The blog.

14
Dec

Immunity proposed for child sex trafficking victims in Georgia | www.myajc.com

Child sex trafficking victims in Georgia would be immune from prosecution and receive increased medical treatment and counseling under “safe harbor” legislation filed Thursday by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford.

Senate Bill 8 aims to build upon the work of lawmakers in 2011, upped the prison sentences for criminals who deal in underage prostitution and trafficking from one year to between 10 and 20 years, with fines up to $100,000. If the person trafficked is younger than 18 and coerced, the sentence jumps to 25 to 50 years.

Unterman, however, said minors too often get swept up in the criminal charges without proper consideration for their ordeal. She has also proposed Senate Resolution 7, a constitutional amendment to create a dedicated state account for child victims’ medical services. It would be funded through increased fines of convicted pimps and traffickers.

Unterman has worked on the legislation with the assistance of several advocacy groups including Street Grace, Wellspring Living and youthSpark. A candlelight vigil acknowledging the legislation’s filing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

via Immunity proposed for child sex trafficking victims in Georgia | www.myajc.com.

14
Dec

Gridlock Guy: Here’s what the $10 HOT rate means | www.ajc.com

The infamous Interstate 85 HOT Express lanes have been both groundbreaking and controversial in their three-year existence. They hit a new milestone last week, as the full southbound trip on I-85 took $10 from Old Peachtree Road to Shallowford Road for the first time.

SRTA has found the need to increase prices in the HOT lanes to at least $10 at the worst times of morning drive on I-85/southbound, meaning that demand for those lanes is likely more than ever. That is yet another indicator that traffic these days is as bad or worse than it ever has been in Atlanta. So keeping those HOT lanes moving at a reasonable speed is harder and harder.

We fly over those lanes every weekday and examine them on traffic cameras – they often are not much faster than the free lanes. But enough people are buying (literally) into the idea that they are and paying dollars to shave precious minutes off of their commutes.

Georgia’s transportation funding conundrum is another big reason the HOT rates continue to increase. SRTA and the GDOT added those lanes on I-85 to, yes, try and alleviate traffic, by making the HOV lane accessible to anyone willing to pay. But the bigger reason is because they need the money for Georgia’s roads.

Transportation funding is a huge question for Georgia’s future and GDOT and Georgia lawmakers need answers quickly. They have made no secret that managed toll lanes on major highways are a big step into to trying to make up for the budget money lost to declining revenue from the gas tax (more fuel efficient cars) and the ever-eroding transportation budget.

via Gridlock Guy: Here’s what the $10 HOT rate means | www.ajc.com.

14
Dec

Ex-judge convicted of planting drugs on woman | www.ajc.com

A former North Georgia judge was convicted Thursday of conspiring to plant methamphetamine on a woman shortly after she publicly accused him of propositioning her in his chambers.

Bryant Cochran, once the chief judge of Murray County’s Magistrate Court, also was found guilty of witness tampering, conspiring to distribute a controlled substance and a federal civil rights charge that accused him of sexually assaulting a court employee. Cochran, who faces almost certain prison time, is to be sentenced Feb. 20 by U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy in Rome.

via Ex-judge convicted of planting drugs on woman | www.ajc.com.

14
Dec

Georgia police agencies top $70 million in surplus military gear | www.myajc.com

For the first time, the federal government has released data allowing Americans to see what kind of military hardware is in the hands of their local police departments and government agencies.

In Georgia, the surplus military gear ranges from the harmless — an ice cream machine for the Department of Revenue — to deadly weapons from the field of war.

Here in metro Atlanta, the list of weapons and hardware includes:

  • Two Humvees for the Fulton County Schools Police Department;
  • Thirty M14 and M16 machine guns for the Clayton County Police Department;
  • A grenade launcher for the Douglasville Police Department.

The full list includes dozens of up-armored vehicles, including mine-resistant military personnel carriers that look more like tanks than police vehicles. It also includes grenade launchers, dozens of bayonets, riot gear and more than 2,800 automatic rifles. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has provided readers a searchable database of the gear at myAJC.com.

via Georgia police agencies top $70 million in surplus military gear | www.myajc.com.

14
Dec

Fulton budget assumes another tax hike | www.myajc.com

Thousands of Fulton County residents could see their property tax bills increase next year under a proposed budget that the Board of Commissioners will consider Wednesday.

Georgia’s largest county would keep its countywide tax rate at 11.781 mills under the proposed 2015 budget. But with property values expected to rise 2 percent, homeowners from Milton to Chattahoochee Hills may see bigger tax bills. This year, residents saw a 17 percent property tax hike.

Library hours, cut this year to save money, would be restored under the proposed budget, and the county will increase spending on other programs and give employees a 4 percent raise.

