HB 234: Drivers, Don’t Run Over People; Pedestrians and Bicyclists, Don’t Press That Button Unless You Mean It

I believe the title of my post, though lengthy, sums up the proposed effects of HB 234.  Basically, if you’re a driver and you see a flashing crosswalk sign, as pictured above from the Federal Highway Administration site about those signs officially called “Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFB)”, you need to stop and let the pedestrian or bicyclist cross the road.

There’s also a provision of the bill that tells pedestrians and bicyclists to not push it unless they really intend to cross:

No pedestrian or bicycle rider shall manually activate or intentionally cause to be activated a rapid-flash beacon or similar device at a crosswalk unless such pedestrian or bicycle rider intends to cross such roadway.

So, I guess you would get a ticket if you pressed the button, watched the cars stop, and laughed maniacally as you walked away from those 15 or 30 seconds of inconveniencing people on a busy thoroughfare.

In all seriousness, I’m not sure how rampant of a problem balking at a crosswalk is, but it looks like this updating OCGA to codify that drivers do in fact need to stop at crosswalks with RRFBs when they’re activated and that people using RRFBs don’t activate them unless they really are going to cross.

Out Of State Professors Duel Over Georgia’s Adoption Bill

On Monday, Stefan posted a guest editorial from our former Contributor, Dr. Anthony Kreis. Yesterday I received a rebuttal piece from Dr. Robin Fretwell Wilson. Dr Wilson is the Roger and Stephany Joslin Professor of Law and the director of the Program in Family Law and Policy and The Fairness For All Initiative at the University of Illinois College of Law. More notably for the context here, she’s also a professor for which Dr. Kreis once served as a research assistant. According to her biography, Wilson recently worked with Utah state lawmakers to pass nondiscrimination legislation that balances LGBT rights and religious liberty. I offer this piece as part of our commitment to presenting opposing viewpoints, and to ensure that all corners of the Illinois academic legal community are able to weigh in on how Georgia makes our laws.

HB 159: The Hard Questions Facing Georgia on Adoption
by Robin Fretwell Wilson

Controversy swirls again around Georgia and “religious liberty”, now over HB 159, which would allow adoption agencies to make placements based on “mission.”

The bill does not mention religion but has become controversial for allowing agencies to refuse placements with LGBT couples if they “have a religious objection.”

What would the bill actually do?

If the state cannot place a child with one agency, it must immediately “refer … to another child-placing agency.” This might occur for neutral reasons, i.e. an agency may not place special-needs children because those placements require special skill.

The real debate is around which families agencies place with. If HB 159 becomes law, the state could not “take any adverse action against” agencies that follow their “missions.”

Patently, HB 159 is not a religious-liberty protection. This prohibition binds the state even if an agency acts for secular reasons—like being anti-gay. The Georgia legislature should dial this back. Continue reading “Out Of State Professors Duel Over Georgia’s Adoption Bill”

It’s Time To Tax Internet Sales

This week’s Courier Herald column:

JCPenney, once among the nation’s largest and proudest retailers, announced last week that it would be closing an additional 138 stores nationwide. Five Georgia stores, including those in Dublin, Macon, Milledgeville, Thomasville, and Tifton will be shuttered.

While JCPenney has had recent struggles trying to define its brand and marketing mix, it is not an outlier in the retail landscape. Macy’s announced in January that it is closing 68 stores nationwide including their Athens location in Georgia Square Mall. Sears Holdings, which operates both Sears and K-Mart stores, is also planning on 150 store closures this year, including Georgia locations in Columbus, Cornelia, Kingsland, and Savannah.

The trend against many established big box retailers is strong, and appears to be growing. There are also signs that it’s not just department stores experiencing capacity issues. A recent Atlanta Journal Constitution report suggests that the metro area may have too many grocery stores.

While some of the closures are due to newer, smaller, and more nimble competitors entering the market, it’s now also easy to see a broad shift from large brick and mortar retailers to internet sales channels. The days of the internet being a new fragile frontier of commerce are over. Continue reading “It’s Time To Tax Internet Sales”

Randy Robertson To Run For Senate Seat Vacated By McKoon

Chuck Williams of the Columbus Ledger Enquirer brings word that the race to replace State Senator Josh McKoon has begun.  McKoon has already announced his intention to vacate his seat.

