There’s an old saying among lawmakers that perfection should not be the enemy of the good. That adage squarely applies to Georgia House Bill 1, which offers significant improvements to the state’s current, too-weak laws concerning civil forfeiture.
Georgia needs a stronger law because the existing statutes covering seizure of assets believed linked to criminal activity do not provide for fair, effective oversight and administration of the forfeiture process.
HB 1 as now written is not all-encompassing in its offered improvements, but it represents a solid step forward. That’s likely the best that can be achieved during this hurried, election-year legislative session. Lawmakers anxious to resume campaigning can’t be counted on to achieve perfection this year. Thus, the good, and not the perfect, will have to do for now.
The bill was passed out of House committee this month. It should be quickly approved by the full House and sent on to the state Senate.
By Wendell Willard
Civil forfeiture is the power of law enforcement to seize property believed to be connected with criminal activity and acquire it for law enforcement use through a forfeiture proceeding. Georgia’s current civil forfeiture procedures have come under fire in recent years, sparking a desire for reform.
Critics allege that current laws create a profit incentive for seizing agencies, potentially distorting law enforcement priorities and shifting focus to revenue generation and away from other activities. Civil forfeiture provisions are currently spread throughout the Georgia code and encompass 14 different procedures, which alone calls for creation of one consolidated and standardized procedure. While law enforcement agencies are presently required by law to file an annual report with the state detailing their forfeiture seizures and expenditures, there exists ambiguity on who is expected to do the reporting, the level of detail required to be reported, and
From a Jan. 24 letter to State Rep. Wendell Willard by Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore, president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association: It is on behalf of the members of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association that I respectfully advise you of our opposition to the substitute to House Bill 1 … .
We feel the substitute to House Bill 1 properly addresses the issues of burden of proof, discretion of appropriate use of condemned assets by sheriffs and chiefs and the threshold amount for quasi-administrative forfeitures. We are grateful for these compromises, but have serious concerns with the nature and extent of newly added procedural requirements which will unnecessarily complicate our existing constitutional process of condemning assets seized through criminal activity. Surely, these newly required procedures can only create additional burdens for our Clerks of Superior Court and District Attorneys whose offices remain understaffed. We furthermore believe the imposition of
This ‘thug’ could save your life
By Anwar Osborne
Here is a guy walking down the street in Atlanta. He’s black and wearing what some might call a “thug” uniform: a zip-hooded sweatshirt, jeans, a baseball cap on backwards, and Michael Jordan basketball shoes.
But that man is me, and I’m on my way to work, a physician in an urban hospital emergency department. I’m a doctor, and I dress like a “thug.”
Michael Dunn, a white Floridian, said he hated “thug music” before shooting Jordan Davis, a black teenager. Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman had the word “thug” uttered about him many times before the Super Bowl, and Jonathan Ferrell got shot instead of getting help after a car crash.
These cases are striking to me because I live in a 6-foot 1-inch, 210-pound black body, but also because I spend the majority of my waking hours trying to keep people alive. Sometimes it’s by delivering patient care, signing charts in my office, attending a lecture or fleshing
Moderated by Tom Sabulis
The General Assembly is considering legislation that will put foster care largely in the hands of private agencies, even with regard to case management. Today we hear from child-law experts who say our state’s outcomes for abused children are already better than Florida’s, which has the model Georgia is looking to replicate. A former Obama Administration official familiar with Florida’s law says privatization is the way to go.
Commenting is open.
Privatizing is not a proven reform plan
By Melissa Dorris Carter and Andrew Barclay
Is privatization of child welfare services good public policy for Georgia’s children and families?
That’s the question provoked by Senate Bill 350, and there is no simple answer. The rapid early progress of the proposal, which would require that the Division of Family and Children Services bid out child welfare services statewide through contracts with community agencies, should not be taken as an indication of
Moderated by Rick Badie
Today, we ask if free-market competition can trump government planning and public service delivery. Cash-strapped state governments are turning to public-private partnerships and outsourcing to save money and, it is hoped, improve efficiency. One writer praises proposed legislation that would set guidelines for such agreements in Georgia. A privatization proponent writes about the trend growing nationwide, while another author suggests governments should proceed cautiously.
Control public contracting services
By Donald Cohen
Cash-strapped state and local governments have handed over control of public services and assets to corporations backed by Wall Street banks that promise to handle them better. Not only has outsourcing these services failed to keep this promise, but too often it undermines transparency, accountability, shared prosperity and competition.
Atlantans have seen this firsthand in the agreement that turned water services over to
Moderated by Rick Badie
Call us the Goober State. Peanuts, an economic engine in rural South Georgia, represent a value that exceeds $2 billion. Today’s topics deal with record crop yields, a slight decline in exports to China, and the potential for growth due in part to health-conscious consumers.
Nuts: The economic health of Georgia
By Don Koehler
In our developed economy, most of us find ourselves taking our needs and wants for granted. Save a weather disruption, we never worry about our food supply and, frankly, the supply of anything. We are fortunate to live in a state with a strong and growing economy.
In rural South Georgia, one of the drivers fueling Georgia’s economic engine resides beneath the ground.
In 2012, Georgia farmers produced more than half of the U.S. peanut crop, up from 45 percent. These amazing little peas are a legume, like a pea. Geographically, they are grown below a line from Augusta to Macon to Columbus. Once the farmer harvests his crop, they
Moderated by Tom Sabulis
In the name of public safety, according to its sponsors, House Bill 907 in the General Assembly aims to regulate “transportation referral” car services such as Uber and Lyft, which use smartphone app technology to attract customers. Local cab companies support the legislation, saying it forces these new competitors go through the same permitting process, and red tape, as them. I spoke with the CEO of an Atlanta cab company for today’s column, while a local Uber manager gives that service’s side of the story.
Commenting is open.
Taxis: Level the playing field
By Tom Sabulis
As a third-generation cab company operator, Rick Hewatt of Atlanta Checker Cab spoke last week about a bill pending in the Gerogia Assembly that would regulate Smartphone app-driven car services such as Uber and Lyft:
On the new competition: I’ve worked here 30 years and I’ve seen competition come and go. By far this has been the most aggressive competition. Most other
Rugged circumstances can teach worthwhile lessons.
As the second major storm in barely two weeks pounded away at us last week, Georgians, their government and the private sector seemed to have taken January’s bad weather teachings to heart. We’ve got more to learn, but this city and state seem to have been forced onto a better path of storm management.
We changed our behaviors this time around and timing of the latest storm also worked more in our favor. That made all the difference as sleet, ice and snow descended upon us yet again.
In the midst of it all, we were reminded that humankind, even with the best of its technology and machinery, is little match for Nature at its worst. More than 350,000 Georgia customers without electric power Wednesday decisively proved that.
We must nevertheless be ever-diligent in managing what we can control. Thus, we should keep working toward better ways to predict, assess and handle future weather events. Two big storms in less than a
By Nathan Deal
The week began with words like “historic” and “catastrophic.” That’s where the story began, but not where it ended. The weather modeling that led to those alarm bells proved accurate, and we Georgians were ready. Last weekend, nearly two days before the first of two waves of winter storms, state government jumped into action.
On Sunday, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency briefed me on impending weather conditions, using data from local meteorologists. It was time to enact the reforms we had discussed in recent weeks. That day, my office sent the latest weather information to school superintendents and local leaders.
Working with the DOT, the Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia State Patrol, we began mobilizing state personnel and assets toward areas where the storm was predicted to hit hardest. I put the National Guard on warning alert.
Monday gave us a full work day to inform Georgians about the dangerous conditions headed our