Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 16, 2017

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May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 16, 2017

Button Gwinnett v Lachlan McIntosh

Button Gwinnett and Lachlan McIntosh met outside Savannah on May 16, 1777 and fought a duel; Gwinnett was mortally wounded.

Gwinnett returned to Georgia immediately after signing the [Declaration of Independence] to find city Whig Lachlan McIntosh commanding Georgia’s nascent military efforts. Determined to take control of Georgia politics, Gwinnett became speaker of the legislature, guided the Georgia Constitution of 1777 into existence and took over as governor when Archibald Bulloch died suddenly in office.

Gwinnett then wanted to lead an expedition to secure Georgia’s border with Florida. A dispute between McIntosh and Gwinnett over who would command the effort ultimately led to their duel and Gwinnett’s death.

A Constitutional Convention met on May 16, 1795 in the capital of Louisville to amend the Georgia Constitution of 1789

The United States Senate voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson of 11 Articles of Impeachment passed by the House of Representatives on May 16, 1868.

The North Georgia Electric Company was incorporated on May 16, 1901 to build a hydroelectric dam on the Chattahoochee River near Gainesville; in 1916, it would be bought by the company that today is known as Georgia Power.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Senate District 32 voters go to the polls today in a Special Runoff Election.

Democrat Christine Triebsch faces off against Republican Kay Kirkpatrick in the race to replace former state Sen. Judson Hill.

The district covers much of east Cobb County and parts of north Fulton County.

“The runoff in state Senate District 32 is tomorrow, not June 20, 2017 when Karen Handel faces Jon Ossoff in the highly publicized 6th Congressional District runoff,” Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a statement Monday. “Although the dates can be confusing, I am encouraging all eligible voters to go to the polls and ensure their voice is heard in both of these contests.”

Voters are encouraged to check the Secretary of State’s ‘My Voter Page’ at the Secretary of State’s official website to determine if they are eligible to vote in Tuesday’s runoff. At that page, voters may check their registration status, view a sample ballot and find their polling location. On Tuesday, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

President Donald Trump met Blaiklyn Freeman, daughter of a Bibb County Sheriff’s Deputy who was killed in a crash while on duty.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan rallied with Karen Handel yesterday in the Sixth District.

“There are be-ers and there are do-ers,” he said, comparing District 6 U.S. House of Representatives candidates Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, and Karen Handel, a Republican, respectively. “The be-er is someone who wants to be somebody. It’s someone who wants to parachute into a Congressional district he doesn’t even live in, to try and fool you to think he thinks like you and shares your values. The do-er is someone who actually lives, eats, sleeps, breathes the principles you share, somebody who believes in specific principles and then goes and affects those principles. Someone who actually does what she says and is from where she says she’s from, Karen Handel.”

“This is going to be a dogfight. … This is going to be the most expensive Congressional election in history,” Sandy Springs Mayor Paul said. “But it’s not going to come down to money. It’s going to come down to the crew that works the hardest.”

Said Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, “Out in California, they say it’s a referendum. They’re right. It’s a referendum of who represents the Sixth District of Georgia and has positive values and does not represent California or Manhattan.”

“I don’t want to wake up on June 21 and have a new Congressman named Peloisioff,” he said, referring to Ossoff’s support from U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes about the issue of health care reform in the 6th District election.

Handel hopes to fire up the Republican base by embracing the House GOP’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and her side-by-side appearance with Ryan — the proposal’s chief architect — further highlighted her support for the plan.

Ossoff has called the measure a dangerous partisan attempt to roll back insurance protections.

“I’m speaking my mind on an issue that affects thousands of families here in Georgia,” [Ossoff] said in a recent interview. “Folks who are elected have an obligation to put politics aside and do what’s right for the community here. Throwing folks off their health insurance, denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions — it’s just wrong.”

Several of Handel’s supporters at the rally on Monday said they were just as energized by her promise to vote for legislation that would roll back the Affordable Care Act.

“Obamacare is failing, and I can tell you it’s really hindered our ability to provide health care,” said Marci McCarthy, the Brookhaven owner of a marketing firm. “The new House plan still needs refining. It needs work. But I have faith that when the Senate gets their hands on it and finesses it, we are going to have great health care.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville) convened the state Senate Health Care Reform Task Force yesterday to discuss federal changes.

Cagle hopes his task force can help Georgia benefit from, or even shape, whatever Congress eventually passes. And on the front lines, U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue are already outlining their positions. They spoke to the AJC last week.

The takeaways: All three are Republican, and all three say they’re for repealing and replacing Obamacare. But all say the U.S. House version needs work. And all acknowledge it could be months before any of that actually happens.

Among their top priorities is making sure that the 19 states that didn’t expand Medicaid under Obamacare, including Georgia, don’t get financially disadvantaged under such legislation.

