Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 6, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 6, 2017

On March 5, 1735, James Oglethorpe presented a budget to the trustees of Georgia and proposed seeking an appropriation from Parliament, thus beginning the addiction of the Georgia government to Other People’s Money.

On March 4, 1762, legislation was passed by the Georgia General Assembly requiring church attendance on Sundays.

The first Session of the United States Congress was held on March 4, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York City. Congress would not have a quorum for another month.

On March 6, 1857, the United States Supreme Court published its opinion in Sanford v. Dred Scott.

the Court held that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court,and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States. Dred Scott, an African American slave who had been taken by his owners to free states and territories, attempted to sue for his freedom. In a 7–2 decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Court denied Scott’s request and in doing so, ruled an Act of Congress in this case—the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which prohibited slavery north of the parallel 36°30′ north—to be unconstitutional for the second time in its history.

The decision would prove to be an indirect catalyst for the American Civil War and was functionally superseded by the post-war Reconstruction Amendments. It is now widely regarded as the worst decision ever made by the Supreme Court.

One member of the Court that decided Dred Scott was Associate Justice James M Wayne, who was born in Savannah and served in Congress from Georgia from 1829 to 1835.

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as President of the United States.

In his inaugural address, Lincoln promised not to interfere with the institution of slavery where it existed, and pledged to suspend the activities of the federal government temporarily in areas of hostility. However, he also took a firm stance against secession and the seizure of federal property. The government, insisted Lincoln, would “hold, occupy, and possess” its property and collect its taxes. He closed his remarks with an eloquent reminder of the nation’s common heritage:

“In your hand, my fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend it… We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Also on March 4, 1861, the Confederate Congress adopted a first national flag.

Confederate 1st National Flag 1

This flag is depicted with varying numbers of stars – originally adopted with seven stars, by December 1861, a version with thirteen stars was flying.

Confederate 1st National Flag 2

On March 5, 1869, the United States Congress refused to seat Georgia’s elected members of the House and Senate.

Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis were married on March 4, 1952 in Los Angeles, California.

On March 5, 1977, President Jimmy Carter held the first “Dial-A-President” radio broadcast in which he fielded questions from radio listeners.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

UNDER THE GOLD DOME – COMMITTEE SCHEDULE

12:30 PM SENATE RULES – UPON ADJ’T 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER ED 307 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTIL 310 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE GOV’T OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUD’Y 307 CLOB

12:30 PM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE SESSION (LD 29) HOUSE CHAMBER

3:00 PM HOUSE MEDICAL CANNABIS WORK GRP 403 CAP

SENATE RULES CALENDAR – LEGISLATIVE DAY 29

HB 127 – Insurance; nonprofit medical and hospital service corporations; revise provisions (I&L-16th) Smith-134th

HB 176 – Agriculture, Department of; enter into agreements with the federal government to enforce provisions of certain federal laws; authorize (AG&CA-20th) McCall-33rd

HB 303 – State Commission on Family Violence; terms and qualifications of members; change provisions (SJUDY-42nd) Ballinger-23rd

Former State Representative Burke Day died at home this weekend.

Day, a longtime Republican lawmaker, was perhaps best known for the Stephens-Day legislation, which was co-authored with fellow state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah.

The legislation froze the value of residential property at the time the property was purchased, which prevented homeowners from being taxed out of their homes when the property value went up. The 2000 legislation saved many local residents hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars a year.

Day retired to his Tybee Island home in 2010, after 16 years of service in the Georgia House of Representatives. He also served on the Tybee Island City Council from 1991-1994.

Senate Bill 166 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) addresses Georgia’s nursing shortage by allowing multistate licensure and passed the state Senate.

Senate Bill 166, which was passed by the Senate on Tuesday, would allow registered nurses and licensed practical nurses use an enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact to hold one multistate license. Senate officials said this would make it possible for nurses to move across state lines quickly so they can help out in times of an emergency or disaster.

“We have over 120,000 RNs and LPNs in the state of Georgia who are committed to taking care of our citizens,” Unterman said in a statement. “This bill simply allows these medical professionals to use their knowledge and expertise in a number of situations to provide care for our citizens as well as those who reside in states already included in the compact.”

