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

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

On July 13, 1787, Congress enacted the Northwest Ordinance, in which states ceded some claims to the west, and a process was set up for admitting new states.

On July 13, 1865, James Johnson as provisional Governor of Georgia, issued a proclamation freeing slaves and calling an election in October of that year to elect delegates to a state Consitutional Convention. Johnson had previously opposed Georgia’s secession and after the war was appointed Governor by President Andrew Johnson.

Savannah, Georgia-born John C. Fremont, who was the first Presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 1856, died in New York City on July 13, 1890.

Erratum: an eagle-eyed reader noted that yesterday’s history section left something important out. Marine Corps Lt. Frank Reasoner was the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in connection with the war in Vietnam, not the first Marine ever to be awarded the MOH.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal appointed a committee to investigate an incident with Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman and make recommendations.

The United States Senate will delay its August recess.

Shortly after eight rank-and-file Republican senators urged postponing the recess to focus on the GOP agenda, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the break would start two weeks later than originally scheduled.

“In order to provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle, the Senate will delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August,” McConnell said in a statement.

McConnell’s announcement followed calls from within the Republican conference for such a delay led by Sen. David Perdue. The Georgia senator discussed the matter with President Donald Trump at the outset of the July Fourth break. Perdue and seven other Republicans held a news conference Tuesday to tout their effort ahead of McConnell’s announcement.

Muscogee County election officials addressed the issue of letters sent to voters warning that they could be placed on “inactive” status.

in [odd-numbered] years Georgia routinely compares postal service records to voter registrations to determine whether voters have moved, said Nancy Boren, executive director of the Muscogee Board of Elections and Registrations.

So the elections office recently mailed out notices to those who either have changed their mailing addresses or had their mail forwarded, asking them to fill out a form and send it back, so election workers can update their records.

Normally those notices would have been mailed out much earlier in an odd year, but this year was even odder in that Georgia held a special election to fill the congressional seat Tom Price left vacant to take a position with the Trump administration. So the state had to wait until that was over to start updating county voter rolls, Boren said.

The state ships the confirmation notices to county elections offices, which then mail them out. Voters are getting them now.

If they only had their mail forwarded to another address temporarily and have not moved away, they are asked to fill out the form to confirm that, and nothing will change. If they have moved to another address within Muscogee County, they should fill out the mailer with their new address, and the elections office will change their registration to reflect that.

If they do not reply, their names will be moved from the county’s list of “active” voters to the list of “inactive” ones. This does not mean they can’t vote: They’re still eligible, but if they don’t vote in one of the two subsequent general elections or conduct some business with the elections office that shows they’re still engaged, their names will be deleted, so it’s preferable to return the mailer now, rather than risk becoming ineligible.

The Valdosta Daily Times editorial board opines that state legislators should develop a way to allow in-state sources for medical cannabis.

It was right for state lawmakers to make it easier to obtain medical cannabis in Georgia for patients who can find no other effective treatment for their conditions, and there should be no reason for patients or providers to have to conceal their actions.

Selling, using and even cultivating controlled medical marijuana in Georgia has nothing to do with fostering a drug culture and incubating an environment for illegal behavior.

We support the efforts of Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, to make legally restricted cultivation possible in Georgia.

Regulated medical cannabis is not a gateway drug and will not lead to illegal drug use and abuse.

The only real way to make treatment more readily available is a change in federal law.

When the U.S. Congress made marijuana a Schedule I, illegal, drug in 1970, it said cannabis had no accepted medical use. The medical community now knows that is not true.

When state lawmakers legalized the possession and use of the low-level oils, without allowing cultivation and manufacturing, they effectively created a black market that may be lucrative for suppliers but forces families seeking relief for a suffering child to run afoul of the law.

It is time for legal in-state cultivation.

Sonny Perdue, former Georgia Governor now serving as Secretary of Agriculture differs on medical cannabis.

