- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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April 5

The Newnan Times-Herald on bills Gov. Deal should sign:

Now that legislators have returned to their homes after 40 days of considering bills, Gov. Nathan Deal has his own 40-day period to decide which of what they passed should be signed into law or vetoed. Here’s some recommendations on bills he should sign.

House Bill 126 restructures the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the agency that polices misconduct by judges. The bill creates separate panels for investigations and for hearings while also requiring public disclosure of proceedings and informal dispositions.

Senate Bill 104 includes provisions outlawing photography through or under clothing, closing a loophole discovered in a court case where a man was let off charges of snapping “upskirt” pictures. Deal should sign it because care was made to ensure that legitimate photojournalists are not inadvertently crippled from doing their jobs. Not that they would intentionally seek lurid photos, but sometimes news isn’t pretty, and these new protections should not become a tool to punish the media for reporting bad news.

HB 481 prohibits local governments from imposing rules on aerial drones that conflict with state or federal regulations. For instance, this would keep a city or county from enacting ordinances designed to block media-owned drones from recording scenes local officials would find embarrassing, such as over a mismanaged landfill or dog pound.

HB 1 opens the door wider to creation of a spaceport on the Georgia coast, limiting the launch companies’ liability in some cases. This may seem far-fetched until you realize that Georgia universities produce the most aerospace engineers but they have to leave the state for work. Plus, the shape and location of the Peach State coast is uniquely ideal for certain launch trajectories favored by the growing cadre of independent space corporations.

Online: https://times-herald.com/

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April 6

The Macon Telegraph on distracted driving and walking:

Everything has to have its own month and April is no different. The fourth month of the year is home to 32 different monthly observations that go from the not-so-serious National Straw Hat Month and the very serious National Child Abuse Awareness Month.

April is also Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety talked about the issue and why it’s so serious, “I can’t imagine any text message or email that is more important than a human life. It is only human nature to want to pick up your phone when it alerts you that someone has sent you a message, but it will not hurt you or anyone else if you wait until you have reached your destination to check your phone.”

He’s so right.

Mark Davis, a radio host in North Texas and a frequent columnist for The Dallas Morning News, explained what can happen in a recent column. “Thirteen people are dead in a South Texas church bus crash because of one driver’s decision to text while zooming down a highway. A motorist behind the speeding, weaving pickup called 911 to alert authorities and then watched as the 20-year-old plowed into the bus filled with seniors from First Baptist Church in New Braunfels.

“The witness rushed to the pickup and the bus in time to hear the pickup driver cry out, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I was texting.’”

That was just one case in far off Texas, but here at home in a media release from the GOHS said, “The number of distracted driving crashes in Georgia has risen by more than 400 percent in the last decade. There were 25,215 crashes in the state last year where inattentive, cellphone or distracted was listed as the contributing factor compared to 5,784 such crashes in 2006.

“There were 3,477 people killed and 391,000 injured in distracted driving crashes across the nation in 2015. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says approximately 660,000 drivers are using their cellphones while driving during daylight hours.”

The way things are going, Distracted Driving Awareness Month is going to have to be expanded to include distracted pedestrians. Last week, Blackwood released data for the Georgia Department of Transportation that as of March 30, there had been 53 pedestrians killed in the state this year.

The Governors Highway Safety Association said, “Pedestrians now account for the largest proportion of traffic fatalities recorded in the past 25 years. An estimated 5,997 pedestrian fatalities occurred during 2016, compared with 5,376 in 2015 and 4,910 in 2014.”

“After adjusting for anticipated under reporting in the preliminary state data, GHSA estimates the number of pedestrians killed in 2016 increased by 11 percent compared with 2015. This was the largest annual increase in both the number and percentage of pedestrian fatalities in the 40 years …”

From January to June, according to the study, Georgia had 90 pedestrian deaths in 2015. In 2016, during the same time period, there were 109 pedestrian deaths, an increase of 21.1 percent.

Some of the same measures that can cut down on distracted driving accidents can apply to distracted pedestrians. Walkers lose touch, too, with their faces staring at their smartphones or talking as they stroll down the street, many times with headphones or earbuds blocking sensory perceptions that could save their life.

And there are other steps walkers should take:

? Wear clothing that’s easy for drivers to see.

? Just as you shouldn’t drink and drive you shouldn’t drink and walk. The GHSA study explained, “Alcohol involvement for the driver and/or pedestrian was reported in about half of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2015.”

Macon, over the years has had more than its share of pedestrian deaths. In 2015, Macon-Bibb County had a pedestrian death rate of 3.86 per 100,000 residents, the second highest in the state.

However, Blackwood explained the most important thing drivers and pedestrians need to do: “Pay attention.”

Online: https://www.macon.com/

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April 9

The Dalton Daily Citizen on legislation that would allow breweries in Georgia to sell directly to individuals:

If you visit Asheville, North Carolina, take a stroll through its bustling downtown. Among its quirky shops, numerous restaurants and neat art venues, you’ll find craft brewery after craft brewery after craft brewery.

In fact, you’ll find craft breweries all over the state from the beaches to the mountains and many places in-between. According to the Brewers Association, a trade group, North Carolina has 161 craft breweries, the ninth most in the country. Georgia has 45 craft breweries, ranking a middling 28th.

The proliferation of these smaller breweries in North Carolina, along with multimillion dollar facilities that larger beer producers such as Colorado’s New Belgium and California’s Sierra Nevada built, didn’t happen by blind luck. The monetary investment, jobs and tourist dollars these businesses bring to the Tar Heel State are partly due to politicians there recognizing the burgeoning craft brewery industry. Then through sensible legislation, they allowed those businesses to prosper by lifting business-slowing laws.

The same can’t be said for Georgia. At least until very recently.

Last month, the state Senate and House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 85, which allows breweries to sell beer directly to individuals. (All five members of our local delegation voted in favor of the bill.)

If Gov. Nathan Deals signs the bill into law, beginning Sept. 1 individuals can buy up to a case of beer straight from the brewery. The bill also includes craft distillers, letting them sell up to three bottles of spirits per customer each visit. The new legislation would impact downtown Dalton. Dalton Distillery has been making its corn whiskey for several years while Cherokee Pizza and Brewing Co. began brewing its first batch of beer last month.

This would be the first dent in Georgia’s three-tier system that requires breweries to sell to a wholesaler which sells to a store or restaurant. That three-tier system should be done away with completely. But our state legislators lack the courage to do so.

Officials like to claim Georgia is one of the most business-friendly states in the country, and is particularly welcoming for small businesses. But the death grip our state legislators put on small breweries signaled Georgia is more chummy with deep-pocketed big businesses that unleash their legion of lobbyists on the Capitol in Atlanta each January.

This change in the state’s Prohibition-era alcohol laws would be a solid first step that took far too long to happen. We’ve watched as North Carolina and South Carolina became Southern hubs for the craft brewery industry. Now, we’re playing catch-up.

The economic impact of craft breweries on Georgia’s economy in 2014 was $1.13 million, or 17th nationally, according to the Brewers Association. Although Atlanta or Athens or Savannah may never reach Asheville’s level in the craft brewery scene, there is much room for growth in the Peach State.

All we need is state government to cut stifling regulations and get out of the way.

That’s an idea worth raising our glasses to.

Online: https://www.daltondailycitizen.com/

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