11 Questions for Georgia’s Candidates for Governor

Ted Metz (L)

Ted Metz Georgia Governor Candidate Election 2018
Ted Metz

Photograph courtesy of Ted Metz Campaign

Libertarian Ted Metz is a Navy veteran and worked in the insurance and telecom industries before retiring. He’s the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Georgia and previously ran for state insurance commissioner in 2014.

1. The state has only recently started investing in transit, and at negligible amounts relative to spending on roads. What types of transit projects—bus, rail, commuter rail—does Georgia need and how much would the state contribute to building them?

Governor Deal signed H.B. 930 in May, allocating $100 million dollars for transportation infrastructure improvements for rail, light rail, highway, and roadway improvements. It would be prudent to stick with this plan and closely track the progress and budget of these projects before putting taxpayers deeper into debt for improvements that are already underway. Read the bill—the majority of issues have been addressed. The majority of items of my list of needs for improvement are covered in the plan.

2. Healthcare advocates have called Medicaid expansion a smart strategy to improve healthcare for Georgians living on low incomes, keep rural hospitals open, and create jobs. Would you expand Medicaid? And if not, what specifically would you do to address the coverage gap and crisis facing many rural hospitals?

I retired from a career in healthcare insurance. My experienced, reasoned, and rational perspective on Medicaid expansion is that the shortcomings of the healthcare system will only get worse with increased spending and increased government involvement resulting from the qualifications and stipulations attached to the program.

There are many other innovative approaches to solving the healthcare coverage and delivery dilemma that would result in lower costs with better outcomes and higher levels of care. Among the solutions are free-market clinical models, eliminating certificates of needs for competitive facilities, allowing nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to prescribe a wider range of medications, access to telemedicine, just to name a few. Enabling more private insurance collectives and establishing a state pool for high-risk/high-use would also be of benefit to Georgians.

It would be possible to take Medicaid block grants without the qualifications and stipulations that comes with Medicaid expansion and use those funds to bolster rural hospitals and clinics and to supplement medical practices for providing healthcare to those with limited resources. Also, enhancing tax deductions for charitable contributions to rural hospitals and healthcare facilities is a legislative possibility.

If Georgia elects an attorney general with a strong constitution and backbone, we could reduce overall healthcare costs with repealing exemptions from and judicious enforcement of the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act, and the Robinson-Patman Act (monopoly, restraint of free trade, price discrimination, respectively) granted to industries that make up the healthcare system and especially the drug manufacturers.

And of course, whatever can be done to clean up environmental pollutants in out food supply, needs to. As a state, we need to encourage our farmers to grow food for local distribution, not just the monoculture cash crops. Healthy food and a clean environment will go a very long way in reducing the reasons we seek healthcare in the first place.

3. When Governor Nathan Deal leaves office, arguably the most impactful part of his legacy will be a package of policies that starting overhauling Georgia’s criminal justice system. As governor, would you continue these efforts, and if so, what would you focus on?

Starting with my retirement in 2012, I attended most of the committee hearings covering the legislation aimed at criminal justice reform for the last six legislative sessions. Allowing Judges’ discretion to set bail based on resources is the only positive for the citizens of Georgia. The bulk of the reform bills have expanded powers of the state and the Judiciary while ceding authority for imprisonment, probation, and supervision to private companies who profit tremendously from those incarcerated, in addition to adding more layers of qualified immunity to judges, district attorneys, prosecutors, and law enforcement.

As governor, I will advocate for reforms that do not prey on the accused and those caught in the system. I will fight for the elimination of cash bail; by executive order I will exclude arrest and prosecution of cannabis for personal consumption; return prisons and probation to public control; seat and support the judicial qualifications review board; and more importantly push for police officer standards and training to shift from aggressive enforcement tactics to deescalation, recognition of mental health factors, and community service roles.

4. Businesses, including the lucrative film industry, have threatened to boycott or leave Georgia if religious liberty legislation passes the General Assembly and is signed by the governor. Critics of such legislation have claimed it would essentially allow discrimination. How do you balance someone’s beliefs with another person’s right to live free of discrimination, plus the economic well-being of the state?

As governor, I would not sign any religious freedom bill that differed by even one word from the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act which only holds government accountable to and for respecting citizens’ rights under the First Amendment. An individual private citizen’s right of conscience is outside the scope and authority of the government to regulate, legislate, or codify.

5. Following the 2020 census, Georgia will conduct the decennial redistricting process to determine new political districts. Advocates for redistricting reform have urged lawmakers to give control of the highly political process to an independent commission to prevent gerrymandering. Do you support the current process or favor reform? If it’s the latter, what do you propose?

I only support the use of a totally independent, nonpartisan, and unbiased commission to implement redistricting using demographics based on current trends in the shifting population, not based on identity politics. Our political districts need to have logical boundaries that make sense for the people geographically, as well as for the city, towns, and counties falling within the district borders. The level of detail and specificity available right now on the internet for data gathering and statistical analysis based on location is staggering. There is no reason that a group of computer science students from any of our universities couldn’t produce new district maps that were fair and equitable to the voters and not beneficial to partisan politics.

6. Georgia has made baby steps in allowing patients to use medical marijuana, yet it’s stopped short of in-state cultivation. What are your views on medical marijuana in Georgia and should the state allow regulated and taxed recreational marijuana? If not, why?

