Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 7, 2017

7
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 7, 2017

On March 7, 1861, delegates to the Georgia Secession Convention reconvened in Savannah to adopt a new state Constitution. A resolution offering to host the Confederate Capitol did not pass.

On March 7, 1965, a group of marchers led by Martin Luther King, Jr., met Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

“I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick… I thought I saw death.”

—John Lewis, SNCC leader

As a student of Southern politics at Emory, we were immersed in reading about the Civil Rights Movement and its effect on Southern politics, and American politics. But it was not until years later that I saw the PBS series called “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement 1956-1985.” It’s chilling to see American citizens turned away by armed police from attempts to register to vote.

John Lewis, now the United States Congressman from the Fifth District was in the front row wearing a light-colored overcoat and backpack.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

COMMITTEE SCHEDULE

8:00 AM SENATE FINANCE – Finance & Public Policy 328 CLOB

10:00 AM House Fleming Sub Jud’y Civil 132 CAP

10:00 AM House Resource Mgmt Sub Nat’l Res 606 CLOB

11:00 AM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEV & TOURISM 341 CAP

12:00 PM House Env’tal Quality Sub Nat’l Res – CANCELED 606 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY 307 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR – CANCELED 310 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE ECON DEVE & TOURISM 125 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HS – CANCELED 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH AND HS 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Ind & Labor Sub 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE GAME, FISH, & PARKS 403 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

3:00 PM House Special Sub on Transportation 515 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUD’Y – Sub A 307 CLOB

Several pieces of ethics legislation in the Georgia General Assembly failed to pass one chamber in time to be considered by the other chamber in this year.

“I would refer to the bills as mostly dead. So they could revived at a later time,” said Sen. Josh McKoon, sponsor of several mostly-dead ethics bills.

They include:

- SB 22, a bill to disclose campaign contributions from government contractors

- SB 23, a bill to restrict lawmakers on powerful conference committees from getting state jobs afterward

- SR 24, a bill to curb unrecorded voice votes in the state senate

- SR 36, a bill to give the state ethics commission a fixed percentage of the state budget.

“They’re worried all kinds of amendments will come in to make government better,” said William Perry, founder of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs.  “So when their fear is openness and transparency, they’re trying to make it the least transparent they can.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution looks at some bills that failed to pass before Crossover Day and some legislation that passed and moves now to the opposite chamber.

House Bill 436 by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella) to address a border dispute between Bibb and Monroe Counties, is mostly dead in the legislature after failing to advance to the House floor.

In a legal case going back more than a decade, Monroe County is claiming a wedge of land that includes part of the Bass Pro Shops property, plus homes on both sides of Interstate 75 where Macon-Bibb County collects taxes and provides services.

State Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, proposed setting aside property tax money from that land, making it untouchable until the case is finished. His House Bill 436 would also make the losing county liable to pay the winning side’s legal bills after July 31.

Senate Bill 191 by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough) would ban petroleum pipelines in parts of Coastal Georgia.

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, also includes new hurdles for companies seeking to build a petroleum pipeline, including expanded requirements for obtaining a permit from the Environmental Protection Division to site a pipeline and expanded requirements to prove the pipeline is necessary for more than the company’s economic gain.

“They have to prove that Georgians need it and it’ll used by Georgians, Bonitatibus said. Instead of getting that certification from the state Department of Transportation, the bill gives the granting authority to the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.

The Georgia Petroleum Council is mainly in favor of the bill, said Executive Director Hunter Hopkins, though it has concerns that requiring that a pipeline benefit Georgia could interfere with interstate commerce.

“Pipelines serve multiple states,” he said. “You can’t just look at Georgia.”

House Bill 341 by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) fights human trafficking by increasing penalties for consumers.

House Bill 341, introduced by Reeves, would classify that conduct as a felony under the human trafficking statute, which could bring a sentence of ten to 20 years in prison.

“It’s hard for us to comprehend that there are people out there that do this, but by calling it what it is — human trafficking and sexual servitude — and raising that level of culpability against the customers, my hope is that people are going to stop engaging in this when they realize the penalties they may face,” Reeves said.

Paying for sex with a minor is already a felony in Georgia. Reeves’ bill would impact those who knowingly pay for sex from an adult who is being coerced into prostitution or from an adult who is developmentally disabled.

Reeves said other states and the federal government have similar trafficking laws, and compared the plan to a familiar concept from economics 101.

“Law enforcement can take down organizations that do this but as long as that demand exists, there’s going to be somebody else that’s willing to provide the supply,” he said. “So we can continue to go after the suppliers, and we will, but until we really make a dent in the demand, then we’re not solving the problem.”

Reeves said adding the crimes of soliciting and pandering to the human trafficking statute is the most significant part of the bill, but HB 341 would make some other changes to the law as well.

