The blog.

15
Dec

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 15, 2017

Norma

Norma is a female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Moultrie-Colquitt County Humane Society in Moultrie, GA.

Bailey Moultrie

Bailey is a female Boston Terrier & American Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Moultrie-Colquitt County Humane Society in Moultrie, GA.

Bentley

Bentley is a male Boston Terrier & American Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Moultrie-Colquitt County Humane Society in Moultrie, GA.

15
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 15, 2017

Georgia and American History

On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, led by Patriot Sam Adams, boarded three British ships in Boston harbor and threw tea worth $700,000 to $1 million in today’s money into the water in what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

Boston Tea Party

France formally recognized the United States as an independent nation on December 17, 1777.

On December 15, 1791, Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights, giving the first ten Amendments a three-quarter majority required to become law.

Governor George Towns signed legislation on December 16, 1847 to build a State School for the Deaf and Dumb. The institution now known as the Georgia School for the Deaf was begun with a log cabin, $5000 from the legislature and four students and is still in operation in Cave Spring, Georgia.

On December 15, 1859, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing public execution of criminals. The previous day he signed legislation prohibiting slave owners from freeing their slaves on the owner’s death.

General Ulysses S. Grant expelled all Jews from his military district, which covered parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky on December 17, 1862. President Lincoln ordered Grant to rescind the order.

On December 16, 1897, Gov. William Atkinson signed legislation recognizing June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, as a state holiday.

President William McKinley visited Savannah, Georgia on December 17, 1898. While there, McKinley attended church at Wesley Monumental Methodist Church and visited Georgia Agricultural and Medical College (now Savannah State University) and the Seventh Army.

On December 17, 1902, legislation changed Georgia’s state flag changed to include the coat of arms on the blue band.

Flag_of_the_State_of_Georgia_(1902-1906).svg copy

On December 15, 1939, Gone With the Wind held its world premiere at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta.

On December 16, 1944, a German counterattack in the Ardennes region of Belgium created a “bulge” in Allied lines with particularly difficult fighting near the town of Bastogne. During the Battle of the Bulge, 89,000 Americans were wounded and 19,000 killed in the bloodiest battle fought by the U.S. in World War II. National Geographic has an interesting article published for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle.

On December 17, 1944, Major General Henry C. Pratt ordered the end of the imprisonment of American citizens of Japanese descent in prison camps.

WTBS began broadcasting under new call letters on December 17, 1976 and uplinked its programming to satellite to become “America’s Super Station.”

President Jimmy Carter announced on December 15, 1978 that U.S. diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China would begin on January 1, 1979.

The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee released a report on December 15, 1998 that recommended impeachment against President Bill Clinton and introduced H.Res. 611.

On December 15, 2016, Republican Tim Echols was sworn in by Gov. Nathan Deal to a second term on the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Doctors from Macon debuted their latest music video public service announcement.

A music video filmed at The Medical Center, Navicent Health, and performed by local doctors and clinicians has gone national.

The catchy tune is an original composition by local musician and composer Christopher Griffin, and Dr. Edward Clark, a pediatrician with the Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital, Navicent Health, was instrumental in having the song produced.

The participants volunteered to record the song, participate in the video and promote the video to try to minimize heart disease and the stroke risk of Middle Georgians. The music video was produced locally by Big Hair Productions and funded by the Navicent Health Foundation.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, with no regard for race or ethnicity, according to the release. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in every four deaths in the U.S. is related to heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. On average, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, someone dies of a stroke every four minutes, and nearly 800,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.

Georgia Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) has been elected by his fellow Republican Senators as President Pro Tem of the Georgia Senate.

Miller, who has been in the Senate since 2010, served as Gov. Nathan Deal’s floor leader. [Senator David] Shafer, R-Duluth, gave up his leadership post to run for lieutenant governor, hoping to replace Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running for governor.

Miller could not immediately be reached Thursday.

“This is a great leadership team that will work well together to advance Georgia,” [Lieutenant Governor Casey] Cagle said in a statement.

Miller had considered running for lieutenant governor in 2018, but he decided against it. His promotion to second-in-charge futher cements Gainesville’s dominance at the statehouse. Deal, Cagle and Miller are all from the Hall County city.

Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens announced he will step down effective February 15, 2018.

KSU Provost Ken Harmon will serve as interim president while the University System conducts a national search for Olens’ replacement.

The Board of Regents’ review into KSU was launched following the university’s decision to keep five cheerleaders who kneeled in protest during the national anthem at a Sept. 30 home game off the field before kickoff in subsequent matchups.

“Challenges to the institution were evident as I began my tenure and these trials, coupled with internal trepidations, made for a very difficult start,” Olens said in a statement announcing his resignation.

Gainesville legislators spoke to the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs and Issues and previewed the 2018 legislative session.

Transportation spending, teacher raises and cash for rural broadband development — Hall County’s state lawmakers offered a glimpse of Georgia’s 2018 legislative session on Thursday.

With state government seeing tax revenue climb amid economic prosperity, the issues before state government this year focus on how to capitalize on growth rather than stave off decline.

The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs and Issues breakfast featured Sens. Butch Miller and John Wilkinson, and Reps. Lee Hawkins, Matt Dubnik, Emory Dunahoo and Timothy Barr running their large audience through the issues and legislation coming up in the 2018 session that begins Jan. 8.

Right up front was the state’s budget, which is expected to grow 5 percent next year, according to Dunahoo, R-Gillsville.

Dunahoo said he expects to see an increase of $514 million in state education spending in 2018, or more than 40 percent of the new revenue next year.

“This includes $162 million for a 2 percent rate for our teachers,” he said.

Miller, R-Gainesville, also took a stance against lowering the age requirement of the school tax exemption. The state tax exemption for local property taxes is open to residents at 62 years of age, or three years earlier than retirement age.

“If we continue to lower that tax exemption for schools, we will not be able to continue to fund our schools,” Miller told the audience. “All of us went to school and most of us went to a public school. Someone before us paid their taxes in order for us to go to a public school.”

[State Rep. Lee] Hawkins [said] Georgia needs to expand light rail lines throughout the state.

“In the northern states, they developed this 100 years ago,” he said. “Unfortunately, our MARTA system was not developed along the same ideas — going to places of employment — but more about shopping.”
A commuter-focused rail line would “move a lot more people more efficiently” in the state, Hawkins said.

Miller, however, said in the short term the state needs to focus on making transit more efficient. Georgia has four major transit systems in metro Atlanta.

Muscogee County School District released its legislative priorities for the 2018 Georgia General Assembly.

MCSD Superintendent David Lewis presented the list of 10 concerns during Thursday’s meeting the Muscogee County School board conducted with the Columbus legislative delegation. In no particular order, Lewis said, the district’s priorities are:

1. “Release local school districts to pursue other health care options for their classified employees outside of the State Health Plan.”

2. “Improve the Public School Employee Retirement Savings plan.”

MCSD contends this plan is “inadequate and produces very little income for long-service retirees from custodial, plant service, food service and bus driving positions.” The district recommends a plan that rewards long-service personnel.

3. “Adjust QBE funding.”

QBE is the Quality Basic Education act, which prescribes the state’s funding formula for its public school districts. It’s 37 years old, needs updating and never has been fully funded, critics insist.

State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) pre-filed HB 657 to address increasing gun violence in Savannah.

Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, pre-filed a bill that would penalize people for supplying guns to felons. House Bill 657 would make it a felony for any person to “knowingly and intentionally provide a firearm to a felon.”

“So many of these felons in our community — who have already lost their right to keep and bear arms — are being provided firearms by their family members, their girlfriends, or buddies,” Petrea said during a Thursday press conference with Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap and Savannah Alderman Julian Miller. “These individuals know that they are providing firearms to felons. This is the population we need to target if we’re going to stop gun violence in this community.”

Under current Georgia statute, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor for giving a gun to a felon and can face up to 12 months in jail. Petrea’s bill would increase the punishment to one to five years in jail.

“It is not to target citizens who are law-abiding gun owners who are responsibly keeping and carrying firearms,” Petrea said. “The problem in our community is a very small demographic of felons who continue to commit crimes over and over again.”

The state representative says he’s not worried about the bill’s passage during the next legislative session. Savannah-Chatham Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin and Rep. Carl Gilliard, D-Garden City, already expressed support for the bill, Petrea said.

On the other side of the capitol, Sen. Lester Jackson says he’s working on a bill that would allow law enforcement to destroy seized weapons. Under current state law, agencies can house weapons for six months before turning them over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Jackson said.

“The GBI in turn sells them to a third party,” he said. “They wind up in pawn shops or those guns shows. Many of them return on the street. My legislation would give sheriffs or police departments discretion to destroy those weapons especially if they are commonly used in violent offenses.”

Amazon now has a registered lobbyist in Georgia, according to the AJC.

Jacob Oster, a lobbyist with expertise in “clean energy and technology,” registered Dec. 7 with the state ethics commission. Oster, who represents Amazon Corporate LLC, listed addresses in Washington, D.C., and Seattle.

