Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 31, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 31, 2017

On July 31, 1777, the Marquis de LaFayette was commissioned a Major General in the Continental Army, serving without pay.

The cornerstone for the first United States Mint was laid in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 31, 1792, becoming the first building constructed by the federal government under the Constitution.

Former President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded President Lincoln upon his assassination and oversaw much of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, died of a stroke in Tennessee on July 31, 1875.

On July 31, 1906, a bill to create place a Constitutional Amendment on the November election for voters to decide whether to create an intermediate-level Georgia Court of Appeals was approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

On July 31, 1962, the one-millionth immigrant was welcomed into Israel.

Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in major league baseball history, won his 300th career game on July 31, 1990. During eight innings, Ryan threw 146 pitches, while today, many pitchers are pulled at around the 100-pitch count.

“In the old days throwing that many pitches was a normal game,” said Nolan Ryan, who tossed a record seven no-hitters and is the all-time leader in strikeouts, fifth in innings pitched.

Ryan, currently the Rangers’ team president, is an outspoken detractor of the recent trend toward monitoring pitch counts. In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Ryan expressed his belief that today’s pitchers are “pampered” and that there is no reason why today’s pitchers cannot pitch as much as he and his colleagues did back in the day. As a result, Ryan is pushing his team’s pitchers to throw deeper into games and extend their arms further, emphasizing conditioning over what some would call coddling.

As Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux told SI: “This generation of players has become a creature of the pitch count. Their ceiling has been lowered. It’s up to us to jack it back up.”

Although I think that time he whipped Robin Ventura should count as a win.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Lynne Linder, wife of former Congressman John Linder, died, and the Congressman wrote a stunning obituary.

We met in Deer River, Minnesota on a beautiful Sunday evening 19,767 days ago. My brother Bill and I played in a county league baseball game that afternoon and strolled over to Gram’s Kozy Korner for a milk shake.

A blue Buick convertible pulled up with a beautiful young lady driving. She asked for directions to Cedarwild Resort. We gave her directions and I asked her why she was in town. She said she was staying with her girl friend whose parents owned Cedarwild. She had bleached her friend’s hair that afternoon and it turned blue. She was sent to town to get some brown dye to repair the damage.

After she drove off I looked at my brother and said, “Let’s go meet the girl with the blue hair.”

It’s a fantastic remembrance of their more than 54 years together.

Nick Ayers was sworn in on Friday as Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence.

Nick Ayers Pence Tweet

From CNN:

Though it seemingly wasn’t coordinated, both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence saw two new chiefs of staff join the White House ranks on Friday.

Nick Ayers, a longtime adviser to Pence, was sworn into office on Friday, as his wife and three children looked on. Pence’s office announced Ayers’ new role in June. He takes over the reigns from Josh Pitcock — both men are considered to be in the vice president’s inner circle.

From the AJC:

Ayers, 34, had worked for Pence for three years and was his chief political strategist when Trump chose the Indiana governor as his running mate. From his office in suburban Atlanta he also helped lead America First Policies, a super PAC supporting the White House.

The promotion meant that he won’t be joining the crowded field running for Georgia governor. Ayers had long been floated as a possible contender for the job, and several influential allies of President Donald Trump’s in Georgia had encouraged him to run.

Ayers got his start in politics as a protégé of Sonny Perdue, and he managed Perdue’s successful re-election campaign for governor in 2006. He was head of the Republican Governors Association for four years and was a contender to lead the Republican National Committee.

Senator Johnny Isakson did a Q&A with the Marietta Daily Journal.

What is next for health care? Is Obamacare the law of the land, or is there still a chance for repeal?

“The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. As said by the majority leader and the minority leader Thursday night or Friday morning, neither party did anything to fix it. We’ve still got some things that need to be done. We’ve got to come together, Republicans and Democrats and deal with the issues that are making insurance so expensive. I think we will, and I think we’ll eventually get it done.”

Will you make an endorsement for the Georgia Governor’s race?

“No. I’ve got my own race to run. Let them run theirs.”

The Georgia Ports Authority has ordered six new ship-to-shore cranes to add to its capacity to work larger post-Panamax ships.

The cranes will be delivered in the first half of 2020 as Georgia’s ports anticipate more growth after a record year for container volume.

Larger vessels and additional container services coupled with a positive economic forecast meant the Georgia Ports Authority handled 3.85 million TEUs for the fiscal year ending in June –  6.7 % more TEUs compared to the previous year, or 242,221 additional TEUs.

