Race for DA Heats Up

HARTWELL, GEORGIA – The race for District Attorney for Franklin County,  Hart County and Madison County will be competitive this time around.

Parks White says he is running for the office Bob Lavender’s held for the past 15 years.

White is a Hart County native and currently serves as an assistant district attorney in Augusta.

Qualifying for this election cycle begins on Wednesday.

From the White Campaign:

Parks White announced today his campaign for the Republican nomination for the office of District Attorney in the Northern Judicial Circuit. White stated, “Taxpayers deserve an experienced District Attorney who will prosecute cases in a timely manner and vigorously protect the rights of innocent victims, families and businesses.”

Parks graduated from Clemson University in 1997 with a B.S. in Mathematical Sciences and earned his Juris Doctor, from the University of Alabama. Following law school, Parks served as Assistant District Attorney under widely respected DA Danny Craig in Augusta where he prosecuted over 700 felony cases.

Parks served in the United States Navy in the office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG Corps) from 2007 through 2011. While serving his country, he graduated from the Naval Justice School with honors and won the American Association for Justice Trial Advocacy award.

“While serving on the Law and Order Task Force in Iraq, I was assigned to a Special Forces unit and was responsible for transitioning high level terrorist suspects to the Iraqi judicial system,” said Parks. “Helping Iraqis rebuild their judicial system from the ground up reinforced my passion for defending our laws and values here at home,” said White. Parks continues his service today as a Lieutenant in the US Navy Reserve.

In 2011, Parks returned to the position of Assistant District Attorney in Augusta where he is responsible for prosecuting serious violent crimes and mentoring junior prosecutors. Since his return from Iraq, Parks has tried ten contested felony cases including two murders, obtaining guilty verdicts in all.

“I recognize industrial recruitment and job growth depend on business leaders having faith in law and order. As your DA, I will take what I have learned in Georgia’s best District Attorney Office and will not rest until both victims and criminals expect swift delivery of justice in our community,” said White.

Parks’s family has lived in Hart County for five generations. Parks is 37 and resides in Hart County’s Sardis community. “Raised in an Air Force family and having served abroad myself, I’m glad to be fulfilling my dream of being home and working to build a better community, “said White.

The Northern Judicial Circuit contains Elbert, Franklin, Hart, Madison, and Oglethorpe Counties. The Republican primary will be held July 31 and early voting begins July 9.

Georgia Expands Legal Posting of Commandments

From Pastor Mike Griffin, Executive Director, Ten Commandments-GA:

HARTWELL, Ga., May 8, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — Yesterday afternoon (May 7, 2012) Georgia Governor Nathan Deal held a bill signing ceremony for HB 766. The new law amends a 2006 law that allowed the posting of 9 historical documents, including a copy of the Ten Commandments, in Courthouses.

The new law allows “The Foundations of American Law & Government Display” to be posted in ‘all’ public buildings!

Dr. Jody Hice, President and founder of Ten Commandments Ga commends Governor Nathan Deal, Representative Tommy Benton, and Senator Bill Heath (bill sponsors) for recognizing the importance of these documents and the need to communicate them to all Georgians. Dr. Hice went on to say that he thought “the legislation passed this year should serve as a model for all 50 states. The country should recognize what we have done here and try to duplicate it over and over again!”

Twenty two counties in Georgia have already displayed the documents that Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law on July 1, 2006.

These displays are paving the way for communities to further educate their citizens regarding historical facts about our country’s founding.

“The Foundations of American Law & Government Display” is being made available through the ministry of Ten Commandments-GA, Inc. We serve as a resource for private citizens, churches, civic clubs and organizations to purchase these documents and to present them for approval to their local governing boards, commissions and councils. TC-GA has beautifully designed to legal specifications the nine piece historical display. You may view these unique designs by logging on to www.TenCommandmentsGa.org.

