Sunday Solutions — May 7, 2023

First off, condolences to all of you who didn’t pick Mage for the Kentucky Derby win. Today we watch hard-working government, taste some bittersweet onions and find a way to help our neighbors. Then, we’ll take a look at how the world’s economics affect our own bottom lines. Let’s roll.

Governor Brian Kemp signed legislation Friday creating an oversight board for prosecutors.

Friday visitors

On Friday, Coastal Georgia welcomed more than the usual pedal pubs carrying rowdy bridesmaid parties when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff came to town to tout their work — but not at the same places and not on pedal pubs, although your Sunday editor would surely like to see that.

Kemp stopped at the Bryan County construction site for the Hyundai Metaplant to sign the state budget and expansion of sales use tax exemption for regional projects like that one. Then he moved on to Savannah where he spoke at the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office and signed Senate Bill 92, which creates a Prosecuting Attorney’s Qualifications Commission that can investigate and remove district attorneys.

Ossoff brought the director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan, to the Port of Savannah to talk about nearly $4 billion in funding available through the Inflation Reduction Act to help U.S. ports improve air quality for neighboring communities. Ports will have to apply for the funds.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, along with EPA Director Michael Regan, announced funds available for upgrades for port facilities that would result in cleaner air for the surrounding communities.

Lemonade stands, yes; college aid, no

In his deadline push to sign or veto bills, Gov. Kemp took care of a few more last week. He signed a law to make it legal for people younger than 18 to sell up to $5,000 in various goods and non-alcoholic drinks — think Girl Scout cookies or lemonade stands — without a permit or having to pay taxes. He also vetoed a bill that would expand needs-based college tuition aid for Georgia students from $2,500 to $3,500. The bill also would’ve allowed veterans to participate in a tuition-free, commercial driver’s license training program that aimed to solve a truck-driver shortage. Kemp said he vetoed the bill because there was no money set aside for the legislation. As for higher ed in general, the governor signed the state budget that included a stiff $66 million cut to the state university system.

Here’s a list of bills signed so far, and here’s a list of vetoes and statements.

A bit of Georgia at the Derby

The Vidalia was again the official onion for the Kentucky Derby during Saturday’s festivities and, as most know, only Vidalia sweet onions come from 20 counties in southeast Georgia. It’s much like Kentucky Bourbon only comes from Kentucky. So what does all of that mean? It means the famous onions were served as part of the official Kentucky Derby 149 menu and gain visibility associated with the event’s marketing. It’s been part of the race’s sponsorships since 2021, when there was another, less sweet layer to the onion’s story.

In 2021, the U.S. attorney’s office announced indictments of 24 people for trafficking people to work in the onion fields of southeast Georgia in conditions that amounted to indentured servitude.

After receiving a tip from a trafficking hotline in November 2018, federal law enforcement officers from the Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation started investigating multiple agricultural organizations registered under the name of Georgia resident Maria Leticia Patricio. 

Prosecutors allege that since 2015, these organizations conspired together to bring more than 100 foreign workers into the United States, exploit them and imprison them under inhumane conditions.

The cases have not yet come to trial. However, to learn more about the system that federal prosecutors have dubbed modern-day human slavery, check out the podcast from The Bitter Southerner.


Pandemic leftover: Hunger

The U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey found food scarcity levels for all families have risen since the pandemic. Georgia was one of the worst for this, in the survey period between March 29 and April 10, as 15.1% or 1 in 7 families reported not having enough food to eat. The national average is 10%. The end of the national Covid emergency triggered sunsets for various types of aid designed to bridge gaps caused by the pandemic. One benefit that ended March 1 is food assistance that meant an additional $600 a month for a qualifying family of 4 with a net monthly income of $2,000. A story from RouteFifty looks at what’s happening since Enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits disappeared for 32 million people.

Want to help your neighbors now? Get out your nonperishable food items and leave them for your mail carrier on Stamp Out Hunger Day, Saturday, May 13. Click here for details on what’s needed and how to leave your food donations for your mail carrier. Donations locally go to America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia food bank and will be distributed in Coastal Georgia. Want to volunteer to help sort food donations as they come in? Here’s the info.

Your second cup: How basic needs add up

Intellectually, we all know there are more jobs, more people employed and more opportunities to find better paying opportunities in recent months. However, it’s easy to become uneasy as we pay more for basic needs than we did two years ago. How does that happen? ProPublica sheds light on that acknowledgment as it follows the journey of a familiar basic: the tire. While inflation has eased, the international economic forces that push tire prices 21.4% higher over the past 2 years are an example of the world market where we live and shop. This economic primer gives us a view of the complex world of profits, needs and unseen events that hits very close to home.


Benefits for pregnant women, biomarker testing coverage become law

Federal law currently allows low-income pregnant women to receive cash aid through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, but Georgia law does not. The General Assembly overwhelmingly passed House Bill 129 to rectify that

New law guarantees fishing rights on navigable streams

The governor also acknowledged there seems to be some uncertainty about the bill’s language. He said the upcoming House Study Committee on Fishing Access to Freshwater Resources will provide an opportunity for clarity.

Kemp signs near-total ban on outside money for Georgia elections offices

Under Senate Bill 222, it is now a felony for local government officials or election workers to ask for or receive money to pay for elections except for funds that come from the state or federal government.

AG takes case of $3.2 million PSA fraud in Camden County 

Georgia Attorney General assigned case of $3.2 million alleged fraud from Public Service Authority in Camden County GA, misspent funds on classic cars, personal bills and diversions to businesses.

America’s Green Boom Needs More Electricians, and Women Are Stepping Up

With solar installations and EVs booming, America needs more electricians.

Support independent, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.