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle praised the bill and Unterman’s work on it. The bill, if signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal, would help address the state’s nursing shortage by addressing the process of getting a nursing license in Georgia.

“Georgia’s nurses are often the first line of care when we require medical attention,” said Cagle. “I’m thankful Sen. Unterman shares my commitment to removing the barriers which prohibit our nurses and other health care professionals from providing care to those in need. We already face a staggering shortage of nurses in our state — streamlining the licensing process for nurses will ensure better access to care for Georgians.”

House Bill 159 by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) would rewrite and update Georgia’s adoption laws.

“We’re trying to eliminate red tape, and adoption is a grueling, long process,” Reeves said. “One of the overarching goals of this bill is to try to make this process a little easier.”

Reeves said the bill will also simplify forms and affidavits with a goal of making the process easier for laypeople to understand. The bill passed the House with 165 yeas and zero nays and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate.

Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) would require larger contributions by the Georgia Lottery to HOPE Scholarships.

The bill attempts to restore funding levels to those set in 1993 when the Georgia Lottery Corporation was established.

“Changing the profitability of the lottery by even one percent per year will generate an extra $42 million for the lottery to be paid out in HOPE Scholarships and Pre-K support,” said Sen. Bill Cowsert (R – Athens), the bill’s sponsor.

Cowsert’s bill would require the lottery to bump up its proceeds by one percent each year until 28.5 percent of revenues go to education.

Senate Bill 29 by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) mandates lead testing of drinking water in schools and childcare facilities and passed the Senate.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Vincent Fort, an Atlanta Democrat, was passed by a 50-1 vote on Crossover Day.

Fort, after passage of Senate Bill 29, said there are “so many schools that are likely contaminated.’’ He cited the lead contamination disaster in Flint, Mich., as an impetus for his effort.

The success of the lead testing bill in the Senate was unusual from a political standpoint. In a chamber dominated by Republicans, the measure was sponsored by a Democrat without a GOP co-sponsor. But a similar bill introduced in the GOP-controlled state House, and also sponsored by a Democrat, failed to receive traction.

Last month, a national report gave Georgia an “F’’ grade for failing to require lead testing in schools.

House Bill 155 by Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) passed the House and is headed to the Senate.

A measure that offers a 15 percent tax credit to eligible production companies that come to the state was approved with a 157-to-11 vote Friday, which was the last day for a bill to be approved in one chamber and sent to the other.

Another 10 percent tax credit would be offered to those that target the state’s poorest 100 counties.

The credits would be capped, limiting the benefit to $5 million in the first year. That would increase to $10 million in the second year and then to $15 million for the next three years.

“Music made by Georgians, whether it’s the names you know or one of the thousands of unknown creatives behind the scenes, is one of Georgia’s biggest international exports,” said Rep. Amy Carter, R-Valdosta, who sponsored the bill.

The bill, she said, “allows us to import the investment dollars and keep it strong here in the future.”

It now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, will carry it.

House Bill 271 by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), which rewrites laws protecting shorelines, passed the House.

On Friday a new version of the 38-year-old Shore Protection Act passed the Georgia House. It replaces what sponsor Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, calls an “archaic” method of determining the landward extent of the state’s regulatory reach at the shorefront.

“What we’re getting out of this bill — and this is where we get sidetracked with the conversation of what scientists say — this bill is more protective than the bill we have today,” Petrea said. “And they need to acknowledge that and say so.”

House Bill 338 by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) passed the State House last week.

The bill, HB 338, would create a “Chief Turnaround Officer” with the authority to intervene in low-performing schools.

The turnaround officer would also be required to look at issues outside the classroom.

“Let’s look at what’s occurring in the community that’s causing the school not to be successful,” said Rep. Kevin Tanner (R – Dawsonville), the bill’s sponsor. “Poverty, demographics, high illiteracy rates among adults, lack of economic development and job opportunities.”

Speaking to the House, Tanner tried to set his legislation apart from the OSD, which would have allowed the state to takeover so-called “failing schools.” And he received help from across the aisle.

