Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 10, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 10, 2017

Oglethorpe Landing Marker

Photo © Jason Riedy, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

On February 11, 1733, the first military formation in Georgia was held, as male colonists assembled with their muskets.

On February 12, 1733, the Colony of Georgia was founded by James Oglethorpe and 114 colonists at what is now Savannah.

After years of planning and two months crossing the Atlantic, James Oglethorpe and 114 colonists climbed 40 feet up the bluff from the Savannah River on this day in 1733 and founded the colony of Georgia.

George II granted the Georgia trustees a charter for the colony a year earlier. The trustees’ motto was Non Sibi Sed Allis—not for self but for others. Georgia would be a philanthropic and military enterprise that would provide the “worthy” poor a new start and serve as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the English colonies.

The trustees prohibited slavery and large landholdings….

On February 11, 1776, Georgia Royal Governor Sir James Wright escaped from house arrest in Savannah to a waiting British warship HMS Scarborough.

On February 10, 1787, the Georgia House of Assembly named William Few, Abraham Baldwin, William Pierce, George Walton, William Houstoun, and Nathaniel Pendleton to the Constitutional Convention called to revise the Articles of Confederation at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law, on February 12, 1793 requiring states to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if the state in which the slave was captured did not permit slavery.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

On February 10, 1861, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi received word that he was chosen as President of the Confederate States of America.

On February 12, 1867, the editor of the Milledgeville Federal Union expressed dismay at the rapidity with which Atlanta was growing and basically everything about Atlanta.

“Atlanta is certainly a fast place in every sense of the word, and our friends in Atlanta are a fast people. They live fast and they die fast. They make money fast and they spend it fast. They build houses fast, and they burn them down fast… . They have the largest public buildings, and the most of them, and they pass the most resolutions of any people, ancient or modern. To a stranger the whole city seems to be running on wheels, and all of the inhabitants continually blowing off steam.”

Burt Reynolds was born on February 11, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan, though some accounts say Waycross, Georgia. Beginning with Deliverance, filmed along the Chattooga River in North Georgia in 1972, Georgia rose to number three in the nation for film production while Reynolds’s star rose to prominence. Other Reynolds movies filmed in Georgia include The Longest Yard, Gator, Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, and Sharkey’s Machine.

On February 13, 1941, Gov. Eugene Talmadge signed legislation that proposed a Constitutional Amendment changing the 2-year terms for Governor and other statewide Constitutional Officers to 4-year.

On February 13, 1956, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed legislation adopting a new state flag incorporating the Confederate battle flag.

On February 10, 1972, David Bowie made his first appearance as Ziggy Stardust.

On February 12, 1999, the United States Senate voted 55-45 against convicting impeached President Bill Clinton on a charge of perjury. Senator Paul Coverdell voted guilty and Senator Max Cleland voted not guilty. On the second charge of obstructing justice, Coverdell and 49 other Republicans voted guilty and Cleland joined 49 other senators in voting not guilty. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to convict a President, so Clinton was acquitted on both counts.

On February 13, 2007, United States Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-Augusta) died at home.

On February 12, 2014, most of Georgia state government was closed by Executive Order because of an ice storm.

On February 10, 2015, on the anniversary of the United States House of Representatives passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation proclaiming February as Black History Month.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced yesterday that January tax collections were up 7.5% over the same month in 2016.

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia’s net tax collections for January totaled $2.2 billion, for an increase of $154.1 million, or 7.5 percent, compared to January 2016. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled nearly $13.06 billion, for an increase of $568.4 million, or 4.6 percent, over last year, when net tax revenues totaled almost $12.49 billion.

Congratulations to Tom Price, who was confirmed as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The Senate early Friday approved the nomination of Representative Tom Price to be secretary of health and human services, putting him in charge of President Trump’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

By a vote of 52 to 47, the Senate confirmed Mr. Price, Republican of Georgia, after a debate that focused as much on his ethics and investments as on his views on health policy. Democrats denounced his desire to rein in the growth of Medicare and Medicaid by making fundamental changes to the programs, which insure more than 100 million Americans.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC looks at the upcoming Special Election to succeed Price in Congress. Here’s the most interesting tidbit in there:

[Democrat John Ossoff] told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he’s lined up more than $250,000 in financial commitments from supporters. And he’s raised more than $500,000 through the Daily Kos liberal advocacy site, though the numbers can’t be verified until he posts them with the Federal Elections Commission.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS – LEGISLATIVE DAY 16

8:00 AM HOUSE Kelley Sub Jud’y (Civil) 403 CAP

8:15 AM SENATE FINANCE – Tax Reform Subcommittee 318 CLOB

8:30 AM SENATE RETIREMENT – CANCELED 310 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 16) HOUSE CHAMBER

11:30 AM HOUSE Game, Fish & Parks HB 208 Sub 230 CAP

11:30 AM House Jud’y (Civil) Fleming Sub 133 CAP

12:00 PM SENATE RULES – Upon Adj’t 450 CAP

12:30 PM House Jud’y Non-Civil Setzler Sub 132 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE GOV’T OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE STATE INST & PROP MEZZ 1

1:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 12 – Dental Hygienists; perform certain functions under general supervision; authorize licensed dental hygienists (Substitute) (H&HS-45th)

SB 18 – Georgia Public Safety Training Center; any member of security police force; retain his/her weapon and badge under certain conditions (Substitute) (PUB SAF-7th)

SB 40 – Mental Health; transport certain mentally ill patients; authorization of emergency medical services personnel (Substitute) (H&HS-45th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 83 – Firefighters’ Pension Fund; invest up to 10 percent in real estate; provide (Ret-Maxwell-17th)

HB 84 – Firefighters’ Pension Fund; invest up to 10 percent in alternative investments; provide (Ret-Maxwell-17th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 154 – Dental hygienists; perform certain functions under general supervision; authorize (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd)

SB 70 – Hospital Medicaid Financing Program; sunset provision; extend (App-Efstration-104th) Miller-49th


Casino gambling legislation made its first hearing yesterday in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. From Dave Williams at the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Atlanta needs a resort casino to be able to compete with Las Vegas, New Orleans and other major convention cities for business, Georgia Sen. Brandon Beach said Thursday.

“Entertainment is a big piece of getting the convention business,” Beach, the bill’s chief sponsor, told members of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee. “We need to make sure we have some nighttime entertainment.”

The legislation calls for a statewide referendum on legalizing casino gambling in Georgia. If voters approve, Beach’s bill would allow two casino resorts, including a major facility in metro Atlanta that would require an investment of at least $2 billion.

The second smaller casino would be built in a “secondary” market, likely Savannah, Augusta or Columbus, Ga.

The state would impose a 20 percent tax on gambling revenues. Fifty percent of those revenues would be earmarked for the HOPE Scholarships program, 30 percent would be used to fund need-based scholarships and 20 percent would go to benefit rural hospitals.

From the AJC:

In the latest version of the bill, Beach has also reinserted a requirement that before a license can be awarded for a casino, voters in the county in which it would be located would have to approve. The local referendum is in addition to a statewide vote to amend the Georgia Constitution.

But the language of the county referendum caused at least one senator pause.

“I’m not sure it will tell someone who read that it’s really about casino gambling or the gaming industry,” said state Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon.

The ballot question, according to the latest draft of the bill, would ask: “Shall the Georgia Gaming Commission be authorized to issue a license for a destination resort to be located in (name of county or municipality)?”

“We’re concerned this is an issue of money being put over morality,” said Mike Griffin, a public affairs representative of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “That the end justifies the means. All these ornaments are being put on the Christmas tree, it’s almost like 30 pieces of silver to get everyone to buy into this.”

From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

Beach is prepared to make a significant change in the legislation, said Sen. Ed Harbison, D-Columbus, and Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus. Both lawmakers have met with Beach and expressed concerns about the initial legislation.

The population trigger [for the second, smaller casino] has been lowered from 250,000 to 200,000, Harbison said, so Columbus and Augusta would now be in the discussion for possible casino sites if this comes to fruition.

Muscogee County and Richmond County both have populations that are slightly more than 200,000 people.

“I expect there will be more tweaking to this bill,” Harbison said. “But this is a pretty good start to the tweaking. … This is more palatable to us. It now puts us in the mix. If this is going to happen, Columbus needs to have choice.”

Senate Bill 81 to curb opioid abuse passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee yesterday by a 7-6 vote. From the AJC:

Senate Bill 81, which passed seven votes to six, would require doctors who prescribe drugs like opiates and benzodiazepines to register with a state database that tracks patient prescriptions. They’d have six months to get up to speed using it, learning to research whether their own patients were doctor-hopping or getting too many prescriptions for addictive drugs.

Doctors protested that making it a crime went overboard. The legislation’s sponsor disagreed.

Then starting in July 2018, if they “knowingly and intentionally” don’t use the database or ignore the information in it, they could be guilty of a crime. If the doctor’s staff member was “delegated” to use the database and intentionally didn’t, then that staffer would be on the hook. Certain doctors would be exempt, like those in palliative care.

“You have to remember we’re dealing with professionals who’ve been to school for a long time,” said Sen. Renee Unterman, sponsor of the bill and chairwoman of the Health and Human Services committee, which heard the bill. “What I’m trying to do is get on the front end, ahead of the curve to save lives.”

Sen. Ben Watson, a Savannah Republican and internal medicine doctor, voted against the bill. He said he supported the desire to deal with opioid misuse. But he raised the specter of a doctor making a prescription in a crisis situation and forgetting to use the database, and then getting hit with a misdemeanor.

With a misdemeanor conviction, “I lose my hospital privileges,” up-ending a career, he said. “If you make a mistake it should be referred to the [Georgia Composite Medical B]oard.”

