The Friday Photo
August 29, 2014
To borrow a slogan from an old toothpaste commercial, “Put your money where your mouth is.” I’m making a real effort to find and support businesses who are willing to post a sign saying guns don’t belong in theirs.
The Friday Photo
August 29, 2014
To borrow a slogan from an old toothpaste commercial, “Put your money where your mouth is.” I’m making a real effort to find and support businesses who are willing to post a sign saying guns don’t belong in theirs.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution and Raw Story are reporting that a Texas woman visiting Helen, GA was killed by a stray bullet outside a bar over the weekend. According to Raw Story, 53-year-old Glenn Patrick Lampien, from Jasper, GA was outside the Old Heidelberg bar and restaurant on Helen’s crowded Main Street when he accidentally shot himself.
Police arrived after a call was placed concerning gunshots to discover that a woman across the street had been struck by Lampien’s bullet. She didn’t respond to first aid and was pronounced dead at the scene. Lampien will be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Georgia’s HB 60, known as Georgia’s “Guns Everywhere” law, went into effect less than two months ago. This bill, which drew strong opposition from law enforcement officials and ministers, allows guns in public places including bars, government buildings, TSA lines at Atlanta’s Jackson Hartsfield airports, and schools.
Businesses may prohibit guns by posting a sign stating that they do not want guns brought into their establishment. What HB 60 doesn’t do is restrict law enforcement officers from going into an establishment that prohibits guns. HB 60 does stop police officers from asking to see a permit unless a crime is being committed. At that point asking to see a gun license is moot, isn’t it?
I talked with several local businesses I frequent, or used to, about HB 60, and was stunned to find out that they know very little, if anything, about HB 60. Some owner/managers said they thought it fell apart during the session because it was so “crazy.”
“Crazy” is a law now, and a woman from Texas who visited our state is going home in a coffin as a result of Governor Deal and the Georgia General Assembly’s insistence that we need guns everywhere.
This was posted on the Teachers Rallying Against Insurance Change (T.R.A.G.I.C.) group page. It is an open group, so if you want to stay current on what the state and Governor Deal are doing to teacher’s health coverage join the group and do your part to protect one of Georgia’s most valuable resources, our public school teachers!
By now, you should have seen the 2015 Rate Comparisons for both the Active and Medicare Advantage plans. While we are pleased the Department of Community Health has offered choices for 2015, these choices are just as unaffordable as last year! The premiums and deductibles are way out of line with state employee and teacher salaries, and mean financial ruin for school support personnel and other state employees.
The newspaper headlines have been mainly positive, telling a very different story than the unaffordable reality that we will be dealing with next year. There are numerous lobbyists and pubic relations people working for the other side, spinning the story and getting their side out. We have only our voice (and our vote!).
We are strong when we speak as one, and it is time to speak up!
Call the Governor’s Office tomorrow and the DCH. Send emails. Contact your Legislators.
Here are some sample questions, but feel free to ask your own!“ Can you explain how I am supposed to afford this insurance and pay up to $28,000 on my salary of $___________?”
“Can you explain why the BCBS Medicare Advantage plan costs 300 – 700% more than it does this year? Why is it so much higher than United Health Care?”
“Why is the United Health Care HMO 25% more than the Blue Cross HMO?
What are members getting for that additional money?”
“Why are the Board of Regents, with fewer employees and a smaller risk pool, able to offer so much better insurance than the State Heath Benefit Plan?”
Office of the Governor: (404) 656-1776
Email the Governor: http://gov.georgia.gov/webform/contact-governor-domestic-form
Call the DCH: (404) 656-4507.
Email the DCH (use both addresses): DCHBoard@dch.ga.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org
Find your Legislators:
Georgia House of Representatives: http://openstates.org/ga/
Georgia Senate: http://www.senate.ga.gov/senators/en-US/FindyourLegislator.aspx
Yesterday Nathan Deal’s campaign operatives launched a new slogan complete with t-shirts and bumper stickers, #weknownathan. And yep, the Democrats, with the always keen work of Better Georgia, co-opted it and made it ours. Even the Conservative Peach Pundit scolded the Deal campaign for its utter cluelessness about social media.
#weknownathan but wish we didn’t. That’s exactly why I am voting @carter4governor in November.
A couple of months ago I began posting links to news items on Rural and Progressive’s Facebook page. I was sleepless in the wee hours of the morning so I skimmed the news and found some interesting things that I shared there.