Robertson, 54, said his 30 years in law enforcement gives him an unique perspective as he seeks the office. He retired in October 2015.

“There is no one in the House or the Senate that has the law enforcement background that I would bring to this job,” said Robertson, a 2010 graduate of the FBI National Academy in Virginia and the former Columbus Homeland Security director under former Mayor Jim Wetherington. “The Legislature often deals with issues such as criminal justice reform and I would bring subject-matter expertise to those discussions.”

Robertson said he has had conversations with people who live in District 29 as well as Republicans on the state level about the post. The 2018 election will bring about political change in the state, and that appealed to him.

“You are going to have a new governor, you will have a new lieutenant governor and there will be a lot of change in Atlanta,” Robertson said. “I think it would be an exciting time to be there as a conservative representing District 29.”

Continue reading “Randy Robertson To Run For Senate Seat Vacated By McKoon”

Ralston Puts “Other Georgia” In The Spotlight

This week’s Courier Herald column:

There was a time in recent Georgia history when it was impolite to talk about the concept of “Two Georgias”. There was the thriving and growing Atlanta – the economic engine of the state.

Then, there was everything else. The “Other Georgia”. The people that could see the writing on the wall. The people who knew their rural grip on power was slipping. The people who could see that economic and population trends were shifting against them. The people who liked things the way they were, but knew times were changing whether they liked it or not.

With the assistance of UGA professor and Georgia political master Dr. Charles Bullock, we believe the term was popularized during the administration of Governor Joe Frank Harris by the late Doug Bachtel. “Two Georgias” was not a term of endearment. It was, in essence, perceived as a threat to those at the Capitol that they were spending too much time courting the favor of the business interests of Atlanta, and not the greater population that lived outside the area.

The 80’s were several lifetimes ago in Georgia politics. Time did march on, and political and demographic trends did shift. Continue reading “Ralston Puts “Other Georgia” In The Spotlight”

Cobb mom gets her man

What would you do if one day you found out an older male wrestling coach was attempting to coerce your young son into a sexual relationship? A very good friend of mine faced this dilemma a few years ago after her son was targeted and decided to take action. Little did she know how difficult it would be to expose this pedophile preying upon juvenile wrestlers in East Cobb.

After years of tireless effort, she finally got charges brought against the habitual abuser in Pennsylvania. Ron Gorman, a volunteer wrestling coach most recently at Life University in Marietta faces over 250 counts relating to his sexual advances toward young wrestlers under his tutelage. Here is a story from the Marietta Daily Journal that provides details – CLICK HERE.

According to my friend who has requested anonymity, Gorman followed the classic pedophile technique of ‘grooming‘ his targets by contacting them via phone, text and social media. In the linked article, Dr. Phil explains the 5 stages of ‘grooming’ – 1> Identify 2> Gather info 3> Fill a need 4> Lower inhibitions 5> Initiate abuse. Continue reading “Cobb mom gets her man”

Georgia lawmakers channel inner Joel Osteen to target Internet porn

In 2015, I said I would never forgive the Georgia legislature for putting forth a bill that place me in a position to defend strippers, but the government overreach and unnecessary taxation was just too much to keep quiet. It was a trying time and even still, if you google my name, you’ll be blessed to see information about strippers – all in the name of liberty.

And here we are, two years later, facing another overreach and another tax. The victim this time? Porn.

Continue reading “Georgia lawmakers channel inner Joel Osteen to target Internet porn”

House Casino Bill To Be Heard On Crossover Day

Friday is Crossover Day. For those playing at home, that’s the last day for a bill that originates in the House or Senate to be passed out of that chamber and passed to the other chamber in time for consideration (and passage) before Sine Die. 

It was generally assumed that casinos in Georgia was dead for this session…until we got word via Jim Galloway over at the AJC that a House version of a casino measure, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), would be heard by the House Regulated Industries Committee at noon on Friday. The 11th hour, indeed. 

