Category: Georgia Politics


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 18, 2017

On August 18, 1591,the English settlement at Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks of what is now North Carolina was found deserted.

On August 20, 1781, General George Washington sent Continental troops from New York toward Yorktown, Virginia to engage British troops under Gen. Cornwallis.

On August 18, 1795, President George Washington signed a treaty with Great Britain called the Jay Treaty, after Supreme Court Justice John Jay who negotiated it. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison led opposition to the treaty.

USS Constitution earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” in battle against the British ship Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia on August 19, 1812. Launched in 1797, Constitution is today the oldest commissioned vessel in the United States Navy. Live oak from St. Simons Island were cut and milled for timber used in the constructions of Constitution. From a 1977 New York Times article:

The Constitution won her way into Americans’ hearts in 1812, when she defeated the British Guerriere off Nova Scotia in an exchange of broadsides. The spirit of the Constitution crew was noted by the Guerriere’s commander, James Dacres, who boarded the Constitution to present his sword in surrender.

”I will not take your sword, Sir,” the captain of the Constitution, Isaac Hull, replied. ”But I will trouble you for your hat.”

In the battle, a sailor — whether British or American is disputed by historians — is said to have cried out, ”Huzzah, her sides are made of iron!” as he watched an English cannonball bounce off the side of the Constitution. It was the birth of her nickname.

Part of the ship’s secret lay in the wood used in the design by Joshua Humphreys. He picked live oak, from St. Simons Island, Ga. The wood has proved so strong and resistant to rot that the original hull is intact, said Anne Grimes Rand, curator of the Constitution Museum in Charlestown, Mass.

On August 18, 1862, Confederate Major General of Cavalry J.E.B. Stuart was nearly captured, losing his distinctive hat and cloak and written copies of Lee’s orders near Verdiersville, Virginia.

On August 20, 1906, Gov. Joseph Terrell signed legislation to build a statue of Georgia founding father James Oglethorpe in Savannah and a bill to build a statue of former Confederate General and Georgia Governor John B. Gordon at the State Capitol.

The Georgia General Assembly adopted a joint resolution urging the creation of a federal Health Department on August 18, 1908.

The Georgia Department of Insurance was created on August 19, 1912 when Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation regulating companies selling policies in the states.

On August 18, 1916, the Cherokee Rose was designated the official state flower of Georgia by a joint resolution of the State House and Senate.

Governor Nathaniel Harris signed the first state law requiring school attendance for children 8-14 years of age on August 19, 1916; on the same day, Harris also signed legislation authorizing women to practice law in Georgia.

The practice of tipping service employees was outlawed by legislation signed on August 18, 1918.

The Georgia Department of Archives and History was created by legislation signed by Georgia Governor Hugh Dorsey on August 20, 1918.

Georgia Governor Hugh Dorsey signed legislation regulating the practice of architecture and licensing practitioners on August 18, 1919.

The Georgia Board of Public Welfare was also created on August 18, 1919 when Gov. Dorsey signed legislation establishing that body and a companion bill that created the Community Service Commission.

On August 20, 1920, the American Professional Football Association, which would later be renamed the National Football League, was formed in Akron, Ohio.

“Georgia” was designated the official state song on August 19, 1922 with Gov. Thomas Hardwick’s signature on a joint resolution passed by the General Assembly; in 1979, “Georgia On My Mind,” replaced it.

On August 20, 1923, Georgia Governor Clifford Walker signed legislation requiring state schools teach the United States and Georgia Constitutions and students pass an exam on the documents before being allowed to graduate.

Adolf Hitler became President of Germany on August 19, 1934.

The United States Central Intelligence Agency supported a coup in Iran that restored the Shah of Iran on August 19, 1953.

On August 18, 1924 Gov. Clifford Walker signed legislation that would allow a referendum on a Constitutional Amendment to allow Atlanta, Savannah, or Macon to consolidate their respective municipal governments with their county governments. Macon-Bibb County merged in 2014 after voters passed a referendum in July 2012.

The Beatles played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on August 18, 1965. has a couple images from the night.

On August 20, 1965, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones was released in the UK.