If you are on Facebook please like the page, and share or comment. If you aren’t on Facebook, you can check my Twitter feed @kghcummings I also post there, and the two platforms don’t always overlap.
Here’s what I found at o’dark thirty today:
Georgia’s Guns Everywhere law went into effect at 12:01 this morning. A few weeks ago I made some calls to businesses I frequent to find out if they would allow guns beginning today. A coffee shop I really like reacted like I was making a prank call. I doubled back today. They were honest and said they just didn’t know much about it, but would hustle now and get an answer back to me. They serve beer and wine, so they can’t stay on the fence on this one.
Alcohol and guns didn’t mix in Georgia, until now. Guns Everywhere means patrons at any establishment serving alcohol can bring a gun in, unless the business posts a sign telling patrons they can’t bring a gun in.
As of midnight last night, the Rosa M Tarbutton Memorial Library, a beautiful library in Washington County used by everyone in the community, will have to allow guns in the building. My county, like many others, can’t afford the additional security staff or detectors required to keep guns out of the building. All the county buildings in my community, with the exception of the courthouse, where they are adding additional staff for security, will have to allow citizens to bring guns inside.
The Georgia General Assembly and Governor Deal think we need more guns in public places but less funding for mental health services and public schools. Do legislators expect them to have a bake sale to cover their costs?
This is good Mr President but why not step up and stop Keystone XL now? We won’t get the oil, Americans and First Nations will be forced to give up their private property to a foreign company, spills are sure to happen in our backyards, and all of us will suffer the climate effects of the dirtiest oil in the world. If you truly belief what you are preaching, act now.
Why did the world sit on its hands for over two weeks before beginning to address the 300 girls kidnapped for the purpose of being sold as child brides? It is because they are black? Because they are Nigerians? I am holding Hamatsu Abubakar in The Light until she and all her friends are returned safely to their families. Abubakar means “noble.” Bring Back Our Girls
There are two big news items from Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and we’re only three days into the week. Chip Rogers was fired for violating GPB’s employment policies for much of his stint at the public broadcasting network. While Rogers stated his $150K per year job at GPB, the network hired a radio professional with decades of experience to produce his show. Did Rogers need help with his 30 minute show because he was also busy working as the Vice-President for Government Affairs at the Asian American Hotel Owners Association?
Yesterday the Atlanta Business Chronicle announced that Georgia State University’s 100,000 watt, student-run radio station WRAS, will broadcast GPB’s programming from 5 a.m.to 7 p.m. The station’s Album 88 programming has a strong following, but those listeners will have to stream Album 88 during the day until it switches back to over-the-air broadcasting after 7 p.m.
And that’s not all. GPB is switching to a news and information format with programming piped in from National Public Radio, American Public Media, and Public Radio International. A GPB produced talk show will debut in the fall of this year.
GSU has a license to operate the student programmed station but didn’t involve WRAS management and staff in the decision making process to fundamentally change the programming format. WRAS posted this on its Facebook page,”WRAS management and staff have had no part in the decision made by the university regarding our partnership with GPB. As a completely student-run/managed station, the administration of GSU acted unilaterally in making this decision. A statement from the staff on the matter will be made public soon.”
In November 2012, Governor Nathan Deal and Gold Dome Republicans found themselves in an embarrassing situation after State Senator Chip Rogers hosted a presentation in the state capitol by an Agenda 21 Conspiracy believer. Rogers boasted he would host more anti-Obama, fact-less meetings for legislators.
Deal strong-armed Georgia Public Broadcasting and created a $150K a year taxpayer-funded job for Rogers where he would produce a weekly radio show on economics and jobs.
Ashley Wilson Pendley, a long-serving staffer, quit not long after Rogers was hired. Five months later Teya Ryan, President of GPB, hired Tonya Ott, a radio veteran with 24 years of experience, to work on Roger’s 30 minute program.
Deal denied creating Roger’s job at GPB, and he hasn’t taken credit for the Republicans wiping out all the funding for Roger’s job in the 2015 budget.
Last Friday reports surfaced that Rogers was cut loose from the state taxpayers’ payroll. Now he’s freed up to focus more attention on the other job he’s held while collecting a state paycheck.
According to news reports, Rogers has been showing up for his job as the Vice-President of Government Affairs for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association “regularly, for ‘one year or more.’ ” Rogers’ bio on the association’s web site makes no mention of working at GPB or his stint as Will “The Winner” Rogers.
