Monica Matthews is radio talk show host, author, Grammy-nominated vocal artist, political and business consultant. She has a weekly podcast and an on-air show hosted at WSB Radio in Atlanta on Sundays. These are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of AllOnGeorgia.
It’s been a week since the Ga Senate killed what was deemed by many to be the most important piece of legislation of the 2018 session, House Bill 605, The Hidden Predator Act.
Representative Jason Spencer had the heart and fortitude to carry this legislation again, but this time to its complete remedy.
What began as the ability for victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring their predators to civil justice, was now turning toward the entities who harbored them. Entities who willfully covered the grave sin of murdering a child’s soul would now have a standard by which they could be held accountable, civilly.
After sailing through the House Of Representatives unanimously 170-0, those of us supporting Representative Spencer’s tireless efforts were astonished by what appeared to be the willful neglect on behalf of Ga Senate leadership.
Fifteen days after crossover day, the Senate finally decided to hear testimony. But to think those fifteen days were spent with the bill collecting dust, would be a misunderstanding of the quiet, dark corridor molestation that occurred on behalf of the very entities who stood to answer for the sins of their past. The sins that were already awaiting a day in court thanks to Representative Spencer’s first championing of this bill in 2015.
The Hidden Predator Act of 2015 brought out plaintiffs who finally thought it was safe to tell their story. That someone finally cared. That their lives and the fraud perpetuated by others mattered, even at 40 plus years of age. That someone in the state legislature cared about providing an avenue for them to seek justice for unspeakable theft of their lives.
In a valiant effort to give the appearance of interest in HB605, the Senate Judiciary Committee listened to over four hours of testimony on behalf of lobbying entities against this legislation.
Along with the ever-strengthened and opponent of all things Constitutional mafia, Chamber Of Commerce, they appeared to be against the possibility of justice because of the monetary and public scrutiny, it could cost their respective churches, scout troops, sports teams who were all actively lobbying to have their voices heard and victims’ silenced.
I was the only victim who spoke that day. I implored the committee to lay aside their ill-conceived prejudices, backdoor conversations & special interests and join Rep Spencer and the entire House Of Representatives in allowing justice to prevail.
In an astounding display of professional conflicts of interest and flagrant disregard for legislative propriety, four of the Senate Judiciary Committee members had current monetary interests and civic affiliations with the entities seeking to undermine the bill.
A recusal would have been appropriate. Instead, the Senate Judiciary did exactly what I was told would not happen by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, the bill was gutted and left for dead.
In a pathetic display of legislative shenanigans, the Senate Judiciary passed a gutted, naked substitute to the floor. It deemed victims too old to be victims and left the burden of proof so high for plaintiffs that you would nearly need a signed confession, in blood, blessed by the Pope, to see a day in court.
It’s worth noting, seventeen of the forty-six states who have already passed this type of legislation have a lesser burden of proof. Georgia would have been unprecedented with any civil laws relating to this issue in the entire US. The Ga Senate burdened the civil nature of this bill with criminal standards.
In the end, the Senate Judiciary decided our judicial system was not capable of fulfilling their task of allowing for justice to be sought and served. Compromised of mostly Christians, Senate Judiciary left the bill without a single tooth.
On Sine Die, the day bills live or die, Senator Elena Parent, a Democrat, took to the well to ask that her colleagues please pass the substitute of “breadcrumbs” off the floor so it might see the process through sine die and revive, with teeth even if at the midnight hour.
As the legislative process goes, the bill made its way back to the House where Rep Spencer stood his ground in the face of systemic leadership opposition to say no thank you to the breadcrumbs. This is where things get interesting.
The House moved swiftly to assemble the conference committee that would now be needed to ensure the bill could be restored to its original strength. The Senate, however, did exactly what they were instructed to do from the beginning. Whether by conscience or creed, sheer self & professional interest or political gain, the state of Ga and 57 victims watched in horror as the Senate took forty-five minutes too long to decide whether or not to move to hear the new ‘rendition’. Rules state two hours are needed to do so.
At approximately 9:50 pm the House asked for Conference Committee, Senator Greg Kirk carrying the Senate substitute asks for Conference Committee, Lt. Governor Cagle insists the House sent it over at 10:47 and they would need to suspend rules that mandate a two-hour window to revisit the bill.
In a final death vote of 26-27 we watched the bill take its last breath on sine die. The voice of HB605 was silenced along with the 57 Georgians hoping theirs would finally be heard.
Most of the names who voted against the motion for reconsideration of HB 605 are Republicans. Many will say the bill was confusing. That too, was part of the willful process to ensure politics won over people.
Senator John Kennedy, whose law partner handles risk management for one of the entities known for harboring pedophiles, along with Lt. Gov Cagle, would play a powerful role in robbing the hopes of Georgia victims whose justice hung in the balance.
As an overcomer of what can be a latency unimaginable, shame unspoken and a lifelong process of taking the years back the locusts have eaten, I can honestly say, I am grieved beyond measure to have witnessed the intentional injury hurled upon victims. I am more grieved that Senate leadership will not take a single ounce of responsibility of playing politics with the lives of others.
Time matters. The greatest weapon the legislative system and process has is time. People often ask me how great bills die, my answer is now informed with the knowledge I witnessed first hand, an abhorrent evil that lurks in the heart of man and the power of running out the clock just to say ‘you tried’.
The only solace I take is the knowledge that a man of Rep Spencer’s caliber and courage is taking up the cause of decency and valor at our Capitol. There simply aren’t many like him left. He single-handedly stood patiently and fervently, against every force of opposition that came against him. He never gave up.
The victims of Ga would say thank you, Representative Spencer. Sometimes it takes one person to care. To put themselves on the line. To take up our cross with us, to signal to us, there’s still good in the earth. Thank you for exercising your words as something more than a campaign slogan.
Thank you for exhibiting character and class at a time most would have hung their opponents out to dry. You sir, stand on your own merit and your constituency should be honored to have you represent their interests as a proven leader.
As for gubernatorial candidate Casey Cagle, I would say, if you want the fraternal order of politics over people to cease, I suggest you pour your time, talent and treasure into candidates who can stand in the face of EVERY opposition as Rep Spencer has and those who have the fortitude to own when something as vital as this legislation dies on their watch.