“My evaluation of SB 469 is that it interferes with the constitutional right of free speech, the First Amendment, and right to peacefully assemble. It seems to impermissibly place the free speech rights of some individuals in the hands of other private citizens and corporations, giving them a sword with an over-broad criminal statute, elevated fines and punishment, and injunctive tools unique to this bill that will have the effect unconstitutionally of stifling people’s right to speak out,”
SB 469 Would Make Civil Disobedience a Felony in Georgia
APN) ATLANTA — SB 469, an anti-union and anti-protest bill, would turn nonviolent civil disobedience into a felony punishable by imprisonment for one year and a fine of ten thousand dollars for organizations and one thousand dollars for individuals. It also has provisions intended to weaken unions.
The bill was introduced by State Reps. Don Balfour (R-Snellville), Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton), Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), and Ross Tolleson (R-Perry). All four Senators are members of an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC). ALEC bring corporations and lawmakers together to draft template legislation that is introduced in other states to change policy. ALEC claims to be nonpartisan but is funded by several right-wing thing tanks.
“In a state which lays credible claim to being the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement, State Senators Don Balfour, Ross Tolleson, Bill Hamrick, and Bill Cowsert have just demonstrated palpable disrespect for Georgia’s rich history of protest and activism. They are the sponsors of Senate Bill 469 which, had it been law in 1960, would have made Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, John Lewis, Joe Beasley, Minnie Ruffin, and many other luminaries of the Civil Rights Movement into felons,” Sara Amis of Occupy Atlanta, wrote in a blog post.
“The way they are handling these extreme bills like SB 469 prohibiting protest which they know is unconstitutional, but they want to send a message and try to throw everyone off track,” Larry Pellegrini of the Georgia Rural Urban Summit, told Atlanta Progressive News.
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Perhaps Georgia’s House Industrial Relations Committee staged Monday’s surprise vote on S.B. 469—the draconian bill that would infringe upon the rights of Georgians to speak out for economic justice or choose whether to support a union—as an apt welcome for Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker as he came to Atlanta for a Republican fundraiser.
The Republican-led committee held the sudden vote on Monday morning with little notice, posting the hearing on the calendar less than an hour prior—and waiting until just 10 minutes beforehand to post a note on the hearing room door. Not surprisingly, the measure easily sailed out of the committee without any legislators present to represent Georgia’s working families. The committee also voted to pass S.B. 447, which would gut unemployment insurance down to the fewest number of weeks in the country.
Georgia’s legislative session ends this Thursday. Will Georgia’s state legislators use the last remaining days of the session to stop this undemocratic bill? Will they vote to preserve unemployment insurance, the lifeline that is helping to keep Georgia’s jobless families—and the local businesses they support—afloat? Or will legislators instead bow down to special interests like the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the author of S.B. 469?