Minnesota Now Requires A Criminal Conviction Before People Can Lose Their Property To Forfeiture

In a big win for property rights and due process, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill yesterday to curb an abusive—and little known—police practice called civil forfeiture. Unlike criminal forfeiture, under civil forfeiture someone does not have to be convicted of a crime, or even charged with one, to permanently lose his or her cash, car or home.

The newly signed legislation, SF 874, corrects that injustice. Now the government can only take property if it obtains a criminal conviction or its equivalent, like if a property owner pleads guilty to a crime or becomes an informant. The bill also shifts the burden of proof onto the government, where it rightfully belongs. Previously, if owners wanted to get their property back, they had to prove their property was not the instrument or proceeds of the charged drug crime. In other words, owners had to prove a negative in civil court. Being acquitted of the drug charge in criminal court did not matter to the forfeiture case in civil court.

As Lee McGrath, the executive director of the Institute for Justice’s Minnesota chapter, put it, “No one acquitted in criminal court should lose his property in civil court. This change makes Minnesota’s law consistent with the great American presumption that a person and his property are innocent until proven guilty.”

The bill faced stiff opposition from law enforcement and a bottleneck in the legislature. In March, the Star Tribune called it an “outrage” that lawmakers were “dragging their feet on one of the big, common-sense changes” to the state’s forfeiture laws. Ultimately, SF 874 found wide, bipartisan support, passing the state senate 55 to 5 and the state house unanimously. The reforms will go into effect starting August 1, 2014.

via Minnesota Now Requires A Criminal Conviction Before People Can Lose Their Property To Forfeiture.

Adopt us — Effingham animal shelter | savannahnow.com

Arnold is a bullmastiff that’s available for adoption from the Effingham County animal shelter.

He was left in the drop-off bin, so shelter staff members have no specific information about him. They guess he is at least 6 years old.

He’s a big, friendly dog. He’s gained some weight since he’s been at the shelter, but he’s still very skinny and needs to gain some more.

via Adopt us — Effingham animal shelter | savannahnow.com.

Aquifer injection gets another look after ban ends | savannahnow.com

The aquifers that supply most of coastal Georgia’s drinking water lost what many considered a valuable protection on July 1.

That’s when the moratorium expired on a process called aquifer storage and recovery, or ASR for short, in which treated water is pumped into the groundwater for use at a later date.

Today, a five-member state senate study committee will meet on Jekyll Island to discuss ASR, hear from the state Environmental Protection Division on the topic and take public comment.

The sole coastal representative on the study committee, Sen. William Ligon Jr. of Brunswick, was a co-sponsor of the Senate bill that would have made permanent the recently expired moratorium. Instead

of moving the legislation out of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee in February, chairman Ross Tolleson created the study committee, effectively allowing the 15-year ban on coastal ASR to expire.

Tolleson’s move came as a surprise to state Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, another co-sponsor of the bill. Carter has been an opponent of ASR stretching back to his time as mayor of Pooler.

via Aquifer injection gets another look after ban ends | savannahnow.com.

In Georgia, leaked campaign memo ensures attacks | savannahnow.com

The outside groups are going to take this and go nuclear on her,” said Georgia GOP strategist Joel McElhannon of the memos first published by the conservative magazine National Review, which said they were unintentionally uploaded briefly to Nunn’s campaign website in December.

Republicans, McElhannon said, will continue using the 144-page document to buttress their claims that Nunn is a “closet liberal” who’s “being dishonest with voters” by campaigning as a moderate “who is above all the usual politics.”

A top Nunn backer, former Democratic Rep. George “Buddy” Darden, downplayed the coming GOP offensive. “But this is all stuff they would say anyway,” he said. “This will ultimately just be a blip on the screen.”

For her part, Nunn said the disclosure doesn’t change her fundamental message. “What’s remained constant is we’re focused on talking about a collaborative approach … and changing the culture in Washington,” she told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution this week. Her campaign declined to make her available to The Associated Press.

via In Georgia, leaked campaign memo ensures attacks | savannahnow.com.