As Jim cites Yogi Berra, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” We’ll see what happens in House Regulated Industries. I’m sure it will be fun to watch. 

Jon Returns To The Capitol

As we mentioned way back when, sometime just before the New Year our Editor in Chief Jon Richards was diagnosed with cancer. He’s since spent about five weeks in the hospital and another four in a skilled nursing/rehabilitation facility. They managed to get him into fighting shape, and yesterday Jon was able to make a return visit to the capitol. Many of you have asked for an update. For those that didn’t get it in person yesterday, here it is in pictures.

The day began with a stop in the Governor’s office:

Photo by Governor’s photographer

It was then off to the House, where the Speaker welcomed Jon to the House floor. Jon received a warm bipartisan welcome from members of the House.

Speaker Ralston shares a word:

Photo by House photographer

Continue reading “Jon Returns To The Capitol”

Politickin’ High School Sports: A Brief History

“I get more phone calls on this than I do every piece of legislation y’all ever introduce. and basically, I am sick of it…When I say that I get more complaints about you than I do about every bill that 236 people introduce, I’m not exaggerating that.”

That’s a quote from the House Rules Chairman to his colleagues, from a story that ran just 4 days before Crossover Day in the Macon Telegraph. The ‘this’ Chairman Johnny Meadows is talking about isn’t guns, or abortion, or gerrymandering. It’s not even religious freedoms, teachers, or taxes.

It’s high school sports.

Folks that read this blog see fall as election season. Folks that don’t, see it as high school football season. The latter, apparently have Chairman Meadows’ ear. Or both ears. So in return, the powerful chairman and a gaggle of fellow legislative heavy hitters in both chambers have grabbed the Georgia High School Association by theirs.

According to Chairman Meadows’ public statements, as well as public testimony by GHSA officials, there’s been consternation over a number of issues at GHSA for some time. Complaints of lack of transparency, favoritism, and illegal recruitment have marred the reputation of the organization and irked folks like Meadows for some time. These frustration came to head last year when it was determined that the GHSA incorrectly set the basketball goals in the 2016 state championship tournament. Oops.

So, the General Assembly, as they tend to do, is responding. They’ve decided to just scrap the GHSA. Or at least they’re saying they are to see how high they’ll jump.

The GHSA jumped. High. During a hearing on one of the bills proposed to abolish and replace the century old organization, a spokesperson for GHSA announced that their Executive Director was resigning immediately.

So that’s where we are. The GHSA has called a last minute meeting for next week in Thomaston to begin a hunt for for a new Executive Director.

While there may be a lot of frustration with the GHSA, and hitting the square in the chin might sound like the best political move after a slew of emails and calls, a cautionary tale from the not so distant past tells us, it ain’t that simple.

Chairman Meadows has been around a long time. Before being elected to the General Assembly in 2004, he was mayor of Calhoun. It’s a fair bet he remembers who the late Tm Murphy was.

Speaker Murphy was the longest serving Speaker of any House in the history of the country. He was also a committed Blue Devil who was in the Bremen High School bleachers every other autumn Friday night.

In 2000, Speaker Murphy got pretty fed up with the GHSA, too. According to him, the private schools were recruiting from as far New York to come down to Bremen to beat the “soup out of us.” So, much like Meadows, he decided to take a swing at them. He used his political muscle and proposed a bill that bumped all private schools up one division.

Speaker Murphy, a seemingly unbeatable titan in Georgia politics, lost just a year and half later, in part, because this activated a pocket of voters. He messed with the status quo of the high school sports world. And whether he was right or wrong, a faction of folks did not like that.

It’s worth wondering if that’s why one name you won’t see on the Senate version of this year’s swing at the GHSA, Senate Bill 203 belongs to the man who beat Speaker Murphy, now Senator Bill Heath. It’s especially worth a thought if you’re one of the ones whose name is on that computer screen beside a bill that abolishes the GHSA.

Author’s Note: You can’t spell ‘champ’ without MP. As such, it is important to note that I have a conflict of interest that creates a strong bias should we decide to discuss which high school football team is worse than Dan Pitts’ Mary Persons Bulldogs.