The following documents may now be legally posted in local government buildings:

The Ten Commandments
The Mayflower Compact, 1620
The Declaration of Independence
Magna Carta
‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ by Francis Scott Key
The National Motto: “In God We Trust”
The Preamble to the Georgia Constitution
The Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution
The description on the image of Lady Justice
These documents may be acquired by contacting TC-GA on the web, by calling 706-376-0154, or by mail at TC-GA, P.O. Box 941, Hartwell, GA 30643. For more information you may contact:

Unemployment Below 10% in Franklin County

ROYSTON, GEORGIA – Word that the local economy is growing stronger has led more people to seek work.

According to the latest numbers from the Georgia Department of Labor, the Labor force grew by more than 100 people in Franklin, Hart and Madison Counties during the month of March and there were enough jobs for all of them and then some.

In Franklin County 107 people found work. That number was 140 people in Hart County while 61 folks joined employment rolls in Madison County.

As a result, the unemployment rate dropped in all three counties dipping below 10% in Franklin County for the first time in recent memory. The unemployment rate in Franklin County came in at 9.9% of the workforce without a job. It is the first time we’ve seen the rate that low in at least three years. Hart County’s rate also dipped a full point from 11.5% to 10.5%. While that’s good news, both Franklin and Hart remain well above the state unemployment rate.

Georgia’s statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined in March for the eighth consecutive month to 9.0%, the lowest rate since February 2009, when it was 8.9 percent.

There were fewer unemployed in Madison County too. We shaved 3 tenths of one percent off the number there with unemployment slipping from 7.4% to 7.1% from February to March.

Weigh in on Hart County Recreation

HARTWELL, GEORGIA – Hart County leaders looking for public input on Recreation Services.

A community meeting is coming up Tuesday, April 24, to find out how people use existing programs and what programs and services you want to see developed in future.

That meeting is set for 7 pm on Tuesday at the Hart County Adult Learning Center next to the Library in Hartwell.

You can also weigh in on the matter online. Follow the link below to fill out the survey.

RELATED LINK: Hart Recreation Survey

State to Shutter Elberton Unemployment Office

ELBERTON, GEORGIA – The northeast Georgia County with the highest unemployment rate in the area is losing its Georgia Department of Labor Career Center.

The announcement released today from the state – “The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) will not renew the lease for the office space that currently houses its Elberton Career Center. As a result of this cost-saving decision, its customers will be served from the nearby Athens Career Center, starting July 1. The nine employees who work at the Elberton location will also be relocated to Athens.”

According to the latest figures, 13% of Elbert County’s workforce is unemployed. That number was 15.3% last year at this time.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler’s office went on to explain, “GDOL will continue to operate 46 career centers statewide. Career centers offer a wide range of services to both job seekers and employers. The centers provide individuals seeking employment with the latest tools to find and keep jobs. Employers will find assistance in recruiting new employees, including access to a national job listing network, applicant screening, and space in the centers to conduct testing and employment interviews.”

They also say the closure won’t hurt as much because the unemployed can go online for service. “

The impact of this change will be lessened by the GDOL’s increased online presence. Many services, including unemployment insurance claims and employer payments, already are available electronically. In the coming weeks, full registration for employment services will be available online.”

AREA UNEMPLOYMENT

County FEB 2012 MAR 2011
HART

FRANKLIN

BANKS

ELBERT

MADISON

OGLETHORPE

ATHENS/CLARKE

OCONEE

11.5%

10.5%

6.9%

13.0%

7.4%

6.7%

7.2%

5.9%

11.5%

11.4%

7.2%

15.3%

7.7%

7.8%

7.5%

6.2%

Franklin Lions Seek $36k for New Band Uniforms

CARNESVILLE, GEORGIA – The Franklin County High Marching Band needs news uniforms. According to Band and Chorus Director Courtney McLeod, the current suits are nearly 20 years old.

McLeod approached the Franklin County Board of Education looking for funding for the new duds back in February. After a month-long delay leaders turned down the request saying the School Board could not use money budgeted for its general fund to buy new band uniforms.

Undeterred, McLeod is trying to raise the money on her own through a web-based donation program called ChipIn.

They need to raise $36,000 for the Marching Pride’s new uniforms.

