Archive for the ‘Quality of Life’ Category

Pro/Con: Georgia’s probation industry

Dean Rohrer/NewsArt

Dean Rohrer/NewsArt

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed legislation last week that would have allowed private probation companies to keep secret from the public details such as how many people they supervise and how much they collect in fines. Supporters of the bill said it would help private probation companies avoid frivolous litigation. Opponents warned it amounted to a gift to help shield the lucrative firms from more scrutiny. We hear from both sides today.

Commenting is open.

Benefits of private probation

By Mark Contestabile

A recent audit of the state’s private probation industry found much to criticize while ignoring the many benefits the industry provides. Despite best efforts to be thorough, the limited number of cases studied may not provide an accurate picture of the industry or the scope of its services.

Georgia’s private probation industry provides a valuable and cost-effective service that enhances public safety. Nearly three dozen service …

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Praise Lord, pass ammo?

Tim Brinton/NewsArt

Tim Brinton/NewsArt

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Gov. Nathan Deal recently signed into law legislation that expands the list of places where Georgians can legally carry firearms, including schools, bars and government buildings. Today, we present arguments for and against guns in church sanctuaries. The pro-guns essay comes from the pastor of a small 90-member church. The anti-guns column comes from the pastor of Atlanta’s Central Presbyterian and one of more than 200 religious leaders in Georgia, including Catholic Archbishop Wilton Gregory and Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple synagogue in Atlanta, who oppose the law.

Commenting is open.

Guns in church really OK

By Thomas E. Rush

The Georgia Legislature has taken a huge step in the right direction when it comes to concealed carry. The passing of House Bill 60 has not been without controversy, much of that related to allowing churches the option to defend themselves through lawful concealed carry. It was a disappointment that in …

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Vaccines crucial

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Babies need their vaccines

By Brenda Fitzgerald

I don’t know if there’s a more disturbing and terrifying sight for a new mother: a baby coughing so violently and rapidly with such repetition that all of the air is gone from the child’s lungs. And then comes the sound — a deep “whooping” gasp as baby struggles to replace the missing air and breathe.

Vomiting often comes next, and with it, a 50-percent chance the child, if an infant, will be hospitalized. For other babies, the symptoms can be less noticeable yet more dangerous, including apnea, or long pauses with no breathing.

None of this has to happen.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is extremely dangerous for infants and yet is entirely preventable, along with more than a dozen other life-threatening diseases. Safeguarding baby requires the simplest of actions by the mother: straightforward, proven vaccination.

And while we cannot immediately vaccinate a baby against the devastating effects …

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Corporate buying of judges

Chris Van Es/NewsArt

Chris Van Es/NewsArt

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

An Emory University law professor writes that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down aggregate limits on some political donations imperils the independent judiciary in Georgia. A Mercer University professor counters that, while the danger exists, corruption has not tainted our state judiciary. The opportunity for big money to influence judges may arise in the future through trickle-down campaign funding, they say, but voters will always hold the power to oust offending judges, if it comes to that.

Commenting is open.

Flood of money threatens judiciary

By Joanna Shepherd Bailey

Americans prize “due process of law” in resolving our legal disputes. We expect that when our disputes must be resolved by trial, that our case will be heard, fully and fairly, by an impartial judge.

But a recent United States Supreme Court decision threatens this expected impartiality by opening our courts to unlimited campaign …

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What’s wrong with food stamps?

Jo Ann de la Moriniere, 73, of Ball Ground is one of many who have had problems with the food stamps call-in center. Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Jo Ann de la Moriniere, 73, of Ball Ground is one of many who have had problems with the food stamps call-in center. Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Georgia faces losing up to $76 million in federal funding due to its huge backlog of food stamp applications. It must fix a system plagued by understaffing, antiquated technology and a call-in center that cannot handle all the calls that come in. Today, an analyst on the right suggests a number of reforms, while one on the left writes that the state should hire an adequate number of workers to handle the overload that began mounting with the Great Recession.

Commenting is open.

Reform is the real answer

By Rachel Sheffield

Georgia’s food stamp program is making headlines—and not the kind you like to see.

Tens of thousands of applications are backlogged. The state Department of Human Services blames it on a rapid, recession-induced increase in caseloads, combined with a decrease in administrators and a …

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Breakthrough for online registration

John Spink/jspink@ajc.com

John Spink/jspink@ajc.com

Georgia voting – there’s an app for it

By Brian Kemp

One of my main goals as Georgia’s Secretary of State has been to increase efficiencies and decrease costs by using technology.

