Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 8, 2017

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May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 8, 2017

Georgia and American History

Congress passed the second part of the Militia Act on May 8, 1792, requiring all able-bodied white male citizens to be enrolled in the militia.

A Constitutional Convention convened on May 8, 1798 in Louisville, Georgia to rewrite the state Constitution after the Yazoo Land Fraud.

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in Augusta, Georgia on May 8, 1845.

On May 8, 1864, Union forces under Sherman continued to engage Confederates at the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge four miles west of Dalton, Georgia, seizing Blue Mountain.

Elsewhere on the same day, the Army of the Potomac under Grant reached Spotsylvania Court House in Virginia and found that Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had beaten them there from the Battle of the Wilderness.

Grant’s Army of the Potomac remained engaged against Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House through May 21, 1864.

Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation designating the current state flag on May 8, 2003.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign Senate Bill 206 by Sen. P.K. Martin, IV, today at the State Capitol.

Gov. Nathan Deal will sign legislation designed to help families like the Knights into law Monday. It will require insurance companies cover the costs of buying hearing aids for children who suffer from hearing impairments.

The bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, guarantees up to $6,000 coverage for a pair of hearing aids for kids, until they turn 18. Martin worked with the advocacy group Let Georgia Hear on it.

“The difference for a family who’s on a plan that is affected by this is immediate,” Martin said. “They’re gonna go from either they just can’t afford the hearing aids or they’re struggling to provide the hearing aids to now having coverage for that.”

[Kimmone] Knight said, “It’s definitely a step in the right direction in terms of minimizing out of pocket costs, especially for those families that may have young children like ourselves. There’s so many expenses to begin with, with having a child, and adding something like that on top of it — it’s good to know the insurance companies will be working with families to ensure they have what they need at the time when it’s most crucial.”

Several bills remain on Governor Deal’s desk ahead of tomorrow’s deadline to sign or veto.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Backers of Georgia’s small program allowing the use of medical cannabis oil hope Deal will sign off on an expansion of the program.

Lawmakers approved a compromise bill that would add six new diagnoses to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis oil, including autism, AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease. Many of the additions restrict use to patients who are in severe or end-stage condition.

SELF-DRIVING CARS: Another measure allows self-driving vehicles in Georgia. Supporters said car and technology companies, insurance providers and injury attorneys signed off on the proposal and warned that Georgia would be left behind as other states pass similar legislation.

The proposal requires drivers of the vehicles to have a higher amount of insurance coverage than what is required for traditional vehicles until the end of 2019.

BEER SALES: Deal’s also still mulling a change to Georgia law on beer sales at breweries. Lawmakers compromised after several years of fights between craft brewers and wholesalers that act as a middleman for brewers and retailers.

The Sixth Congressional District Special Election has become the most-expensive election for Congress ever.

Candidates and outside groups have aired or reserved more than $29.7 million worth of TV ads in the race to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Congress, which will break a five-year-old record for House spending — highlighting the outsize importance a sliver of the Atlanta suburbs has taken on in national politics.

Cash is flowing in at such saturation levels that Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign had the money for everything from Korean radio ads to free Lyft rides for voters on primary day. The Atlanta NBC station has even bumped reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” from their regular slot in order to extend its local newscasts and make more room for political ads.

The cost of the race between Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel is going to shatter the previous recorded high of $29.6 million — set in Palm Beach County, Florida, in 2012 by former GOP Rep. Allen West, former Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy and outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The $29.7 million total in Georgia, compiled by a source tracking media spending in the district, includes only money spent on TV ads.

“It’s entirely possible that by the time the books are closed on this race, there will be over $40 million spent in the special and in the runoff,” said Chip Lake, a Republican strategist who works in Georgia. “I’m at a loss for words.”

“It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which 2018 will not be the election that shatters midterm spending record as well because we still have Donald Trump as president,” said Lake, the Georgia Republican consultant. “And he’s proven to be an activating force for both Democrats and Republicans.”

For TV stations, it’s like drinking from a fire hose.

The tidal wave of spending led a local television broadcaster, WXIA, to temporarily add a 7 p.m. newscast on its sister station. Fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” repeats will have to look elsewhere for the next few weeks.

It helps explain why reporters at WXIA showed up at a meeting last week and were informed about a temporary 7 p.m. newscast on its sister station, WATL, that will end after the June 20 runoff is over. They were told the current newscast commercial inventory was too tight.

