In the run up to November’s Midterm Election, the Bryan County News is spotlighting several down ballot elections to inform voters of traditionally less-covered races.
We reached out to the candidates running for Georgia’s First state senate District (all of Bryan County lies in this district) to learn more about their positions on the issues. Sandra Workman is challenging incumbent Ben Watson.
Mr. Watson declined the opportunity to answer these questions. Ms. Workman’s responses are below.
1. Recently the prospect of seismic testing and offshore oil drilling has been put on the table. What is your position on these activities?
Workman: Marine scientists are in general agreement that seismic testing is harmful to marine life. More than 70 scientists have written to President Trump asking him to cancel the surveys. They note that the surveys cover regions populated by several kinds of whales that are close to extinction. This would include the endangered right whales, which bear their young in the waters off of Georgia. “The magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region,” the letter stated.
None of us want to see this environment spoiled by off shore oil drilling. Whether there is a leak from an oil rig or a spill from a tanker collecting the oil and transporting it elsewhere, we run a high risk of damage to our fragile environment. If oil companies discover significant amounts of oil off our coast, it won’t be too long before we will see refineries here, like those in the Galveston, TX area.
It’s much cheaper to process it here than to ship the oil and gas to refineries in Louisiana and Texas.
Rhetoric about offshore drilling promoting job growth ignores that the biggest economic driver in
Georgia is tourism. Our beaches are a huge draw. Our fisheries are also a huge business, and we can’t risk crippling it. There are several steps that the Georgia General Assembly can take to protect our coast including:
• Passing a resolution in the Georgia General Assembly to oppose offshore oil and gas exploration.
• Sponsoring a new study to analyze the potential for economic impact to both the Savannah and Brunswick ports and the commercial fishing industry from a “catastrophic accident”. The data currently being used is from 2009 and doesn’t consider the ports or fishing. Things have changed in the last nine years, and we need good data to understand the effects of accidents on the coastal community.
• Reviewing or passing state laws that govern oil and gas development.
• Using environmental and wildlife protection laws as challenges.
2. Georgia’s law currently allows for a limited use of cannabis oil. Do you believe the state should consider legalization of medical marijuana?
Workman: In May 2018, Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill legalizing the use of medical marijuana for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain. That increased the list of conditions eligible for cannabis oil treatment. However, state lawmakers shut down an expansion to the program which would have legalized the harvesting and distribution of cannabis oil. It is still prohibited to grow, buy, or transport the drug as it violates Federal laws. To truly make cannabis oil legal in Georgia, the General assembly should pass laws to allow and regulate growing and buying the drug within the state.
3. Georgia’s firearms laws are among the loosest in the nation. What, if any, bills would you propose concerning the acquisition and use of firearms?
Workman: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked firearm mortality rates for every state in the last few years, including suicides and accidental killings. Georgia has been steadily rising as one of the top states for gun deaths in the country for more than a decade. In 2016, Georgia ranked as the fourth highest state with a total of 1,571 deaths. There are multiple steps we could take that do not restrict Second Amendment rights, but will be a step in safeguarding the safety of our citizens, including:
• Keep guns away from domestic abusers, as 54 percent of mass shooting incidents are related to domestic or family violence. Federal law prohibits abusers convicted of felony and misdemeanor domestic violence crimes in those subject to domestic violence restraining orders from having guns. However, Federal law generally does not cover abusive dating partners. Th s is often called the “boyfriend loophole”. Federal law also does not cover convicted stalkers, nor does it require that offenders turn in the guns they already have.
• Put mechanisms in place to allow for the temporary removal of guns from individuals who have as exhibited dangerous recent behavior, as 42 percent of mass shooters have exhibited warning signs before the shooting.
• Establish background checks on all firearms sales to prevent people who are prohibited from having guns from buying them. 34 percent of mass shooters are prohibited from buying are having a gun, but some people with dangerous histories take advantage of loopholes in our gun laws to avoid background checks.
In Georgia, for example, it’s legal to buy a gun at a gun show with no background check.