- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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July 25

The Dalton Daily Citizen on changes to Georgia’s Safe Haven law:

Their thoughts could be consumed by fear or panic. Perhaps they believe they don’t have the financial means to support a child.

Whatever the reason, when a mother makes the excruciating decision to give up her newborn child she now has more options - and it can be done anonymously.

Georgia, along with every state in the country, for several years has had a Safe Haven law, which allows mothers to surrender their newborn at hospitals or other locations instead of illegally abandoning a child.

The Georgia Legislature has expanded the state’s Safe Haven law to allow babies to be left at fire and police stations, as well as sheriff’s offices. Another new part of the law is women can now do so anonymously. Women also now have more time to decide whether to give up the child. Before, only seven-day-old newborns could be legally surrendered; now, the baby can be up to 30 days old.

“If we care about newborns, then we need to expand it to more places, because what’s happening is mothers are just dropping them off at street corners,” Rep. David Clark, R-Buford, who sponsored the bill, recently told the Daily Citizen-News.

“Now, it’s truly putting the baby first, which we should be doing. It’s about saving the baby,” he said.

Fire chiefs for both Dalton and Whitfield County are now developing policies to help adhere to the new law, and also to make sure the babies are cared for until someone from another agency picks them up. County Fire Chief Ed O’Brien rightly points out that “If you have to care for an infant, even for an hour, you might need diapers and food and things like that and we need to figure those things out.”

We applaud the Legislature for changes to the state’s Safe Haven law. They are long overdue.

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

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July 29

The Newnan Times-Herald on fans of “The Walking Dead” visiting Coweta County:

We join most Coweta residents in welcoming the fans of “The Walking Dead” to see the places where this popular television show and zombie-themed movies are filmed. It’s a treat for us to show off our home, and we hope they’ll glimpse some of the other features that makes this such a great place to live.

That welcome includes courteous treatment by merchants, customer-service personnel and public servants. For the most part, that courtesy has been a hallmark of visits to Coweta County often remarked on by tourists and movie crews.

So, it is gratifying to have assurances from Senoia’s police chief that his officer was indeed respectful and courteous during a recent encounter with a “walker stalker.” The fan used the SenoiaGa page on Facebook to complain that the officer was rude in issuing a citation for walking in the middle of the road.

Well, hospitality includes ensuring the safety and wellbeing of guests. That means if they are walking in the middle of the road, they should be politely urged to move to the side. Unfortunately, sometimes folks need more than a gentle warning, and that’s when citations are appropriate.

To big-city visitors, Senoia seems like a sleepy crossroads that presents little danger of being run over. But its growth has been explosive, and much of its traffic these days is from newcomers and tourists who may not putter along when driving somnolent boulevards. Keeping pedestrians out of the middle of the road is as much a safety necessity as it is a convenience to residents.

Besides, courtesy is a two-way street, so to speak. It is not asking too much that our guests return our hospitality by respecting local rules and the officers tasked to enforce them, including the requirement to keep roadways clear for vehicular traffic.

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

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July 30

The Brunswick News on new Superior Court rules and why they might hinder transparency:

Changes to a uniform Superior Court rule were approved last week by the Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia that are designed to adjust for how advances in technology could jeopardize the fairness of court proceedings.

Instead, as we see it, the changes could make court proceedings less transparent.

Uniform Superior Court Rule 22 provides statewide guidance on how recording and other electronic devices are allowed to be used in court. The rule amendment as approved last week provides updates to include rules about the use of smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices. The original rule was put in place in 1985 in an effort to make court proceedings more open to the public, so we agree updates are needed.

The Georgia Supreme Court still must approve the proposed amendment for it to take effect, something we hope the justices will consider carefully.

Court proceedings should be open to the public and as transparent as possible, with the exception of certain discussions of cases that require confidentiality so as not to sour due process.

We understand the desire to ensure someone who gets permission to bring a smartphone or iPad into a courtroom does not create a distraction. However, general rules of conduct in a courtroom already provide the necessary leeway for judges and bailiffs to handle such situations.

Local courthouse rules in Glynn County already prohibit bringing in any such device, or recording equipment, without prior permission from a judge, so locally, not much will change.

The problem with the proposed rule is when it comes to media access. Under the new rules, folks with permission to have such devices would have more restrictions on how and when they can use them, even if they remain silent and distraction free.

As the Georgia First Amendment Foundation put it in a recent column, “What would change for journalists - and citizens - is the ability to use an electronic device to take notes, send updates or even look at emails without first obtaining judicial permission.”

The foundation has rightfully come out against the amendments, and even suggested breaking up the rule into two parts, one to govern recordings and another mobile devices.

Although it only happens in select cases, reporters both locally and around the state rely on the very modern devices the rule could limit use of to communicate details to the public. These are cases like high-profile murder trials and others in which the public interest is high.

With rules that hinder their jobs, journalists covering court proceedings are limited in their ability to ensure courts are operating in appropriate and open manner.

We hope the Supreme Court will consider the First Amendment Foundation’s alternative proposal before approving a rule we feel is lacking.

Online: https://thebrunswicknews.com/


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