Folks can give as little or as much as they want with a credit/debit card or through a PayPal account. Just visit http://www.franklin.k12.ga.us/, scroll down to the ChipIn box and follow the instructions.

Powell: Counting Down the Final Hours of Legislative Session

By Rep. Alan Powell

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Sometime before midnight on Thursday, March 29, “sine die” will be declared, marking final adjournment for the 2012 legislative session of your Georgia General Assembly. This will be the earliest ending date in a number of years and will cap off an efficient and productive session.

In these final days, lawmakers have a lengthy agenda to deal with, including a number of significant issues and some not-so-significant. A few of the top items awaiting final action include:

  • HB 742, the $19.2 billion annual state budget for fiscal year 2013. A conference committee is working to reconcile differences between the two versions passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • Legislation to expand Georgia’s carry laws under the 2nd Amendment. SB 493 would lower the minimum age for carrying concealed weapons from 21 to 18. SB 98 would enhance the list of places where concealed weapons can be legally carried. Both bills passed the Senate and are pending in the House. Also, SB 350would require law enforcement agencies to return stolen firearms used in a crime back to the guns’ original owners.
  • SB 316, which would extend the statute of limitations for reporting crimes against children (pending in the House).
  • HB 872 and SB 321, which would crack down further on metal theft crimes in Georgia and strengthen the regulations for secondary metal recycling. The sponsors of the two bills are working to reconcile minor differences between the two.

These final days of the session follow a most productive week in your House of Representatives, when legislation on two priority initiatives, tax reform and criminal justice reform, earned overwhelming votes of approval.

Tax Reform: Also known as the Georgia Jobs and Family Tax Reform Plan, HB 386 would implement a variety of tax reform measures that were recommended by the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians. This reform will change the way Georgia collects revenue, making our state friendlier to businesses and helping families as they recover from the economic downturn.

Most significantly, this legislation would eliminate the “birthday tax,” an annual vehicle property tax on cars, trucks and vans that is due on auto owners’ birthdays each year. Instead of paying this annual tax and a state and local sales tax, those purchasing a new or used vehicle between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2013, would only pay a one-time title fee of 6.5 percent of the car’s value. The fee would go to 6.75 percent in 2014 and 7 percent in 2015.

HB 386 would also reduce the marriage penalty in the current Georgia income tax code by increasing the personal exemption for married couples by $2,000 on joint income tax returns and $1,000 each on separate returns. The measure would also close a loophole that currently provides out-of-state retailers a competitive advantage in online. HB 386 clarifies the law, requiring out-of-state sellers to collect and pay the state sales tax if they have a presence in Georgia through their affiliates.

HB 386 also phases out the collection of a state sales tax on the cost of energy used in the manufacturing process. Georgia is presently the only state in the Southeast collecting such a tax on manufacturers, putting us at a competitive disadvantage. HB 386 will help create and save manufacturing jobs in the future. The energy sales tax exemption is also extended to our No. 1 industry, agriculture, which will help many farmers and agribusinesses in our part of the state.

Finally, HB 386 would reinstate the sales tax holidays on school supplies and energy efficient items for the next two years.  These sales tax holidays would be nearly identical to tax holidays in previous years, which allowed Georgia shoppers to forgo paying sales tax on school supplies for a specified time in August and energy and water efficient products in October.  This measure will help struggling families and keep Georgia businesses competitive with their counterparts in neighboring states.

HB 386 received unanimous approval in the Senate, sending the bill to Gov. Nathan Deal for his expected signature. For a full breakdown of the tax reform plan, visit www.alanpowell.net.

Criminal Justice Reform: To address the problems caused by Georgia’s prison population doubling over the past two decades, House members approved HB 1176, which implements recommendations of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform.

This proposal would concentrate prison space on violent and career criminals by enhancing penalties for some serious offenders and more effectively punishing low-level drug users and property offenders.  It also creates tougher, more effective probation supervision; improves community-based sentencing options, such as accountability courts, that reduce recidivism; and holds agencies accountable for better results through data collection and performance measurement systems.  This bill will NOT reduce the sentences for any serious violent felonies or decriminalize or legalize any controlled substance.

