During the first meeting, held jointly by Turner and state Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-Cartersville), Turner told residents and political players in attendance that he had been told this year’s session would be “non-controversial.”
“We’re playing defense right now, because we’re afraid of the state turning purple, we’re playing defense right now, because we’re afraid the Democrats are going to come in and somehow beat one of our Republican candidates for Senate, and beat our governor,” Turner said. “For me, I think that were missing a major opportunity. As conservatives we have 119 members in the House … We have the opportunity right now to do something and be bold.”
“I will second what he’s saying,” Thompson said during the meeting at the BridgeMill Fire Station. “They didn’t send us down there so we could just sit and watch and play defense.”
The second meeting Saturday was set for Turner and state Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) at the Hickory Flat Library, but had to be moved to a Cherokee County fire station nearby because of a power outage at the library.
During the first meeting, Canton resident Susie Tlacil asked if the legislature would be considering any sort of “fair tax” system to replace state income tax in 2014.
Turner said that was one of the bold actions he’d like to see.
“I will try to push that as hard as I can,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to fight for real tax reform.”
But although he said he planned to try to push that, Turner didn’t appear optimistic that it would be an easy task to tackle in 2014, because of the nature of this year’s session.
Health care reform
One action Turner said he and other House members are considering this session is the Health Care Freedom and Affordable Care Act Non-Compliance Act. Turner worked on the bill over the summer with other state reps, including Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock).
The bill aims to bar state agencies from taking part in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Turner, who regards the health care law as a tax on being alive, said one activity the bill would eliminate was the University of Georgia’s Affordable Care Act navigators program.
Should Turner’s bill pass, he said the country could begin a conversation about how to replace the enacted health care law.
“There are other alternatives,” he said. “We have other alternatives on the table. We just can’t get to the point where we can have that debate until we get out of Obamacare.”
Cherokee County resident Steve Morris had an idea to replace the law.
“How ’bout nothing?” said Morris, who plans to run for Cherokee commission chairman in 2014. “I’m serious. This is something I have a problem with our conservative Gold Dome members. There’s this idea that somehow the government is our nanny.”
Morris asked Turner if he believed in “nullifying” the Affordable Care Act.
“No, I don’t,” Turner said. “If we carry a nullification bill, what ends up happening is exactly what’s happened to this point: We will go to the court, it’ll get overruled, they’ll claim supremacy clause. What we have to do is be smarter and adopt a different way to attack it.”
Turner said that smarter way is House Bill 707.
“It’s not nullification. It’s non-compliance. It says, ‘The federal law exists, we just are going to ignore it,’” he said.
Some at the meeting, though, criticized Turner for not simply telling the federal government that the health care law was null and void.
“That’s a compromise,” said Cherokee resident Jack Staver. “You’re comprising with the feds if you do that, instead of saying ‘No, we’re not going to do this because we don’t have to.’”
Turner said he agreed with Staver’s logic, but a bill stating the Affordable Care Act was null and void would be doomed to be struck down in court.
“It’s important for me — and I think it’s important for the people I represent — that my actions are doing something useful, long-lasting and impactful when it comes to fighting Obama and his policies.”
Carolyn Cosby, head of Georgians for Healthcare Freedom, a group aiming to stop the health care law, defended Turner.
“There has to be a method for nullification,” said Cosby, who also chairs the Canton T.E.A. Party. “(Turner’s bill) goes as far as it can go now.”
Other local bills in the works
Several residents in attendance also told Turner of bills they were hoping to sway legislators to adopt in 2014.
Amanda Beckmann, head of anti family-violence group the PEACH Project, said she was working with lawmakers to require doctors to have regular training to detect family violence in patients. A second bill she said she’s working on would mandate that strangulation always be a felony in Georgia.
“Strangulation in the state of Georgia is typically a misdemeanor; it’s a simple battery charge,” Beckmann said. “Fifty percent of victims that are coming into our shelters (have been strangled before).”
Staver said he had been meeting with lawmakers to discuss the Protecting Georgia Sovereignty Act, a bill which would make it so the state could essentially reject federal laws.
“It puts us back in the proper perspective where we run the government, the government doesn’t run us,” he said. “It’s us telling (them), ‘No, you can’t come down here and mandate what (we’re) going to do.’”
Turner said he was also working on a bill to require federal dollars coming into local agencies, such as schools, to go through the state legislature’s budget process before being spent. The purpose of the bill, which will require Georgia lawmakers to approve local federal spending, is so state legislators can be held accountable for how the funds are spent, Turner said.