On August 20, 1974, President Gerald Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President of the United States.

On August 19, 1976, President Gerald R. Ford was nominated for President by the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. Ford received 1,157 (52.6%) delegates to 1,087 for Ronald Reagan (47.4%). Georgia’s 48 delegates voted for Reagan on the first ballot.

Dr. Betty Siegel became the first female President of a state college or university in Georgia when she was named President of Kennesaw College on August 19, 1981; under her leadership, it became Kennesaw State University in 1996. Siegel served until 2006. Kennesaw State was recently named the 4th best college for food in the nation.

Also on August 19, 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

On August 19, 1984, President Ronald Reagan was nominated for reelection by the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas.

On August 18, 1991, hardline Commies in the Soviet Union arrested Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev as part of a coup against Gorbachev’s reforms.

On August 18, 2015, Jeb Bush visited The Varsity in Atlanta. Here’s the funniest line from the CBS46 story:

Recently, Bush put a series of “Jeb No Filter” videos on YouTube and some say it’s a way to bring up his popularity.

“We’re going to work hard to earn the support of Georgians in the March 1 primary. It’s the second largest state in the primary, it’s our neighbor to our north, we’re going to be working hard,” Bush said.

While the instinct behind “Jeb No Filter” may have been good, it would take Donald Trump to show what No Filter really means.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia House Rural Development Council met in Dalton on Wednesday to hear from local leaders.

Brian Cooksey, director of operations training and development at Shaw Industries, briefed council members on how in Whitfield County representatives of industry, the local school systems, Dalton State College and Georgia Northwestern Technical College are working together to provide students with the skills that industry needs.

He said that up until a few years ago, Dalton State College was serving as both a technical college and a university.

“They did a really good job. But that’s a tough situation,” he said.

Cooksey said leaders at Dalton State, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and local leaders worked together to allow the college to focus on its core strength as a university and to create programs in areas of demand by the floorcovering industry, such as bachelor of applied science in chemistry.

The next step, Cooksey said, was getting a campus of Georgia Northwestern in Whitfield County. Whitfield County Schools offered space inside the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy and local industry provided equipment.

State Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton, who sat in on some of the proceedings, said he was happy to hear how much cooperation is going on.

“We are working together here, and I hope that what we are doing can be expanded on in other places,” he said.

Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, a member of the council, said the presentations they heard in Dalton and in other cities where the council has met should result in new legislation next year.

“We want to see what we can do to make it easier for our citizens to get the education and the skills they need to succeed,” he said. “Education is the key to a better life and the key to a higher income. We want all of Georgia to succeed, not just metro Atlanta.”

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson responded to requests to remove memorials in the city.

[T]he mayor said the city wouldn’t remove the memorial to the Civil War dead on Broadway.

“I investigated it and its history some time ago, before the horrific events in Charlottesville,” she wrote. “I do not advocate its removal for these reasons: It was erected in 1879, not during the pushback from the civil rights movement or in conjunction with Jim Crow. It was erected 14 years after the cessation of war and after Confederate soldiers (other than Jefferson Davis, Robert Lee and the Confederate Secretary of War) had been pardoned by two presidents in an effort of national reunification — to not forget, but to move forward as one nation.”

Tomlinson said the memorial was not erected by the city, county or state, but by family and friends of the dead.

“I am distinguishing between the memorial for the dead and these memorials that glorify and encourage the themes of the war and continue its upraising as a celebration,” she said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer.

Later in a news conference, she said state statute prohibits the removal of public monuments, which might apply to the one on Broadway.

Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach wants the state to change the name of the Talmadge bridge.

The city is now planning to host a forum to discuss the Confederate monument in Forsyth Park and the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge in the wake of the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend when white supremacists marched to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Staff was directed on Thursday by the Savannah City Council to schedule the forum after Mayor Eddie DeLoach spoke about the “acts of violence committed in the name of hate and racism” during the weekend’s tragic events, which included injuries and the death of a 32-year-old woman when a speeding car rammed into anti-racist protesters. Two law enforcement officers died when the helicopter they were using to monitor the event crashed.

