Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 13, 2017

13
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 13, 2017

On March 3, 1736, the Spanish Governor of Florida complained to Georgia’s James Oglethorpe about English settlements and forts in areas claimed by Spain.

On March 13, 1868, the first impeachment trial of a United States President began in the Senate. President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House for allegations based on his Reconstruction policies that allegedly violated federal law.

Sworn in as president after Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, President Johnson enacted a lenient Reconstruction policy for the defeated South, including almost total amnesty to ex-Confederates, a program of rapid restoration of U.S.-state status for the seceded states, and the approval of new, local Southern governments, which were able to legislate “black codes” that preserved the system of slavery in all but name. The Republican-dominated Congress greatly opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction program and passed the “Radical Reconstruction” by repeatedly overriding the president’s vetoes. Under the Radical Reconstruction, local Southern governments gave way to federal military rule, and African-American men in the South were granted the constitutional right to vote.

In March 1867, in order further to weaken Johnson’s authority, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over his veto. The act prohibited the president from removing federal office holders, including Cabinet members, who had been confirmed by the Senate, without the consent of the Senate.

On March 13, 1957, Governor Marvin Griffin signed a joint resolution by the Georgia General Assembly purporting to impeach United State Chief Justice Earl Warren and associate justices Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Thomas Clark, Felix Frankfurter, and Stanley Reed, and calling on Congress to impeach the Justices.

On this date in 1992, 25 years ago, “My Cousin Vinny” was released.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

COMMITTEE MEETING SCHEDULE

8:00 AM SENATE APPROPS 341 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE SESSION (LD 32) CHAMBER

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

12:30 PM House Fleming Sub Jud’y Civil 132 CAP

1:00 PM STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS MEZZ 1

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER ED 307 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 310 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY & HOMELAND SECURITY 606 CLOB

1:00 PM House Education Sub Administration & Planning 403 CAP

1:30 PM House Kelley Sub Jud’y Civil 132 CAP

2:00 PM EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

2:00 PM House Education Sub Education Innov & Workforce Dev 403 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE DEFENSE AND VETERANS AFFAIRS 415 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT 310 CLOB

3:00 PM GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE VETERANS, MIL & HOMELAND SEC MEZZ 1

4:00 PM SENATE SPECIAL JUD’Y 125 CAP


SENATE RULES CALENDAR

HB 41 – Architects; allow certain students to take examination; change qualifications (RI&U-27th) Harrell-106th

HB 260 – Special license plates; Georgia Electric Membership Corporation; establish (RI&U-51st) Powell-32nd

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Structured Rule

SB 85 – Malt Beverages; provide for limited sale at retail by manufacturers (Substitute)(RegI-Maxwell-17th) Jeffares-17th


 

House Bill 238 by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) would allow landowners to install solar panels on land dedicated via conservation easement without paying a penalty for developing the land.

Georgia is adding solar energy faster than almost any state in the nation, according to an industry trade group, and there’s more coming.

Now lawmakers are considering forgiving a fee for folks who want to install solar power on protected land….

Across Georgia in 2015, there were enough solar panels installed to generate 409 megawatts of power, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group. By 2016, that number was up to 1,432 megawatts of installed solar capacity, which made Georgia the third-fastest state for growth in solar, according to the group. They estimate some 162,000 homes in the state are powered by solar.

The covenants addressed in the bill cover something like half the state — about 18 million acres, at the time of a 2013 state review. Landowners who sign up to the programs, the Conservation Use Valuation Assessment or the Forest Land Protection Act, get a property tax break, but pretty much have to limit the use to things like farming and timber production.

If a landowner breaks a covenant, fees are set at two times the tax savings the landowner collected under it.

The bill by state Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, waives that fee if the landowner is going solar. So counties miss that revenue, but they can charge more taxes on the built-up land than they could on protected land.

“It’s a net gain for your local property tax” collections, Hatchett said at a Senate subcommittee hearing on his bill on Wednesday.

A California company is applying for a permit to install 12,000 solar panels at a 25-acre site in Bibb County.

“The project will provide power to Georgia Power and produce enough energy to power roughly 500 homes,” according to a statement from Gardner Capital.