“I have to give (WXIA) credit — they’re being honest about it,” said Bobby Kahn, a former Democratic operative whose media-buying firm works with Ossoff’s campaign. “I’m never surprised at a television station’s efforts to maximize their political revenue.”

The tight timing of a nightly newscast also adds another wrinkle. Michael Castengera, a TV consultant who teaches at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism, said stations try to space out ads to avoid airing them back-to-back. That means a typical 30-minute newscast can fit 16 to 18 30-second ads, he said.

And they have to strike a balancing act between serving longtime advertisers who provide a steady stream of revenue and the spike in political ads from campaigns who can generally buy their airtime at cheaper rates.

Atlanta mayoral candidates would normally be the main campaign story at this point in an election year, but they’re still in the bullpen getting warmed up.

The race for Atlanta mayor has been overshadowed lately by the news of the day — including a massive fire that destroyed the I-85 bridge — but candidates haven’t stopped campaigning.

With seven months to go to election day in November, the nine serious candidates hoping to succeed Mayor Kasim Reed are walking in parades, speaking at forums and using social media to engage voters.

Nine Georgia Congressman signed a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on poultry regulations by the Department of Agriculture.

Representatives Doug Collins (Ga-9), Austin Scott (Ga-8), Rick Allen (GA-12), Buddy Carter (GA-1), Tom Graves (GA-14), Jody Hice (GA-10), David Scott (GA-13), Rob Woodall (GA-7), Drew Ferguson (GA-3), and Barry Loudermilk (GA-11) all signed a letter Friday, with the requests to rescind or withdraw three poultry regulations.

The regulations were published in the Federal Register on December 20, 2016, “in spite of repeated signals from Congress that they exceeded the scope of the 2008 Farm Bill and strayed wildly from Congressional intent,” the letter said. They also commended the USDA for taking preliminary action on February 6 and extending public comment on the interim final rule.

Also in the letter, a study by FarmEcon LLC indicated the regulations would cost the chicken industry $1.03 billion dollars over five years in reduced efficiency, high costs for feeding and housing and increased administrative expenses.

In the letter the lawmakers request that after the public comment period is complete, the two proposed rules will be withdrawn and the interim final rule will be rescinded.

Macon-Bibb Commissioner Joe Allen has suggested local elected officials and appointees take voluntary drug tests.

Commissioner Joe Allen plans to introduce a resolution asking for elected and public officials to submit to voluntary drug tests and release the results to residents. The veteran politician said it would be a way to hold those in leadership positions accountable.

But several commissioners said they have concerns about some of the people who would be asked to volunteer for the tests, especially those whom commissioners appoint to various unpaid boards.

The resolution would cover Macon-Bibb County commissioners, other elected officials and appointed positions such as county and assistant county managers, and other department heads. People appointed to various boards, such as the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission, would also be asked to participate.

The resolution says it would cover illegal controlled substances. The measure is expected to be on the agenda for Tuesday’s commission committee meetings.

Cobb County Commissioners are considering a plan to offer valet parking on the Marietta Square.

Coweta County Third District Commissioner Bob Blackburn  and First District Commissioner Paul Poole both hosted Town Hall meetings for constituents last week.

The next town hall meeting will be Monday, May 22 with 4th District Commissioner Rodney Brooks. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and will be held at the Central Community Center, 65 Literary Lane, Newnan.

Gainesville High School students heard from the founder of Generation Inspiration at this year’s first session.

One highlight this year is a diplomacy program simulating a refugee crisis, said Ashley Bell, a GHS alumnus who has risen through government and politics to become a special assistant to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“You’ll be split into groups and educated on the roles in each situation, and you’ll be given a simulated program on how to end the crisis,” said Bell.

“What I hope you get out of this is an understanding that the world and these programs are difficult. There’s never really a right answer, but … you’ll get to understand how to advocate a position, a chance to fight for your argument and how the world works together to solve problems.”

Bell, who founded Generation Inspiration 12 years ago, said the experience might motivate some students to serve the country in some way.

“When you can convince your peers that you know what has to happen next for you to get to where you want to go, and this is a request for resources to do it, then we’ll help you do it,” Bell said. “We’ll help you get there.”

Whitfield County Commission Chair Lynn Laughter hopes to end surprise billing by the local ambulance service.

Basically, someone calls for an ambulance and is transported to Hamilton Medical Center. They later find that what their insurance has reimbursed Hamilton Emergency Medical Services only covered part of the bill and Hamilton has billed them for the balance.

She says that is one topic she has been pressing Hamilton on as the two sides have been renegotiating Hamilton’s contract to provide emergency medical services for Whitfield County.

