Leg­is­la­ture turns adop­tion ef­forts into po­lit­i­cal sausage

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - Dick Yar­brough Philoso­pher & pun­dit

There is a say­ing that the two things you don’t want to see made are law and sausage. Some­times, they are hard to tell apart. State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Ma­ri­etta, can speak first-hand about how the po­lit­i­cal process can stink worse than ground-up hog parts.

Ge­or­gia’s adop­tion laws are an­ti­quated and in se­ri­ous need of up­dat­ing. The last time the state code was up­dated was in 1990, due mainly to the ef­forts of a state sen­a­tor by the name of Nathan Deal.

There are cur­rently 12,000 fos­ter chil­dren in Ge­or­gia. The av­er­age time for fos­ter care adop­tion in our state is a bit more than two-and-ahalf years. Na­tion­ally, the fig­ure is just over a year. Many Ge­or­gia fam­i­lies go out-of-state to adopt be­cause it is eas­ier.

Rep. Reeves be­gan an ef­fort two years ago to mod­ern­ize the code, work­ing with the Ge­or­gia Coun­cil of Adop­tion Lawyers, the Depart­ment of Fam­ily and Chil­dren Ser­vices, the Coun­cil of Su­pe­rior Court Judges and adop­tion agen­cies among oth­ers in craft­ing ap­pro­pri­ate leg­is­la­tion.

Reeves says the bill was sim­ply a re­write and mod­ern­iza­tion of the cur­rent code to make the adop­tion process more ef­fi­cient, (since the last re­write, some­thing called the in­ter­net has ap­peared on the scene), to give judges more lee­way in de­ter­min­ing cus­tody is­sues and to stream­line in­ter­na­tional adop­tion pro­ce­dures.

In late Fe­bru­ary, Reeves’ bill passed out of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives unan­i­mously and then was sent to the state Se­nate. At the re­quest of a sub­com­mit­tee of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, changes to the bill were made and agreed upon and ev­ery­thing seemed in or­der to pass the bill out of the full com­mit­tee, through the Se­nate and then onto the gov­er­nor’s desk for his sig­na­ture.

That is when the stink of petty politics be­gan to per­me­ate the place. As the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee was get­ting set to con­sider Reeves’ bill, Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, in­formed Reeves he had tacked on an amend­ment to the bill that would al­low mission-based adop­tion agen­cies not to have to place chil­dren with same-sex par­ents. Sud­denly, bi­par­ti­san­ship be­came po­lit­i­cally toxic.

Let me stop at this point to say that if this mat­ter was that im­por­tant to Ligon and his col­leagues, they had had all ses­sion to in­tro­duce a sep­a­rate bill to deal with that is­sue. He didn’t. He chose to hi­jack Bert Reeves’ bill.

By spring­ing his amend­ment on Rep. Reeves a cou­ple of hours be­fore the hear­ing, he dis­re­spected the bill’s au­thor by not giv­ing Reeves am­ple time to dis­cuss the pro­posed amend­ment. The Ma­ri­etta Daily Journal called it a “cow­ardly act.” I call it un­pro­fes­sional and un­be­com­ing a prin­ci­pled leg­is­la­tor who should know bet­ter.

Again, you don’t like the idea of same-sex cou­ples adopt­ing chil­dren? Great. Then pass a law to that ef­fect. There’s no law against that. You had all ses­sion to do so. Don’t stick a last-minute amend­ment into a bill that would have helped stream­line an out­dated process and made it eas­ier to find homes for a group of kids that don’t de­serve to be caught in the mid­dle of this kind of po­lit­i­cal games­man­ship.

Gov. Deal op­posed the ef­fort to amend the leg­is­la­tion, as did DFACS Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Bobby Ca­gle. House Speaker David Ralston urged the Se­nate to pass Reeves’ bill. But as time dwin­dled down to the wee mo­ments be­fore ad­journ­ment, Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore David Shafer, who is mak­ing noises about run­ning for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, threat­ened to have Rep. Reeves thrown off the Se­nate floor for try­ing to en­cour­age se­na­tors to pass his bill. Lt. Gov. Casey Ca­gle, who is ob­vi­ously run­ning for gov­er­nor, seems to have taken a pass on the whole mat­ter. As the ses­sion ended, the Se­nate “recom­mit­ted” the bill for more study, ef­fec­tively killing two years of hard work by Rep. Reeves.

How did a good-faith ef­fort to up­date Ge­or­gia’s adop­tion laws turn into such a ran­cid piece of sausage? It’s the politics, stupid. This wasn’t about Ge­or­gia’s fos­ter chil­dren. It was about am­bi­tious politi­cians get­ting them­selves po­si­tioned to run for statewide of­fice next year and try­ing hard not to of­fend their right-wing base or the busi­ness com­mu­nity who sit on dif­fer­ent sides of the same-sex-any­thing ar­gu­ment. Ge­or­gia’s fos­ter chil­dren were merely pawns.

Do me a fa­vor: The first politi­cian who comes to you seek­ing your vote for statewide of­fice and tells you it is all about the fu­ture of our chil­dren — throw up on their shoes and tell them it was the sausage that made you do it.

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at [email protected]­south.net; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139; online at dick­yarbrough.com or on Face­book at www.face­book.com/dick­yarb.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.