The blog.

12
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 12, 2018

Rosh

Rosh is a male Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd (or Black and Tan Hound?) puppy who is available for adoption from Circle of Friends Animal Society Inc. in Loganville, GA.

Dawn Circle Friends

Dawn is a young female Hound and American Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from Circle of Friends Animal Society Inc. in Loganville, GA.

Kiah

Kiah is a young female Hound and American Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from Circle of Friends Animal Society Inc. in Loganville, GA.

12
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 12, 2018

On January 14, 1639, representatives of three cities in Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders,” the first written Constitution in an American colony and one of the first founding document to cite the authority of “the free consent of the people.”

On January 13, 1733, the ship Ann (sometimes spelled “Anne”) sailed into Charles Town harbor and was met by South Carolina Governor Robert Johnson and the Speaker of the Commons House of Assembly. Aboard the ship were James Oglethorpe and the first 114 colonists of what would become Georgia. Later that year they would land at a high bluff on the Savannah River and found the city of Savannah. On January 14, 1733, James Oglethorpe and the rest of the first colonists departed Charles Town harbor for what would become Savannah, and the State of Georgia.

On January 12, 1775, St. Andrews Parish on the Georgia coast passed a series of resolutions that included approving the actions of patriots in Massachusetts, three resolutions critical of British government actions, and a renunciation of slavery. The resolutions also appointed delegates to a provincial legislature at Savannah and urging that Georgia send two delegates to the Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia the next year.

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784. The Treaty was negotiated by John Adams, who would later serve as President, and the delegates voting to ratify it included future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

On January 14, 1835, James M. Wayne took the oath of office as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A Savannah native, Wayne had previously served in the Georgia House of Representatives, as Mayor of Savannah, on the Supreme Court of Georgia, and in Congress. His sister was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and his home is now known as the Juliette Gordon Low house. When Georgia seceded from the Union, Wayne remained on the Supreme Court.

On January 14, 1860, the Committee of Thirty-Three introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow slavery in the areas it then existed.

On January 12, 1906, the American Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee legalized the forward pass. Some credit Georgia Tech coach John Heisman as having popularized the idea of making the forward pass legal after seeing it in a game between Georgia and North Carolina.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was elected the first Commissioner of Baseball on January 12, 1921. Judge Landis was named after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, where his father was wounded fighting for the Union.

Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of eleven African-American Georgians elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. After his election, on January 10, 1966, the State House voted 184-12 not to seat him because of his publicly-stated opposition to the Vietnam War. After his federal lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ordered Bond seated.

True story: Julian Bond was the first Georgia State Senator I ever met, when I was in ninth grade and visited the state Capitol.

On January 14, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring Japanese-Americans, including American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as Italians and Germans to register with the federal Department of Justice. The next month, Roosevelt would have Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

On January 13, 1959, Ernest Vandiver was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia.

On January 13, 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed Robert C. Weaver head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), making Weaver the first African-American cabinet secretary in U.S. History.

Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971.

On January 13, 1982, Hank Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

January 13, 1987 saw the inauguration of Governor Joe Frank Harris to his second term in office.

On January 13, 1998, Governor Zell Miller presented his $12.5 billion FY1999 budget to the Georgia General Assembly, including $105,000 to provide CDs of classical music for every baby born in the state. According to the New York Times,

“No one questions that listening to music at a very early age affects the spatial, temporal reasoning that underlies math and engineering and even chess,” the Governor said[]. “Having that infant listen to soothing music helps those trillions of brain connections to develop.”

Mr. Miller said he became intrigued by the connection between music and child development at a series of recent seminars sponsored by the Education Commission of the States. As a great-grandfather and the author of “They Hear Georgia Singing” (Mercer University Press, 1983), an encyclopedia of the state’s musical history, Mr. Miller said his fascination came naturally.

He said that he had a stack of research on the subject, but also that his experiences growing up in the mountains of north Georgia had proved convincing.

“Musicians were folks that not only could play a fiddle but they also were good mechanics,” he said. “They could fix your car.”

Legislators, as is their wont, have ideas of their own.

“I asked about the possibility of some Charlie Daniels or something like that,” said Representative Homer M. (Buddy) DeLoach, a Republican from Hinesville, “but they said they thought the classical music has a greater positive impact.”

“Having never studied those impacts too much,” Mr. DeLoach added, “I guess I’ll just have to take their word for that at the moment.”

In 2003, on January 13 at the Georgia Dome, Sonny Perdue took the oath of office as Georgia’s second Republican Governor, the first since Reconstruction.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Click here for the full text of Gov. Deal’s address. A couple of excerpts:

This marks the eighth and final time that I come before you to report on the state of our state. In preparing to do so, I thought back on all the challenges we have faced over the better part of this past decade and all the successes we have achieved together. I considered the plans we have set into motion that will carry us well into the next decade and beyond.

I looked back on where we started in 2011, when only 111 of the 236 legislators here today were serving in this General Assembly, and was very pleased to see just how far we have come. And now, as we embark on a year of transition and set our gaze to what the future will hold, I am reminded of a parable of sorts passed down from the times of ancient Israel – one that each new generation and many different civilizations have adopted over the centuries.

As the story goes, there was once an older man who went out one day and planted a tree in his yard. A neighbor passing by saw what he was doing, stopped, shook his head, began to laugh, and said, “Old man, you are a fool. What good will it do you to plant a tree now that you are so old? You will not live long enough to be able to sit under the shade of that tree or enjoy its fruit.”

The old man rose from his knees, looked at his neighbor and replied, “I am not planting this tree for me. I am planting it for those who come after me. Some day, they will come here during the heat of the day and be cooled by the shade of this tree. When I was a small child, I could eat fruit because those who came before me had planted trees. Am I not required to do the same for the next generation?”

Seven years ago, Georgia’s unemployment rate stood at 10.4 percent. Since then, we have created roughly 675,000 new, private sector jobs and our unemployment rate is at its lowest level in over 10 years at just 4.3 percent. And on top of it all, we have been named the No. 1 state in which to do business for the fifth consecutive year.

Just this past fiscal year alone, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Global Commerce team helped to generate $6.33 billion in investment.

That outstanding growth is a result of 377 expansions and locations that cover every region of the state. Many people think that economic development projects are only happening in the Metro Atlanta region, but in fact, 80 percent of fiscal year 2017 locations took place outside the Metro Atlanta region. Our dedication is to the whole state, and the results of our top-ranked Department of Economic Development bear that out.

Today, I can say with great authority that the State of our State is not just strong, it is exceptional!

I close with the words from my first Inaugural Address in 2011:

“Let us refocus State Government on its core responsibilities and relieve our taxpayers of the burden of unnecessary programs. Let us be frugal and wise. Let us restore the confidence of our citizens in a government that is limited and efficient.  Together, let us make Georgia the brightest star in the constellation of these United States.”

As we stand beneath the trees and orchards of opportunity we have planted and look up to the heavens, we see that the light of our star now shines brightest of all, and that light will endure and not fade away…

From Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph:

The draft $26 billion budget his office published just afterward, too, was more about spending on programs that Georgia has already set up, rather than new items.

His draft budget for next year is about $1 billion more than the budget for the year that ends in June. But that difference is pretty much due to higher growth-mandated spending, the sorts of expenses that rise because a population goes up, like K-12 spending .

“There’s not a lot of discretionary funds in there,” said Chris Riley, Deal’s chief of staff. One of the biggest costs will be a new $361.7 million to shore up the pension fund for teachers. Those jumps in payments won’t go away in future budget years.

“As long as we require this rich of a program with our retirement system, we will always be required to shore it up, to infuse it with money,” said Riley.

The state will also spend a new $255.9 million to fund Medicaid growth and to offset the loss of federal funds and funds from a civil court settlement with a hospital company.

From Jill Nolin for the Dalton Daily Citizen:

Nearly $23 million is proposed for children’s mental health, with a big chunk of it going toward crisis services. About $1.1 million will go toward suicide prevention.

Nearly $800,000 is planned for children’s opioid prevention and intervention. Elsewhere, $5 million was added to continue to grow the state’s accountability courts, which offers those struggling with addiction a chance to avoid prison.

Deal’s chief of staff, Chris Riley, indicated the governor may be open to adding more funding. The governor’s office would continue to work with both chambers to identify “best practices” for combating the crisis, he said.

“We don’t necessarily have the best answer there and so, therefore, we want to work with the General Assembly in terms of that,” Riley said during a budget briefing with reporters. “So at this point you won’t see a large chunk of money there.”

From James Salzer of the AJC:

Because of the December [Federal] tax plan, Deal doesn’t know for sure how much revenue the state will collect to fund his budget because federal changes could mean Georgia will take in less money.

Because Congress has not approved a long-term renewal of the federally funded health insurance program for children, and still might cut Medicaid and other public health programs, the state doesn’t know whether it will be receiving hundreds of millions of dollars less in federal funding.

And then there’s the possibility, at some point, that Amazon will pick Atlanta as a finalist to be home to the company’s second headquarters, and the state will suddenly have to come up with a pricey incentive package.

So Deal and lawmakers start the 2018 session less certain than in most years about where the state will stand financially come spring.

“It will be very fluid,” predicted Chris Riley, the governor’s chief of staff.

Riley said the Deal administration hopes to have some kind of idea fairly soon about how much less money the state of Georgia would take in because of the federal tax law, which will cut taxes for millions of individuals and businesses.

