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Ga. Anti-Free Speech Bill Dies; Attacks on Jobless Workers and Welfare Applicants Pass

Union-Tea Party rally in GA 3-29-12

Flanked by union activists, Debbie Dooley of the tea party speaks at a press conference against Georgia's anti-free-speech bill.

The Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature ended its session. In a victory for working families—and for the Bill of Rights—the anti-free speech bill (S.B. 469), that brought union, faith and tea party activists together (see photo) to protest the proposal to subject picketers to big fines, died. But not before lawmakers, in a last-ditch attempt to pass the bill in some form, stripped the picketing provisions and turned S.B. 469 into a purely anti-union bill that would affect dues deduction for public employees. But the bipartisan coalition opposed to the S.B. 469 held firm, and lawmakers decided not to take up the bill.

But the victory was bittersweet. Republicans still managed to pass bills that cut jobless benefits severely and require some welfare applicants to pass drug tests.

Under the passed bills now on the governor’s desk, welfare applicants who fail an initial drug test would be ineligible until their tests are clean; failing a third test would make the applicant ineligible for a year. Jobless workers could receive benefits for 14 to 20 weeks, rather than the 26 weeks possible now. As the National Employment Law Project says, “This cut is particularly devastating to Georgia’s unemployed since Georgia already has the stingiest benefit formula in the country with regards to weeks of eligibility.”

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