It’s unclear on what issues or upcoming legislative proposals Oster might represent Amazon, but his registration is the buzz of economic development circles.

Amazon is a growing employer in Georgia, operating distribution hubs for its e-commerce network, as well as a corporate hub for its Amazon Web Services division.

It’s unclear the last time Amazon had an in-house lobbyist at the Gold Dome. The company has been represented by outside groups, including veteran Georgia lobbyist Graham Thompson, for some time. But the timing of the company adding an in-house lobbyist in Georgia is intriguing.

The Gwinnett Daily Post continued its coverage of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle’s speech to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce earlier this week.

Tunnels, elevated highways, transit and autonomous vehicles are all possible parts of Georgia’s transportation future, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told the Gwinnett Chamber this week.

“The future is going to be built while making sure we are building the infrastructure that can sustain the kind of growth, sustain the kind of prosperity that we want for our state,” Cagle said. “That means that, yes, we’ve got to be willing to go under, we’ve got to be willing to go over and around.

“When I say that, I mean, yes, we’re going to have to explore tunnels. We have to look at elevated road systems. We have to be in a position where we utilize our assets in the most efficient ways through reversible lane projects, putting a high priority to get into the city in the a.m. time frame and out of the city in the p.m. time frame.”

He broached the issue of transit, which is becoming an increasing topic of conversation among elected officials, particularly in metro Atlanta, who are struggling to deal with increasing traffic issues, including gridlock. Cagle called it a “tool in the toolbox,” and said autonomous vehicles will also have a role to play in the future.

“What you decide to do is your decision,” he said. “I just want to touch on this for a moment because I do think it is important. Often times, I think we look at something in a way that we see it today versus the way we see it in the future. All of us that have been to Europe have seen something that is very, very different in transit and in rail than what we have in Georgia.”

Toshiba paid Georgia Power and the other owners of Plant Vogtle’s new nuclear reactors more than $3 billion to reduce construction costs under their contract.

Toshiba has held up their end of the bargain, paying out $3.68 billion to Plant Vogtle co-owners Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power, and Dalton Utilities.

Toshiba, the parent company of Westinghouse Electric, originally agreed to make monthly payments through January 2021 but, under a new agreement reached earlier this month, delivered all remaining installments in a single payment of approximately $3.225 billion on December 14. Georgia Power’s proportionate share of the payment is $1.47 billion.

Parent guarantees were put in place to protect Georgia electric customers as part of the original contract for the Vogtle nuclear expansion. The payments will reduce the total cost of the plant for Georgia Power by approximately $1.7 billion with every dollar received from Toshiba being used to benefit customers.

Gwinnett County will spend $2.4 million over the next three years to study the effect of septic tanks on water quality at Lake Lanier.

Robins Air Force Base has installed 24 “noise cannons” to scare off birds from runways.

Oconee County begins demolition today of its old jail in downtown Watkinsville.

Camilla Mayor Rufus Davis and City Council Member-elect Venterra Pollard say they’re going to boycott future city council meetings.

Mayor Rufus Davis and Camilla City Councilwoman-elect Venterra Pollard have threatened to sit out future City Council meetings to draw attention to what they contend is “widespread discriminatory and segregationist practices; a new city charter; and the passive representation of certain officials, who are not serving their constituents.”

The City Council adopted the amended city charter Monday evening, which, according to a news release from Davis’ office, will “vest very strong, unprecedented powers in the city manager, which takes away from the already limited powers of the mayor and the City Council. The new charter will allow the city manager, among other things, to appoint all members to all of the city’s boards, all commissions, all committees, chairs, officers and the city attorney,” Davis wrote in a release he sent to media.

Pollard and Davis said the new charter would further minimize the power of the mayor and the council.

Japanese Consul General for the Southeast Takashi Shinozuka told the Rome Rotary Club that Japan is committed to removing nuclear weapons from North Korean control.

“This is no longer time for dialogue with North Korea,” said Japanese Consul General to the Southeast, Takashi Shinozuka, to Rome business leaders Thursday. “This is time to give them pressure, pressure and more pressure.”

Shinozuka, in a presentation to the Rome Rotary Club, said he is hopeful the international community, including China, can work together to deal with the North Korean threat.

The Consul said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump have already developed “a very good chemistry.”

In Georgia alone, Shinozuka said 640 Japanese companies have invested nearly $12 billion and provide close to 36,000 jobs.

Shinozuka revealed that Japanese Emperor Akihito, 83, has agreed to step down at the end of April in 2019 and pass the baton of the oldest continuous monarchy to his son Crown Prince Naruhito. The Emperor has no political power in Japan and is not considered the Head of State.

Brookhaven City Council approved several measures related to construction by Children’s Hospital of Atlanta.

The Brookhaven City Council on Tuesday night approved several steps that will enable Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to move forward with its planned $1 billion North Druid Hills campus.

The 72-acre campus will serve as a catalyst for more than $40 million of transportation improvements in the surrounding area, officials said.

“We are thrilled to be in Brookhaven,” said Children’s CEO Donna Hyland in a statement. “This partnership will allow us to do what we do best – get children better, faster – while also having a transformative effect on the health, safety and wellness of our neighbors in Brookhaven, DeKalb County and beyond.”

“Our partnership with Children’s allows us to accelerate several key projects of vital importance to Brookhaven, while retaining and growing one of our largest employers,” said Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst in a statement. “Children’s campus is going to change our community in a positive way, but this cannot compare to the life-changing effect it will have on children from across the region and state.”

14
Dec

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 14, 2017

Rowdy Street Paws

Rowdy is a young male Labrador Retriever & Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Street Paws, Inc. in McDonough, GA.

Rowdy is a super playful little boy who likes nothing more than rolling around playing with his puppy siblings! Rowdy will need to be have another four legged brother or sister. He is one of four sweet terrier mix puppies who are all loving life since no longer having to fend for themselves on the streets! They are all crate and paper trained. They are very smart so I’m sure house training is going to be a breeze for them. They love to play and give sweet kisses and are great with everyone they meet (they seem fine with other dogs and cats too).

Freedom Street Paws

Freedom is a young female Shepherd & Shiba Inu mix puppy who is available for adoption from Street Paws, Inc. in McDonough, GA.

Freedom was born on 9/11. This very special girl is an adorable little cuddler. She loves to be held or lay on the couch with you. Freedom is very calm and smart. She already knows how to sit and is crate trained. House training is also going well, but she will need some more time and patience. Freedom does love to play, but her activity level is low. She has been diagnosed with cerebellar hypoplasia. Freedom was extremely wobbly and had a hard time with fine and gross motor skills when she was very small. She has since overcome and compensated for these problems. She will always be unsteady on her feet so will need a calm home. Her foster says she looks like she is rocking to the music in her head.

Freedom will live a full and happy life despite her minor disability. She is great with kids, cats, and dogs. A home with another dog is a must for her. She needs the company when her human family maybe away. Could you be her furever family?

Henry County Humane Society Puppies

The Henry County Humane Society has a litter of dachshund and chihuahua mix puppies that will be available for adoption.

14
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 14, 2017

President George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. Here’s an article about the nation’s mourning for our first President.

The Congress, in session at the capital of Philadelphia when Washington’s death was announced, immediately adjourned. The House of Representatives assembled the next day and resolved to shroud the Speaker’s chair in black and have members wear black during the remainder of the session. On December 23, John Marshall speaking for the joint committee of both houses, presented five points that became the foundation for the United States’ first “state” funeral. Resolutions structured mourning events around public commemorations that fostered unity and a sense of national identity among grieving Americans.

President William McKinley addressed the Georgia General Assembly on December 14, 1898.

McKinley_at_Atlanta2 McKinley Atlanta SM

On December 14, 1939, a parade was held through downtown Atlanta with stars from Gone With the Wind and the Junior League held a ball that night. The next day, December 15, 1939, Gone With the Wind held its world premiere at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Two local small business owners paid off the overdue school lunch balances for Lee County students.

According to the Lee County School System, the Stricklands paid off the entire balance of lunch charges for the entire school system at the end of the day Tuesday, leaving all students’ accounts free and clear for the Spring semester.

“S&S Roofing and Construction — Michael and Sarah Strickland — are very appreciative of our great community, from our school system, police, firefighters, EMS, parents, children, and businesses,” the school system wrote in a release on Facebook.

The entire cost of paying off those school lunches was around $6,500, according to WALB. According to the Census Bureau, about one in 10 people in Lee County live in poverty, which could make it more difficult to keep up with lunch payments. According to ProPublica, about 37 percent of Lee County students receive free or reduced lunch.

“Growing up as a child of a school superintendent, I quickly learned how precious school lunch is to so many children. This community has supported our company and allowed us to grow in ways Michael and me only dreamed of,” Sarah Strickland wrote on Facebook. “The least we could do is show our appreciation for not only the school system, but for the people that make up our great community.”

That’s one reason why local business ownership is so important.