 Meanwhile, a Savannah man is on trial in federal court over allegations of trafficking a 14-year old Georgia girl.

Timothy Dequon “Maintain” Lewis, 28, of Savannah is on trial on a 20-count indictment for sex trafficking of minors, coercion and enticement of minors to engage in sexual activity, transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of child pornography and aiding and abetting.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors contend Lewis preyed on eight victims in sex trafficking between ages 13 and 17 between at least June 11, 2015, through Oct. 20, 2015.

“Was it more than 10 a day?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tania Groover asked the victim, referred to in the indictment as Jane Doe 3.

“Probably,”’ the witness, then 13, replied.

The defendant would post photos of the victims on a “Back page” website that generated “thousands and thousands and thousands” of replies from men “wanting to buy these little girls,” she told the jury.

And she said Lewis enforced his dominance with a .38-caliber pistol he had despite being a convicted felon who was barred by law from possessing a weapon.

In the Sixth District race to replace Rep. Tom Price, Republican Amy Kremer is raffling off an AR-15 to get free media support the Second Amendment.

Raffling off an AR-15 in a political campaign may sound provocative, but to Amy Kremer, it signifies her strong support of the 2nd amendment.

“Giveaways like these have been done in a lot of campaigns; I wish I could take credit for it,” said Kremer, one of 18 candidates seeking to replace Tom Price in the 6th congressional district. “We are very pro-2nd Amendment not only in Georgia but in the south.”

“We need more conservatives in Washington,” Kremer said. “The GOP is dragging its feet in terms of rejecting Obamacare and implementing the president’s initiatives. I worked with Tom Price to fight against Obamacare before it was even called Obamacare.”

Obamacare supporters protested outside the office of Congressman Doug Collins (R-9).

Much of the protest was focused on national issues and President Donald Trump in particular, with a pyramid-shaped array of boxes, “Trump’s Wall of Shame,” on display.

But some of it was directed at Collins, the 9th District’s Republican lawmaker.

“I just want to tell Congressman Collins, you can run, but you can’t hide,” a speaker said into the megaphone at the rally in front of the Hosch Building on Washington Street. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to face your constituents.”

Pyle, along with two other area residents, met with Collins for about 45 minutes about their concerns over the health care reform law, often referred to as Obamacare.

“We feel like we need to not repeal ACA,” said Dawson County resident Bette Holland, who was part of the meeting.

Collins “was very receptive to everything we talked about,” she said. “We still have differences, obviously, about what we think needs to be done. But there are a few things we agree on, such as keeping the pre-existing conditions clause and keeping children under 26 on their parents’ (insurance).”

Judson Hill spoke to the Marietta Daily Journal about his campaign for Congress.

“I think the Democrats here are really hungry,” Hill said. “They’re really energized in this race. You’ve seen a lot going on already. The leading candidate supposedly is already going to have $4 million or so … They’re sending paid operatives here. They’re sending volunteers here …”

While Democrats have coalesced around candidate Jon Ossof, and it’s true Trump barely won the congressional district, Price certainly had no trouble in his last election. So is Ossof really a threat to Republicans?

“In the right situation,” Hill answered. “The special elections are special. We got to be concerned … that we make sure we send a conservative reformer back to Washington, D.C., just like with Price and (Sen.) Johnny Isakson and (former House) Speaker (Newt) Gingrich. … all you got to do is turn to a state like Louisiana and see what could happen if we have a weaker Republican candidate … I think it’s a call to arms for the conservatives in this district to stand up and make sure we can continue.”

An advantage Hill has that his opponents don’t is the eight candidates running for his state senate seat. The election for that seat will be held on the same day as his congressional election.

That means when they go door to door to introduce themselves, they automatically give Hill a free advertisement because they have to explain to residents that they are running to fill his vacant seat.

President Trump’s plan to increase military spending might be good for Georgia, according to the AJC.

Georgia is the sixth-largest military state in terms of personnel, with eight major bases and more than 118,000 active-duty, reserve and civilian personnel, according to Pentagon figures. In recent years, advocates say they’ve seen fewer dollars flowing due to a national retrenchment in military funding.

“It’s really nice to see this reversal in thinking about the military,” said David Connell, president of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce. Cobb is home to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, the headquarters of the Georgia National Guard and the defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

“We’re in perfect position to be able to receive enhanced military funding because we have the facilities in place to deliver,” said U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

Metro Atlanta is home to several universities that work in defense. Georgia Tech received $320 million last year in military dollars for research ranging from missile defense systems to sensors for chemical and biological weapons.