Rogers’ former employer GPB is promoting a spring fund drive. When Rogers was appointed to GPB, listener/member donor dollars dropped considerably. I wonder if this announcement is intended to woo the members back who jilted the network a year ago.
Senator Josh McKoon R-Columbus, thinks that Georgia taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used for legal medical choices that a teacher or state employee covered by state health insurance might make with her doctor because some people might find her decision to be “morally repugnant and reprehensible.”
Does this mean Jehovah Witnesses who pay state taxes and object to blood transfusions can expect state health insurance to no longer cover transfusions because it is in direct contradiction to their faith?
How about Georgian’s paying their taxes who object to the death penalty as “morally repugnant and reprehensible.” Does this mean no one will be executed in our state as long as a taxpayer says they find the death penalty to be in conflict with their personal beliefs?
Will any Amish come forward and ask that we abandon the grid, mass transit, and all things electric?
What if a taxpayer is just kind of annoyed by something, but not really worked up about it? Will the state hit the pause button while said taxpayer sorts out their feelings?
McKoon’s sponsored SB98 is “morally repugnant and reprehensible.” It is reflective of the GOP and Tea Party’s lack of respect for teachers and state employees. We entrust them to teach our children and do our state’s work, but not enough to let them make health decisions without the General Assembly cherry picking what is covered by the state’s health insurance.
Arizona’s Republican United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are joining the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and major corporations and calling for Gov Jan Brewer to reject SB 1062, a bill designed to allow discrimination against gay people (and who knows who else) based on the religion of the person who feels a need to discriminate. The uproar and pushback are so strong that four major companies are reconsidering decisions to bring thousands of jobs to the state. Arizona hobbled itself over establishing a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday years ago, and there is already plenty of talk about moving the 2015 Super Bowl out of the state if Brewer signs the bill.
Arizona’s bad idea is also a bad idea for Georgia, and there are two bills in the General Assembly that would hurt our state by legalizing discrimination based on the “preservation of religious freedom.” The House version of this hate bill masquerading as religious freedom is HB 1023. The Senate’s version is SB 377.
I was stunned to find Rep Mack Jackson’s name on the House version of this bill. Mack, a Democrat who serves District 128 where I live, is the minster of St. James Christian Fellowship in Tennille.
My first questions to him were, “Have you talked to Dr Lowery about this? Would Dr. King support you on this?”
I value religious freedom and the separation of church and state. But there’s a big difference between religious freedom and legalizing discrimination based on one’s personal faith.
What lies at the heart of this bill is legalizing discrimination against gay people. In addition to a business choosing to refuse service to gay people, they could also discriminate against Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, …….. How about overweight and obese people if your faith deplores people who are more than a healthy weight (that could reduce revenues for businesses in the South where we seem to have an epidemic of weight issues)?
It is stunning that in the state where Dr King is buried, and Civil Rights champions Dr Joseph Lowery and Rep John Lewis call home, any state legislator would put their name on a bill like HB 1023/SB 377.
As this morning has progressed Mack replied to my text message saying he took his name off the bill (it still appears in the online version). A couple of hours later he posted on Facebook that he didn’t sponsor this bill. Now, as I am posting here, he has texted me saying, “My name was on the bill but was taken off in the clerk’s office after it was brought to my attention the effect of this bill. It is never my intention to discriminate against anyone. I did not sponsor the bill.”
Thank you for stepping back Rep Jackson. You and others under the Gold Dome will better serve your constituents if you fully understand the impact legislation will have on individuals, families, businesses, and our state before filing bills. Our job is to hold you accountable.
The Atlantic covers a Brookings Institute report on income inequality in 50 of America’s cities. Atlanta leads the list.
Got water? Centerville resident Bill Ferguson says SB 213, the Flint River bill, isn’t a good idea. He explains why in today’s Macon Telegraph.
Rep Mike Dudgeon’s HB 874, which would have made solar power much more affordable for Georgians, has just about seen the sun set on it. Dave Williams at the Atlanta Business Chronicle covers it.
Freshly sworn in to the Georgia House of Representatives, Rep Sam Moore, R-Macedonia, thinks:
Would it be a good idea to remove coal ash waste from places where there is groundwater and surface water contamination? “You don’t need to be Joe Chemist to figure that out.” says Avner Vengosh at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.
Remember that little ice event we had in Middle Georgia last week? As bucket trucks streamed into Washington County, preparations were underway to house approximately 25 linemen in the wellness center at Washington County Regional Hospital.
