Navigating Georgia’s New Hands-Free Law


Navigating Georgia’s New Hands-Free Law
By Joanie Iaco

Joanie Iaco, Peacock Automotive

Joanie Iaco

It’s the law. Georgia motorists will have to put down their phones while driving to comply with the new Hands-Free Georgia Act that becomes effective July 1.

The goals of the new law, signed earlier this year by Gov. Nathan Deal, are to lower incidents of distracted driving and rising insurance premiums by prying our eyes and our attention away from cell phones while we’re behind the wheel.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionhas reported that highway fatalities rose by one-third in Georgia from 2014-16. While cell-phone use cannot be pinpointed as a cause for this increase, the state Department of Driver Servicesprocessed 3,866 citations for using phones while driving in 2016, up more than 30 percent from 2014.

The costs associated with car crashes differ depending on the injuries sustained, but the average cost for the physical damage to one car is $7,500. If there is a fatality, the financial impact can reach into the millions. Even for non-fatal crashes, total costs can soar into the hundreds of thousands.

The hands-free law doesn’t allow drivers to support any wireless device with any part of their body when they’re behind the wheel unless they’re legally parked. This means that you cannot hold it in your hand, lay it in your lap or hold it against your ear with your shoulder.

While the new law prohibits you from holding your phone while driving, you can still talk and even text as long as you’re using hands-free technology.

You may also use your phone as a GPS, but you must set it up before you begin driving. If you need to change your route, you must be legally parked before you pick up or touch your phone. This does not include being stopped at a light or stop sign. You are only considered legally parked if your vehicle is parked in a parking space, parking lot or driveway.

The new law also prohibits drivers from watching or recording a video and from typing, sending or reading any text-based communication unless legally parked.

The only exceptions to the hands-free law would be if the driver is reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, crime, delinquent act or hazardous road condition. Law enforcement officers are exempt from the law as long as they are performing their official duties.

The prohibition is considered a primary enforcement law, which means an officer may cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safetysays the Georgia Department of Public Safetyand local law enforcement may issue warnings as part of the effort to educate and to help motorists adapt to the new law. However, citations can and will be issued starting July 1. Penalties will begin at $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense and $150 for three or more violations.

With the passage of the new law, Georgia becomes one of 16 other states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to prohibit drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.

In South Carolina, it is illegal for motorists to text and drive, but hand-held cell phone use is still permitted and drivers are allowed to use the GPS feature on their handheld device for navigation purposes.

Joanie Iaco is Manager of Peacock Collision Center, part of Peacock Automotive, which owns and operates 24 automotive dealerships representing 31 brands in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. The company’s headquarters are located at Peacock Auto Mall on U.S. 278, 5 miles east of I-95 at Exit 8 near Bluffton, S.C. For more information about Peacock Collision Center, call 843-645-5500or

Adoption Bill Endangers Georgia’s Economy and Reputation


Adoption Bill Endangers Georgia’s Economy and Reputation

By: Charles Bowen, Esq.

In a clear effort to legalize discrimination against the gay community, the Georgia Senate recently passed a bill authorizing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse to provide any service that violates their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

This bill was thankfully rejected.

The entertainment industry is thriving in Georgia, generating $9.5 billion in 2017. History has shown that legalizing discrimination can instantly destroy this progress.

In 2016, North Carolina passed the infamous “bathroom bill.” The fallout was immediate. The state lost $4 billion in revenue as major businesses pulled out of the state, film and television shows relocated, musical artists canceled concerts, and the NBA and NCAA withdrew sporting events.

In Georgia, numerous businesses and individuals have already publicly stated that they would stop doing business in Georgia passed any similar law legalizing discrimination.

Writer and producer Ben Wexler, the showrunner on “The Grinder” and “Arrested Development,” made his feelings about the adoption bill clear on Twitter: “To my fellow showrunners: if this dumb bill becomes law, let’s be done filming television shows in Georgia.”

Alyssa Milano, who is filming the Netflix series “Insatiable” in Atlanta, agreed. “If it does pass the House of Representatives and if the Governor signs the bill, I think the film and entertainment industry will take a strong stand and will pack up and leave the state of Georgia,” Milano said. “There is just no tolerance for discrimination of any kind.”

Such discriminatory laws are also flagrantly unconstitutional. We are all constitutionally entitled to equal protection under the law. And while we also enjoy freedom of religion, personal religious beliefs may not be used to justify actions that are illegal or harmful to others. If you refuse to pay your taxes, stating that you did not pay because of your religion is not going to help.