The board is expected to make a slew of changes before final approval of a budget in January. Fulton officials say this year’s tax increase has improved the county’s financial position. But they say keeping the tax rate the same — instead of rolling it back to offset rising property values — is necessary to support popular services.

“We made the right decision, in terms of the millage rate increase,” said County Commission Chairman John Eaves. “The monies are coming in now and we’re better positioned to provide the services our citizens want.”

Thousands of Fulton County residents could see their property tax bills increase next year under a proposed budget that the Board of Commissioners will consider Wednesday.

Georgia’s largest county would keep its countywide tax rate at 11.781 mills under the proposed 2015 budget. But with property values expected to rise 2 percent, homeowners from Milton to Chattahoochee Hills may see bigger tax bills. This year, residents saw a 17 percent property tax hike.

Library hours, cut this year to save money, would be restored under the proposed budget, and the county will increase spending on other programs and give employees a 4 percent raise.

The board is expected to make a slew of changes before final approval of a budget in January. Fulton officials say this year’s tax increase has improved the county’s financial position. But they say keeping the tax rate the same — instead of rolling it back to offset rising property valuesis necessary to support popular services.

“We made the right decision, in terms of the millage rate increase,” said County Commission Chairman John Eaves. “The monies are coming in now and we’re better positioned to provide the services our citizens want.”

Critics say Fulton should focus more on cutting costs than raising and spending money. Former state Rep. Ed Lindsey, one of several lawmakers who have sued to overturn this year’s tax hike, said more than 90 percent of county residents live in cities, but county government continues to grow.

“It has been said many times that that the closest thing on Earth to eternal life is government,” Lindsey said. “We must change course.”

via Fulton budget assumes another tax hike | www.myajc.com.

14
Dec

Democrats try to get on the same page at the Georgia Legislature | www.myajc.com

Raising the minimum wage. Preventing racial profiling. Strengthening the state’s ethics agency. Even legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

Georgia Democrats’ stinging defeat at the ballot box last month appears to have only galvanized rank-and-file members ahead of the Jan. 12 legislative session. But while the flurry of proposals may energize their base, it has yet to bridge a strategic divide among Democratic leaders in the House and Senate that could ruin their chance at playing spoiler.

That matters because Democrats more than ever this year have a chance to influence policy on some of the state’s most pressing issues. Expected votes on raising money to repair and replace Georgia’s aging transportation network, for example, could cause some conservative lawmakers to balk because of expected tax or fee increases, giving the minority party leverage to ensure passage.

“We do believe as an opposition party that we have a role to play to hold the majority party accountable,” said Senate Minority Whip Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta.

Georgia Senate Democrats will pursue an agenda this year that would, among other issues:

• Raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

• Allow same-day voter registration.

• Independently appoint state ethics commission members.

• Strengthen Georgia’s whistleblower statute.

• Restrict “no knock” police warrants.

• Require all police departments to use body cameras and “dash cams.”

via Democrats try to get on the same page at the Georgia Legislature | www.myajc.com.

14
Dec

School-shooting report plays in legislative arguments | www.myajc.com

A report on school shootings in Georgia has become ammunition in the battle over gun legislation. Some state lawmakers and advocates for gun restrictions are using it to call for tougher laws to keep firearms from children and the mentally ill.

The report, by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-restriction group whose reporting methodology has drawn some critics, found there have been 12 school shootings in Georgia since a mentally ill 20-year-old man fatally wounded 20 children and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012. Florida and Tennessee were tied for second on its list, with eight school shootings each.

A report on school shootings in Georgia has become ammunition in the battle over gun legislation. Some state lawmakers and advocates for gun restrictions are using it to call for tougher laws to keep firearms from children and the mentally ill.

The report, by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-restriction group whose reporting methodology has drawn some critics, found there have been 12 school shootings in Georgia since a mentally ill 20-year-old man fatally wounded 20 children and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012. Florida and Tennessee were tied for second on its list, with eight school shootings each.

“It was a startling reality of what’s going on” in Georgia, said Wendy Wittmayer, a Cherokee County parent who got involved with Moms Demand Action after Sandy Hook.

Georgia state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, said fellow Democrats will submit legislation requiring background checks for anyone who tries to purchase a firearm at a gun show. Orrock, who said there will be a “full-throated effort” by Democrats in January to toughen gun laws, added there’s discussion of requiring parents to purchase lock boxes for their handguns. Wittmayer said her group and supporters will push for similar state and federal legislation.

Georgia passed legislation earlier this year, however, that eased some gun restrictions. Republicans control both chambers of the state Legislature and the governor’s mansion and have not shown interest in passing any tougher gun legislation.

via School-shooting report plays in legislative arguments | www.myajc.com.

14
Dec

Voting case mirrors national struggle | www.myajc.com

 

QUITMAN, Ga. — Four years ago, black candidates won a majority of seats on the Brooks County school board, which had always been controlled by whites. They did it through an organized absentee ballot effort that generated close to 1,000 votes.