Deal and lawmakers may try to adjust the state tax code so that the federal law doesn’t have a big impact on Georgia finances.

From the Rome News-Tribune:

Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, said he was struck by the emphasis Deal put on “planting seeds” to benefit the next generation.

“He was being reflective, putting into perspective some of the things he put into effect,” Lumsden said. “And he gave homage to his wife (Sandra Deal) and the services she performed for Georgia.”

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on Health and Human Services. She said they expect to expand some early intervention services, which she touted as the most effective way to combat larger problems — such as suicides, crime and homelessness — that can accompany mental illness in adults.

“We’ll know more after the budget hearings next week what we can possibly add … but I’m very grateful there was such a strong emphasis on his part,” Dempsey said.

She and Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, also praised Deal’s spotlight on the Technical College System of Georgia and the economic opportunities it’s creating.

From Andy Miller at Georgia Health News:

[A]bsent from the governor’s framework is money to bolster rural health care, a big legislative focus over the past year.

A group of influential lawmakers,  the House Rural Development Council, introduced in December a series of proposals to boost health care in rural Georgia. They included requiring nursing homes to have telemedicine capability, and allowing expanded responsibility for health care providers who are not physicians. The council also made recommendations to improve broadband Internet access

Another council proposal on health care was to develop a demonstration “waiver’’ program to explore extending medical coverage to more Georgians who currently have none. And the group backed a bold revamp of the state’s certificate of need (CON) laws, which govern where health care facilities can be built and what services they can offer.

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) said Thursday that she is concerned about the potential for a CON reform to put safety-net hospitals at a disadvantage.

If CON changes allow other facilities to “cherry-pick’’ privately insured patients, “then you’re creating a critical imbalance,’’ Unterman, a nurse with a longtime interest in health care policy, said at an event sponsored by the consumer group Georgians for a Healthy Future.

[U]nlike the previous year, there was no money allocated to reduce the number of people on waiting lists for home- and community-based services. More than 12,000 Georgians are on these lists.

“We are disappointed that the budget proposal does not include additional funding for older adults,” said Vicki Johnson, chair of the Georgia Council on Aging. “We will work with committees in the Georgia House and Senate to try to get additional funding included in the final budget.”

 Gov. Deal has also raised concerns over a federal proposal to allow offshore drilling in the Atlantic.

The governor’s office said in a statement Wednesday that Deal has “some concerns with opening up Georgia’s pristine coastlines which he will convey to the congressional delegation.”

The U.S. Interior Department announced the changes last week, opening up more than 90 percent of the country’s outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration and development beginning in 2019. That includes Georgia’s roughly 100 miles of coastline.

Dozens of Atlantic coastal communities, including Brunswick, Savannah and St. Marys, have signed resolutions in past years opposing exploration due to environmental, tourism and fishing concerns.

Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman, whose beachside town was ravaged by storms last year, joined the chorus of local officials who urged Deal to appeal to Trump’s White House for an exemption.

Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who lives on Sea Island, said energy independence is of prime concern to him but that officials need to make sure the returns for drilling in the Atlantic are worth the expense.

“The question is, is there anything out there? We don’t really know that yet,” he said Thursday, “and eventually we’re going to have to know that, in my opinion.”

From The Brunswick News:

Leading Georgia Republicans, typically allied with administration policy, opened up the possibility of trying to pull the Peach State from the proposal as well, or at the very least working out an independent deal with the Interior Department.

“We are reviewing the details of the administration’s latest proposal,” Amanda Maddox, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, said Wednesday. “Sen. Isakson supports American energy independence and is open to potential drilling off the Georgia coast as long as it is environmentally sound. He also wants to make sure all stakeholders, including Gov. (Nathan) Deal, industry, tourism and economic development, are properly consulted and any concerns are appropriately addressed.”

Jen Talaber Ryan, Deal’s deputy chief of staff for communications, said the governor had yet to develop a firm position.

“The governor has some concerns regarding opening up Georgia’s pristine coast and will communicate those concerns with our congressional delegation,” Ryan said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, who represents Glynn County, said in a statement that if he feels the plan will not be satisfactory, he is willing to craft a Florida-style deal with the federal government.

“At this time, I believe it makes sense to simply see what resources are available off the coasts of the United States,” Carter said. “If sufficient resources are found that will help lower energy costs and move America closer to energy independence, we then need to ensure any actions do not harm our beautiful coastline.”

Deal addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s version of the House adoption bill:

A Georgia Senate committee passed a bill this week to make the adoption process in Georgia faster and easier – and without a controversial “religious liberty” provision that Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston considered toxic.

But as [the AJC] noted yesterday, the version passed out of the committee was infused with the contents of a House measure that which the governor vetoed last year. And Deal said after his State of the State address that the changes may be too bitter of a pill to swallow.

“We’re going to continue to work with them on that,” he said. “With regard to the basic adoption bill itself, it’s far from meeting my definition of clean.”

Deal added: “We have to be certain that the amendments they added do not put us back in the situation where we don’t have unnecessary impediments or delays of preventing children that need homes from being able to have them.”

The United States Senate voted 92-0 to confirm Michael Brown as a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia.

“Michael Brown is a great lawyer, federal prosecutor and outstanding citizen of our state whose experience will serve him well on the federal bench,”  Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, said in a news release Thursday, applauding Brown’s confirmation. “I gave him my highest recommendation at his confirmation hearing, and I applaud him and the Senate on his confirmation.”

Isakson told the Senate before the vote that the courts need Brown’s life experience as a business litigator both with Alston & Bird and King & Spalding.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called him one of the great lawyers in the United States of America,” Isakson said.

Former United States Congressman Doug Barnard, Jr.(D-Augusta) has died.

A successful banker, Barnard became the first U.S. Congressman from Augusta in 72 years when he beat south Augusta politician Mike Padgett for the post in 1977. Barnard served eight terms before stepping down in 1993.

In a 2007 interview, Barnard said rescuing Georgia water projects from cutbacks being made by President Jimmy Carter was one of his crowning achievements. In 1990 he secured $15 million in federal funds to extend St. Sebastian Way, and a banking bill he introduced changed the industry when it finally passed in 1999, he said.

Barnard was a lifelong friend of former Georgia Gov. Carl Sanders, who died in 2014. Doug Barnard Jr. Parkway was named for him in 1994. Another honor was the Doug Barnard Olympic Coin bill that passed in 1996.

Former Augusta Mayor Bob Young said Barnard offered “great wisdom” when he sought the mayor’s office and remembered him fondly.

“He was a great asset to this community, a true statesman,” Young said. “He cared deeply about our city and the people who lived here.”

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis announced that the city will file suit against opioid manufacturers.

Mayor Hardie Davis announced Thursday that Augusta has filed suit against five of the largest manufacturers of opioids and the country’s three largest wholesale drug distributors, saying the firms “failed in their legal obligation to notify the Drug Enforcement Administration of suspicious orders, even as the number of pills flowing into our county rose and rose.”

The suit is not yet filed, said Burton LeBlanc, attorney with Dallas-based Baron and Budd, the lead of 10 law firms including Augusta-based Enoch Tarver retained by the Augusta Commission on Tuesday in the case. Once it’s drafted, the attorneys plan to file the suit in federal district court in Augusta, LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc, whose firm is representing nearly 185 cities and counties around the U.S., said Augusta’s suit will likely target opioid manufacturer Perdue Pharma along with distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, which account for 85 percent of the drug distribution market.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics showing opioid prescribing rates in Augusta are above the national average of 66.5 per 100 people. In 2016, the rate was 86.8 prescriptions per 100 people in Augusta while in neighboring Columbia County, the 2016 rate was 81 prescriptions per 100 people.

Damages Augusta will seek may cover the added cost of law enforcement, medical care and treatment for addiction, emergency medical care for overdoses and other expenses resulting from opioid abuse, LeBlanc said.

Monique Walker announced she will run for a seat on Richmond County State Court.

Walker, the daughter of former Georgia Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker, is seeking the judgeship held by Robert “Bo” Hunter in the May 22 nonpartisan election.

The campaign is Walker’s second run for state court. In 2016 she lost a three-way contest to complete the term of John Flythe, who resigned to run for judge of superior court.

Rey Martinez was sworn in as the first Hispanic Mayor of Loganville.

Martinez, who was born in Puerto Rico to Cuban parents, became the first Hispanic mayor of a city in either Gwinnett or Walton counties — Loganville straddles the line between both. He is also believed to be the first Hispanic mayor of any city in Georgia.

“I have to pinch myself,” Martinez said. “Who would have thought 10 years ago, five years ago, even a year ago that I would be standing here — a young man who came to the States at the age of 8 with English as my second language?”

Loganville’s history-making night was a big draw. Not only were several residents in attendance, but several mayors, city council members and county officials from Gwinnett and Walton counties, state Rep. Tom Kirby, former state legislator Melvin Everson, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp were in attendance.

Martinez is a retired member of the U.S. Navy who has lived in Loganville for 10 years and served on the City Council from 2011-17. He was the city’s vice mayor in 2015, and served as chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee from 2012-17, and chairman of its Public Works Committee from 2011-12.

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him to serve on the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity in 2015, and he served as the head of Hispanics for Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter is threatening a $5 million dollar lawsuit against the county.