If Georgia were to allow public adoption agencies to refuse adoptions based on religious beliefs, for example, nothing would require them to stop with gay couples. The same law could be used to discriminate against single parents, divorced men and women, unwed couples or individuals of different races or faiths, including Christianity.

Regardless of the rhetoric emanating from a few clock stoppers in the legislature who were pandering for votes, denying even one single child a parent who wants to love and support that child unconditionally is indefensible and immortal. We must remain vigilant that Georgia remains a state that is welcoming to all.

Attorney Charles Bowen, Founder of The Savannah Film Alliance and Southern Gateway Production Services

Attorney Charles Bowen, Founder of The Savannah Film Alliance and Southern Gateway Production Services

Entertainment attorney Charles Bowen founded Southern Gateway Production Services with the mission to ensure a seamless experience for out-of-town producers by providing connections with local crew, vendors and service providers. Southern Gateway Production Services is a signatory to all IATSE National Term Agreements. Bowen is recognized within the Savannah film community for his formation of the Savannah Film Alliance in 2015. As the founder of The Bowen Law Group, he has also developed a reputation as one of Savannah’s most experienced attorneys in entertainment law. Southern Gateway Production Services is located at 7 East Congress St, Suite 1001. For more information, contact Charles Bowen at cbowen@thebowenlawgroup.comor 912-544-2050.

Charles J. Bowen
Southern Gateway Production Services

Savannah Film Alliance to Take Part in Film Day at the Capitol


Savannah Film Alliance to Take Part in Film Day at the Capitol

(SAVANNAH, GA) The Savannah Film Alliance will lead a delegation of film and television professionals from the Savannah area to participate in Film Day at the Capitol in Atlanta on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The purpose of the event is to demonstrate to state legislators how significantly the film and television industry impacts the state and to emphasize how crucial it is to protect the tax credits and other incentives that have made Georgia the top filming destination in the country.

Gov. Deal has been very supportive of the industry, but as this is his last term, it’s imperative to not only remind our current legislators of the importance of these incentives but also to send that message to all potential future elected officials,” said Charles Bowen, founder of the Savannah Film Alliance. “We must continue to be vigilant and not allow other states to threaten the progress we’ve made.”

Bowen, who is a business and entertainment attorney and the owner of Southern Gateway Production Services, cautioned that the momentum that has carried Georgia to the vanguard of the production world must not be allowed to diminish. Since 2016, Georgia has hosted more feature film and television productions than any other location in the world. Further, despite the tremendous advantage Atlanta has over Savannah in terms of sound stages and other infrastructure, local direct spending on film and television productions in the Savannah area has risen from $18 million in 2014 to well over $60 million in 2017.

Bowen said he credits much of the rise of Savannah’s popularity as a destination for filming to the innovative and unique local economic incentive offered by the Savannah Economic Development Authority. “2018 is already on pace to shatter the record for production dollars spent in Savannah in a single year,” Bowen said.

By encouraging people who have benefited from the film industry to attend Film Day at the Capitol, Bowen said he hopes all legislators, including those on the local level, will continue to be committed to providing incentives, resources, and opportunities to bring filmmakers to the Savannah area. “The entertainment industry boosts almost every industry in town,” Bowen said. “When a film or television production comes to Savannah, they require all of the goods and services the town has to offer, thus they benefit the entire local business community. It is crucial that we don’t lose sight of the incredible impact the film industry is having on our local economy and that we strive to continue improving the experience and services offered visiting productions.”

The Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office is producing a video that will play in the rotunda during Film Day and will feature a photo montage of Georgians who have been impacted directly or indirectly by the industry. The Savannah Area Film Office is coordinating submissions of photos from the Savannah area for that production.

Film Day at the Capitol is set for Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Georgia State Capitol, 206 Washington St. SW in Atlanta. For more information, contact Charles Bowen at or 912-544-2050.

Southern Gateway Production Services

As the founder of The Bowen Law Group, Charles Bowen has developed a reputation as one of Savannah’s most experienced attorneys in entertainment law. Bowen is recognized within the Savannah film community for his formation of the Savannah Film Alliance in 2015. Bowen also founded Southern Gateway Production Services with the mission to ensure a seamless experience for out-of-town producers by providing connections with local crew, vendors and service providers. Southern Gateway Production Services is a signatory to all IATSE National Term Agreements. The Bowen Law Group and Southern Gateway Production Services are located at 7 East Congress St, Suite 1001. For more information, contact Charles Bowen at or 912-544-2050.

