It's Senate Bill 7. It would change State Code 16-10-71, which deals with people "to whom a lawful oath or affirmation has been administered."
That's where it varies from Sen. Tarver's attempt to pass a similar law last year via SB 442. The new version grants more leeway to the chairman of whatever committee the person is testifying to.
That is, it would be up the chair to decide whether an oath should be administered before testimony, as opposed to SB 442, which just said you can go to jail if you lie.
Of course, I'm pretty sure state code already makes it a crime to lie to the General Assembly, unless you don't think the Assembly counts as part of state government. ***UPDATE: Sen. Tarver says that's exactly what the state Supreme Court thinks. See below.*** This is state code 16-10-20 as it exist now:
A person who knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; makes a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or makes or uses any false writing or document, knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government or of the government of any county, city, or other political subdivision of this state shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or both.It seems redundant to me, but Sen. Tarver obviously doesn't think so, and I digress.
Sen. Tarver addresses something in the proposed legislation, and the Georgia Constitution that I may have raved like a lunatic about earlier this year. Writes Sen. Tarver, via Tondee's:
There is one part of the legislation that deserves explanation: legislators are exempted from penalty. This is an constitutional mandate, not an attempt to provide cover for politicians. Our state constitution, like the federal constitution, sets out a balance of powers between the branches of government, and immunity from prosecution for political speech prevents the executive branch from unduly pressuring members of the legislature with criminal prosecution for actions and speech in political matters. Moreover, it prevents office holders from using the law to criminalize political speech and activity.It will be interesting to see if this passes. Or if a member of the General Assembly has ever tried to have someone prosecuted under the law as it exists now.
On its face, exempting elected officials seems to be laughable. And it would indeed be maddening if legislators could not be held accountable for their words. But that is not the case. Every two years in Georgia, the entire legislature stands for re-election. Voters may, and many times do, fire those that they believe have violated the standards for the office to which they were elected.
From Sen. Tarver, via email:
SB 7 is not redundant. It provides for sworn testimony to committees and subcommittees of the General Assembly and for criminal charges for falsely swearing to such committees or subcommittees. Code Section 16-10-20 of the O.C.G.A. criminalizes "false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement[s] or representation[s] ... in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government ...." The Georgia Supreme Court has held that the General Assembly is not a state department or agency. See Coggin v. Davey, 233 Ga. 407 (1975). Also, "[t]he General Assembly, including its committees, commissions and offices, is not subject to a law unless named therein or the intent that it be included be clear and unmistakable." Harrison Co. v. Code Revision Comm., 244 Ga. 325 (1979). A criminal law must be strictly construed against the state; if there is any ambiguity, it must be resolved in favor of liberty. Knight v. State, 243 Ga. 770 (1979). I am not aware of any circumstance where a member of the General Assembly sought to have someone prosecuted under 16-10-20 for making a false statement to the General Assembly.