“I want to get something that works for the people who need it and that we maintain the independence for the states in terms of taking care of their own people,” Perdue said.

The House GOP’s bill would fundamentally change the way the federal government pays states for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. The federal government has for years paid states a certain percentage of all of their Medicaid costs. The measure passed by the House instead would allow states to opt for “block grants,” which would pay states lump sums based on a predetermined formula.

Isakson and Perdue say they worry that a state with a growing population such as Georgia could end up worse off: locked into an outdated formula that could limit the stream of federal dollars.

United States District Court Judge Amy Totenberg rejected a motion by Gwinnett County to dismiss a voting rights lawsuit that alleges County Commission and Board of Education districts illegally disciminate against minorities.

The Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and several residents filed the suit last August in an effort to have the federal court force the redrawing of the county commission and school board districts to make it easier for minority candidates to be elected.

Although Totenberg rejected the request to dismiss the case, she did grant county officials more time to respond to an amended complaint filed against them in late April.

The county commission and school board are accused of having districts which are drawn to allegedly disenfranchise voters in minority groups, such as African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, by making it harder for members of those groups to get elected to public office

“Under a fairly-drawn single-member districting plan, blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans together, blacks and Latinos together or blacks and Asian-Americans together can comprise a majority of the citizen voting age population and have the opportunity to elect their candidates choice in two of five districts, which are reasonably compact and regular in shape, for both the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education,” the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint.

“One such district can be created among four single-member districts for the Board of Commissioners.”

State Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) spoke about a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST) on the November ballot in Athens-Clarke County.

Boosting Athens-Clarke County’s sales tax rate to 8 percent, as would happen if a November referendum on a 1 percent sales tax for transportation-related projects is approved, would build on the community’s reputation of being unfriendly toward business, and would disproportionately affect the county’s poorest residents, state Sen. Bill Cowsert told Athens-Clarke County commissioners on Thursday.

Cowsert, who attended a non-voting commission work session with the other Republican members of the local delegation to the state legislature, urged the commissioners — who will be making decisions in the coming month regarding which proposed projects would be funded with the tax — to “make sure those projects are important enough” to earn a share of the $104.5 million the tax is projected to raise during its five-year life. Collection of the additional 1 percent levy would begin in April 2018 if the tax is approved in a Nov. 7 countywide vote.

“I don’t see businesses coming here,” Cowsert went on to tell commissioners, noting that if the local sales tax rate is higher than in surrounding counties, that would serve as a disincentive for businesses to locate in Athens-Clarke County.

“Let’s make sure there’s enough of a need” for the proposed transportation projects, Cowsert urged commissioners.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) will hold a telephone town hall Thursday at 7:05 PM.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College will expand its Whitfield Murray Campus with nearly $19 million in state funding.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed off on the state of Georgia’s fiscal year 2018 budget. Included in the legislation is $18.7 million to build a 75,000-square-foot facility on the GNTC campus serving Whitfield and Murray counties. This will be the first new construction on the Whitfield Murray Campus of GNTC since the establishment of the campus in 2010.

The addition of the new building was made possible in large part by the transfer of approximately 23 acres of land to the Technical College System of Georgia by the Whitfield County school board. The donation of land will allow the college to expand classroom space adjacent to the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy and enhance opportunities for high school and college students to develop the occupational skills and knowledge needed by area business and industry. GNTC has received tremendous support from Gov. Deal, state elected officials, local elected officials, the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, the Whitfield County school system, area businesses, local industry and the entire community since the opening of the campus.

The Marietta City Board of Education may tentatively approve the FY 2018 budget today.

 The Marietta school board could tentatively approve Superintendent Grant Rivera’s fiscal 2018 budget tonight, which includes an average salary increase of 2.5 percent for all employees.

Salary increases for all employees could range from 1 to 6 percent, depending on years of experience and education degrees.

There will be no tax increases to fund the raises and the budget, according to Erin Franklin, the district’s finance director.

Hall County property owners could see lower tax rates from the Board of Education.

Superintendent Will Schofield presented an update of work on the 2018 fiscal year budget at the  meeting at Chestatee High School.

“We’re pleased with this budget,” Schofield told the board. “This budget reflects exactly what you’ve told our employees, and that is when times got better you’d put as much money as you possibly could into their paychecks. And it also fulfills a promise you’ve told our taxpayers, and that is when we have the opportunity and the tide started to turn upward, we’d do all we could to lower millage rates.”

The proposal presented Monday would lower the millage rate, which determines how much people pay in property taxes for schools. Schofield presented a plan to lower the tax rate from 18.8 mills to 18.5 mills in the next fiscal year that begins July 1.

Property tax exemptions are a challenge to budgeting in Hall County, according to Superintendent Schofield.

“One of the challenges of our budget, and it continues to be a challenge year after year, is we have now reached the place in Hall County where $1.2-billion of our local digest is exempt from school tax,” Schofield said.