Nearly a year after Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter sparked controversy by calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” on Facebook, a document has emerged showing that his lawyer threatened to file a $5 million lawsuit against other commissioners for sanctioning him over the remarks.

Attorney Dwight Thomas sent the Ante Litem Notice to county attorneys in November, informing them that Hunter would be filing a federal lawsuit over the written reprimand county commissioners leveled against the District III commissioner last June. Hunter’s lawyer said the reprimand caused ongoing and permanent economic and non-economic damage to Hunter.

“Free speech and political expression under the Georgia and Federal Constitution is a clearly established right,” Thomas wrote in the notice. “My client intends to bring an action for damages against the Gwinnett County commission, individually and officially, for violation and continued violation of his constitution rights pursuant to the first, fifth, sixth, eighth and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution and state law claims per the Georgia Constitution and the laws of Georgia.”

The notice sent to county officials said Hunter would seek a settlement for damages of “not less than” $5 million. Although the notice was dated Nov. 13, no lawsuit could be found in the online federal court case system.

Attorney Ken Jarrard, who sent the county’s response to Thomas notice denied Hunter had any basis for a lawsuit over the reprimand, and asserted the commissioner was not retaliated against for his actions.

Jarrard said the Board of Commissioners also had free speech protections under the First Amendment, which allowed it to issue the reprimand.

Chatham County broke ground on construction of a new Memorial Stadium.

Cobb County Commission Chair Mike Boyce will deliver the State of the County address on January 22.

Joe Hunt announced he will run for Congress in the 10th District as a Republican, against incumbent Rep. Jody Hice.

As the current Vice President of Franchise Relations, Hunt is responsible for improving the quality of relationships between the corporate entity of Zaxby’s Franchising, LLC, and its individual franchise operators.

Earlier this year, Hunt announced that he would run as a Republican Candidate for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District in the upcoming election for the U.S. House of Representatives, against the incumbent, Jody Hice.

“I’m running because I feel there are people on both sides of our political system who hold radical views and have hijacked both parties in Washington,” Hunt said. “However, I believe that most Americans, like our neighbors here in Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, are reasonable people who share a mix of social and political views, and simply want to see both parties act.”

“I’m running because my family and I deserve more sensible, more logical, and more practical representation in Washington, and so do my fellow residents in Georgia,” Hunt said. “The citizens are the ones who lose when policy becomes about winning rather than helping. I plan to use my experience building and nurturing relationships to promote and fight for solutions that benefit the greater good. I want to be the voice that introduces new, sensible ideas that move the country forward and promote fiscal responsibility and social accountability.”

The City of Hampton has suspended official social media posting until a policy is adopted to govern social media use.

Social media pages for the city of Hampton have been suspended pending the approval of a city social media policy.

Interim City Manager Derrick Austin said during Tuesday’s meeting the decision came after a recent lawsuit threat against the Henry County Police Department for its alleged misuse of Facebook.

The letter indicated the HCPD had blocked more than 220 people and demanded that the HCPD restore posting privileges of each of the people that the offices “wrongfully blocked and have restored the commenting privileges to all of those whom government officials unlawfully blocked.”

11
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 11, 2018

Sugar Plum

Sugar Plum is a young, 32-pound female Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Bainbridge – Decatur County Humane Society in Bainbridge, GA. She is a sweet and well-behaved girl! She is friendly and about 1-2 years old.

Milly Bainbridge

Milly is a female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Bainbridge – Decatur County Humane Society in Bainbridge, GA.

Pepper Bainbridge

Pepper is a young female Catahoula Leopard Dog mix who is available for adoption from the Bainbridge – Decatur County Humane Society in Bainbridge, GA.

11
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 11, 2018

On January 11, 1765, Francis Salvador of South Carolina became the first Jewish elected official in America when he took a seat in the South Carolina Provincial Congress. Salvador’s grandfather was one of 42 Jews who emigrated to Georgia in 1733. Salvador later became the first Jewish soldier to die in the American Revolution.

On January 11, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument.

“Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Marvin Griffin of Bainbridge was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 11, 1955.

Marvin Griffin Monument

The first inauguration of Governor Joe Frank Harris was held on January 11, 1983.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal yesterday spoke to the Georgia Chamber’s “Eggs and Issues” breakfast, delivering a speech titled, “Nothin’ Lame about this Duck.” Here’s the money quote.

A major brand we hope to welcome to Georgia in the coming year is, of course, Amazon with its forthcoming HQ2 announcement. Like everyone else in this room and under the Gold Dome, I am excited by this prospect. Rest assured that we have made a strong, highly competitive offer that highlights all that makes us unique and truly the best place for any company to do business – our skilled workforce, our strengthening infrastructure, our business-friendly policies and our connection to the global market.

Given the nature of Amazon’s announcement and the frenzied publicity it has generated, many people suddenly have a lot of advice about what we should do. Do not listen to those voices!

It may be months before Amazon makes a decision or even narrows their choices, and we have many important issues to consider in the interim during this legislative session. We cannot waste valuable time, energy and effort when what we should be doing is focusing on enhancing those issues which have already made us an attractive candidate to Amazon.

We have opportunities over the next few months to strengthen our education system, improve the health and safety of our youngest citizens and invest in our network of transportation infrastructure. We cannot allow those opportunities to pass us by as we wait on another.

Until such a time as we are given notice that we are on the shortlist of candidates, it would be very unwise for this session of the General Assembly to consume valuable time trying to guess what Amazon is going to do. Such speculation may in fact do us more harm than good.

To those who believe we should instead spend that time passing Amazon-specific legislation, let me assure you that if Georgia makes the list of final three contenders for HQ2, I will call a special session so that we can make whatever statutory changes are required to accommodate a business opportunity of this magnitude. To do so before we know where we stand would be presumptuous on our part and premature.

As we know, there is a time and a season for all things; and when the right time comes, we will focus our full attention and efforts on the success Amazon can enjoy by bringing their second headquarters to Georgia.

From the Gainesville Times:

But the announcement has also prompted hand-wringing from lawmakers and lobbyists worried about laws (especially those dealing with social issues and taxes) that might push Amazon away from their state.

On Wednesday, Deal asked the chamber audience to get their lawmakers on board with constitutional changes to the court system that would create a business court open to “provide an efficient and dependable forum to litigants in every corner of the state for the resolution of complex matters,” Deal said.

A business court would resolve complex legal questions affecting businesses and corporations in Georgia, but the constitutional amendment requires supermajority support from the General Assembly and popular support through a ballot measure.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

He outlined some initiatives he wants to undertake in his final year as governor, such as upgrading 11 regional airports in mostly rural counties, putting $35 million in the state budget for the Savannah port deepening project and implementing recommendations from his Court Reform Council.

The airports that Deal is targeting for upgrades are located in Burke, Colquitt, Cook, Coweta, Macon, Morgan, Newton, Polk, Seminole, Washington and Wilkes counties.

The improvements at the airports in Burke, Colquitt, Cook, Macon, Morgan, Polk, Seminole, Washington and Wilkes counties are intended to spur economic development in those rural areas.

“Many of the towns and cities in these counties lack direct access to our interstate highway system and are unlikely to have such access in the foreseeable future,” the governor said. “Their airports provide the best option for job creators interested in viewing their resources.

“Therefore, these upgraded airports will provide rural Georgia with a competitive advantage and a strong boost in their efforts to attract new companies.”

Meanwhile, the improvements at the airports in Coweta and Newton counties are intended to relieve demand on other regional airports in metro Atlanta.

The governor said the improvements at all 11 airports should have economic development benefits.

Governor Deal will deliver the State of the State Address today at 11 AM in the House Chamber. Click here to watch the live stream.

Both Chambers convene this morning at 10 AM.

The House and Senate Joint Transportation Committee meets today at Noon in 506 CLOB.

The Georgia Senate Retirement Committee meets today at 3 PM in 310 CLOB.

The Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee adopted an amended version of the House adoption bill yesterday.

A bill to make adoptions in Georgia faster and easier passed a state Senate committee Wednesday, without controversial “religious liberty” provisions that stalled the legislation last year.

But senators changed the adoption legislation, House Bill 159, in other ways that could hurt its chances of becoming law.

The amended version of the bill includes a proposal Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last year, limits expense payments to birth mothers and partially reinstates waiting periods before adoptions can be finalized.

The version that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on an 8-2 vote Wednesday could receive a vote by the full Senate by the end of next week. It would then return to the House, which unanimously approved its version of the bill last year.

Both Deal and Ralston demanded a “clean” version of the bill this year, stripped of discriminatory language. It’s unclear whether the Senate’s revisions will be satisfactory when the bill returns to the House.

State Sen. Josh McKoon said senators decided to focus on adoptions and deal with religious protections later.

“Modernizing the adoption code is more important than dealing with that issue within this bill,” said McKoon, R-Columbus. “It’s disappointing to me that we have people engaged in this process for whom it’s evidently more important for them to get their way on the bill than to provide common-sense protections for faith-based adoption agencies.”

From The Valdosta Daily Times:

State representatives are urging their Senate colleagues to pass an adoption bill that stalled last year after a religious liberty amendment was added.

“It’s great to be a Georgia bulldog, but it’s not great to be a Georgia orphan or a Georgia family seeking adoption,” Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, said in the House Chamber Tuesday, which was the second day of the new session.

State Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White) introduced Senate Bill 315 to criminalize any unauthorized use of a computer.

