With Sunday sales and immigration, Georgia’s center of gravity shifts to suburbia

You may not have felt it, but the ground shifted in Georgia last week.

On a tectonic plate set in motion by 236 members of your Legislature, the state’s center of gravity slipped several miles north, out of Georgia’s rolling farmland and into the fringes of metro Atlanta.

State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, accepts congratulations after final passage of his controversial immigration bill, HB 87. AP/David Goldman

State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, accepts congratulations after final passage of his controversial immigration bill, HB 87. AP/David Goldman

It took a pair of disparate bills to point out the new fault line that now divides suburban and rural Republicans.

During the three-month session of the General Assembly, nothing spoke of suburban Atlanta’s growing clout like passage of the bill to permit the Sunday sale of packaged alcohol.

After a five-year fight, Republicans shook off opposition from a weakened conservative Christian lobby and embraced the concept of a well-lit beer aisle in the grocery store that can be visited after church.

Final passage in the 180-member House on Tuesday produced 40 “no” votes from Republicans. Of those, only seven came from metro Atlanta.

Blame the state’s changing population. In the past 10 years, Georgia grew by 1.5 million people — 18 percent, according to new census figures. Many of those new residents are Catholic or Episcopalian or Presbyterian or altogether unchurched, rather than Southern Baptist or Methodist.

And most new residents are two or three generations away from the traditions of farm life. Which has produced another change.

Nothing during the just-finished legislative session pointed out rural Georgia’s waning influence like its all-out — and unsuccessful — fight to escape the illegal immigration argument.

It would be hard to exaggerate the influence once wielded by rural lawmakers in the state Capitol. For 22 years, owners of pickup trucks were exempted from Georgia’s mandatory seat belt law because lawmakers were loath to inconvenience the farmer who might drive across a public road as he rolled from field to field.

The exemption ended last year. This year, farming interests declared that the stringent illegal immigration measure being contemplated by lawmakers would jeopardize a $69 billion industry — the state’s largest.

Their protests fell on deaf ears. Suburban ones.

House Bill 87 calls for expanding the authority of law enforcement to stop those suspected of illegal residency, and it would require most businesses to use a federal data base called E-Verify to screen new hires.

The bill’s author is state Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City. In the final Senate debate on the measure, the most urgent voices in favor of the measure represented metro Atlanta.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, declared that, as a registered nurse, she thought herself one of the most compassionate people in the Capitol. But emergency rooms in Gwinnett County were being swamped with illegal immigrants — something that needed to stop, she said.

Rural Republicans successfully pushed for some concessions in backroom negotiations but otherwise sat silently in the Senate chamber — which was no longer the place for public arguments about agriculture’s annual need for 87,000 temporary workers at $7.25 to $9 an hour.

John Bulloch, a southwest Georgia farmer and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was the loudest Republican opponent of HB 87. But in the end, he voted for it.

“I don’t like the E-Verify, but we’ll live with it,” he told a scrum of reporters after the vote. When asked whether agriculture was losing its clout in the Capitol, Bulloch was silent for a moment.

“Yeah. Yeah. There aren’t many more John Bullochs up here,” he said.

Bulloch was also the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 10, the Sunday sales bill. But even that can be explained in terms of a shift in Georgia’s political power.

He and other rural Republican senators argued the bill would permit local communities to preserve local traditions. In a rapidly suburbanizing Georgia, they declared that SB 10 was actually a bulwark against change, not a catalyst.

Suburban-rural tensions worry some Republicans. President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, was the first rural Republican elected to the Senate. “I keep telling our guys in the Senate, if all of our politics surround the metro area, eventually we will be in the minority again,” he said.

Gary Black, the new state agriculture commissioner, tells of an encounter with a GOP voter at a local barbecue during the early days of his campaign.

She asked what he was running for. Black told her.

“I’d love to vote for you, but I can’t,” the woman said. Why not? Black asked.

“I live in Rockdale County,” she said. They don’t have farms there.

Black assured the woman that the post he sought included many suburban duties — such as regulating pest control companies.

Under HB 87, Black has also been handed a most delicate task. He has been ordered to study whether Georgia farmers would benefit from a state-run guest-worker program.