The solar farm would not require any employees or the construction of any buildings, and maintenance at the site would be done a couple of times a years, according to the commission’s staff report. The lifespan of the arrays is 35 to 45 years.

State Rep. Pedro “Pete” Marin (D-Duluth) introduced House Bill 565, which would add two district commissioners to the Gwinnett County Commission and redraw district lines.

If passed, the commission would have seven seats, putting it at the same size as the Fulton and DeKalb County commissions.

The bill would create new seats that would be filled during the November 2018 election, along with the existing District Two and Four seats. The new District Five commissioner would initially have a two-year term, aligning it to join the same four-year cycle as the chairman and District One and Three seats in 2020.

The new District Six seat would not be up re-election again until 2022, however, keeping it in the same election cycle with District Two and Four.

The political climate in Gwinnett has changed since then as the county shifts more and more into neutral purple territory. That shift was evident last year when Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, won the county in the presidential election while Nash, a Republican, won the chairman’s race.

“From time to time, changes to the county’s governing authority and structure have been proposed by legislators and those proposals considered by our legislative delegation,” Nash said. “We will respond to questions from the Delegation and provide relevant information that may be helpful in considering this specific proposal, as we try to do with any legislation that affects the County.”

“It is worth noting that the 10-year census is coming up in 2020, with the redrawing of district lines necessitated by population changes following in 2021,” Nash said. “If the majority of our delegation determines that it is appropriate to add commissioners to our board, I would hope that the timing would be in conjunction with the redrawing of district boundaries after the 2020 census.”

The City of Stockbridge says that legislation to incorporate a new City of Eagles Landing including parts currently in Stockbridge would cause financial problems.

“Although Stockbridge currently has no property tax, should residents vote for one in the future, the removal of these commercial properties, as well as the removal of higher valued homes, would adversely impact the city’s ability to offer services at our current level,” said Stockbridge Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Ford at Tuesday’s Henry County Board of Commissioners meeting. “It would require an overly excessive millage rate on the remaining residential property owners.”

The city also has contractual obligations, Ford said. For example Capital One, which holds the note to City Hall, Waste Industries for sanitation, and Georgia Environmental Finance Authority for water and sewer facilities would all be affected by the revenue loss.

“The proposal to create a new city by pulling from an existing city has never been done before, and would set an extremely adverse precedent for all cities,” said Ford. “This effort has already proven to be extremely polarizing, and does far more to divide our community rather than bringing residents together to work collectively on our common goals.”

House Bill 273 by Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) would require 30 minutes of recess for K-5 students, passed the State House.

House Bill 273 requires an “average of 30 minutes per day of supervised unstructured activity time, preferably outdoors.” Under the bill, recess would not be required on any day on which a student has physical education or structured activity time.

I would totally support “30 minutes per day of supervised unstructured activity time, preferably outdoors,” during the legislature’s so-called recess. I’m thinking of throwing a frisbee on that sweet field on Liberty Plaza.

State Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) is profiled by Georgia State University School of Law, where he graduated in 2014. One point for wearing a pink jacket in the accompanying photo.

Jason Shepherd was elected Chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party on Saturday. Congratulations and condolences to him.

In perhaps a sign of disapproval over the county “going blue” in November’s presidential election, delegates at Saturdays’ Cobb County Republican Party chose Jason Shepherd over incumbent Rose Wing as the party’s chair.

Shepherd was elected by a 173-114 secret ballot vote — a near flip-flop of the results two years ago when a 169108 vote led to Wing being named the chair over Shepherd.

Though the Republican won 82 of Cobb County’s 144 voting precincts and went on to win the state and the presidency, Hillary Clinton received 7,209 more votes overall to “win” the county, becoming the first Democrat to take Cobb since President Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Shepherd after Saturday’s convention said the April 18 special election is the party’s top focus moving forward.

“With Ossoff being in some of the polls in the lead, it’s to make sure he only stays at that 30 percent or 40 percent or less, and thatwhen we finally have a Republican nominee for that, that we really get out the vote for that individual, and do whatever we can in Cobb County and working across counties with Fulton and DeKalb to make sure the Republican wins,” Shepherd said.

If none of the 18 candidates win a majority of the votes in the April 18 election, there will be a runoff between the two top vote-getters June 20.

Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Watson spoke to the Forsyth County Republican Party.

Watson, who has served as finance director for several campaigns in the state, said it is time for someone with experience to help the party raise money.

Several members in the audience had questions for Watson, including District 27 state Sen. Michael Williams, who asked Watson how he would balance his career as a lobbyist and being chair of the state party.

“I have to make a living and do so as a lobbyist,” Watson said. “I have to demonstrate to the state exactly who it is that I work for, and I am prepared, whether it be good, bad or ugly, to tell anyone that asks, ‘What are you being paid to do?’ And it is my responsibility as an aspiring leader to have the guts to be candid with each and every person in this room and around this state as to what I’m doing.”

Watson said anyone can find who he has advocated for online at the Georgia Transparency and Campaign Finances Commission’s website. The website lists Watson as advocating for several groups, including casino group Boyd Gaming Corporation, banking company JPMorgan Chase and Co. and car service Uber Technologies.

After he spoke and answered questions, Williams praised Watson.

“You go down to the Capitol and you can spot really quickly the good lobbyists and the bad lobbyists,” Williams said. “To build back the trust of the party you’ve got to have someone who is trustworthy, and I’m willing to put my name on this guy right here.”

Meanwhile, Forsyth County Democrats are becoming more active in the overwhelmingly Republican county.

Former State Senator Seth Harp will join the Georgia State Elections Board.

Democratic candidates for the 6th Congressional District debated in Roswell this weekend. FetchYourNews.com has video of the debate.

The Marietta Daily Journal looks at SPLOST spending ahead of the March 21 sales tax referendum.

Representatives of the Georgia Department of Economic Development will accompany international economic reps in a visit to Hall County this week.

Rural Georgia

Irwin County Hospital illustrates the plight of rural Georgia communities that are struggling to retain access to health care and emergency services.

“Our ER is not very large. It’s only four exam rooms, a cardiac room and trauma room,” [Nurse Jason] Baxley said.

While it isn’t very large, Baxley said the emergency room stays busy. By around noon, they’ve seen a handful of patients – some for pregnancies and a couple others for broken bones, he said. On a 12-hour shift, he said the emergency room sees seven to eight patients on slow days to 12 to 13 patients.

“We treat anything from common colds to cardiac arrests,” he said.

Irwin County is about a three-hour drive from Atlanta down I-75 and has a population of about 9,000 people. But the hospital delivers babies from around the area, about 400 a year.

“If we’re not here, people die, and that’s something that we live with every day,” said Clay Jones, regional director of operations for E.R. Hospitals, which manages Irwin County Hospital and four other rural hospitals in Georgia.

Last year, Irwin County Hospital was about $2.5 million in the red, hospital officials said. Irwin County Hospital recently topped a state list of rural hospitals in need of financial help and is one of dozens in Georgia trying to stay afloat. According to the NC Rural Health Research Program, six rural hospitals in Georgia have closed since 2010.

“Our emergency room doesn’t make money because a lot of people that come to our emergency room just aren’t able to pay in rural markets,” Jones said.

House Resolution 389 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), and championed by Speaker David Ralston, passed the junior chamber on Friday.

The Georgia House of Representatives voted unanimously Friday to form a 15-member council of House lawmakers to look for ways to boost the economy of rural Georgia.

Council members will be appointed by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who made the proposal one of his top priorities for this year’s General Assembly session.

“Atlanta is the economic engine for the state,” said Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “But without a strong rural Georgia to feed, clothe and house the people who call metro Atlanta home, we’re all in a bad spot.”

Jill Nolin in The Moultrie Oberver writes about the number of bills addressing rural issues.

One proposal aims to revive empty downtowns. Another would spur donations for small-town hospitals. Still another seeks to connect go-getting companies with otherwise elusive capital.

There’s no shortage of ideas percolating right now under the Gold Dome on how the state can come to the aid of rural Georgia, and they all have one thing in common: jobs.

“We all know it’s the jobs that we’re lacking,” said Rep. Jason Shaw, R-Lakeland. “That’s why people are moving and the populations are going down – because there’s nowhere to work.”

“While the picture as a whole is positive, in some areas – particularly in rural areas of our state – the recovery has not been as robust as we would like,” House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said to legislators this week.

