My brethren in the media made a big deal this past Friday when a whole bunch of new Georgia laws went into effect, from the states new smoking ban to the designation of the green tree frog as the states official amphibian.
Two less-discussed laws that took effect July 1 have direct ties to Columbia County lawmakers.
One of the new laws, tied to a package of legal reforms championed by state Rep. Barry Fleming of Harlem, wipes out the advantage that defense attorneys once brought to jury trials.
Before the new law went into effect, defense attorneys were able to strike 20 people from the pool of potential jurors waiting to hear a trial. Prosecutors had only 10 strikes. That undeniably stacked the deck in favor of the defense.
Fleming, a member of the House judiciary committee and majority whip in the House, was a key player in pushing changes to the legal system through the Legislature in the 2005 session. Those changes werent possible before this year, when Republicans took over and ousted the Democrats and their trial-lawyer supporters.
Another change that went into effect Friday is state Rep. Sue Burmeisters bill requiring sex offenders to have their photos published in the paper. The requirement is similar to that already in effect for those sentenced for multiple DUIs.
Burmeister, whose district includes part of Martinez, couldnt get the bill through the hoops set up by Democrats in 2004. With Republicans in control in 2005, the commonsense bill was easier to pass " just like the legal reforms.
These bills arent as fun to write about as a state frog. But the result will sure make defense attorneys feel jumpy.
Steve Jones healing
Everyone I know who has ever had open-heart surgery says the same thing: The actual surgery is relatively painless; the part that hurts is when they saw apart your sternum and spread your rib-cage open.
Steve Jones, a manager in Columbia Countys Recreation Department, is living through that recovery. He had a heart attack a few weeks ago, and is waiting on the doctor to allow him to return to work.
Jones is one heckuva guy, and works harder than just about anyone in the county. Mondays Fourth of July fireworks at Patriots Park was the first show there that hes ever missed, and you can believe everyone missed him.
Jones says the pain medicine isnt doing much for the aching ribs, but everyones kind words, thoughts and prayers are certainly lifting his spirits.
Whos in control?
Speaking of recovery, Shepeard Blood Centers Linda Walker, who helped coordinate Columbia Countys blood drive this past week, is just about healed from a recent auto crash.
The part we can laugh about now is her story of how the crash occurred. She said she was on Belair Road at the Owens Road traffic light, singing along at the top of her lungs to a gospel song on the radio when a young driver rear-ended her car.
The tune Walker was singing? God Is In Control. Its obvious the other driver wasnt.
Never skipping a beat, Walker managed to remind all the emergency workers to come to the blood drive as they were loading her in the ambulance for the trip to the hospital. Thats dedication!
A final note
Sandy Boner, who handles facility rentals for the county, is working hard to set up the countys first Summertime on the Canal event July 23 to showcase all the new facilities at Savannah Rapids.
Shes asked me to be one of the judges for the homemade cobbler and ice-cream contests.
Eat your heart out.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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