It is currently illegal to grow marijuana in Georgia for any reason. And Perdue indicated Wednesday that he thinks it ought to stay that way. “I think it’s against federal law,” he said when asked his view on a pending resolution to allow cultivation for medical marijuana.

Patients using medical marijuana may legally possess and use it in Georgia, but can’t legally obtain it in-state — and trafficking it from out of state violates federal law. Asked about changing the federal approach to it, Perdue answered “The fact is I think it’s a very slippery slope how you enforce.”

“As governor, I was always aware of the federal supremacy law, which meant that federal law preempted state law when when it spoke,” Perdue added.

The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office will offer free firearms safety classes on upcoming Saturdays, while the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office will host an already sold-out womens-only class.

Marietta City Council adopted twelve-year term limits for Mayor and City Council members.

In February, the council sent a measure to the state Legislature containing language for a term limit bill.

That came months after over 80 percent of Marietta voters came out in favor of term limits during the November election.

State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, proposed a bill, but was unable to obtain the minimum number of signatures needed by representatives in the Cobb Legislative Delegation for it to move forward.

After that, Mayor Steve Tumlin and Haynie moved to enact term limits without going through the state, invoking the right of local rule.

Muscogee County Board of Education members voted to lawyer-up to deal with accreditation issues.

Savannah-Chatham police hired Daniel Kelin as their first Intelligence Commander.

“My main focus and mission here is to provide officers on the ground and our decision makers on both the law enforcement and civilian side with the best, most accurate, timely intelligence information possible so they can remain progressive and proactive in their duties,” Kelin said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Kelin’s position is a new one, but metro’s intelligence department, the Savannah Area Regional Intelligence Center, has been around since 2007.

The group’s main goal is to provide information about short- and long-term crime patterns and trends, and to assist in daily investigative efforts, according to the department’s website.

Chatham County Commissioners are considering levying a one-time fee of $131 for yard waste removal on owners of single-family residential properties.

The fee, which will be levied on top of the annual dry trash fee of $43, would bring the total cost for the weekly removal of tree branches, limbs, brush and other clippings to $174. It is meant to help the county replenish the reserve fund in its solid waste account, which according to agenda documents, was all but drained after the arrival of two tropical storms last fall.

In a memo to the commission attached to the agenda for Friday’s meeting, Chatham County Finance Director Amy Davis said the cost to remove debris from the unincorporated areas of the county after Hurricane Matthew in October was more than $30 million when all was said and done. After reimbursements from the state and federal emergency management agencies, the county was required to pay about $4 million for the storm debris cleanup.

In addition, Davis wrote, it cost the county another $600,000 to clean up after Tropical Storm Hermine the month prior.

“These two storms effectively eliminated the fund balances in Solid Waste,” Davis wrote in her memo. “The implementation of a Solid Waste Fee of $131 has been calculated to restore the fund balance in the Solid Waste Fund.”

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners are working to set a final list of projects to be funded by a SPLOST renewal.

With a list of recommendations from a citizens advisory committee as a starting point, commissioners are working toward an Aug. 1 meeting where they will set the final list of projects that would be funded if voters approve a 1 percent Transportation-Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in a November referendum.

Third Infantry Division attack helicopter operators are training at Fort Stewart for the transition to laser-guided rocket systems.

Savannah officials will monitor water quality as an upstream turpentine plant comes online.

Healthcare

Mosquitoes carring the West Nile virus have been identified in southeast Chatham County.

Eastside Medical Center in Gwinnett County announced a partnership with Navigate Recovery Gwinnett’s LIFELINE program to provide addiction recovery services.

Now, peer recovery coaches from Navigate Recovery Gwinnett’s LIFELINE program will be available to anybody suffering from addiction who seek treatment from Eastside emergency rooms.

“LIFELINE connects with people who have overdosed, or those who are at high risk for overdose and their families with Peer to Peer Recovery Support Coaches, every day,” according to a press release. “Peer recovery support services like LIFELINE have been highly effective in combating the opioid crisis in other parts of the country.”

