Archive for February, 2013

Georgia congressmen on sequester

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Sweeping budget cuts are about to begin under the rules of the so-called sequester. Georgia congressmen from both parties write about the damage that will be done by the austerity measure and the political maneuvering that brought us to this economic line in the sand.

Commenting is open below Hank Johnson’s column.

Cuts only way out of spending problem

By Jack Kingston

President Barack Obama has mastered a new kind of politics: Do nothing about a problem, refuse to meet with Congress, and then launch campaign rallies across the country to complain about nothing getting done. The latest example is his campaign against what he describes as the devastating cuts of sequestration. What he is forgetting to tell the American people is that it was his idea in the first place. He also forgets to mention that these “massive” cuts amount to less than 3 cents on the dollar over 10 years.

A little back story: Sequestration was created in the Budget Control Act …

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SOAP

Moderated by Rick Badie

Atlanta wants to rid its streets of prostitution with a SOAP (Stay Out of Area — Prostitution) ordinance. The proposed measure would ban convicted prostitutes, johns and pimps from pre-defined areas of prostitution. This banishment law would also make it illegal for convicted prostitutes and johns to be in sections of the city known for such activity during their probation. Today, I interview a SOAP supporter, while a guest writer suggests a “wraparound” approach to the issue.

Banishment aptly fights prostitution

By Rick Badie

As president of the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance, Peggy Denby has been at the forefront of the city’s crackdown on street prostitution. Here, she answers questions about the issue and her hopes for an ordinance that curbs the problem.

Q: When did this issue become simply intolerable?

A: The Midtown Ponce Security Alliance (MPSA) was formed some 11 years ago to deal with criminal behavior, including prostitution. The …

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Federal minimum wage: $7.25 or $9 an hour?

 Moderated by Rick Badie

Proponents of President Barack Obama’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour say it would bode well for business and the overall economy. Opponents label the rate increase a jobs killer that would hurt small business owners. Should Congress boost the minimum wage? We present four views on the matter.

Wage hike bad idea for many reasons

By Kyle Jackson

President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour and allow automatic increases in the future based on inflation.

This is a bad idea.

Supporters say raising the minimum wage would help the working poor keep up with the cost of living. The truth is that an arbitrary increase inevitably hurts the people a wage increase is meant to help — young people, first-time workers and those with no or limited skills.

Last spring, Robert Nielsen, an assistant professor of housing and consumer economics at the …

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Voting Rights Act debate

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday involving the “preclearance” provision (Section 5) in the Voting Rights Act, which says nine states and certain areas in seven others must get federal approval before changing election procedures. Most of the affected governments are in the South. Two local law school professors look at the legal challenge.

Commenting is open below Rob Teilhet’s column.

Outdated Section 5 stokes partisan fire

By David Oedel

The Voting Rights Act pushed the South to grow beyond slavery and Jim Crow by helping ensure that every citizen has a fair chance to vote. But can Georgia still be relegated constitutionally to the voting-violator doghouse? If so, does Section 5 violate other constitutional guarantees, souring Georgia politics with racial preoccupations?

The Supreme Court is now pondering Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Despite its 2006 reauthorization, Section 5 still singles out Georgia and eight other …

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Making justice smarter and more efficient

The pairing of justice with common sense and compassion is a sound practice — one that should help keep Georgians safer from crime while also effectively managing taxpayers’ bills for this critical function of government.
In recent years, though, smart handling of criminals has been hindered by the understandable desire to throw the book of long sentences at many of them.
On the surface, that was a logical response to felons who were seemingly competing to achieve horrific new highs in gun crimes, drug-running and the like.
In the cool reflection of the passing years, criminal justice professionals, many law enforcement officials and lawmakers have come to realize that long, one-size-fits-all prison sentences did get criminals off the street, but at great and increasing expense.
Georgia’s tab for its adult and juvenile corrections system currently runs about $1.4 billion a year.
Gov. Nathan Deal, joined by many judges and legislators have been asserting for more than a …

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One-size-fits-all doesn’t always serve justice

