Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 7, 2016

7
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 7, 2016

On September 7, 1864, General William T. Sherman sent a letter to his Confederate counterpart, General John Bell Hood, offering to transport civilians out of Atlanta for their safety.

The Professional Football Hall of Fame opened on September 7, 1963 in Canton, Ohio.

Future Atlanta resident Curtis Mayfield saw his song, “Superfly” turn gold on September 7, 1972.

On September 7, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty, which promised to turn over control of the canal to Panama by 2000.

Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin on September 7, 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Yesterday, I said the JNC had released a “short list” of nominees for three Supreme Court seat, but it was in fact a list of all who had filled out the application. The shortlist is forthcoming.

Hillary Clinton is the first Presidential candidate to buy ad time in the General Election in Georgia, for this spot featuring former Democratic Senator Max Cleland.

A new Washington Post poll released yesterday shows Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton tied at 46% each in Georgia. If Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are included, the major party split shifts to 40 percent for Trump and 39 percent for Clinton.

Someone asked on Facebook last night how that’s possible. Here’s how that’s possible. I dug into the survey’s methodology and found this:

The final sample was weighted to benchmarks for the population of registered voters in each state for age, race, sex, education, and region from the 2012 and 2014 Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplement. In Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Texas, samples were also weighted to an average of party identification in the current survey and previous weighted SurveyMonkey state surveys this year.

The issue lies in the differences between demographics of registered voters and actual voters. For Georgia, in the 2014 Supplement, voters ages 18-34 were registered to vote at lower levels than their older counterparts, and voted at significantly lower rates than older voters. For example, 22.4% of those aged 18-24 voted in Georgia in 2014 against 60.7 percent of 65 and older voters actually casting ballots.

The upshot if this is that if you weighted 18-24 year old voters to their percentage of the population or their percentage of registered voters, you will overstate their influence on the election, as these ages typically vote at much lower rates than older, especially senior, voters. If it were me, I would have weighted to the actual voting turnout in 2014 or even better, 2012. Those numbers are available from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

Ultimately, not enough information was released with the poll results for me to conclude definitively if that error is present – it could simply be imprecise writing in the description of the methodology, but I for one am skeptical of these results.

For the record, the sample size was YUGE enormous, including more than 2000 respondents from Georgia.

Constitutional Amendment #2, creating the Safe Harbor Fund, will be on the November General Election ballot.

State Rep. And Welch (R- McDonough) spoke to the McDonough City Council at its Thursday meeting about the vote to create a Safe Harbor Fund. The fund would pay for resources, such as trauma counseling, housing and medical care, for young victims of sexual exploitation.

Welch explained that the Safe Harbor law, also dubbed Rachel’s Law for a sex trafficking victim, was legislation put together last year by state senators and representatives to address sex trafficking.

The average age of victims is 13 but some are as young as 9. It costs an estimated $90,000 per child for a year’s worth of rehabilitative services, Welch said, adding that private donations will be needed to supplement the costs of services.

“Currently there’s no state money to treat and provide a shelter or home and proper psychological medical treatment,” said Welch. “Safe Harbor will provide about $2 million in dedicated funding. It’ll be constitutionally protected and go to services that are provided to the children.”

If the Safe Harbor Fund is approved, Welch said it will serve more as a grant program, allowing entities that provide services to sex trafficking victims to apply to receive funding.

Lindsay Marchant of Buford has been promoted to serve as the GBI’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, where she will oversee investigations into sex trafficking and exploitation of minors.

The Clayton County Board of Education passed a resolution opposing the Opportunity School District Amendment on the November ballot, according to the AJC.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday for a symbolic resolution against the referendum for a statewide Opportunity School District that is on the ballot Nov. 8. The Clayton resolution says passage of the amendment would lead to a local loss of both educational funds and control over education.

Decatur County Public Schools Superintendent Tim Cochran spoke against passage of Amendment #1, which would create the Opportunity School District.

“Our community deserves for our kids to be put first,” Cochran said. “Our state deserves for our kids to be put first. I don’t think this amendment is doing that.”

The official preamble introducing the amendment on the ballot reads that it, “Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.” It will then pose the questions “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing schools to improve student performance?”

“If you read that, it sounds really obvious,” he said. “Of course if they’re chronically failing, we need somebody to intervene, but that ballot question is a little misleading.”

“What the ultimate motive is, is to privatize public education,” Cochran said. “What this ballot amendment will do is the governor can determine if you’re a failing school. When the governor determines you are a failing school he is in charge of you. The board of education is not. You, as a voter, will have no control over your local schools.”

Maureen Downey of the AJC’s Get Schooled Blog asks whether school board opposition will matter to voters on the OSD Amendment.

I am not sure school board resistance will matter in November. School board opposition did not prevent passage of the charter school amendment in 2012. That amendment empowered an appointed state commission to approve charter schools over the objections of local boards of education.

