published Friday, March 21st, 2014

And another thing ...Tobacco ban, gun laws and those pesky voter rules

All Or Nothing Peach State

The dichotomy that is Georgia was on full display earlier this week when, within a 48-hour period, the Georgia Board of Regents voted to ban all forms of tobacco on the campuses of its 31 colleges and universities while state lawmakers considered whether to allow licensed gun owners to go packing in schools, bars and churches.

No slam on Georgia; indeed, the divergent actions are a microcosm of the country. Liberals believe a governing body knows better than the individuals it governs what's best for them and act accordingly. Conservatives, acting on what they believe is the will of the people, try to give the people what they want.

The muddy middle, where there might be real-world solutions, is forgotten.

Take the tobacco ban. For many of us, if the United Nations got together and outlawed tobacco products on planet Earth, they wouldn't be far enough away. But that's not reality.

"Our aim with this policy is to preserve and improve the health, comfort and environment of employees and any persons occupying USG (University System of Georgia) facilities," Marion Fedrick, USG vice chancellor for human resources, said in a news release.

Any persons, that is, except those who use tobacco products.

Tennessee Board of Regents schools, more reasonably, prohibit smoking in buildings and in vehicles owned, leased or operated by a Regents school. Some Regents schools have added more stringent rules. The University of Tennessee system schools, in addition, prohibit smoking within 25 feet of doorways and windows.

The Georgia ban, which will be enforced 24 hours a day and seven days a week and includes athletic and other USG-hosted events, goes into effect Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, on the Peach State's final day of its legislative year Thursday, it wrestled with a sweeping House bill that would allow licensed gun owners to mix their firearms with alcohol, let employees have them available for potential shootouts in schools and permit licensed churchgoers to haul them into contentious deacons' meetings.

A Senate bill would have retained the ban in bars and given religious leaders more discretion as to whether parishioners could come packing.

For many, it wouldn't be too soon if they banned all handguns. But that's not reality, either. Because those who shouldn't have them -- and do bad things with them -- would always get them.

But couldn't we do without them, at least, in bars, schools and churches? That seems reasonable.

De-Frauding Voting

Raise your hand if you knew the federal election registration form requires only that prospective voters sign a statement declaring they are citizens. Never mind if they aren't.

Didn't think so.

Kansas and Arizona didn't think that was enough and sued the United States Election Assistance Commission to enforce laws requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship. In a rare non-rubber stamp decision by a federal judge concerning a federal agency, the states were victorious and the commission now must add state-specific instructions requiring a birth certificate, passport or other documentation to the national form.

Since most voters in both states -- and probably in all states -- register with state forms, officials of the two states said the availability of the federal form created a loophole in trying to enforce proof-of-citizenship requirements.

"This is a really big victory, not just for Kansas and Arizona but for all 50 states," Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach told The Associated Press. "Kansas has paved the way for all states to enact proof-of-citizenship requirements."

Arizona Democrat state Sen. Steve Gallardo, in opposition, trotted out the same tired, nonsensical arguments brought up in Tennessee when the Volunteer State several years ago passed a law requiring voters -- with many exceptions -- to have a photo ID.

Speaking from the usual playbook, he said the requirements would make it harder for minorities and the elderly to register and was aimed at weeding out voters who were "progressive and liberal ... particularly when it comes to issues like medical marijuana, same-sex marriage, more progressive-type issues."

Just why people who desire to use medical marijuana or who are involved in same-sex marriages wouldn't have proof-of-citizenship documents -- more than, say, recreational marijuana users or those who believe a marriage should be between one man and one woman -- was not explained.

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