The provision, added at the last minute, is a tacit admission that the arguments made by rural Republicans made an impression — even if they didn’t carry the day. Black has until January to study the issue. If necessary, he’ll make the case for a large — and legal — rural labor force to a suburban-driven Legislature in 2012.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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96 comments Add your comment

Tom E. Gunn

April 16th, 2011
3:14 pm

The arguement that an industry “NEEDED” an illegal work force is what got us in this prediciment to start with. (That along wiht NAFTA). The farmers may need them a couple of months at a time, the rest of us in the north have to live with expanding schools, watching our hospitals run out of business, and seeing our cities and towns “hispanicized”. We are tired. This legislature and Gov did not go far enough, and we will keep voting until we find those that will!

Tom

April 16th, 2011
3:36 pm

“weakened conservative Christian lobby”..??????

You’re gonna burn in HAYULL for that, Jim. ;-)

I'm not racist, but Tom E. Gunn is.

April 16th, 2011
3:39 pm

Anyone who thinks the supporters of this legislation are not racist, just look at the comment above.

Tom E. Gunn

April 16th, 2011
3:41 pm

No, I am a LEGAL american!

Last Man Standing

April 16th, 2011
3:57 pm

Tom E. Gunn:

To many of these loutheads here, any criticism of illegal aliens aitomatically makes one a racist. They have learned well the democraps talking points and buzzwords. It’s bad enough that you want to protect America’s borders so whatever you do, make no criticism of Hussein O. They will call for your head!

Last Man Standing

April 16th, 2011
3:58 pm

automatically!

Sorry for the type!

jm fay

April 16th, 2011
3:59 pm

Wont GA need a waiver to run a state run guest worker program? UT does.

Why do you need one for ag work? so you can get out of paying the h2b fees to bring in ag workers from out of the country? That would include permanent housing including a kitchen, transport to and from the job, transport to and from where the person normally lives, etc. Seems like you dont want to pay the full costs of the workers but would rather pay an illegal a lower wage and stick the other costs to the taxpayer. Those costs being medical, education, etc.

Hawkeye21

April 16th, 2011
4:00 pm

“Legal” American doesn’t necessairly = “Intelligent” or “Good” american. (Heck -the jails are FULL of legal americans!).

Though I too agree that there is an illegal immigration issue in this country, I am sickened that it seems to make some citizens feel that they now have carte blanche to be open in their racism. Not even 30 minutes ago I found (and took a picture) a billboard sign where “NO MORE BAMBINO’S” was spray painted.

One only displays their ignorance when the communication of an opposing political view is reduced to racial slurs.

Oh – but I guess that’s one of the perks that comes with being “legal”.

Kyle

April 16th, 2011
4:03 pm

I agree with Tom E. Gunn, this legislation was needed and may have not gone far enough. I disagree with Jim Galloway saying this a shift to suburbia, I see this as constituents who have been absolutely fed up with the way government has been run and now demand our legislators to vote on what they got elected to vote on. This is the people kicking the lobbyist (yes, you Farmers) out of the political process and has nothing to do with racism. The illegal workers and the companies that hired them circumvented the laws the rest of us abide by. We abide by the laws and we pay the taxes that farmers and big business avoided. We will continue vote and continue to watch how our elected officials are voting.

Tom

April 16th, 2011
4:12 pm

Some folks should research how Mexico treats illegal entrants from their South (i.e., Central and South America).

Makes the U.S. look downright ‘open’ in comparison.

eatmotacos

April 16th, 2011
4:29 pm

@Tom

The politicians perceive the voters as simpletons, based on what they have gotten away with in the past. The whole immigration affair was theater, in the same genre as professional wrestling.
They know very well that anything short of prosecuting and fining the employers, is a waste of time and money.

Compare the resources required to send over one deputy to arrest the CEO of a chicken processor, or rug mill, to the number it will require to arrest the thousands of illegal aliens they employ. Also compare the amount of jail space one CEO will need, verses thousands of illegal aliens.

Give the employer jail time plus a fine for every illegal alien they employ. Say, $5,000 and 6 months for each count, and 30 days to comply, and the problem will be solved.

The voters have the choice to either continue down the same path with this group of con artist, or purge the system and start all over. I vote for the latter.

