Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 1, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 1, 2017

John Wesley left Savannah on December 2, 1737.

John Wesley’s strict discipline as rector of Christ Church in Savannah irritated his parishioners. More trouble followed when he fell in love with Sophia Hopkey, the niece of Georgia’s chief magistrate. When she married another man, Wesley banned her from Holy Communion, damaging her reputation in the community.

His successful romantic rival sued him; but Wesley refused to recognize the authority of the court, and the man who would eventually found a major Protestant denomination in America left Georgia in disgrace on December 2, 1737

Touro Synagogue, the oldest existing synagogue in the United States, was dedicated on December 2, 1763 in Newport, Rhode Island.

628px-Grand_Union_Flag.svg

On December 3, 1775, the Grand Union Flag, comprising the Union Jack with thirteen red-and-white stripes was raised for the first time by Lieutenant John Paul Jones over the USS Alfred, a colonial warship. The flag would be used by Continental forces thorugh 1776 and early 1777.

USS Alfred

On December 3, 1776, General George Washington wrote Congress that he had moved most of his army across the Delaware River from Trenton, New Jersey to Pennsylvania.

General George Washington set up winter headquarters at Morristown, New Jersey on December 1, 1779.

On December 1, 1824, the election for President of the United States, in which no candidate received a majority of electoral votes, went to the United States House of Representatives.

Andrew Jackson of Tennessee won 99 electoral and 153,544 popular votes; John Quincy Adams–the son of John Adams, the second president of the United States–received 84 electoral and 108,740 popular votes; Secretary of State William H. Crawford, who had suffered a stroke before the election, received 41 electoral votes; and Representative Henry Clay of Virginia won 37 electoral votes.

As dictated by the Constitution, the election was then turned over to the House of Representatives. The 12th Amendment states that if no electoral majority is won, only the three candidates who receive the most popular votes will be considered in the House. Representative Henry Clay, who was disqualified from the House vote as a fourth-place candidate, agreed to use his influence to have John Quincy Adams elected.

The Skirmish at Rocky Creek Church took place near Waynesboro, Georgia on December 2, 1864. On December 3, 1864, Union forces under the command of Gen. William T. Sherman skirmished against Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry at Thomas’ Station in Burke County, Georgia.

The City of Sandy Springs began operations at one second after midnight on December 1, 2005. Three years later, Dunwoody became a new city, on December 1, 2008.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the final day for early voting if your city has a runoff election.

United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia BJay Pak said fighting opioid abuse is one of his priorities in office.

The opioid problem is bigger than ever before, Pak said. “Every year we’re seeing more overdoses.”

Pak, though, added that there has been improved coordination among federal, state and local authorities in tackling the issue.

One tactic against prescription abuse is data mining and “looking at any anomalies,’’ said Pak, an experienced attorney who formerly served as a state legislator from Gwinnett County. He said there are fewer “pill mills’’ that generate prescriptions of painkillers for non-medical uses. “But we’re still seeing them,” Pak added.

Pak said  “the word is getting out’’ to medical providers on the dangers of opioid medications, leading to  reduced prescription abuse.

Meanwhile, the synthetic drug fentanyl is surfacing more. “We’re seeing marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine laced with fentanyl,” Pak said.

Strip club owners are suing the state to prevent enforcement of a fee levied in 2016.

An organization representing adult entertainment clubs across Georgia, including those in DeKalb and Fulton counties, has sued two state leaders, claiming a new tax on the clubs is unconstitutional.

The Georgia Association of Club Executives, which represents Mardi Gras in Sandy Springs, Oasis Goodtime Emporium in Doraville and the Pink Pony in Brookhaven, filed a lawsuit Nov. 10 in Fulton County Superior Court against Attorney General Chris Carr and Revenue Commissioner Lynne Riley.

The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, will allow the state to tax each adult entertainment business, including strip clubs, an annual fee of $5,000 or 1 percent of revenue, whichever is higher, to support the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, which goes to programs to stop sex trafficking in Georgia. In a Nov. 27 news release, the association claims the law is unconstitutional because the clubs have nothing to do with child sex trafficking, are already highly regulated and don’t allow anyone under 21 to enter.

The new tax was overwhelmingly approved by the state’s voters (83 percent) in the November 2016 general election as a constitutional amendment/referendum. It is based on Senate Bill 8, which was approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor in 2016.

The lawsuit also focuses on legal language introduced by Unterman and District 42 State Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, which claimed these clubs are places where sexual predators find children. Unterman did not return an email seeking comment, but Parent said “there is a nexus between child sex trafficking and the commercial sex businesses (including adult entertainment clubs).”

“There’s testimony to that effect in the study committee,” she said of a hearing on the issue that likely took place in 2015. “I believe the lawsuit is not surprising and the courts will weigh in. Do I believe it’s unconstitutional? No, because there’s a nexus there. But I think it will be settled in the courts.”

Southwest Georgia hosts eight different municipal runoff elections on Tuesday.

“Hopefully they will turn out, it will be a steady flow. A steady, steady flow,” said Dougherty County’s Election Supervisor Ginger Nickerson.

Voters in Pearson, Arlington and Bronwood will be choosing their next mayor.