Brian Strickland Early Voting

State Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) notes that early voting begins Monday, December 18th for the Senate District 17 and House District 111 special elections. Strickland is running for the Senate seat, and that opened the house seat. If I hadn’t seen this on Facebook, I would have missed it.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle spoke to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce about the upcoming 2018 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

“The legislative session is going to be busy and this will be a little bit of a bittersweet session in that, obviously, I will not be returning as lieutenant governor (in 2019) and of course the governor, Gov. Deal, will also not be returning,” Cagle said. “Anytime you’re wrapping up a season or chapter in your life, certainly it invokes certain emotions.

“But, you also look to what those new chapters and seasons that are ahead of you.”

State legislators are expected to tackle tax reform, recommendations from the state’s healthcare task force and the opioid crisis, the lieutenant governor said. He also said he will seek to have at least the Senate address broadband gaps in rural Georgia, coming off a taskforce that looked into the matter, and investing in venture capital for companies.

Tax reform, in particular, is expected to a key topic as lawmakers in Washington D.C. workout a major overhaul of the federal tax code.

“It gives us a wonderful opportunity as a state to really cast a greater vision for what our tax reform could look like,” Cagle said. “Every year, we have a house-keeping bill that would align our tax code with what the federal government is doing and so this will be, I assume, a very large debate and conversation throughout the session, and I think it’s one that is long overdue.”

Other issues that Cagle highlighted are expected to be tackled by members of the Senate. The opioid issue is expected to be tackled by an omnibus bill that Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, will likely file during the first weeks of the session.

“Sadly enough, we don’t have access to broadband in many of our rural communities,” Cagle said. “That’s difficult for some of us to recognize in the areas that we do (have access), but today we’re no longer bound by bricks and mortar. We can do business anywhere in the world, from any corner of our state, if we have access to that super highway.”

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) spoke to the Gwinnett Daily Post about opioid legislation.

Unterman, who leads the Senate Health and Human Services committee, has been working on the legislation, which she said will be an omnibus bill. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle announced earlier this fall that he and Unterman would be working on legislation to address the opioid issue, which was named a public health emergency by President Donald Trump in October.

“It should be ready right at the first week of the session — hopefully,” Unterman told the Daily Post in an interview last week. “It’s such a big issue that it’s hard to put it together.”

Unterman said the legislation that she is working on will address recovery centers, patient brokering, access to NARCAN — which is an agent used to counteract and reverse an overdose — and insurance fraud. The fraud issue, she said, involves doctors ordering more urine tests than are needed.

“So it’s like an omnibus bill and I’m putting it together now,” Unterman said. “It’s really complicated. Right now we have a moratorium on methadone treatment centers. We’ve been getting a lot of complaints about that and how we’re going to implement that.

“I mean here you are in the middle of a crisis and there’s a lot of conflict in communities across the state about the treatment centers and access to care. That’s one of the biggest problems.”

“This is our No. 2 priority in the Republican caucus so it should get a good deal of prioritization,” Unterman said.

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth “Lisa” Branch appeared before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday on her appointment by President Trump to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Introduced to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee by Georgia’s U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, Branch—who has served on the state appellate bench for five years—testified at her confirmation hearing for an open slot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that has been held for two decades by Georgia’s Frank Hull.

She also fielded multiple questions seeking the extent of her embrace of constitutional originalism and textualism and how that judicial philosophy might shape her rulings as a federal appellate judge.

Branch, whom President Donald Trump nominated to the Eleventh Circuit last September, agreed that her judicial record reflected her originalist bent. But she also attempted to assure Democratic committee members, who expressed skepticism that the philosophy was too narrow or overly simplistic, “At the end of the day, I am bound by U.S. Supreme Court precedent.”

Citing the late Supreme Court justice and ardent originalist Antonin Scalia and newly-minted Justice Neil Gorsuch, Branch said that, in following the rule of law, “A judge is going to render decisions that sometimes the judge is pleased with and sometimes is not so pleased with.” Once that ceases to be the case, she added, “Perhaps it’s time to find another job. Or retire.”

Said Branch: “With respect to the separation of powers, sometimes there are situations where I wish a statute were worded differently. But I can’t do anything about it. It’s not my job.” In some cases, she continued, “I have pointed out to the Georgia General Assembly … that if they want to fix it, that is their job to do so.”

Branch said she intends to abide by “what the drafters [of the U.S. Constitution] meant when the words were drafted.”

“At the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified, there were a lot of historical source materials,” she said. “We are not writing on a blank slate. We can actually go back and see the notes and see what the founders meant and intended.”

The Georgia House Rural Development Council issued its report based on a series of hearings this year.

“Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of this group – the ultimate goal – is empowering private business to expand and grow jobs in rural Georgia and lift the quality of life for a major, major part of this state,” he also said. “And that’s what we have to keep our eye on.”

Wednesday marked the culmination of a series of meetings held across the state since May. The council’s work is expected to lead to as many as five major bills this session that are focused on workforce development, broadband deployment, economic development, education and health care. Other smaller bills are also likely.

Specific ideas include proposals such as creating a tax break for people who move to counties with a steady stream of residents leaving. It’s an incentive especially meant to attract high-wage professionals to rural communities.

Or easing requirements in the state’s certificate of need program, which controls how many health care facilities can crop up in one area. That proposal is designed to give rural hospitals more flexibility to operate as small-scale “micro hospitals.”

Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, who co-chairs the council, said no recommendation takes priority over another.

“It’s a package,” Powell said after Wednesday’s meeting held in Milledgeville. “There are some things that are going to be a harder lift than others.”

From the Union Recorder:

Wednesday’s first order of business was the discussion of a “Rural Relocate and Reside” initiative, a program designed to give incentives to people moving to rural areas. The resolution would provide a one-time 10-year income tax deduction up to $50,000 for new residents of counties experiencing less than five percent population growth over five consecutive years. The measure would also allow local governments to provide new residents with a one-time 10-year abated property tax exemption, as well as a 10-year state income tax exemption up to $100,000. Representatives said the incentives are designed to attract high-earning professionals like doctors, lawyers, and accountants to rural Georgia by letting them keep much-needed capital to start their own businesses and practices.

 “In my home county, Mitchell County, we have a plant that employs 2,200 people. That’s a great thing, but all of the upper management lives somewhere else,” said Co-Chairman [Jay] Powell. “We’re missing the resources that those people who have great organizational skills and are obviously very highly motivated [can bring].”

In the final category discussed at Wednesday’s meeting, representatives discussed the various problems facing rural hospitals and healthcare providers. House researchers report that 79 Georgia counties currently lack a practicing OB-GYN, 66 lack a general surgeon, 63 lack a pediatrician, and six lack any physician whatsoever, a problem that exists simultaneously with rural hospitals’ difficulties collecting payment amid rising healthcare costs. Representatives called for the elimination of a law that bars patients from seeing medical specialists on the same day they are referred by general practitioners, as well as the creation of a uniform billing platform for patients statewide. Rural practitioners who complete a mandatory certification, employ a physician’s assistance, accept Medicare and Medicaid, and operate under extended hours would also be given decreased premiums. The provision calls for the creation of a Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability to provide leadership for rural providers, as well as rules for 24-hour “micro-hospitals” in communities without full scale medical centers. Rep. Sharon Cooper (R- Marietta) cited a lack of practicing midwives in Georgia’s rural areas, and called for a tuition abatement for nurses to be trained in the relevant classes.

From Mark Niesse at the AJC:

The biggest tax breaks would go to rural newcomers with the highest incomes. That’s by design in an effort to attract business owners, doctors and professionals to rural areas, said Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. But tax breaks would also be available to anyone who relocates, regardless of their incomes.

“You’re not going to create jobs if you don’t have the people,” Powell said. “We can attract people to move into a community by giving them tax deductions and giving them residential real estate tax abatements.”

Costs to taxpayers and other details of the plan are unclear until specific legislation is introduced and evaluated. The incentives would be available to residents who move to any of the state’s 124 counties with less than 5 percent population growth over five consecutive years:

Alone, none of the initiatives will make a significant difference in the quality of life in rural Georgia, said state Rep. Jay Powell, a co-chairman of the council. But together, the combination of a professional workforce, fast internet and health care access would create the conditions for business growth, he said.

And from another article by the AJC’s Niesse:

Powell, who is chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said the income tax breaks come in the form of deductions that would mostly help people with higher incomes such as doctors and business owners, but they’re the type of leaders that struggling communities need.

“You’re talking about people who are going to be providing services, paying sales taxes, buying property and investing in the community,” said Powell, R-Camilla. “I would think the rural broadband would not be controversial. Giving tax credits for folks to move to a location might be.”

The US General Services Administration is backtracking on a proposed federal courthouse annex in Savannah after local opposition mounted.

Remaining parts of the Georgia Dome will be imploded on December 20th after the main implosion failed to level some portions.

The City of Savannah will receive a federal grant to convert some flood-prone spaces into urban tree nurseries.

The city of Savannah is one of six cities to receive a federal grant to convert flood-prone vacant FEMA lots into urban tree nurseries.

The $233,244 grant from the Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund will also provide real world technical training and job placement to 15 unemployed residents, according to city officials.

13
Dec

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 13, 2017

RoseNewnan

Rose is a female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Newnan Coweta Humane Society in Newnan, GA.