Fort Gordon, however, has its own very distinct success story. It’s been growing since it was named the Army’s Cyber Command Headquarters in 2013. The base has some $780 million worth of already funded projects that stretch into 2025, according to a report last year by the state House Study Committee on Military Affairs.

Isakson indicated that increases to cyber-security spending would most likely filter down to Fort Gordon. Augusta is already home to many functions of the National Security Agency, and local officials hope the Trump money would hasten their vision of becoming the Silicon Valley of the East. They pointed to the increasing role of cyber-warfare in world affairs.

“The need for cyber security will never go away,” said Walter Sprouse, executive director of the Augusta Economic Development Authority. “There is going to be increased spending here.”

Lawrenceville City Council voted to raise gas and electric rates for residents.

Clarkesville City Council voted to hold a special election on June 20, 2017 to fill a vacancy.

During its meeting Monday night, the city council unanimously adopted a resolution setting a special election on Tuesday, June 20, at the Ruby Fulbright Aquatic Center in Clarkesville.

That election will be for the office of council member, and the person elected will serve for roughly two and one-half years, beginning on or about June 21, 2017, and continuing through Dec. 31, 2019.

Qualifying for the special election will be Monday through Wednesday, April 24-27, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except for a one-hour lunch break beginning at 1 p.m. daily. The place of qualifying is the Habersham County Office of Elections and Registration in the basement of the Habersham County Administrative Building, 555 Monroe St., Clarkesville.

The qualifying fee is $18.

Augusta City Commission is considering whether to attempt to rename the John C. Calhoun Expressway.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy called for the name change after Yale University announced it was renaming Calhoun College in light of the 19th-century politician’s embrace of slavery, and retired Paine College professor and historian Mallory Millender last week urged commissioners at a committee meeting to take a stand against Calhoun’s values.

The commission committee then voted to refer the decision to the full commission.

Members of the local legislative delegation said no bill had survived crossover day that includes the name change and knew of no ongoing discussions about it.

“No one has asked me to do anything with Calhoun Expressway,” Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta, said.

Other city commissioners reached Monday, including three of the commission’s six black members, said they do not support the change at this time. The effort needs six supporting votes – or five plus a tiebreaking vote by the mayor – to pass.

Savannah-Chatham Schools Superintendent Thomas Lockamy threatened to resign immediately over comments by School Board President Jolene Byrne.

Lockamy fired off an angry email Thursday after Byrne went on a local television station and questioned his recommendation for a multimillion dollar Education Special Local Option Sales Tax construction program management contract. It is not the first time Lockamy has threatened to quit amid conflict with Byrne.

“If the majority of the school board has any doubt about how the process was handled and question the validity of my justification for the Parsons recommendation, I will be pleased to submit my resignation immediately and the board and pay my last few months of contract,” Lockamy wrote. “…Yes, I’m angry but I will no longer tolerate the board president attacking (my) professional reputation publicly. Thanks for your understanding and allowing me to vent.”

Warner Robins City Council voted to rescind an earlier vote to provide paid maternity leave to municipal employees.

Former Georgia House Speaker Terry Coleman now lobbies for the City of Warner Robins, among other clients.

Coleman, an Eastman Democrat, served as a state representative from 1973 to 2006, when he decided not to seek re-election. He was House speaker from 2003 to 2004, and then Republicans took over. Before becoming speaker, he served 12 years as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Today he is a partner in Government Solutions, a lobbying firm that has worked for Warner Robins for the past year. He formed the company with Terry Matthews, who served as state director for Sam Nunn when Nunn was a U.S. senator, and Scott Maxwell, who was also a Nunn staffer.

The city pays the firm $4,500 a month, and Mayor Randy Toms said it has been a good investment. Coleman’s work goes beyond following legislation that may affect the city, he said. Coleman helps the city navigate the inner workings of state government.

Coleman said 16 other cities across the state have lobbyists. Cities with military bases especially find value in having a lobbyist, he said, and working to prepare Warner Robins for a potential Base Realignment and Closure Commission is a key focus of his job. The only other city Coleman’s group represents is Valdosta, which is close to Moody Air Force Base.

Cook County Commissioners voted to build a new facility to keep emergency medical services available.

Canton City Council is considering an ordinance to ban retail sales of dogs and cats.

Protesters showed up at the workplace of Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter.

A dozen or so protesters turned up Monday afternoon outside the office of United Consulting, the Norcross engineering firm that employs embattled Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter.

Positioned on both sides of busy Holcomb Bridge Road, they carried signs and chanted a familiar slogan: “Hunter must go, Hunter must go, Hunter must go.”

“We don’t want anybody to lose their source of income,” one of the protest’s organizers, Phyllis Richardson, said. “But we do want [United Consulting] to say hey, if you’re not going to step down as a commissioner, based on the things you did, then you really don’t deserve a space here.”

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