Here’s what happened next: Armed agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Secretary of State questioned more than 400 of those voters, a small percentage of whom said they did not fill out their own ballot or could not recall doing so. A dozen organizers, all of them black, were indicted for more than 100 election law violations, each of which carried the potential of up to 10 years in prison.

The most common charge was illegal possession of a ballot, often for the act of taking a willing voter’s completed, sealed ballot, which they said they had voted as they wished, to the mailbox for them.

Only one defendant was tried. She went through two mistrials on 32 counts before a multiracial jury acquitted her this fall on a stripped-down list of 19 counts. One defendant died while under indictment. Three defendants elected to the school board were suspended by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2012 but later reinstated. Last week, the remaining 10 cases were dropped.

Although it has attracted little notice outside Brooks County, the case exemplifies one of the signal issues of our time: the struggle to balance concern for the sanctity of the ballot box against the drive to involve as many citizens as possible in the electoral process, especially those who, in the past, were barred or discouraged from voting. It raises the thorny and emotionally laden question of when vote protection becomes voter suppression.

via Voting case mirrors national struggle | www.myajc.com.

13
Dec

Adoptable Georgia Dogs for December 13, 2014

Sheba

Sheba is around 1 year old and weighs around 45 pounds. She is very loving and lonely.

She loves to give hugs and kisses, absolutely loves to be petted and talked to, and gets along well with our other dogs here. Sheba needs a family to spend her time, energy and playfulness with but most of all to share her love of people with.

Sheba is available for adoption or rescue at Monroe County Animal Control 157 L Cary Bittick Dr Forsyth, GA 31029 478-994-7976.

Sheba hug

Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove is a young 9-10 month old female who weighs around 35-40 pounds. She is sweet as can be and starved for attention. Dove walks okay on a leash, but that will get better with time, she loves to play with other dogs, toys, and people. Dove is quiet and calm for the most part and would make a wonderful pet to a family who will love her. Available for adoption or rescue at Monroe County Animal Control 157 L Cary Bittick Dr Forsyth, GA 31029 478-994-7976.

Ringer

Ringer is a 9 month old male Jack Russell Terrier and Beagle mix weighs around 12-15 pounds. He is as sweet and loving as can be. Ringer loves all sizes of people, loves to play with other dogs, enjoys playing with toys and seemed to play fetch for a few minutes then was distracted by children playing near him. Ringer didn’t get to see our shelter cat yet, but I am working on that. He is available for adoption or rescue at Monroe County Animal Control 157 L Cary Bittick Dr Forsyth, GA 31029 478-994-7976.

Milton

Milton is a sweet shy male weighing around 35 to 40 pounds. He has a nice full coat that would look much better with a nice warm bath and a brush. Milton shies away from other dogs but is not aggressive, possibly been traumatized by another dog at one time in his life. He walks well on a leash, likes to be petted and talked to, doesn’t really play much (he is a little shy), loves children and to watch what you are doing, and would LOVE to be your next forever fur baby. Milton is available for adoption or rescue at Monroe County Animal Control 157 L Cary Bittick Dr Forsyth, GA 31029 478-994-7976.

12
Dec

Randy Evans – The Evans Report: Perdue’s Legacy To Be Solidified By Deal’s Second Term

Your Georgia Desk:

From Randy Evans – The Evans Report

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Perdue’s legacy to be solidified by Deal’s second term

As the last two years of President Barack Obama’s second term expire, many will focus on the legacy he leaves. While presidents leave legacies through the policies and appointments they make, so do governors. There is probably no better example of this than one legacy left by Georgia’s first Republican governor in over a century.

Notably, by the end of his second term, Gov. Sonny Perdue’s disdain for attorneys (not really all attorneys, but most) and the State Bar of Georgia was pretty well known. Indeed, when the Georgia Legislature passed a long-overdue judicial pay raise, Gov. Perdue used his line item veto to kill it while leaving the rest of the budget largely intact.

As a result, there was some understandable trepidation in legal circles when he made appointments to Georgia’s appellate courts.

In his first term, Perdue appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court the one attorney he did trust, his own in-house attorney, then Executive Counsel Harold Melton. Then, very late in his second term, he made another appointment to the Georgia Supreme Court and two appointees to Georgia’s second-highest court – the Georgia Court of Appeals.

On Aug. 13, 2009, Gov. Perdue appointed David E. Nahmias to the Georgia Supreme Court. Then, on Nov. 1, 2010, one day before term-limited Gov. Perdue’s replacement was elected, he selected two more attorneys to serve on the Georgia Court of Appeals – Stephen Louis A. Dillard from Bibb County; and Keith R. Blackwell from Cherokee County.Continue Reading..