Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Sept. 4

Valdosta Daily Times advocates for more foster parents:

There were more than 15,000 children in foster care in Georgia as of May, according to the state's Division of Family and Children Services.

Georgia was on track to have 18,000 children in foster care this summer; however, the number has dropped since May to just above 14,500 in foster care by mid-August, according to state officials.

The numbers are sadly a new high in the number of foster children in the state.

Jeff Lukich, who is the chief of staff for the state Division of Family and Children Services, said several factors likely drove the increase, including a rise in substance abuse among parents, a pair of high-profile child deaths that likely left caseworkers more cautious and a newly created 24-hour call center that made it easier for the public to report suspected child abuse and neglect, according to an article in the Tuesday, Sept. 4, edition of The Valdosta Daily Times.

"We were essentially adding 200 additional children in our system every month for almost 24 consecutive months," Lukich said. "In the spring of 2016, we knew we had to do something."

The children come from many backgrounds and situations.

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A great many of them have special needs, including teenagers, siblings and children with physical, emotional and/or behavioral disabilities.

The Division of Family and Children Services is tasked with assuring children are safe from abuse and neglect.

Dedicated caregivers are a critical part of fulfilling that mission.

DFCS has said in previous statements that once a determination is made it is not safe for a child to remain in the home of a parent or guardian, the child may be placed in foster care.

The foster-care program is designed to be a temporary home away from home while qualified professionals work with the family to address child-safety concerns.

DFCS said its goal is to return children safely to their families but adds the child's safety comes before any other consideration.

DFCS has said the agency is always looking for what it has called "loving, safe and stable homes for the children who are brought into care." The approval process can take up to 10 months and may require certifications, evaluations and a good bit of documentation.

Foster children may also benefit from certain therapeutic services as well as health and safety items that may include things such as car seats, booster seats and safety helmets.

In a perfect world, foster care would not be needed.

In a perfect world, children would never be abused or neglected.

It is not a perfect world.

In our world, children are orphaned, sadly others are abandoned, abused and neglected, making foster care so important and foster families so needed and appreciated.

An increase in children needing foster care means there is an increase in the need for foster parents.

Do you have what it takes to be a foster parent?

If so, the state and many Georgia children need you.

Online: http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/

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Sept. 3

The Savannah Morning News on enforcing Georgia's "hands-free" law:

There are many more serious infractions on the roads these days. But there may be none more frequent or dangerous than illegal cell phone use.

So many drivers clearly haven't gotten the memo: It's not only illegal to surf or text while driving, but it's extremely hazardous to oneself and every other person in the vicinity. And, in fact, since July 1 it is illegal in Georgia to even be holding or propping up a cell phone behind the wheel.

Yet, look at the cars around you. People are not only still yakking while they drive, their cell phones pressed firmly against their ears, but they are still gazing down intently, especially at traffic lights — as if they don't think it's obvious what they're doing.

Think it's none of your business? Think again. Cell phone use is killing people, often the innocent are not involved, and Georgia is one of the worst states for it.

"One in 10 fatal car crashes in the U.S. each year (is) caused by distracted driving," writes Automotive Fleet Magazine, and using cell phones while behind the wheel kills as many as 300 people annually in some states, according to a new report from Expert Market.

"Texas emerged as the worst state for distracted driving with 312 deaths each year attributed to cell phone use. Other states ranking among the top five for fatal crashes caused by cell phone use include California (292.5), Florida (269.9), Georgia (132.7), and North Carolina (127.5)."

Not only is it your business what the driver next to you is doing, but if you're following the new law prohibiting the holding of a phone while driving, it should chap your hide that so many others around you are either ignorant of the law or contemptuous of it.

There's a rebellious, proud streak of headstrong contrarianism that runs through much of the country, particularly the South. It can be an admirable trait, one that holds up individual liberty as sacrosanct.

But when used as a feeble excuse to flout the law, especially one designed to protect the health, safety, welfare and private property of those around you, you simply have no right.

Whether due to ignorance, for which there is no excuse, or selfish obstinacy, which is worse, there are likely hundreds of thousands more lawbreakers on the road today than there were on June 30.

We hope law enforcement will put a high priority on enforcing Georgia's so-called "hands-free" law in the coming months and years.

Some 900 citations were issued statewide for holding phones in the first month of the law, even as many local jurisdictions such as Savannah were only giving out warnings.

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Warnings are fine, but fines are better — and the current first-offense fine of $50 may not be enough. It's going to take a real shock to the system to break this bad habit.

This particular independent streak puts lives in danger. It's got to stop.

Online: http://www.savannahnow.com/

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Sept. 1

The Marietta Daily Journal on a decision to lift a tariff on newsprint:

A victory for the First Amendment is how U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson described it.

Last month, the United States International Trade Commission voted unanimously to reverse the Commerce Department's ill-advised decision to impose tariffs on uncoated groundwood paper from Canada.

The issue began in January when the Commerce Department imposed a tariff of 6 percent on imports of newsprint from Canada, where the majority of this essential newspaper component comes from. ...

In March, the tariff was increased by another 22 percent, creating devastating repercussions for small-town newspapers that are far less able to absorb such a huge cost increase than are the larger metro newspapers, although they, too, have been hit hard.

The Commerce Department imposed the duties in response to a complaint from a hedge-fund-owned papermill in Longview, Washington, which claimed Canadian imports were hurting its bottom line. The complaint brings to mind economist Milton Friedman who said, "Every businessman is in favor of freedom for everybody else, but when it comes to himself, that's a different question. We have to have that tariff to protect us against competition from abroad. We have to have that special provision in the tax code. We have to have that subsidy."

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Other than the single bellyaching Washington state firm, the publishing, printing, paper and allied industries solidly opposed the tariffs, arguing they put thousands of American jobs at risk. The newspaper, printing and publishing industries support 600,000 jobs, many of them at community newspapers such as the MDJ. Newspapers employ 10,000 workers in Georgia, most on community newspapers. Many of these workers were in jeopardy of losing their jobs if these destructive tariffs were not lifted. That's because newsprint is the largest operating cost after payrolls for the vast majority of newspapers. Imagine such a substantial line item in the expense budget suddenly jumping by one-third.

Newsprint used by U.S. newspapers and commercial printers consists of two-thirds of uncoated groundwood paper. The spike in the cost of paper rippled through the industry by forcing many local newspapers to scale back reporting and reduce the number of editions they publish.

The Tampa Bay Times, Florida's largest newspaper, for instance, laid off about 50 employees as the direct result of the tariffs pushing up operating costs by $3 million a year.

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While Georgia's junior senator, David Perdue, disappointingly did not take a position to support newspapers or the paper mill in Georgia, Isakson led the fight, arguing in July against the harmful tariffs in testimony at a formal hearing of the ITC.

In January, Isakson led a bipartisan coalition of senators in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, arguing the tariffs would pose a threat to jobs in Georgia and in the publishing and commercial printing sector nationwide, especially in rural areas. And in May, Isakson joined a bipartisan group of his Senate colleagues in introducing the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018, or PRINT Act for short, which would suspend the import taxes on uncoated groundwood paper while the Commerce Department examined the health of — and the effect of tariffs on — the printing and publishing industry.

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America's community newspapers are the source of local news for millions of people in every city, town and hamlet in the country, and the jobs of more than half a million reporters, editors, advertising and production staffs in the printing industry.

Isakson deserves praise for going to bat for newspapers across the country, freeing them up to continue doing what they do best, bring local communities the news of the day.

Online: https://www.mdjonline.com/