On the Record: With State Sen. Nan Orrock

The Atlanta Democrat addresses public transportation, schools and other issues facing legislators.

Q: Will we get a transportation bill this session?

A: We’re in serious danger of not addressing transportation in any sort of meaningful way this session. It’s remarkable that the leadership could even contemplate fumbling the ball again. But I think they’ve run smack up against the ideology of the party that ... seems to find fault with public investment in infrastructure. As a result MARTA has had a problem for years with the sales tax that we pay in Fulton and DeKalb counties having its use restricted. We’ve tried for years to get that addressed. ... We’ve wanted for years to pursue the approach of having the Atlanta region determine for itself how to raise the funds and how to prioritize transportation projects and when you have the assembled voices of the business leaders, the academic community, the environmentalists, the community at large is crying out for leadership at the state ... and here we are right now with [unintelligible] bills on life support. ... We’ve got 150 organizations in an alliance that have been down here for four to five years now working to get this transportation issue addressed. How can a leadership fail so many times and fail so utterly to address a fundamental issue of our economy?

Q: Why do you fault GOP leadership?

A: I think that the Republican Party is ... a victim, imprisoned behind the bars of its own ideology. ... When the Ronald Reagan message prevailed and was popularized it has the been the mantra of the right wing ever since and that is that paying taxes is bad and government will only abuse the power of taxation. And you deserve your money back.

Q: What have budget cuts done to Georgia’s social safety net?

A: The safety net is in great jeopardy in our state. ... We’re providing Meals on Wheels, but not seven days a week. ... That’s just one example. ... We’ve cut in the budget 25,00 hours of Alzheimer’s respite services. ... The list is endless of the cuts that we’re making to social services and the safety net. And it means real pain for real people.

Q: Why do you oppose penalties for coerced abortions?

A: Throw the doctor in the jail, the latest throw the doctor in jail bill. ... That there’s a base of anti-choice organizations and people and they will bow to that base at all cost. ... There is every indication that the GOP leadership is capable of passing an ongoing series of nonsensical, illegal, unconstitutional bills around women’s rights to reproductive choice. ... So every year without fail there will be a hideous anti-abortion bill.

Q: You also oppose relaxing restrictions on purchasing health insurance across state lines. Why?

A: This bill to promote sales of health insurance across state lines is a massive boondoggle by the insurance industry. ... It is a bill that officially seeks deregulation of the industry. ... We have worked for years ... in providing standards in Georgia law that health insurance is expected to meet and supply basic standards to sell insurance in our state. So we would see those standards disappear. ... These are basic protections that we put in Georgia law that would go up in smoke if we sold insurance across state lines. ... But the bottom line that the public needs to understand is that this bill is a bill that deregulates health insurance and, my God, do we want to remove the last ability to have any authority over the way insurance companies treat people and their health needs? I don’t think so.

Q: But don’t mandates increase the cost of insurance?

A: I’ll give you an excellent example. There’s a sexually transmitted disease called Chlamydia. ... It’s an epidemic. Chlamydia is asymptomatic in 80 percent of the women that are infected. ... So the test isn’t covered, so it’s not done. And Chlamydia is not known to the woman until the infection has run it’s course to the point of pelvic inflammatory disease. ... I passed the bill to say that women under 30 have an annual screening for Chlamydia covered. Look — that’s a great example of something that insurance companies should be covering.

Q: How serious are this year’s cuts to education?

A: I think the leadership has failed in education, cutting too much out of our public schools. ... When you look around at what’s happening at the school systems now, it’s alarming. And it’s at such a level of alarm that our Republican school superintendent, Kathy Cox, has said no more cuts to education. ... But at the same time we have been going like a house on fire on creating vouchers for private schools. So, I think that is a scandal what has happened to education in the eight years of [Gov.] Sonny Perdue and Republicans ruling this state. And it’s not getting fixed and the damage continues.

State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) spoke to AJC editors in her legislative office April 6.

On the record: A weekly event where reporters and editors talk to leaders about key issues for Georgians.

Excerpts from the conversation also can be heard on News/Talk 750 WSB.