“[The OSD] was a bill that violates home rule and had an unprecedented concentration of power,” said House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D – Atlanta). “It was a bill that stripped local schools or authority but required that they invest in their own demise.”

From WFXL-TV:

District 153 Representative Darrel Ealum said the chief officer would work with school system leaders to find out why the school are struggling and come up with a plan to change that within 2 years.

Leaders say it would not be a takeover but actually a partnership.

“With this legislation, there’s absolutely no doubt that focus is going to be at the local level, control is going to be at the local level. In fact, control is going to totally stay within the school system,” said Ealum.

The Newnan Times-Herald notes that HB 338 does not require voter approval the way the Opportunity School District did.

What the so-called “school turnaround” legislation won’t seek is voter approval, despite some similarities to last year’s Amendment 1.

“This bill is purely a power shift to the governor’s office – whoever that governor may be,” said state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, who voted against the bill. “We’re basically back doing the Opportunity School District.”

But by recognizing poverty as a factor in underperforming schools and allowing schools to help craft their own improvement plans, the bill has won the support of many lawmakers who objected to Amendment 1, including influential Democrats like minority leader Stacey Abrams. Abrams urged other Democrats to support the measure, calling it less punitive and more collaborative than Amendment 1.

“This is a critical step forward for improving Georgia’s education system for current and future students, families and communities,” said Governor Nathan Deal, who campaigned hard for the failed constitutional amendment last year.

“Rep. Kevin Tanner worked tirelessly with House and Senate leadership, education committee chairmen and other stakeholders to produce this critical and bipartisan legislation,” the governor said “I’m grateful for their cooperation and collaboration on behalf of Georgia students.”

House Bill 515 by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell (R-Thomaston) tweaks several house districts and has drawn Democrrats’ ire.

The House voted 108-59 on Friday to approve the bill, which allowed it meet the “Crossover Day” deadline for bills to pass from one chamber to another without parliamentary maneuvering. The House vote came just three days after the bill was first introduced; most bills take weeks or months to reach the House floor.

HB 515 takes two, predominantly white, precincts from [Democratic Rep. Sheila] Jones’ district 53 and gives them to Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna. In exchange, Jones gets two predominantly minority precincts.

“This bill was introduced at the 11th hour without the courtesy of informing me of what was going on in the district I represent,” Jones said Friday. “Regardless of the party, notice is fair and customary.”

In south Metro Atlanta, Rep. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, has seen his margin of victory fall from 6 percentage points in 2012 to less than 2 percentage points in 2016. HB 515 takes several GOP-heavy precincts out of Griffin Republican Rep. Karen Mathiak’s neighboring District 73 and gives them to Strickland.

“As legislators we must all commit to a fair and transparent process,” Jones said. “Both with our colleagues under the Gold Dome and with our constituents. We must never lose sight of the voters.”

The AJC says that Trump’s election hasn’t dramatically affected the Georgia General Assembly.

The seismic political shifts predicted when Donald Trump became president have yet to have much impact on Georgia’s annual General Assembly session that is heading into its final weeks.

Headline-grabbing casino and “religious liberty” bills have made appearances on the third floor of the Capitol, but little of major importance that truly could be considered Trumpian has seen the light of day.

“There is a Bible verse that says there is nothing new under the sun. Well, there ain’t nothing different this year,” said state Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, who has been in the House since 1991.

But Gov. Nathan Deal and legislative leaders are still waiting to see what impact Trump and the solidly Republican U.S. Congress will have on Georgia, with billions of dollars in federal funding and freighter loads of regulations on everything from environmental policy to massive health care programs at stake.

Power Lunch for Perdue

Senator David Perdue joined Congressional leaders at a White House lunch last week.

“I was honored to be a part of it. This is a president that after that first speech that was at a high level, wants to get down to business,” the Georgia Republican said after walking back into the Capitol. “I’m very encouraged by what I heard.”

A White House official said Perdue was invited to Wednesday’s session because, “he has a strong business background much like the president’s and brings a unique perspective to the table.”

“He is a strong supporter of the president’s agenda,” the official said, “and will be a great advocate to help implement the bold reforms the president laid out last night.”

