Your morning jolt: A last-minute slap at criminal justice reform

Gov. Nathan Deal’s criminal justice reform bill, which should win final approval on this last day of the legislative session, has been widely applauded for its attempt to reduce the size of Georgia’s prison population.

So a critical editorial in the Macon Telegraph came as something of a surprise. A few paragraphs:

Now the state returns with another schizophrenic proposal to lower the number of felony offenses its responsible for adjudicating. In other words, they want to lower the number of inmates in state prisons. How can it do that? Change the definition of a felony from a $500 to a $1,000 offense. It’s not that a thief stopped stealing, it just means instead of being a state felony it would be a local misdemeanor, and local taxpayers would have to foot the bill.

The state only pays 40 percent of the actual costs of feeding and housing state prisoners. And it leaves them languishing in our jail and others across the state for days and weeks. The carrot lawmakers have presented is an $11.6 million allocation to set up “accountability courts.” Bibb County was a pioneer. Our Drug Court has been in operation for 18 years and has proven beyond a doubt that such courts work. But the carrot the state is offering doesn’t smell quite right because the funding isn’t enough to pay the costs of setting up drug courts across the state. Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena said the amount is a “drop in the bucket.”

***
In an interview with Charles Edwards and WABE (90.1FM), Gov. Nathan Deal explains why this year’s tax reform bill wasn’t more ambitious:

Deal says this year’s tax bill is more realistic than last year’s. The 2011 bill would have cut Georgia’s personal income tax rate. But, the Governor says cutting that rate by a quarter of 1% would have taken $400 million out of the annual state budget.

“Anytime that you make those kind of major sweeping changes from one form of taxation to another you have to be very careful because the constitutional mandate is the budget has to be balanced at the end of the day,” said Deal.

***
Better Georgia, a progressive group pushing Democratic causes, is a bit late to the game, but has put out this guerrilla video urging urine tests on lawmakers who today intend to require welfare recipients to pass a drug test before receiving any benefits:

Kill this Bill: Unfair Georgia Drug Test from Bryan Long on Vimeo.

***
Over at Georgia Pundit, Todd Rehm has posted this video interview with Attorney General Sam Olens, who attended all three days of U.S. Supreme Court arguments to decide the fate of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
Olens speaks here after Day Two:

Said Olens:

”It was clear that they wanted to hear the merits of the case and the anti-injunction act was not going to bar the lawsuit. Two circuit courts claimed that the anti-injunction act barred the suit. Two federal appellate courts. …There was no difference on the ideologies. Everyone thought we should get to the merits.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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20 comments Add your comment

Tom

March 29th, 2012
9:35 am

are we already at day #40? seems like it flew by this year.

Centrist

March 29th, 2012
9:37 am

“Progressives” is the new term to replace liberals simply because it doesn’t (yet) carry the same negative connotation. They want drug use de-criminalized and any changes short of that in reform will not do. I personally have mixed emotions, but understand the underlying issue.

I also agree with the progressives (liberals) about making lawmakers take drug tests just like benefit recipients, and many job holders. It isn’t going to happen because it was offered only to kill the benefit recipient legislation as a Democrat ploy. Either no, or not enough Republicans signed on. I do wish that there could be some bi-partisanship in our legislature where Republicans would consider any logical bills that Democrats submit, but alas this is still payback time for when Democrats were in control with THEIR iron fist.

What was left out of the summary of the tax bill was that in order to pay for an income tax percentage reduction would come from an increased sales tax which was not proposed this year. What they DID do was raise taxes via new car title “fees” to reward car dealer campaign contributions, and reversed the phaseout of income taxes on Social Security, IRA withdrawals, and pension benefits. The Republicans simply raised taxes during these terrible economic times, and the AJC could care less – raising taxes is part of the liberal (progressive) dogma.

clyde

March 29th, 2012
9:58 am

Teddy Roosevelt was a Progressive.

n

March 29th, 2012
10:04 am

No progress without progressives.
Antonym (opposite) of “progress” =”decline, decrease, deteriorate, retrogress”
How apt a description of what has been happening in GA over the past decade

Centrist

March 29th, 2012
10:07 am

So if conservative Republicans re-brand as “awesome”, would that make others the opposite?

clyde

March 29th, 2012
10:11 am

Sometimes progress is regress.Take Obamacare for instance.

DannyX

March 29th, 2012
10:13 am

“So if conservative Republicans re-brand as “awesome”, would that make others the opposite?”

