2017 Archives

November 27--  State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia reports "From the People's House" regarding an important Supreme Court case and the salary dilemma for local law enforcement agencies.

Water Wars. The United States Supreme Court has set Jan. 8 as the date to hear arguments in the longtime dispute between Georgia and Florida over water rights. I have served on the Natural Resources Committee since I999, the year I began serving in the Legislature, and that fight had already been going on for years. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent to defend Georgia in the lawsuit that Florida filed against us a few years ago after mediation failed to resolve the issue. The issue is that Florida claims Georgia uses too much of the water flowing through our state into theirs, damaging their ecosystems (think Gulf oysters), agricultural industry, and leaving power plants with not enough water flow. Georgia disputes this, and points out the devastating effect the caps on water consumption Florida wants would have on the economy of Atlanta and agriculture in the southwest part of our state.

Last February, Georgia won a major victory when the special master appointed by the Supreme Court recommended that the justices reject Florida’s argument, stating Florida had failed to prove the cap was needed. The Court could approve or reject the special master’s recommendation. The stakes are very high for Georgia in the outcome. Very high.

Police Pay. One of the more high profile topics of the upcoming 2018 Session will be how the State might assist local governments in attracting and keeping local law enforcement officers. Since the Legislature appropriated some long overdue pay raises to state law enforcement officers, some local officers have migrated to state agencies for better pay. Even more challenging is that officers are leaving public service entirely for even better pay in the private sector. I have studied the salaries of local law enforcement and I can tell you they aren’t paid enough for the job they do, which is basically to risk their lives to protect yours and mine, as well as our property. Local officers make the really dangerous calls like domestic disputes, and serving warrants, the kind of duties that can go from routine to deadly in a moment.

The Legislature will have to work very closely with cities, counties, and Sherriffs for a good outcome here. Direct payments from the state to supplement salaries (as in public education) would likely cause more problems than it would solve when it comes to local control. Even worse, would be the State mandating minimum salaries for local governments to pay for without State assistance. One idea being discussed is allowing local governments to use SPLOST funds to supplement funds for public safety related salaries and court functions. Current law allows SPLOST proceeds to be used for capital projects only (think roads , buildings , jails, etc.). This is a critical issue in regards to public safety. I will be relying heavily on direction from my local government officials and my local Sheriffs.

Let me know you thoughts on these issues or other concerns. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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