“I committed my position in the Senate to full support about getting this 100-day plan executed,” Perdue told reporters gathered at Trump Tower following that post-election meeting. He added that he was “excited” and “energized” to help push Trump’s plans on issues like tax reform and creating jobs through the Senate.

As for the Wednesday meeting, Perdue signaled he saw a president with a CEO mentality similar to his own.

“He’s looking around the room and he saying ‘OK, we need you to do this, you do this, you do this.’ It’s what you would expect of somebody who’s been successful in business,” Perdue said. “He knows what he wants. He’s got a mission, he’s got an objective, and we we’ve got a plan to get there.”

“I was there to add value on — from a business perspective — on some of the aspects of Obamacare that we want to see going forward,” Perdue said.

Campaigns & Elections

Georgia voter records at Kennesaw State University appear to have been hacked.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating an alleged data breach at the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University.

Sources said the breach happened Wednesday night and the hacker made off with millions of voter records.

Kennesaw State released the following statement: “Kennesaw State officials are working with federal law enforcement officials to determine whether and to what extent a data breach may have occurred involving records maintained by the Center for Election Systems. Because this involved a pending criminal investigation Kennesaw State will have no further comment on this matter and any inquiries should be addressed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

“This matter is deeply concerning, but I am confident the FBI working with KSU will track down the perpetrator,” Kemp said in a written statement.

Salvation? Democrat Jon Ossoff may represent a path for the Georgia Democratic Party, according to a bunch of people who don’t know squat about Georgia.

Georgia Democrats, who have been getting creamed for years in the towns stretching north of Atlanta, believe they are within striking distance in a special election that will choose a replacement for Tom Price, the former member of Congress tasked by President Trump with dismantling Obamacare as his Health and Human Services secretary. Voter distaste for Trump, the evolution of the new Sunbelt suburban electorate and a 30-year-old candidate who has become an unlikely magnet for out-of-state political cash are giving Democrats a welcome sliver of hope.

“A strong showing would support the growing narrative that Trump’s controversial nature and governing style is creating problems for down-ballot Republicans,” said veteran elections analyst Stuart Rothenberg. By “strong showing,” he doesn’t necessarily mean a win. Even a close race in this longtime GOP stronghold would galvanize Democrats nationally.

Legions of liberals who read the Daily Kos blog have  enthusiastically heeded the call of digital activism and sent dollars to Jon Ossoff, a clean-cut, even-tempered, politically centered neophyte who hardly resembles the Bernie Sanders-types the online crowd tends to back. Some 55,000 people have contributed through the blog, netting Ossoff nearly $1 million in a few weeks. That’s more than double the rate at which Daily Kos donors gave to Elizabeth Warren when she ran for the Senate in 2012.

The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also is investing, with nine of its operatives in the district quarterbacking get-out-the-vote efforts. Some national celebrities are involved. In addition to the Daily Kos money, Ossoff says he has raised roughly $1 million more elsewhere.

“This race is going to be instructive for the Democratic Party moving into the future,” said Rebecca DeHart, executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party. “It is states like this where the Democratic Party is going to be reborn. The horizon is nothing but blue.”

That may be overly optimistic in the short term, said Charles S. Bullock III, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia. For now, he said, the Price seat is the “Republicans’ to lose” — as long as they keep the president at arm’s length. The best hope for Ossoff, he said, is to land in a runoff against “someone who is not politically sophisticated and really hitches their wagon to Donald Trump.”

Former State Senator Judson Hill, previously endorsed by former Speaker Newt Gingrich, has been endorsed by Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio easily won the [Sixth Congressional] district, an establishment-friendly swath stretching from east Cobb to north DeKalb, in Georgia’s March 2016 presidential primary. Donald Trump’s struggles in the Sixth– he barely edged Hillary Clinton – have given Democrats hopes they can flip the seat.

“Judson Hill is the only conservative Republican in this race who can win – and he’s a proven leader who can help us get our nation back on the right track after eight years of the Obama administration,” Rubio said in a statement. “We have enough talkers up here in Washington. We need doers, and Judson Hill is a doer.”