“We are pleased to partner with Navigate Recovery to assist individuals in their journey to long term recovery,” said Eastside Medical Center’s Vice President of Behavioral Health Services Margaret Collier. “As Healthcare professionals, we recognize the great need for this service. By collaborating with our community, we feel that we will be able to make a significant impact on this crisis.”

Former Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-11) is urging Republican Senators to rethink their approach to repealing Obamacare.

If this were an operating room instead of a legislative chamber, I’d be calling “Code Blue” for a Senate health care bill. Like every doctor, however, I’ve seen even the most critically ill patients revive, survive and even thrive.

Recovery begins when all sides — not just conservative and moderate Republicans, but Democrats as well — come together to create a transparent process with a willingness to examine the best ideas, regardless of their provenance.

We should all recognize that the dominant health care policy and program we are living under today is not the ACA, but uncertainty. Insurance providers, troubled by the uncertainty of the future of cost-sharing subsidies and the future insurance market generally, are pulling out of ACA exchanges in state after state.

The polls show, however, that most Americans see the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the House Republicans as an unacceptable replacement.

While complete repeal and replacement may have made sense in 2010 —when the GOP first took back control of the Congress and the ACA was not yet implemented— too much time has passed and too much of our nation’s health care infrastructure has been altered to get all the toothpaste back into the tube. A solution today should focus on keeping what works, fixing what is broken and tweaking the areas that need refinement and revision. Perhaps a more accurate name than “repeal and replace” would be “retain/repair/revise.”

Health care will soon consume almost one-fifth of the economy. It is a life-or-death issue for individuals and our nation. If Congress takes more time, engages in more compromise and avoids the high risk of “fast but wrong,” it will be well worth it — even if it means enduring the long, humid days of Washington in August.

Eight Georgia hospital organizations were recognized as among the “most wired” in the nation.

In the list of more than 300 hospitals and hospital systems, Atlanta’s Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Grady Memorial Hospital and the Piedmont Healthcare System (seven hospitals) all made the list.

Marietta’s WellStar Health System, which consists of 10 hospitals, was also recognized among the country’s “most wired,” according to H&HN’s searchable database.

Other Georgia hospitals or hospital systems recognized include Navicent Health in Macon, Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Union General Hospital, Inc. in Blairsville and West Georgia Health in Lagrange.

Navicent Health and its three hospitals also earned the “Most Wired Advanced” award, while Union General’s two earned awards for most improved.

Atlanta Magazine writes about the reduced options for maternity healthcare in Georgia.

Joy Baker’s patients travel 40 miles on average to see her. Some pull up in their own cars, but if they’re too poor to own one, they might hitch rides with friends or on the Medicaid van, which must be scheduled three days in advance and also can run early or late.

She’s one of only two OB/GYNs in a swath of rural Georgia that spans eight counties and 2,714 square miles. Baker works out of the Upson Regional Medical Center in Thomaston, about halfway between Macon and Columbus. We hear a lot about safety net hospitals, but Baker is a safety net doctor. Half of Georgia’s 159 counties—79, to be precise—do not have a single obstetric provider. Rural hospitals are closing. In Georgia a pregnant woman has a greater chance of dying before she delivers, or in the weeks after, than in any other state in America. So Baker’s practice here in Upson County, where nearly a quarter of the residents live below the poverty line, represents a kind of miracle—but a precarious one.

Upson’s struggle to recruit a new OB/GYN is representative of that faced by rural hospitals across the country. As more and more Americans shun economically depressed small towns in search of greater opportunity in cities, it has become harder to convince doctors—no matter what their specialty—to go into rural communities.

“When I came here in 1981, there were six mills open and thousands of people working there,” [Dr. Hugh] Smith says. “After the last mill closed, most of those patients ended up on Medicaid, and we lost nearly all of our third party payer insurance.” (It’s estimated that 80 percent of patients in south Georgia are insured through Medicaid, compared to just 10 percent in north metro Atlanta.) Because Medicaid typically pays providers much less than do private insurers, the financial implications were considerable.

