Throughout this year’s session of the Legislature, lobbyists representing the nation’s largest technology-savvy giants stalked the darkened halls of the state Capitol.
Amazon was there. So was Google. Commercial independents, too. All were watching House Bill 779, the measure to begin the task of regulating the use of drones in Georgia’s air space. Millions upon millions of dollars are at stake as drone-delivery becomes a reality.
But amid the giants, there was an even larger behemoth whose interests had to be served. As a result, HB 779 declared null and void all local ordinances governing drones – except “any ordinance that was adopted on or before April 1, 2016.”
Say what? We’ll let the Augusta Chronicle explain:
Georgia’s only local government drone ban passed into law Wednesday, just in time for the Masters Tournament.
…The ban on drone flights applies only to areas where 100 or more people are gathered or could gather, such as large sporting event venues. The ordinance also outlines permitted uses by public utilities and law enforcement, and it allows operators to apply for a special license with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to fly a drone over a crowd.
That’s right. Privacy-obsessed Augusta National got its own small carve-out in HB 779 so that it could immediately and permanently ban drones from its airspace. It wants no prying eyes over its greens. From a previous Chronicle article on the topic:
Buzzy Johnson, the senior director of the Masters Tournament, said at the meeting that Augusta National Golf Club supports a ban and has interests both in protecting visitors and its commercial investment.
“Beyond Masters Week, what do you think the ordinance should look like in terms of protecting your investments?” Commissioner Ben Hasan asked Johnson.
Though Augusta National will probably use commercial drones on its private property, “if we just look up one day and drones are just taking pictures, it’s in conflict with what we do and who we are,” Johnson said.
Chalk up a continuing controversy for Emory University. “Emory Stands for Free Expression!” wrote the school’s president, James Wagner, in chalk after coming under criticism for an email that promised a “safe environment” from students who felt threatened by chalkings that declared “Trump 2016” around campus. The event was preserved for all posterity in this YouTube clip:
Our AJC colleague Ty Tagami has more details here. He writes that the school’s dean of campus life seemed to undercut Wagner’s attempt to defuse the situation, with a column that said the chalkings violated school rules because they were done in unacceptable locations without reserving space. And he contended that dialogue about controversial subjects — Trump included, was the suggestion — should be done in a “safe environment.” From the column:
It is no secret that many people — across the political spectrum — have expressed concern that some elements of this year’s presidential campaigns are offensive and prey on public anxieties about America’s changing demographics. The controversial and often vitriolic nature of current political discourse is clearly painful for many people and especially difficult for groups that historically have been marginalized — groups that include many Emory students.
The intensity, timing and anonymity of the “Trump 2016” chalking incident produced a tipping point. In the context of a college campus, we thrive on open and civil dialogue, inviting even the most controversial perspectives and remarks. The college setting is a laboratory where students may, for the first time, grapple with such issues. Those conversations by their very nature can be difficult and must take place in a safe environment that is inclusive and guided by mutual respect and civility.
Over at GeorgiaPundit.com, Todd Rehm has caught on to the odd way Sandy Springs has decided operate the special election to fill the city council seat of Graham McDonald, who is running for a state House seat.
Even though the election will be held on the same day as Georgia’s May 24 primary, paper ballots will rule the day – and only at one location. Writes Rehm:
So, if you live in Sandy Springs and want to vote in the General Primary election for United States Senator, Public Service Commission, and other state offices, you will do so at your normal voting precinct. If you also want to cast a ballot for Sandy Springs Commission District 3, you will have to drive to Hammond Park at 6005 Glenridge Drive to cast your ballot for that office only.
But it gets even goofier. The Sandy Springs City Council race will not appear on normal mail-in absentee ballots. Instead you have to apply separately for a General Election Primary mail-in ballot and for a different Sandy Springs City Council mail-in ballot.