Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 3, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 3, 2017

On February 3, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.

On February 3, 1887, Congress adopted the Electoral Count Act to clarify how Congress was to count electoral votes.

Electoral vote counting is the oldest activity of the national government and among the oldest questions of constitutional law. It was Congress’s first task when a quorum appeared in the nation’s new legislature on April 6, 1789. It has happened every four years since then. Yet, electoral vote counting remains one of the least understood aspects of our constitutional order.

The Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA) lies at the heart of this confusion. In enacting the ECA, Congress drew on lessons learned from its twenty-five previous electoral counts; it sorted through innumerable proposals floated before and after the disastrous presidential election of 1876; and it thrashed out the ECA’s specific provisions over fourteen years of sustained debate. Still, the law invites misinterpretation. The ECA is turgid and repetitious. Its central provisions seem contradictory. Many of its substantive rules are set out in a single sentence that is 275 words long. Proponents of the law admitted it was “not perfect.” Contemporary commentators were less charitable. John Burgess, a leading political scientist in the late nineteenth century, pronounced the law unwise, incomplete, premised on contradictory principles, and expressed in language that was “very confused, almost unintelligible.” At least he thought the law was constitutional; others did not.

Over the nearly 120 years since the ECA’s adoption, the criticisms faded, only to be renewed whenever there was a close presidential election. Our ability to misunderstand the ECA has grown over time. During the 2000 presidential election dispute, politicians, lawyers, commentators, and Supreme Court justices seemed prone to misstate or misinterpret the provisions of the law, even those provisions which were clear to the generation that wrote them. The Supreme Court, for example, mistakenly believed that the Supreme Court of Florida’s erroneous construction of its election code would deny Florida’s electors the ECA’s “safe harbor” protection; Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s hasty submission of his state’s Certificate of Ascertainment was untimely under the Act; and Democratic members of Congress framed their objections to accepting Florida’s electoral vote on the wrong grounds. Even Al Gore, the presidential candidate contesting the election’s outcome, misread the federal deadline for seating Florida’s electors.

Only the United States Congress could so obfuscate a matter as seemingly simple as counting that its Act remained undecipherable for more than one hundred years.

The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by Delaware on February 3, 1913, giving the Amendment the requisite Constitutional supermajority of three-fourths of the states. The text of the Amendment reads, in its entirety,

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

President Woodrow Wilson died on February 3, 1924 in Washington, DC. Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia (pronounced Stan-ton) and spent most of his youth to age 14 in Augusta, Georgia. Wilson started practicing law in Atlanta, Georgia in 1882, leaving the next year to pursue a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University. His wife, Ellen Louise Axson, was from Savannah, and they married in Rome, Ga in 1885.

On February 3, 1959, a chartered Beechcraft Bonanza carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed near Mason City, Iowa, killing all aboard.

Jimi Hendrix recorded Purple Haze on this date in 1967.

A new exhibition at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, GA explores the historic role of African-Americans in the development of railroading.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Deal Falcons Jersey

Governor Nathan Deal proclaimed February 3, 2017 as “Falcons Friday” ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl LI  between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. The governor encouraged state employees and all Georgians to show their support by dressing in their favorite Falcons attire tomorrow. Read the proclamation, also attached, below:

“Falcons Friday” 

WHEREAS:  On Sunday, February 5, Georgia’s beloved Atlanta Falcons will play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, with the winning team claiming the legendary title of “Super Bowl Champion”; and

WHEREAS:  Following the Atlanta Falcons’ record-breaking season under the leadership of Coach Dan Quinn and soon-to-be MVP Matt Ryan, I anticipate Falcons fans celebrating their first Super Bowl victory this Sunday; and

WHEREAS:  With NFL sack leader Vic Beasley Jr. anchoring the defense, Devonta Freeman running the ball, the NFL’s best receiver – Julio Jones – leading a platoon of talented receivers, and Alex Mack and the offensive line protecting Matty Ice, the Falcons are set for victory and ready to make history for the City of Atlanta and the State of Georgia; and

WHEREAS:  From kickoff to the last play, the Atlanta Falcons have given their all on Sundays throughout the 2016-2017 season, and this weekend, Falcons fans will join in brotherhood as the New England Patriots learn just what the “Dirty Birds” have in store; and

WHEREAS: After 51 long years of waiting, it is now time for Georgia residents throughout the state and Falcons fans across the nation to rise up in support of our Atlanta Falcons as they go to claim the Lombardi Trophy; now

THEREFORE:  I, NATHAN DEAL, Governor of the State of Georgia, do hereby proclaim February 3, 2017, as FALCONS FRIDAY in Georgia and encourage all 103,706 state employees to dress accordingly in their favorite Falcons attire. RISE UP!

