DALTON, Ga. — A discussion about tougher laws against sex trafficking at a tea party meeting might not be quite what the attendees expected of Georgia's attorney general, but Sam Olens told the crowd he considered it one of his greatest achievements during his first seven months in office.
"Just because it isn't on the voters' minds doesn't mean it isn't high on my list," Olens said after his speech. "I could have started with the [health care] lawsuit, but it [sex trafficking] is a real problem in our state. I consider it my job to educate the public about the issue. Maybe someone will see a little boy or a little girl at a truck stop and make that phone call. If it saves one child, it is worth it."
The law that went into affect in July lengthened prison terms for people found guilty of sex trafficking, a law that Olens called a national model.
Olens, a Republican who was elected last fall, discussed a broad range of issues at the Dalton Tea Party on Tuesday evening, from health care to environmental regulations to proposed changes in the state's open government laws.
With the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta last week ruling in favor of 26 states that argued forcing people to purchase health care is unconstitutional, the case is now certain to go before the Supreme Court next year, Olens said. An Ohio federal court previously upheld the law, and the split at the federal level means it will go to the highest court in the land.
"That is the important part that it goes to the Supreme Court next year," he said.
While discussing the proposed changes to state and congressional districts, Olens said he believes Georgia should also no longer be required to gain preclearance by the Department of Justice for any voting act changes.
"Georgia is a very different state than when the Voting Rights Act was passed he said. "If you looked at the elected officials and the minorities represented you'd be really proud -- race has very little to do with most elections."
After the meeting, Olens said the state would have opportunities over the next few years to decide if it wanted to challenge the preclearance issue.
In her introduction, Dalton Tea Party member Naomi Swanson praised Olens for taking a tough stance on environmental issues and federal regulations.
Olens promised to continue his fight on both fronts.
"When I was elected, I promised to change the office from reactive to proactive," he said.
Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...