The Konecranes STS cranes currently on order have a lifting capacity of 66 tons, an outreach of 61 meters, and a lifting height of 46 meters above the dock.

Griff Lynch, GPA Executive Director, said: “By 2020, we will have 18 Neopanamax cranes and the ability to work three 14,000-TEU vessels at a single terminal simultaneously.

“Our volume growth continues to outpace forecasted demand. Shipping lines are moving 13,000- and 14,000-TEU vessels into service on the East Coast more quickly than anticipated, and concentrating their deliveries at efficient gateway ports like Savannah.

“This new crane purchase, along with the four already on order, will enable GPA to increase crane capacity by nearly 40%.”

The Port of Savannah currently operates 146 Konecranes RTG cranes and 26 Konecranes STS cranes, with four more under delivery in 2018. The new six units will add the total number of Konecranes STS cranes in the terminal to 36.

Peaches are a tiny part of Georgia’s agricultural production, but retain an out-sized role in our culture.

In May growers predicted an 80 percent crop loss, and now they are lamenting one of the worst years in living memory.

Where would we be without any Georgia peaches at all? One response, surprisingly, is a shrug. Georgia peaches account for only 0.38 percent of the state’s agricultural economy, and the state produces only between 3 and 5 percent of the national peach crop.

But this is not a simple matter of costs and profits. Georgia peaches are a product of history. And as [Kennesaw State Professor Thomas Okie has] documented, their story tells us much about agriculture, the environment, politics and labor in the American South.

The Georgia House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding meets on Wednesday at MARTA’s headquarters.

The group also includes officials for transit systems around the state, residents and other officials who work on transportation issues.

House leaders, including Speaker David Ralston, backed creation of the group. Its members are charged with studying how transit systems around the state can work together and what role the state should play, including any funding.

Advocates hope the effort leads to a state commitment for mass transit options.

 The League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area is planning to gather signatures for a petition to dissolve the municipal school system.

Officials with the League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area made plans last week to begin gathering signatures for a petition to place a referendum on the May 2018 general primary ballot that would call for the city school system to give up its charter.

“We will need 25 percent of the registered voters in the last city election,” said League board member Jevin Jensen. “That’s roughly 3,000 voters.”

Under Georgia law, if the League gathers enough signatures the Dalton City Council would have to put the measure on the ballot.

Georgia law says “only qualified voters residing within the municipality or district for six months prior to the election shall vote” on the measure.

“It’s the city’s school system,” Jensen said. “If the city drops the charter for the school system, the county is legally obligated to take over.”

League President Helen Crawford said the group has supported consolidation of the two school systems for almost 20 years.

State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) says that electric members cooperatives (EMCs) could play a role in extending broadband internet in rural areas.

Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said he doesn’t expect everyone under the Gold Dome to be quite so enthused by a plan to turn loose cooperatives to offer broadband. Gooch said he expects existing providers, in particular, to push back on the proposal.

“It’s going to be a fight,” Gooch said in a recent interview. “I don’t think it’s going to be easy. But again, nothing down there ever is. With anything this important, there’s going to be people who are against it because of self-motives and financial reasons.

“And I’m fine with that. I love to debate, and in fact, I challenge all the providers to come in and get involved and help us perfect the bill,” he added.

Gooch pitched a measure earlier this year that would grant the state’s 41 not-for-profit electric membership corporations, which serve about 2 million customers, the authority to offer broadband service in some of the state’s most sparsely populated places.

His measure stalled but remains alive for next year when lawmakers return.

“They already have the customers, the equipment, the manpower. They have the poles already in place,” he said of the EMCs.

When asked, two major providers in rural Georgia – Windstream and AT&T – expressed reservations about Gooch’s proposal.

Spotty broadband is an underlying issue for other hurdles in rural communities, such as economic development and access to quality education and health care. It was the first matter taken up this summer by the House Rural Development Council, which is expected to propose legislative fixes.

Industry representatives have told lawmakers that the meager return on investment, due in part to fewer available customers and often low participation rates, makes it tough to justify the investment in these low-density, rural areas.

State Senator Renee Unterman will serve on two study committees ahead of the 2018 legislative session.

[Lieutenant Governor Casey] Cagle appointed the senator from Buford to serve as the chairwoman for the Senate Study Committee on Homelessness and to serve as a member of the Senate Stroke Trauma Study Committee.

