New bills are dropping because the Georgia Legislature is in session this week. Some, that are of interest to me:
HB 799 – Expungement of DUI Conviction. If you don’t have any traffic violations for 5 years after conviction, your record of DUI would be expunged. I’m not sure what I think about this. On the one hand, it would be nice to give everyone a second chance and to remove the albatross after they’ve demonstrated good character. On the other, this seems like special consideration for a specific class of offense. Do people convicted of Driving without a License (or other similar offenses) get the same consideration? I don’t know the answer to that question. Are there sunset provisions for “minor” traffic offenses?
HB 766 – “…regarding Foundations of American Law and Government displays; to extend the locations
4 in which such displays may appear;…”. This bill seems to make it lawful to display the 10 Commandments in public buildings. I’d get all Separation of Church and State in your face right now except that it also seems that this was legal for all Judicial buildings already.
From Georgia Code Annotated Section 45-13-51 (2011):
(b) Each municipality and political subdivision of this state shall be authorized to post the Foundations of American Law and Government display, as described in subsection (c) of this Code section, in a visible, public location in the judicial facilities of such municipality or political subdivision.
And here is Subsection (c):
(c) The Foundations of American Law and Government display shall include:
(1) The Mayflower Compact, 1620;
(2) The Ten Commandments as extracted from Exodus Chapter 20;
(3) The Declaration of Independence;
(4) Magna Carta;
(5) “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key;
(6) The national motto;
(7) The Preamble to the Georgia Constitution;
(8) The Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution; and
(9) The description on the image of Lady Justice.
I don’t think there is controversy over any of these items except the 10 Commandments. For backup, here is the justification for inclusion of the Commandments in this list, taken directly from the same Georgia Code (annotated) section.
The Ten Commandments have profoundly influenced the formation of Western legal thought and the formation of our country. That influence is clearly seen in the Declaration of Independence, which declared that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Ten Commandments provide the moral background of the Declaration of Independence and the foundation of our legal tradition.
I think they might be stretching a bit on their justification, however who am I to question already enacted Georgia Law? Oh, that’s right: A taxpaying citizen. I think this is officially a storm in a tea cup. Go ahead. Approve the legislation. Bill doesn’t really care and would prefer that our legislators spent time on more important things.
HB 763 – Grand Jury Eligibility for Felons and Mentally Incompetent Persons. This bill would make it legal to exclude convicted felons and the Mentally Incompetent from grand juries. I’m all down with the mentally incompetent portion of this, but it seems like excluding felons is legislating part of the judicial process away. Isn’t this what Voir Dire is for? I can conceive of times either as the Defense or the Prosecution when you’d want a convicted felon, who had served their time, on a jury.