The Marietta Daily Journal – Governor launches campaign to bring adults back to college

MARIETTA — For the more than one million working-age adults in Georgia who stepped away from their college education and never returned, Gov. Nathan Deal has a message: Go back to school and move ahead in life.

The governor’s newest education initiative — known as “Go Back. Move Ahead.” — will feature a media blitz across billboards, radio, print and video encouraging those who have attended some college to return to finish their degrees.

Deal, who is running for re-election against Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter, said his initiative also issues a “challenge” to the state’s university system to “make it easier for those Georgians to go back” through methods such as simplifying the enrollment process and adding more flexible ways to transfer earned college credits.

“In order for Georgia to remain economically competitive, we must have an educated work force, and focusing on college completion is one way we intend to do that,” Deal said. “‘Go Back. Move Ahead.’ provides resources for prospective students and makes it easy for any Georgian who has started college to go back to school and earn a degree or certificate.”

The University System of Georgia estimates 22 percent of the state’s population falls into the group Deal hopes to motivate.

via The Marietta Daily Journal – Governor launches campaign to bring adults back to college.

Sen. McKoon: Facebook page pushing me for majority leader not my doing | Latest News | Columbus Ledger Enquirer

A pitch in the “inside baseball” game that Georgia politicians play has been thrown and Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus said Monday he did not throw it.

A Facebook page has “Draft Josh McKoon for Majority Leader” has been created and has more than 130 “likes.”

via Sen. McKoon: Facebook page pushing me for majority leader not my doing | Latest News | Columbus Ledger Enquirer.

Adoptable Georgia Dogs for August 5, 2014

Gwinnett 40939

This friendly adult female Golden Retriever is available for adoption starting today at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, Ga.

Gwinnett 40906

40906 is a large adult male Terrier who was surrendered by his owner, and is thus among the first who will be euthanized to make space for new intakes. He would be a good choice for someone who is seeking a hypo-allergenic dog. He is available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Control in Lawrenceville, Ga.

Gwinnett 40944

40944 (above) is an adult male Jack Russell Terrier who is available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Control in Lawrenceville, Ga.

Gwinnett 40945

40945 is a female adult Jack Russell Terrier, also available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, Ga.

Remember, adoptions this month from Gwinnett County are $30 for dogs, which includes vaccinations, spay/neuter, and microchipping and $20 for cats. If you’ve been looking for a matched pair of JRTs, this is a great chance to save two lives.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 5, 2014

On August 5, 1774, Royal Governor James Wright issued a proclamation banning assemblies to protest British policy.

President Abraham Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax on August 5, 1861 at the rate of 3 percent on all income over $800 per year

On August 5, 1910, Gov. Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing betting on election outcomes.

The caravan transporting 43 ounces of gold from Dahlonega to the State Capitol to be used in gilding the dome arrived in Roswell/Sandy Springs area on August 5, 1958. At the current price of $1291.80 per ounce, that would be worth $55,547.40.

President Ronald Reagan began the process of firing all striking Air Traffic Controllers on August 5, 1981.

Divers raised the turret of USS Monitor near Cape Hatteras on August 5, 2002.

Senate Leadership Elections

Last night, Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) posted on Facebook:

I wanted to personally confirm to you that the report from my friend Jim Galloway at the AJC is accurate. After prayerful consideration and the support of both my family and a number of my fellow Senators, I have, with great humility, decided to stand for Majority Leader in the Georgia State Senate. Between now and Election Day, 100% of my political effort will be focused on helping to elect David Perdue – U.S. Senate and, of course, to help re-elect Governor Nathan Deall, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and our entire statewide Georgia Republican Party ticket.

I ask you to join me in support of this important effort working locally with the Hall County Republican Party and statewide with the great team at the Georgia Republican Party.

Earlier in the day, Senator Josh McKoon posted this:

While I am appreciative of the support from friends around Georgia to take up greater responsibility in the State Senate, now is not the time to campaign for positions in the 2015-16 legislative leadership. I am 100% focused on victory for the Republican ticket in November, including my own race for re-election. We all need to keep our attention on the Democrats.