Three members of the Gwinnett legislative delegation will sit on a joint study committee that will look at issues affecting stream buffers in Georgia.

Ralston has picked state Reps. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, and Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, as two of his five legislator appointments to the committee. The Senate appointees to the committee include another Gwinnett delegation member, Sen. Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain.

[Speaker David] Ralston appointed state Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, to serve on the [Joint Study Committee on Transparency & Open Access in Government] while Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle appointed Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, and Gwinnett Medical Center’s Patty Lavely. The group will look at policies that deal with state agencies sharing data and how information technology can be used to increase the transparency of public data.

Gainesville and Hall County law enforcement agencies are reporting problems with recruiting and retaining enough officers.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed the fiscal year 2018 budget May 1, which included $55.2 million to provide a 20 percent salary increase for state law enforcement.

Starting salary for a Georgia State Patrol trooper upon graduation is now $46,422, a $10,312 pay increase.

At the Gainesville Police Department, starting pay is $35,543; deputies with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office can expect $37,658.

Gainesville Police Chief Carol Martin said the department was already seeing a slowdown of certified applicants even before the pay increase was announced.

“I think it has brought to light the situation not only in the state of Georgia but nationwide — the shortage of police officers and the applicants,” she said. “It can be blamed on many factors: pay, benefits, the national spotlight and the economy. When the economy’s better, our applicants go down.”

Sheriff Gerald Couch said he has lost at least one employee to Georgia State Patrol recently, as he and other law enforcement leaders struggle with hiring and retention.

“The more seasoned officers — eight to 10 or 12 years — they get to that point and they go, ‘I need a better retirement.’ And they may go to another agency, whereas the newer officers will leave for a variety of reasons,” Couch said.

A small number of Columbus residents marched to protest efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Property owners in Muscogee County and Columbus are being hit hard by rising property tax assessments.

To grasp the impact of Muscogee County’s recent countywide property tax reassessment, just consider the case of Jason Hilton.

As the owner of rental properties throughout east and south Columbus, the local businessman saw significant increases in his assessments this year, mostly in Beallwood where the county’s appraisals of his shotgun houses jumped from $20,000 to $220,000, he said. His estimated taxes are $3,300 for each house that he rents for $450 per month.

Hilton has already filed 190 appeals with the Muscogee County Tax Assessors Office. He also has put city officials on notice.

“I’ve been emailing back and forth with my city councilor, Gary Allen,” he said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “I did tell him if something isn’t resolved fairly quickly we will be notifying our approximately 400 tenants of what’s going on, if they haven’t already heard.

“We will be letting them know that their rents will be going up approximately 50 percent,” he said. “We will also put in the letter to tenants the contact info of their city councilor and mayor, along with the Tax Assessor’s Office, so that their voices can be heard.”

Hilton is not the only property owner frustrated in the wake of the recent reassessment of the county’s nearly 70,000 parcels, which spiked some assessments by as much as 1,000 percent. The project was conducted in conjunction with the Tax Assessor’s Office’s conversion to new software.

The Ledger-Enquirer looks at “who knew what and when” on rising Muscogee County property tax assessments.

property owners are in an uproar over exorbitant tax assessment increases, which have some elected officials pointing fingers over who knew what and when.

At a July 25 Columbus Council meeting, Councilors Garrett, Thomas and Davis chided the Tax Assessors Office for not notifying council sooner about the dramatic tax increases. A few days earlier, Thomas had told a group of Midland property owners that she didn’t become aware until receiving her tax bill at the end of June. She made similar comments at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Just to clarify, I think what Councilor Thomas was talking about was that council should’ve been notified before assessments went out that jacked up people’s prices 1,000 percent,” said Garrett, backing her up. “… I think the whole issue is that council was not approached with how much these assessments went up.

“… We should have caught this on the front end,” he said. “This should have been caught before this ever happened.”

Georgia bat populations are being impacted by white nose syndrome, an imported affliction.

State Department of Natural Resources wildlife scientists first confirmed white-nose in Georgia in February 2013. Since then the fungus has been found in numerous north Georgia bat caves, with mortality rates of 90 percent and higher, according to DNR’s annual report on the disease.

In a Rabun County tunnel where more than 5,000 bats hibernated in 2013, a DNR monitoring team found only about 500 in 2015, and about half that number in 2016. This year, they found just 152 tri-colored bats.