Charles J. Bowen
Southern Gateway Production Services

Cynthia Wright
Carriage Trade PR
Cecilia Russo Marketing

Bethesda Academy Hosts Savannah’s 2017 State of Small Business


Bethesda Academy Hosts Savannah’s 2017 State of Small Business

Savannah’s 2017 State of Small Business to be Livestreamed on Dec. 1

(SAVANNAH, GA) The Fifth Annual State of Small Business will be livestreamed Friday, Dec. 1, at noon from the campus of Bethesda Academy.

Reports will be issued by 11 area experts who will have three minutes each to present their information on measurable benchmarks relating to Savannah’s small business community. A panel of small business owners will then discuss the implications of the data.

The livestream will be broadcast from the William H. Ford, SR. Museum at Bethesda Academy. The webstreaming services are provided by Stage Front – a better plan for AV.
This presentation will only be available to the public online at

2017 State of Small Business subjects and presenters include:

> Small Business Employment Statistics
Michael Toma, Director of the Center for Regional Analysis at Armstrong State University

> Tourism
Michael Owens, CEO of Tourism Leadership Council

> Commercial Real Estate Trends
Rhett Mouchet, Associate Broker, Colliers International Savannah

> Internet Speeds and Their Effect on Business Growth
Susan Speros, CEO at Speros

> Local Growth in Construction
Peter Ghilarducci, Development Services Liaison, city of Savannah

> Film Industry in Savannah
Charles Bowen, Corporate/Entertainment Attorney at The Bowen Law Group

> Freight Shipping Trends
Lee Beckman, Georgia Ports Authority, Garden City Terminal

> Education Statistics
Catalina Garcia-Quick, Executive Director of Communities in Schools

> Small Business Access to Capital in the Savannah Region
Tony O’Reilly, President of the Small Business Assistance Corporation

> Labor Statistics
Faith Copeland-Pittman, Business Services Recruiter for the Georgia Department of Labor

> Economic Development in Chatham County
Brandt Herndon, Vice President of Business Development for the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA)

A PDF of all reports will be available on the Savannah SCORE website in mid-December.

The event is free to watch online and will run from noon to 1:30 p.m. at:

Join the conversation by using the hashtag #SmallBizSav17.

SCORE, part of the Small Business Administration (SBA), is the largest provider of free small business mentoring services and educational business programs in the United States. Since its inception in 1964, SCORE has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners successfully start and grow their businesses. SCORE now has 320 chapters nationwide with over 11,000 volunteers donating over 2 million hours of their time each year. In 2016, Savannah SCORE helped start 135 new businesses and create 329 new non-owner jobs. Because of its contributions to Savannah’s small business community, the chapter has been ranked in the top 30 SCORE chapters in the country and has been nominated as Chapter of the Year. If you are interested in speaking with a SCORE mentor about your business ideas or needs, or if you are interested in becoming a SCORE mentor, please call (912)-652-4335 or visit our website at

Marjorie Young
Carriage Trade Public Relations®, Inc.

Rotary Club of Savannah Announces Gompels as Incoming President


Rotary Club of Savannah Announces Gompels as Incoming President and Names 2017 Board

(SAVANNAH, GA) Nina Gompels, owner and operator of five Savannah area McDonald’s restaurants, was named as the Rotary Club of Savannah‘s new president. On Monday, June 26, the Rotary gavel was passed to Gompels from outgoing president Camille Russo, chief financial officer at Alta Innovations. This will mark the first time the club will have had two consecutive women presidents.

Gompels will be joined on the board by Secretary/Treasurer Fran Kaminsky, Sergeant at Arms Dr. Ben Spitalnick, Rick Belford, Ellen Bolch, Malcolm Butler, Todd Groce, Cliff McCurry, Phoenicia Miracle, Roger Moss, Paul Pressly, David Rosenblum, Swann Seiler, Mike Traynor, Marjorie Young.

Nina Gompels, Incoming Rotary Club of Savannah President

Nina Gompels, incoming Rotary Club of Savannah President

After graduating from Savannah Country Day School, Gompels earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University in business administration. She cherished her Georgia Southern ties, and her first job after college was with the GSU foundation.

Today, Gompels owns five McDonald’s restaurants in the Savannah area and employs more than 200 people.

Gompels serves on the board of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, the Savannah Area McDonald’s Operator Association, and the Ameris Bank community board.

The Rotary Club of Savannah includes 225 community leaders and volunteers. Over the past 103 years, the club has championed local and regional developments that include completing the road to Tybee Island, improving the Savannah River for commercial traffic, enhancing the Dixie Highway system in southeast Georgia and building bridges over the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers. Most recently in recognition of the 100th anniversary, the club raised funds and constructed an all-accessible playground in Forsyth Park.