Senate Bill 88 by Senate Rules Committee Chair Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) would regulate methadone clinics and was passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said he wants to have the “right” treatment clinics in Georgia.

“We believe that we have some that are not here for the right reasons,” Mullis told the state Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee on Thursday at the state Capitol.

He said some clinics are enticing customers with short-term cheap deals and some are not offering good counseling to clients.

Methadone is used as a substitute for people trying to recover from addiction to opioid drugs like painkillers and heroin. Georgia has 70 methadone clinics, but they’re concentrated in some areas including Mullis’ mountainous district.

Mullis’ Senate Bill 88 limits the number of clinics allowed per county or small group of counties, and it sets up a state licensing process that will include a review of things like a clinic’s treatment and counseling plans.

State Rep. Mandy Ballinger (R-Canton) introduced House Bill 280, another attempt at campus carry legislation.

House Bill 280 [] would allow anyone with a carry conceal permit to bring a firearm on to the state’s universities and colleges.

The bill would not apply to buildings or property used for sporting events or student housing, including, but not limited to, fraternity and sorority houses, and does not apply to child care facilities.

Deal vetoed last year’s bill specifically because he wanted child care facilities exempt, which lawmakers would not accede to.

Georgia settled a federal lawsuit over voter registration safeguards.

The state will no longer reject applications that don’t exactly match identification information in state and federal databases as part of the agreement, which was finalized late Thursday.

“Based on the advice of the Attorney General’s office and in order to avoid the expense of further litigation, we agreed to settle this lawsuit,” said Candice Broce, Kemp’s spokeswoman. “The verification system Georgia had in place is important to accurately maintain our voter rolls and prevent illegal votes from being cast in our state’s elections.”

Advocacy groups filed the suit in September, alleging that black, Latino and Asian-American applicants were far more likely than whites to be rejected due to mismatches with state and federal databases, disproportionately affecting minority voters across the state and violating the federal Voting Rights Act.

Analysis of old rape evidence kits resulted in hits from the federal DNA crime database.

[T]hree [kits picked up from Children's Hospital] matched evidence collected at still-unsolved cases and eight matched men who are in prison.

Also, crime lab testing of old cases matched DNA evidence that Hughes Spalding Hospital collected years ago in exams of 13 girls (some of them teens) at a time when the medical facility was part of Grady Memorial Hospital.

In total, evidence retrieved during rape exams of 24 children has matched profiles in CODIS. None of those 24 cases have been prosecuted so far.

Those findings have been sent to local law enforcement to be pursued, so “they don’t further fall through the cracks,” Keenan said.

The GBI has a backlog of more than 9,000, many of them years-old evidence packages that police agencies only recently sent to the state.

According to the lab, the backlog also now includes:

» 876 Grady rape kits that remain out of the original batch;

» 1,983 current cases that were in the lab when this year started;

» 4,533 sexual assault kits from crimes prior to 1999 that had not been processed because the technology did not exist at the time.

A private lab under contract to process old rape kits can only take 50 at a time. The state’s scientists are focusing on the newer cases, Keenan said.

The Georgia Republican Party still continues to hemorrhage money at a higher rate than it collects contributions.

In January, the state party spent more than twice as much as it took in and finished the month with $38,000 in the bank and $317,000 in debt, according to new campaign finance reports.

By contrast, the state Democratic Party, which has won few if any big races in recent years, reported having $267,000 banked.

Ronna Romney McDaniel will be the keynote speaker at the March 13 gala at the Georgia Aquarium. Fox News commentator and former judge Jeanine Pirro will also speak. And Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other state leaders are set to be on hand.

If you want to hear first-hand how the candidates for Georgia Republican Party chair answer a question (or six) about how they will fix the party’s finances, join us at the GAGOP Chair debate tomorrow night, or watch online here.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta will build a new billion-dollar facility at the already-congested intersection of North Druid Hills and I-85.

The new site would be at North Druid Hills Road and I-85. When it opens, Children’s will no longer operate a hospital at Egleston, on Clifton Road near Emory University’s campus. Children’s  Scottish Rite hospital, at the top end of I-285, and Hughes Spalding at Grady Memorial Hospital in Downtown Atlanta will continue to operate, hospital officials said.

“As the only freestanding pediatric health care system in Georgia, we need to ensure that we are able to serve the children in our state,” Donna Hyland, president and CEO of Children’s, said in a statement. “To meet growing demand, we must find more ways to provide access to those who need Children’s unique specialized care by improving and expanding our facilities.”

Children’s currently has an office complex at the site for the new hospital. The nonprofit system owns more than 45 acres at the site.

Hyland told GHN in an interview Thursday that the project will take an estimated six to eight years to be completed. The new facility’s bed capacity hasn’t been determined, but she indicated it could surpass 400 beds.

The system’s current inpatient bed capacity is its biggest challenge, she said, citing critical care, cardiac care and cancer care as areas of particular need.

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