RosieNewnan

Rosie is a young female Basset Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Newnan Coweta Humane Society in Newnan, GA.

JasperNewnan

Jasper is a young male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Newnan Coweta Humane Society in Newnan, GA.

13
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 13, 2017

On December 13, 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court organized three regiments of militia to guard against attacks by the Pequot Indians. That day is recognized as the birth of the National Guard.

Echols County, Georgia was created by the Georgia General Assembly on December 13, 1858.

Former Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall died on December 13, 1992. Arnall served in the State House, as Speaker, Attorney General, and in 1942 at the age of 35, was elected Governor.

Arnall also led the fight to outlaw the poll tax and the white primary, and is noted for making Georgia the first state to allow 18-year-olds to vote. He is further remembered for his role in obtaining a new state constitution for Georgia in 1945.

Al Gore conceded the presidential election to George W. Bush on December 13, 2000.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced that the Commission on Children’s Mental Health has released its report, which includes recommendations on improving access to behavioral health services.

“I am grateful for the tireless work and thorough research done on behalf of young Georgians by the Commission on Children’s Mental Health in preparing this report,” said Deal. “At its outset, I charged the Commission with assessing Georgia’s approach to evaluating children’s mental health and recommending appropriate steps we can take in the future. These recommendations will provide guidance for our efforts to improve the continuum of care for children’s behavioral health services. I look forward to reviewing these recommendations to see how we may achieve our objectives and provide all children in Georgia with the best opportunities to grow up as healthy, productive members of society.”

In creating the report, the Commission received recommendations and feedback from around the state. Georgia’s Interagency Directors Team, a multi-agency group of child and adolescent experts established by the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, will be charged with facilitating an implementation plan for the recommendations in the report.

The recommendations outlined in the report include:

•  Increasing access to behavioral health services for Georgia’s school-aged children by sustaining and expanding the Georgia Apex Program for school-based mental health.
•  Fund Supported Employment/Supported Education programs for youth and emerging adults with severe mental illness.
•  Providing support for the development and implementation of additional levels of support within the behavioral health continuum of care for youth with the highest levels of need.
•  Strategically increasing telemedicine infrastructure capacity for child-serving, community-based, behavioral health provider organizations in order to improve access to children’s behavioral health services.
•  Investing in coordinated training for priority areas of interest and concern for the child-serving workforce, including clinical training in evidence-based practices, trauma-informed care and administrative practices that support the delivery of high-quality behavioral health services across service settings.
•  Funding expanded provider training, fidelity monitoring, technical assistance and evaluation for evidence-based High Fidelity Wraparound.
•  Supporting multi-pronged early intervention and prevention approaches to combat the opioid crisis among Georgia’s youth and emerging adults.
•  Supporting a multi-pronged suicide prevention approach, including the expansion of prevention programming and expansion of Georgia Crisis and Access Line hours, to reduce rising suicide rates among Georgia’s youth and emerging adults.Read the full report here.

From the AJC Political Insider:

The report’s recommendations do not include a dollar figure, but several of the initiatives involve significant expansions of existing programs. The governor said in a statement the findings will help guide his proposals to “improve the continuum of care for children’s behavioral health services.”

Deal, who is entering his final legislative session in office, often uses reports from commissions he forms to serve as the backbone for funding blueprints and legislative packages.

He cited another council’s report for his decision earlier this year to add $2.5 million in additional mental health funding for young children.

From Georgia Health News:

Sue Smith, executive director of the Georgia Parent Support Network, praised Deal and the commission for its work.

Commission members, she said, “spent countless hours reviewing Georgia literature and listening to community members from all walks of life. Much time and effort has gone into this careful study, which concentrates of how to best provide services for Georgia’s children with mental health needs. The eight recommendations address areas where program growth will immediately benefit Georgia’s youth while building a strong foundation for future growth.”

Members of the commission were Judy Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities; Katie Childers, deputy chief of staff for policy in the Governor’s Office; Frank Berry, commissioner of the Department of Community Health; Stephanie Blank, board chair of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students; Bobby Cagle, former director of the Division of Family and Children Services; Dr. Jordan Greenbaum, medical director of the Stephanie V. Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children; Teresa MacCartney, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget; and Erica Fener Sitkoff, executive director, VOICES for Georgia’s Children.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke about his relationship with President Trump:

Perdue said on Tuesday that he felt “challenged” by his job and that the president has set high expectations for him in the role.

“I don’t think he wants a sycophant as a secretary,” Perdue said during a speech at the National Press Club. “He wants me to give him my best counsel, my best advice, and he wants me to be right about that. He has high expectations, and frankly I’m challenged by those high expectations.”

Perdue said Trump has the “essence of a great leader” because he is willing to take different opinions into account and change his mind on policy and political matters, citing Trump’s thought process on NAFTA.

“As directed and as forward and as forceful as he is on many things, he has what I think defined as the essence of a great leader,” Perdue said. “He always leaves a little back door open for comments and he takes into consideration and is willing to change his mind on that.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle unveiled his education priorities for the 2018 legislative session.

The State House Rural Development Council meets this morning in Milledgeville to finalize their recommendations.

Slated for 9 a.m. Wednesday in Georgia Military College’s Old Capitol Building, the meeting will bring the council’s 15 appointed and 11 ex-officio representatives in contact with local leaders in hopes of giving Georgia’s rural residents greater access to basic needs.

“It goes back probably two or three years to when a group of [Representatives] started to realize the differences in the economic recovery between the Atlanta-metro area, and even the other urban areas in the state, and rural areas,” said Rep. Terry England, Chairman of the house Appropriations Committee and Co-Chairman of the Rural Development Council. “We’d been talking for several years about the establishment of a rural center of some sort, and of mimicking what states like Pennsylvania and others have done as it pertains to breathing life back into the rural areas of our state. A year ago, [Rep.] Jay Powell, who’s the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and myself spoke to [House Speaker David Ralston] about our concern for some of the things we were seeing and some needs we felt were not being addressed … he came back and said he wanted to create the council.”

“Broadband [internet], or the lack thereof, is certainly one of the biggest issues in rural Georgia, and it has its tentacles in just about everything else,” England said. “Broadband has [an effect] on healthcare, education, economic development, and so many other things, that it was one of the issues we knew we needed to address. We knew also that there are several issues impacting rural hospitals throughout the state; part of it is purely dollars and cents, but a big part of it is also their ability to attract and retain talent to be doctors, advanced practice nurses, and those kinds of things.”

“There are a lot of areas in the state that will likely never see a Caterpillar, or a Baxter, or a Kia Motors come to those areas,” he said, referring to companies that have opened manufacturing plants in rural Georgia in the past several years. “Part of it is because there’s just not enough population to draw a workforce from, access to and from rail, and so forth, but we need to help those communities in those areas … There are a lot of things that we do in this state very well, and there are a lot of things that we do very well on a very small scale. Given the opportunity, given some help with local leadership, and given the ability of outside resources, they can take those things that they’re doing very well and put jobs and money into their communities.”

The AJC sent reporters to Stewart County to learn about the rural community’s economic difficulties.

A rural community with just 5,700 residents, Stewart was singled out in a U.S. Census Bureau report this month for being one of the poorest counties in the nation. The county has one of the highest percentages of families living in poverty at 38.4 percent.

“I worry about the kids because sometimes I know the only meal they get is what they eat in school,” Mona Hubbard, the county school system’s nutrition manager, said as she supervised Monday’s lunch preparations. “If your stomach is growling, how can you pay attention?”

Georgia House members have been studying the problems facing Stewart and other rural parts of the state for months, and now they’re preparing to do something about it. Their Rural Development Council will release its first report Wednesday, and its recommendations could be made into law as soon as next year.

Among the options up for consideration are state grants for expanding high-speed internet access in rural communities. Young doctors could be offered college loan relief if they agree to work in rural areas. Hospital record-keeping could be streamlined. And a pilot program could teach job skills to rural residents.

“There’s not a silver bullet. You’ve got to improve a lot of issues to make rural Georgia attractive for job creation,” said state Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, one of the council’s co-chairmen.

[Stewart County Manager Mac Moye] pointed to two bright spots in Stewart, Richland Distilling Co. and Omaha Brewing Co. Together, both businesses have made substantial investments in Stewart and are attracting thousands of people there each year.

Erik Vonk, a native of the Netherlands who immigrated to America for work, started growing sugar cane on his farm in South Georgia as a hobby in the late 1990s. His rum distillery now employs six people and occupies seven buildings in downtown Richland, all of which were once boarded up. His rum sells in 15 states and nine countries. Vonk is opening a branch in Brunswick.

Business tax relief, a trained workforce and affordable high-speed internet access would help Stewart’s economy grow, Vonk and Lee said.

“We need more businesses like Omaha Brewing and Richland Rum in the county,” Vonk said. “Business begets business, gradually allowing us to employ more people, draw more businesses, generate more sales taxes and establish a tiny little backbone for commerce.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp spoke about rural issues in Chatsworth and Dalton last week.