The Rotary Club of Savannah also sponsored the organization of new Rotary clubs in Augusta, Brunswick, Statesboro, Blackshear and Savannah West. Furthering the goals of Rotary International, the club has supported wartime relief efforts, student scholarships, polio eradication and other global health initiatives.

Meetings are held each Monday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the DeSoto Hilton Hotel, 15 E. Liberty Street. For more information, visit

Rotary Club of Savannah
P.O. Box 11105
Savannah, GA 31412

Cecilia Russo
Cecilia Russo Marketing

Tiny House, Big Heart Event to Benefit the CSAH Tiny House Project for Homeless Veterans


Tiny House, Big Heart Event to Benefit the CSAH Tiny House Project for Homeless Veterans

(SAVANNAH, GA) Service Brewing, Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum and Judge Realty announce the “Tiny House, Big Heart” charity fundraiser to benefit the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless will take place on Thursday, May 4 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Ships of the Sea Museum, located at 41 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Savannah, GA 31401. This event is the first community fundraiser specifically for the CSAH, Tiny House Project for Homeless Veterans.

During the event, 21 Savannah artists will be showcasing tiny house artworks that will be auctioned off. Artists participating include: Marcus Kenney, Betsy Cain, Maggie Hayes, June Stratton, Michael Porten, Cedric Smith, Shea Slemmer, Jose Ray, Todd Schroeder, Debora Oden, Christine Hall, Maggie Evans, Juliana Peloso, Tobia Makeover, Pamela Wiley, Harriet Delong, Elizabeth Winnel, Gerome Temple, Troy Wandzel, Will Penny and Daniel E. Smith.

Tiny House, Big Heart

Tiny House, Big Heart

Savannah Clay Community, James Dean (known for Pete the Cat) and the SCAD Metals and Jewelry Club are also big contributors to the Tiny House, Big Heart event along with over 3 dozen community sponsors.

Proceeds from this event will be used for the first land payment of $30,000 for the Tiny House Project. This land will not only provide the future grounds for the neighborhood of Tiny Houses, it will plant the foundation of community and healing for our veterans with resources available such as an organic garden, three clubhouses for community meals, workshops and health and wellness programs.

Chef Lauren Teague of Atlantic, as well as, Big Bon Pizza will be cooking for the event. Army Veteran and celebrity bartender, Sid Lance is creating a special cocktail with the spirits from Ghost Coast Distillery. Guests will also enjoy Savannah’s favorite DJ, Jose Ray, who will be spinning vinyl from the 70’s, 80s, 90’s and today’s hits.

“This event is both educational for our community and a creative fundraiser to help Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless raise the donations needed for the land payment that is the future grounds for the Tiny Home neighborhood.” Meredith Sutton, owner of Service Brewing, said, “We have been really lucky to get so many creatives together in one space. All of these artists are volunteering their time and talents to help with Savannah’s homeless veterans. It’s really quite beautiful.”

Tickets are $10, which includes a door prize ticket and a Service Brewing beer ticket, can be purchased at

Donations can be mailed to CSAH, 761 Wheaton St, Savannah GA 31412. Checks are asked to be made payable to CSAH Tiny House Project with a memo of “Tiny House Big Heart”

For more information, visit

Local Attorney Tammie Mosley Announces Campaign for Clerk of Superior Court


(SAVANNAH, GA) Tammie Mosley will formally announce her candidacy for Clerk of Superior Court for Chatham County on Thursday, March 3. She will make the announcement out front of the Chatham County Courthouse at 10 a.m. Incumbent Daniel Massey is retiring and not seeking re-election.

Mosley is a native of Savannah and experienced attorney of 22 years. She returned to Savannah in 2003 and has worked as Senior Staff Attorney in Superior Court for Judge John E. Morse, Jr. for 13 years.

The Clerk of Superior Court is the “primary record keeper” of all of the official records of the County’s Superior Court, which provides protection of the public records including all real estate deeds, liens, and records along with all pleadings of civil and criminal cases. The Clerk of Superior Court is one of four constitutional officers in Chatham County. As “primary record keeper” this is a vital position to the efficiency of the Superior Courts of the County and the clerk’s designated duties if done correctly ensure that the court system flows properly.

As Clerk of Superior Court, Mosley will ensure the continued security, maintenance, and retention of all of the real estate and case records in Superior Court. Mosley will work to address the present day and future needs of customers of the Clerk’s Office in carrying out the duties of Clerk.

