January 16, 2015 Newsletter

Georgia Newcomers in 2015 General Assembly & Congress

Several pieces of legislation – pre-filed and new – took a backseat to multiple office changes, new assignments and freshmen legislators during the first week of the Georgia General Assembly.  On Thursday they adjourned for ten days and will return on January 26th for the fifth day of the 40-day legislative session.

Meanwhile, two vacant seats in the House of Representatives will be decided in a February 3rd special election.  Georgia legislators taking the oath of office on January 12th included the following newcomers:

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January 23, 2015 Radio Commentary

Organ Donor ID Cards

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, January 23, 2015 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

In 1994 Georgia passed a bill allowing applicants to pay half-price for a driver’s license if they agreed to become organ donors.  If they said YES, their decision was indicated on the back of their driver’s license.  That was an opt-in plan, as it should have been, but fourteen years later, it was quietly changed to opt-out.  That change meant all drivers became “presumptive” organ donors, if they didn’t leave a “refusal document” or had not told two witnesses to prevent the harvesting of their organs.

The bill that changed the process 14 years later was S.B. 405 that passed in 2008 and was signed by the governor on May 12th that year.  S.B. 405 of 2008 is still online, if you’d like to read it for yourself.  In 2008, when I mentioned that the process had been changed from opt-in to opt-out, an official, said, “Well, I guess they weren’t getting enough organs donated.”

S.B. 405, that remains current law, lists ten different groups that may allow a decedent’s organs to be harvested.  Relatives are seventh on the list and the ninth category allows “any person having the authority to dispose of the decedent’s body” to agree to harvesting, indicating that medical examiners, funeral directors or crematorium personnel may initiate the process.  The tenth category allows a court to decide and parents may over-ride the decision of a deceased 18-year-old son or daughter.  Continue reading

January 16, 2015 Radio Commentary

Ralston said, “We’re Going to ‘Move’ on [Marijuana]!”

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, January 16, 2015 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Representative Allen Peake’s January 9th press release explained how he and the governor had “been in intense conversations over the last several days about [Peake’s marijuana bill, H.B. 1].” After those talks, he decided to rewrite his bill and file it with the Clerk’s office today.

Some say the bill has been gutted because the new version will not allow marijuana to be grown in Georgia. However, “individuals with certain medical conditions” could go to another state to legally obtain cannabis oil with a three to five percent THC level and bring it back to Georgia, without fear of prosecution.

During the marijuana study committee meeting in Gwinnett County, where law enforcement officials were asked to express their opinion, committee member Representative Margaret Kaiser revealed that cultivation of marijuana is the heart of their plan. After hearing each law enforcement official urge them NOT to allow cultivation, she said, “We don’t think we can do this without cultivation. It’s a big point to take cultivation off the table.” Last Saturday morning I was reminded of her comment when someone called WSB radio and asked Walter Reeves to tell him how to grow marijuana. Continue reading

January 9, 2015 Radio Commentary

Stolen Valor Act

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, January 9, 2015 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

On December 20, 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 that increased penalties for unlawfully wearing, manufacturing, or selling military decorations and medals and making it a federal misdemeanor to falsely represent oneself as having received a U.S. military award.

On June 28, 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that law, voting 6-3 that lying about a military award is not a crime, but is protected speech under the First Amendment.  So, Congress passed the 2013 law making it a federal offense to falsely claim military heroism in order to get money, property, or other tangible benefits.

On November 25, 2014, Representative Terry Rogers pre-filed H.B. 12, to create the Georgia Military Service Integrity and Preservation Act, and establish a state-level criminal offense of fraudulent representation of military service.  His bill explains the crime as follows:

“Any person who, with the intent of securing a tangible benefit for himself or herself, knowingly and falsely [claims in writing or orally] to be a military veteran or a recipient of a military decoration shall be guilty of fraudulent representation of military service.” Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor, fined $1,000 and sent to prison for 12 months.

If this bill passes and becomes law, the required state penalties would be added to federal penalties required by the Stolen Valor Act that passed Congress. Continue reading