“I understand the issues that affect rural areas, and I also see the opportunity,” said Kemp. “Transportation and infrastructure improvements are perfect examples. You have people in the governor’s race who are talking about bridging over the Connector in downtown Atlanta, or even tunneling under it, but nobody is talking about how much it’s going to cost or who is going to pay for it.”

“The people of Murray County and the rest of rural Georgia don’t want to send their tax dollars intended for transportation to relieve Atlanta’s traffic congestion – they’d rather see projects like widening Highway 411 in critical spots around the new inland port, and fixing crumbling pavement, and putting in needed stoplights,” said Kemp.

“I know how important little things like that are to our communities, and that’s what I’ll be fighting for in the governor’s office,” he added.

“I want the people of Murray County to be my special interest group,” he added.

“In Atlanta and Savannah, it’s booming. But in the rural parts of the state, there still are not the same opportunities that some areas have.”

“It’s sad, when kids in rural areas have to move away from the areas where they grew up. Wanting to leave is OK, but when they have to leave to find opportunity, that’s sad.”

The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents voted for additional mergers of institutions.

The system’s Board of Regents voted Tuesday to consolidate Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University and merge Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College with Bainbridge State College. Both consolidations will take effect Jan. 1.

The two merged institutions will go forward under the names of Georgia Southern University and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. Each will begin operating with expanded missions and degree offerings.

“The University System of Georgia is committed to serving the southeast and south Georgia regions of our state, and we view these consolidations as long-term investments,” system Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “The new Georgia Southern University and the new Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College are well positioned to increase college attainment levels in these areas of the state.”

Right whales – the official state marine mammal of Georgia – are on path to extinction, according to a report by NOAA.

Clay George, who heads up the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ efforts with right whales, said he has read the report the conclusions come from — by Richard Pace of the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and his colleagues — and agrees the population has decreased over the last several years and appears to continue down that road.

“We’ve seen below-average calving numbers, basically, since that period, so I’m not surprised by the results at all,” George said. “The concerns about extinction are based on some analysis that one of the authors of that paper has done that I’ve seen in a webinar — it hasn’t been published in a paper yet. From what I’ve seen, his results are very concerning, because they indicate females are not living very long.”

As it stands, around 450 right whales are known to exist, and of those, there are about 100 breeding females. But considering the cyclical nature of reproduction and the amount of calves born, the number of deaths is outpacing the number of births. Researchers note 17 right whale deaths this year.

“That’s a real problem, because right whales only have a calf every four to five years,” George said. “They don’t typically start calving until they’re around 10 years of age, so if they’re dying that young, it’s pretty simple arithmetic. That means they can only produce a relatively small number of calves in their lifetime, and about half of those are going to be male, and only half will be female. More adult females are needed for the population to recover, so that’s very concerning.”

Glynn County Board of Education voted to participate in a Tax Allocation District (TAD) for the City of Brunswick.

The school board voted 6-1 to approve the TAD’s creation. School board member Hank Yeargan voted against it.

“We’ve got to do something to the city of Brunswick,” said Millard Allen, school board member, “.. And I think we need to move forward with it. I know the long-term scares a lot of people, but that’s kind of the way it works.”

The city is also seeking approval from the Glynn County Commission. Jim Drumm, city manager, said at the meeting that the county commissioners have not officially voted to approve the TAD, but they said by consensus during a work session that they will support the plan.

Once the TAD goes into effect, property taxes in the district will be frozen at the current baseline level. Any additional revenue generated by rising property values goes toward paying for improvement projects in the district. The city has proposed nine projects to redevelop areas in the district, and those projects would be financed through long-term loans, called bonds.

The goal of the TAD is to attract developers to the area by improving infrastructure. Property taxes should then increase.

The tax base can remain frozen between 10 to 25 years. The difference between the baseline tax and the increased tax goes into a special account, used to pay off the bonds.

Hall County Commissioners voted to freeze issuance of vacation rental business licenses.

Hall County commissioners were unanimous Tuesday evening: the practice of homeowners renting-out their residences on a short term basis needed better control; so until the topic of private home rental could be better analyzed and applicable ordinances put into law, a moratorium on the issuance of vacation rental business licenses was approved until March 31, 2018.

“The Hall County Transient Occupancy Ordinance that governs vacation home rentals under thirty days was approved in 2010,” Gibbs explained.  “Since that time there has been an increase in avenues for marketing listings of vacation home rentals and demand has increased nationally.”

Gibbs was referring to popular online rental sites such as “VRBO.com” and “AirBNB.com”, among others, where property owners wishing to rent their homes, or rooms in their homes, are paired with individuals looking for short term accommodations in a private setting.

“In light of this I’d like to direct staff to review the current ordinance and prepare a recommendation to the board regarding updates and revisions.  Staff should have this recommendation completed by February 12, 2018, with the anticipation of a full review of the ordinance and future modifications,” Gibbs said.

“The law has always been that you have to have a business license; that way we can keep track of who is renting.” [Gibbs said].  And collect the appropriate Hotel/Motel Tax, “…because you’re competing with my hotels and motels that are paying the tax.  It’s an unfair advantage (for the private homeowner who does not collect tax).”

Oakwood City Council is considering zoning changes for massage parlors.

Savannah City Council’s price tag for a proposed fire fee has increased because they decided to retain 18 firefighting positions.

A recent decision by the Savannah City Council to restore 18 firefighting positions that staff had proposed cutting next year means a proposed fee for fire services will amount to $256 for single-family households.

That is up from $240, the flat rate for homeowners the council decided on during a recent 2018 budget retreat to cover 70 percent of fire department costs. The fee amount for non-residential properties is based on a building’s size, as well as a risk factor determined by the fire department.

City staffers informed the mayor and aldermen during a budget workshop on Tuesday that the increase was to cover the cost restoration of the positions.

The increased amount came as a surprise to some aldermen who said they have been having to explain the fee and its impact to concerned property owners since they decided to move forward with the proposal at the budget retreat.

Colquitt Regional Medical Center was recognized as one of 18 top rural hospitals in the nation.

Announced Monday, the Leapfrog Top Hospital award is widely acknowledged as one of the most competitive honors American hospitals can receive, according to a press release from Colquitt Regional. The Top Hospital designation is awarded by the Leapfrog Group, an independent hospital watchdog organization.

“Every department at Colquitt Regional played a valuable role in helping us earn this recognition. This is the second time in four years that we have been named a Top Hospital, and it’s because of our employees, doctors, and hospital trustees,” said Colquitt Regional CEO Jim Matney. “We have changed the culture at Colquitt Regional, and our patients expect that they will receive safe and exceptional care at our hospital. Our employees — from those at the bedside to the support departments for those at the bedside — have all adopted this culture. We are delivering safe and effective care with compassion. I just can’t emphasize enough how proud I am of our team.”

Also recognized as a top rural hospital was WellStar Sylvan Grove Hospital.

Former Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-11) write in The Hill about reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

As Congress sprints to the finish line to get home in time to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s, the best holiday gift my former colleagues can give American children would be to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

CHIP provides comprehensive health-care coverage to approximately 9 million children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but who cannot access or afford commercial health insurance. This wildly popular program was created in 1997 when Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) reached across the aisle and worked together; it continues to enjoy strong, bipartisan support in Washington as well as state houses across the country.

Like many fiscal conservatives, I am of a mind to regard no program as sacred, not even this one. At a time when this country has amassed debt equal to our national GDP — something we haven’t done since the end of World War II — it is reasonable to ask if we can afford to continue to pay for this level of care. Compassion for our children should include concern about the impact our national debt will have on our children and grandchildren.

However, some things are so important and provide such value that I support pulling out the credit card and spending the money. If I were still serving in Congress today, I would be urging my fellow conservatives to do the fiscally prudent thing and vote in favor of extending the CHIP program.

Mystery still surrounds the source of counterfeit percocet pills linked to a cluster of overdoses in middle Georgia.

[Jamarco] Gibson is among more than two dozen people who were treated after overdosing on counterfeit Percocet pills over several days last June in Middle Georgia — a deadly crisis that drew national headlines. The rash of overdoses came amid a nationwide opioid overdose epidemic, which President Donald Trump has declared a public health emergency.

Although it’s unclear how many people overdosed on phony Percocet pills in Georgia, at least five died during that period. After investigating the Georgia cases, public health authorities linked 27 of the overdoses and one death to the pills. They contained a mixture of highly potent synthetic drugs that police suspect came from overseas, possibly China: cyclopropyl fentanyl and the synthetic opioid U-47700.

Dr. J. Patrick O’Neal, Georgia’s commissioner of public health, and his colleagues are now developing statewide plans for how to respond to the opioid epidemic, fearing another overdose outbreak inevitable.

Someone at the hospital told Gibson the pill he had taken contained carfentanil. Gibson said he spent about a week recovering at the hospital, racking up more than $100,000 in medical bills. He has lost as many as 20 pounds. It’s now hard for him to concentrate. He struggles with a mixture of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. He said his ordeal cost him his job.

Macon-Bibb Commissioners are considering two sales tax referenda for 2018.