“I’m happy to say that Hamilton has agreed to start negotiations with insurance companies to try to reach and agreement so that ambulance services would be an in-network service where insurance would cover the ride and the patient would not have to pay any balance,” she said.

Hamilton EMS Director Scott Radeker says there’s a reason for that.

“The insurance company pays only for what it thinks the service to that patient is worth,” he said. “It doesn’t take into account the equipment and manpower we have to maintain to respond to a call in minutes 24 hours a day. It doesn’t take into account the cost to us of patients we transport who don’t have insurance or lie to us about their names. What people are paying for is the cost of picking up that phone and within nine minutes in the city or 15 minutes in the county you have a paramedic there.”

Sheriffs

Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal said he might run for Sheriff in 2020, but didn’t say where.

“Mayor no, I would never run for mayor,” he told 11Alive News on Friday.

Photojournalist Bruce Mason was apologetic about the question his Director of Digital Content (that’s me) insisted he ask.

But then, the bombshell: “In 2020, I plan on running for Sheriff.”

He could run for Sheriff in Henry County, where he is a resident. The incumbent there is up for reelection in 2020. He could run in Florida where he also has residency. He also could move somewhere between now and 2020, and establish new residency.

“This is not about politics. This is about bringing people closer together,” Shaq said. “You know, when I was coming up, people love and respected the police, the deputies. And, I want to be the one to bring that back, especially in the community I serve.”

Shaq says he’s perfect for the job, because he can relate to everyone. “I can put on a suit and have a conversation with Bill Gates. I can go in the hood and talk to the homies, and talk to the children.”

DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann made news of his own for completely different reasons.

The DeKalb County sheriff was arrested overnight by the Atlanta Police Department on misdemeanor obstruction and public indecency charges, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Sheriff Jeffrey Mann was arrested after he was stopped in Piedmont Park for allegedly breaking the law, police say.

Mann, an attorney who has worked in the Sheriff’s Office since 2001, was originally elected in a July 2014 special election against Vernon Jones. Mann was chief deputy under former Sheriff Thomas Brown and took over as sheriff earlier in 2014 after Brown resigned to run for Congress.

Mann overcame four Democratic opponents in the May primary election before facing Dennis in the general election.

Prior to Brown, every sheriff elected to a full term in DeKalb since 1965 had faced criminal charges.

GAGOP Chairman’s Race

Cobb County Republican Party hosted a debate among the candidates for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.

Over 100 Republicans packed into Cobb GOP Headquarters on Roswell Street on Saturday for the party’s monthly breakfast, but they weren’t there for the scrambled eggs or grits.

DeKalb attorney Alex Johnson, Republican activist John Watson of west Cobb, current Georgia GOP vice-chair Michael McNeely and Mike Welsh, chair of the Augusta-based 12th District GOP, all want to become the state GOP’s next chairman.

Whoever is elected to lead the state party June 3 will have to deal with the party’s financial problems. The state GOP is in debt, the candidates said, and they each presented their plans to get out of it.

Welsh told the crowd he has a fundraising plan that will reach out to conservatives across the state rather than just those in the metro area.

Johnson agreed it is important to expand the tent, but said the party needs to undergo fundamental changes to earn the trust of potential donors.

McNeely, who lives in Villa Rica and hopes to be the first leader of the Georgia GOP who is a minority, said the solution will involve better budgeting and better messaging.

Watson touted his experience as fundraiser and finance director for Republican candidates going back to Bob Barr in 1994.

“Georgia Republican party chairman is the fundraiser-in-chief, period,” he said. “The reality is I uniquely stand before you as the only person who has been a professional fundraiser throughout my career, raising resources for men and women across this state to the tune of $25 million. To do so, we will have an integrated finance plan and make certain we are looking at men and women that can contribute from $5 up to $250,000, creating a regimented business plan, marketing plan and having the dedication, on a daily basis… to make certain we are raising the resources.”

Gwinnett Republican Women will host a debate with the four candidates for State Chairman tonight at 7 PM at the Gwinnett GOP Headquarters in Gwinnett Place Mall.

“It may be your last chance to see the candidates locally before the convention … Be there by 7 p.m. to get a good seat,” Gwinnett Republican Women President Linda Williams said of this week’s forum in an announcement on Facebook.

The candidates for the state chairman’s position are Alex Johnson, Michael McNeely, John Watson and Michael Welsh.

The Hall County Republican Party will also host a debate.

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