"I cannot recall a piece of legislation that was so contrived in language and purpose or more poorly written and passed with any greater lack of vetting, knowledge or integrity."
Did you smell something foul last week but could not locate the origin of the odor? Maybe it was Senate Bill 320. SB 320 passed out of the GOP-controlled state Senate last week with zero "nay" votes. Voters in the political bleachers should remember the old truism that "all politics is local." Presidential primaries are very important, but so is the Republican-controlled state Legislature and our public safety — and SB 320 is a serious threat to the latter, brought to us by the former.
As someone who has been a reluctant and involved denizen of the Gold Dome since 2004, let me note that I cannot recall a piece of legislation that was so contrived in language and purpose or more poorly written and passed with any greater lack of vetting, knowledge or integrity. And that is quite an inclusive statement.
If SB 320 ever becomes law, visitors to Georgia from other countries driving with foreign driver's licenses could expect their licenses to be "presumed valid" if verified by Georgia law enforcement officers. If the officers on our streets risking their lives to protect us cannot verify the validity of a foreign driver's license, it will be presumed valid if the bearer has come from a country with which the U.S. has a visa waiver agreement and other complicated immigration "ifs."
Somebody tell the Legislature: Aliens visiting Georgia lawfully can already drive legally with their foreign driver's license.
The bill actually says that if a cop cannot verify validity of the foreign license, he should verify that the alien entered the U.S. legally — by checking his passport or immigration papers or visa and then presume the license is valid if the alien has evidence of "lawful entry." That's a lot of "ifs," isn't it?
Why is this bill an odiferous fraud? Because according to many senior Georgia local law enforcement officials — including Metro-Atlanta's Gwinnett Sheriff Butch Conway — they do not have the ability, training or equipment to verify a foreign driver's license. Never have. The sheriffs I have spoken to don't even know if such equipment exists. There is no federal or state law that requires a foreign visitor to carry a passport for the cop to inspect, if he had the guidance to do so. Sheriff Conway says his deputies do not have any training to decipher "lawful entry," or visas and immigration documents or agreements made at the federal level.
Like the constant push for officially open borders from American business interests, SB 320 is a product of the power and endless effort from business interests to "make Georgia more business friendly." It was introduced into the Senate and quietly shot through an obedient committee system and passed on the Senate floor in a whirlwind period of seven legislative days.
"It is my professional and personal opinion that SB 320 poses needless danger to the safety and security of our state and to the citizens my office is charged with protecting. I see no gain to public safety with the passage of this bill," wrote Sheriff Conway in a warning to state legislators. Conway says that to his knowledge, no Georgia law enforcement was ever asked for input on the bill.
There were four senators who did not vote on SB 320 because of excused absences — Sens. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta; David Lucas, D-Macon; P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville; and Josh McKoon. R-Columbus. The bill is now in the House.
SB 320 was sent through the Senate in just seven legislative days, while badly needed legislation, SB 6 — aimed at altering the Georgia driver's license currently given to illegal aliens — has languished for more than a year in the same Senate Public Safety Committee that rushed SB 320 out. Friday is the last day of life for SB 6 unless it sees a hearing before then.
More? Senate Resolution 675 is precariously pending in the GOP-ruled Senate. It would allow us all to vote in November on amending the state Constitution to make English the official language of government in Georgia.
Both SB 6 and SR 675 are strongly opposed by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Readers should share their own views with legislators.
D.A. King is president of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society. Twitter:@DAKDIS.