Author: Mike Klein

By Mike Klein The next version of criminal justice reform legislation should look more like last year’s special council recommendations without extra window dressing that somehow worked its way into HR 1176.   A new bill could be ready later this week or early next week.  Then the rush starts anew because the General Assembly is trying to complete its business before the month ends. Four months have passed since Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform recommendations and nearly two weeks since eight hours of hearings on the original HR 1176.  The basic premise behind this bill is that Georgia should adopt alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders. One area to look at closely will be whether judges would have sole… View Article
By Mike Klein There are many different kinds of snakes and though I like none of them, I am willing to concede that some can attack and kill you while others are mostly just a nuisance.  The part that I am not quite so good at is figuring out which snakes to fear and which snakes to just closely monitor. A lot of folks in Georgia are trying to figure out which drug abusers to fear and which to just closely monitor.  It is an inexact science that no doubt will produce examples of success and failure. Reform ideas include a strategically different approach that emphasizes less costly treatment programs over more costly incarceration for drug abusers who otherwise have… View Article
By Kelly McCutchen and Christie Herrera In a few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from Georgia and 25 other states who are challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s 2010 health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, another battle has been quietly taking place, as Georgia and other plaintiff states decide whether they should implement one of the law’s key components, a health insurance exchange. Earlier this year, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and officials in the Legislature wisely agreed to halt implementation of the exchange – new government bureaucracies to regulate and subsidize health insurance – until the nation’s highest court rules in June. Last December, the governor’s advisory committee had recommended the… View Article
By Kelly McCutchen and John Berlau The news that Bank of America is again testing new fees is likely to prompt even more consumers, in Georgia and other states, to take their business away from big financial institutions and give it to regional banks and credit unions. While competition is the American way, it’s important to note that Bank of America and other banks are responding to federal price controls that raise costs for debit card processing. Now, smaller banks and credit unions (and their customers) are at risk from the same Washington price controls. These price controls, contained in the Durbin Amendment of “Dodd-Frank,” the so-called financial reform law Congress rammed through in 2010, offer no tangible benefits to… View Article
By Mike Klein Exhale now if you expected personal income, corporate income or sales tax rate changes to be enacted during the current General Assembly.  It won’t happen but as Chicago Cubs fans have believed for more than one hundred years, there’s always next year. “There was a lot of discussion last session about those kinds of things,” House Speaker David Ralston said Thursday.  “You’re probably not going to hear much this year.”  Ralston answered a Georgia Public Policy Foundation tax rates question during a Commerce Club membership breakfast. The Special Council on Tax Reform report published in December 2010 proposed a one-third reduction in the maximum personal income tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent effective in January… View Article
By Mike Klein The most sweeping juvenile justice reform legislation since Jimmy Carter was Governor sailed through the Georgia House on Wednesday afternoon, passing 172-0.  It moves to the Senate where passage is predicted and then on to Governor Nathan Deal who supports the legislation. Leaders from both parties spoke favorably in the well before the overwhelming vote. House Bill 641 would update Georgia statutes to make certain the state is in federal compliance. Like ongoing adult criminal justice reform, the legislation moves the state toward provision of more services to juveniles who need personal treatment and less reliance on incarceration when juveniles are not considered a threat to themselves, their families or public safety. A series of short presentations… View Article
By Mike Klein Thursday morning a House and Senate special committee will gather to discuss mission creep.  That is not the official name of the hearing, also known as the first hearing to consider criminal justice reform legislation, but it might just as well have been advertised as mission creep. Georgia criminal justice reform legislation is many things, nearly all of them positive, but it also is an example of mission creep.  To understand whether House Bill 1176 hit or missed the mark, let’s begin with the assignment given to last year’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform: “Address the growth of the state’s prison population, contain corrections costs and increase efficiencies and effectiveness that result in better offender management; … View Article
By Mike Klein Criminal justice reform legislation introduced this week contains highly anticipated alternatives to incarceration such as expanded drug treatment courts, along with probation and parole revisions, and modifications to burglary, forgery and theft statues.  We knew that was coming. Some sections of House Bill 1176 that were not expected include extending the statute of limitations on prosecution of child abuse cases – this was not a specific focus of work done last year by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform — and religious clergy might well be surprised to learn they are mentioned in the criminal justice reform conversation. Gov. Nathan Deal’s office already signaled the current bill is not good enough. “It doesn’t achieve exactly what… View Article
By Jeanette Moll and Kelly McCutchen Like many of their colleagues across the country, Georgia policy-makers are taking an increasingly close look at their criminal justice system. In search of both increased effectiveness as well as cost savings, policy-makers now have an ideal opportunity to evaluate and improve the correctional system. An essential part of that review must include that portion of the justice system which oversees juvenile delinquents. Georgia’s state budget for juvenile justice is $266 million in Fiscal Year 2011 and may grow to $279 million in 2012.1In addition, almost 50,000 youths are in the system each year, either awaiting adjudication or serving their sentences2– 50,000 youths who represent the future workforce and citizens of Georgia. Undoubtedly, the… View Article

Juvenile Justice Reform Bill Vote Possible on Tuesday

By Mike Klein The Georgia House could vote as early as Tuesday on juvenile justice reform legislation that is every bit as significant as a similar adult criminal justice reform initiative, but it has received less public scrutiny.  The bill appears to have significant bipartisan support in the House and Senate.  One big proposal would mandate that county prosecutors be assigned to every juvenile court. “We are making substantial changes in the way in which we handle problem children in Georgia,” House Judiciary Chair Rep. Wendell Willard said this past weekend during the 21st annual Georgia Bar Media & Judiciary conference in Atlanta.  “One of the things that I’ve made sure is in there is that before the state can… View Article

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