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GUEST COLUMN: Keep it professional

Greyson Oswalt-Smith, guest columnist

Greyson Oswalt-Smith is a guest columnist for Rome News-Tribune

In the course of events which have been Georgia politics, one thing above all stands out to me to be a substantial flaw. The fact that Georgia has a semi-professional legislature. There are some benefits to a semi professional legislature, but ultimately they are shadowed by elements that are detrimental to the people. The majority of Georgians believe that a semi-professional legislature promotes the people’s interest and decreases spending. The former is supported by the proposition that the minuscule pay will deter those who want power and promote those who truly want to help the State of Georgia to run for public office. The latter is supported by the fact that the pay for each member being so low, government spending is lowered. Each will be addressed accordingly.

First, I would like to write an ode to the profession of the true statesman. A statesman is one who can deliberate with integrity, dignity and rationality, all the while disregarding all other superficial and secondary interests. A statesman is one whose sole goal is to better the Republic in which he is appointed trust. A statesman is only true when he or she may deliberate and legislate without regard to their own family, fortune or property. Although we constantly see this throughout history and today, it is the byproduct of human nature. In the United States, we have devices built in our government that limit this sinful nature, leaning most deliberation to coincide with the Constitution and the benefit of the Republic. In a semi-professional legislature, the avarice nature of man is promoted silently.

Let me define the Georgia legislature with speed. The Georgia legislature meets four months out of the year, January through April. These months are filled with chaos and turmoil in order to get legislation passed, sometimes haphazardly. My primary question I wish to pose to the reader is, if they wanted to, could they run for office? The answer is most likely to be an astonished no. The reason for this is because they have jobs that will not allow them to take off a third of the year. A vast majority of individuals are unable to serve in the Georgia legislature due to its semi-professional nature. They are unable to take four out of twelve months out of the year to serve. Who serves then? What professionals have the time to serve the State of Georgia and its residents while maintaining a steady income? Those who work in insurance, real estate, and those who own businesses.

This is an interesting finding when we look at the proposition that limited pay will deter the greedy. In fact it discriminates against the common man who wants to serve their community and gives significant preference to the individuals that operate their own business or agency. Since the legislature in Georgia gives preference to these special interests, wouldn’t one think that the sins of greed in man be the motivating factor causing them to serve? Business owners own the Georgia legislature. With this being said, many believe that the government should be run like a business. If only those who profess this knew the true intentions of business owners. It is not the residents of Georgia, that is certain!

Let us take the auto insurance industry as a prime example of special interests plaguing the Georgia law making body. As of January 2017, Georgia had the third highest auto insurance rate in the nation, the previous years, Georgia has been seen as having the highest auto insurance rates in the nation. Why has auto insurance increased in Georgia? Legislators, with full time careers in the auto insurance industry and special interest groups proposed that auto insurance agents need not report rate increases to the Georgia Insurance Commissioner for approval. The justification? Free market principles will lower auto insurance rates throughout Georgia. Did this endeavor succeed? No it did not. Rates increased, launching Georgia as a haven of unbelievable high auto insurance rates, consistently in the top three in the nation.

Beginning with the true statement that a semi-professional legislature decreases government spending, I ask at what cost? Do the people truly benefit from having a certain class of people making laws in the State of Georgia that bring profit to their own pockets rather than the residents of Georgia? I think not.

Georgia needs a professional legislature that pays well, and provides the dignity and prestige the office of a statesmen should hold. If this were to happen, men and women from more diverse backgrounds and career fields will be able to serve the State of Georgia and better serve and meet its residents’ needs. This will increase efficiency and effectiveness of the Georgia government. Yes, they will be paid a livable and deserving salary, but the increased pay for a more diverse legislature may lead to a more efficient legislature that can cut overall spending in other areas and increase revenue.

All in all, the semi-professional legislature is a more of a hindrance than a cut in spending. It permits special interests to control the state legislature, the law-making body, and use their position to benefit their professional career prospects. The idea of the semi-professional legislature prohibits the average citizen, educated or not, from even running for an office because upon victory, their employer would not allow them to take a third of the year off. This alleged cost efficient form of government is only hindering progress, discriminating against participation of the common citizen, and permitting special interest groups to impose their will on the State of Georgia to benefit their respective field rather than the resident of Georgia.

Greyson Oswalt-Smith is a political science major at Kennesaw State University who plans on going to law school. He enjoys being politically involved locally, and serves on the Sara Hightower Board of Trustees. He may be reached at