Of all of the innovations that the office has made over the years, I could not be more proud of the state’s ability to offer online voter registration and the My Voter Page (MVP) mobile app. These tools truly accomplish both goals.

Recently, I had the opportunity to share this with citizens all over Georgia. I was most struck by one particular encounter.

At the Savannah Armory, I visited with members of our National Guard and talked to them about Georgia’s new online voter registration system and MVP app for mobile devices. It was one of the most positive experiences I have had since I began serving as Georgia’s Secretary of State in 2010. We had a great dialogue about the challenges of military voting. One young man told me that he always wonders whether his vote …

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Governor Deal and ethics

Former state ethics commission director Stacey Kalberman, center, hugs friend Terri Cohen after giving testimony April 3 claiming she was dismissed for trying to investigate Gov. Nathan Deal's 2010 campaign. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Former state ethics commission director Stacey Kalberman, center, hugs friend Terri Cohen after giving testimony April 3 claiming she was dismissed for trying to investigate Gov. Nathan Deal's 2010 campaign. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Last week, a Fulton County jury sided with the former director of the state ethics commission when it ruled she was forced from her job for investigating Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign, throwing the troubled commission into deeper turmoil. State officials had argued that Stacey Kalberman’s departure had nothing to do with her wanting to issue subpoenas for records pertaining to Deal’s 2010 campaign. In the wake of that decision, the governor today writes about his plan for overhauling the commission, while Democrats detail their push for a more independent watchdog.

Commenting is open.

New commission will ensure fairness

By Nathan Deal

Throughout its troubled history – dating back long before I took this office …

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Compromise on Religious Freedom Act?

JON KRAUSE/NEWSART

JON KRAUSE/NEWSART

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Senate Bill 377 — the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act — failed to get traction this year, as companies such as Delta and Home Depot said it would hurt business and cost jobs, presumably because it would have allowed private businesses to decline on religious grounds to serve gay people. But discrimination was not the intent, sponsors said. Today, two lawyers look at a compromise solution, and an author parses the definitions of discrimination over the years and, on this issue, makes his case.

Commenting is open.

Expand freedoms for all

By Robin Fretwell Wilson and Anthony Michael Kreis

In the closing hours of Georgia’s legislative session, sponsors of the “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act,” Senate Bill 377, made one final attempt to pass it. That attempt failed. It is surprising that the sponsor, Sen. Josh McKoon, even made such a last-ditch effort.

SB 377 had reportedly died after a “massive public backlash” …

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Teen pregnancy in Georgia

Good sign: teen birth rate declining

By Jane Fonda, Melissa Kottke and Kim M. Nolte

Public health professionals, educators, clinicians, parents and the community cheered recently when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new teen birth data for 2012. The teen birth rate is declining dramatically in Georgia.

In fact, in just one year (2011-2012), Georgia saw an impressive decline of 12 percent, the second-highest decline in the country and the highest decline our state has ever seen. The state’s teen birth rate has plummeted more than 50 percent since 1995.

Bottom line: Fewer teens are having sex, and for those who are, there’s a sharp increase in the use of contraceptives, thanks to the hard work several organizations do to keep the issue front and center.

All of us should be excited about this news for several reasons. Teen childbearing costs Georgia taxpayers more than $465 million each year. It is the No. 1 reason girls drop out of high school; only 2 …

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medical marijuana

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

One of the stranger turns of the recent legislative session found lawmakers holding hostage and suddenly defeating an immensely popular “medical marijuana” bill. The bill’s sponsor writes today about the positives of allowing cannabis oil to treat children with seizures, and hopes Gov. Nathan Deal might find a way to help through executive action. In our second column, the mother of a young girl who would benefit from cannabis oil criticizes the political process she holds responsible for denying relief to her child and others.

Commenting is open.

Families deserve chance at medical cannabis

By Allen Peake

When the 2014 General Assembly session began ten short weeks ago, the odds of a medical cannabis bill passing this year would have been longer than having a perfect March Madness bracket in Vegas, because no one was crazy enough to take that bet.

But by the time the last day of the legislative session arrived, the issue of legalizing cannabidiol …

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