Last Friday Governor Brian Kemp took the unprecedented step of declaring a statewide public health emergency as the number of Covid-19 (coronavirus) cases began to increase on national and state levels. The Georgia General Assembly suspended its calendar last Thursday and returned for on Monday for a special session called by the Governor to approve his actions. Yesterday the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed 197 cases of Covid-19 and three deaths. The number of reported cases are updated daily at noon.
Whether the changes we are adopting come from business, civic, or elected leaders, the chorus in this choir is to avoid being closer than six feet from other people. I prefer the phrase physical distancing instead of social distancing. We need our social connections now more than ever, just not the close physical ones.
Last weekend I was supposed to be with about 12 other Life Is A Verb Campers for a house party filled with making art, cooking Pi Day themed meals, walking, yoga, and sharing stories. Instead of being together physically, we gathered at 11:00 in the morning via Zoom for coffee and everyone’s choice of pie. I made a roasted mushroom and asparagus quiche. It wasn’t the same as being in a room together, but it was good to see much-loved faces and talk.
Having done that on Saturday, the next morning I did a quick FaceBook search of five large churches in rural Washington County to see how they were adapting to the six foot wingspan way of living now. All five opened their doors to congregation members. One of the five churches was St James Christian Fellowship. This congregation is led by Georgia State House Representative Mack Jackson. He did not reply to my email with questions about opening the church last week.
Last Thursday Jackson worked with other state representatives to suspend their work and return home out of an abundance of caution due to Covid-19. On Friday some members stood closer than six feet to Kemp while he announce the public health emergency. Despite the cautions taken by the state, Jackson and other faith leaders invited people to gather together, perhaps more than once, last Sunday.
Everyone in those churches knows that the local hospital, like those in other rural counties, is not equipped to handle a large number of Covid-19 patients. The capacity just isn’t there, no matter how caring and well=trained the health providers are. With all of the free and easy-to-use technology available for streaming a service, why any church leaders thought that unlocking the doors last Sunday was a good idea, is enough to test one’s faith.
As the clock runs out on this year’s General Assembly session, the House is yet to take action on S.B. 213, a water rights bill drenched in bad policies. The Rules Committee will consider it first, and I’ve already been in touch with my local rep, Mack Jackson, a Rule members, who took time yesterday to thank me for bringing the issues to his attention via email.
This bill, as passed by the Senate, included a Yes vote by my absentee freshman senator, David Lucas. He must not know, or care, that his district includes rivers which could be put at risk for reduced downstream flow, as well as stripping away water rights for his constituents.
This bill allows government to step in and make decisions impacting property owners and taxpayers without public hearings. It puts government and private business ahead of citizens. It threatens property owner’s access to water that flows through their land in rivers and streams, or under their land.
S.B. 213 is poisonous for our rivers, property owners, farmers, and sportmen.
“Augmentation” threatens Georgia’s riparian rights system – altering fundamental property rights and threatening longstanding Georgia water rights law.
The bill now includes:
The augmentation provisions allow the EPD director to deny water users that are downstream of an undefined “augmentation” project the use of any of the “augmented” water flowing past their property, without prior opportunity to be heard.
This provision allows the State to control (or allow a private party to control) a portion of stream flow and prohibit the reasonable use of it, which is akin to prior appropriation of water – a short step from western-type water regulation. State ownership of water is different from the state’s current regulation by permit.
Property owners in Georgia have a “bundle” of rights that make up their property rights. An essential property right in that bundle is the right to reasonable use of water on or under your property. Allowing the appropriation and state control of water, and not allowing downstream property owners the right to reasonable use of it, radically diminishes that property right.
An augmentation project to benefit endangered species is already operating on a tributary to the Flint River. This language is not needed to do this augmentation project or protect endangered species.
The flow augmentation language will allow a hugely expensive, taxpayer-funded, multi-million dollar Aquifer Storage and Recovery/Southwest Georgia Regional Commission Stream Flow Augmentation project to continue to be funded in the lower Flint.
The water added by this project will flow to Florida while Georgia farmers and other property owners will be denied reasonable use of it.
The project could add to Metro Atlanta water supply but at an extremely high cost that is projected to fall on Metro utility ratepayers, who already pay the highest water bills in the state.
You need to call your Georgia House member TODAY, right now, before you get another cup of coffee, check Face Book, or think about what you want for lunch. Find your House member’s info here and tell them to oppose S.B. 213 if it includes this language when it reaches them for a vote.
I cancelled the Missing Persons report on my General Assembly reps yesterday afternoon. Mack Jackson called and apologized for leaving my questions unanswered (he added he would let David Lucas know we talked, but Lucas, as my State Senator, still owes me a call or email on the issues I asked him about). Jackson said he heard “something” about Senator Chip Rogers resigning and taking a job at GPB, and that someone at GPB had quit, but he didn’t know much more.
That’s a pretty lame excuse. With the firestorm of press and social media coverage which continue to blaze over Governor Nathan Deal’s one person job creation program, being up to speed on a disgraced State Senator who resigned just weeks before the Session began shouldn’t be that hard.
And now we know that the Senate and the House aren’t too happy with Deal’s job cherry-picking either, thanks to a recorded discussion between a taxpayer and Senator Steve Gooch, which Better Georgia has posted. Gooch said this is an issue that “you’d talk about behind closed doors.” The fall-out for publicly opposing a governor with plummeting job approval ratings would be like “fall(ing) down on your sword”
Gooch said that the Senate and House could have voted differently on GPB funding, but that might have resulted in the loss of some jobs at GPB in order to cover Rogers’ 150K salary. So the result of opposing Rogers’ job could be job cuts where he works?
It seems, based on Senator Bill Heath’s complaint that constituents are “annoying” when they contact him, and the fact that members of the General Assembly will not speak up about glaring “cronyism,” the taxpayers of Georgia are expected to take one for the team. April 15 is coming, and together we will pony up for Rogers salary and expenses at GPB in order to support their newest Senior Producer.
That raises some questions. If our representatives aren’t willing to speak up when they see a wrong, what are they doing there anyway? Who sent them to the Gold Dome? Who do they work for? And who is paying them to sit in silence?
Last year during the General Assembly session my House Representative, Mack Jackson, told me he hears from almost no one in the district during the session (shame on us, constituents). He added me to an email list with a summary of legislation each week he sent to some local folks. He even emailed me a few times to ask for my thoughts on specific issues.
This year I haven’t gotten a response to questions I have raised on two very specifics issues: the funding of Chip Rogers job at GPB, and tax credits extended to schools which discriminate against gays and lesbians. I emailed, then called, then emailed again.
Weeks have turned into over a month. Mack did send me a text that he would respond, but still, nothing.
And David Lucas? My brand new freshman Senator elected in a run-off last summer? Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.
And I copied Lucas’s staffer at her request. No bounce back emails either.
No newsletter, no generic email response (we all know legislators can do that based on Senator Heath’s less than friendly email to hundred of constituents), no messages on my voicemail. Nothing.
Lucas is past figuring out where the meeting rooms are. Maybe Mack is a little too comfortable in his seat since he didn’t have any opposition last year.
I’m going to try one more time, by emailing them this blog post.