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State’s top attorney visits Americus

AMERICUS — Georgia’s State Attorney General, Sam Olens, visited with the Americus Times-Recorder Tuesday. Olens was first elected in 2010, and re-elected in 2014. He was in town to speak at the fourth annual Georgia Symposium of Child Advocacy which draws representatives from the five counties in the Southwestern Judicial Circuit.

During a brief interview, Olens was asked to address the pressing issues in the state. He mentioned the sex trafficking bill and the child welfare bill which were recently passed and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal earlier this week.

The governor also signed Senate Bill 148 this week, incorporating the Office of Consumer Protection into the Office of the Attorney General, effective July 1.

“I am pleased to add a consumer protection division to the Office of the Attorney General. Consumer protection is an important area of concern for Georgians, and it must be done effectively and with a balanced approach. Consumers have a right to be provided with truthful information and to be protected from abusive practices and bad actors. At the same time, businesses often make honest mistakes and should not be harshly penalized if they admit those mistakes and take the proper action to rectify them. I intend to work with both consumers and businesses to ensure that Georgia has a fair and equitable consumer protection framework,” Olens said in a prepared statement.

“I look forward to working with the consumer protection staff to educate Georgia consumers and to enforce Georgia’s consumer protection laws. My goal is to ensure an efficient and streamlined consumer protection division that serves Georgians with excellence. Our citizens should expect nothing less from their government.”

Another topic the Times-Recorder broached with Olens was the state’s open meetings and record law. He said that 99 percent of the time his office gets involved in a complaint, it can be resolved. His office can also facilitate training with city and county governments to better acquaint them with the state’s laws.

“We’ve filed a couple of lawsuits, but generally we don’t. Generally the government agrees to follow the law,” he said.

Among other topics, Olens was asked his opinion on Georgia’s new medical marijuana law.

“We were very quiet and worked under the radar to assist, so we’re still below the radar assisting the legal process,” he said. “I think Allen Peake (R-Macon) deserves a lot of credit for the time he spent learning about the issue … and being easy to make changes to make people comfortable with the legislation. Clearly the governor needed to get more comfortable along with many other folks. Seldom do you see a legislator put that much work into a bill to get it right. When you look at what the General Assembly did here versus the norm, it’s a much better bill … a lot of credit has to go to Allen Peake. He really put in a yeoman’s effort to work on it.”

Olens explained that Peake owns the Cheddar’s restaurants.

“The legislators who have careers versus just being legistators, I think that’s a positive,” Olens said.

Lsst year, Olens’ office started a prescription drug abuse program which is taken to high schools around the state. He said he takes along a young person who has been through addiction and come out successfully. HIs office asked the state’s high school students to propose a 30-second public service announcement “from a mentoring, peer level that will discourage their classmates from abusing prescription drugs … We know many parents spend time talking to their kids about the liquor cabinet, but not the medicine cabinet … ” The program was taken to about 6,000 high school students around Georgia last fall and a winner was selected with the best PSA.

Olens travels quite a bit around the state, speaking at various other events. He says it’s important to get out there and meet people amnd learn about the communities. He was very complimentary of Americus’ downtown area.