Originally created 04/02/97
As we noted yesterday, Georgia's General Assembly passed much constructive legislation this year, but lawmakers also left some good bills unfinished or, even worse, shot them down. The following measures ought to be revisited in 1998, especially if incumbents want to boost re-election prospects:
PRISON TERMS: Despite energetic support from Gov. Zell Miller, bills to require violent offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences failed to pass House and Senate committees. Lawmakers apparently think the "two strikes and you're out law" is as tough as they need to get. But that does nothing about "truth in sentencing" for first time offenders or certain kinds of other offenses "two strikes" doesn't cover.
This legislation would put criminals on notice that if they commit violent crimes they're not going to serve a small fraction of their time. They'll serve most of it. Victims often feel they've been lied to when they learn of early releases. The 85 percent minimum term would restore much-needed credibility to Georgia's sentencing process.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Liberal pressure succeeded in bottling up bills banning racial preferences by state and local agencies, even though reverse discrimination has been outlawed by the federal courts. When are Democratic leaders going to take state Attorney General Michael Bowers' advice and comply with the law?
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Thanks to House Speaker Tom Murphy's always solicitous concern for any legislation that might make life more difficult for defense attorneys, the governor's bill to impose stronger penalties and mandatory jail time for beating a child or spouse was sent back to a House committee. But Murphy, D-Bremen, had to cast the tiebreaking vote himself to bury it.
Then when Miller spoke out in sharp criticism, the red-faced speaker made a rare retreat, saying he regretted his vote. This legislation, if slightly revised, should have smooth sailing when lawmakers reconvene next year.
FINGERPRINTING: A repeal of the tyrannical law requiring driver's license applicants to be fingerprinted failed. However, this won't go away. Motorists' anger at being treated like criminal suspects Ä and at the state's unnecessary intrusion into their personal lives Ä is sure to build over the coming year.