While the storm was making its way east towards us, Lower Oconee Hospital in Glenwood closed its doors. That’s the fourth small hospital to close while Governor Deal has been in office. Fifteen to twenty more are at risk for closure, but much-needed federal dollars are being turned away by Deal and his supporters in the General Assembly.
Beth O’Connor, the Virginia Rural Health Association’s Executive Director wrote in the Roanoke Times yesterday, “Hospitals are not businesses. If someone goes to a hair salon, grocery, clothing store or movie theater, but does not have money, they will not receive service. But federal regulations require hospitals to treat anyone who walks through the Emergency Room door – regardless of ability to pay.”
O’Connor goes on to point out that Virginia’s legislators are turning away $5M per day of federal funding that her state’s small hospitals need. Those federal dollars are tax dollars paid for by hard-working Virginians. But Virginia’s tax dollars are going to other states.
So are ours. Georgia’s tax dollars are also going to other states where leaders know Medicaid Expansion makes sense for the health of small hospitals and the people they serve.
And now there are efforts underway to allow a part-time legislature to have the power to fix Georgia’s already hobbled healthcare system.
Governor Deal could take action right now, today, and direct the tax dollars we’ve already paid, to come back to Georgia. Instead of taking the long view that stretches beyond November’s election, Governor Deal refuses to help small hospitals and the 1 Million rural citizens who count on them every day.
What will happen when Governor Deal hits the campaign trail outside Atlanta and finds it littered with closed hospitals? Will the four counties now without a hospital be campaign stops? Will he be met at campaign rallies in rural Georgia by already angry teachers and recently unemployed hospital healthcare professionals?
You can tell Governor Deal and our state legislators to bring our federal tax dollars home to serve Georgians. Sign the petition and tell Governor Deal to Save Georgia’s Hospitals Today!
The Charlotte Observer reports that Duke Energy notified the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Sunday afternoon that one of their coal ash ponds at the Dan River Power Station was spilling coal ash waste and toxin contaminated water into the Dan River. The company’s early estimate was that 82,000 TONS of toxic coal ash waste and up to 27 MILLION gallons of water had poured into the river supplying municipal drinking water systems downstream.
Duke Energy officials waited until 4:03 on Monday afternoon to inform the public.
The Observer quotes power company officials saying on Tuesday that it was “definitely unexpected” that a reinforced concrete pipe would break.
Except Duke Energy didn’t use concrete pipes for two thirds of the length of the pipe where the leak continues to spill into the Dan River. The company thought it had used concrete pipes in the 1960s when they built the coal ash ponds, but now they know that only one-third of the length of the pipe work is concrete.
Late yesterday Appalachian Voices reported that coal ash has reached the intake point at the Danville water works. Virginia Beach authorities have turned off the pumps at Lake Gaston until the full impact of the spill is determined.
The water problems aren’t over for West Virginians either. The News Observer reports that Dr. Rahul Gupta, health officer for Kanawha and Putnam counties urges parents with children ages three and younger, as well as people with weakened immune systems, to avoid drinking the water. Yesterday two schools had to close when students and teachers were overwhelmed with the licorice fumes associated with the coal processing chemical that contaminated water resources last month.
There are plenty of potential coal ash spills waiting to happen. Today’s Washington Post notes that there are 207 plant sites in 37 states where coal ash contamination has violated federal air and water health standards. Georgia could be next.
Georgia is riddled with coal plants and the toxic waste they produce. Even as Georgia Power begins to shutter coal units, the coal ash remains. Middle Georgia’s Plant Branch and Plant Scherer as ranked as Significant for hazards. After the doors are locked at Plant Branch next April, the tons of coal ash and toxic-soaked water will still be there in retention ponds, right there on the banks of Lake Sinclair that feeds the Oconee River.
How can this be? Easy.
IN HARM’S WAY: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and Their Environment, a report by the Environmental Integrity Project includes this on coal ash waste regulations and monitoring, “Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia either require no monitoring of their numerous ash ponds or monitoring only after the ponds have been closed, a rare event as most ponds are operated perpetually as ‘storage’ sites. Monitoring data from state files in Georgia were so minimal that no assessment of impacts could be made.”
Power companies in Georgia are allowed to self-monitor their coal waste storage sites. Not the state agency that issued their permits, not river keepers, not municipal agencies. The power companies get to make the waste and monitor the safety of its storage.
We’ve allowed corporations, lobbyists, and legislators to put us at risk for decades and we can’t afford any longer to think “it won’t happen to us”. The “us” is everyone in the Charleston, West Virginia, Danville, and now Virginia Beach.