I'm a Republican

April 16th, 2011
4:39 pm

During the discussions on immigration reform, I heard/read comments about: A. The need to protect jobs; economic growth; fiscal responsibity; global markets & international investment. B. Mandate government; burden small business; grow enforcement; increase tax spending.
Items A came from Democrats
Items B came from Republicans

angela hernandez

April 16th, 2011
4:41 pm

Ppl r just so racist let em stay here n pay taxes dnt break up happi families. I’m legal citizen but I will say now tbat I am embarrassed to say that I am american. Wake up we r all illegal here

greenlady0

April 16th, 2011
4:46 pm

It’s all the fault of them dam yankees tehy moved here wanted to make their own coctails for sunday brunch instead of going to the Colonial Restuarant after church to have a civilized bourbon on the rocks…and then they took away our farm help years ago and now that we found some other folks willing to work like slaves they took that away from us too. Life just ain’t fair! Hopefully its not racist or hypocritical any longer either…

eatmotacos

April 16th, 2011
4:50 pm

I don’t know if angela hernandez is real or contrived, but she is representative of the impact that hundreds of thousands of people with an average of a fifth grade education, will have on our schools.
Continue down the current path and the only jobs available to Georgians, will be plucking chickens.

Centrist

April 16th, 2011
5:15 pm

Unlike Galloway, I don’t “blame the state’s changing population”, but applaud the rejection of past power abuses by the rural House Speaker Tom Murphy.

I’m pleased with the shift on both counts. Also glad the R’s pulled the tax bill when it was exposed as a tax increase in the middle class. As much as the AJC and other Democrats disliked this legislative session, I think a majority of the electorate made up by R’s, Independents, and Libertarians is quite pleased.

Tallulah

April 16th, 2011
5:21 pm

As a brown person, I’m very interested to know what would make an officer suspect a person driving or riding in a car is illegal. Are they going to pull over everyone that looks Hispanic? What about illegal people from Ireland? Are they going to pull over everyone that looks Irish? Are they going to pull over everyone? Will there be roadblocks to make sure everyone is a US citizen?

If farmers and other business need so much help, why don’t they make it easier to come here legally to work? During the industrial revolution this country needed a lot of immigrants to come and work (for slave wages I might add) and they brought them to this country legally. I do believe a country should have control over who crosses their border but it makes more sense to make it legal for people to come here to work than to just look the other way when they sneak here. But I don’t hear anyone talking about that, not even the Hispanics that it would effect. They would rather demand people look the other way than to make it easier for hard-working people to come to this country legally and be treated like an asset instead of a pariah.

NO on HB87

April 16th, 2011
5:46 pm

Unterman also said she can tell there’s less foreign people when she’s drving around. And how can you tell someone is foreign based on how they look?

She flat out admitted to racial profiling. That’s what is behind this bill.

Centrist

April 16th, 2011
5:52 pm

ONLY criminal suspects need show proof of citizenship.

The United States has the MOST liberal legal immigration quotas of any country in the world. The problem is that demand far outstrips the liberal quotas, and ILLEGAL immigration has become an epidemic. Associated crime, welfare, food stamps, free medical care, education on the backs of taxpaying citizens has resulted in a backlash. Employers capitalizing on illegal immigrants and those involved in suspected criminal activities are being targeted.

Last Man Standing

April 16th, 2011
5:56 pm

angela hernandez:

“I’m legal citizen but I will say now tbat I am embarrassed to say that I am american”

I’ve read several of your posts and am not convinced that you are what you represent yourself to be. That being said, if you are indeed a Hispanic who has legally immigrated here and find yourself “embarrassed”, you are free to return to your country of origin.

Last Man Standing

April 16th, 2011
5:58 pm

NO on HB87:

I believe you need to pick another name. The legislation has been passed and the Governor says he will sign it. Deal with it.

Last Man Standing

April 16th, 2011
6:04 pm

NO on HB87:

If you are searching for a murder suspect and he is a white male, he is identified as such. The same applies if the suspect is a black male, Hispanic male, Chinese male or Japanese male. The police would be wasting one helluva lot of time and effort if that aspect of “profiling” wasn’t used.

If one was searching for illegal immigrants, you’d have a very low success factor in checking either white or black males.

None of that matters because you’re just an “open borders” kind of liberal guy.

David

April 16th, 2011
6:20 pm

There is no war on drugs in mexico as such a war would destroy their economy as they get 30 to 50 billion a year in foreign currency and we send them 500 million a year in aid which goes primarily to the Mexican army which is corrupt and in a war with the drug cartels for powe and control of the drug trade in Mexico. How stupid are we?