The duties and services provided by the Clerk’s Office are ever changing and expanding with the needs of our society and community. Mosley has a commitment to embrace technology as it applies to the duties carried out by the Clerk’s Office especially record retention and security.

The Clerk’s Office is responsible for keeping all property records and recording all liens within the County. Additionally, the Clerk’s Office is responsible for securing and maintaining all court filings in Civil, Domestic, Family Violence, Adoption, Garnishment, and Criminal cases. From the initiation of a case to the disposition and closing, the Clerk’s Office must make sure the records are securely maintained and preserved. Mosley will ensure continued and non-complicated access to the records and information kept and preserved by the Clerk’s Office.

Mosley volunteers with Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and is a Trustee with the Telfair Museums. She has served on other community boards and committees such as CASA, Senior Citizens, Inc., Savannah Technical College Community Council, Georgia Historical Society Georgia Days Committee, Georgia Historical Society Gala, Dawn’s Daughter, and educational committees with Savannah Country Day School.

Mosley loves animals and has two dogs who she considers her “kids.” She enjoys running and has grown fond of ½ marathons having recently completed the 5th Savannah Rock N Roll Half Marathon and is training for the Second Annual Publix Women’s Half in April 2016.

Tammie Mosley.jpg

Friends of Tammie Mosley
122 West Bryan Street, #104
Savannah, GA 31401

Send HB 757 “First Amendment Defense Act” to the Wastebin of History


by Charles Bowen

Last Friday (February 19), the Georgia Senate passed House Bill 757, also known as “First Amendment Defense Act,” in a 38-14 vote. The bill is now being considered by the Georgia House of Representatives.

If passed into law, the bill would allow any taxpayer-funded, faith-based nonprofit or agency to deny all services based on religious beliefs. While some may claim this legislation has something to do with protecting the right to practice religion, it absolutely does not. Rather, it has everything to do with legally sanctioning discrimination, specifically against the LGBT community.

Attorneys are trained to see both sides of every issue, but I can only find one side here. This proposal is, without question, simply a disgrace and an embarrassment to our state and its people. Here are the facts of HB 757:

UNNECESSARY. Despite the deliberately-misleading rants of fear mongers, religious freedom in America is not in any danger. In fact, Georgia is already one of 28 states that does not extend ANY legal protection from discrimination to LGBT citizens. The passage of this law is essentially a symbolic message to those citizens saying, “But we really MEAN it.” Georgia’s LGBT community is a vital, thriving part of our state’s economy and culture. The Georgia Senate, in its fast-track approval of HB 757, essentially said, “We don’t care about that and we don’t care about them.”

ECONOMIC IMPACT WILL BE TREMENDOUS. Within hours of the Senate vote, LGBT-owned or friendly companies starting threatening to boycott the State of Georgia if this bill becomes law. This is no idle threat, and indeed a few have already left. Just ask Arizona about the economic impact of nationwide boycotts. It would affect every single business sector. It would not only undo all of the progress that has been made over the past few years, but such a boycott would also cripple the entertainment industry, which is one of the fastest-growing sectors of Georgia’s economy.

ALL FOR NOTHING. The United States Constitution guarantees equal treatment and protection to all citizens, particularly when taxpayer funds are involved. This bill is thus grossly unconstitutional. It is just a matter of time until it is struck down, but by then the damage will have been done. And it may be irreparable.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. Even the Georgia Senate knows that you cannot only extend “protection” to Christianity. Such a law would have to apply equally to ALL religions. If someone practices sharia law, for example, this bill would give them the freedom to discriminate against women and non-Muslims. Indeed, these exact same arguments have been used to justify segregation and other discrimination of all kinds over the years.

The Georgia House of Representatives needs to vote this measure down immediately. In addition, Governor Nathan Deal should publicly pledge right now that he will veto this backwards embarrassment of a bill if it dares grace his desk.

Here’s the bottom line: tolerance, inclusion and acceptance will ALWAYS win out in the end. It always has. It’s time to move ahead into the 21st century and make certain Georgia is viewed as a modern, forward-thinking state that welcomes the contributions of all of its citizens. These efforts at systemic discrimination need to be relegated to the wastebin of history, not passed into law. Our elected leaders must find the courage to stand up for tolerance and justice rather than pandering to the outdated prejudices of the most unenlightened of its citizens.

Charles Bowen is a business attorney who focuses on commercial, banking and entertainment law and also offers comprehensive mediation services. He may be contacted at 912.544.2050 or