debating a bill that ultimately is little more than a symbol of the fact that Republicans are unhappy with Obama. H.B. 461 is designed to appease the new polarized Tea Party-based constituents who got Republicans elected in 2010 instead of focusing on what is good for Georgia and its people.

A preacher on the General Assembly floor two days before this bill was passed said that, like preachers, legislators are called to do what is right for the people, even if it puts them in political hot water. He went on to say that if the General Assembly starts to pass bills simply for reelection purposes they have missed the mark as legislators. Well, Mr. Preacher, is seems as though 108 of Georgia’s Reps have done just that.

Matt Hickman is a junior at Mercer currently interning at the State Capitol in Atlanta. He can be contacted at hickman2008@yahoo.com.

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House Bill 461: Meaningful legislation or a re-election tactic for 2012?