In witness thereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the Executive Department to be affixed this 2nd day of February in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen.

The Macon Telegraph has video of the proclamation.

Monday, February 6, 2017 is proclaimed “Hangover Monday.”

Earlier in the week, Gov. Deal appointed Cynthia C. Adams as a Judge on the Superior Court for the Douglas Judicial Circuit. Before the appointment, Judge Adams served as Judge Pro Tempore of the Douglas County Juvenile Court and practiced law in her own firm.

The State Senate passed Senate Bill 85, the craft beer “Great Compromise” bill, by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough).

The Georgia Senate voted 49-2 on Thursday to adopt Senate Bill 85, which would provide for the state’s breweries to sell up to 3,000 barrels of beer each year directly to their consumers. The legislation is now headed to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

If approved by the House, the legislation would be a major win for the state’s 45 active craft breweries, said Carly Wiggins, the marketing and sales director of Savannah’s Southbound Brewing Co. and current president and membership chair of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild.

Representatives of Georgia’s craft breweries have attempted to broaden the legislation that governs their business for several years. The Peach State is now among the last in the union to limit direct sales to customers at local breweries, but it won’t be for long if the new legislation gets the governor’s signature this year.

If it’s signed by the governor, the bill would be effective Sept. 1.

Wiggins said that under the law approved by the Senate this week, a consumer can come purchase pints and flights at their local brewery and then buy up to a case of beer each day to take home.

After answering questions from the floor, Senator Jeffares said, “I ask everybody to Rise Up and vote for the bill.”

The Hospital Provider Fee renewal bill, SB 70 by Senator Butch Miller, was also passed, by a 50-3 margin.

Georgia hospitals would continue paying a tax that helps draw down $600 million in federal support for the Medicaid budget, under a bill that’s headed to the state House.

Gov. Nathan Deal and other top Republicans called the extension a top priority heading into the legislative session. The tax, called a provider fee by the state, expires June 30.

“It puts us in a position to raise money for indigent care and provide for hospitals,” state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said in a phone interview.

Hospitals that see high numbers of low-income patients get the money back through a higher payment rate from Medicaid. But not all hospitals are made whole or gain financially in the arrangement.

“Northeast Georgia Health System supports renewal of the hospital provider fee that provides for an additional 11.88 percent reimbursement for our Medicaid patients, which helps get us closer to the actual cost of providing care for these patients,” NGHS spokeswoman Melissa Tymchuk wrote in an email in December.

Monty Veazey, president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, said member hospitals are “encouraged” by the Senate’s vote on the 12th day of its 40-day session.

“It is clear that our elected leaders understand the critical role hospitals play in communities across our state and the devastating impact that closure of a local hospital has on families and communities,” Veazey said.

Senate Bill 81 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) addresses opioid prescriptions in a response to the overdose epidemic.

A Thursday hearing focused primarily on expanding the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which aims to prevent doctor hopping and weed out physicians who are over prescribing.

The bill requires that all physicians register and use the database, else face a felony and jail time. Currently, participation is voluntary.

Several physicians spoke against the requirement saying that the government-run system is clunky and takes too much time. Senators agreed, but said that something has to be done immediately to address the opioid crisis.

The Health and Human Services Committee did not vote on the bill and will continue working to perfect the legislation.

Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) will introduce SB 119 to address discrimination. From the AJC:

It would make Georgia law mirror federal statutes to protect Georgians against discrimination in hotels, restaurants, theaters and other public accommodations based on race, color, religion, natural origin or sex — plus sexual orientation and gender identity. It would also explicitly bar discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in transactions such as when buying a house or seeking a job.

State Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) introduced House Bill 64, regulating compensation for health insurance sales.

[O]pponents of the measure say it still smacks of hypocrisy from a Republican Party that has long argued against government interference in businesses and for a free-market philosophy in legislating.

Blackmon said such criticism is unfair.

“We’re just not operating in a free market in the health care industry,” he said. “No industry is more heavily regulated in this day and time than health care.”

House Bill 64 would require health insurance companies to pay agents a commission for every plan the agent sells or renews, but it does not specify an amount. Blackmon said because the Affordable Care Act requires all taxpayers to have health insurance, agents in small towns are handling more individual plans than before.

