Eyewitness News at 11: June 25, 2013

10:57 PM, Jun 25, 2013   |    comments
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< Beverly: I'm afraid that they may set an arbitrary date sometime in August... September...and we're going to say, nope, we think that's unconstitutional.  We think it violates section 5 and we'll start this thing right back over.
Dickey: We don't know when the election's going to be because of the justice department delay and hands tied. >
     Two of Central Georgia's legislators...talking about how the Supreme Court's ruling today on the Voting Right's Act...could impact consolidated elections for Macon and Bibb County.
     Hello everyone, I'm Frank Malloy.
     Our top story tonight... Is the talk surrounding just when those elections could happen.
     Originally set for July, they were delayed this month after the Department of Justice raised questions...under the federal Voting Rights Act.
     But today...  the Supreme Court said Congress must rewrite part of that law....which was written in 1965.
     Two parts of the law were in question.
     One section says some states need federal approval before they change their election rules. That's called pre-clearance.
     Most of those states are in the South... and include Georgia.
     Another section of the law covers which states need that approval.
     That's what the Supreme Court overturned today.
     The justices said Congress needs to update that section of the law ....since it is based on information that's almost 5 decades old.
     Those who applaud the court say, the American electorate is dramatically different than it was in 1965...with almost equal numbers of white and black people voting.
     But Georgia Congressman Sanford Bishop sees the ruling as a loss.
     In a written statement, the district 2 Democrat said.
     I believe that this setback will have a very real and very detrimental impact on voting rights for millions of voters in Georgia and across the country."
     He also called the Voting Rights Act one of the most critical pieces of legislation that protects ballot access for all americans.

      Today's ruling apparently allows Macon and Bibb County to move forward with nonpartisan elections... Without approval from the Department of Justice.
      That's how Mercer professor David Oedel...and other experts....are reading the decision.
     Some Central Georgia legislators... Like state representative Robert Dickey ... Say the decision keeps future elections from getting stuck in limbo...waiting for federal approval.
<it would prevent a delay like we have now. We don't know when the elections will be because of the justice department delay and hands tied over what the delegation did.>
     Dickey is a Republican from Musella...in Crawford County.
     But State Representative James Beverly says it's possible that the U-S justice department may still intervene...to keep Macon-Bibb elections from going nonpartisan and and moving to July.
    Beverly is a Macon Democrat...and he was opposed...when the Georgia general assembly made those changes in the Bibb elections.
      So Beverly says county officials shouldn't move too quickly to reschedule.
<I'm afraid they may set an arbitrary date sometime in august, september, and we're going to say 'no we think it's unconstitutional. We think it still violates section 5,' and we'll start this thing back over. So I say let's let the justice department do what they're going to do, give us the information we need, and then let's sit down and figure out the best date to get the most people involved in the election process for this new government.>
     Although the Voting Rights Act is still in place, both sides admit today's ruling seriously gutted it.
    Basically, the Supreme Court ruling means someone can still challenge an election change as discriminatory, but only AFTER it goes into effect, and NOT BEFORE.
     Paul Crawley with our sister station, WXIA, went to the state capitol to talk to georgia's civil rights leaders and top elected officials.
     That was Paul Crawley from WXIA reporting.
     As far as the Macon Bibb elections go...Elections Supervisor Jennetta Watson says the Bibb County commission must schedule the election.
     Commission Chairman Sam Hart is out of town....and couldn't be reached for comment.
     However, state law provides that there must be a 45 day period for absentee ballots to be mailed out and reach their destination.
     Therefore... The vote couldn't happen before August.
     Students in Bibb County showed overall improvement in their performance on the standardized test known as the CRCT.
     The CRCT is the goal post the state uses to benchmark performance in a set of competency areas, including reading, math, language arts, science, and social studies.
     Here are just a few of the highlights:
     In reading, a news release says, students who took April's CRCT performed better than in past years.
     According to the district, reading scores for students in third grade jumped 5.7 percentage points.

     In math, fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth grade students averaged higher in 2013.
     The system notes an 11.8 percentage point gain for fifth graders...and a 10.2 percentage point gain for eighth graders.