Ralston said he wants legislators to travel the state and explore tax policy and other legislative changes that can boost rural communities.

“I don’t want a single meeting held here at the Capitol,” he said.

“It’s going to be more than just passing legislation,” said Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee and who will co-chair the council. “It’s going to take a comprehensive approach, because you can’t get jobs if you don’t have education.”

The same goes, he said, when communities lack basic services, such as broadband and access to healthcare and continue to lose residents.

Telfair County Sheriff’s Deputies posted a sign saying, “Pill house is closed,” after executing a search warrant and finding thousands of pills, guns, slot machines and $12,000 in cash.

Republican House Health Plan

The AJC writes that the “American Health Care Act” could cause thousands of Georgians to lose health care insurance gained under ObamaCare.

Thousands of poor, older Georgians could lose their health insurance in the coming years, while adults who are younger and make more money could be eligible for financial help to buy coverage.

Some people — especially older folks who live in rural Georgia where insurance premiums are often far higher than in metro areas — could lose thousands of dollars in federal tax credits that make buying health insurance possible. Meanwhile, the GOP plan offers more generous tax credits to the younger and wealthier as an enticement to get covered.

It could mean major cuts in funding and medical services for the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care to about 2 million poor children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled. The state could also get new flexibility in how it provides that coverage.

The state — which has the third-highest rate of uninsured in the country — could see that number swell under the plan.Hospitals could end up caring for and losing money on scores of those newly-uninsured patients, a burden that could have dire consequences for many of the state’s rural hospitals already in financial straits. By one estimate, 300,000 or more Georgians could lose their insurance.

State Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) says the current GOP plan would be bad for Georgia.

State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-52) doesn’t feel the new GOP Healthcare proposal is a good plan for the state of Georgia. Hufstetler and the four other members of Georgia’s Healthcare Reform Task Force met with two national healthcare experts on Friday to discuss what is being proposed now in Washington, D.C. and how Georgia can be proactive in it’s own healthcare plan.

“The time to act is now. We’ve had this wait and see attitude on new federal proposals,” says Hufstetler. “It appears the new Director of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare comes from Indiana and it seems there will be more flexibility given to states who have already started their own programs.

“But the negative is that in the way the program is set up with block grants, they will determine how much each state get based on current Medicaid spending. So those that have spent more, will get more money. Georgia is one state that has not expanded the Medicaid program. So, we will get less money and be punished for being fiscally conservative. Georgia is clearly a loser in this plan.”

“The budget cuts would be $20 million less to Georgia Public Health Departments that is used for essential services such as immunizations. Those are services we have to have so we will have to spend that money, so again that is not a good plan for Georgia,” says Hufstetler.

“We are all focused on moving healthcare upstream to a more preventative and healthy mode instead of just reacting to healthcare emergencies,” he says. “Until we tailor a program moving to more preventative services, we are not going to see any savings. One idea is a direct pay physician service that would provide ways to keep family practice cases out of the Emergency Room and make people healthier. We need to get their blood pressure and diabetes under control before they show up in the E.R. with a major problem. I feel like that needs to be the focus of Georgia’s plan.”

Senator Johnny Isakson says that cannabis should be removed from Schedule I, which includes drugs with the highest potential for abuse.

“I believe in its use for medical purposes, they’re documented,” U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, said during a telephone town hall meeting on Thursday night. “On the schedule, in the scheme of things, it’s miscalculated in the schedule.”

Isakson said an effort by state Rep. Allen Peake, a fellow Republican, to expand Georgia’s existing limited CBD medical cannabis oil law is “a good thing.”

Peake is pushing legislation to add several new qualifying conditions to the program.

Isakson was responding to a question from a voter who said she has multiple sclerosis and a husband with PTSD and a knee injury from military deployment. Under the state’s restrictive law, they are not eligible to receive medical cannabis legally.

“Cannabis oil has been proven to be helpful,” said Isakson, who disclosed in 2015 that he has Parkinson’s disease.

“I’m not for just totally decriminalizing marijuana,” he said. “Although everybody that takes it doesn’t become a drug addict, I’ve heard many people say anybody who was ever a drug addict started with marijuana, and we don’t want to start that foundation or make it too easy to get.”

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