The issue of effective governance comes under increased scrutiny as an election approaches. As our opportunity for change nears, it might be worth our time to look at what our state legislators have done for you ... or to you.
Have you noticed that when you dine out, the waiter will always put down a small napkin or paper coaster with your cold drink, even if it's water? That's Georgia law. Now, do you suppose the paper manufacturers' lobbyists had anything to do with that?
Have you ever tried to get a new pair of glasses but were told by the optometrist that your eye glass prescription is more than two years old and Georgia law says it cannot be filled? Yup. Now who do you suppose had anything to do with that law? Your state legislators hard at work for your benefit.
I am sure you've seen all the title pawn shops that populate our city and county. While volunteering at FaithWorks, a ministry that assists families in financial emergency, I had occasion to review an applicant's documentation to determine if the family was eligible for our services. I reviewed their title loan documentation and came to find out that they were being charged 308 percent interest and were making interest-only payments. I asked the applicant if they knew how much interest they were paying and they admitted they did not. When I told them it was 308 percent, they asked if that was a lot. Now before you get down on the applicant, these are under-privileged and often-uneducated folks. (Of course, that raises the question of what are students taught in public school that helps them in today's world.) Three years ago, the Georgia legislators were considering a law to regulate the amount of interest and what those seeking title and payday loans are told. No, it never passed. Bet you can guess why.
I was in the market for a used truck some months ago and passed a buy-here-pay-here used car lot with a truck that looked like it might fit my needs. I stopped, looked over the truck and the salesperson confirmed the odometer reading of 91,000 miles, not bad for a 2004 vehicle. I noted the VIN number and, when back home, registered with Car Fax and did a search for this vehicle. Turned out the truck actually had 256,000 miles. I called the salesperson and asked about the discrepancy. I was told there were problems with the gauges, which had been replaced, and the truck had been "re-titled". Do you think the prospective buyer of this truck would be told the truck had been re-titled? And, of course, the buyer wouldn't see the title since it would be held by the car dealer, because they hold the loan. And even if they saw the title, do you think they would be thinking, "Hmmm, what does re-title mean?" If ever this came up or would come up before the legislators, I have to believe that the car dealer's association, whatever name it uses, would be quite persuasive with the guys and gals under the Gold Dome.
So what have your state legislators done for you lately? Might want to find out before voting. Oh, and solicit some assurances from those running against incumbents that they will be more inclined to protect you and repel the lobbyists.
Bob Furnad is a 40-year veteran of broadcast news, having worked for ABC as senior producer for "Good Morning America" news and for CNN as executive vice president, senior executive producer, and president of CNN Headline News, CNN Radio, CNN Airport Network and CNN Newsource. He retired from CNN in January 2001 and joined Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia where he is an associate professor. He is the recipient of two George Foster Peabody Awards, two Emmys and the DuPont-Columbia Award, as well as the DiGamma Kappa Distinguished Award in Broadcasting Achievement in 2009. He lives in Covington.