2016 Predictions

A mishmash of things political:

2016 ahead roadsign

As we approach the new year, what is in store legislatively for us? Very little, I suspect. This is an election year, so the Republican leadership will do what they can to keep things quiet.

Last year, a non-election year, brought you the largest gas increase in Georgia history, However, gas prices have done nothing but drop since then, so the public is generally unaware of the tax increase. When prices rise again, as they always do, we’ll be blaming the Arabs, or our own unwillingness to drill here, for that increase. So Republicans dodged that bullet and a year ago I would have thought that the gas increase would fuel many a political challenger to any legislator who voted to give DOT that amount of funds without accountability, but now, I just don’t see that happening.

RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would give Georgians the same religious freedom that over 30 other states enjoy, won’t happen this year. I wish it would, but my friend Sen. Josh McKoon, the sponsor of RFRA, has to overcome a leadership that is afraid of controversy, at least this election year. I’ll be surprised if RFRA gets a vote.

There is talk of a tax swap  under the Gold Dome wherein we would raise sales taxes a penny or two in exchange for some income tax rate reductions.

On the national scene, the abuse that the Donald did on Jeb Bush in this week’s debate would normally cost the abusive candidate some support, and give the abused candidate a boost, but this year is different. The Donald has totally destroyed Jeb’s candidacy. I can’t recall such total annihilation of a front runner by one of his opponents in my years as a voter. Usually a front runner who goes down the tubes does so as a result of self inflicted wounds, but not Jeb. He has been assassinated.

There are things to like about each Republican candidate, but I see Cruz, Rubio, Trump and Carson making it to the SEC primary. Cruz has the organizational structure  and political acumen to come out of March with a commanding lead. The Republican leadership fears Cruz (more in than Trump) and will make Rubio their candidate. We’ll see.

On the local political scene, Superior Court Judge George Nunn has announced his retirement effective at the end of next year. There will be many candidates seeking that position, however finding someone with the patience, virtue and honor of George Nunn will be a difficult task.

Some county commissioner positions are up this year. There is talk of open seats or challengers to current officeholders. I think we’ll see a youth movement in the coming years as when you look at Houston County’s demographics, it is hard to fathom the absence of youth oriented programs, like bike and walking trails, more parks, and recreation facilities. Name a county in Georgia with a similar size youth population but such a dearth of recreation opportunities. I can’t think of one. The fact that the current commissioners don’t seem concerned about it shows the disconnect.

All in all, while I don’t think there will be a lot of new laws this year, but I’m hoping there is an infusion of new blood with an eye toward making the American Dream all it can be.

Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at kelly@burkelasseterllc.com to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see and visit his website at www.kellyrburke.com to view prior columns.

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