Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 11, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 11, 2017

Casimir Pulaski, a Polish aristocrat who fought with the colonists in the American Revolution, died in Savannah on October 11, 1779.

Former Georgia Governor and President of the United States Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 11, 2002.

Bobby Cox managed his last game in Game Four of the NLDS on October 11, 2010.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the water dispute between Georgia and Florida.

In an order issued Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments in the long-running “tri-state water wars” case involving Florida and Georgia — a case that has already run up astronomical legal bills for both states.

The high court did not say when it would hear oral arguments, except to say they would be scheduled “in due course.” The court’s current term began last week and will extend through next June or July.

The tri-state water wars, involving not just Florida and Georgia but also Alabama, have been going on since 1990. All three states lay claim to the water flowing through the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint River Basin. Georgia needs it for the thirsty residents of growing Atlanta. Alabama needs it for the power plants built along the river. And Florida needs it to keep its famed Apalachicola oyster industry going.

Suits between two states go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the court did agree to hear it in 2014. But the justices sent the two sides to a special master to hear the case and make a recommendation. In February, after five weeks of testimony and more than three years of proceedings, the special master ruled for Georgia.

Florida, which has spent nearly $100 million on the case, objected to the special master’s ruling, and so it will at last face Georgia, which has spent $30 million, in front of the the black-robed justices sometime in the next eight months.

From the Daily Report:

Georgia’s outside counsel for the trial before the special master was Kirkland & Ellis in Washington. The winning team included Craig Primis, K. Winn Allen and Devora Allon. This piece of the war alone covered two years of discovery, 100 depositions, testimony from 30 experts and a five-week trial in Maine.

Kirkland & Ellis referred questions to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.

Carr said by email Tuesday: “We look forward to vigorously defending Georgia’s interests in the next step of this process.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “We are pleased the Supreme Court granted oral argument and look forward to presenting our arguments in court.”

Whatever the high court does with this case may not conclude the dispute between the neighboring states. Lancaster’s report noted that big farm operations in the rural southern end of the Georgia have been allowed to drastically increase irrigation with no effectively enforced limits.

State Senator Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta) visited Columbus to campaign for Governor.

Hunter Hill, a former Ranger at Fort Benning, returned to Columbus Tuesday to share ideas in his run for governor with the Muscogee County Republican Party.

More than 50 party supporters gathered at the Double Tree Hotel to meet the veteran who served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming a businessman. Hill is among a field of five Republicans in the race, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, businessman Clay Tippins and State Sen. Michael Williams.

Hill said his campaign focuses on eliminating the income tax and supporting public safety, transportation and education. “We are going to double our investments in transportation in our first term without raising taxes,” he said.

Hill said he believes the core elements of government such as public safety, transportation and education have been underfunded over the last 30 years by weak politicians.

Hill referred to Columbus as his second home after living in the Reese Road area while serving at Fort Benning.

State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Cobb) took the progressive path running for Governor in speaking to Hall County Democrats.

Former State Rep. Vance Dean said he will run for the seat currently held by Rep. John Pezold, who is not running for reelection.

Longtime Harris County Republican legislator and former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation Vance Smith announced over the weekend his intention to run for his former House of Representatives seat.

Smith, 65, said he will run in the Republican primary next May for the seat being vacated by Rep. John Pezold.

“I just got it in my blood,” Smith said Monday, confirming his candidacy and what his wife, Michele, had posted on Facebook on Saturday. “We have been looking at it since March, and Michele and I made the decision on Saturday morning. We have talked to a lot of people in Muscogee, Troup and Harris counties about this.”

Smith spent 17 years in the General Assembly before leaving to become the department head of one of the state’s most powerful agencies. He was elected in 1993 to a House district that is different from the one that exists today. When he went into the House, the district included all of Harris County. District 133 now includes about 85 percent of the county, excluding the southeast corner. The district also includes part of northeast Muscogee County and the southern portion of Troup County.

Smith, who had been chairman of the House Transportation Committee, was hired as commissioner of the DOT in June 2009. He resigned from that job in September 2011.

State Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer has been endorsed for Lieutenant Governor by former U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

“David Shafer is the rare politician who talks like a conservative and then actually votes like one,” Santorum said. “He has a phenomenal conservative record in the Georgia State Senate. He wrote Georgia’s zero based budgeting law and successfully amended the State Constitution to cap the income tax.

“David believes in the fundamental dignity of every human life. He understands the importance and dignity of work. He believes the purpose of government is to protect our God given rights. That is why Patriot Voices is joining me in this endorsement.”

Santorum joins a list of Shafer supporters that includes New Gingrich, who was one of Santorum’s opponents in the 2012 presidential race; U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who ran for president last year, and former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, who was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president in 2008.

Other high profile endorsements include Bernie Marcus, former Congressman John Linder, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and state Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.

Gwinnett County Republican Paula Hastings will kickoff her campaign for State House District 102 next week.

Forsyth County Commissioners are considering changing the time of some meetings to allow more convenient public participation.

The board voted to move forward with public hearings to amend the Unified Development Code, but it wants the meetings to be scheduled for times that allow for full public participation. The board recommended the time frame from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. County staff will bring revisions, including possibly adding a clause regarding audio/video recording of the meeting, but that will be later determined by the board.

Chairman Todd Levent said he recently went to a meeting that started at 5 p.m. which caused some issues for people trying to attend after work.

“Applicants in the past have been considerate so this hasn’t come up,” Levent said.

Grantville City Council member Mark King is suing Mayor Doug Jewell over campaign signs he says were removed.

The suit was filed last week in the Magistrate Court of Coweta County. King is asking for $104.08, which includes the cost of two signs for $8.08,  $1 for punitive damages,  plus $95 for court costs, according to court documents.

King said a total of six signs were moved, but only four were recovered.

The signs were removed on Sept. 29, according to Jewell, because the signs were not in compliance with city code of ordinances, which says that signs should be at least 10 feet away from the right-of-way line of any street or highway to which it orients.

The councilman said the suit isn’t about him, but about getting the mayor to do the right thing.

“He overstepped his boundaries,” King said. “The right-of-way setback is determined street by street. I used a tape measure from to make sure signs were at least 10 feet away from the street.”

The Federal Railroad Administration has chosen a proposed high-speed rail route from Chattanooga to Atlanta.

“This project will benefit both Atlanta and Chattanooga with more efficient transportation, while also providing rail access to the rural communities in the region,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, in a statement. “This has been a long time in the making and represents a response to numerous transportation needs along the I-75 corridor.”

The [High-Speed Ground Transportation] HSGT project would run approximately 120 miles along Interstate 75 and provide what FRA terms “a competitive and more reliable transportation choice for people traveling between Atlanta and Chattanooga.”

The corridor includes eight rail stations and is estimated to take 88 minutes of travel time from the first to last station. The route would begin on the east side of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (HJAIA) at the proposed HJAIA/Southern Crescent Station and end at a proposed downtown Chattanooga station.

Valdosta City Council continues moving forward with a proposed curfew for juveniles.

Macon-Bibb County voters will weigh-in on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) in November.

Macon-Bibb County voters could decide the fate of a new sales tax that would lead to a millage rate rollback and property tax freeze.

The County Commission is scheduled to vote next week on whether to investigate the possibility of an additional 1-cent sales tax — one of several hurdles that must be cleared before the tax is implemented.

Before the referendum could be added to November 2018 Bibb County ballot, it must first receive approval from the County Commission and state legislators.

The proposal comes after the millage rate went up 3-mills this year. The amount of revenue taken in from the local option sales tax would determine the extent of the property tax rollback.

“This is a vehicle for property tax relief, I think more consistent cash flow and addressing some of the concerns of our property owners,” Bechtel said. “But we need to go into this with our eyes open.”

Early voting begins Monday, October 16th, in at least one municipality.

Early voting for this year’s General Municipal Election will begin this Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. at the Gordon County Board of Elections & Voter Registration Office, located at 215 North Wall Street in Calhoun.