Cordele voters will select a city commissioner at-large and Grady County voters will decide on a District 1 City Commissioner.

There is a run-off for the Valdosta City Council District 4 seat and the Thomasville City Council at-large position.

In Albany, there is a run-off for the Ward 2 race.

To view who is running, and the results from the general election November 7, click here.

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood is likely to challenge State Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell) for her house seat in 2018.

Wood, who served as mayor for 20 years until a judge ruled he can’t seek another term, was coy about his plans. He would neither confirm or deny a race for the seat, only saying he’s “thinking about” a run and will make his announcement on Wednesday – the day after local elections.

But his aim to run for the seat is an open secret in Roswell, where he’s told friends and supporters of his impending candidacy and the news has already spread on social media.

Robins Air Force base is being effected by uncertainty over the federal budget.

Budget negotiations in Congress over the next few days have big ramifications for Robins Air Force Base, even if a government shutdown is avoided.

Current funding of the federal government expires Dec. 8. Without a budget agreement, all non-essential personnel at Robins, as well as other federal offices, would stay home without pay. The last time that happened was in 2013 when the shutdown lasted Oct. 1-16. It impacted thousands at Robins, but they got all of their back pay once an agreement was reached.

That creates significant planning problems, said Col. Lyle Drew, the installation commander at Robins. So even if a shutdown is avoided and the government is funded through a continuing resolution, it still will have a big impact on the base.

A major issue it causes for Robins, he said, is that the base is increasing its workload this fiscal year and needs to hire approximately 500 people. But as a long as it is operating under last year’s budget, there isn’t money to hire new people, or at least not as many as needed and as fast as needed. That means some of the additional planes coming in for overhaul might have to sit indefinitely because the base won’t have the manpower to do the work. Even if the planes aren’t needed for a deployment, he said, units need the aircraft to keep up required training.

Savannah City Council is considering raising revenues or cutting spending to balance the 2018 budget.

The preliminary spending plan presented during the first day of a two-day budget retreat on Thursday amounts to a “bare bones, no frills and somewhat painful” general fund budget of $187 million that includes almost $13 million in cuts to personnel, services and capital project investment, said City Manager Rob Hernandez.

“It’s not even a recommended budget or a proposed budget,” Hernandez said. “It’s just a starting point for our conversation.”

The second budget option of almost $200 million would sustain existing services, as well provide funding for performance-based wage increases and increase reserve funds for unforeseen expenses. The third spending plan would be an “enhanced budget” of about $213 million to cover expenses related to council priorities, such as additional police officers recommended by a consultant to improve emergency response times.

Among the funding options staff presented was a proposed fee charged to all properties to cover the cost of fire department services and eliminate that department’s dependence on tax revenue. Implementing a fee to cover the full cost of fire services would amount to $370 per household and raise an estimated $31.5 million, according to the budget report. A consultant, Ecological Planning Group, also presented reduced rates as an option that would cover between 50 percent and 75 percent of fire service costs and raise about $15.7 million to $23.6 million. Property tax increases and decreases of between half a mill and two mills were also proposed, with revenue impacts ranging between $2.5 million and $10 million.

The Muscogee County Tax Assessors Board is scrambling to work through a backlog of property tax appeals.

Muscogee County tax assessors’ plans to extend a contract with Tyler Technologies to help with a backlog resulting from unprecedented tax appeals were stalled Tuesday when four Columbus councilors voted against the proposal.

Council voted 5 to 4 in favor of the addendum, but the vote was inconclusive because one more vote was needed. Those voting in favor were Councilors Skip Henderson, Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson, Jerry “Pops” Barnes, Mike Baker and Mayor Pro “Tem” Evelyn Turner-Pugh. Those opposed were Councilors Glenn Davis, Judy Thomas, Gary Allen and Garrett Walker. Councilor Bruce Huff was absent when the vote was taken.

Tyler Technologies, a Texas-based vendor, implemented the 2017 countywide property revaluation/software conversion project that resulted in significant hikes in assessments, some as much as 1,000 percent. It is the same company being considered by some city officials for a new comprehensive court management system.

Prior to the vote, City Manager Isaiah Hugley told Council extra help was needed in the Tax Assessor’s Office because all available resources had been directed toward reviewing appeals over the last four months. He reminded councilors of a presentation made by Deputy Chief Appraiser John Williams at a previous meeting notifying them of the situation.

“They had 10,906 appeals, which resulted in their typical annual work being delayed, is what they conveyed to you,” he said. “And they said to you, unless addressed, this delay in their annual work would preclude them from timely submitting their portion of the tax digest to the tax commissioner by June 1.”

The State House Science and Technology Committee heard from voting machine vendors in a committee meeting Thursday.

“We’re just trying to understand what options the state of Georgia has,” said state Rep. Ed Setzler, a Republican from Acworth who chairs the bipartisan panel.

Critics of Georgia’s voting machines have said they’re highly susceptible to being rigged by hackers in all-but-undetectable ways and that their votes can’t be reliably recounted. They’ve urged the state to review and replace the voting system.

“In spite of criticism and innuendo, I think there’s been many elections where this system has proven itself,” Setzler said of the current machines.

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