Awesome? Centrist, you just re-branded Georgia Republicans as liberal progressives in your 9:37 post.

Try to keep up with yourself.

Centrist

March 29th, 2012
10:25 am

@ clyde – “Hope, change, and progressiveness” is merely an attempt to follow European style socialism and national debt which has failed. Our nation was built on opportunity, personal responsibility, and welfare for those unable to provide for themselves. Things are worse now that we have gone towards the European model.

But the pendulum swing toward European socialism stopped via the Tea party win in 2010, and either will stay where it is now, or will reverse in November. How FAR it might reverse could be a scary prospect if Republicans control all branches of government – but a moderate Romney is likely to veto any reactionary legislation. SCOTUS looks to stop the attempt to socialize our healthcare, and may also allow states to protect their borders from ILLEGAL immigrant invasion even if the federal government shirks that responsibility.

DannyX

March 29th, 2012
10:30 am

“but a moderate Romney is likely to veto any reactionary legislation.”

Romney is not a moderate, he says he’s “severely conservative.”

DannyX

March 29th, 2012
10:34 am

“…but a moderate Romney is likely to veto any reactionary legislation.”

Does that mean Romney would veto his own tax plan? You know, the one that would cut taxes on the rich and add $900 billion to the deficit in 2015.

Danny O

March 29th, 2012
10:49 am

To be certain , the editorial in the Telegraph was about the latest iteration of the cost-shifting binge that Republicans have been on since they took over state government. Claiming to shrink government when in actuality services are being shifted from state to counties and cities is a shell game.

Nothing in the Macon Telegraph editorial suggested to me that they have a problem with the concept of criminal justice reform, just with the fact that local governments are having to pay for some of what is being advertised as a savings to the state. Facts is facts, and a tax is a tax, whether it is paid to the state, to the county, or to the city.

Aaron Burr V Mexico

March 29th, 2012
11:18 am

“So you see, in my MIND I’m the center of the universe. And I know some people that want to kill all the hippies and I just want them homeless, so that makes me a centrist. When I say ’socialism’ I know what that means, and so that also makes me intelligent.

My name is NOT a lie. I AM the center.”

The center of something anyway.

td

March 29th, 2012
11:23 am

I say drug test anyone receiving one penny of state funds and if they are using then cut the money off or fire them on the spot.

John

March 29th, 2012
11:34 am

The way to eliminate crime is to put people in jail longer and to make their stay unbearable- not giving them cookies and milk and having a probation officer tell them to be nice. Make everybody convicted of a crime serve at least a year locked up with no visitors and crime would end.

td

March 29th, 2012
11:52 am

John

March 29th, 2012
11:34 am

Make them go out from sun up to sun down for a year and either pick up trash or make small rocks out of large rocks. Turn off the AC and the TV’s in the jail and use your recommendation.

Danny O

March 29th, 2012
1:48 pm

@ John and td: Who’s going to pay for all of that? We can barely pay for the Dept. of Corrections $1B budget as it is. We can save a bunch of money by bringing some sense to non-violent criminal sentencing.

If you care about how your tax dollars are spent, then you should care about sentencing reform.

CobbGOPer

March 29th, 2012
2:32 pm

So you’re telling me that someone could lift $500 worth of stuff from a store and spend less time in jail/court than someone busted simply for having a joint on them?

That’s some fine sentencing reform you got there, Lou.

Slip

March 29th, 2012
3:04 pm

touche, Telegraph. The State has been shifting the Justice burden on the counties and cities with increasing alarm. Most people would be surprised to know that except for the Appeals Courts, the DA’s salary, the Superior Court Judge’s salary, their secretaries and a handful of assistant DAs, the state pays next to nothing for the coequal branch of government known as Judicial Branch.
Operation: totally county. They shove misdemeanors to county court (misnamed “state courts”) in many jurisdictions and punish those jurisdictions by giving them even LESS state funding.
It’s time the counties pushed back at this cram down.
The legislature says their shrinking government when in reality they are shifting it to counties.

Slip

March 29th, 2012
3:06 pm

… the issue isn’t a 500 or 1000 threshold. It’s the state shirking its duty to fund the judicial branch.
If they were serious about reform they would make traffic offenses civil and make State Court a state level branch of the Judiciary.

Watkins

March 29th, 2012
3:09 pm

John (give’em all a year)
sounds good until it’s your grandson who forgot his fishing knife was in his back pack when you dropped him off at school.