The County Commission received updates Tuesday on an “other local option sales tax,” or OLOST, as well as a regional transportation sales tax, measures that could be added to ballots as county officials contemplate additional sources of revenue.

If the tax referendums pass, then the sales tax in Macon-Bibb would go from 7 cents to 9 cents on the dollar.

Macon-Bibb leaders have cited two benefits of the OLOST: It’s a tax that doesn’t just affect property owners, such as the millage rate. A large share of the sales tax revenue comes from people who live outside of Macon-Bibb, they have said.

The OLOST referendum would also tie into a freeze on property values and a millage rate rollback.

“This doesn’t freeze taxes, but what it freezes is the value of your home,” Mayor Robert Reichert said.

The County Commission’s Committee of the Whole voted Tuesday in favor of a resolution to begin working with the local legislative delegation on crafting potential legislation. The resolution would need final approval at next week’s regular commission meeting.

Commissioners Elaine Lucas and Bert Bivins voted against the sales tax resolution.

Tom Crawford writes that 2017 was the year of women in Georgia politics.

In the Nov. 7 elections, a wave of women who had never run for office before won races across the country, in many cases ousting male incumbents.

These new candidates had the most impact in Virginia, where they were largely responsible for Democrats nearly wiping out a 32-seat advantage for Republicans in the state legislature.

Here in Georgia, we have seen women from both parties win political offices that previously belonged to men.

Earlier this year, Republican Karen Handel won the 6th Congressional District seat that once belonged to Tom Price. Kay Kirkpatrick won a state Senate seat that Judson Hill vacated. In last week’s runoff elections, Democratic women swept four legislative seats that were up for grabs in the Metro Atlanta area, with women candidates beating male candidates in three of those races.

The wave of women winners is a trend that has swept the nation since the election of Donald Trump as president. Trump’s presence in the Oval Office seems to have energized more women to run for office than they have in past years.

I see the emergence of women in politics, for whatever reason, as a positive development. For more than two centuries, American politics has largely been the domain of middle-aged white males. It’s time to get a wider variety of viewpoints.

I agree with most of what Crawford writes in that piece, but would add the caveat that of the races he points two, only one could plausibly be considered to be outside Metro Atlanta, and that was in Athens, which is a separate world unto itself. It remains to be seen whether this trend will continue in 2018, and if it will also include more women running and winning in non-metro areas.

12
Dec

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 12, 2017

Lily

Lily is a year-old female Corgi mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA. Animal ID: 59395

Rex

Rex is a 6-year old male Labrador Retriever who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.  Animal ID: 57299

Trysta

Trysta is a 10-month old female Black-and-Tan Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from DeKalb County Animal Services in Chamblee, GA.

This incredibly lovable pup greets everyone with a wagging tail and leans in for back scratches. Can you give Trysta the home she’s always dreamed of?

12
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 12, 2017

Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the Constitution on December 12, 1787.

Guglielmo Marconi completed the first transatlantic radio transmission from Cornwall, England to Newfoundland on December 12, 1901.

Jimmy Carter announced he would run for President of the United States on December 12, 1974.

Dickey Betts, guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, was born on December 12, 1943.

The United States Supreme Court released its decision in Bush v. Gore on December 12, 2000, stopping manual recounts of contested ballots in Florida.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former State Rep. John Yates (R-Griffin), the last World War 2 veteran to serve in the Georgia legislature, died at the age of 96.

Yates became one of a small number of Republicans in the Georgia House at the time he was first elected in 1988. After losing re-election, he ran again in 1992 and remained in office until 2016 representing a district based in Griffin.

Yates flew more than 200 missions near or over enemy lines for the U.S. Army, and he was awarded six air medals and four battle stars, according to his House biography. He served during the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive on the Western Front in 1944 and 1945.

His death was confirmed Monday by the office of House Speaker David Ralston.

“John Yates was a public servant and a patriot — a hero in the truest sense of the word,” Ralston said. “He understood better than most the meaning of sacrifice.”

Qualifying for a pair of January special elections for the Georgia legislature closed on Friday:

SD 17
Brian Strickland – R
Ed Toney – R
Nelva Lee – R
Phyllis Hatcher – D

HD 111
El-Madhi Holly – D
Geoffrey Cauble – R
Larry K. Morey – R
Tarji Leonard Dunn – D

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Branch will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow on her nomination by President Trump to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. R. Stan Baker will appear before the committee on his nomination as a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Georgia.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton will address Auburn University’s fall graduation ceremony on December 16th.

Auburn University alumnus Harold Melton, presiding justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, will be the speaker at the university’s fall graduation ceremonies. Approximately 1,683 degrees will be conferred during the two ceremonies set for Saturday, Dec. 16, in Auburn Arena.

Melton was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia by Gov. Sonny Perdue on July 1, 2005, and was sworn in as presiding justice Jan. 6, 2017. Prior to joining the court, Melton served as executive counsel to Perdue. Before that, he spent 11 years in the Georgia Department of Law under two attorneys general where he dealt with issues ranging from the creation of the Georgia Lottery Corporation to the administration of Georgia’s tobacco settlement.

Melton, who was elected Auburn’s first African American SGA president in 1987, earned his Bachelor of Science degree in international business from Auburn in 1988. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Georgia in 1991. He serves on the Board of Atlanta Youth Academies and is on the local and national board for Young Life youth ministry. A native of Washington, D.C., Melton currently resides in Atlanta with his wife, Kimberly, and their three children.

Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler helped open a home for abused and neglected girls in Douglasville, GA.

He met the residents, many of whom became emotional greeting the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, and toured the facility he helped to establish.

Tyler told CNN it’s hard for him to grasp what many of them have been through.

“You can see in their faces and hear in their voices how broken they are,” he said.

“While I was in (rehab), I found out most of women in there were battered and beaten and abused verbally and sexually in huge numbers,” he said. “It was like seven out of 10, eight out of 10.”

He said he has high hopes for the residents, who, along with their families, will have resources, including therapy, to help better their lives.

“I can only speak from my own 12-stepness, which is to say when you have an ‘ism’ which you wish was a ‘wasim,’ you need therapy,”] he said. “I’m hoping that they get some tools, some advice, some ways to work stuff out, some words of wisdom that they can then live by.”

State Rep. Rick Williams, (R-Milledgeville) says he has pre-filed legislation to require schools to post a toll-free number for DFCS.

“We’ve got to let them know they don’t have to tolerate that. Tell someone,” Williams said last week.

“There’s a lot of children hurt out there,” Williams said. “We’ve got to protect our children, and we’ve got to start somewhere.”

“This is just clean, simple, plain – put up signs telling children, ‘It’s OK to tell if someone hurts you. You can say no. Go to a safe place. Tell a trusted adult,’” he said.

DFCS’s toll-free number – 1-855-GA CHILD – is monitored around the clock and children can call anonymously. Last year, there were about 118,000 reports received. About 11 percent of those were substantiated cases.

Cobb County Commission Chair Mike Boyce wants the county to consider a penny sales tax to fund public safety.

County Chairman Mike Boyce and Commissioner Bob Weatherford spent Friday and Monday making a sales pitch to the Cobb Legislative Delegation for a new tax to pay for public safety costs.

The proposal would raise the county’s sales tax from 6 to 7 cents if passed in a November 2018 referendum. A chunk of the money from the additional 1 percent sales tax would be placed in a restricted fund to pay for public safety, freeing up the county’s general fund to pay for other things, such as the county’s anticipated $30 million budget shortfall.

“This would allow us not to have to raise the millage rate,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford told lawmakers that a 1 percent sales tax collects about $130 million a year in Cobb. After the county’s six cities were given their cut, the county would be left with $96.2 million.

Included in the proposal would be a millage rollback equal to whatever a family of four would spend on a 1 percent sales tax for a year, Weatherford said.

The referendum would require a bill through the Legislature in the coming session before the Cobb Board of Commissioners could call for the referendum.

Emory Healthcare provided more than $73 million dollars in uncompensated care in FY 2017.

Lilburn City Council is eliminating the alcohol review board as it adopts a new alcohol ordinance.

Whitfield County Commissioners approved a $46.7 million dollar budget for 2018, up from $45 million in 2017.

Robins Air Force Base will host an air show including the US Air Force Thunderbirds on September 28-29 2019.

Four Rome City School Board members sat in their last official meeting yesterday.

Outgoing board members are Richard Dixon, Cheryl Huffman, Bruce Jones and Dale Swann. All seven seats on the board were up for grabs in November’s election.

Huffman, who has been on the board for 20 years, and Jones, who has served two four-year terms, did not seek re-election in November’s election. Dixon and Swann did not secure enough votes on Nov. 7 to be among the top seven vote-getters.

Incumbents Elaina Beeman, Will Byington and Faith Collins were the only current board members who were elected for the next term. They will be joined by newcomers Dr. Melissa Davis, Jill Fisher, Alvin Jackson and John Uldrick.

Parking on the front lawn will be prohibited under new zoning rules in Macon.

Macon’s zoning commission agreed Monday to not allow cars to be parked on the lawn in the front of residences in some historic districts.

