- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


June 29

Morning News, Savannah, Georgia, on arming teachers:

School officials across Georgia should advance to the head of the class when it comes to arming teachers.

According to published reports, few, if any, school districts plan to do it, even though a sweeping state law goes into effect Tuesday and expands where Georgians can legally carry firearms.

On July 1, each district has the option of arming teachers or staff, but requiring them to set training schedules. In other words, just giving a pistol to the staffer who’s closest to the front door was never an option, although that’s of little comfort.

Law-abiding Georgians have a constitutional right to own and carry firearms.

But the idea of arming teachers, paraprofessionals, principals, secretaries and others employed in school districts, as a way to prevent or bring down killers who prey on school children, was poorly conceived and mostly motivated by election-year politics.

If a school district has a public safety concern - and many of them do - then they should hire professionals. Putting campus police in the hallways is more responsible than giving pistols and shooting lessons to math teachers or lunchroom monitors.

Georgia isn’t the first state to respond to school violence by allowing staff to carry guns.

After 20 children and six adults died during a 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., at least nine states passed bills in 2013 authorizing armed school personnel, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Other states had similar programs in place before that shooting. In 2014, at least 14 more states including Georgia introduced similar bills.

Phillip Hartley, an attorney who works with the Georgia Schools Boards Association and dozens of local boards, talked to a room of board members about the issue at a recent conference. He said he felt a “reluctance to be the first” without a serious push from parents.

“There just hasn’t been that kind of groundswell,” Mr. Hartley said.

Give school officials an “A” for using good judgment about an idea that’s a dud.




June 30

The Augusta Chronicle, Georgia, on citizens’ religious beliefs:

If you like your religious freedoms, you can keep them. For now.

The U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled Monday that business owners with religious objections can’t be forced to pay for women’s birth control under the Obamacare law.

The 5-4 opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, held that imposing the contraceptive mandate on closely held corporations violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Essentially, the court said if you are morally opposed to birth control or abortion, you shouldn’t have to buy it for others just because you offered them a job.

Though the ruling specifically dealt with the Hobby Lobby chain and other companies whose owners have deeply held religious views, it is really a First Amendment victory for all Americans.

“Today’s decision was a victory for freedom,” the National Center for Public Policy Research said. “Because a person who does not have the right to order his or her professional and personal life in accordance with his or her religious beliefs does not have freedom at all.”

It is the first major challenge to Obamacare to come before the court since the justices upheld the law’s individual requirement to buy health insurance two years ago. This will send the Obama administration hunting for another way to give women free contraception if they can’t get through their employers’ insurance plans.

Had the mandate been upheld, a company objecting to the contraceptive mandate would have had three choices: violate their faith; pay ruinous fines; or go out of business.

The ruling applies to businesses so closely held that there is no essential difference between the corporation and its owners. Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby, which employs more than 15,000 full-time workers in 41 states, was founded by a family of evangelical Christians. The other major company involved in the case, Pennsylvania-based cabinet company Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., is owned by a Mennonite family.

What’s more frightening than the contraception mandate the Obama administration dismissively tried to cram down employers’ throats through the Affordable Care Act is the fact that it was nearly upheld as law - only a single Supreme Court justice stood in the way.

Freedom in this country is hanging by a thread.




June 29

The Telegraph, Macon, Georgia, on state’s first national park:

We all know — at least we should know — how special a place the Ocmulgee National Monument is and the treasures within it that date back thousands of years.

Soon, if U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop and Austin Scott get their way with the introduction of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act of 2014, the monument could become the only national park in the state.

This bipartisan bit of legislation would increase the monument’s boundaries from 700 acres to 2,100 — about where the original planners in 1934 had envisioned. And there’s a caveat that could make the monument even larger.

The legislation, if passed by the House and Senate, would direct the Secretary of the Interior to initiate a Ocmulgee River Corridor Special Resource Study between Macon and Hawkinsville that would determine the “national significance of the study area” and the “suitability and feasibility of adding lands in the study area to the National Park system.”

This process doesn’t happen overnight but is another step closer to making the monument a national park. Once funds are appropriated — another big step after passage — the Secretary of the Interior has three years to submit the report and his recommendations to the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

In a joint release from Bishop’s and Scott’s offices, they point out that “the expanded park also will generate much needed tourist revenue for Macon, Georgia and the surrounding areas while educating visitors on the little known fact that different cultures occupied this land for thousands of years.”

The plan of work has been meticulously executed so far, and while most of the work to attract co-sponsors will be handled in Washington, D.C., a few encouraging phone calls and emails to the rest of the Georgia delegation in the House would not be unwelcome — and it would be a nice tribute if this work could be completed before Sen. Saxby Chambliss takes his leave from the Senate at the end of the year.



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