Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 8, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 8, 2016

On February 8, 1751, the first session of the Georgia Provincial Parliament adjourned, having convened on January 15, 1751.

On February 8, 1955, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed a resolution by the General Assembly calling on Congress to require racial segregation in the military.

On February 8, 1956, the Georgia State House adopted a resolution purporting to hold the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education null and void.

On February 8, 1981, R.E.M. held their first recording session at Bombay Studios in Smyrna, recording “Gardening At Night,” “Radio Free Europe” and “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville,” as well as others.

Under the Gold Dome

Senate Committee Meetings

TBD Rules – Upon Adj. 450 CAP

8:15 AM Appropriations 341 CAP

1:00 PM Regulated Ind & Util 310 CLOB

1:00 PM Public Safety Sub 125 CAP

2:00 PM Education & Youth 307 CLOB

2:00 PM Public Safety 125 CAP

2:00 PM Insurance & Labor 450 CAP

3:00 PM Health & Human Svcs 450 CAP

4:00 PM Econ Dev & Tourism 310 CLOB

4:00 PM Finance – CANCELED Mezz

House Committee Meetings

8:30 AM Approp Gen’l Gov’t Sub 506 CLOB

10:00 AM RULES 341 CAP

1:00 PM Life and Health Insurance Sub 506 CLOB

1:30 PM JUDICIARY NON-CIVIL 406 CLOB

1:30 PM Judiciary Civil Fleming Sub 403 CAP

1:30 PM W&M Income Tax Sub 133 CAP

2:00 PM ECON DEV AND TOURISM 506 CLOB

2:00 PM Approp. Human Res Sub 341 CAP

2:00 PM Approp Education Sub 606 CLOB

3:00 PM Approp Public Safety Sub 506 CLOB

3:00 PM Regulations Sub 605 CLOB

3:30 PM Jud’y Non-Civil Pak Sub 406 CLOB

Senate Rules Calendar

SB 278 – Criminal Offenses; increase the penalty provisions; pimping and pandering (Substitute)(JUDYNC-45th)

SB 283 – Accounting for Public Funds; provide multibank pooling of depositories for acceptance of deposits of public funds from public bodies (Substitute) (B&FI-18th)

House Rules Calendar

Modified Open Rule

HB 649 –  Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act; enact (Substitute) (H&HS-Cooper-43rd)

HB 759 Courts; financial institutions; certain activities shall not constitute the unauthorized practice of law; provide (Judy-Willard-51st)

HB 775 Health; restrictions on sale and dispensing of spectacles; provide (Substitute)(RegI-Ehrhart-36th)

HB 780 Health; certain nondiagnostic laboratories not subject to state licensure as a clinical laboratory; provide (H&HS-Lott-122nd)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 737 Code Revision Commission; revise, modernize and correct errors of said Code (CR-Caldwell-131st)

HB 767 Motor vehicles; add utility service vehicles to the “Spencer Pass Law”; provisions (MotV-Powell-32nd) AM 39 0147

Legislation & Local Politics

Casino advocates are primarily working behind the scenes to create legislative enthusiasm for their proposed statewide referendum.

Outwardly, there’s been almost no action on the casino gambling bill. Backstage it’s a different story.

The bill’s fate appears to rest, in part, on its potential impact on college scholarships.  Backers say casino gambling revenue would actually create a substantial surplus in the state’s HOPE scholarship fund.  So the question noodling around backstage is what to do with that surplus.  And the bill’s sponsor says the surplus would likely go to a needs-based college scholarship for lower income Georgians.

“Everything now seems to be focused around how we get the needs based piece rolled into the HOPE scholarship,” said Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah). “And we’re going to have to have that in some form to get enough votes to get it passed.”

Stephens says his bill’s fate is also somewhat tied into a horse racing bill that has gotten some traction at the Capitol and may get a vote as early as next week.  If horse racing gets momentum, he thinks casino gambling will quickly follow.

Both bills would require two-thirds votes to pass the legislature as constitutional amendments.  Voters would have to subsequently approve them for them to become law.

Macon-Bibb County voters are likely to be asked to support a SPLOST to continue the current one, which expires in January.

Commissioners are expected to talk Tuesday about making a list of special purpose local option sales tax projects. The current $190 million SPLOST had generated through January about $155 million that already has paid for multiple recreation center projects, Second Street Corridor work and the construction of fire stations, an animal shelter and a juvenile justice center.

The SPLOST also has been used for repairs to the Bibb County Courthouse, a new public safety radio system and various other projects and equipment.

