- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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April 4

The Dalton Daily Citizen on campus carry bill:

You can have a concealed gun in many places throughout Georgia.

A church? That’s fine, as long as the church allows them.

A public park? No problem.

A bar? Legal, if the establishment says guns are OK.

If Gov. Nathan Deal signs the revamped campus carry bill, which both the state Senate and House passed last month, you’ll be allowed to carry a concealed gun on parts of public college campuses.

Last year, Deal vetoed a similar bill. We believe he should veto the latest version of this ill-conceived bill as well.

House Bill 280 would allow people 21 and older who have a concealed weapon permit to take guns on college campuses. There are certain exceptions where guns would be banned on college campuses including sporting events; student housing (dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses); spaces that are used by students in preschool or high school; and faculty, staff or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary proceedings are held.

Georgia is one of 17 states that doesn’t allow concealed carry weapons on campus while 24 states let individual colleges and universities decide.

This newspaper has long backed the Second Amendment and our right to bear arms. We continue to back sensible gun laws. But we sternly believe college campuses should be safe havens for learning. Many college officials - from presidents to administrators to professors - vehemently oppose the bill.

Throughout the state, college campuses are filled with young adults, many of whom are living away from their parents for the first time. Allowing guns on those campuses could create perilous situations where the mixture of raging hormones, alcohol abuse and drugs already cause problems, both social and legal.

The bill is illogical, and full of holes. Under the bill, a student can carry a concealed gun all over campus - the gym, the quad, the dining hall, the student center. But where does that student store the gun when he or she goes back to the dorm? Why are guns not allowed in dorms? Shouldn’t students be allowed to protect themselves against break-ins?

Deal caused a bit of fracturing among fellow Republicans when he axed the campus carry legislation last spring. His words were impassioned.

“If the intent of HB 859 is to increase safety of students on college campuses, it is highly questionable that such would be the result,” Deal said in a statement in April 2016. “From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed. To depart from such time-honored protections should require overwhelming justification. I do not find that such justification exists.”

In vetoing the bill, our governor showed tremendous courage.

We only hope he shows the same amount of fortitude this time around.

Online

https://www.daltondailycitizen.com

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April 5

The Augusta Chronicle on the bridge collapse on Interstate 85:

If you’re not from around here, and don’t live or travel through Atlanta, then you may not realize what a big deal the partial collapse of I-85 is.

A portion of the interstate’s northbound bridge, just south of Georgia Highway 400, caught fire and collapsed Thursday in northeast Atlanta. Three people have been arrested, including an alleged crack user accused of starting the fire.

Atlanta traffic is legendarily maddening when the roads are intact and the sun is out and the winds calm. You can imagine what a collapsed bridge on one of the metro area’s major arteries might do. Traffic there will be snarled even more than usual for months. Commerce will be slowed and workers detoured.

The Goodwill Store and Career Center near the collapse, for example, has been closed indefinitely.

You have to wonder how one alleged down-and-out addict with no apparent address can bring down an interstate highway. And, indeed, questions are being asked about who’s responsible for the irresponsible storage of the combustible materials that appear to have turned this into an interstate inferno - which include “PVC and high-density polyethylene pipe, which cover fiber optic cable,” according to one report.

But the remarkable conflagration and catastrophic damage to a sturdily built interstate bridge reveals a number of this society’s vulnerabilities.

We still have dual and often overlapping homelessness and drug addiction crises. We have an awful lot of folks with nothing constructive to do. We apparently have unprotected, poorly thought-out stores of combustible materials lying around.

And we have an overburdened infrastructure that leaves us highly exposed to crippling obstruction when it’s taken away.

We need to do a certain number of things.

First, we need to punish those responsible for the I-85 disaster - and not just the one who struck the match.

Next, our major cities need to put their best minds to work on a 21st century comprehensive transportation strategy that helps decongest the Atlantas out there. Both the public and private sectors need to be involved, in such matters as increased use of telecommuting, planned communities, intermodal transportation and more.

Are we maximizing opportunities for mass transportation and home-based work? Is more light rail needed?

We also need Washington to weigh in - with an infrastructure improvement bill that takes these and other factors into consideration.

This crisis - particularly given its apparently modest beginnings - needs to be a wake-up call to leaders at every level.

After the securing of our border, this could very well be our biggest domestic challenge.

Online:

https://chronicle.augusta.com

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April 2

The Savannah Morning News on efforts to get rid of blight across Georgia cities:

On its last day in session, the General Assembly sided with Savannah and other cities across Georgia in their efforts to get rid of blight, freshen up dilapidated neighborhoods and encourage the creation of attractive, affordable housing where it’s most needed.

That all sounds lovely, but in fact the bill at issue was not without controversy. If signed by Gov. Nathan Deal into law, it will return to local governments some of the power of eminent domain, which they had all but lost a decade ago.

The legislature tightened the reins back then because cities had been abusing the power to take perfectly good property away from private owners and then transfer it to other interests under, say, the banner of economic development.

A 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 found that economic development was good enough grounds to pass constitutional muster, shining a light on a practice that abhorred by the public.

That’s when lawmakers across the country, including in Atlanta, sprang into action to enact restrictions on eminent domain.

But those restrictions, passed in 2006, also stopped in its tracks the mostly successful drive here in Savannah to work with residents to rid their neighborhoods of blight and encourage revitalization. It wasn’t the only tool used, but eminent domain allowed the city to go into areas in need of help, buy abandoned, falling-down houses and weed-choked, rat-infested lots, and, where titles were cloudy, clear them up.

With the residents involved in planning the revitalization effort, in Cuyler-Brownville, for example, there were new parks, spiffed up housing and new interest by outsiders to buy houses and by developers to create affordable homes. Crime dropped.

No one was forced to sell, but many property owners were eager for the chance.

That all stopped in 2006 when the General Assembly enacted a law requiring cities to keep property obtained by eminent domain for at least 20 years and to use it for public purposes in the meantime. Keeping the property in the city’s hands for 20 years doesn’t much help the neighborhoods.

That’s the law the legislature changed last week, largely at the urging of Savannah, Atlanta and Georgia Municipal Association officials. The 20-year rule would stay in place, but the legislature carved out an exception to it for property that’s proved to be blighted.

“Our goal is to get back into comprehensive neighborhood revitalization,” says city spokesman Bret Bell.

The idea is to go into troubled neighborhoods, work with residents on a plan, and use whatever tools the city has to bring that plan to life. Eminent domain is just one of those tools, he says.

Passing the bill was hardly a sure thing, as people up and down the political spectrum are wary of giving government the power to force the seizure or sale of private property for some vague governmental interest.

But there are sufficient safeguards in this legislation to ensure that the property’s got to be in really bad shape, a drag on the neighbors. All efforts to find the property owners must be tried, and any property owner will have the chance to dispute the city’s claim of abandonment or blight. Even then, the use of that property can’t change for five years.

We share concerns over giving government too much power to take private property and would oppose any effort to return the law to its pre-2006 version.

But this bill is clearly targeted and sufficiently restrictive that we believe it will do nothing but help neighborhoods in need.

We hope Mr. Deal signs it into law.

Online:

https://savannahnow.com


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