Many of the state’s hospitals have had to make tougher choices. Between 1994 and 2015, more than 30 labor and delivery units have closed in Georgia. “When you have a rural hospital that’s already struggling financially, if they have to choose one thing to go, it’s often labor and delivery,” says Dr. Adrienne Zertuche, an OB/GYN and the president of Georgia Maternal and Infant Health Research Group. Even that’s not always enough to keep hospitals in business. Since 2010 eight rural Georgia hospitals have shut down completely. As the providers attached to those hospitals or delivery units have scattered, wide swaths of rural Georgia have turned into maternal healthcare deserts. By 2020 it’s estimated that 75 percent of rural primary care service areas will lack adequate obstetrics care.

St. Francis Hospital in Columbus will layoff 55 employees and reduce hours for others.

St. Francis has operated at a financial loss since at least 2014, Koontz said. The loss in 2016 was not as large as the previous two years prior to LifePoint ownership, Koontz said. He declined to state the amount of the losses, only saying they “were in the tens of millions of dollars.”

Since its inception, St. Francis had operated as a nonprofit corporation. That changed when LifePoint, a public company, purchased the hospital. LifePoint trades on Nasdaq and closed Tuesday at $64.85 per share, down 80 cents.

When St. Francis shifted to for-profit ownership, the hospital was subject to additional taxes, including property taxes. In 2016, the hospital paid about $6 million in property, sales and professional taxes, Koontz said.

St. Francis opened 65 years ago as the result of a community-based fundraising effort as a 154-bed hospital. The hospital averages more than 300 patients in beds per day, Koontz said.

2018 Campaigns

State Senator Michael Williams will hold a “press conference regarding reprehensible actions of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle at the State Capitol.”

What
State Senator and Republican candidate for Governor, Michael Williams, will make a statement regarding previously undisclosed actions of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. The actions and corroborating details will be presented at the press conference.

When
Thursday, July 13, 2017
2:00 PM (please arrive 15 minutes prior for seating)

Where
Georgia State Capitol
South Wing Stairs (interior)
206 Washington St SW
Atlanta, GA 30334

Senator David Shafer has another endorsement: former Congressman John Linder.

Linder, first elected to Congress in 1992, became one of House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s top lieutenants. He retired in 2011 and now lives near Athens. Shafer, the president pro tem of the Senate, describes Linder as “one of the pioneering leaders of the Republican party in Georgia.” Said Linder, via the press release:

“David Shafer has been a champion of fiscal reform under the Gold Dome. He authored the constitutional amendment capping the state income tax and the bill that brought back zero-based budgeting.  He has always supported the Fair Tax.”

Linder’s FAIRPAC has contributed $2,500 to Shafer’s campaign.

The Flagpole in Athens adds some information on the nascent race for House District 117, currently held by State Rep. Regina Quick.

Quick is not running for re-election and signed off on Gaines’ announcement, according to one of his campaign advisors, Brian Robinson, a former spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal.

She is widely rumored to be Deal’s pick to replace the retiring Superior Court Judge David Sweat. If she is appointed, she will have to resign her House seat, and a special election will be held. If not, the primary will be in May 2018, with the general election the following November.

Smooth (Job) Moves

Georgia Republican Party Chair John Watson named Carmen Foskey as the new Executive Director and Leigh Ann Gillis as Finance Director for the state party.

Jason Lawrence will serve as the new Chief of Staff for Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton).

Jason Lawrence had worked as a federal liaison to the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA’s lobbying arm, since 2015. The NRA gave Scott, a lifetime member of the advocacy group, a 93 percent rating last year for his positions on gun issues.

Before moving to the NRA, Lawrence worked for Austin and a series of other Georgia Republicans: retired Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, Rep. Tom Graves and retired Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

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