The Florida Republican, who won Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb in last year’s vote, said Hill knows how to “cut taxes while balancing a budget because he’s done it in Georgia.” He also praised Hill’s opposition to abortion and support for “patient-centered” healthcare reforms.

Former State Senator Dan Moody is up on television across the Sixth District with a campaign ad.

Dan Moody launched his debut TV ad in the race for Georgia’s 6th District on Sunday, opening with a 60-second spot that features braying donkeys, stumbling elephants and a politician declaring himself ready to clean up after both of them.

The former state senator from north Fulton County positioned himself in the ad as the consensus-builder who can clear the, er, muck out of Washington. And he took a not-so-subtle shot at the presumed frontrunner in the race, former Secretary of State Karen Handel.

With this ad – Moody’s campaign has reserved $300,000 in airtime – the Johns Creek executive serves notice that he’s gunning for Handel. One of the lumbering elephants in his ad sported a pearl necklace, a nod to the jewelry Handel often wears.

“In this time of change, neither Georgia nor America need another career politician,” the narrator intones as the elephant awkwardly jiggles the neckwear.

he’s assembled a team of campaign operatives with ties to Sonny Perdue’s camp – and a track record of brutally effective behind-the-scenes work – to run his operation.

One of them is Fred Davis, the Hollywood adsmith who developed the spot depicting Roy Barnes as a towering, crown-wielding rat in his 2002 race against Sonny Perdue. And he honed David Perdue’s image as a jean-jacketed outsider – and his opponents as hapless crying babies – in the 2014 contest.

In this case, Davis is again using the candidate’s lack of campaign polish as an advantage.

Former Congressman Lynn Westmoreland told an audience he’s considering running for Governor in 2018.

Former Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland is considering running for the governor’s office, fueling rumors that his political career may not be over just yet.

After 28 years in politics as a legislator before serving in Congress, he said he thinks he can still offer something to the people.

“We are considering it,” he said. “It’s something that we are just really thinking about and praying about and I’m talking to my family. … I still think I’ve got some things to offer but, you know, you’ve got to have that fire in your belly. I’ve just got to have that ‘go-get-them’ fire in the belly, and we will see if that comes. And you know I am doing some travel around the state.”

“Now that I’m not in Congress, I feel like I can be more free about it, and also I come from a pretty common background, so I’m used to dealing with people on a different level, I think,” he said. “They might not be accustomed to the same kind of political talk, and so I would rather talk to the people like we’re down to the corner gas station just chewing the fat, and I just trying to be as simple and as to the point as I can.

“I tell people that I am in rehab. I get up in the morning – we have chickens and I’m fixing to get some goats. We’ve got cows, and so I’m just enjoying cutting some trees and doing different things.

“I’m doing some political consulting work, too. So right now I’ve got the best of both worlds. I don’t have an 8-5 or a 7-midnight schedule. It has been very enjoyable, and I’ve spent more time with my wife and my family that has been very good.”

Marietta city voters will fill a Board of Education vacancy on March 21, 2017.

Real estate agent Kerry Minervini and Patricia Echols, a co-owner of a private investigation firm, are vying to fill the seat vacated by Tom Cheater.

Both women are mothers of Marietta City Schools students and have been involved in various schools throughout the district.

Ward 6 covers the northeast section of Marietta stretching from a section of Cobb Parkway up to the Sandy Plains Exchange at the intersection of Sandy Plains Road and Scufflegrit Road and is the same area that is represented on the Marietta City Council by Michelle Cooper Kelly.

Administrative Actions

Governor Nathan Deal appointed Natalie Spires Paine as District Attorney for the Augusta Judicial Circuit, filling the vacancy created by Deal’s appointment of then-DA R. Ashley Wright as Superior Court Judge for the Augusta Judicial Circuit.

The Georgia Department of Agiculture has set April 12 as the 2017 pick date for Vidalia onions.

The early April date was recommended to Commissioner Gary W. Black during a grower meeting this week in the 20-county Vidalia onion growing region.

Vidalia onions cannot be packed or sold prior to April 12 as established by the rules of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The Georgia state legislature in 1986 entrusted the Georgia Department of Agriculture with the ownership of the Vidalia onion certification mark, delegating the Commissioner to protect the integrity of the mark and ensure consumers receive only the highest quality sweet Vidalia onions.