Insurance companies, he said, were not always paying commissions for those less profitable plans. The ACA mandated that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of the money they take in from premiums on health care costs and improving quality. The other 20 percent can go to administrative, overhead and marketing costs, and agents’ commissions, when they’re paid at all, are being cut as companies seek to keep most of that 20 percent.

The Ledger-Enquirer writes that Georgia has the highest percentage of residents in the corrections system.

“The Prison Policy Group out of Massachusetts just published a report that accentuated what many of us know, that Georgia not only has the highest number of people under correctional control, we have double the amount of people compared to any other state,” said Douglas B. Ammar, executive director of the Georgia Justice Project. “… We have almost 6,000 people per 100,000 in jail, prison, probation, or parole.”

Throughout the day, several people commended Gov. Nathan Deal for his criminal justice reform initiative, which has reduced the prison population and placed Georgia at the forefront of reform throughout the country.

Stacey Abrams, the House minority leader, who is Democrat, was among those who praised the governor.

“Governor Nathan Deal has done something extraordinary in Georgia,” she said. “This is coming from someone on the other side of the aisle, but on the same side of the issue.”di

Former Forsyth County Commissioner Brian Tam was sworn in to the Judicial Qualifications Commission but resigned after attending his first meeting.

“When I decided not to seek a fourth term on the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, I stated that I wanted to take some time this year to be with my family, focus on my existing businesses and be more involved with my newest restaurant that opened this past June,” Tam said in the email. “This facility opened for lunch earlier this month to a terrific response and will require more of my time than I had anticipated when I accepted this nomination.”

Tam said he was sworn-in to the position, but decided after the first meeting to not move forward after looking at the schedule and travel required over the six-month appointment.

The AJC reports that a private probation company will pay $1.5 million to 12 Georgians to settle a lawsuit alleging abusive practices.

Gwinnett County Board of Elections Chair Stephen Day is seeking citizen comments on wait times for early voting in the 2016 elections.

“I am currently serving as the chair of the Board of Registrations and Elections and we are tasked with making budget requests to the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners for everything dealing with voting,” Day, one of the Democratic Party’s appointees, wrote in an email to that party’s members on Thursday.

“I have made a two question survey about voting times. Would you help me out and answer the two questions on the survey?”

The county set a new record for early voting turnout for the Nov. 8 general election with 150,367 advance in-person ballots cast. The county also made news for the lengthy wait lines seen at the county’s election headquarters. Early voting began with waits that exceeded three hours on the first day, prompting officials to open some satellite locations early.

I don’t see where it’s mentioned that the survey appears to be a project of the Gwinnett Democratic Party.

The Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority filed suit against the Army Corps of Engineers over the allocation of water from Lake Allatoona.

The suit centers on Lake Allatoona, in which the water authority has been granted rights by the state to use a portion of to store at any one time nearly 4.3 billion gallons of water for its approximately 900,000 customers, which include Cobb and Paulding counties. The contract has been in place for more than 50 years.

But the suit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division, claims that the Corps is attempting to override the agreement.

The lawsuit contends the Corps is overruling the state’s allocation of water from the reservoir to the authority, with the Corps declaring that the water authority’s water storage account is empty, despite the lake’s conservation pool being full.

Former Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee began work as director of economic development for the Habersham Partnership for Growth/Economic Development Council in Habersham County, GA.

Troy Brumbalow announced he will run for Mayor of Cumming in November’s general election.

Troy Brumbalow announced in a news release on Monday he would seek the office held by Mayor Ford H. Gravitt since 1970.

“I want to use my business and government experience to lead my hometown of Cumming, Georgia, as its next mayor,” Brumbalow said in the release. “Today, I want to officially announce my candidacy for mayor of Cumming. I have been honored and humbled by the outpouring of support I have already received.”

[Qualification] for the mayoral seat – and Posts 1 and 2 of the Cumming City Council, held by Chuck Welch and Quincy Holton, respectively – will be Aug. 21-23. The election will be held in November.

“Over the next several months leading up to the election in November, I look forward to working hard and earning the votes of the good people who live in Cumming,” Brumbalow said.

Registration dates for the race and qualifying fees were approved at the Cumming City Council’s January meeting. The fee for mayor is $380 for Council Posts 1 and 2 is $180.

I have no idea what his chances of winning are, but his campaign vehicle is pretty tight.

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