By redirecting some of the money we spend incarcerating low-risk, non-violent offenders with substance abuse problems toward more effective community-based options that cost less and produce better outcomes, we will make all of Georgia’s communities safer.  Moreover, the measures included in this legislation will save taxpayers an estimated $264 million by averting projected growth in prison costs over the next five years.

HB 1176 is now under consideration in the Senate.

To sign up for email updates, please visit www.alanpowell.net. As always, please contact me with your views on the issues or whenever I can be of service.

  • State Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) represents the 29th District (Franklin, Hart and Madison counties) in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact him at 507 Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; by phone at 404-656-0202; or by email at alanpowell23@hotmail.com.

Ga Labor Commissioner Urges Action on Unemployment Debt

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is calling on lawmakers to act to fix a state fund for unemployment insurance that is broke and in debt to the federal government. He blames former democrat Governor Roy Barnes despite the fact that several republican administrations continued Barnes’ policies for years after he left office.

Georgia depleted its unemployment trust fund in 2009 shortly after the beginning of the recent recession and since then the state has borrowed and currently owes more than $700 million to the federal government to cover unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of out of work Georgians.

Butler blames Barnes and past democrat controlled legislatures. In 1999, Georgia had a $2 billion trust fund. Then lawmakers suspended payroll taxes that funded unemployment insurance for most state employers. The fund dipped to $703 million by late 2003. Automatic measures should have kicked in to replenish the fund by raising the state payroll tax but were blocked by the legislature at the time.

Butler’s spin is a little different, “…the “trust” was taken out of the trust fund. In an attempt to curry favor with Georgia businesses, Gov. Roy Barnes declared a “tax holiday” before Barnes’ failed 2002 re-election campaign. Businesses stopped paying into the trust fund.”

While the initial changes to the fund came under Barnes, there is plenty of blame to go around as subsequent legislatures, including the current leadership, have failed to address the mounting debt.

The result is that companies are paying higher federal unemployment insurance taxes as long as Georgia is in debt to Washington.

According to Butler, “As long as our loan remains outstanding, both federal and state fees will increase. Last year, businesses paid $42 per employee, per year for federal unemployment insurance. In January, the federal government increased that annual fee by $21, raising the total cost to $63 per employee. An additional $21 will be added each year until employers are paying $105 per employee in federal charges. In addition to these federal fees, state unemployment premiums will double if we do not take legislative action this year.”

The State Senate has passed a bill that will limit those on the dole to between 12 and 20 weeks of unemployment benefits. Currently they get 26 weeks.

It is unclear if the Senate’s action is constitutional since it is a funding bill, which legally must originate in the State House. Butler is urging a workaround, “Constitutional questions could be eliminated if the Senate amends an existing House Bill to include comprehensive solutions, pay down our debt, pay the interest and take our trust fund back to solvency. With the willingness shown by Senate leadership and interested members of both House and Senate, I know we can accomplish this.”

Powell proceeds with caution on FY 2013 state budget

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Hart , Franklin and Madison County State Representative Alan Powell says continued weakness in the state’s finances led to a conservative approach to the 2013 budget.

By Rep. Alan Powell

Last week, your House of Representatives voted to approve a $19.2 billion annual state budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1. This is an increase of approximately $700 million over the amended budget for the current fiscal year, reflecting a 4.7 percent overall increase in revenues over the past eight months.

The new budget is still about $2 billion less than the FY 2009 plan enacted just before the onset of the economic recession. Per capita spending on state operations is 20 percent less than it was a decade ago. Although there are signs the Georgia economy is slowly improving, this is still a time to proceed with caution regarding the commitment of tax dollars. This budget plan includes the elimination of 540 government positions.

Public education remains Georgia’s highest priority, receiving more than 54 percent of the state’s appropriated revenues. Increased state funding for our schools will restore 10 days of instruction to the Georgia Pre-Kindergarten program, bringing the Pre-K year to 170 days of instruction and nine professional learning days. Also included is $112.5 million to fully fund K-12 enrollment growth and pay increases for teachers based on their training and experience. Also, the school nurse program receives an additional $3.5 million in the House budget.