A Gilmer County mine once inhabited by more than 500 bats had just seven on March 1; a 99 percent decline since 2013. DNR monitors found 57 tri-colored bats and 13 gray bats in a Dade County cave March 8, which is a 96 percent decline from the more than 1,700 there in 2012.

DNR expanded its monitoring this year to several south Georgia caves, but found no evidence that white-nose had made it that far south.

“Last year we were seeing 50 percent declines in bat numbers at some sites, compared to the year before. This winter we didn’t see those drastic declines,” Morris said “It seems like we’re getting to a point where we might not be seeing such major changes. But it’s also because we have fewer bats.”

Chatham County Commission Chair Al Scott says local officials are working to protect residents as the merger of Chatham and Savannah police forces is dissolved.

Chatham Superior Court Clerk Tammie Mosley and her colleagues in the State, Probate, Recorder’s, and Magistrate courts are transitioning to an electronic filing system.

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials disputes statements by some municipalities claiming to be in compliance with Spanish-language requirements.

The Department of Justice informed Gwinnett County officials in December that they had to comply with Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires communities that have large numbers of voters who speak the same non-English language to provide election information in that language. That requirement includes the cities as well.

The immediate question is whether the cities, whose elections this fall will be the first held in the county since that requirement was announced, and the county are doing enough so far to be in compliance with the law. City officials say they are, but the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and LatinoJustice PRLDEF have concerns.

GALEO Executive Director Jerry Gonzalez singled out Auburn, Berkeley Lake, Braselton, Loganville and Lilburn as places the organization has particular concerns about, although he raised concerns about other cities as well.

“As recently as (July 18), their websites, which contain valuable information on upcoming municipal elections this year, were in English only and they were failing to provide the same information online in Spanish,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “Some municipalities fail to even offer voter registration forms in Spanish.”

Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Company, will take over for Westinghouse as primary constuction contractor on two new reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Previously, Westinghouse, the developer of the AP1000 nuclear technology being used by the new units, served as the primary contractor with oversight and responsibility for all construction activities. Under the new service agreement, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy on July 27, Southern Nuclear (the Southern Company subsidiary which operates the existing units at Plant Vogtle) will oversee construction activities at the site.

“We are already in the midst of a seamless transition for the thousands of workers across the site, allowing us to sustain the progress we are making every day on both units,” said Mark Rauckhorst, executive vice president for the Vogtle 3 and 4 project. “We remain focused on safety and quality as we complete this transition.”

Georgia Power also continues work with the project’s Co-owners (Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities) to complete a full-scale schedule and cost-to-complete analysis of the project. Once complete, Georgia Power will work with the Georgia Public Service Commission to determine the best path forward for customers.

State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Cherokee) wants you to read this article about civil asset forfeiture and a Georgia gun store. After reading that article, you can attend a forum on civil asset forfeiture reform sponsored by the Cherokee County Young Republicans, tonight at 7 PM at Marlow’s Tavern, 881 Ridgewalk Pkwy Suite 108, Woodstock, Georgia 30188.

Camden County will host a test-launch where the proposed spaceport would be built.

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved a permit for Vector Space Systems to conduct a low- altitude launch on Thursday of a full-scale prototype of the company’s Vector-R launch vehicle.

The rocket will be launched from the site of a proposed spaceport, the same location in Camden County where NASA tested solid-fuel rocket engines in the 1960s.

No target altitude has been announced, but Simpson said the rocket will travel at least several thousand feet high. The trajectory will take the rocket straight up and straight down, so there are no concerns about safety to surrounding areas.

“Everything stays within the confines of the launch area,” said County Administrator Steve Howard.

Elections

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) will host a “Women for Cagle” event on August 14, 2017 at the Buford Community Center. Click here to R.s.v.p.

Women for Casey Cagle

Watkinsville Mayor Charles Ivie announced he will not seek election to a fourth term in November.

Ivie, who had planned to seek a fourth term, learned this month of a health condition that needs medical attention.

“I am told I’ll be hospitalized for about a week and after that I’ll have eight to 10 weeks in recovery,” he said. “I don’t need to be trying to run a campaign at the same time I’m trying to recover.”

The election for mayor takes place in November; qualifying for the race begins in late August.

Sandy Springs City Council District 2 member Ken Dishman also announced he will not run for reelection.

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