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SAFE Commission to Meet in Columbia County on August 30

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and State Representative Barry Fleming will co-chair the Secure, Accessible, & Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission’s second meeting on August 30, 2018 at the Columbia County Exhibition Center in Grovetown. Yesterday, the state published a Request for Information for vendors on options to replace Georgia’s current voting machines, electronic poll book system, election management software, precinct scanners and tabulators, and election night reporting website.

At this meeting, commission members will review vendor responses to the state’s Request for Information (RFI) issued on August 8. Responses are due by August 24. Commission members will engage in panel discussions and host vendor demonstrations. There will be a public comment portion at the end of the day. A court reporter will transcribe the proceedings.

WHO: Co-chairs Brian Kemp and Barry Fleming; members of the SAFE Commission; support staff; and interested citizens
WHAT: SAFE Commission’s second meeting
WHEN: Thursday, August 30, 2018 from 9 AM to 5 PM
WHERE: Columbia County Exhibition Center, 212 Partnership Drive
Grovetown, GA 30813

Parking is available on a first come, first served basis next to the facility. All members of the public are invited to attend.

Brian Kemp has been Secretary of State since January 2010. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting secure, accessible, and fair elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities, charities, and professional license holders. For more information about the office, go to www.sos.ga.gov

Carter Praises DOL Action to Increase Access to Care for Small Business Employees

WASHINGTON – Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.) today praised the U.S. Department of Labor’s announcement to expand Association Health Plans (AHP).

Due to increased costs and regulations under Obamacare, many small businesses can no longer afford to offer health insurance to their employees. Expanding AHPs will allow small employers to join together to access similar plans as large employers. This will enable small businesses to provide improved access, increased choices and lower costs for health care.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that 400,000 previously uninsured people will gain coverage under AHPs.

“Obamacare has been a disaster for our entire health care system, but it has hit small businesses and their employees extremely hard,” said Carter. “Many small businesses simply can’t afford to offer health insurance to their employees thanks the failed health care law. This move today is a critical step to lower health care costs and will help to provide hardworking Americans with more choice and better control of their health care.”

According to the Department of Labor, under the new rule, AHPs can serve employers in a city, county, state, or a multi-state metropolitan area, or a particular industry nationwide. Sole proprietors as well as their families will be permitted to join such plans. In addition to providing more choice, the new rule makes insurance more affordable for small businesses. Just like plans for large employers, these plans will be customizable to tailor benefit design to small businesses’ needs. These plans will also be able to reduce administrative costs and strengthen negotiating power with providers from larger risk pools and greater economies of scale.

Bipartisan Prison Reform Bill Introduced in House and Senate

WASHINGTON— Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced the FIRST STEP Act, a prison reform initiative aimed at lowering recidivism and prison populations through rehabilitative programing.

“What we have in the FIRST STEP Act is a rare legislative opportunity to fulfill the demands of justice today while reducing future burdens on the criminal justice system. By implementing initiatives focused on rehabilitating individual men and women, we can promote human dignity in and beyond our prison system. This bill would reunite families, create skilled workers, make our streets safer and promote the wellbeing of people who will eventually rejoin society. I’m grateful to work with colleagues, like my friend Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Chairman Goodlatte and Senators Cornyn and Whitehouse, who understand that personal redemption represents one of the most robust forms of justice because it helps restore people and their communities,” said Collins.

“The mass incarceration epidemic is 50 years in the making. Fixing our broken criminal justice system will take an all-hands-on-deck effort from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. The FIRST STEP Act is a significant step in the right direction. My colleagues, particularly Congressman Collins and Sens. Whitehouse and Cornyn, should be commended for their stalwart leadership on this issue,” said Jeffries.

“The FIRST STEP Act is modeled after successful reforms that states like Texas have implemented to rehabilitate low-risk offenders and prepare them to reenter society,” said Cornyn. “This legislation will help shut the revolving door of recidivism to save taxpayer dollars and reduce crime. I look forward to working with my colleagues to move these necessary reforms forward on the federal level.”

“As states like Rhode Island show, everyone benefits when Americans who repay their debt to society emerge from prison ready to work and to contribute to their communities,” said Whitehouse. “This bill includes important provisions to treat prisoners battling addiction, like Rhode Island’s prison system has done. It will also help overhaul procedures that make it harder for former inmates to regain their footing. This is an important step forward in our effort to adopt smarter policies at every step in the criminal justice system.”

“The vast majority of federal prisoners will someday be released from prison, and it is important to give them tools to become more productive citizens so that they don’t return to a life of crime. The FIRST STEP Act provides inmates the help they need to successfully reenter society, which will in turn enhance the safety of our communities. I thank Representatives Collins and Jeffries for their work on and dedication to this important issue. I look forward to the House Judiciary Committee taking up this bill this week,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

Prison reform initiatives have demonstrated success in state systems, including Georgia’s, and the FIRST STEP Act would enable the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to capitalize on similar resources at the federal level. The legislation would direct the BOP to conduct risk- and needs-assessments for every offender upon sentencing, and then to offer individualized, evidence-based recidivism reduction plans to all inmates, without exception. Programs could include vocational training, educational support, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, anger-management courses, faith-based initiatives or other resources proven to lower the chance that men and women reoffend.

The FIRST STEP Act would also prepare individuals to reenter their communities as responsible citizens by allowing them to serve the final days of their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement, which equips them with support structures as they transition out of custody. As inmates progress through rehabilitation plans tailored to their needs and approach the end of their sentences, the BOP would conduct risk- and needs-assessments more frequently in order to document when individuals have successfully reduced their risk of reoffending and to ensure that the most appropriate resources remain available to them during the reentry process.

Additional provisions of the bill would require that prisoners be placed in facilities located nearer their families, that female inmates have access to certain health care products, and that individuals leaving custody would receive identification documents that are often pre-requisites for employment.