Other funding increases in the House version of the budget are allocated toward fuel expenses for the Georgia State Patrol, intended to keep troopers on our roads despite rising gas prices, and $10 million in more funding for accountability courts. These highly specialized courts provide the state with a more cost-efficient system for dealing with non-violent, first-time offenders who may be suffering from mental illness or drug addiction.

All in all, Georgia continues to be very fiscally conservative, ranking 49th in the nation in per capita spending. The new budget plan, HB 742, now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Crossover Day: March 7 was the 30th legislative day of the current session, also known as Crossover Day because it is the deadline for most legislation to pass either the House or the Senate in time to be considered by the other chamber before the end of the 40-day session. Legislation receiving majority approval in the House last week includes:

  • HB 100, which would create a special tax court to settle tax-related complaints filed against state government. The measure would establish a tax tribunal administered through the Office of State Administrative Hearings to hear disputes involving taxpayers and the Department of Revenue.
  • HB 397, an extensive revision to the state’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws. The bill clarifies what constitutes an actual meeting by a government body that must be open to the public and would reduce from 25 cents to 10 cents the cost per page of providing copies of open records to people who request them.
  • HB 685, which would extensively revise the state law governing dangerous and vicious dogs. The bill would provide for liability for injuries and damage caused by dogs, provide for court orders for the euthanasia of dogs that have repeatedly attacked people, require registration and safety measures as a condition of owning vicious dogs and spell out criminal offenses and punishment for dangerous dog owners.
  • HB 797, which would establish a formula for funding state-authorized charter schools. This measure would take effect only if a constitutional amendment (HR 1162) is enacted to authorize the state to set up charter schools in districts where they have been rejected by the local board of education. That amendment is awaiting action in the Senate.
  • HB 861, which would require drug screening tests as a condition of eligibility for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. In order to guarantee that children are not victimized by an ineligible parent, a protective payee would be designated for any child that needs assistance.
  • HB 872, which would crack down on metal theft by placing more stringent payment and identification requirements on scrap metal dealers and recyclers and by creating a database of metal sellers to assist law enforcement agencies.
  • HB 1114, which would make assisted suicide a felony offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The bill does not infringe upon the terms of a person’s living will, “Do Not Resuscitate” order, advance directives or similar measures intending to limit pain or suffering.
  • HB 1166, which would restore child-only healthcare policies to the Georgia insurance market. The bill provides an option for parents whose children are not eligible for Medicaid or PeachCare insurance coverage.
  • HB 1198, which would allow grandparents to appeal in the court system to visit with their grandchildren if the parents are unable or unwilling to allow such visits.

The General Assembly session is now in its final 10 days, which will primarily see the House acting on bills that have already passed the Senate and vice versa.

 To sign up for email updates, please visit www.alanpowell.net. As always, please contact me with your views on the issues or whenever I can be of service.

  • State Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) represents the 29th District (Franklin, Hart and Madison counties) in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact him at 507 Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; by phone at 404-656-0202; or by email at alanpowell23@hotmail.com.

Facebook to be Banned at Franklin Co Schools

CARNESVILLE, GEORGIA – Franklin County School leaders are revamping their internet policy. They plan to banish Facebook and other social media sites from the district’s computers and expand classes to cover internet etiquette and safety.

The policy changes are on the agenda for tonight’s Board of Education work session starting at 6pm at Carnesville Elementary.

The new plan states that students will learn “age appropriate instruction regarding safe and appropriate behavior on social networking sites, chat rooms, other Internet services” Students would also be instructed in the ways of the cyber bully and how to respond when subjected to bullying and other inappropriate web behavior.

Board Members are also adding restrictions to their current internet usage policy by explicitly stating “Accessing social network sites by any means is prohibited on the district’s network”. Up until now the only restrictions on use spelled out by the board covered pornography, chat and online gaming.

Franklin County School leaders will review the new policy for one month before voting on it at their April Meeting.

ON THE WEB: Link to the new Franklin County Schools Internet Policy

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