Attorney General Chris Carr said Georgia is one of only three states in the nation where it’s not illegal to access a computer as long as nothing is disrupted or stolen.

“This doesn’t make any sense. Unlawfully accessing any computer in Georgia should be a crime, and we must fix this loophole,” Carr said in a statement. “This bill will help us more effectively fight cybercrime in our state.”

Any equipment used to access a computer without permission would be considered contraband, subject to forfeiture to the state, according to the legislation.

From the Daily Report:

Thompson dropped the bill in the first hours of the 2018 legislative session Monday, Carr said. Co-sponsors include Republican Sens. John Albers of Alpharetta, Bill Cowsert of Athens, Butch Miller of Gainesville, Renee Unterman of Buford and Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga. The bill would create the new crime of unauthorized computer access and make it punishable as a misdemeanor of a “high and aggravated nature.”

“Unlawfully accessing any computer in Georgia should be a crime, and we must fix this loophole,” Carr said. “By adding greater protections and penalties against unauthorized computer access, we believe this bill will help us more effectively fight cybercrime in our state.”

House Bill 51 by State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) addressing college treatment of sexual assault claims, may have a second chance in the Senate, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

On the second day of the 2018 session, the state Senate voted without debate to move House Bill 51 to a new committee after the Senate Judiciary Committee left it in legislative limbo without a vote last year.

The measure’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Earl Ehrhart of Powder Springs, has said safeguards are needed to prevent campus disciplinary proceedings from tarnishing the reputations of students accused of rapes and assaults while denying them due process.

Opponents argue Ehrhart’s bill would discourage some victims from seeking help on campus by requiring schools to report felonies, including sexual assaults, to police.

The House approved the measure last year before it ran into problems in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The full Senate on Tuesday agreed to move the bill to the chamber’s Higher Education Committee.

State Rep. Patty James Bentley (D-Butler) introduced House Bill 667, which would have the effect of requiring instant replay in high school football playoffs and championships.

State Rep. Patty James Bentley said she filed the bill because of what happened with the Peach County High School football team back in December. That was when a controversial call cost Peach County a late-game touchdown in the state 3A football championship.

“Technology is so advanced now, there’s no reason they should not have this already in place,” she said, referring to the Georgia High School Association, which organizes public high school sports.

“It should not be that expensive, so they shouldn’t have to pass a huge financial burden onto schools that are members of the association,” said Bentley.

Bentley, a Democrat, represents part of Peach County. Republican Robert Dickey, who represents the other part, also signed House Bill 667.

State Rep. John Carson (R-Cobb) introduced House Bill 673, designed to limit distracted driving.

While it is already against state law to text while driving, police are required to prove motorists have sent a message from behind the wheel, which police say makes the law virtually unenforceable.

“Public safety personnel made it very clear to us that the texting law is ineffective,” Carson said at a press conference called on the second floor of the Gold Dome. “They simply don’t know whether a driver is texting.”

The number of motorists killed on Georgia’s roads has increased in recent years and Carson said he hopes to reduce the number of deaths by changing driver behavior. There were more than 1,500 motor vehicle fatalities in the state in each of the last two years, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

House Bill 673, the hands-free bill introduced Wednesday, would allow motorists to touch their phones once to initiate a call or their navigation apps, but that’s it. Fifteen states and Washington D.C. have similar laws on the books aimed at keeping phones out of drivers’ hands.

Carson’s bill would also increase the fines and penalties assessed on drivers caught using their phones behind the wheel, from a $150 fine and one point on a motorist’s driving record to a $300 to $450 fine on first offenses and a three-point penalty.

Georgia State Patrol Col. Mark McDonough said today’s society has an addiction to electronic devices.

“The fact of the matter is crashes are increasing because of that addictive response to this,” he said, holding up his phone to the reporters gathered under the rotunda. “We have to change behavior … If your eyes are on a cellphone they can’t be on the roadway in front of you.”

Senator Matt Brass (R-Newnan) will Chair the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee.

“It’s an honor to be appointed to serve as Chairman of the Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee for the 2018 session,” said Sen. Brass.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is asking for federal hearings on a proposal to allow offshore oil drilling.

“While I applaud the Trump administration for moving forward with a plan to increase America’s energy independence, I am committed to ensuring any moves are made in the best interest of the First District,” U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter said in a press release. “This starts with having an open and honest discussion here on the coast where Coastal Georgians can ask questions and let their voices be heard. I will absolutely be helping to facilitate this meeting and I will stay in contact with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management until it happens.”

The Trump Administration last week announced plans to consider almost all of the U.S. coast, more than 90 percent of the offshore continental shelf, for exploration and drilling. The current plan, by comparison, puts only 6 percent on the table. Gone also is the 50-mile buffer previously included in the Obama administration’s five-year plan. The new draft plan from BOEM proposes three lease sales in the South Atlantic planning area that includes Georgia. There have been no sales in the Atlantic since 1983 and there are no existing leases.

The current schedule of BOEM meetings includes one in each coastal state, at the state’s capital. The Atlanta meeting is the last one, scheduled for Feb. 28. At about a 200-mile distance from the coast, the meeting will be farther away from Savannah than future oil rigs could be.

Carter, R-Ga., continues to support what he calls an “all of the above” energy strategy that includes offshore drilling and exploration.

Former Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan qualified for the Special Election to retake the Mayor’s Office from which he was removed last yeat by a vote of City Council.

Grogan, 75, is seeking to finish a term that he started on Jan. 1, 2016 that was unceremoniously cut short by a vote of city council last year.

If elected during the March 20 special election, Grogan would be working with two city council members who voted for his removal in May of 2016, Caleb Phillips and Jason Power. One of the council members who voted to remove him, Angie Smith, and another who did not, Mike Sosebee,  were defeated in the November election by newcomers Mark French and Stephen Tolson, who took office Jan. 1.

Grogan said Jan. 2 that if elected, he would be ready to work with the new council and move forward.

Grogan served on the city council from 2010 to 2012, and was appointed acting mayor in April 2012 after the death of Joe Lane Cox. He won the July 31, 2012 special election and was re-elected in 2015 for a four-year term.

The elected mayor will serve the remainder of Grogan’s unexpired term, until Dec. 31, 2019.

Lowndes County Commission voted against granting a church a property tax refund on property that is not exempt.

 In a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the county denied a church’s claim that a daycare center it operates qualified as a place of religious worship, making it exempt from property taxes.

Union Cathedral Church requested a refund of taxes from the county on property the church uses as a daycare, which is not exempt like churches. The property is located at 1903 N. Forrest St.

The Lowndes County Commission voted against the request, with Chairman Bill Slaughter being required to vote in order to break a tie.

Commissioners Clay Griner and Scott Orenstein voted in favor of denying the claim and commissioners Mark Wisenbaker and Joyce Evans voted against it.

Commissioner Demarcus Marshall recused himself from voting as his daughter attends the daycare center in question.

Brandon Garrett announced he will run for Augusta Commission District 8.

Brandon Garrett, an account executive for Lamar Advertising, said he wants to bring energy and unity to the commission.

District 8 is the largest and most rural of Augusta’s eight regular commission districts. It includes most of Fort Gordon and the municipalities of Hephzibah and Blythe and stretches east along the southern boundary of Augusta-Richmond County to the Savannah River.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle is completing his second term on the commission representing District 8 and is term-limited. Elections for nonpartisan commission seats are May 22.

Garrett, who serves on Augusta’s planning commission, said he realized almost immediately that building an arena at the vacant Regency Mall site was a bad idea and his neighbors mostly agree.

Navicent Health in middle Georgia is restricting visitors under age 12 due to flu concerns.

The new visitation policy applies to the Medical Center, Navicent Health Baldwin, the Medical Center of Peach County and Navicent Health and Rehabilitation Hospital.

“Our policies and actions are designed to protect those at greatest risk during the flu season,” Dr. Chris Hendry, Navicent Health’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in the news release.

Georgia is one of 46 states to report widespread cases of the flu this year, according to the CDC website.

Don’t be offended if I don’t shake your hand – I cannot afford under any circumstance to get sick. Thank you.

Mary Susan Powers and Vanessa Hope Weeks qualified for a special election on March 20, 2018 to Hoschton City Council.

[City Clerk Wendy] Wilson said city leaders are anticipating a second special election later this year, with Councilwoman Tracy Jordan expected to step down in May to make a run for Georgia Insurance Commissioner.

Floyd County Sheriff Tim Burkhalter announced he will not run for reelection in 2020.

Sheriff Tim Burkhalter said he isn’t running for sheriff again in 2020 on Wednesday, and current Chief of Operations Tom Caldwell announced his candidacy.

“I am pleased to announce my candidacy for sheriff to succeed my long-time friend and one of the best to ever hold the position,” Caldwell said.

Sheriff Tim Burkhalter’s term expires in 2020 at the end of his fourth term in that post. Burkhalter said while it’s still several years down the road, the prospect of doing something a little different sounds good after thirty plus years at the FCSO.

“Transparency in our operations, a more modern and professional sheriff’s office with a strong commitment to community involvement have made the foundation for our successes,” Caldwell said. “My experience over these 13 years as chief of operations gives me the unique insight to understand the critical operations and constitutional duties of this office. I believe this will ensure a smooth transition so that we can continue to improve as an agency and dispense a better delivery of services to the community.”

Caldwell is going to run for the office as a Republican.