A resolution to begin the SPLOST process is expected to go before a County Commission committee Tuesday. Macon-Bibb officials will set up public hearing dates to get people’s input on a new slate of projects. Macon-Bibb department heads already have started developing a wish list of projects.

The State House Natural Resources Committee voted to ask the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to study the issue of storing surface water in the subsurface Floridan Aquifer.

Environmental groups have been pushing for a law to block any storage of surface water in the Floridan Aquifer that supplies most coastal customers. But they accepted the resolution as a start.

The House Natural Resources Committee, with the support of many coastal legislators, voted unanimously for House Resolution 1198 to “encourage” the Environmental Protection Division to review its regulations about storing surface water in aquifers for later use.

Many environmental and coastal civic groups favored Senate Bill 36, introduced last year by Sen. William Ligon, R-St. Simons Island. The Senate passed it 48-3, but the House committee never acted on it.

On Thursday, Committee Chairwoman Lynn Smith said Ligon’s bill is dead because Gov. Nathan Deal signaled he would veto it. That’s because EPD officials want to keep aquifer storage as a possible option.

Former United Peachtree Corners Civic Association President Scott Hilton will seek the Republican nomination for the State House seat currently held by Rep. Tom Rice.

“Through prayer and careful consideration, our family is pleased to announce my campaign for the Georgia State House,” Hilton said in a statement. “As state representative, it will be an honor to build on a lifetime passion of serving my neighbors and the broader community.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to contribute back my time and talents toward keeping Georgia as one of the best states to live, work and play.”

“As an outsider to politics, I am running to champion conservative ideals based on a successful career in private industry,” he said. “I will leverage my experience from a 10-year career in commercial banking to promote conservative, free-market solutions that reduce taxes and eliminate government programs that hinder business expansion.

“We need to keep focused on attracting new industry and quality jobs to our state and region.”

Road deaths were down 11% in January over the same period in 2015, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Drugs & Crime

Governor Deal is expected to propose a legislative package continuing his theme of criminal justice reform aimed to reduce recidivism and long-term incarceration for nonviolent offenders.

What may be the most controversial recommendation from the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform is the idea of lifting the lifetime food stamp ban for felony drug offenders.

The council says about 6,700 otherwise eligible Georgians are denied that benefit every year, a number that includes more than 1,800 children. Granting them food stamps would bring in federal dollars and remove a barrier to helping ex-convicts putting their life back together, the council report says.

The report also recommends several ways to ease up on people who are on probation for misdemeanors but have a hard time paying their fines. Right now, nonpayment can land an offender in jail. The council recommends a hearing first on why the person is not able to pay.

For juveniles, it recommends keeping first-time offenders age 13 and under out of secure detention except for the most serious offenses.

It’s not yet clear whether Deal’s bill will propose everything in the report.

Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber said “the final pieces of the legislation are still being discussed, have yet to be decided upon,” but she expects the bill to be filed this week.

Drug courts have been a hallmark of criminal justice reform in Georgia, and the Cobb County Drug Court is expanding treatment options available in a move to address an epidemic of heroin use.

The change would allow medication-assisted treatment options that were banned by the drug court up until 2016. Medications such as methadone, and, more recently, buprenorphine, naloxone and naltrexone, taken alone or in combinations known by various brand names, are used to block cravings for and effects of opioids such as heroin. The Drug Court may exercise its discretion about which medications to allow.

Missy Owen, who founded the Davis Direction Foundation after her son died of a heroin overdose in 2014, called the new policy “amazing.”

“It absolutely needed to happen,” she said.

Owen said she has seen cases of individuals who were forced to go off of anti-addiction medication by a court and relapsed. For every year of sobriety, an addict’s chances of staying clean improve dramatically, she added.

“These drugs help you get to where you need to be … it gets you to that year or that three-year (mark),” Owen said. “Medication-assisted treatment is just that: it assists.”

According to Owen, there were 37 confirmed heroin deaths in Cobb in 2015, and not all the toxicology screenings are complete. There were 53 such deaths in 2014, she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids, including heroin, were involved in 28,647 deaths nationally in 2014 and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 2000. Georgia was one of 13 states that had “significant” drug overdose death rate increases between 2013 and 2014 — 10.2 percent.

The Cobb Drug Court’s amendment to its policy follows an executive order by President Obama in October that gave federal agencies 90 days to identify barriers to medication-assisted treatment and remove them. In order to access federal funds, the Cobb Drug Court followed suit, beginning in January.

In the past, Cobb’s drug court, like many, was based on an abstinence model that held that putting addicts on a medication on which they were dependent was trading one addiction for another.