In a 4-0 decision, the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission voted to amend the Comprehensive Land Development Resolution “regarding parking of vehicles on lawns visible from public right-of-way.” Commission Chairman Kamal Azar was absent.

The amendment would only apply to single-family residential property specifically in “designated design review designation districts,” said Executive Director Jim Thomas. These include the Intown, Vineville, Cherokee Heights, Beall’s Hill and downtown districts.

The new regulation is effective immediately, Thomas said after the meeting.

The Georgia Public Service Commission has moved up the date for a decision on Plant Vogtle.

A decision on whether to complete two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle has been moved up from February to next week, the chairman of the Public Service Commission said Monday.

Commissioner Stan Wise said it will decide Dec. 21 after he received a request from Georgia Power Company to move the decision to this year in case the commission rules the projects should not proceed so that the company could take advantage of $150 million in benefits it might lose next year due to changes in tax law.

Commission staff also want Georgia Power to bear more of the risk for the project and oppose the company’s request to find “reasonable” its new schedule and costs of $12.2 billion to complete the reactors by 2021 and 2022, calling that “uneconomic” to ratepayers by $1.6 billion.

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) is touting a poll of Republican voters on medical marijuana.

The telephone poll of 511 likely Republican primary voters by the Tarrance Group found 71 percent were in favor of Georgia allowing cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes only. About 77 percent of those surveyed approved giving patients permission to use the drug for treatment of diseases, which is already allowed in Georgia.

Peake, R-Macon, paid for the poll as he is seeking legislation, House Bill 645 and House Resolution 36, that would permit medical marijuana possession or sale.

He said Georgia should have a system to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana. Twenty-nine other states already allow medical marijuana cultivation.

“I did the poll because I wanted to be confident of what I already saw: Hard-core Republican voters do significantly support this issue,” Peake said. “It’s a clear indication the momentum on this is clearly shifting on this topic as more and more people see the benefit of medical cannabis oil.”

Among Georgia Republican voters surveyed on in-state cultivation of medical marijuana, 46 percent were strongly in favor and 16 percent were strongly opposed, according to results released by Peake. The poll was conducted from Nov. 27 to Nov. 29.

Georgia State Budget

Federal tax reform and it’s consequences for state tax income have created uncertainty in Georgia’s state budget process for 2018.

Income taxes are the state’s No. 1 source of revenue, and because of the uncertainty, Gov. Nathan Deal is trying to put final touches on the budget he will propose to lawmakers in January not sure of exactly how much money the state will have to spend.

Weeks before the start of Georgia’s legislative session, it’s unclear whether the federal tax plan could mean more money for the state because Georgians will lose key deductions on their state income taxes. Officials don’t know the impact of any last-minute add-ons or subtractions to the bill, which are common in horsetrading at both the state and U.S. Capitol.

Because of all that, the governor’s office, budget and tax staffers and top lawmakers are keeping a close watch on what Congress does in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 8 start of the the 2018 General Assembly session, when lawmakers will consider a $26 billion state spending plan for the upcoming year.

“You can stay awake worrying about what will happen,” said state Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, the chairman of the House Budget Committee. “As quick as things change, what you were worrying about is not the thing you have to worry about now.”

When federal funding is included, the state of Georgia spends about $45 billion a year. A little over 30 percent of that goes to the Department of Community Health, which runs Medicaid and provides health care to the poor, disabled and nursing home services to the elderly. About two-thirds of Medicaid is paid for by the federal government, so any cutback could have a dramatic impact.

In addition, Congress has yet to reauthorize the money that pays for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, called PeachCare in Georgia, which has been around for about 20 years and is also run by the Department of Community Health.

Andy Miller of Georgia Health News looks at how PeachCare funding might be affected.

CHIP covers almost 9 million children nationally. Through PeachCare, it covers roughly about 130,000 children in Georgia.

The program provides insurance to children in working families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid for their kids, but cannot afford or obtain private coverage.

The U.S. House passed a bill in early November that funds the CHIP program for five years, but the U.S. Senate has yet to act.

Members of both parties in Congress agree that money should be approved for CHIP for five years. But they disagree over how to pay for it.

The Georgia Department of Community Health said Monday that if the state maintains its current funding, Georgia will run out of money for PeachCare in March, if the congressional impasse continues.

Georgia receives about $400 million in federal funding annually for PeachCare.

The Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE) is under scrutiny after a recent audit.

About 38,000 people and businesses participate in a program known as GATE – for Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption – that allows eligible producers to buy work-related items without paying sales tax.

That perk likely costs state and local coffers $300 million in lost revenue, according to state auditors. But an audit, which was released in October, found it’s unclear what economic impact the program is offering in return – and if the right people are getting the tax break.

The state Department of Revenue has uncovered misuse through dozens of GATE audits. The agency can reclaim the unpaid taxes, plus penalties and interest, when it catches such abuse.

About two-thirds of the 42 audits the department has performed found improper use of the tax break, according to the report. Of those, 14 audits flagged cardholders who made non-qualifying purchases. Another 15 audits found cardholders who weren’t eligible to have the card.

But state law bars the agency for sharing its findings with the state Department of Agriculture, which has the authority to revoke card privileges.

The scrutiny frustrated some. Rep. Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, who chairs the rural caucus, said the audit unfairly singles out the state’s agricultural industry.

“It’s economic development. It’s no different than the film industry getting what they’re getting, Delta getting what they’re getting, manufacturing getting what they’re getting,” Watson said last week, referring to other industry tax exemptions. “What’s the difference?

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Dec

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 11, 2017

Vogel

Vogel is a male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Athenspets in Athens, GA.

Vogel is a handsome, energetic boy who loves to run! After being in a kennel, he needed to get his energy out and ran circles around the interaction pen. Holding up a stuffed squeaky toy got Vogel’s attention, and he put the brakes on waiting for me to throw it. When I did, he was such a clown running and tossing the toy in the air to catch. He was having a blast and loved making it squeak. I’d trade a treat for the toy to throw again, and he’d continued his show.

Vogel is a happy, fun dog. He’s lived with other animals including two cats, a beagle, and a bird. He’s already neutered, heartworm negative, and current with his vaccinations. Come play with Vogel and have a great time!

ChelseaAthens

Chelsea is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Athenspets in Athens, GA.

Adeline

Adeline is a senior female Hound mix who is available for adoption from Athenspets in Athens, GA.

Adeline is a sweet, older dog who loves being with people. Stop at her kennel gate, and she’s quick with a smile hoping that you’ll take her out. She’s happy doing her own thing in an interaction pen, but call her to you and give her pets and treats, and she really lights up. When Adeline would see me reach into my treat pocket, she’d immediately sit wanting to impress. She also knows how to lie down for a bonus reward. Adeline was friendly to June and other dogs at the fence and is a good-natured dog. If you’re looking for a sweet, older companion who walks nicely on a leash and is a joy to be around, come meet Adeline!

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Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 11, 2017

On December 11, 1777, during their movement to Valley Forge for the winter, Washington’s colonial forces engaged British troops under General Cornwallis as the Americans were crossing the Schuylkill River.

Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the Constitution on December 12, 1787.

Indiana became the 19th State on December 11, 1816.

Governor Charles McDonald signed legislation on December 11, 1841 to prevent a person from having his or her testimony excluded in court because of the individual’s religious beliefs.

The first use of nitrous oxide as a dental anesthetic took place on December 11, 1844.

On December 11, 1872, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback took office in Louisiana as the first black Governor in the United States.

A memorial service for Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederate States of America, was held in the Georgia State Capitol on December 11, 1889 while his funeral was that day in New Orleans.

On December 11, 1941, Germany declared war on the United States.

Dickey Betts, guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, was born on December 12, 1943.

On December 11, 1960, a civil rights demonstration including 8000 African-American citizens was held in Atlanta as part of the movement to boycott stores that remained segregated.

The Libertarian Party was founded on December 11, 1971 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Jimmy Carter announced he would run for President of the United States on December 12, 1974.

The United States Supreme Court released its decision in Bush v. Gore on December 12, 2000, stopping manual recounts of contested ballots in Florida.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

University of Georgia engineering professor David Gattie writes in favor of completing two nuclear reactors currently under construction at Plant Vogtle.

The state of Georgia remains in the throes of a debate that will have long-term impacts on the state’s electric power sector, its economy and, very likely, the long-term prospects for nuclear power in America. That debate being whether or not to continue with the construction of Vogtle Units 3 and 4.

Reservations about moving forward with the Vogtle project rest predominantly on financial arguments related to cost overruns. The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) Public Interest Advocacy Staff conveyed this in their report recently submitted to the Georgia Public Service Commission. While the financials of Vogtle shouldn’t be lightly regarded, a cost analysis alone fails to convey the full benefits of nuclear power.

There are other benefits — non-monetized benefits.

In recent testimony to the commission, I testified about three non-monetized benefits of nuclear power that support the decision to move forward with Vogtle. These being: resource diversity, policy resilience and national security.