By Nathan Deal

During the 1980s and ’90s, Georgia adopted laws that put more offenders behind bars for longer periods of time. The “get-tough” movement was built on the best intentions and it succeeded in removing many dangerous criminals from our streets.
We now spend $1.1 billion a year of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars on our adult corrections system and another $300 million on our juvenile system. For me, every penny of that would be worth it if we knew it was being used most efficiently and effectively to keep our communities safe.
But it is not.
Public safety is our first priority. In Georgia, if you are responsible for a serious, violent crime, we will put you away. But research has identified new strategies like drug courts that are more effective and much less expensive than prison for many nonviolent offenders.
Last legislative session, the General Assembly enacted a sweeping set of reforms in our criminal justice system. These reforms are already starting …

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On the Record on criminal justice reform

Paul Howard, Fulton County district attorney, in the AJC, Feb. 17: “What is the effect of the mandatory minimums? In Atlanta, since 1994 when the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ took effect, the violent crime rate has dropped 62 percent. The sentences handed down in our criminal justice system should be fair and just, and each defendant must receive equal treatment. So every time I hear of the judges talking about wanting more discretion, I am reminded of sentencing disparities. Black defendants are at least 30 percent more likely to be in prison for the same crime. Whenever the judges are allowed to sentence at their discretion, the disparity increases. That’s why I believe it’s important that everyone who commits a similar crime should receive a similar sentence. There is racial disparity. One of the best ways to avoid it is to make the sentences the same. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it does provide a measure of protection because it provides a system of …

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Great need for metro Atlanta nonprofits

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Commenting is open below.

The strength in private giving

By Alicia Philipp

In the midst of the rancorous debate over the federal budget and sequestration, whether or not Senator Hagel will be the next secretary of defense, or if, and where, the new Falcons stadium will be built, I want to know why the most important debate is not happening. Where is the civil discussion on what we, as individuals and members of our larger communities, need our community to be? Where are the reasoned voices, including ideas from those whose voices are less often heard — children, elderly, mentally ill, homeless and others?

This discussion requires the acknowledgement of facts. Governments and the nonprofit sector are inextricably linked as we try to address the needs of our communities. The supportive role of governments to the work of nonprofits is critical. According to Lester Salamon in his recent book, “The State of Nonprofit America,” nonprofit organizations …

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Republicans debate Medicaid expansion

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Republicans rule the roost in Georgia. Today, three GOP members offer views on Medicaid expansion. A former health company executive says expansion under Obamacare could create jobs and protect lower-income folks. A congressman from Athens and a state Senate floor leader argue against expansion while writing about what’s being done in Washington and at the Gold Dome to meet our citizens’ expanding needs.

Commenting is open below State Senator Charlie Bethel’s column. (There are three columns today.)

Ideology in the way of creating jobs

By Jack Bernard

As a Republican former office holder and proven fiscal conservative, I know there are real limitations as to what government can or should spend. But in the case of Medicaid, I am frankly at a complete loss. As my boss, the CEO of a national health care company, once told me, “The mark of a great nation is how it takes care of the less fortunate.”

For the uninformed, here is the issue. The feds …

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Patients’ rights and medical justice

Moderated by Rick Badie

A Georgia state senator has proposed a tort reform measure that would eliminate the medical malpractice legal process and replace it with something called a Patients’ Compensation System. Today, an advocate for that new system explains how it would benefit patients, doctors and hospitals, while the president of the state trial lawyers group says it usurps the judicial process.

Adopt a new system for medical justice

By Wayne Oliver

Beverly Hodges Bachman is among the hundreds of victims in this country who have been told that, although they lost a loved one to medical malpractice, nothing can be done about it.

Beverly lost her mother, Bobby Hodges, a healthy 75-year-old woman, to a blood clot. It was bad enough medical professionals didn’t listen to her pleas to make sure her mother’s swollen knee wasn’t clotting after an auto accident.

The real blow, however, came when two trial lawyers told her that her mother’s life had no value, and they …

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