Political Notes – Bibles, if not rangers, will be returned to state parks

Gov. Nathan Deal has overruled DNR Commissioner Mark Williams and ordered the return of Bibles to the rooms and cabins located within state parks.

Deal took the action Wednesday after media reports that DNR, in response to a complaint from a park visitor, had removed the Bibles from state lodgings.

Williams had the holy texts removed “out of an abundance of caution” that there might be litigation over the presence of Bibles in state facilities, Deal said.

“The attorney general [Sam Olens] and I agree that the state is on firm legal footing as we move to return the Bibles to the rooms,” Deal said.

“These Bibles are donated by outside groups, not paid for by the state, and I do not believe that a Bible in a bedside table drawer constitutes a state establishment of religion,” the governor said.

Deal added: “In fact, any religious group is free to donate literature.”

A lawyer familiar with First Amendment issues said Deal’s statement could encourage other religions to ask that their books be made available at state facilities: “I wonder what the state is going to do when Muslims submit the Koran and other Islamic literature, including that promoting Sharia law, and other religions submit their material and insist on its placement in state-owned resort hotel rooms?”

Although Bibles will once again be available at state parks, DNR rangers are being phased out.

S. Heather Duncan reported in the Macon Telegraph:

To cope with escalating budget cuts, Georgia State Parks plans to eliminate rangers’ law enforcement duties from all state parks over the next five years.

That includes High Falls State Park in Monroe County, which is among the five most visited parks in the state.

Homer Bryson, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said the state’s roughly 200 game wardens, who already assist with law enforcement at the parks, likely will take on more of that responsibility. They are assigned in work sections of five to six counties, he said.

Bryson said the roughly 75 park rangers with law enforcement certification already spend about 90 percent of their time on other types of park operations. Their jobs will remain. They will simply no longer have law enforcement responsibilities, he said.

Another attack on Obamacare

The U.S. House is scheduled to vote for the 37th time Thursday on legislation that would mandate the repeal of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The Obamacare vote will be entirely symbolic, as were the first 36 House votes for repeal. After the House’s Republican majority votes to pass the bill, it will be buried by the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Another symbolic attempt to kill Obamacare has come from the offices of Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell), who is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit the IRS from implementing any provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Since a major enforcement provision of the ACA involves IRS tax penalties for those who don’t purchase health insurance coverage, Price’s bill would effectively terminate the program.

“When it comes to an individual’s personal health care decisions, no American should be required to answer to the IRS – an agency that just forfeited its claim to a reputation of impartiality,” Price said in a statement released by his office.

“It has always been an untenable and unacceptable scenario, and we ought to take this common sense step to take the IRS out of health care,” he added.

Moore replacement

Gov. Nathan Deal has called for applications from Brunswick residents who are interested in replacing James Brooks, a suspended member of the City Commission.

Deal recently suspended Brooks from office after Brooks was indicted on charges of racketeering and violating his oath of office.

Applications will be accepted until May 31, with the governor then appointing a replacement for Brooks.

Personnel notes

Jennifer McNeely, who was a legal aide to state Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) during this year’s legislative session, has been hired as a member of the Political Law Group, where she will specialize in campaign finance and election law.

Doug Chalmers, the firm’s managing member, said McNeely “played a significant behind-the-scenes role on the revisions to Georgia’s ethics and campaign finance laws that were recently signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal.”

A graduate of the University of Georgia law school, McNeely earlier worked for the Republican National Committee, where she advised on federal campaign finance regulations for political parties and PACs.

© 2013 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Bibles , Brunswick City Commission , James Brooks , Mark Williams , Nathan Deal , Obamacare repeal , state parks , Tom Price