McKoon told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that the “Draft McKoon” movement was not his doing.

“I know who is involved and it is not even a constituent,” McKoon said. “It is coming from outside the district.”

McKoon didn’t name who created the social media page.

In fact, McKoon said he is more concerned about winning the District 29 seat in November than a leadership position in the Republican Party. McKoon is facing Democrat Brian Roslund of Pine Mountain.

“I have got Democratic opposition, so I have to re-elected,” McKoon said. “I will worry about the other stuff after the election.”

There is also considerable speculation that a challenge to Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer will arise.


The Carroll County Board of Commissioners is considering putting package sales of alcohol on the November ballot – Times-Georgian.

The Gainesville Board of Education will reduce the millage rate – Gainesville Times.

Gainesville City Council will spend $12,500 of SPLOST money to study whether larger aircraft can land at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport – Gainesville Times.

The Richmond County Board of Education has selected a finalist for Superintendent – Augusta Chronicle.

Macon-Bibb County has opened a new Juvenile Justice Center – Macon Telegraph.

The case against former Gwinnett County Commissioner Keven Kenerly is likely to be resolved today – Gwinnett Daily Post.

Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace was recognized by University of Georgia in its 2014 40 under 40, following an appearance in Georgia Trend’s 40 under 40 last year – Cherokee Tribune.

Hot air

Two members of the Alabama Public Service Commission and one member-elect traveled to Atlanta last week to testify at the EPA hearings.

“We will not stand for what they are doing to our way of life in Alabama,” said PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. “We will take our fight to the EPA.”

At their news conference [] Cavanaugh and PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker invoked the name of God in stating their opposition to the EPA proposal. Beeker, a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God’s plan.

“Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” he said.

Cavanaugh called on the people of the state to ask for God’s intervention.

“I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done,” she said.

YellowHammer News covered this coal miner’s testimony before the EPA.

 In the end, most people here will not wonder or care what happens to my wife and kids if I no longer have a job.

No one is thinking about the burden my family and my co-workers will face if we no longer have a job, a steady paycheck, or if there are no more contributions to the UMWA health and retirement funds.

No one will care until the money runs out and the government… which is killing our jobs, must pay the price of unemployment benefits, welfare and public assistance, which is running rampant in our country today.

I am proud that I have been able to take care of my family because of the work I do. I am proud to be a miner. I have never asked for handouts from the people around me or from the government. I want to pay my own way. I want to work. I feel pride in my work. I want to be able to continue my profession and produce coal to power this nation. And I’m sorry that I get emotional, but I can’t help it.

In the end, I don’t see the Agency’s proposed policy as a real solution. We will lose what we have worked for all of our lives and our communities will struggle in poverty. How can the EPA call this a success story?

State Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) offers this Op-Ed on the proposed carbon rules.

Not surprisingly, busses of environmentalists were on hand for the hearings and many staged rallies showing their support for the EPA’s regulations were organized. It felt like a manufactured circus. But when you’re a deep-pocketed environmental group, creating such a scene isn’t hard—especially when you have the backing of our own president. I wonder if these environmentalists have looked at their electricity bills lately, or if, perhaps their personal budgets are so big that they don’t have to worry about rising energy costs.

In reality, most families and businesses do worry about the bottom line. Higher costs make a tangible difference in their daily lives. And with energy costs already on the rise because of EPA’s past regulations, more costly red tape spells disaster for Georgia.

Our communities cannot afford to pay more for electricity, which is exactly what these regulations would produce. We cannot afford to face potential power outages; again, a certain outcome of EPA’s plan. It was ironic, then, when a massive power outage forced a location change for the hearing in Atlanta.

My colleagues and I passed House Resolution 1158 (HR 1158) earlier this year, a measure that asserts our state’s primacy in setting energy policy, with resounding bipartisan support. Knowing EPA’s regulations were in the pipeline, we wanted to put forward our own commonsense approach that balanced cost and reliability concerns with the need to invest in new energy sources.

We wouldn’t try to legislate for Alabama or Florida, so why is the federal government forcing a “one size fits all” policy for Georgia?

