News for Saturday, March 25, 2006

Subscribe

All Stories

Virginia Busby

Virginia D. Busby, 80, of Stone Mountain died March 24, 2006. Mrs. Busby was preceded in death by her husband, Herman Busby. She is survived by a son Larry and ...

Jim Stainback

Jim Stainback, age 58 of Lilburn, GA died March 23, 2006. Arrangements by Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Inc., Snellville Chapel, 770-979-3200, www.wagesfuneralhome.com

Jack Jenney

Mr. Jack D. Jenney of Franklin, NC died March 23, 2006. Funeral arrangements by Carter Funeral Home of Winder, 770-867-6706.

Lois Ferencik

Mrs. Lois B. Ferencik, age 77, of Sugar Hill, GA passed away Saturday, March 25, 2006. Service and Arrangements will be announced later by: Junior E. Flanigan of: Flanigan Funeral ...

Vincent Michelli, Jr.

Vincent J. Michelli, Jr., age 63 of Gainesville, GA died March 18, 2006. Arrangements by National Cremation Society, 770-923-2940.

Pearline Duncan

Mrs. Pearline Duncan, age 89, of Buford, GA passed away on Saturday, March 25, 2006. Service and Arrangements will be announced by: Junior E. Flanigan of: Flanigan Funeral Home and ...

Senate OKs class size reductions

ATLANTA - With little fanfare, the Senate unanimously approved legislation Friday reducing class sizes in Georgia elementary and middle schools.

The bill, which was introduced on behalf of Gov. Sonny Perdue and already had passed the House, now goes to the governor's desk for his signature.

The legislation caps at 18 the number of pupils in kindergarten classes without a full-time aide. When an aide is present, those classes can contain up to 20 pupils.

The bill limits class sizes in grades one through three to 21.

Classes in grades four through eight can contain up to 28 students.

Class-size reductions were a key element in the massive education-reform legislation steered through the General Assembly six years ago by former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes.

But with state tax revenues in the tank, Perdue delayed the reductions after he defeated Barnes in 2002.

When the Republican governor proposed to move ahead with the reductions at the beginning of the current election-year legislative session, Democrats accused him of coming over to their side for political gain.

"Teachers will have more control over the students and get more teaching done,'' said Sen. Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain.

The House was nearly as united as the Senate on the advantages of lower class sizes. Lawmakers there approved the bill earlier this month 160-4.

Police Reports

Cameras show robbery at cafe

•NORCROSS - Starbucks workers noticed a security camera had been moved out of position and $769 was missing from the safe when they arrived to work.

March of Dimes team leaders discuss fundraising

LAWRENCEVILLE - March of Dimes team leaders gathered Friday afternoon to register, share team fundraising goals and learn tips on increasing donations for this year's walk.

While registering for online fundraising, Brenda Sanders, an administrative coordinator at Publix Supermarkets, said this year their goal is to raise $5,801.

As the No. 1 March of Dimes fundraising team in Georgia for five consecutive years, it's safe to say they'll probably reach their goal again this year.

Historic Buford statue to be unveiled

From staff reports

BUFORD - A bronze statue depicting a piece of forgotten Buford history will finally be unveiled Sunday.

Gwinnett grads: Gwinnett pipeline fuels Georgia Perimeter's success in softball

The Georgia Perimeter College fastpitch softball team has risen to No. 22 nationally, and a crew of Gwinnett players is highly involved in the success.

The Bible still sells well

Lord, deliver us from mixing politics and religion. I can't help but notice that there seems to be a rash of it these days. The Georgia General Assembly has passed or is about to pass -- depending on what happened between the time this was written and the time it was published -- a bill that would allow the teaching of the Bible in Georgia public schools -- at the state's expense. The Bible can already be taught, in certain situations, if the local school system picks up the bill.

Snellville officers receive first Valor Award

DULUTH - A trio of Snellville police officers who put their lives in danger when they attempted to stop a mentally unstable driver were the first recipients of the Gwinnett County Valor Award for displaying bravery and heroism in the line of duty.

Officers Kevin Sebring, Bruce Sherman and Gregory Perry were honored with a plaque and a $150 gift basket for their selfless act at the awards ceremony for public safety workers Friday at Gwinnett Place Marriott. Many county officials said the awards ceremony was a long overdue thank you to the law enforcement and public safety community.

"We take one day out of 365 to say once again thank you personally and collectively to those we honor here today," said Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister. "I don't know why someone hasn't thought of this before, but now they did and we're glad."

