Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 3, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 3, 2016

On March 3, 1820, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise.

In February 1819, Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced a bill that would admit Missouri into the Union as a state where slavery was prohibited. At the time, there were 11 free states and 10 slave states. Southern congressmen feared that the entrance of Missouri as a free state would upset the balance of power between North and South, as the North far outdistanced the South in population, and thus, U.S. representatives. Opponents to the bill also questioned the congressional precedent of prohibiting the expansion of slavery into a territory where slave status was favored.

Even after Alabama was granted statehood in December 1819 with no prohibition on its practice of slavery, Congress remained deadlocked on the issue of Missouri. Finally, a compromise was reached. On March 3, 1820, Congress passed a bill granting Missouri statehood as a slave state under the condition that slavery was to be forever prohibited in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36th parallel, which runs approximately along the southern border of Missouri. In addition, Maine, formerly part of Massachusetts, was admitted as a free state, thus preserving the balance between Northern and Southern senators.

The Missouri Compromise, although criticized by many on both sides of the slavery debate, succeeded in keeping the Union together for more than 30 years.

On March 3, 1845, Congress overrode a Presidential veto for the first time.

On March 3, 1874, Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation permitting persons or companies to lease Georgia prisoners for terms from one to five years, with the Governor setting the rates.

The act required the humane treatment of convicts and limited them to a ten-hour work day, with Sunday off. Equally important, leases had to free the state from all costs associated with prisoner maintenance. Once all state convicts were leased, the law provided that all state penitentiary officers and employees be discharged.

Just think of how much progress Georgia has made with privatizing the justice system — now, instead of leasing convicts, we have private probation companies overseeing released prisoners.

And if you think the legislature has been crazy this year, two years ago, Crossover Day and the first day of candidate Qualifying both occurred on March 3d.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Senate and House Retirements

Senator Bill Jackson announced from the floor yesterday that he will not run for reelection to SD 24, epresenting Elbert, Hart, Lincoln, Oglethorpe, Taliaferro and Wilkes counties and portions of Columbia and Richmond Counties.

“After much prayerful consideration, I have decided to step down at the conclusion of my term. The people of the Georgia State Senate are exceptional, and I greatly appreciate the kindness shown to not only me, but also to my family. I would like to thank Gov. Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for their leadership and friendship, and my Senate colleagues for their support and camaraderie over the past several years,” said Sen. Jackson.

Gov. Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle both praised Sen. Jackson’s legislative work and offered the following remarks:

“I have known Bill as a personal friend and legislator for a number of years and his leadership as a floor leader for the past six years has been invaluable,” said Gov. Nathan Deal.

“Sen. Bill Jackson is the definition of a true statesman; someone who sought public office to leave a lasting impact on his beloved state. For nearly three decades, he has been an outstanding servant of the people and someone who fights for his constituency at every turn with an unwavering commitment to his Christian, conservative values. Although he will be deeply missed, I’m excited for his new opportunity to return home to Appling, his family and Shiloh Methodist Church full-time,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer (R – Duluth) released the following statement regarding the retirement of Sen. Bill Jackson (R – Appling):

“Sen. Bill Jackson is a giant of Georgia history. He has served four separate times as a member of the Georgia General Assembly.  He has been an extraordinary public servant and a mentor to me.  ‎We wish him the best as he retires from the State Senate and begins the next chapter of his distinguished life.”

Also announcing his retirement from the State Senate was Senator Tommie Williams, who represents District 19 and Chairs the Transportation Committee.

Through the years Sen. Williams has had the great privilege of shaping much of the agenda and legislation that passed the general assembly. “We have a very well-run state and I am happy to have been a part of that,” said Sen. Williams. “Georgia is a low tax, low debt state, with the best credit rating in the nation. It has been rated as the number one state to do business.”

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle commended Sen. Williams’ work in the Senate and offered the following remarks: “Senator Tommie Williams has distinguished himself as an outstanding public servant, someone who has remained steadfast in advocating for his constituency and the people of Georgia. He has served the people of the 19th District with honor and dignity, leaving a lasting impact on this great state. While we will miss his presence in the Senate, I know his wife Stephanie and children Emma, Jack and Madison will surely enjoy having him back home full time.”

Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer (R – Duluth) released the following statement regarding the retirement of Sen. Tommie Williams (R – Lyons):

“Sen. Tommie Williams is one of the pioneering leaders of the Georgia Republican Party. His election to the State Senate was history making. He has served with distinction in every one of his leadership capacities, including as our President Pro Tempore. We wish him all the best as he continues his lifetime of service outside of the State Senate.”

Congressman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement commending Sen. Williams for his 18 years of service to the people of Georgia:

“Tommie is a friend and someone with whom I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside in the Georgia Senate. A quality, respected leader, he has given so much back to his community over his many years of distinguished public service. I wish Tommie and his family all the best in the days to come and thank them for all they have done on behalf of the citizens of our great state.”

Across the Rotunda, State Rep. Carl Rogers announced he will not seek reeletion.

Desiring more time with family and a chance to be a “normal citizen” again, Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said Wednesday that he would not seek re-election to the state legislature this year.

Gainesville City Councilman Sam Couvillon’s name has been floated in some local political circles as a possible candidate for the District 29 seat.

“I will give that consideration,” Couvillon told The Times, adding that he would have to weigh family and business interests before deciding.

Rogers, 68, was first elected as a Blue Dog Democrat in 1994.

“Of course, I’ll continue working in the insurance industry, and I’m looking forward to quality time with my wife, two children and seven grandchildren,” he said.

Rogers switched to the Republican Party in 2004 during a wave of defections and GOP victories that saw political conservatives wrest control of the legislature and governor’s office.

He is now one of the 10 most senior members of the House and Senate.

The Special Election March 29th to fill the State House seat vacated by the late State Representative Bob Bryant has its first candidate.

Qualifying continues up to noon Friday for the nonpartisan special election to be held March 29.

The winner will be sworn in after the current legislative session has ended but will be listed as the incumbent on the primary and general election ballots later this year.

Candidates who qualify for the special election this week will have to return to Atlanta next week to qualify for the general election.

The first to make the trip is Josey M. Sheppard, a businessman who identifies as a Democrat.

Local & Legislation

Nearly 1300 Gwinnett voters cast their ballots in the wrong precincts or their votes were otherwise considered “provisional,” and won’t be counted until the voter is verified, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Elections Director Lynn Ledford said there were 1,296 provisional ballots cast in the election. Many of them were cast by people who voted outside of their assigned polling precinct, officials explained. Those ballots have to be gone through, verified and counted by the end of the week before they can be included in the final results.

Even though the number of provisional ballots cast is high, they won’t change the outcome of either primary in the county.

Although Donald Trump narrowly beat Marco Rubio, 32.5 percent to 30.1 percent, in the Republican Primary, Trump won the county with a 2,362 votes margin between himself and the U.S. senator from Florida.Ted Cruz came in third with 25.7 percent of the votes counted Tuesday night, followed by John Kasich (5.5 percent) and Ben Carson (5.1 percent).

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton won the county over Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side by a nearly two-to-one margin, with 66.2 percent of the votes.

Elections officials counted 98,512 Republican ballots Tuesday night, compared to 56,557 Democratic ballots.

Voter turnout in Columbus earlier this week was significantly higher than 2012, but not quite to the 2008 level, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The turnout was 31,748, or about 37 percent of the city’s 85,000-plus voters, not counting provisional or military ballots yet to be counted, Boren said.

“The turnout was a huge surprise,” Boren said. “It’s not as much as in 2008, but it’s more than 2012. We had about 5,000 more people vote in 2008, but our turnout in 2012 was pretty low, less than 20,000.”

According to unofficial and incomplete returns, Columbus and Georgia voters mirrored many of the states in this week’s Super Tuesday primaries, favoring front-runners Hillary Clinton on the Democratic presidential ballot and Donald Trump on the Republican side.

