Last week served as an off-week for the Georgia General Assembly per the focus on the State’s budget process. To the benefit of Douglas County, Senator Donzella James (Senate 35) and Representative Roger Bruce (House 61 and chair of the Douglas County Delegation) participated in a “legislative” town hall meeting.
Douglas County District 2 Commissioner Kelly Robinson issued a press release saying his intent was, “to create a forum in which District 2 citizens could voice their concerns and get questions answered in order to help state leaders shape legislation.”
Robinson opened the town hall with an update on the status of Douglas County, comparing 2009 to 2013. The statistics suggest the County has hit its bottom and is moving slowly into a recovery. Robinson emphasized, “We can expect one more wave of foreclosures from banks this year now that the moratorium has expired but not all at once. We are out of bed and no longer have a fever but a bad cough exists.”
As of December 2012, Douglas County ranked fourth in the state regarding foreclosures. However, unemployment is improving slightly and the housing inventory is shrinking. Investors seem to be prime buyers giving way to a larger rent and lease to own market for houses.
Bruce set expectations for bills to be considered although not official yet. He appreciated the opportunity to hear directly from the citizens. He also shared his prospective on the Mug Shot bill which he is sponsoring. This legislation would make it illegal for private enterprises to financially benefit from a citizen’s public record. Bruce sharply stated “I recognize there are first amendment and other rights to be considered. But, nowhere in the constitution does it state this is allowable.”
The core issue is that people who are arrested have their picture taken by the sheriff’s office. If a citizen is not found guilty, then the mug shot is taken down. However, between those two periods of time, private businesses are getting those mug-shots from law enforcement web-sites and posting them on their own sites or publishing them in magazines seen in gas stations and
convenience stores. The worse part, says Rep. Bruce is that “a citizen has to pay anywhere from $500 to as much as $8,000 to have their picture removed. But this could be per instance as someone at a kitchen table could have multiple sites and numbers running. That’s extortion.”
(Editor's note: Patch does not accept payment for removing mug shots.)
James, who sits on key committees such as economic development and education, spoke of her intent to introduce a bill that deals with gun control. As a pre-cursor, the Senator stated an effort is underway to hold a panel roundtable at the gold dome to solicit input from law enforcement, agencies, associations and other stakeholders at different levels to ascertain the best approach to gun control. She implied there was a desire to get key input for new or amended laws.
A majority of those who chose to openly ask questions of the legislators had an interest in expressing their views on gun control. Some were for changes while others were against. The idea of arming teachers or key administrators as well as basic education of the various types of guns for legislators were broached. Robinson moderated the dialogue as much as possible so the vast majority could be heard. He went on to state that “reactionary legislation” can be avoided with this type of dialogue between citizens and elected officials.
During the event, newly-elected State Rep. LaDawn Blackett-Jones (District 62) joined her peers on stage. Jones weighed in on judicial topics and mandatory sentencing.
Notably, there was a large and diverse turn out with other elected officials being present such as Douglas County Board of Commission Chair Tom Worthan and Vice Chair Mike Mulcare as well as DT Jackson, a member on the Board of Education and City of Douglasville Councilwoman Lashun Danley. The town hall was filmed and will be made available through Robinson’s office.