Newnan Mayor Keith Brady was sworn-in for a new term.

The Newnan Planning Commission approved a proposal to regulate short-term rentals like AirBNB.

The commission met Tuesday night and heard a proposal from City Planner Dean Smith. Smith outlined rules that would limit the number of guests, require notice to neighboring property owners and set up a grievance process.

After discussion, the planning board approved Smith’s proposal and added rules relating to parking. The proposal now goes to the Newnan City Council.

Technically, the concept is illegal in Newnan. Boarding houses, which allow people to rent rooms for short periods, are allowed only in locations grandfathered in because they were in business before a major zoning overhaul in 2000.

“We have the option of just saying this is a prohibited use,” Smith advised the commission. He told them some city residents have stayed in Air B&B spaces in other places and would like to see people have that experience in Newnan.

General Beauregard Lee, Gwinnett County’s most-famous rodent, has moved from the now-closed Yellow River Game Ranch to Butts County.

The groundhog is now housed at Dauset Trails Nature Center, which will carry on the Groundhog Day tradition with a ceremony on Feb. 2.

The Yellow River Game Ranch closed suddenly in mid-December after 62 years in operation as a home to injured and neglected animals, including some wild game animals that couldn’t be released into the wild. It also let the public come in and interact with the animals in a petting zoo format.

“Since they had to close, we offered to transfer some animals to Dauset Trails, including Gen. Lee,” said Gordon Respess, a naturalist at Dauset Trails Nature Center near Jackson.

Respess said the workers there are still finishing the exhibit where the general will live, so he is not yet on public display. Respess said Lee will make his debut during the Groundhog Day celebration, which will be held at sunrise, around 7:30 a.m.

10
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 10, 2018

Icelynn

Icelynn is a female Chihuahua and Dachshund mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Henry County Humane Society in McDonough, GA.

Apollo

Apollo is a young male Labrador Retriever and Great Dane mix puppy who is available for adoption from Street Paws, Inc. in McDonough, GA.

Apollo is one of five fabulous lab hound puppies. He is such sweet and fun baby boy. These puppies are all very smart. They are crate trained, know how to sit, and absolutely love playing fetch. They are all doing really well with house training and not much longer these babies will be fully house trained. Apollo and his siblings all love to play and they know the value of cuddling. These babies get along with everyone including kids, cats, and other dogs.

Onyx Street Paws

Onyx is a young male Labrador Retriever and Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from Street Paws, Inc. in McDonough, GA.

Onyx is one of five pups. He is such sweet and fun baby boy. These puppies are all very smart. They are crate trained, learning how to sit and working on potty training. Onyx and his siblings all love to play and they know the value of cuddling. These babies get along with everyone including kids, and other dogs. Onyx would do better in a home without cats.

10
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 10, 2018

On January 10, 1868, the Georgia Equal Rights Association was formed in Augusta.

On January 10, 1870, the Georgia General Assembly convened and seated African-American legislators who had been expelled in 1868.

Eugene Talmadge was sworn-in to his first term as Governor of Georgia on January 10, 1933.

Talmadge fired elected officials who resisted his authority. Others were thrown out of their offices. Literally.

After Julian Bond’s election to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, the chamber voted against seating him ostensibly because he had publicly state his opposition to the war in Vietnam. On January 10, 1967, after the United States Supreme Court held the legislature had denied Bond his right to free speech, he was seated as a member of the State House.

Georgia Native James Brown was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Shame Fame on January 10, 1997.

Governor Nathan Deal was sworn-in as the 82d Governor of Georgia on January 10, 2011 while snow shut down the planned public Inaugural.

Under the Gold Dome

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets today at 4 PM in Room 307 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

The House Ways and Means Committee meets today at 1 PM in Room 406 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former State Rep.  Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) was elected yesterday to State Senate District 17, winning nearly 62% of votes among a field of four.

From HenryHerald.com:

Republican Brian Strickland of McDonough, who served the last five years as the House District 111 representative, will move into the vacated Senate District 17 post following his win in a special election Tuesday. Strickland, an attorney, is replacing fellow Republican Rick Jeffares, who resigned his post earlier this year to concentrate on his run for lieutenant governor.

Of the 133,001 registered voters in Senate District 17, only 9,060 cast ballots in the special election, a paltry 6.82 percent of the voters.

Republican Geoffrey Cauble (R-McDonough) was elected to the House District 111 seat vacated by Strickland, garnering just over 51% among four candidates.

Cauble said he was excited about his win and what he could do for Henry County.

“We want to continue to grow and diversify the economy,” Cauble said Tuesday night. “I’m all about workforce education, economic growth and infrastructure. We have a delegation focused on building the foundation for Henry County’s future success.

“I love Henry County and the people here,” Cauble continued. “The future is bright and I’m excited to be a part of that.”

Cauble is a general contractor and currently serves as the chairman of the Henry County Development Authority.

The AJC Political Insider writes that Rep. Rich Golick’s decision not to run for reelection opens the door for a possible Democratic pickup.

House District 40, which runs east-west along the intersection of I-75 and I-285, has become increasingly competitive. The timeline has been relentless:

– In 2012, Golick ran unopposed.

– In 2014, a Democratic opponent, Erick Allen, made his first appearance and pulled 40 percent of the vote. (Allen is a former division director with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities.)

– In 2016, Allen again challenged Golick, this time getting more than 46 percent of the vote. Worse, Allen spent $26,159 in his bid. The incumbent Republican spent nearly seven times that.

Other measurements: House District 40 went for Republican David Perdue (52 percent) over Democrat Michelle Nunn in the 2014 race for U.S. Senate, but went for Hillary Clinton (54 percent) over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential contest. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican, barely carried it in his 2016 re-election bid.

Given that 2018 is likely to be a backlash year for Republicans, the seat could be a hard one to hold — not unlike the Senate District Six seat lost by Republicans in a special election last year. The two districts have significant overlap.

State Rep. Clay Cox (R-Lilburn) was named Vice Chair of the House Juvenile Justice Committee.

“As state leaders, it is essential that we protect our state’s most vulnerable citizens — our children and youth,” Cox said in a statement. “The Juvenile Justice Committee plays a critical role in ensuring all of our state’s children are taken care of, and it is an honor to serve in this new leadership role.

“I look forward to working diligently on behalf of Georgia’s children as vice chairman of the Juvenile Justice Committee.”

Cox is in his second stint in the House of Representatives. He previously served in the chamber from 2005-11. He was re-elected to the chamber by voters in 2016.

State legislators are unlikely to seek a Medicaid waiver this year.

“Everybody wants to talk about waivers,” Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, said Monday at the final meeting of the Senate’s Health Care Reform Task Force, which has been meeting for the last year.

“Waivers – at this point in my mind – is kind of getting the cart before the horse because they’re highly, highly technical,” Burke said.

The task force’s report, which was released Monday, noted two different waiver options: One lets a state experiment with restructuring its health-care market. Another allows a state to try different approaches to Medicaid, such as adding work requirements.

Burke said afterwards that it would be difficult to pursue a waiver this legislative session, which started Monday. Rather, the panel sees an opportunity to possibly tee up the issue for next year, he said.

“I think we need to know what our goals are before we start writing waivers,” Burke said at the meeting.

“In our mind, this has got to be driven from the executive branch,” said Burke, who is carrying the measure and who serves on the task force. “This has got to be a priority of the state.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle campaigned in Columbus last night.

Cagle, a Republican candidate for governor to fill the office held by Gov. Nathan Deal, was the featured speaker for about 70 supporters during the Muscogee County Republican Party’s monthly meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel on Sidney Simons Boulevard. He faces a crowded field for the Republican nomination with Secretary of State Brian Kemp, former state Sen. Hunter Hill and Sen. Michael Williams.

After attending a fundraiser in downtown Columbus on Thursday, Cagle returned to the city to focus on planning for a state projected to grow by 4.5 million people, expanding broadband connections, allowing choice in education and improving the infrastructure.

“Georgia is expected to grow by 4.5 million people so we have to be ready to plan in what that growth is going to look like,” he said.

A top priority is to build the infrastructure in road and bridges to support the growth. “We’ve got to be willing to have a 10-year strategic plan to think out of the box to go under, over and around things of that nature,” he said before the meeting.

Alton Russell, chairman of the Muscogee County Republican Party, said about 100 people were expected for the event. Other candidates attending the event included attorney Josh McKoon , a candidate for Secretary of State, and Vance Smith, who is seeking a House seat.

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash will deliver the State of the County on February 14 at 11:30 at Infinite Energy Center.

Lawyers for Glynn County moved to dismiss a lawsuit over short-term rentals.

Glynn County’s attorneys want a lawsuit filed last year dismissed because they say the zoning ordinance doesn’t prohibit vacation rentals in certain neighborhoods on St. Simons Island.

Catherine Kyker, a resident of the King City neighborhood near the Pier Village, filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus in Glynn County Superior Court in November. A writ of mandamus is a legal ruling requiring a government entity to fulfill a legally required duty if a court finds it was not doing so.

The court filing claims short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in residential areas zoned R-6. An R-6 lot is one smaller than 6,000 square feet.

In the motion to dismiss, the county’s lawyers state, among other things, that the Glynn County zoning ordinance doesn’t prohibit vacation rentals in R-6 neighborhoods.

Kyker’s initial court filing cited section 302 of the zoning ordinance, which reads “The term dwelling shall not be deemed to include a hotel, motel, rooming house, hospital or other accommodations used for more or less transient (purposes).”

