Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 7, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 7, 2017

General George Washington created the Purple Heart on August 7, 1782. Click here for an interesting history of the award.

On August 7, 1790, a delegation of Creeks met with the United States Secretary of War and signed the Treaty of New York, ceding all land between the Ogeechee and Oconee Rivers to Georgia.

Theodore Roosevelt, who served as President from 1901 to 1909, was nominated for President by the Progressive Party, also called the Bull Moose Party, on August 7, 1912.

On August 7, 1942, Marine forces landed at Guadalcanal.

Voters ratified a new version of the State Constitution on August 7, 1945. Among the new features was the establishment of the State Board of Corrections to ensure humane conditions.

The board was directed to be more humane in its treatment of prisoners and abolished whippings, leg irons, and chains. Until 1945, prisoners in Georgia could expect to have heavy steel shackles put on by a blacksmith upon arrival. They were then taken out to work under severe conditions.

The caravan bearing 43 ounces of Dahlonega gold to be used in covering the Georgia State Capitol dome reached the Capitol and delivered it to Governor Marvin Griffin on August 7, 1958.

On August 7, 1964, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which would be used as the legal basis for U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Cumberland Island will grace one of five designs for 2018 quarters.

The design features a snowy egret perched on the edge of a branch, ready for flight, near a saltwater marsh. The inscription on the back of the coin reads Cumberland Island, Georgia, 2018, and E Pluribus Unum.

The front of the coin will continue to be the 1932 portrait of George Washington featured in the other American the Beautiful quarter series.

The Cumberland quarter will be the 44th coin released and the only national seashore featured in the series.

Sites in the series representing other states include national parks and other national sites. Other locations in Georgia considered for the coin were Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Ocmulgee National Monument and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association is seeking state funding of higher pay for local law enforcement officers.

Gov. Nathan Deal and the state Legislature gave a raise to Georgia State Patrol officers earlier this year. It brought starting pay to over $46,422 a year. Georgia Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Terry Norris said average pay for local deputies in the state is $29,900 a year, with some barely making $20,000.

“Our officers are out there working two and three jobs, just to make a living,” Norris said.

“It takes a tremendous toll on the family, on the officer’s health. Officer suicide and divorce rates are extremely high, and this is part of it,” Norris said.

Norris believes many local communities simply can’t raise the revenue, and it will take action by state legislators.

“Let’s find a way through the General Assembly to pay the difference in what locals are paying these deputy sheriff’s now and what it would take to get them to the level of a state trooper,” he said.

Chattooga County public school students attend four days per week, with Mondays off.

Chattooga County students have every Monday off for the entire school year – and school officials say the schedule is working.

We spoke to the principal of Chattooga High School, where students are starting in a new building. He says the school still goes the full amount of hours required each school year. They just pack them into fewer days.

Principal Jeff Martin says they’ve seen more time for learning, fewer absences for students and teachers and operating costs have dropped, while test scores have gone up.

“It has decreased our discipline, our attendance is good, teacher attendance as well. We keep, and we have a data room where we keep up with all that. We improved in six of the eight end of course test as of last year,” Martin said.

The Georgia Department of Education is searching for a Chief Turnaround Officer under the “First Priority Act,” which followed the defeat of the Opportunity School District constitutional amendment.

The Georgia Department of Education is currently using a search firm to hire a Chief Turnaround Officer, who will identify which schools throughout the state need intervention. The turnaround officer will work with “turnaround coaches” who will enter the schools and work with teachers, parents and administrators to improve the institutions. All of this will be done at the expense of the school. Interviews for the turnaround officer position are expected to begin in September.

There are currently 21 underperforming schools in the Richmond County School system, according to previous Augusta Chronicle articles. The only districts with more underperforming schools were Dekalb County (26 schools) and Atlanta Public School District (23 schools). In February, Deal commented on the problem while in Augusta to sign the midyear budget amendment for the new Cyber Innovation and Training Center.

Richmond County Board of Education member Wayne Frazier said something needs to be done for schools but that he is not sure the First Priority Act is the answer.

“We could do it ourselves if we had the resources,” he said. “They should give more money and if we can’t fix it, then they can take over.”

 Smyrna City Council is expected to vote today on their property tax millage rate.

Smyrna’s Monday evening millage rate vote brings an end to a Cobb County tax season that saw each jurisdiction increase its revenue substantially.