Trump got 5,325 votes (34.4 percent) in Muscogee County, followed by Ted Cruz at 4,177 (29 percent) and Marco Rubio with 3,424 (22 percent). They were the only Republican candidates on the ballot to get into double figures in percentage of the vote.

George Pataki, with three votes (.02 percent) was dead last on the crowded ballot, which included several candidates who have abandoned their campaigns.

Douglas County voters approved the E-SPLOST on Tuesday’s ballot, according to the Times-Georgian.

A total of 19,932 votes, or 69.31 percent, were cast in favor of the ESPLOST, while 8,825 votes, or 30.69 percent, were cast against it when results were tallied from all 25 county precincts Tuesday.

Douglas County Schools Superintendent Gordon Pritz was out front in pushing for the ESPLOST, known as ESPLOST V, in the weeks leading up to the election. The 1-cent sales tax to fund education projects in the county has been collected since 1997.

The State House passed House Resolution 1135 to setup a committee to study protecting Georgia’s military installations against the next round of defense cuts, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta Commission passed an ordinance banning drone flights over crowds, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Last week, a commission committee limited the ban to a period around Masters Week. But Tuesday at the urging of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, the commission voted 7-2 to ban drones year-round.

“They’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” commented Dave Connor, who sells drones to hobbyists at HobbyTown USA. “Who’s going to enforce all this?”

The ban, which requires a second reading, applies to sporting or other events with a seating capacity of 100 or more or where 100 or more people are gathered.

Violators are subject to a $1,000 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay told commissioners the office was concerned with safety of the public 52 weeks of the year, not just during the golf tournament.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Judge Kimberly M. Esmonds Adams ruled against Kinder Morgan’s appeal of a Georgia DOT decision declining to exercise eminent domain for the building of a pipeline.

[Judge Adams] agreed with McMurry that the company had not proved that the pipeline was what the law calls a “public convenience and necessity” important enough to justify the taking of private property.

“Having concluded that the record does support the commissioner’s decision, and in the absence of any proffer by Palmetto as to how some different procedure or additional evidence would have changed the commissioner’s decision, this court finds that the commissioner’s decision is adequately supported by the record evidence and therefore affirms the decision of the commissioner, and denies Palmetto’s petition for review,” she wrote in a court order signed Monday.

Also on Monday, the [State] House of Representatives voted 165-2 in support of a bill designed to stall the pipeline by imposing a moratorium until July, 2017, while new procedures are written.

An ethics complaint against Savannah Alderman Tony Thomas has been dismissed.

The Savannah Ethics Committee is expected to soon consider additional allegations by two residents against Alderman Tony Thomas after Wednesday’s dismissal of a complaint they made last month.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating allegations of criminal activity made against Thomas, as the City Council member seeks a legal order to stop what he claims is harassment by a private investigator.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the ethics committee — made up of Chairman Kate Strain, Lee E. Wright Sr. and Katherine Haile — ruled that the initial allegations filed in February by Debra Kujawa and Karen Thompson did not constitute an ethics violation.

The committee’s ruling came after the committee’s attorney, Charles Barrow, said the ethics code’s purpose was to prevent conflicts of interest or an elected official using the position for personal gain. The ordinance did not regulate “general behavior,” Barrow said.

“Behavior by itself is not an ethics violation,” he said.

Is it really second-place?

Late on Tuesday night, Sen. Marco Rubio edged into second-place on the Republican ballot in the popular vote, besting Sen. Ted Cruz by 10,860 votes to carry 24.44% against Cruz’s third-place showing of 23.60%.

But Cruz actually walked away with 18 Peach State delegates to the National Convention against 14 delegates for Rubio. So what gives?

Most of Georgia’s Republican delegates are apportioned to the winner and second-place finisher in each Congressional District and Cruz came in second in more CDs than Rubio did, giving him a higher delegate count. It’s analogous to the Electoral College at the national level.

Looking at the map, it appears that Cruz had greater strength than Rubio across most of South Georgia, which probably contributed to his delegate count, and is likely attributable in part to Jack Kingston’s endorsement of the Texan. In 2014, Kingston ran stronger across Georgia in both the Primary and Primary Runoff.

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