Kyker’s lawyer argued that the definition of dwelling precludes short-term rentals from being a permitted use in residential areas.

9
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 9, 2018

Cole Dirt Road

Cole is an adult male Treeing Walker Coonhound who is available for adoption from Dirt Road Doggies Rescue, INC in Gillsville, GA.

Cole acts and appears to be a pure-bred Walker Treeing Coonhound. He has been an absolute joy to have around the house with his loving and laid back nature. He gets along great with other dogs and family members. He has not been tested off leash with cats, but he knows when the cat has been nearby and looks for him.

Be advised he has been trained to hunt and will become very intense when he gets on a scent and will want to follow it. For this reason, Cole, will be best suited for a family with a large backyard and a tall fence and does not plan to leave Cole unattended for long periods of time. Cole would be fine being the only dog in a family as he loves attention and the comforts of being indoors.

He has escaped once from his foster family but was easy to find by following his distinct bay. He was found at the base of a tree patiently waiting for his foster family, with his prey hoping we would get him and move along quickly. Cole is approximately 3 years old, altered, crate trained, micro-chipped, approximately 70 lbs. and up to date on all shots, but is heartworm positive. He begins his treatment soon and should be ready for adoption around the end of May or early June.

Houdini Dirt Road

Houdini is a male American Bulldog & Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Dirt Road Doggies Rescue, INC in Gillsville, GA.

Hello there! I am a strong, 67 pound, fun-loving, 4 year old American Bulldog who loves car rides, leash walking and pleasing my human! I like to dance for my food and give really big kisses! I love couches and belly scratches and I even like bath time! I don’t like to be left alone in the yard, by myself, because I miss my humans so much, I’ll do anything to be with them. I’m really great at digging… by the way! I do enjoy being in my cozy crate when my humans have to leave. My foster mommy says I can’t be around cats, rabbits, or farm animals. And, small dogs remind me of the aforementioned so I probably shouldn’t have a little dog as a sibling.. especially of the bossy variety. But, I do like dogs that are more my size… especially if they love to wrestle like I do!

I really just want a family of my own so I can give hugs and kisses and make them happy! It makes me happy when my humans are happy! And, my smiles are contagious! You definitely need to meet me.. I’m a really cool guy!

Allen HSNEGA

Allen is a male Mastiff & American Bulldog mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville, GA.

9
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 9, 2018

The first modern circus was held in London on January 9, 1768.

Thomas Paine published a pamphlet titled, “Common Sense” on January 9, 1776. The pamphlet is considered to have united colonists to the cause of American independence.

Herman Talmadge was sworn-in to his second term as Governor of Georgia on January 9, 1951.

Segregated seating on Atlanta buses was held unconstitutional by a federal court on January 9, 1959.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter arrived in Athens to register at the University of Georgia on January 9, 1961.

Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, debuted the iPhone on January 9, 2007.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in the dispute between Georgia and Florida over water from the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers.

Supreme Court justices on Monday seemed sympathetic to Florida officials who complain that their neighbors to the north in Georgia are hogging water in a way that endangers a sensitive Sunshine State estuary.

But while the court seemed to think “common sense” and maybe even physics favored Florida, the powerful U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not — it favors Georgia, and even the Supreme Court’s clout might not be enough to overcome that.

“There’s nothing common-sense about the operations of this basin,” said Craig S. Primis, a Washington lawyer representing the state of Georgia, who spent much of his time at the lectern during oral arguments fighting questions about why capping Georgia’s consumption of river water would not necessarily result in more water downstream.

“It is incredibly complicated,” he said.

Florida has sued to impose consumption caps on Georgia, saying the reduced flow of the water, especially during droughts, has harmed its ecosystem.

Ralph I. Lancaster Jr., a special master appointed by the Supreme Court to study the issue, agreed Florida had been harmed. But he ruled that the Corps really controls the flow of water and that Florida had not met its obligation to show that the caps it would impose in Georgia would actually benefit Florida.

Governor Nathan Deal will speak at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast on Wednesday at 8 AM at the Georgia World Congress Center. On Thursday, he will deliver the State of the State at 11 AM in the House Chamber. At 2 PM on Wednesday, Chief of Staff Chris Riley and Office of Planning and Budget Director Teresa MacCartney will deliver a press briefing on the Governor’s budget proposal.

Gov. Deal announced last week that state revenues were up 10 percent in December over the same month a year before.

Georgia’s net tax collections for December totaled $2.26 billion, for an increase of $206.1 million, or 10 percent, compared to last year when net tax collections totaled nearly $2.06 billion. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled $11.3 billion, for an increase of $444.7 million, or 4.1 percent, over December 2016, when net tax revenues totaled roughly $10.86 billion six months into the fiscal year.

Individual Income Tax collections for the month totaled $1.26 billion, up from approximately $1.11 billion in December 2016, for an increase of approximately $146 million, or 13.1 percent.

Georgia State Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) was formally elected President Pro Tempore in the opening minutes of yesterday’s first legislative day of the 2018 Session. From the Gainesville Times:

A significant moment came before noon in the Senate when Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, was officially voted in as Senate president pro tem — making him the second-in-command of the Senate. Miller is now second only to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, president of the Senate.

An often-discussed issue around the legislature Monday, and in the days leading up to the session, has been the 2017 adoption reform bill that died in the final hours of the previous session. Both Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston have called for a “clean” version of the bill to be passed by lawmakers early in the session.

Miller told The Times on Monday that the bill was “an important bill for Georgia, and it’s an even more important bill for families.” He said lawmakers had a responsibility to make adoption “as seamless as possible” in Georgia, and that a bill would be coming in the first weeks of the session.
Miller noted those issues and a few others as being on the legislative agenda this year: economic development and reform of criminal and juvenile justice — including additional changes to law enforcement pay in the state.

The senator also said he intends to continue reforms to the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

“We’ve made great progress in the DFCS area, but there’s a lot to be done,” Miller said, noting that he aimed to get a bill through that makes changes to “staffing levels” and “credentialing” of employees to get the “right people in the right positions and (help) the agencies — and agencies in general — find the right people and attract the right kind of talent.”

He said he would have a better grasp of legislative priorities in the Senate by the end of the week.

State Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) gave his last speech as Senate President Pro Tem, as he runs for Lieutenant Governor.

Shafer recalled joining the Senate midway through the 2002 session. At the time, Republicans held 21 seats in the Senate and were therefore the chamber’s minority party. Shafer’s seat mate in the Senate was then-Sen. Casey Cagle.

“Most of us believed that we would eventually become the majority party, but none of us realistically thought that moment was only months away,” Shafer said.

“While I cannot say that I have enjoyed every minute of my time in the legislature, as I survey the last seventeen years, I feel immense gratitude at the opportunity to be part of what we have accomplished together.”

Shafer also told the Senate that he is proud of some of the things that have come from the chamber over the years including a shift toward zero-based budgeting and amending the state Constitution to cap the state income tax.

“And I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had to participate in the work of this body,” he said. “I am especially grateful for the opportunity to serve as your president pro tem.”

State Representative Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) announced he will not run for reelection this year.

Golick, one of Cobb’s longest-tenured legislators, was first elected to the State House of Representatives in 1998.

“… After 20 years of service, I will be retiring from the State House at the end of this term. Over the holidays, I took a hard look at the calendar, and the fact is my younger son will be heading off to college in less than four years. When I was growing up, it was just my mother and myself, and I remember very clearly how difficult that was for me. I promised myself many years ago that I would be a fully engaged father to my two sons — especially during the all-important teenage years — but there’s just no way for me to keep that promise completely if I’m running a time-consuming campaign this summer and fall — in addition to fulfilling my private sector job responsibilities — and then serving an additional two years in the State House on top of that. The choice was clear and obvious.

State Senate District 17 and House District 111 are up for grabs today, as voters go to the polls.

Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, resigned to focus on his bid for lieutenant governor. Rep. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, resigned the House District 111 seat to run for the seat Jeffares ceded.

Candidates for the District 17 Senate seat are Conyers pastor Phyllis Hatcher; McDonough business owner Nelva Lee; Strickland, a McDonough attorney; and retired civil engineer Ed Toney, of Hampton.

Hatcher is a Democrat while Lee, Strickland and Toney are Republicans.

Senate District 17 includes southern and eastern Newton County and splits Covington. Jeffares served the district since 2011.

House District 111 includes part of Henry County, and its candidates also have been invited to Thursday’s forum. Running for the House seat are Democrats Tarji Leonard Dunn, a real estate broker, and El-Mahdi Holly, a substitute teacher from Stockbrige, as well as Republicans Geoffrey Cauble, a general contractor from Locust Grove, and Larry K. Morey, a real estate developer from McDonough.

In both races, all four candidates will appear on the same ballot. If no candidate receives more than half the votes, the top two vote-getters will meet in a runoff on Feb. 6.

Three State Senators received new committee chair assignments. Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) was named Chair of the Georgia Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee. Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) will chair the Senate Public Safety Committee. Senator Greg Kirk (R-Americus) will chair the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle’s Health Care Reform Task Force issued its recommendations.

The Senate Health Care Reform Task Force’s steps may eventually lead to big solutions. It recommended the formation of two groups to research the state’s health care needs, form a strategic plan and make their own recommendations.