Cobb’s six cities, two school districts and the county itself either raised or maintained tax rates this year in the wake of the county’s largest gross digest on record, meaning each governmental entity will collect more in taxes than it did last year.

While five of those cities opted to keep their millage rates the same, most who saw their assessed property values increase can expect to pay more this year in taxes. Only the city of Austell opted to increase its millage rate, citing decreased gas revenue from a milder winter as its reason for doing so.

In the county, a tax hike proposed by Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce fell through last-minute as commissioners voted 3-2 to pull $4 million from the county’s economic contingency fund to cover a portion of the fiscal 2017 budget.

Smyrna’s City Council is expected to keep its 2017 millage rate at 8.99 mills, a rate the city has maintained since 2006.

Councilwoman Teri Anulewicz said the city plans to use the additional revenue to fund new positions and give merit-based pay raises for employees over the next year.

“We have had discussions about the millage rate and the possibility of rolling it back, but we decided to keep it at 8.99,” she said. “We approved the budget a couple meetings ago, and those numbers are based upon that 8.99 rate.”

Helen City Council approved a rollback property tax rate.

The tentative real and personal property digest in Helen is up by more than $2.3 million for 2017 over 2016, figures published by the city show.

“I think Helen No. 1, has value-added tax revenues through hotel/motel tax, through disbursements from the state with sales tax, from SPLOST, LOST, that we have benefited from with the growth in tourism in White County,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Ash. “That’s the real kicker. No. 2, we’ve been able to hold the millage rate at a flat level, no increases, because we have added capital improvements to the tax digest that have allowed the revenue streams to migrate up because of good economic growth, not through taxation. You don’t tax people.”

The millage rate approved at a called Helen City Commission meeting Thursday is 0.06564, which is the rollback rate. With growth in the digest, the city will collect just less than $14,000 in additional property taxes.

Similarly, the White County Board of Education set its 2017 millage rate at the rollback rate of 17.978 mills Thursday during a special meeting. The board used some fund balance funds to help achieve the rollback.

The City of Cleveland Thursday set the 2017 rate at 5 mills, the same as 2016 rate.

The White County Commission will set the county rate (9.998 mills) on Monday, Aug. 14, following a final public hearing in the required process. That rate is up 0.002-mill over the rollback rate of 9.996.

Whitfield County Board of Education is considering raising property taxes by setting a rate above the rollback level.

The Whitfield County Board of Education announces its intention to increase the 2017 property taxes it will levy this year by 4.64 percent over the rollback millage rate.

The Whitfield County Board of Education has proposed no change to the millage rate for 2017. The proposed millage rate remains 18.756, the same rate as set in 2016. State law requires this to be advertised as a tax increase since the state measures change not against the actual prior-year millage rate, but rather against the “rollback rate.” The rollback rate is calculated by subtracting any increase in the tax digest due to reassessment. However, if your own assessment did not change, your taxes will be the same as last year.

All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearings on this tax increase to be held at the Whitfield County Schools central office building, 1306 S. Thornton Ave., Dalton, on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., and on Thursday, Aug. 17, at 6 p.m.

The Lake Lanier Association is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Georgia EPD to keep Lake Lanier at full pool.

College students may be packing more than their books as they return to school.

Now, handguns are allowed in classrooms as long as high school students aren’t enrolled in the class and no high school programs are being held in the space, [Middle Georgia State University police chief Shawn] Douglas said.

“It is incumbent upon the gun owner to check to see if there will be any of those people registered in the class,” he said.

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) talked about changes he is proposing to his earlier Hidden Predator act.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, seeks to build on a 2015 measure that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations and allowed older victims to come forward and take their abuser to civil court.

State law gives victims until they are 23 years old to file a civil lawsuit. That age cut-off was suspended for two years, during which time 13 cases were filed all across the state, Spencer said.

But Spencer said those cases have revealed a major flaw in the 2015 bill, known as the Hidden Predator Act: These older victims could not go after the institutions that may have covered up the abuse.

“We stopped short two years ago,” Spencer said in an interview. “We have to do better because if you don’t hold the enablers accountable, we as a state are continuing to protect child sexual predators.”

The south Georgia lawmaker wants to recreate the two-year window for older victims — and this time allow them to take institutions to court.

