- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Feb. 12

The Valdosta Times on the names of lottery winners:

The names of lottery winners need to remain out in the open.



State Sen. Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, has proposed granting anonymity to lottery winners - including those who win massive cash awards.

Even though the Georgia Lottery does not always make the names of big winners public - if the winners request their names not be disclosed - the information can still be obtained through an open records request.

Disclosure is important to keep both the lottery and people who play the lottery honest and above board.

The public has a right to know if one person has won cash awards repeatedly, if one location has sold winning tickets at a higher than expected percentage, if a member of the lottery commission or one of their family members has been a lottery winner and there is also important public interest in the outcomes for people who have won big in the state lottery.

An odd part of Henson’s proposal would have required a winner pay the lottery commission up to 4 percent of the prize to cover any cost associated with maintaining confidentiality. At least the Senate nixed that part of this short-sighted piece of legislation.

Still, state Senate passed the bill that allows the lottery commission to withhold the names of anyone who wins more than $250,000

We urge the House to reject the bill.

More specifically, we encourage our legislative delegation to live up to its commitment to government transparency and vote “no” to the notion of secrecy.

No one makes people play the lottery.

It is a choice and choosing to play a public lottery should come with some public scrutiny.

As Georgia First Amendment Foundation President Richard Griffiths said secrecy opens the door to potential shenanigans.

We understand the argument that large lottery winners sometimes become the victims of crime.

We believe the public’s interest in a trustworthy, above-board system outweighs those concerns.

We agree with Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, who told members of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation last week, “It still should be public information. You’re getting funds paid out to you by a governmental body.”

Georgia’s lottery, essentially a tax, funds pre-K education and HOPE college scholarships and grants. The money the public pays into the system, in the form of buying tickets, become the public purse and it should be watched carefully.

We agree with the Georgia First Amendment Foundation that the measure would “set a dangerous precedent,” further eroding the state’s open records laws.

Willard suggested delaying the release of the names, giving winners time to prepare for the notoriety, or perhaps meet with an attorney or financial planners, before their identity is made public.

We can live with that compromise.

Online: http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/

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Feb. 12

The Augusta Chronicle on why the governor should take a stance on offshore drilling:

You’ll never get unanimity on an issue, especially one as multifaceted as offshore drilling.

But a consensus may just be forming against it in Georgia.

Since the Trump administration last month announced plans to allow oil exploration and drilling in federal waters, including off Georgia’s coast, Gov. Nathan Deal has been oddly reticent to oppose it, as most other coastal governors have done.

An aide told us Gov. Deal “has concerns about opening up Georgia’s pristine coastline and will convey those concerns to the congressional delegation.”

Similarly, Deal told reporters, “I doubt that the coastline of the state of Georgia would be a profitable place for offshore drilling. And I think if it is considered to be so, we need to have a lot of discussions about that.”

As we noted in our editorial Jan. 28 (“Just what is the drill?”), we appreciate the governor’s thoughtful deliberation - but in this case, it’s just not nearly enough. When you lean one way or another, you risk falling; some issues cry out for standing firm.

This is definitely one of them.

Thankfully, both citizens and lawmakers are mobilizing against offshore drilling.

Seven coastal Georgia cities have passed resolutions opposing it. There’s a petition you can sign at Change.org: Go to bit.ly/2H8jgpW.

And a group of bipartisan Georgia legislators has begun resolutions in both the House and Senate to oppose drilling off of Georgia’s coast.

“They argue it would risk fouling Georgia’s pristine salt marshes, threaten endangered right whales that give birth off Georgia and potentially devastate local economies,” the Associated Press reports.

Strangely - and perhaps politically - Florida Gov. Rick Scott was almost immediately granted a drilling waiver by the Trump administration. Other governors quickly requested exemptions too, including, thankfully, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.

Where in the world is Georgia?

The longer this goes on, the more likely it is that Georgia could become isolated - and its coastal waters be the concentrated focus of drilling that’s banned elsewhere.

Is that really what we want?

In our Jan. 28 editorial, we recalled the awful anxiety of the summer-long Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana in 2010, a dragged-out disaster we called the 9-11 of the sea. The thought of oil spewing into Gulf waters and onto area beaches formed a black, gooey cloud in our psyches which, truth be known, has never left us and never will.

“I think we should, as a state, say that we don’t want this,” Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman said.

We agree wholeheartedly.

We wish our governor would too.

Online: http://chronicle.augusta.com/

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Feb. 11

The Brunswick News on coal ash notification bills:

State Rep. Jeff Jones doesn’t appear to be willing to back down from something in which he believes, and we are happy to see it.

After trying last year to push through two bills that would change the way entities are required to notify the public about coal ash storage, Jones is at it again. A year ago, language in the bill did not jibe with the interests of Georgia Power and the state Environmental Protection Division. His bills ended up stuck in subcommittee and essentially died after crossover day.

This year, it seems things may be on the proper track. House Bill 880 would mean “full public notice” would have to be given before a public landfill could begin accepting coal ash, the nasty stuff leftover after coal-fired energy production.

The other bill, House Bill 879, would require entities to provide proper notice to the public before a dewatering process begins in coal ash ponds.

Ideally, we would not even have to worry about either of these bills. Coal ash is known to have some pretty toxic elements in it, like heavy metals. Many people say it poses a real risk to our environment.

New regulations require all wet coal ash ponds to be drained and dry storage ponds to be excavated and moved to a landfill. Jones is right to seek additional requirements that the public be properly notified when these processes begin.

These ponds are sometimes located adjacent to residential neighborhoods, much like the ponds being excavated at Plant McManus in Glynn County. A neighborhood is just outside the plant’s borders, which means potentially hazardous materials could be moved around next door without the residents being aware if these bills do not pass.

“These bills ensure that, as the ash ponds are drained and coal ash is moved around and stored all over our state, we all know what is happening and the responsible parties take appropriate precautions to keep us safe,” Jones told The News recently.

That sounds better than the alternative. This time around, Jones has bipartisan support from several other representatives around the state, including fellow Glynn County Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island.

We hope to see these bills pass this session.

Online: http://www.thebrunswicknews.com/

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