A perceptive reader once noted that unlike the Johnny-One-Note columnists who are so predictable in their liberal or conservative bias, you had to read three paragraphs into my column to find out who my target was going to be.

I mention that to say that when you see the names of State Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, and State Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, in this space you (and they) can usually expect a keel-hauling over their nefarious voucher schemes to divert taxpayer money from public schools to private schools. It is Robin Hood in reverse: Rob the poor and give it to the rich.

But not this time. This time these two guys are on the side of angels. (See? Third paragraph. The reader and I rest our case.) Let’s start with Carson who was instrumental in the passage of legislation in 2018 to address distracted driving by requiring Georgia motorists to use hands-free mobile phone technology when they drive.

Since the bill became law, Georgia has experienced a significant reduction in year-over-year traffic fatalities for the first time in more than 10 years. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

Fines for violations range from $50 for a first offense, $100 for the second and $150 for a third. But there is a loophole the Marietta Republican is trying to close.

The law currently allows those who are charged for the first time to appear in court with a device or proof of purchase of a device, such as a hands-free phone mount or Bluetooth technology, to convince the judge that they won’t be holding their phone to their ear yakking away while rocketing up I-75 at the speed of sound and endangering the lives of the rest of us.

The court is required to let the individual off if this is a first offense and if the miscreant can provide proof of purchase. Carson wants to get rid of this provision. He says it is possible for people caught in multiple locations to get out of being fined because the courts can’t keep track across all the various jurisdictions. Carson says closing the loophole can save lives. I wish him success.

While this is going on, Rep Setzler is pushing a piece of legislation near and dear to my heart. H.B. 290 would require that hospitals and nursing homes allow visits from loved ones during a “declared public health emergency,” like the current COVID-19 pandemic; otherwise, their operating license would not be renewed.

The restrictions now in place came about in March when the pandemic hit the state full force and hospitals and nursing homes began denying visitation. Gov. Brian Kemp has eased the restrictions some but Setzler thinks more can be done.

His bill would allow at least two family members or friends to visit patients for no less than two hours each day and would prevent anyone from suing a hospital or nursing home if they got sick or were harmed because patients were allowed to have visitors.

Setzler’s efforts are up-close-and-personal with me. It was late one Saturday afternoon in mid-November when our doctor decided my wife required hospitalization. After emergency room procedures with no visitors, she was admitted to the hospital but with only one visitor a day. Whether it was 12 hours or 12 minutes, that counted as the one and only daily visit.

Before we could work out the logistics on who would visit and when, she was transferred to a local Assisted Living facility with a 14-day quarantine period. I got to see her for the first time since she had left home for 30 minutes with a plastic divider between us. According to the facility’s rules, it would be another week before I could visit again even though she was tested daily for the virus and was found negative each time.

In the interim, it was determined she needed a Memory Care facility. That required another transfer and another quarantine period. I saw her once more on her visit to one of the hospital’s clinics before the move. I was not allowed in but managed to grasp her hand briefly as she entered. Not long after, she passed away. After 62 years of marriage, we had spent barely 30 minutes in each other’s presence in the last two months of her life. It is hard to write about and is an emotional wound that won’t heal anytime soon.

Would Ed Setzler’s bill have made a difference for my family and me? It is a moot point for us but I pray it will for anyone facing a similar experience to ours in the future.

I applaud both State Reps. John Carson and Ed Setzler for their good works. Their legislative efforts are worthy endeavors and while I suspect passage of either or both bills is no slam dunk, I give them high marks for trying.

Now, does this mean they will never be in my editorial doghouse again? You (and they) will have to keep reading this space to find out. Hint: The third paragraph will be the clue.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at dick@dickyarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb


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