“Enough is enough,” Spencer said. “If we don’t start hitting these people in the pocketbook, these behaviors are not going to change and real child protection is not going to happen.”

Under the proposal, victims would also permanently have until the age of 38 to take their abuser, along with any group that may have shielded that individual, to court.

Buford is considering a property tax millage rate between the current rate and the rollback rate.

The Buford Board of Commissioners is looking to set its fiscal 2017-18 tax rate Monday at 12.8 mills, down from 12.85 mills, with 1 mill equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed values.

However, because of higher reassessments, some property owners could see a bigger tax bill. To get the city revenue-neutral, the tax rate would have to be 12.478 mills.

On the other hand, property owners who didn’t see values increase will see a slight drop in taxes.

“Hall County did a good bit of re-evaluating some of the commercial values,” commission Chairman Phillip Beard said Sunday. “There’s been virtually no re-evaluation in Gwinnett County on the residential side of things.”

Buford has 7,156 property owners, with Hall County accounting for about 22 percent of Buford’s total tax digest, City Manager Bryan Kerlin said.

Casino Royale

The United Keetoowah band of the Cherokee say they want to return to Georgia and build a casino.

lawyer for the United Keetoowah band of the Cherokee said an Indian casino is easier to get done and will help a native Georgia people struggling to survive.

The Keetoowah band were driven from Georgia during the Trail of Tears in the 1830s.

The tribe wrote to Governor Nathan Deal last month and said that through federal law, they have status superior to all other efforts to build a casino.

Their attorney, Richard Lea, said two casino companies are in active discussions.

“They can partner with an Indian tribe. They can cut through the regulation and on an expedited basis, they can get approval and build an Indian casino a lot quicker,” Lea said.

The casino company would buy the land and the feds would declare it sovereign in trust for the tribe.

The state legislature would not be involved.

Georgia Republican state committee members voted in favor of a resolution opposing casino gambling.

The Georgia GOP state committee overwhelmingly passed a resolution over the weekend that opposes casinos and horse racing – as well as daily fantasy sports gambling.

The resolution cited concerns that gambling is tied to increasing crime and divorce rates, and warns it could open the door “for any Indian tribe to venue shop for property to open casinos” around the state.

“The state should not have a vested interest in predatory activities such as gambling for the sake of filling state coffers at the expense of ruined lives and broken families,” read the resolution.

 

2018 Elections

NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed Democrat Stacey Abrams in her 2018 bid for Governor of Georgia.

“As governor, Stacey [Abrams] will look out for women and defend our right to access basic healthcare, including contraception and abortion,” said Ilyse Hogue, the NARAL president.

Abrams, a former state House minority leader, faces fellow Democratic state Rep. Stacey Evans in next year’s vote. The two are already divvying up support from Democratic powerbrokers as they race to try to flip Georgia for the first time since 2002, and both have similar views on women’s rights issues. Four Republicans, all with hefty campaign coffers, are in the race.

Abrams said she would fiercely oppose any efforts to restrict abortion and vowed to back “access to reproductive health care services, paid family leave, and protections from pregnancy discrimination” if elected.

 

Senator David Shafer’s bid for Lieutenant Governor received the endorsement of George P. Bush.

The support from Bush, the Texas land commissioner and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is the latest in a string of national endorsements Shafer picked up for his campaign to succeed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

The state senator also won the backing of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, the GOPAC political advocacy and former Reps. John Linder and Bob Barr.

Bush is a de facto leader of the still-potent family network that has extensive ties in Georgia, and was the only member of his family to endorse President Donald Trump. In a statement, he called Shafer a “true conservative.”

“He has fought for conservative values,” Bush said. “And he has gotten results. I know he will continue to fight for conservative values.”

Democrat Zahra Karinshak will run for the State Senate District 48 seat being vacated by Sen. David Shafer.

Zahra Karinshak, an attorney and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy — she rose to the rank of captain as an intelligence officer — qualified for the seat this week. So far, the only Republican in the race is Matt Reeves, a Duluth attorney with a sweep of support from local GOP officials. With Shafer’s decision to run for lieutenant governor, Democrats are salivating over the chance to flip the seat. It’s one of about a dozen GOP-held state legislative districts in Georgia that Donald Trump lost in November.

Except that she didn’t actually qualify. Qualifying will be next March. She filed paperwork with the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to raise funds.

 

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