Gladiators earn first-round playoff bye

DULUTH - Gwinnett Gladiators fans celebrated veterans' day on Friday as the team secured a first-round bye for the playoffs.

Judge mulls evidence in Corbin case

LAWRENCEVILLE - A judge will take the next few weeks to mull whether evidence in the alleged slaying of an Augusta woman 16 years ago should be allowed in the trial of a Dacula dentist accused of killing his wife.

OBITUARIES

LAWRENCEVILLE

CANNON, ALBERT

Albert Cannon, age 80 of Lawrenceville, died Friday, March 24, 2006. Arrangements by Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 300 Simonton Road, Lawrenceville, GA. 30045. (770)962-3100 *

LOGANVILLE

VAN TASSEL, PAT

Pat Van Tassel, age 65 of Loganville died Wednesday, March 22, 2006. Arrangements by Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 2246 Wisteria Drive, Snellville, Georgia 30078. (770)979-5010 *

SNELLVILLE

ALVAREZ, MERCEDES

Mercedes S. Alvarez, age 68 of Snellville, GA died March 23, 2006. Arrangements by Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Inc., Snellville Chapel. (770)979-3200 www.wagesfuneralhome.com *

Academics visit Georgia Gwinnett College for science conference

LAWRENCEVILLE - More than 200 professors, students and other scientists are visiting Georgia Gwinnett College this weekend to share their ideas and innovations.

Senate passes eminent domain package

ATLANTA - Cities and counties wishing to condemn private property for public projects would face new restrictions under legislation approved by the Senate on Friday.

Senators passed both a constitutional amendment and a separate bill limiting local governments' power of eminent domain. The two measures, introduced on behalf of Gov. Sonny Perdue, cleared the House earlier this month.

The governor and legislative Republican leaders declared reining in eminent domain a priority last year after a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling upheld the right of a Connecticut city to condemn existing homes to make way for new development expected to enhance the local tax base.

The issue took on additional impetus when a flower shop owner in Stockbridge and that city landed in court in a condemnation case that drew widespread media attention.

"We're telling cities and counties, 'You can never use eminent domain for economic development,''' said Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, who presented both measures to his Senate colleagues. "We shouldn't be taking people's property so the cities or counties can get more money.''

The constitutional amendment, subject to voter approval this fall, would prohibit unelected government authorities from using eminent domain without the approval of the affected local government. It also would ban cities and counties from condemning private property for redevelopment projects unless the targeted property is blighted.

It was that blight provision that drew the most heat during Friday's debate.

Sen. Jeff Chapman,

R-Brunswick, who headed a study committee on eminent domain last year, tried to amend the measure to get rid of the blight exception and limit the use of eminent domain to public projects only, such as roads, schools and utility lines.

"Let's restrict the awesome power of eminent domain to those essential needs that government has,'' he said.

Chapman argued that local governments don't need eminent domain to deal with blight. He said they simply can enforce their building and sanitary codes against offensive properties.

But Sen. Dan Weber, R-Dunwoody, said prohibiting cities and counties from ever using eminent domain to revitalize blighted neighborhoods would be too restrictive.

"For every story we hear about eminent domain being improperly used, there are a number of stories to be told when it's been used much to the benefit of the community,'' he said.

After Chapman's proposal failed by just two votes, senators approved the constitutional change 52-2.

The bill - which passed unanimously - includes some of the same provisions as the constitutional

amendment.

But it also would narrow the definition of "blight'' in current law, a change that is being opposed by lobbyists representing city and

county governments.

Under the new definition, local governments could not condemn a piece of property because the surrounding neighborhood was blighted. The property itself would have to be run down.

"It's property by property,'' Balfour said. "We don't look at an area. We're going to look at your house, at your property.''

Both measures now go back to the House, where lawmakers could agree with changes made by the Senate.

It's more likely, however, that the bill and constitutional amendment would land in a House-Senate conference committee, where negotiators would try to work out a compromise.

Local speller takes fourth in state bee

ATLANTA - April Cooper had two reasons to celebrate at Friday's state spelling bee.

Cops, firefighters to duke it out at charity hockey game

DULUTH - Metro Atlanta police officers and firefighters will face off against North Carolina Law Enforcement on Sunday in a charity hockey game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Prep roundup: Buford's late-inning rally puts away GAC 7-6

BUFORD - Matt Hahn drove in Chase Burnette in the bottom of the seventh to cap off a four-run rally as Buford defeated Region 8-AA baseball rival Greater Atlanta Christian 7-6 on Friday.