Salvation: Naloxone, which is administered to overdose victims as an antidote, is now available over the counter in Georgia.

In December, Georgia became the 36th state to legalize over-the-counter sale of naloxone, which can save the life of someone who has overdosed on painkillers, heroin, or other opioid drugs. In the past, only someone with a doctor’s prescription could buy this medication at a pharmacy.

Gov. Nathan Deal effectively legalized over-the-counter naloxone sales in Georgia when he signed an executive order in December allowing pharmacists to dispense the drug without a prescription. Executive orders are basically provisional measures, and a state Senate bill is now being considered to make the authorization a part of Georgia law.

According to the CDC, the number of opioid-induced drug overdoses has quadrupled since 1999.

CDC’s most recent count shows that 1,302 Georgia residents died due to overdose in 2015. Nationwide, opioid overdose killed 33,091 people that year.

These numbers indicate how dire the opioid crisis has become: Drug overdoses kill more people than car crashes or gun violence.

Redemption: Goodwill has partnered with the Georgia Department of Community Supervision and Hall County Correctional Institution to create a work-training program for former inmates.

Goodwill started its welding program for ex-offenders in January 2016. In this fiscal year so far, Goodwill has helped 65 former inmates find employment through its referral program.

“We provide them a 12-week training program specifically with Lanier Technical College as it relates to welding careers,” Goodwill Director of Public Relations Summer Dunham said. “The outcome here is to train production welders, which is a competitive field here in North Georgia.”

The three-phase program focusing on substance abuse counseling, education and job placement was started in March 2014 with Warden Walt Davis.

Toccoa will be visited by the Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism Division.

KKK members expected to rally in Douglas County failed to show up.

Traffic Control

Traffic deaths are on the rise, thought to be due to distracted driving.

According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, 1,559 people lost their lives in vehicle crashes in 2016 — up nearly 9 percent from the previous year’s loss of 1,432 lives. But that 2015 statistic was itself a 22.4 percent from the 1,170 people killed on state roads in 2014.

“When you look at the numbers, we saw a big increase in the number of crashes that are symptomatic of distraction — lane departure, crossing the center line, striking an object. A lot of rear-end crashes,” said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood, who attributes the statewide increase to distracted driving.

A big contributor of those distractions are likely drivers’ use of cellphones, but calling such devices the smoking gun is not always easy to do, he says.

“We can put a needle in somebody, whether they’re dead or alive, after a crash and tell if alcohol was a factor. We can measure stick marks and tell how fast they were going. The whole business of distractive driving, you can say that something is symptomatic of distraction, but you can’t say with absolute certainty.”

Macon-Bibb County debuted the goofily-named road safety mascot, “Pedora the Pedestrian.”

Pedora the Pedestrian crossed College Street during Friday morning rush hour.

Wearing bright white overalls emblazoned with patches of yellow crosswalk signs, volunteer Tesia Smith took the first steps in the latest facet of Macon-Bibb County’s “Cross the Walk” campaign.

“(Pedora’s) job is to teach the kids how to properly cross the crosswalk,” Smith said. “We gave tips on how to do that this morning.”

The Macon-Bibb County Pedestrian Safety Review Board created the campaign in an effort to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths which have spiked in recent years.

Savannah is also trying to address increasing numbers of auto accidents.

The number of people bicycling in Savannah for recreational and commuting purposes is on the rise, but unfortunately accidents and injuries have followed suit.

Now the city is attempting to maintain its status as a “bike-friendly community” by applying with the League of American Bicyclists, after Savannah earned a bronze-level designation in 2013.

Savannah now has the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the state at 2.6 percent, but only 15 percent of Savannah’s arterial streets have bike lanes, according to a recent city staff report.

In 2014, there were 81 reported bicycling collisions with vehicles, with 49 injuries, according to Savannah-Chatham police. In 2015, the number of such accidents increased to 98 incidents, with 60 injuries and four fatalities. There were 99 collisions last year, with 71 injuries and one death.

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