Hotter than Georgia asphalt

Today at 9:30 AM, the Joint House-Senate Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding convenes in Room 606 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. Among the testimony offered will be that of Ray LaHood, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and “close friend” of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Here’s some background on the study committee from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Following a series of meetings between now and the end of October, the committee is expected to make recommendations in November. The recommendations will likely be a springboard for legislation for the 2015 session of the General Assembly starting in January.

Georgia ranks second-to-last among the states in per capita spending on transportation and sets aside very little funding for mass transit. As every metro Atlanta commuter knows, congestion on the region’s interstates and surface streets seems to worsen with each passing day.

“What we’re really talking about is economic development and jobs,” said Michael Sullivan, president of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia and chairman of the Georgia Transportation Alliance, who will speak to the committee. “It’s Georgia’s opportunity to be competitive against neighboring states. And probably one of the biggest challenges we face when we are trying to attract new employers to Georgia is traffic congestion in metro Atlanta.”

Georgia relies on the federal government for about two-thirds of the money it spends on road and bridge construction projects. Yet federal funding has become increasingly uncertain as Congress has failed to pass a long-term transportation funding bill.

One idea to generate more in-state revenue for transportation projects is to claw back the fourth penny of Georgia’s 4-cents-per-gallon motor fuel sales tax. That penny adds up to about $180 million a year, but it currently goes into the general fund to be spent elsewhere.

The proposed switch is popular with conservatives.

“The fourth penny is an obvious one we all want to talk about,” said state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Blue Ridge, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee and is co-chair of the study committee. “We want to see what the impact would be to our state budget if we roll that back into transportation like we think it should be.”


Fewer black Georgians sent to prison | www.myajc.com

Substantially fewer African-Americans are being locked up in Georgia, a remarkable and historic change in a state that has long packed its prisons with disproportionate numbers of black offenders.

Black people still make up more than 60 percent of the state prison population. But in just the past five years, the number of black men being sent to prison has declined 19 percent, and the number of black women has tumbled 33 percent, according to Department of Corrections data obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Prison sentences imposed on African-American offenders have dropped by 20 percent. The decline is so great that the number of blacks entering the prison system in 2013 was at its lowest level since 1988 – a quarter of a century before.

“Georgia’s been going in one direction for more than 50 years,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project in Washington. “But a 20 percent decline in the number of blacks being sent to prison is not trivial, it’s not a blip. It’s a substantial shift away from the dynamics of the past. The question is can we build on it.”

via Fewer black Georgians sent to prison | www.myajc.com.

Florida judge takes on gerrymandering; sets stage for Supreme Court cases in fall – The Washington Post

About 10 years ago, the justices of the Supreme Court took a good, hard look at the way politicians bend, tweak and manipulate electoral boundaries in order to protect themselves and punish their enemies — and threw in the towel.

The Constitution, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for a plurality in Vieth v. Jubelirer , does not provide “a judicially enforceable limit on the political considerations that the states and Congress may take into account when districting.”

In other words, politics is politics. It’s the court’s duty to decide what the law is, Scalia said, but sometimes the answer is that it is none of the court’s business.

Scalia acknowledged that the Supreme Court had previously ruled otherwise. But “18 years of essentially pointless litigation” had convinced Scalia and others on the court that it was impossible to come up with a test to decide when partisan gerrymandering amounted to a constitutional violation.

The political parties have been running through that green light ever since.

But a judge in Tallahassee has blown the whistle, and thrown Florida politics into turmoil. Judge Terry Lewis found that two of the state’s 27 congressional districts were unconstitutional and wants a new congressional redistricting plan drawn in time for November’s election.

Though the Supreme Court seemed to throw its hands up a decade ago, the ruling left states free to act on their own. And Florida voters in 2010 wrote a prohibition on partisan gerrymandering into the state constitution, which is what Lewis ruled the state’s Republican leaders violated with their plan.

via Florida judge takes on gerrymandering; sets stage for Supreme Court cases in fall – The Washington Post.