Ugarte leads Duluth to OT victory

DULUTH - It took Duluth's boys 70 minutes to shake off the chill brought on by Friday night's cold snap, but the Wildcats finally warmed up enough for a 4-3 overtime win over Mill Creek.

Fire destroys 8 apartments

BUFORD - A blaze that took more than 25 firefighters to control destroyed eight apartment units and left residents in 23 units temporarily homeless.

While Bulldogs, not much else in common

You may not know this, but the University of Georgia, the oldest state-chartered university in the nation, located in Athens, the Classic City of the South, enjoys a common bond with Yale University.

Abraham Baldwin, a Yale graduate, helped establish Franklin College (today's University of Georgia), and served as the institution's first president.

The North Campus of UGA, the single most beautiful spot in the free world - with the possible exception of Ireland and Scotland - is modeled after the Yale campus in New Haven.

Sex offender bill easily clears Senate

ATLANTA - Convicted sex offenders who victimize children would face longer prison sentences under legislation the Senate adopted overwhelmingly Friday.

Once they do get out of jail, the bill also would require the worst offenders to submit to electronic monitoring for the rest of their lives.

"As public servants, we're here to concentrate on protecting children who can't protect themselves,'' said Sen. Bill Hamrick, R-Carrollton, who carried the measure in the Senate.

Cracking down on sex criminals has been a priority for Republicans in Georgia since last spring, when House GOP leaders first unveiled the

proposal.

That announcement came just weeks after a convicted sex offender was arrested in Augusta and charged with the slaying of a 9-year-old Florida girl.

The legislation sets mandatory prison sentences of 25 to 50 years for defendants convicted of a variety of sex crimes involving children under age 14.

In the most serious cases, sentences could range up to life. The Senate Judiciary Committee inserted that provision to make it legally permissible to require lifetime electronic monitoring for those offenders following parole.

The Senate panel also softened the bill's impact by adding several "Romeo and Juliet'' provisions designed to spare teenagers engaged in consensual sexual relationships from being hit with the severe penalties reserved for dangerous sexual predators.

Another Senate change would require the state Department of Driver Services to develop a special mark to be placed on the driver's licenses of registered sex offenders.

"They won't be a scarlet letter,'' said Sen. John Wiles, R-Marietta. "But (police) will be able to look at it and wonder why they're not where they're supposed to be.''

But the most controversial aspect of the legislation is a provision prohibiting registered sex offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of schools, child care centers, playgrounds and other places where children congregate.

The ban also would include school bus stops, which prompted some rural sheriffs to complain that it would effectively chase sex offenders out of heavily populated urban and suburban neighborhoods into the countryside.

"People do finally get out of jail,'' said Sen. Regina Thomas, D-Savannah, the only senator who voted against the bill. "Where will they go? Where will they work?''

Wiles conceded that sex offenders might have to move from homes they've occupied for years if a business that caters to children locates near them.

"It's a bad result,'' he said. "But they did a bad thing ... and the evidence is these people re-offend.''

The bill, which passed the House last month, now goes back to the lower chamber.

However, with the Senate having made extensive changes to the House version, the measure is likely headed for a conference committee.

Collins Hill girls seek fifth straight county title

For the last four years Collins Hill has dominated girls track and field in Gwinnett County. Today at the Gwinnett County Track and Field Championships, the rest of Gwinnett has the opportunity to dethrone the Eagles, but it won't be easy.

St. Paddy's day should focus U.S. on Northern Ireland

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: With uncritical, celebratory St. Patrick's Day out of the way, it is useful to look at the current state of play in Irish, British and, potentially, U.S. efforts to put a unified government back on the rails in Northern Ireland.

Peachtree Ridge hosts track and field for Gwinnett Special Olympics

SUWANEE - Cheerleaders waving blue pompoms urged the athletes on from the sidelines. The 150 students raced and jumped their way through the track and field events. Despite the almost freezing temperature and powerful winds, they had to push themselves to get good times.

Sports calendar

Baseball

April 3-7: Renz Baseball will be holding a baseball/softball Spring Break Camp April 3-7 from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. each day. The cost per camper is $125. Eight indoor baseball/softball cages and private lessons are available. For more information or to register, visit renzbaseball.com or call 770-271-4554.