The following article is based on happenings at the Georgia State Capitol, but does contain some editorialized opinions of the author. Those opinions reflect those of the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.
It’s cuthroat at the Captiol and it’s the season for idea-stealing, self-interest, and worst of all, self-promotion.
State representative Scott Holcomb, a Democrat from Atlanta, filed House Bill 745, a bi-partisan effort, a few weeks ago. The bill addresses rental agreements in the event of domestic violence situations and would allow for victims to break their contractual leases without facing financial penalties.
The bill itself is controversial as advocates of domestic violence want as many protections under the law as possible while limited government supporters have pushed back on the legitimacy of the state dictating when a contract is or is not enforceable while highlighting the trickle down effects on landlords. (I spoke with a landlord earlier this week and he said it costs him $2,000 to fill the vacancy of an empty apartment – but that’s not where I’m going with this.)
Holcomb, despite being a member of the minority party, has been an advocate for bipartisan efforts, including the infamous rape kit bill back in 2016, for much of his legislative tenure. House Bill 745 is no different, garnering support from Republicans Mandi Ballinger, Richard Smith, and Trey Kelley in addition to some vocal Democrats.
But there’s some inside baseball that demostrates a few of our state lawmakers are more concerned with taking the credit for a potentially forthcoming accomplishment than the actual cause – domestic violence victims.
The second signer on the bill, Cherokee County Republican Mandi Ballinger, just this week filed the exact same bill with the exact same language with all five co-sponsors being Republicans – who, ironically, are friendly with leadership, including Reps. John Corbett, Katie Dempsey, Scott Hilton, Shaw Blackmon, and Beth Beskin. To her credit, Ballinger has sponsored many domestic violence bills – good and bad – but she agreed to co-sponsor Holcomb’s bill on January 28 before dropping her own on February 7.
Ballinger’s bill has one additional clause Holcomb’s does not, which allows family members of a victim to terminate the lease agreement in the event that the victim is incapacitated (lines 32-35), so you may be saying to yourself, “Maybe that one clause was really important to her and that’s why she wanted it in there,” but that would require forgetting that she was asked by the sponsor of the bill to co-sign and support the measure, and could have asked that be included. Or it could have been added during the committee process, especially given that Trey Kelley, another co-sponsor of Holcomb’s bill, serves on the Judiciary committee, which is where the bill was assigned. Or she could have asked Beth Beskin, who she recruited to sponsor her version of the bill who also serves on the Judiciary committee, to amend it in committee. Or she could add her own amendment from the floor. And those solutions are all under the assumption that Holcomb would not have supported her additional language.
I’m not in favor of the legislation, but it seems that if lawmakers can come together to get to the point of interfering in a contract, allowing the family of an incapacitated person to cancel a contract really isn’t that much further of the step in overreach, one that wouldn’t seem too far of a stretch for Holcomb, Ballinger & et. al to unite in agreeance.
The options for working together were limitless – but that’s not the direction Ballinger went.
It shouldn’t work the way that it does, but a bill with 100% Republican is support is considerably more likely to pass under the leadership in the Gold Dome than one led by a Democrat, despite the bill having twinges of Democrat ideologies with the interference of contract law. (I haven’t really figured that part out – is Ballinger trying to mask a liberal policy as a conservative one by having Republicans lead the charge or is she just liberal leaning with an (R) next to her name?)
How are The People ever to believe bipartisan efforts can be accomplished or that everyone has a voice in the Capitol if the end goal is to get credit, not to better our state?
You can contact State Rep. Mandi Ballinger at firstname.lastname@example.org