Last Man Standing

April 16th, 2011
6:33 pm

David:

I believe I heard someone say that Atlanta is the new Mexican border with regard to the distribution of Mexican drugs?

td

April 16th, 2011
6:37 pm

Tallulah

April 16th, 2011
5:21 pm
As a brown person, I’m very interested to know what would make an officer suspect a person driving or riding in a car is illegal. Are they going to pull over everyone that looks Hispanic? What about illegal people from Ireland? Are they going to pull over everyone that looks Irish? Are they going to pull over everyone? Will there be roadblocks to make sure everyone is a US citizen?

To try to answer your questions: Right now if a police officer pulls over an person for speeding, called out for domestic abuse call or some other traffic offence, has a road block to set up to catch drug drivers or even someone staggering on the sidewalk they are not allowed to ask for the legal status. Now under the new law they will be able to ask and check. Common sence will tell the officer if the person can not speak or speaks poor English then they may want to check. This is what Jason Carter’s amendment was trying to stop. He tried to say law enforcement could not ask or check for any misdemeanor offense.

No the police are not going to come up to a person on the street and ask but they are now going to be able to ask and check now in accordance with their day to day duties. I am sure some people will want to call this “Racial profiling” but those people are losers.

Stew

April 16th, 2011
6:43 pm

I will gladly pay more for peanuts and other stuff grown in Georgia to get rid of the illegal aliens.

jconservative

April 16th, 2011
7:26 pm

Tom E. Gunn April 16th, 2011
3:41 pm
“No, I am a LEGAL american.”

Actually Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were LEGAL Americans. Claiming to be a legal American is not much of a statement.

Country of Origin? My country of origin is the USA. I think the bill just passed and about to be signed by the governor is a mistake. Instead of growing the economy of Georgia, it will reduce the economy of Georgia.

Oh, and the illegals. They will stay here. As Reagan proved in 1986, the only way to get rid of illegals is to make them legal.

Sam Bennett

April 16th, 2011
7:26 pm

Beth Merkleson must have been illegal. They passed HB 87 ans she disappeared.

Last Man Standing

April 16th, 2011
7:51 pm

jconservative:

“Oh, and the illegals. They will stay here. Instead of growing the economy of Georgia, it will reduce the economy of Georgia.”

Those two statements appear to be a contradiction. If they will stay, as you say, how will that reduce the economy?

Last Man Standing

April 16th, 2011
7:56 pm

Sam Bennett:

That is too funny!

Last Man Standing

April 16th, 2011
7:57 pm

Stew:

I agree, Steve, let the rough side drag!

double

April 16th, 2011
8:12 pm

If the person speaks poor English common sence will tell the officer he may want to check legal status. Sense,since.cents.Scent if it smells like a skunk could be LMS, or most any conservative pole cat.

eatmotacos

April 16th, 2011
8:33 pm

HB 87 is less than worthless, and it is by design. The voters are so obsessed with trading childish insults, they have lost touch with reality. That is exactly where the chicken pluckers, and their ilk want you – lost in space.

The chicken pluckers, et al., have sucessfully bribed the politicians, “Rural Republicans successfully pushed for some concessions in backroom negotiations…” Concessions in backroom negotiations means that they completely gutted the bill.

What this means is that they you, the taxpayers, will have to continue to bear the burden of sustaining their “immigrants”. Nothing has changed. You have been duped again.

Allowing the chicken pluckers, et al., to recruit 100s of thousands of illegal alliens, and to dump them on the taxpayers to sustain, is creating the same atmosphere of lawlessness that exist where they came from – the same environment that spawn the drug cartels, who are now here.

This is all happening because the voters are letting it happen. The crooks only exist, because you allow them too. Throw all of these career politicians out of office, and replace them with someone
who is really on your team. When they get serious about addressing this issue, they will focus on the employers.

double

April 16th, 2011
8:50 pm

@eatmotocos I agree with you 100%.One thing and the most important you overlook.We need a true 2 party system.No we do not have.

td

April 16th, 2011
9:08 pm

double

April 16th, 2011
8:50 pm
@eatmotocos I agree with you 100%.One thing and the most important you overlook.We need a true 2 party system.No we do not have.

We have a true two party system. The RINO’s and the Tea Party. The true battles are in the primary not the general election.

Pride- more

April 16th, 2011
9:36 pm

“… And all the law … Faith and charity”

Not Blind

April 16th, 2011
9:46 pm

Next year maybe we can get them out of our schools.