And the time to speak up is now.
If you are using social media (at least Facebook) you may see a lot of profile pictures washed in purple as part of World Cancer Day today. There are all kinds of good ways to support cancer research, cancer patients and survivors, health care professionals, and caregivers.
I have a friend who begins chemo tomorrow. She’ll beat this.
I’m not going purple today. Instead I’ve picked up the phone and shared a call to action.
The Georgia Senate Natural Resources Committee is meeting this afternoon to consider SB 299, which will strip away water protection and leave us just as exposed and vulnerable as the people in West Virginia. I called and left a message asking Chair Ross Tolleson to vote NO on this bill.
Yesterday a shuttered Duke Energy coal plant spilled at least 50,000-82,000 pounds of coal ash and 27 Million gallons of water into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina. The coal ash and water are saturated with cancer causing heavy metals and toxins that never “go away” or evaporate.
There are all kinds of ways we can support cancer patients today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. The ribbons and the walks are fine, but we also need to have the hard discussions about what we are doing to the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Because cancer sucks.
This piece from The Weekly Sift, The Distress of the Privileged, is worth a read too (It’s long but will be time well spent).
UGA and Emory journalism professor Rebecca Burns has a keen piece in Politico on why Tuesday’s snow was such a disaster. Burn’s points here also hold true for the multitude of problems that will occur when the Braves move to Cobb County (add heat and humidity to the picture then).
Jay Bookman writes about Georgia’s bare bones budgeting, and what it means for our state.
Rural response to the winter storm forecast on the left, Atlanta response on the right.
Former Gov Mike Huckabee is waving Todd Akin’s flag now. Will Georgia’s doctor-politicians Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Tom Price sing the chorus on women’s inability to control our libidos, therefore forcing us to rely on government subsidized birth control? Robin Abcarian ticks through the Republican Party’s continued failure to woo women voters.
New filings by Cobb EMC member against co-op and settlement payouts covered in the Marietta Daily Journal
Rep Greg Morris wants SNAP recipients to take drug tests since they get state funds. State legislators get state funds without peeing in a cup. Courts have ruled against similar laws. This is a sure way to make sure children are hungry .
Growlers to Go bill would boost growing state’s brewery industry. (Plus adding spirits to wine?) Sen Burt Jones has filed SB 303 that also fast tracks referendum voting for dry cities and counties. Maggie Lee at Macon Telegraph covers this plus Georgia Democratic Party Chair DuBose Porter’s response to Rep Sharon Cooper suggestion to pull the plug on rural hospitals.
Twiggs County budget decisions include choosing an audit firm and one commissioner’s failure to recuse himself. This decision was made by the same people who opened a new library last year and closed it two weeks later due to budget problems.
The Friday Photo
January 24, 2014
I don’t keep a diary or journal. As 2012 was winding down a friend suggested collecting the high points throughout the course of the year, writing them down, and keeping them in a container. At the end of the year it could serve as a reminder of happy moments that were worth writing down. This is what my 2013 container looked like.
On January 3rd I recorded my first contribution for 2014: New Year’s Day with Brenda, Diana, Maia, and Karrie (close in my heart).
I hope Rep Sharon Cooper didn’t hurt herself while attempting that 180 on her statement last week about rural hospitals when she said, “There are some of those rural hospitals that need to close.”
Yesterday Cooper attempted to dial back her comments by telling the Atlanta Journal Constitution that closing rural hospitals “would have serious consequences on the affected community, hurting it economically and limiting access to acute care for Georgians.”
Cooper went on to say, as reported by Jim Galloway today,“If we don’t act to make real, substantive changes, we very well could be faced with the hard reality of hospital closures in rural parts of this state, no matter how many short gap measures we take, leaving many communities without the economic engine and access to care people depend on.”
Nurse Cooper and many of the urban based legislators under the Gold Dome suffer from a chronic disease that rural residents can identify in just seconds. I don’t know what the Latin derivation is, but it translates to, “I’m from Atlanta and I know what is best for ‘you people’ who don’t use GA 400 every day.”
Cooper and others in her camp have refused Medicaid Expansion dollars, and in doing so have made it harder for rural hospitals to cover their costs, let alone recruit providers or make even modest capital improvements to aging facilities. No one is advocating for perpetual “short gap” measures as solutions for rural hospitals.
The problems of improving the health status of rural communities are complex. What won’t begin to solve them is a lot of pontificating by metro legislators who think their zip code makes them experts on all things rural.