Editors Note: The Dawson News & Advertiser will provide updates of what is happening in the Georgia General Assemblys 40-day session which began Jan. 9.
While the crowd was small, the issues were big at Saturdays Eggs & Issues event with District 9 Representative Amos Amerson. Amerson represents parts of Dawson, Lumpkin and Forsyth counties. The event was held at Ryans on 400 in Dawsonville.
House Bill 514 (HB 514), if passed, would allow free tastings of distilled spirits on the premises of distillers. This bill would not allow the sale of alcohol on the premises, but rather tastings, according to Amerson. Another bill affecting Lumpkin County residents would make it easier for a city or county to get package liquor sales on the ballot by lowering the current 35 percent of registered voters petition requirements. The 35 percent requirements makes it almost impossible to get a referendum on the ballot for the people to be able to vote on the issue.
Liquor lobbyists are very
powerful, and they dont want us to have any control, said Amerson.
Alternative Sentencing Guidelines are being explored for nonviolent offenders who are arrested for DUI or drugs.
We cannot afford what it costs to keep people in jail, he said. The Gov. (Nathan Deal) said we have $1B in costs this year for our inmate population. Georgia is the 9th largest state, but we have the 4th largest jail population in the country, he added. Part of an alternative sentencing proposal could consist of offenders signing an agreement to undergo periodic drug testing, and if found in violation, would immediately be sent to jail. Non-violent offenders may also serve one or two days in an alternative setting rather than behind bars. We have $11M set aside to pay for the people and administration of a program like this if it is passed. Additionally, new guidelines are being proposed for dealing with non-violent criminals who have mental health issues or are veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. $55.8M set aside for teacher salary increases based on training and education. The goal, Amerson said, is to have teachers stick to their speciality rather than teaching multiple disciplines. We want to encourage teachers to be certified in their field. What we know now is that 60 65 percent of students entering college on a HOPE scholarship lose it their first year. They just arent prepared for college. The high schools used to be a good filter for those who were qualified, but that has changed. Students are missing a lot of school yet still qualifying for HOPE. We are considering fining schools for student truancy. HOPE Scholarship guidelines are being reevaluated. We are discussing the possibility of making the scholarship funds be available only to students who take advanced placement classes in high school. They dont necessarily have to pass the class, but they do have to take them. Georgia imports coal from Wyoming which burns cleaner than appalachian coal and helps the state meet EPA guidelines. Georgia has two of the countrys largest coal burning plants, Scherer in Monroe County and Bowen in Bartow County.