They would be called the Health Coordination and Innovation Council and the Health System Innovation Center. They would be formed without requiring new money from the state budget, Cagle said.

State Sen. Chuck Huftstetler, a task force member and a Rome Republican, has voiced support for covering more poor Georgians through what is called a Medicaid “waiver.” He said he was not disappointed by the outcome.

“I think we’ve got some great legislation that’s going to look at the person as a whole” — integrating data that is currently dispersed into a more coherent picture, Hufstetler said. Then the lawmakers could use the whole picture to make better decisions, he said.

From Georgia Health News:

The task force held five meetings across the state last year, talking to local residents about the problems their communities were facing.

State Sen. Dean Burke said the Senate is developing legislation to create the two proposed centers.

“I think we need to know what are goals are’’ prior to developing federal ‘’waiver’’ applications to improve health care, said Burke, a Bainbridge Republican.

The Health Coordination and Innovation Council, the report said, would provide a platform for stakeholders to identify and unite behind policy priorities, promote innovation, and oversee the implementation of a strategic plan for the future of health care statewide.

Meanwhile, the Health System Innovation Center would develop the technical expertise of the state’s academic, health policy, data, and workforce resources. The Center will also provide technical assistance to support rural providers in leading a transformation that improves access to quality, affordable care, the report said.

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) said that she hoped these initiatives would help address the state’s deficits in mental health care, as well as the opioid problem in the state.

From the Rome Tribune:

“It’s time for Georgia to act, and take ownership over the federal government, on healthcare,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who convened the task force last year to address rising costs and lack of access.

Four main areas of attack are identified: rural healthcare, the opioid cri-sis, mental health and promoting primary and preventative care.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is one of the seven members of the task force, which unanimously adopted the final report. An anesthetist at Redmond Regional Medical Center, he came out strongly in favor of preventative care.

“I think that’s where the biggest savings are,” Hufstetler said. “I’m in the operating room where I see, after the fact, the failure of not having preventative care and the multiple costs that could have been avoided.”

Unterman said she plans to drop an omnibus bill addressing the opioid epidemic, likely on Jan. 22, and another on children’s mental health.

A plus in the task force’s report, she said, is that it recognizes behavioral health issues are on a par with physical health when it comes to quality of life and economic vitality in the state.

She also emphasized the task force’s focus on collaboration and cooperation among public and private sectors.

“It doesn’t just touch on one agency. What the innovation center has is the ability to bring all these agencies together to work collectively,” Unterman said.

Cagle said the task force would remain intact and continue working through 2018.

Broadband expansion remains a hot topic at the General Assembly.

The lack of access to broadband connectivity was identified as an issue both legislators see as critical to continued economic growth across the state. “I think we will see the HRDC address this issue during the 2018 session,” said Nix. “Exploring new technology and incentives to suppliers are just two ideas that could help.”

“One of the toughest calls I receive from constituents is when a parent lets me know their students can’t do their homework due to the lack of connectivity,” Trammell said.

Seeing no quick solutions, Trammell said he recognizes access to broadband continues to divide communities across the state and acknowledges the General Assembly has an important role in developing solutions through expanded infrastructure.

The Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia suggest renaming Savannah’s Talmadge Bridge after their founder.

On Thursday, Girl Scout representatives informed the Savannah City Council of their intention to ask state legislators to rename the bridge into the city after the organization’s founder and Savannah native, Juliette Gordon Low.

The Girl Scouts adopted the name change as a national policy at their convention in October, said Amy Hughes, with Hughes Public Affairs. The bridge is one of the first things people see when they come into the city, Hughes said.

“It should be a symbol of inclusivity like the Girl Scouts,” she said.

The Girl Scout’s effort comes after the City Council approved a resolution in September for Georgia legislators to rename the state bridge to make the structure more representative of the community. Mayor Eddie DeLoach also proposed the change in response to the violence that had recently occurred in Charlottesville, Va., when white supremacists marched to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Stephe Koontz was sworn in as a member of the Doraville City Council, becoming Georgia’s only transgender elected official.

Emory University will receive a $400 million dollar gift from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation Jan. 8 announced it has pledged $400 million to Emory University’s medical facilities to find new cures for disease, develop innovative patient care models and improve lives while enhancing the health of individuals in need.

The transformational gift, the largest ever received by Emory, will change the lives of patients and their families. Through a new Winship Cancer Institute Tower in Midtown and a new Health Sciences Research Building on Emory’s Druid Hills campus, the foundation’s generosity will help advance new solutions for some of medicine’s most challenging diagnoses, even changing the meaning of what it means to receive those diagnoses for future generations.

“This is an extraordinary gift at an extraordinary time in Atlanta’s history,” Emory President Claire E. Sterk, PhD., said in a news release. “We are grateful and honored to be the recipients of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation’s stalwart trust in our mission. The legacy of Mr. Woodruff lives on, and even today, his spirit of generosity is creating hope for those facing the most difficult days of their lives.”

“This gift will allow us to accelerate the scientific discoveries needed for breakthroughs in patient care and to extend our reach in reducing the burden of disease for patients and their families,” Jonathan S. Lewin, MD, Emory’s executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of Emory Healthcare, said in a news release.

The Winship Cancer Institute Tower in Midtown will provide urgently needed infusion facilities, operating rooms, clinical examination rooms, spaces for rehabilitation, imaging technology and clinical research capacity. In April, the institute became Georgia’s first and only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, joining an elite group, the top 1 percent of cancer centers nationwide.

Tom Cobb resigned as Mayor of Blythe after winning reelection but before being sworn-in.

The newly-elected mayor of Blythe tendered his resignation Friday prior to being sworn in.

Tom Cobb cited health issues and personal reasons and asked for “continual prayers” in a Friday letter, obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, in which he declines the mayor’s position.

Cobb, who previously served as Blythe mayor from 2000-2010, was unopposed for election in November. The term of current mayor Brent Weir, who did not run for reelection, expired Dec. 31, according to Blythe City Clerk Loriann Chancey. Weir succeeded former Blythe mayor Patricia Cole.

The agenda for a Blythe city council meeting Monday includes a call for a special election March 20 to fill the vacancy. Other agenda items include oath-of-office ceremonies for incoming council members Cynthia Parham and Daisy Price, the annual rehiring of city staff and approving two signers for city bank accounts.

Rome City Commissioners elected fellow member Jamie Doss as Mayor.

The Rome City Commission re-elected Jamie Doss to serve as mayor for another year Monday and chose Commissioner Bill Collins as mayor pro tem.

The unanimous votes — during the board’s first meeting of 2018 — followed a ceremony in which Superior Court Chief Judge Tami Colston administered the oaths of office to the three Ward II commissioners who won four-year terms in November.

This will be Collins’ first year as mayor pro tem, the commissioner designated to handle mayoral duties when the mayor is not available. Doss has been awarded the gavel annually since 2014.

Habersham County Commissioners elected Commissioner Victor Anderson as Chair and Natalie Crawford as Vice Chair.

“I appreciate the support that my fellow commissioners put in me to be chairman,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a lot of projects going on right now, some construction projects and some other matters that are underway that I really would like to see completed as chairman, so I hope we’re able to do that in this next year.”

Crawford said she is pleased to be returning to a leadership position in the five-member group.

“I appreciate the confidence of my peers on the commission,” Crawford said. “The role of vice chair is to support the chair, first and foremost, and the policies of this commission. I’m looking forward to another successful year for the Habersham County Commission and continue to work on those projects that we have in the works right now with our administration building; the conversation that we have ongoing with the hospital and trying to get it on sure and secure footing. There are a lot of important projects ahead of us, and this is a commission with an eye to the future and we’ll continue to do that and keep our nose to the grindstone.”

Cobb County Commission Chair Mike Boyce is considering option for addressing a budget gap.

Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce is not ruling out a property tax increase, cuts in county services or a combination thereof as options for filling a projected $30 million gap in Cobb’s fiscal 2019 budget.

In a sit-down interview with the MDJ on Friday, Boyce would not directly commit to his preferred method of addressing the next fiscal year’s budget, but said that the current property tax rate could not cover county services at their current levels.

“We’re in a situation where that millage rate is unsustainable if you want to keep the quality of life as we know it in Cobb County,” Boyce said.

“If the taxpayers decide they want to stick with the current millage rate, which generates about $403 million, what in the (desired) column do you want to give up?” Boyce said.

Beyond a millage increase, Boyce said some variation of Weatherford’s proposal to raise Cobb’s sales tax from 6 to 7 cents on the dollar to fund public safety or on other areas, which would free general fund dollars to cover other costs, is also on the table. A penny tax in Cobb collects about $130 million a year.

But Boyce on Friday was largely noncommittal to any of the four potential options on the table — a millage increase, cuts in services, a combination of the two or Weatherford’s proposed new tax — citing a desire not to detract from Weatherford’s efforts.

Former Democratic Congressman John Barrow, who is running for Secretary of State, indicated on Twitter that he expects State Senator Josh McKoon to be the Republican nominee.

John Barrow Twitter Josh McKoon

And from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and yours truly:

Todd Rehm Hangover Tuesday

AJC Hangover Tuesday2

8
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 8, 2018

2LifelineJan8

In honor of the University of Georgia Bulldogs playing in the National Championship tonight, LifeLine is offering reduced price dog adoptions at their Fulton and DeKalb County animal shelters. Just wear a red shirt to get a discounted adoption fee of $25.