And sun-kissed language also played a role in that vote: Voters were asked: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?” The amendment earned a “Yes” from an impressive 58.5 percent of Georgians. I suspect the OSD will see a similar margin of victory. (Here is a piece from the blog urging passage of the OSD.)

The former Executive Director of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission will not appear before a House Study Committee considering ways to increase transparency at the agency.

In a five-page letter sent Friday, Mark Dehler said he had “serious concerns” about the investigation into the Judicial Qualifications Commission convened by the Judiciary Committee of the state House of Representatives.

Weekly hearings scheduled to begin this Thursday before a special panel of lawmakers violate the Georgia Constitution’s separation of powers mandate, Dehler stated in the letter to state Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, the Judiciary Committee chairman. Dehler’s letter was in response to a phone call from Willard asking him to appear voluntarily before the seven-member House “study committee.”

“I believe a committee of the House of Representatives has no authority to investigate the actions or operations of the JQC or any other unit of the judicial branch of state government,” Dehler wrote. The former director also informed Willard that he does not believe the legislator has legal authority to subpoena him.

Dehler, an attorney, said the state law on which Willard, who is also a lawyer, has relied gives the General Assembly authority to conduct investigations and issue subpoenas but does not authorize the House of Representatives to exercise that authority without approval of the state Senate.

Willard said he is holding hearings because the proposed constitutional amendment to abolish the JQC as an independent constitutional agency—that he sponsored and shepherded through the legislature—is on the November ballot. That amendment, for the first time, would give the state legislature sole authority to reconstitute the judicial watchdog agency, determine its composition, its governance, and the manner in which appointments are made. It also would give the state Senate approval over every appointment—authority which previously had been the exclusive purview of the state Supreme Court, the State Bar of Georgia, and the governor.

“We need to have information for the public to make an informed decision as to whether that ballot issue is to be voted for or against,” the legislator said. “We want to educate the public about the operations of the JQC as to the past handling of certain complaints.”

Cash-strapped Twiggs County Commissioners think they have a surplus now instead of a deficit, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Commissioners emerged from a closed executive session to report that what was thought to be a $150,000 financial shortfall at month’s end will instead be a $150,000 surplus.

“Cash flow is a dynamic thing,” Macon attorney R. Chix Miller, of the Sell & Melton firm that represents the county, later told The Telegraph. “All they did was add $309,000 on hand right now to $200,000 available in their line of credit, and another $60,000 that’s coming, and subtracted the payroll for the second part of September and subtracted average expenses.”

The commissioners then “took a little bit off just to be cautious” and arrived at a $150,000 surplus rather than a deficit, he said.

If you’re counting on the fact that you haven’t yet hit the limit on all your credit cards, that’s not really a “surplus.”

The Gwinnett County Commission deferred a vote on working with the new Sugarloaf Community Improvement District (CID).

The Augusta Commission voted against issuing a permit to allow exotic dancing at private parties.

The City of Rincon has two finalists in the search for a new City Manager.

The Savannah Morning News writes that coastal residents should be thankful for the quick recovery from Hurricane Hermine.

Hard-working utility crews were saviors

But to the many people who were sweating out the 90-degree temperatures on Saturday and Sunday the real unsung heroes and saviors of the Labor Day weekend were the hard-working emergency crews from Georgia Power and other utility companies who labored through the weekend to restore power. At one time, as many as 130,000 Georgia Power customers were without power in this area alone. By 1:30 p.m. Sunday, that number had been whittled down to only 1,200 customers, an impressive and remarkable performance that reflects the skill and the professionalism of utility workers who genuinely make customer service their top priority.

The same goes for Coastal Electric of Georgia employees.

Nearly 31% of Georgia adults are obese according to a survey released recently.

The Georgia adult obesity level of 30.7 percent in 2015 remained basically flat from the previous year, according to the State of Obesity report.

The report, released last week, also says Georgia is among 18 states that saw a decline in obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds from low-income families between 2008 and 2011. Over that period, Georgia’s rate fell from 14.8% to 13.2%, a statistically significant decrease, according to the CDC analysis.

The Georgia Department of Public Health, responding to the report, noted that the state has shown progress in reducing childhood obesity.

Aided by Georgia Shape, Gov. Nathan Deal’s initiative to reduce child obesity, and Power Up for 30, a school program to promote student physical activity, the percentage of Georgia students who have achieved healthy BMI has risen from 58.5 percent in 2012 to 60.3 percent in 2015, said Nancy Nydam, a Public Health spokeswoman.

“There is still significant work to do to reduce adult obesity,’’ Nydam said. “Obesity and overweight contribute to diabetes, heart disease and cancer, which are among the leading causes of early death in Georgia,’’ Nydam said.

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