Medical cannabis is God’s gift to the health of mankind. I fully support allowing people to use cannabis in any way they see fit in treating their ailments without government or medical intervention. No one should profit from the suffering of others. Cannabis should be as legal as tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, and anything else that grows out of the ground. I would sign a bill legalizing recreational cannabis if and only if it matched what Colorado has implemented. I am deeply concerned about the course being set by the cannabis or hemp commissions for seed to final consumption regulations and paramilitary supervision and enforcement of their proposals for hemp and cannabis. Such overregulation is based on 82 years of Reefer Madness propaganda, but the prohibition and unfounded stigma must stop. I will ensure public awareness Of Article I, Section I, Clause 11 of the Georgia Constitution that states, “[the jury] shall be the judges of the law and the facts.” Jurors have the power to acquit people charged with victimless crimes.

7. Study after study projects sea levels along Georgia’s coast will rise over the coming decades. What would your administration do to reduce the effects of climate change and prepare residents across Georgia for what researchers predict will be a hotter future?

All of the elements on this planet are present in fixed amounts. What varies is the composition of the matter that contains the elements. Carbon dioxide and monoxide are produced by burning (adding oxygen to) carbon-based materials like wood, coal, and oil, each of which is a store of carbon taken out of the atmosphere by plants. Plants use carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide as building blocks to grow by storing the carbon in organic plant compounds, such as bark, leaves, fruit, etc. The answer to solving the green house gas problem is planting more vegetation and ending the practice of introducing previously stored carbon from oil and coal into the atmosphere. This is where industrial hemp comes to the rescue, because the compounds in hemp can replace the need for oil. In Georgia, the potential crop yield for hemp to convert into biodiesel in quantities sufficient to replace oil for transportation and coal for electric generation on a global scale is real and is carbon negative, meaning it would reduce carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide to levels [that] no longer threaten the environment. My administration would encourage the development of large scale industrial hemp cultivation and processing. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can stop worrying about a hotter future.

8. For the past several years, the gaming industry has pushed state lawmakers to allow casinos in Georgia. Should Georgia have casinos, and, if so, what form should they take? How would their placement be decided, what kind of revenues would the state collect, and how would those revenues be spent?

With respect to gambling, since we already have gambling in the form of the lottery, scratch-offs, keno, and electronic gaming machines in every corner convenience store, we have to acknowledge that gambling is already here. It is my opinion that in order to be competitive with other cities’ and states’ tourism and convention appeal, casino gambling would be a good strategy, especially with the planned development of the Aerotropolis. My opinion is that casino locations be confined to commercially zoned areas, away from elementary and high schools, however the building they occupy should only be restricted by occupancy and fire code. Gaming taxes should be levied based on a the cost of the gaming tokens at the point of sale like any other sales tax. Other tax revenues would be raised just like any other business: property taxes, income tax, other sales taxes, and hotel taxes if applicable. All winnings for individuals would only be distributed with a 1099 so that taxes on income can be properly reported. Revenues from the gaming tax would best be applied to healthcare and education.

For those that are against casinos, they can stay out of them. For those concerned that a gambling habit could be detrimental to a person and/or their family, a recessional limit on the purchase of gaming tokens can be established, as well as a database of people with gambling addiction issues for restricting access to the purchase of gaming tokens.

9. What’s the best way to reduce gun violence in Georgia schools, homes, and communities? What can the state do and when can it do it?

“An armed society is a polite society.” Constitutional carry is the best legislation the state could pass to ensure that responsible citizens can protect themselves and their loved ones from those that intend to do harm. We are constantly reminded that keeping firearms out of the hands of the criminally insane is impossible and that when seconds count, police are minutes away. No one should be prohibited from possessing a firearm in public places—this includes school security personnel and teachers in the classrooms. The difference between a victim and a survivor is the ability to return fire.

10. The General Assembly last year, for the first time since 2002, fully funded public education in Georgia. However, education advocates have called the funding formula outdated. How would you approach this problem?

The General Assembly fully funding public education is somewhat of an inside joke, since they appropriated 100 percent of the dollars calculated by the QBE [Quality Basic Education] formula, a formula that was first implemented in 1985. Much has changed since 1985, and now it is partially out of date in its method of calculating the actual cost of education per student per district. However, the QBE formula is somewhat adequate as regards accounting for the numerous and diverse costs associated with providing public education to a student. The method of calculating the necessary funding levels needs to be revised to incorporate any of the advanced computer modeling, accounting, tracking, and forecasting software packages already written and available. The QBE funding concept is good, but needs to be updated to match the computer age. There are plenty of brilliant people that would be able to devise a better method of calculating costs per student based on the enhanced demographic information available on the internet.

11. When the next recession hits, what do you cut? Do you raise revenues, and if so, how? Or do you lean on the reserves?

As governor, I will not wait to start cutting redundant, obsolete, inefficient, unnecessary, and unconstitutional agencies and departments. In addition to reducing fraud and waste, I’ll also implement innovative methods and technologies to make government more efficient and less costly, and bank the savings as reserves or as a base to reduce taxes. In the event of a recession, I will have an action plan with predefined trigger points at which to take action based on the duration.

If economic conditions are that bad, it would be highly unlikely to find new sources of revenue, and raising revenue in the form of new taxes or higher taxes on any and all that still have an income is not a righteous course action in my opinion. My more cost effective approach to running the Georgia state government along with curtailment of discretionary spending would allow us to keep all vital services running and easily carry us through typical recessions we have seen in the past.