Acting Cobb County District Attorney John Melvin announces new funding and tactics for addresing the opioid epidemic. (Meris Lutz/AJC)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Jolt: Cobb DA compares prosecutors unwilling to enforce ‘heartbeat’ law to Nazis, segregationists

The anti-abortion “heartbeat” law has divided Georgia’s prosecutors unlike any other recent legislation. And for the latest reminder, you need look no further than John Melvin’s essay on the Merion West site

In that piece, Melvin drew a line between Democratic prosecutors who say they won’t enforce the stiff new abortion restrictions and white supremacists who denied personhood to minorities in Nazi Germany and under the Jim Crow South. 

Wrote Melvin: 

Of course, to justify baseless discrimination and rejection of personhood status for some, Jim Crow had to aggressively enforce lies and disinformation. Likewise, as is increasingly becoming the norm for the political left, HB 481’s simple statement of personhood unleashed incredulous histrionics. Instead of embracing the expanded protection for the most vulnerable among us, in their typical extremist fashion, leftist journalists and politicians attacked the effort to protect the most susceptible.

Melvin is responding to comments from at least three chief prosecutors in heavily-Democratic districts who said they won’t prosecute anyone - women or abortion providers - if the law takes effect.

They are outliers; the AJC polled all 49 district attorneys and found that most who responded said they will consider each potential violation on a case-by-case scenario. 

Melvin is Cobb County’s acting district attorney, assuming the post when Gov. Brian Kemp tapped Vic Reynolds to lead the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He is set to become Reynolds’ top aide when Kemp appoints a new chief Cobb prosecutor.

That’s raised its own concerns. The Daily Report, which wrote a lengthy piece on the essay, also reached out to several Democratic district attorneys who said Melvin’s stance could complicate his job at the GBI.

One of them was Macon District Attorney David Cooke, who outlined his concerns to the Daily Report:

“Should the GBI investigate any pre-term fetal death, he could influence any determination whether that woman’s conduct, including prenatal care, was reasonable, and whether anything she did, in his view, contributed to that infant’s death,” Cooke said of Melvin. “Under this law, he can influence whether she is charged with a felony or not. In short, his views could shape whether or not she is charged with murder.”

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House Democrats are expected to try again this afternoon to pass the bipartisan disaster relief agreement senators struck last week. Lawmakers are still out on recess, but the chamber is convening for a pro forma session at 2 p.m. Democrats tried to advance the $19 billion package during a similar procedural session on Friday, but Texas Republican Chip Roy blocked quick passage, citing the measure’s price tag and lack of funding for border security. 

Democrats will most likely need to wait until early next week, when lawmakers return from their recess and can hold a roll call vote, to send the legislation to the president’s desk. 

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Georgia House Speaker David Ralston underscored the importance of GOP unity in a podcast interview posted by The Savannah Morning News over the weekend. You could say the embattled Blue Ridge Republican was referring to the upcoming 2020 races, the new heartbeat law - and his own future as he looks to ride out a scandal involving his repeated use of legislative leave to delay his legal clients' court appearances. 

From the podcast: 

"I hope the Republicans...will come working together, committed to being united, committed to re-electing President Trump, committed to re-electing U.S. Senator (David) Perdue, reclaiming some congressional seats we lost last year and making sure we retain the majority in the House and the Senate. But we’re not going to do that though if people are coming down here to throw rocks and to practice political arson. We’re not going to do it by standing in a circular firing squad and shooting at each other, we’re going to hand over the control of the state to the other party if that’s what we do. I’ve had some in the (Georgia) House that were opposed to me and I’m proud to say that of 104 Republicans, I think only nine have expressed opposition to me, which means 95 or so are supporting me and I’ll take that number any day."

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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s move to end a U.S. Forest Service job training program for at-risk youth has prompted what some experts believe to be the largest federal jobs cut in a decade. The former Georgia governor quietly announced the drawdown of the department's Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers on Friday, a decision that will lead to some 1,100 layoffs, per The Washington Post

The drawdown of the program, starting in September, will result in the largest layoffs of civil servants since the military’s base realignment and closures of 2010 and 2011, federal personnel experts said. Nine of the centers will close and another 16 will be taken over by private companies and possibly states.

The centers train more than 3,000 students annually and employ hundreds more employees to fight fires, maintain national forests and perform other rural infrastructure jobs

In a letter to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Perdue said the Forest Service needed to "focus on and prioritize our core natural resource mission to improve the condition and resilience of our Nation’s forests, and step away from activities and programs that are not essential to that core mission." 

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Hundreds of African-American labor leaders gathered in Atlanta for the weekend for the International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists - and they figured they may as well conduct a presidential straw poll while they were at it. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden was the decisive victor, with more than 60% of the 600 or so votes, followed by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris at 10%. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders failed to break double digits - he got 9% - underscoring his ongoing troubles connecting with black voters. 

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