While the commission’s public interest advocacy staff report focuses on current financials, what seems to be absent is an accounting of these “other benefits”. However, the non-monetized benefits of nuclear are arguably its most important benefits.

Nuclear power occupies a high ground of political bipartisanship and the middle ground of climate pragmatism. Approval of Vogtle Units 3 and 4 would provide Georgia with a valuable hedge against future energy policy shifts, in addition to its reliable, zero-carbon emission benefits.

With respect to nuclear power and U.S. national security , the U.S. electric power sector is a vital and critical infrastructure; therefore national security is linked to the reliability and integrity of this sector. The absence of a vibrant and robust civilian nuclear power sector would risk reducing the United States’ position of dominance and influence over the global nuclear energy cycle, which is the foundation to nuclear safety and nonproliferation.

Diminished activity in civilian nuclear power constitutes a security threat if U.S. influence and authority in the global nuclear fuel and manufacturing supply chain is reduced and supplanted by another country such as China or Russia. America cannot afford to sacrifice its global leadership role in nuclear energy.

While financial analyses are certainly necessary, financials alone cannot account for the non-monetized benefits of nuclear power. However, PSC commissioners can. That’s why the Vogtle decision is a policy decision, not just a monetizable market decision. Which is why the commission should continue exercising wisdom, prudence and sound judgment by holding steady on what it knows is needed, rather than opting for what is easy.

Fulton County is expected to certify its results in the Atlanta Mayoral runoff election today.

Rey Martinez will be sworn-in as the first Hispanic mayor of Loganville on January 11, 2018 at 6 PM.

Cobb County Commission Chair Mike Boyce will present a revised list of nonprofit funding levels after a previous version was voted down by commissioners.

Boyce had proposed that future grants given to nonprofits meet at least one of four priorities — homelessness, economic stability and poverty, ex-offender re-entry/workforce development, and health and wellness. Only Commissioner Bob Weatherford supported the chairman’s measure, with commissioners JoAnn Birrell, Lisa Cupid and Bob Ott voting against.

The original priority list, according to Birrell, excluded programs such as Marietta YELLS, which targets the vulnerable youth population in the Franklin Gateway area, and the Marietta Police Athletic League, which uses sports as a basis for positive interactions between children and law enforcement, though both organizations were awarded county grants as part of the funding approved by the commission.

Boyce will now ask the commissioners to consider a modified priority list that replaces economic stability and poverty with family stability/poverty, with youth programs falling under that category.

Triana Arnold James of Smyrna, current holder of the Mrs. Georgia title, will run for Lieutenant Governor as a Democrat in 2018.

James said she grew up in Smyrna and Marietta, attended Morris Brown College and later served in the U.S. Army as a computer programmer and later in legal support working for the JAG Corps. James and her husband, Alaric, have raised 12 children between them. James is also a small business owner and runs the Susan Jolley Awareness Program, a foundation to bring awareness to the prevention of cervical cancer and HPV.

Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is holding a seminar for senior citizens titled, “Opioid Addiction: What You Don’t Know May Kill You.”

It will take place Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. at the Dorothy C. Benson Senior Multipurpose Facility, 6500 Vernon Woods Drive in Sandy Springs.

Seniors with chronic pain are susceptible to opioid addiction with painkillers. However, most seniors are impacted because their children may become addicted and/or overdose and die from opioids.

The presentation is part of a pilot initiative to address the opioid crisis. The information sessions will be offered continuously throughout the coming year to educate citizens about the serious and potentially deadly consequences of opioid addiction.

For more information, call 404-613-6385.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle spoke about rural issues in Thomas County.

“I’m a rural Georgia guy,” said Cagle, a Gainesville native. “I understand what rural Georgia challenges look like.”

Cagle said he wants to create 500,000 new jobs in his first four years if elected governor.

“That’s a big goal,” he said. “But I believe it can happen.”

“My campaign is a campaign of greater economic prosperity that leaves no one behind,” he said. “We’ve got to grow jobs. We’ve got to grow the kinds of industries we want.”

Currently, 20 percent of the economic development deals are being directed toward rural Georgia and Cagle wants to see that number increase.

“As governor, I can make that happen,” he said.

Coweta County approved an agreement with the state to allow the county to mow state rights-of-way.

U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Charles Peeler says his office is prepared to fight the opioid epidemic.

As U.S. Attorney, Peeler is the top-ranking federal law enforcement official for the district, which includes Albany, Athens, Columbus, Macon and Valdosta. He oversees a staff of 74 employees, including 28 attorneys and 46 non-attorney support personnel. Peeler’s office is responsible for prosecuting federal crimes in the district, including crimes related to terrorism, public corruption, child exploitation, firearms and narcotics.

During his time in the new role, although brief, Peeler said he has been able to see that the position allows for immediate impact in the fight against drug and gun crime, as well as the fight against the ongoing opioid epidemic.

“(We are) investigating and prosecuting those responsible for over-, and unlawful, prescription of opioids,” he said.

Peeler described the process of getting his new job as the “world’s longest job interview.” It started shortly after last year’s presidential election and involved candidacy interviews with a committee including Georgia U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, an interview with the Department of Justice, nomination by President Trump and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

“To be nominated is an incredible honor,” he said. “The longer I am in this job, the more fortunate I feel to be in the Department of Justice.”

The Georgia Association of Educators President Sid Chapmen is campaigning for Staet Superintendent of Schools.

Georgia Association of Educators President Sid Chapman made his annual swing through Georgia last week, lamenting “toxic testing,” inadequate education funding from the state, and teacher retention and salaries.

“We are not in favor of the changes requested by Gov. Deal that remove certain aspects of Georgia’s current ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) plan,” Chapman said. “GAE has been fighting what we call ‘toxic testing’ for many years. What Gov. Deal is asking could take us back to the days of overuse and overemphasis of high-stakes standardized testing that had become ‘toxic’ to our students. The open input period from which Georgia citizens, including thousands of teachers, commented and participated in feedback sessions and online surveys clearly indicated they wanted to move on from that requirement.”

A Democrat who has announced a bid to unseat current Republican State School Superintendent Republican Richard Woods, Chapman zeroed in during comments on the ever-contentious issue of public school funding.

“With too many of our public schools still suffering the effects of the imposed austerity cuts from the past 14 years, GAE will again be calling for the full funding of our public schools in next year’s legislative session,” Chapman said. “I hear often from our members on the lack of resources available. This challenge needs to be addressed from both the legislative and economic development fronts. The affected communities also need assistance in helping to build their commercial base so monies are also available from their end.”

Chapman added that ensuring teachers receive their full raises aids in this effort because they cannot spend locally with money they do not have.

“Many of our rural school districts are especially impacted by funding, which is why the legislature must update the state funding formula,” said Chapman. “We simply must address the impact of high poverty in our schools wherever that may be. We know this has a direct impact on schools’ learning environments and, consequently, those children’s ability to concentrate and grasp their lessons. However, we must begin associating the funding with the specific and different needs between rural and urban schools.”

The Glynn Board of Education  is seeking changes to a property tax exemption for seniors.

Senate Bill 486 provides a homestead tax exemption to residents who are at least 65 years old and whose net income does not exceed $40,000. Glynn County voters approved the bill in 2008, and since it took effect in 2009, the school system has lost more than $37.2 million in revenue through the exemption.

School board members are asking for the bill’s language to be changed, because they argue that the exemption includes residents who do not need the tax break.

“In the original intent of the whole bill, it was a great idea,” said Hank Yeargan, school board member. “It’s to help retired, fixed income folks not have to pay property taxes, basically. But one of the consequences of it is that it has put a big strain on the (school system) budget … since it’s been in effect.”

Andrea Preston, assistant superintendent for finances for Glynn County Schools, said the ballot question posed to voters in 2008 was misleading and vague. The bill included more residents than many thought it did, because it defines “income” as “Georgia taxable net income,” or the income one receives after all adjustments, deductions, exclusions and exemptions have been applied.

The school board signed a resolution in October that requested local legislators to introduce a bill with a new ballot question, defining how senior citizens can qualify for this exemption.

Mike Hulsey, school board chairman, said the school system annually starts the year with a deficit of several million dollars. Senate Bill 486 takes away funds the school system needs, he said.

“It’s cost us a ton of money. It hurt most when were in a recession,” Hulsey said. “Although things have turned around some, it’s still not back to where we need it to be.”

The Firefighters Memorial Service in Savannah memorialized firefighters who died in the course of their work.

The event is somber – the name of every firefighter who has fallen in the line of duty from Chatham, Bryan, Effingham and Liberty counties is called. Big Duke, the giant bell in front of SFD, is rung for each, and a rose is placed at the foot of the firefighter’s memorial.

Dale Simmons, the chaplain for the Association of Fire Chiefs in Chatham County prayed for the families of the fallen heroes at the event on Sunday.

“It just gives a chance to remember those guys and gals that we work with every day. It reminds us that what we do is dangerous,” Simmons said. “Sometimes things happen, and it just helps us tell the families that we’ve not forgotten them and how important they are to us.”

Eric Howard won the runoff election for Valdosta City Council District 4.