This is almost too creepy to believe.
Columnist Tom Crawford the other day took notice of House Bill 1380, introduced by our own state Rep. Ben Harbin and fellow Georgia House Republican Mark Burkhalter.
If passed, the bill would allow the state's retirement system to purchase life insurance coverage for all current and retired state employees. It would also allow such purchases by city and county governments and school systems. The beneficiary of these policies would be the state pension plan or the governments, which would be able to borrow against the value of these policies, and would also reap the payout (plus a payback of the premiums) when the insured employees and retirees die.
This concept is called broad-based insurance, or corporate-owned life insurance, abbreviated as COLI. But it's usually known by its less-bureaucratic name: "dead peasants insurance," or sometimes "dead janitors insurance."
The concept was new to me, especially as a method of balancing state budgets. But it turns out it isn't a new idea at all. In fact, dead peasants insurance is big business - for insurance companies. They rake in billions each year in premiums from the practice, and thus far have successfully used their lobbying muscle to prevent Congress from enacting further restrictions on it.
Who holds such policies? It isn't public record, but Houston, Texas, attorney Mike Myers - who specializes in lawsuits against employers over the policies - maintains a list on his Web site of employers believed to carry life insurance on their rank-and-file employees.
The list includes such companies with a local presence as Walmart, Georgia Power, AT&T, Bank of America, Wachovia, Coca-Cola, Olin Corp., Procter and Gamble, Panera Bread Co. and Walgreen.
So, if this passes, would the state pensioners and employees have to be told that the state has taken out a life insurance policy on them? Nope. Apparently Georgia is one of a handful of states that don't require such notification.
So if you're a Georgia employee, get ready: You're about to become far more valuable to the government dead than alive.
A little closer to passage in the Legislature is HB 897, which would close the loophole in state law that freed former Harlem High School teacher Melissa Chase.
Chase had been convicted of having a single sexual encounter with a 16-year-old student, and the Georgia Supreme Court said because of a loophole in state law Chase should have been allowed to use in her defense the fact that the girl had consented.
When lawmakers amended the law a few years ago, they explicitly said consent could not be used as a defense, for example, in cases in which prison guards had sex with inmates. But they skipped that part regarding teachers, and thus the court said Chase committed no crime - because 16 is the age of consent in Georgia.
The bill to close that loophole was amended in committee to make the law apply only to students and teachers in high school and younger, so it will still be legal - though, in most cases, professionally unethical - for professors to canoodle with their college students.
Fess Parker, RIP
I'd be surprised if there is a single boy my age or older who never took a hatchet and threw it at a tree, tomahawk-style, mimicking the opening scene from the television show Daniel Boone. And I bet none of us split a tree like he did, either.
Fess Parker's death last week was especially sad for us now-grown youngsters. As we knew from the theme song: Daniel Boone was a man - a real man.
I'll take that kind of television over cable TV "reality" shows any day.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal">twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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