Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 24, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 24, 2015

Georgia and American History

The United States Postal Service was established by Congress on July 26, 1775. I mailed them a birthday card on Monday; they’ll probably receive it next week.

On July 24, 1778, Georgia ratified the Articles of Confederation.

Georgia’s John Walton was present on July 9, 1778, and signed the document then. Georgia’s other two delegates – Edward Telfair and Edward Langworthy – did not sign until July 24, 1778, which is the date most often used for Georgia’s ratification of the Articles.

An interesting sidenote is that John Walton‘s brother, George Walton, signed the Declaration of Independence on Georgia’s behalf.

On July 24, 1919, the Georgia General Assembly rejected ratification of the 19th Amendment, which extends the right of voting to women.

At 12:51 EDT, we mark the safe return from the moon of Apollo 11.

On July 25, 1974, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Nixon that executive privilege did not allow the White House to refuse to turn over audio recordings that had been subpoenaed by a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

The number one song in America on July 24, 1982 was “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, from the Rocky III soundtrack.

On July 24, 2000, former Georgia Governor Zell Miller was appointed to the United States Senate to serve in the seat vacated on the death of Senator Paul Coverdell.

Yesterday, LCPL Skip Wells was transported to the funeral home in Kennesaw and grateful mourners flocked to the route, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

Wells’ body was flown into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Thursday afternoon and made its way down I-75 toward the Winkenhofer Pine Ridge Funeral Home in Kennesaw, where the family will hold public visitations Friday and Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. and again from 6 to 8 p.m.

A funeral will be 2 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church of Woodstock.

Organizing the tribute happened in a matter of hours, according to Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, and was evidence of the city’s commitment to supporting the Wells family and the county’s military community.

“It’s like people were waiting for this (event) to happen,” he said. “You know they were looking for some small way to show support. He went to high school just two miles from here. This was the perfect location. I called the chief at 4:15 yesterday and I said ‘Will you arrest me if I stand out on the bridge?’ and in three hours they had everything put together. What they did in three hours was amazing.”

Meanwhile, in DeKalb County, they got the sentiment correct, but the implementation failed.

DeKalb Half Staff Wrong

The United States Flag Code, 4 USC §77(c) states, (c) No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America, and (e) The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.”

Georgia Politics

Brace yourselves for the upcoming Sales Tax Holiday.

During the July 31-August 1 sales tax holiday, the following items will be exempt:

•     Clothing (including footwear) with a sales price of $100.00 or less per item. The exemption excludes clothing accessories such as jewelry, handbags, umbrellas, eyewear, watches, and watchbands.

•     Computers, computer components, and prewritten software purchased for noncommercial home or personal use with a sales price of $1000 or less per item.

•     School supplies purchased for noncommercial use with a sales price of $20.00 or less per item.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump filed documents with the Federal Elections Commission indicating that he holds stock in Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and Georgia Power, among others.

The document shows that Trump owns a stake in Home Depot (NYSE: HD) valued at $50,000-$100,000, a stake in Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) valued at the same amount, and a stake in Georgia Power (NYSE: SO) valued at $100,000-$250,000.

The investments are listed among hundreds of positions in public companies and real estate entities owned by Trump.

Trump doesn’t list any real estate holdings in Atlanta.

Yesterday, Georgia House Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-Newington) picked up a Republican Primary challenger for 2016 named Daniel Almond. I would characterize this as a “Liberty” challenge, based on the candidate’s stated positions.

Congratulations and condolences to Sheri Kell, who is set to take the job of Cobb County Communications Director, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

County Chairman Tim Lee will ask the Cobb Board of Commissioners to hire Sheri Kell, wife of Cobb Superior Court Judge Tain Kell, as the county’s new communications director on Tuesday.

The position opened when Robert Quigley left to become communications director for Sheriff Neil Warren.

Kell is a founding partner at the Cumberland-based public relations firm Comm360 and handled communications for Attorney General Sam Olens’ first campaign for the position in 2010 and his reelection campaign in 2014.

Kell also worked as the business editor for the Marietta Daily Journal from 2012 to 2013.

A group called Drone Advocates for Public Safety is asking Gov. Deal and the Georgia Building Authority to change a recent rule outlawing unmanned aerial vehicle flight withing 5 miles of the Georgia State Capitol or the Governor’s Mansion.

In my capacity as the executive director of Drone Advocates for Public Safety, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the safe use of UAVs by fire/rescue, law enforcement and emergency management agencies; I take issue with the noticeable absence of any provision exempting these agencies from the ban on flying within the aforementioned zones.this leaves the public safety community that serves this population unable to use a valuable tool that helps save money, save time, and potentially, save lives.

Therefore, this leaves the public safety community that serves this population unable to use a valuable tool that helps save money, save time, and potentially, save lives.

There are hundreds of police and fire departments across the country, many of them agencies we work with, using this technology safely and with the full permission of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Yet another lawsuit has been filed challenging a private probation firm’s administration of parolees.

Augusta attorney Jack Long filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brunswick challenging probation services contracts between a private probation company and local courts.

The new lawsuit alleges that a contract between Providence Community Corrections and Wayne County State Court is unconstitutional because it limits to 10 percent the number of probationers who can get free or reduced supervision fees because they are indigent. “The number of indigents who are entitled to a reduced fee is limited to 10 percent, despite the fact that far more of the probationers are indigent,” the suit says, noting that the poverty rate in Wayne County is more than 22 percent.

The lawsuit also alleges the contract is not valid because the local officials who approved the contract in 2009 are no longer in office.

The Georgia Pecan Commission supports a marketing order by US Department of Agriculture.