The election involves several posts up for grabs in the City of Calhoun, City of Fairmount, City of Plainville and Town of Resaca.

An important Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) vote is also on the ballot. This SPLOST is not new; if passed it will simply be a continuation of the SPLOST currently in place.

Healthcare

Suicide rates are rising in rural areas, according to Georgia Health News.

Dr. W. Vaughn McCall of the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Augusta University said Monday that there’s a growing disparity in the economic status of rural vs. urban residents.

“There’s a lack of access to mental health services of all kinds”’ in rural areas, added McCall, an expert on suicide and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at MCG.

“While we’ve seen many causes of death come down in recent years, suicide rates have increased more than 20 percent from 2001 to 2015. And this is especially concerning in rural areas,” CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald said in a statement. “We need proven prevention efforts to help stop these deaths and the terrible pain and loss they cause.”

[Y]outh suicides in Georgia appear to show troubling trends. In May, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that up to that point, 18 children reportedly took their own lives this year. By June, the AJC reported, 20 youths had taken their lives.

The numbers show a potentially record year for youth suicides in the state.

Bonnie Moore, an advocate at the Floyd County Suicide Prevention Coalition, said northwest Georgia has a high suicide rate  compared with other areas of the state.

“A lot of it has to do with untreated mental health issues,’’ Moore said. “In rural areas, it’s harder to get services.”

Dougherty County commissioned a study of a proposed new hospital in neighboring Lee County.

The Atlanta-area law firm that prepared a report on the impact of a proposed Lee County hospital on Dougherty County, Albany-based Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and health care delivery in Southwest Georgia said the planned medical center would significantly and adversely impact the region’s health care.

The Dougherty County Commission authorized the impact study in August.

In a 46-page report summarized for the Dougherty County Commission Monday by County Attorney Spencer Lee, the BakerHostetler law firm said, “LCMC’s (Lee County Medical Center) project will cannibalize the insured patients already served by existing hospitals and needed to support their provision of care to the financially needy.”

The report also suggested that the certificate of need application submitted for the Lee hospital indicates a desire not to serve less affluent patients, such as those covered by Medicaid.

“LCMC will provide only non-tertiary services, which it defines as excluding basic obstetrical care,” the report reads. “Notably, though LCMC could have sought to provide basic obstetrical care, it did not, likely because such patients are largely covered by Medicaid.”

Dougherty Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas noted what he called a significant finding of the study related to health care costs.

“I found it significant that the study indicates the proposed Lee County hospital will actually charge higher rates, not cut costs as so many have claimed,” Cohilas said. “And I also think it’s important that, lost in all the sabre-rattling associated with this matter, is the fact that Lee County is not applying to build a hospital. A group is applying to build a hospital in Lee County.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has accepted the proposal for the acquisition of Savannah’s Memorial University Medical Center by the for-profit HCA.

The action follows completion of due diligence by the Nashville, Tenn.-based health care provider to acquire Memorial and will now require a 90-day period for the attorney general’s office to approve the sale, valued at $710 million when Memorial, a non-profit, signed a letter of intent in April.

The transaction would need to meet certain regulatory requirements and receive a favorable approval from the Attorney General’s office before it can be completed. Once completed, the hospital and its outpatient clinics and facilities will become full members of HCA’s South Atlantic Division.

The attorney general’s office will schedule a public meeting in Savannah within the 90-day period.

The Stephens County Hospital Authority named a new CEO for Stephens County Hospital after Lynne Fogerty resigned.

“Hospital leadership and the hospital authority are working in tandem to aggressively pursue financial turnaround initiatives, including improving clinical documentation and collections, service quality and increasing efficiencies in providing care,” said Hospital Authority Chairman Mark Wilkinson.

Wilkinson said the hospital has been confronted with declining market share and decreasing inpatient, surgery and emergency department volumes over the past several years.

Stephens County Hospital lost more than $4 million in fiscal year 2016 and $5 million in fiscal year 2017.

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