We will never really get control of immigration until the 14th Amendment is repealed.

eatmotacos

April 16th, 2011
10:23 pm

@ Not Blind

The shortsighted sociopaths, who are destroying their country for profit, use the 14th amendment as a recruiting tool. Until the people wrestle control of the politicians away from the gift bearing lobbyist, they will never gain control. Prosecuting politicians who blantantly betray the public trust, by using public office for personal gain, would also be a step in the right direction.

Inman Park Boy

April 16th, 2011
10:26 pm

I’d be much more inclined to have an open attitude toward illegal immigrants if they were coming here to be Americans, accept American culture, speak American English, and generally get over this La Raza crap.

td

April 16th, 2011
10:28 pm

eatmotacos

April 16th, 2011
10:23 pm

Do not disagree with you but will add this. The people control their own destiny and until they wake up on both sides of the isle and take back their parties with grassroots efforts and start running outsiders against these career guys in the primaries things will not change. Most of these congressional districts are Gerrymandered and the current party in charge will get re elected so it must be done from the inside of the party from the grassroots level.

Tom

April 16th, 2011
10:29 pm

Now that we have passed HB87, a large number of ILLEGALS will voluntarily leave and go find another state that has NOT passed an immigration law. Perhaps we will lower our total of ILLEGALS from 425 thousand to 300 thousand, that would be an improvement! Also this conversation about profiling is nothing but BS, the only argument for those who want open borders and for us to continue to go deeper in debt!! Retired law enforcement.

deegee

April 16th, 2011
10:44 pm

Tom gets the award for creative use of ALL CAPS. Thank God he’s RETIRED!

Tom

April 16th, 2011
10:51 pm

Enter your comments here

deegee

April 16th, 2011
10:52 pm

Think about it, Inman Park Boy. If you come here as an illegal alien and have no way of adjusting your immigration status so as to become a legal alien, why would you invest in the American dream? You send your money back home so that everything you worked for won’t be yanked away from you at any given moment.

shrimp po' boy

April 16th, 2011
11:23 pm

Can’t help but notice that no one has touched what “I’m A Republican” said at 16:39. That is a rare feat, whoever you are. I congratulate you on your success, and I hope that your realisation is the dawning of your overall awareness of how full of it the Republican Party is.

Tom

April 16th, 2011
11:28 pm

deegee, sounds like you believe it is okay for ILLEGALS to send their money back to Mexico and to not spend it in the US? deegee, are you an ILLEGAL who somehow got hold of a PC? You are probably some LIBERAL BED-WETTER OBAMA LOVER!!!! By the way what is a deegee, sounds like something a dog would leave on the yard when it finished its business!

eatmotacos

April 16th, 2011
11:52 pm

@td
Getting rid of career politicians, who have zero principals, is mandatory. How can you possibly do worse? It should be perfectly clear to anyone paying attention, that Georgia’s citizens are being played for fools. Selectively enforcing our laws, to benefit the chicken pluckers, et al., at everyone else’s expense, is no different from what is happening on the other side of the border. How long until they start negotiating with the drug cartels?

double

April 17th, 2011
12:18 am

Look close at photo of Matt Ramsey being congratulated on passage of HB87.Good photo,happy man.

dmcsga

April 17th, 2011
1:17 am

How is that WHITE / Caucasian American always speak for other races and how the law is suppose to work????? It’s just like a healthy person says what a handicapped person is going through, just because you post some handicap parking signs, bathrooms and ramps, you think the problem is non existent and they shouldn’t be complaining.

The playing field is NOT level, America is more racist than ever and it starts with the system and law enforcement. Who drafted the law, who is behind the law? The last time I checked it was White Americans that receive the most “welfare” from the system which is $212 billion in government assistance, $105 billion to blacks and $69 billion to Hispanics. So who drains what.

Anyhow, I don’t mind E-Verify, my problem is the law enforcement bill because Police Officers already racially profile individuals and this law now will make it legal because they will use every possible loophole to use it. Everybody is aware how unjust law enforcement is except those “privileged”. Georgia basically declared open season on any non-white American. I can see it back fire and there is no need to try to make Georgia more friendly for businesses, I can guarantee you that businesses will not look to Georgia to bring their foreign companies here. Georgians were already crying because Volkswagen decided to put their plant in Tennessee. Make your bed, lie in it