“That’s 20-percent or more of our digest that is exempt from school tax,” he added.

Among those exempt from the school tax portion on their annual property tax bill are property owners 70 years and older.

“We really need to have a policy debate at the state level about how we’re going to raise funds for schools if, in fact, we’re going to have school districts that have twenty and thirty and forty percent of their digest that is exempt from school taxes.”

Augusta City Commissioners will vote on a proposal to use inmate labor for demolition work.

Commissioner Sammie Sias called for Augusta to return to using state prisoners housed at Richmond County Correctional Institute for demolition projects to save money. Some 100 city-owned houses slated for demolition in Hyde Park were a suitable starting point, with contractors continuing to handle asbestos abatement, City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson said.

Sias hasn’t returned messages seeking comment but signed up to address the commission about “administration access” after other commissioners accused him of working in isolation with Jackson and Commissioner Ben Hasan on the project.

Dawsonville City Council voted 3-1 to remove Mayor James Grogan from office after allegations of misuse of funds and decisions in violation of the city charter.

Georgia Democrats

Georgia State House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams (Atlanta) is among the group of “Young Black Democrats, Eager to Lead From the Left,” profiled by The New York Times.

In Georgia, a Democratic lawmaker planning a run for governor promises to confront President Trump and what she calls the “fascists” surrounding him.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic leader in the Georgia House of Representatives and a likely candidate for governor, said Democrats would win by confronting a president who was viewed with fear and hostility by the party’s base.

Rather than pivoting to the center, Ms. Abrams, 43, said Democrats should redouble their focus on registering and energizing blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, as well as young and low-income voters, who often decline to participate in politics.

“There is a hunger for representation,” Ms. Abrams said in an interview. “There is a desire to make certain the state starts to serve everyone.”

At a “Macon Resists” town hall event in central Georgia last month, Ms. Abrams appealed to an auditorium of anxious Democrats with just that approach. The state, she said, is speeding toward a political crossroads, with Republicans “terrified of the evolving nature of our state.”

“We can either move forward or we can let the president, and those fascists that surround him, pull us backwards,” she said. “I plan to go forward.”

“A Democrat wins an election in Georgia by speaking truth to power,” she said.

Lt Gov. Casey Cagle voiced his disagreement on Facebook:

Casey v Stacey

The Democratic Party of Georgia is working to charter a local party in Paulding County.

The Georgia Democratic Party is helping some Paulding County Democrats formally reform the local political organization.

The group has scheduled a Saturday, April 29, “formative meeting” to “officially start the process” of formally chartering the local party, said Lukas Newborn, who helped organize the event.

The Paulding County Democratic Committee currently has an “in-formation” status, said Georgia Democratic Party spokesperson Michael Smith.

No Democrat has won a local or state seat from a district wholly representing Paulding since the early 1990s. The county’s voters are primarily Republican and typically vote around 70 percent for the GOP candidate for president.

Some Democrats think that Trump’s shortfall in the General election in some areas could lead to Dem gains in 2018.

There’s a small election Tuesday in Atlanta’s suburbs, but it could be a sign of big political changes coming to the Georgia Statehouse. State Senate District 32 in east Cobb County sits inside a political district getting a lot more attention, and money right now: Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

But, the less discussed Senate District 32 race is the first in a slew of contests, most in the 2018 midterms, that will likely test the grip of Georgia Republicans on Atlanta’s northern suburbs.

Compared to Mitt Romney, Donald Trump won 20 fewer percentage points in Senate District 32, according to analysis from the liberal blog Daily Kos.

The data show similar swings for at least a dozen legislative seats, most in the North Atlanta suburbs, that could mean tough reelection battles for Georgia Republicans. In a few of those seats, longtime incumbents plan to run for statewide office.

Take for example, Republican David Shafer of Gwinnett, the second ranking member of the Georgia Senate. In 2012, Romney pulled in 57 percent of the vote in Shafer’s District 48, but in 2016 Trump won only 45 percent. Shafer has filed paperwork to run for lieutenant governor, a statewide office.

The Democratic National Committee is targeted by a lawsuit that alleges the organization underpaid field workers.

Dozens of field workers have filed a class action lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee, claiming the party that is pushing employers to pay a $15 minimum wage and more in overtime failed to pay overtime and minimum wages to its own employees.

Justin Swidler, the attorney representing the field workers, argued the Democratic Party failed to pay workers a minimum wage and denied them overtime compensation. Swidler “says the lawsuit seeks ‘fair pay for fair work,’ and holding the Democratic Party to the very ideals that it embraces,” according to CBS Philly.

The 2016 Democratic platform pushed for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, a nearly $8 increase from the current minimum, and promised to defend an Obama-era regulation forcing employers to pay a higher rate to employees for working more than 40 hours.

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