JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens updated the Fulton County Republican Party about the “water wars” against Alabama and Florida and how Georgia is part of the effort to overturn President Barack Obama’s health-care reform legislation.
“In June last year, we got a great decision on water,” he said at the Feb. 16 gathering at Gallery Events in Johns Creek.
Although the U.S. 11th District Court of Appeals ruled drinking water could be taken from Lake Lanier to slake Atlanta’s thirst, Florida and Alabama have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Olens said he would not rule out the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case because it involves multiple states at odds with each other.
However, he said the Supreme Court had refused to hear earlier appeals in the dispute and the court of appeals did vote in Georgia’s favor 3-0. He said Gov. Nathan Deal has been doing a good job reaching out to the governors of Florida and Alabama, just like he has been reaching out to their attorneys general.
Meanwhile, Georgia has joined 25 other states filing suit against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in particular the individual mandate to purchase health insurance. Olens said the U.S. Supreme Court will hear that case from March 26 to March 28 and he will be in Washington for it.
“The court specifically gave five and a half hours over three days,” he said. “The vast, vast majority of Supreme Court cases are only given one hour.”
In addition to those two cases, Georgia is also fighting the federal Environmental Protection Agency over air-pollution regulations and defending the provisions of the anti-illegal-immigration House Bill 87 that would allow police to investigate suspects’ immigration status and punish those transporting or harboring illegal aliens. The oral arguments in the latter case will be heard March 1 before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Other matters on Olens’ plate include a bill in progress that would regulate “pill mills” that do little more than hand out prescriptions. Olens said he wants to get rid of drug dealers playing at being doctors and that more people die of prescription drug overdoses than die in car accidents.
His office is also working with the governor to tighten state gambling laws. He cited Internet cafes in Georgia where most of the traffic goes to Internet gambling sites.
Olens said his proudest achievement was changing the culture of the state attorney general’s office from reactive to proactive.
“I’m having a great time,” he said. “There’s plenty on my plate.”
He said he is never bored — instead, he is busy trying to keep several balls in the air at a time.
After he spoke, he took questions from the audience.
Bob Miller of Johns Creek asked about efforts to get water from the Tennessee River. Olens said there is enough litigation between Georgia and its neighbors already and he would like a win-win situation to be found. He suggested the possibility of Georgia supporting expansion for Chattanooga’s airport in exchange for a water pipeline running down I-75.
Judi Quigley of Peachtree Corners thanked Olens for working with Street GRACE, an organization opposed to child sex trafficking, and asked him if his office was doing anything against child prostitution.
Olens said although he had not touched on the issue during his election campaign, he spends a lot of time dealing with it. Between 200 and 500 girls are sold every day on the streets of Atlanta, with a median age of 12 to 14.
“This is not with volition,” he said. “This is outright slavery.”
Some are illegal immigrants, while others are native-born kidnap victims. One success in the fight against child sex trafficking was House Bill 200, which drastically increased the penalties for child prostitution. Crimes that once drew sentences of eight to 10 years would now draw sentences of 25 to life.
There are two new related bills, one of which will expand the categories of people required to report suspected sexual abuse and another to increase the statute of limitations in regards to child sex crimes. If those who patronize child prostitutes — and he said 45 percent of “johns” come from outside the Perimeter — do not cease because it is wrong, they will do so because of the harsher punishments.
“Deterrence is always a good thing,” he said.