Miss Mississippi

Miss Mississippi is a senior female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from Fulton County Animal Services in Atlanta, GA. This sweet senior would love a comfy spot to relax with ample amounts of soft treats.

Jackson DeKalb

Jackson is a young male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from DeKalb County Animal Services in Atlanta, GA. This stylish guy can’t wait to impress you with his wonderful manners! He loves meeting new friends, enjoys going for easy strolls around the neighborhood, and will do anything to make you smile.

LuckyDeKalb

Lucky is a young male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from DeKalb County Animal Services in Atlanta, GA. This sweet boy has discovered that blankets are a must-have when napping in his foster home and they have quickly become his favorite thing (next to you, of course!). Lucky is great with other dogs, bonds with humans quickly, and can’t wait to find his forever home!

8
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 8, 2018

Lyman Hall, one of three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence, was elected Governor on January 8, 1783.

On January 8, 2007, R.E.M. was announced as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s REM at their induction into the Rock Hall.

On January 8, 2014, Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were announced as incoming members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Columbus, Georgia native Frank Thomas, a long-time Chicago White Sox outfielder.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal, who previously announced that state government would close early today, has closed non-essential state offices today.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are closing non-essential agencies to ensure our employees’ safety as well as ensure the Georgia Department of Transportation’s ability to maintain and treat our roads,” said Deal. “This closure will run from Columbus across to Augusta and northward. The Capitol will remain open, however, so that the Legislature may gavel into the 2018 session as constitutionally required.”

The Georgia General Assembly gavels in the 2018 session today, with the House convening at 10 AM. I would expect a very short session today, and adoption of an adjournment resolution setting at least the next legislative day.

The Senate’s Georgia Health Care Reform Task Force is scheduled to meet at 1 PM in Room 450 of the State Capitol. Click here to watch the livestream of the committee meeting.

The House Appropriations Committee (Full) meeting scheduled for Tuesday is currently listed as cancelled, but I’d check back later today and in the morning to see if it stays cancelled.

The next state budget is expected to top $26 billion dollars, once the Appropriations Committees begin meeting in earnest.

[T]he state budget — which will be about $26 billion in state revenue and around $50 billion with federal funding included — touches the lives of millions of Georgians.

Gov. Nathan Deal will present his spending plan to lawmakers this week, and then it will be up to them to decide what makes the cut and what doesn’t.

In addition, Deal’s office won’t find out until the first week of the session what impact the federal tax law Congress passed in December will have on the state budget because number-crunching wasn’t completed over the holidays.

“It is going to be one of those years that you are not going to see a lot of new and exciting things,” predicted House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn.

Many states are taking a conservative approach to spending as they see revenue — tax collections — slowing and worry about the uncertain effect of federal tax and spending policy. Also, some officials are concerned that after one of the longest expansion periods in modern history following the Great Recession, the U.S. economy is due for a downturn.

Georgia Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, is bullish on the state’s economy. He said Georgia is growing at a faster clip than much of the rest of the country.

“I am really pretty optimistic about this next year,” Hill said. “There are some unknowns. I have tried to look around the corner and see what could go wrong, but I don’t see the negative.”

Deal has traditionally been conservative in his predictions of growth, and despite optimism among his fellow Republicans in Washington about the tax plan, he can’t be sure when the business cycle of expansion and retraction will turn down. Many lawmakers were around a decade ago when the Great Recession brought widespread budget cutting and teacher furloughs.

The governor’s conservative nature on finances is why he’s unlikely to jump on the bandwagon some legislative leaders have gotten rolling to reduce the state income tax rate.

 The Federal Bureau of Investigation warns against flying drones near the National Championship game tonight.

Any aircraft, drones included, are prohibited from flying near the venues used during the championship weekend and game day, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia World Congress Center.

Violators would face prosecution under federal law for “flying drones in restricted space,” FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said Sunday. “Temporary flight restrictions” are in effect.

State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) pre-filed legislation to open public access to recordings of court sessions.

A bill prefiled in the Georgia Senate would expand public access to records and recordings of judicial proceedings, including court reporters’ recordings that the Georgia Supreme Court recently declared off-limits unless they had been entered into the court record.

Sen. Josh MccKoon, R-Columbus, who filed the bill Dec. 19, said it is in direct response to that ruling.

The opinion ”is a great concern for me from a transparency point of view,” he said. “I think it’s important that the public have access to these documents and records.”

The legislation—Senate Bill 311—would apply to the proceedings of any “tribunal in the state that is vested with powers of a judicial nature” and mandates that access to the records “shall not be exempted by order of a court of this state or by law” unless specifically exempted by the new law.

State Rep. Bubber Epps (R-Dry Branch) proposed a Constitutional Amendment to allow an an education local option sales tax (E-LOST).

Currently, only Colquitt County and nine other rural school districts have been approved for what is known as an education local option sales tax. The tax is different from the sales tax districts ask voters to approve for new high school buildings and other capital projects.

“It’s been working for those districts,” Bleckley County Schools Superintendent Steve Smith told lawmakers, speaking on behalf of several middle Georgia districts that want access to the additional one percent sales tax.

Bleckley County’s neighbor, Houston County, is one of the 10 districts with the tax. That district has been able to pay its starting teachers more than Bleckley County does, which puts his district at a disadvantage, Smith said.

“Being rural and very limited retail-based and very limited industry, it’s a real challenge for us to compete with a Houston County,” he said.

Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, is sponsoring the constitutional amendment, which would let school districts go to voters for a one percent sales tax to fund maintenance and operational expenses for up to five years. Districts would have to present a specific list of projects, just as they do now with capital projects.

“We want to help you help yourselves,” Epps said during a hearing called Thursday on the measure before the House Education Committee.

Georgia Democratic state legislators have released their priorities for the session.

Georgia Democrats lack political power to pass their state legislative agenda this year, but incoming House Minority Leader Bob Trammell says they’ll keep talking about health care, livable wages and education funding.

“We need to use the 40-day legislative session to focus on the big issues that face our state,” said Trammell, who replaces former Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who resigned to run for governor. “If we can agree to have a conversation on something like Medicaid expansion, we’ll be in a good position this legislative session.”

Many Republicans oppose expansion of Medicaid — the state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled — but they’re considering federal Medicaid waivers that could allow greater flexibility in state health care funding.

Trammell said Medicaid expansion could help insure 600,000 more Georgians.

He also wants a debate on how to increase stagnant employee pay despite low unemployment rates.

State Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) released a new list of endorsements in his campaign for Lieutenant Governor.

The list includes a few Gwinnett County names, including former representative and current county Commissioner John Heard, Sen. P.K. Martin, Reps. Joyce Chandler, Clay Cox, Brett Harrell, Scott Hilton and Chuck Efstration, former Sen. Clint Day and former Reps. Tom Phillips, Gene Callaway, Ron Crews, Scott Dix, Melvin Everson, Phyllis Miller, Emory Morsberger, Mike Muntean, Tom Rice, Donna Sheldon, Jeff Williams and Valerie Clark.

Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, and Rep. Tom Kirby, R-Loganville, whose districts reach into Gwinnett County, were also on the list.

The state legislators join a long list of officials and groups that have endorsed Shafer in the race. Other backers include U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, former Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Congressmen Bob Barr, John Linder, Ben Blackburn and Fletcher Thompson, philanthropist and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, GOPAC, the Georgia Republican Assembly and Republican Liberty Caucus.

Dawsonville and Hoschton will hold special elections to fill vacancies.

Qualifying begins Monday for a special mayoral election in Dawsonville and a city council election in Hoschton.

The Dawsonville election is being held to fill the unexpred term of James Grogan, which ends Dec. 31, 2019. Grogan was removed from office by the city council last year.

[T]he Hoschton election is to fill the post vacated by Scott Butler, who resigned in December.

Both elections will be held March 20.

Rome City Commissioners will meet tonight and elect a Mayor from among their members.

Voters returned Jamie Doss and Wendy Davis to the board in the November election, along with newcomer Randy Davis. City Clerk Joe Smith said Superior Court Chief Judge Tammi Colston is scheduled to administer the oaths.

“Then the city attorney will hold the gavel for the election of the mayor,” Smith added.

Rome’s charter calls for the nine sitting commissioners to elect a mayor each year to preside over the board. Doss has been the choice each year since 2014.

Commissioners are slated to hold their caucus at 5 p.m. and start their regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, 601 Broad St. Both sessions are public.

The agenda is light and several officials have said they want to be home before 8 p.m. to see the Georgia Bulldogs face Alabama’s Crimson Tide for the College Football National Championship.

A first reading is scheduled for a proposed amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance, with a public hearing and vote slated for the board’s Jan. 22 session.

The change would allow venues that serve liquor to meet the 50/50 food-to-drink sales ratio with food sold from an onsite food truck.

Three members of the Effingham County Commission traveled to Washington last month.

Vera Jones, Phil Kieffer and Reggie Loper were among 100 county leaders from Georgia who took part in the trip sponsored by the National Association of Counties and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.

In addition to Pence, they met with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter. They heard from federal departments and agencies, including the Small Business Administration, Energy, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Housing and Urban Development.

They discussed how federal policies impact Georgia counties and residents. Topics included the opioid epidemic, workforce housing, infrastructure, natural disaster preparations and health care reform, along with the latest developments at Plant Vogtle and the Georgia Ports expansion.