Many in the recovery community, however, have criticized the abstinence model, arguing that it puts users at higher risk of overdosing if they do relapse, which is extremely common, particularly with heroin addiction.

The federal effort to battle drug abuse also includes funding, according to the Gainesville Times.

President Barack Obama has proposed $1.1 billion in new spending to fight an epidemic of heroin and prescription drug abuse that has taken its toll on urban and rural communities across the country, including in Gainesville and Hall County.

“Overdose from prescription medications and other drugs is not a new issue, but it’s impacting communities that have traditionally seen themselves as immune to its reach,” said Jeremy Galloway, a Dahlonega resident and former heroin addict who is now a certified addiction recovery empowerment specialist in a peer-based support program developed by the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse.

Drug overdoses are now common in suburban communities and transcend socio-economic lines, Galloway said.

For example, 387 overdose-related calls for help were made to Hall County’s emergency 911 line in 2014, and another 295 calls were made in 2015.

In Georgia, lawmakers passed a medical amnesty law that gives immunity to drug users who call for medical help in the event of an overdose.

And a bill currently proposed in the state legislature would require education and addiction counseling for all patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain.

At some level, part of the rise of heroin use in Georgia may be a tragic unintended side effect of success in driving out pill mills.

Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team agents seized a record amount of heroin and arrested a man they believe is a major supplier to the area.

“Essentially, heroin was being bought in bulk,” said Gene Harley, CNT.

“The sad part of this reality is, that means there is that much demand for this product here in Chatham County,” said Harley.

There’s been a surge of heroin users nationwide over the last couple of years after pill mills were shut down, and investigators say since then, the clientele for this drug have changed dramatically.

“These addicts are now going to the base of it – in this case heroin – and now we are finding most of our arrests involving not only users but also dealers are anywhere from teenage up to 40-, 50-year-old mostly white male and female,” said Harley.

New research indicates that four out five new heroin users say they became addicted to prescription pills before they used heroin for the first time.

Investigators say since the pill mills were shut down, those who can’t get their opiate-based pills as easily are now turning to the streets, which means a new class of people are desperate for their drugs, including hard working people in the upper middle class. The signs are very difficult to detect. It could be your coworker, and you’d never know.

“As long as they have their fix, they can otherwise be a fully functional person where they can’t be as a crack-cocaine addict, and that’s the other thing too that’s very concerning too, is that in some cases, we’re are finding professionals who are heroin addicts. You wouldn’t know any better unless we catch them in possession of the heroin,” said Gene Harley, CNT.

Just to give you an idea, in 2014 [Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team] arrested 20. In 2015, 27 and so far this year they’ve arrested five, all relating to heroin.

Peach State Presidential Politics

Today is the first day of in-person early voting for the March 1, 2016 Presidential Preference Primary known as the “SEC Primary.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp last week announced that a record 54,385 residents registered online in the final week before the Feb. 1 deadline.

Kemp said 37,903 of the new registrations came from those signing up for the first time.

On the last day to register, 21,351 people used the online registration Web page, Kemp said.

As the time ran out, the traffic picked up, so the site was processing a user’s request every three seconds.

Residents unsure of their registration status can check it online through the Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page” at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. That page also enables voters to download sample ballots.

Hall County Chief Registrar Charlotte Sosebee is projecting high turnout for the Presidential primary this year.

Projected turnout for the election is 47 percent of the registered residents, 34,978 people, according to the Hall County Board of Elections and Registration. The county had 74,421 active voters as of November 2015. Sosebee noted the turnout numbers are “just my estimate.”

Only the Republicans had a competitive race in Hall in the 2012 presidential primary, which attracted 22,422 voters. The Democrats, with incumbent President Barack Obama solo on the ballot, drew only 620 voters.

Some areas may see Special Elections on their ballot on March 1st, including Tucker, which will elect its first Mayor and City Council. Click here for early voting information for the City of Tucker elections.

On Wednesday, February 10, 2016, Pastor Rafael Cruz, father of Senator Ted Cruz will speak at a campaign event from 6-9 PM at Taco Mac, 5600 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, GA 30342.

Today, Congressman Austin Scott will be at the Georgia State Capitol at 10:30 AM to make an announcement regarding the Marco Rubio campaign.

Here’s a really well done video from last week’s Farmers for Trump rally in Sasser, GA, including the four cropduster flyover.

A contingent of Georgia supporters of Marco Rubio has been tramping through the snow in New Hampshire this weekend, campaigning for the Florida Senator.

NH Campaign Signs

Marco GA NH 3

IMG_9392v2

Judson Hill Campaigns NH

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