The marketing order would authorize the promotion, data collection and research activities of pecans in 15 states, including Georgia, which is the largest producer of pecans in the United States. Georgia averages 88 million pounds of pecans annually, which is worth an average of $80 million to $100 million to the state’s economy.

The USDA has three hearings about the order in July in New Mexico, Texas and Georgia. The Georgia hearing takes place July 27-29 in Tifton, where pecan growers and other industry stakeholders, including handlers and shellers, will have an opportunity to testify regarding the benefits, costs and other potential impacts of the proposed marketing order.

“Our overriding objective is to increase the demand for pecans by growing the domestic and worldwide market,” said Commission Chairman Thomas L. Mason, owner of Mason Pecan in Fort Valley, Ga. “Producers of other tree nuts such as pistachios and almonds already operate under marketing orders, which has allowed farmers to work together to promote their products. The FMO will level the playing field by allowing our industry to speak with one voice.”

Former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine will take Blue Cross Blue Shield to court, alleging the insurance company overcharged customers, according to the AJC.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia has overcharged customers for health insurance while at the same time cutting payments to doctors outside of their coverage “network,” according to a lawsuit filed this week that seeks class-action status.

Former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine filed the lawsuit on behalf of 11 surgical centers, their patients and a claims filing service. It argues that the state’s largest health insurer cut payments to doctors but continued charging consumers a premium rate as if they were still making the higher provider payments.

Oxendine, who said hundreds of millions of dollars may be at stake, has also asked his successor to investigate.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, the leading health insurer in the state with about 3 million members, has called the accusation untrue.

The same writer also notes that Oxendine’s campaigns often benefited from political donations by BCBS employees, even while taking action against the company.

Former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Q. Yates, who now occupies the #2 slot at USDOJ, spoke to BuzzFeed about the federal sentencing guidelines.

Yates has been saying for years that mandatory minimums — which don’t apply in the vast majority of cases federal prosecutors coerce cooperation from all the time — aren’t necessary to put high-level drug offenders behind bars. Now she’s overseeing the process by which prosecutors move away from mandatory minimums, and she’s one of the leading advocates in the administration push to eliminate mandatory minimums altogether in most cases.

It’s a fundamental change to the way prosecutors think about their work when it comes to drug cases. Getting convictions without relying on mandatory minimums is a key legacy of Holder’s term as Attorney General, and now it’s a central part of Yates’ argument to lawmakers that it’s time to change the nation’s sentencing laws.

As real momentum builds on Capitol Hill to rewrite sentencing laws with the goal of refocusing prosecution and lowering the prison population — an issue of prime importance to President Obama in the final months of his presidency — Yates is among the top administration aides helping the process along on Capitol Hill. She meets regularly with the members of the Senate in both parties attempting to hash out a bipartisan criminal justice compromise they can pass before the end of the year.

Yates has drawn the praise of advocacy groups who say she’s able to connect with Republicans in a way the Justice Department often wasn’t able to when Holder was in charge, due in part to GOP rhetoric that cast Holder as the biggest villain in the Obama administration.

Red state efforts backed by a coalition of Koch-backed libertarians and prominent progressives like the ACLU have led to changes to nonviolent drug prosecutions that put an emphasis on drug treatment and anti-recidivism programs rather than lengthy and expensive prison sentences. In Washington, Obama has made criminal justice his next big policy push. Libertarian-leaning Republican lawmakers like Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who have been pushing their party to adopt a criminal justice mindset like the one currently in play in GOP-controlled states like Georgia and Texas, have seen their efforts finally start to change minds among the establishment, tough-on-crime set.

Next week, the Rome City Commission will vote on the property tax millage rate, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The City and County commissions are scheduled to vote on their millage rates on Monday and Aug. 4, respectively.

People will get their last chance to speak about the city’s millage rate at the City Commission’s 6:30 p.m. Monday meeting at City Hall, 601 Broad St. The commission will then vote on the new rate.

The County Commission will hold its first public hearing on its millage rate at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The second public hearing will follow at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The third and final public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 4.

A vote on the county’s millage rate will follow its Aug. 4 hearing.

All the county’s public hearings will occur at the Floyd County Administration Building, 12 E. Fourth Ave.

Muscogee County Schools are expanding the use of palm-scanners for kids buying school lunches, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

According to the district’s news release, the device takes a super high-resolution infrared photograph of the vein pattern just below the skin, which is a unique marker, like a fingerprint. The image, between 1.5 and 2.5 square inches, is recorded, digitized and stored on an encrypted server. When students come through the cafeteria line, they can hold their hand over a black box that scans the palm and links it to their meal account.

Participation in the scanning system is voluntary. Parents and guardians may allow their child to opt out by notifying the school in writing. Students who don’t use the palm scan must bring a student ID to the cafeteria to purchase a meal.

The Port of Savannah set a new monthly record for rail moves in June, according to BusinessInSavannah.com.

The volume — 34,712 containers — topped the previous record of 33,919 set in January.

The Georgia Ports Authority achieved five of the top 10 months ever for intermodal rail in 2015.

“Because the authority — along with Class I rail providers Norfolk Southern and CSX — have been making steady infrastructure investments — we have the capacity to handle today’s higher container volumes,” said Curtis Foltz, GPA executive director.

“Currently, about 20 percent of our container volume moves by rail,” Foltz said. “We are taking steps to improve the efficiency and reach of our rail network, both in Garden City and around the state.

“Providing more and better access to rail solutions will lower the bottom line of doing business in the regions we serve, reduce pressure on our roadways, and lower emissions related to the transit of goods.”

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