     In English and language arts...  Scores were similar to those from the 2012 CRCT.
     These results are considered preliminary.
     State officials say school-level CRCT results will be available no later than July 10

     The CRCT's been around since 2000, when Georgia law required all students in grades 1 through 8 to take the assessment.
     The test was dropped from first and second grades this year due to state budget cuts.

   Earlier today  A Monroe County Sheriff's Office employee was arrested for animal cruelty.

     34-year-old Angel J. Aldridge  was charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals.
     Over a week ago, a news release says deputies went to her home...after a neighbor gave them a tip something may have be wrong.
     They found one dead dog and another dog that appeared malnourished.
 According to the news release, she was released shortly after her arrest and placed on suspension.
     The sheriffs office is continuing its investigation.
     Former Warner Robins councilman... John Williams... Is out of prison and back in town tonight.
     His wife... Elna... Told 13WMAZ she picked him up from a Central Georgia halfway house today.
     She said after a year in federal prison... The 74-year-old's health is "ok, but not good."
     Williams was convicted of extortion... For trying to make a profit by selling a truck to the Warner Robins Police Department.
     His wife said federal authorities have told him not to talk to reporters... Until he's off probation.
     She said that will be in a year.
     Elna Williams said they plan to live quietly in the Warner Robins neighborhood... Where they own a few rental houses.
     For some of you......memories of camp include canoeing and songs by the campfire...well it's a little different for kids at Sky Camp in Eastman.
     It's based out of Middle Georgia State College's aviation camp.
     Elise Brown was there today.....and saw out of this world things.
<you know how you drive a car on the ground. It's better to get up in the air instead of stay on the ground.>
Kids at Sky Camp are ready to soar.
<it's fun to learn about helicopters and planes and stuff like that.>
They built rockets......gliders....hung out in the tower.....and launched a near-space balloon...that took nearly 40 hours to build.
Taking one hour and 42 minutes to ascent....the balloon records temperature...luminosity...pressure and speed.
<we're tracking that by means of a ham radio system and what they call a spot g.ps. tracker and that allows us to see real time approximately a location of that thing as it drifts back to earth. >

And drift back to earth it did.....taking 29 minutes to fall into Pulaski County.
The camps mission is to get campers interested in aviation careers.
<people deem aviation as something that's not necessarily within their grasp and we'd like to change that thought process.>

It seems to be working.
<you gotta know your location and where you're going and how to get there. >

12 -year-old Macey Hale wants to be a nurse in the navy when she grows up...but says it's still helpful to learn about planes and electronics.
<it makes you feel like you have more power when you stand up in the tower. It's kind of strange cause your taller than being on the ground, you can see airplanes a lot different. >

These high-flying campers will be enjoying the view through Thursday.
Elise Brown, 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.
     On Thursday the students plan to launch their rockets....and will actually get to go up in the air in one of the airplanes.
     A local helicopter club paid for some of the students to attend. 
      Another camp aims to make the burden of fighting cancer a little lighter for young patients and their family members.

     The Jay's Hope Foundation is holding its first "Camp Hope" this week.
     The camp offers therapy to cancer survivors between the ages of 4 to 15... and their siblings.
     75 kids are taking up art... music... and sports during the week.
     Organizers say they hope the camp will relieve some of the stress of paying visits to doctors and hospitals.    

< Kobe, Macon:  They gave us something that my brother couldn't think about... like... he's gonna have fun so that he won't think about any of the stuff that might happen.>

The camp is sponsored by a grant from the WT Anderson Foundation and the Dunlap Williamson Foundation.
It will run through Friday... at Christ Chapel... in Macon.
Again- it's for those battling childhood cancer... and their siblings.

     The city of Perry is gearing up to celebrate our country's freedom with their second annual independence parade.
     Organizers say this year the parade will be bigger and better... And end with a bang.

     The parade's route is the same as last year... Starting on washington street and ending at the georgia national fairgrounds... But this year they're adding bleachers along the route... And a fireworks display.
     They'll have live music... Food and activities for the kids... All leading up to a fifteen minute show of lights.
<we have not had fireworks in perry for the last six or seven years since the big bang boom stopped happening so the chamber is really excited to bring the fireworks back and we're hoping people will come out to enjoy.  >
     The event is free... The parade starts at six in the evening... And the fireworks begin at 9-30.

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