“We all must denounce these forms of domestic terrorism and rally around each other in the name of peace and unity,” DeLoach said. “We must not just be on the right side of history, but we must write the right version of history.”

DeLoach went on to propose that the council send a resolution calling for the state legislature to rename the Talmadge Bridge to be a more inclusive name that represents the entire community. Georgia law requires the state must give approval to rename the bridge.

In addition, DeLoach called on city staff to find a way to “expand the story” of the Confederate monument to be inclusive of all Savannahians, regardless of race, creed or color, who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Civil War.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced he will work with the National Association of Attorneys General on strengthening laws against elder abuse.

“The abuse, neglect, and exploitation of at-risk and older citizens is a tragic and evolving issue that is plaguing not only Georgia, but our entire country,” Carr said. “When I learned of NAAG President and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s intentions for the working group, I was eager to get our office involved.

“This type of collaborative effort is exactly what we need to create real results, and we look forward to working with our national partners to crack down on this malicious behavior in all its forms.”

Glynn County Commissioners heard from residents on a proposed property tax millage rate increase.

The commission approved a budget in June that relies on the millage increase.

Resident Chuck Cook said the public should more- critically weigh the benefits of the millage rate increase, as the county provides a lot of services that many see as necessary, such as 24-hour public safety services.

Another resident said that she liked living in the Golden Isles when she moved here because she was able to find a job and live comfortably. Now, however, times are tougher and she isn’t sure she’ll be able to swallow the cost of a property tax increase.

This hearing on the millage was the first of three. Another will be held at 11 a.m. on Aug. 22 in the St. Simons Island Casino and the third will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 24 in the Old Glynn County Courthouse, 701 G St. in Brunswick.

Flowery Branch will hold weekly events to promote voter registration.

Don McKee writes in the MDJ about another voter registration effort.

While the new SEC Primary gained a lot of attention and confirmed Kemp’s creativity, the secretary of state also started up a smaller program relating to voting within Georgia in 2016. It’s the Student Ambassador Program for “encouraging civic engagement and voter registration among young adults.” The pilot program began in January 2016 with just 14 Georgia high schools and 160 students participating.

After the program was started, electronic voter registration among 18-year-olds more than doubled using the state’s online platform and a free “GA SOS” mobile app. “Prior to the program’s pilot year in 2016, only 8,132 young adults registered to vote using the state’s electronic platforms,” Kemp announced this week. “Now, 16,737 young adults — and counting — have electronically registered to vote in Georgia.”

This year, 175 high schools and organizations in 94 Georgia counties will take part in the program, and beginning in September, more than 1,500 sophomores, juniors and seniors will receive training in how to register other young people and “engage with their local officials” — which no doubt will be respectful, aimed at gaining information, in contrast to the anger and yelling of insults at the town hall meeting held by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-GA, and other members of Congress. On that point, civility should be a part of civics lessons — maybe including a crash course for people attending town halls before the meetings start.

Competition is a tried and true key to the Student Ambassador Program. Teams of students compete against those from other schools in statewide and regional events to win points by “hosting voter registration drives and volunteering within their communities.” Last year’s statewide winner was Newnan High School. Surely, one of our outstanding Cobb County schools has what it takes to be a winner.


Campaigns & Elections

Jessica Tarlov and Evan Roth Smith write for Fox about how Democrats could start winning elections again.

The problem is simple, but deeply entrenched: the Democratic Party is overcentralized, run from Washington and other power centers where established party elites and career operatives dispense favors, funds, and a party line that fails to reflect the needs, wishes, and priorities of actual Democratic voters.

Democratic elites and big-money donors continue to back bad candidates in winnable races, instead of letting local Democratic leaders build the party from the ground up.

Put another way, Democratic elites support well-connected carpetbaggers like Jon Ossoff, or comically underqualified political novices like Rob Quist, over actual local Democratic elected officials, activists, organizers, business owners, or community leaders.

In June’s special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional district, Democrats spent a staggering, record-setting $23 million on Jon Ossoff’s losing campaign. Ossoff, who had never run for as much as school board, was a former D.C. congressional staffer who hadn’t lived in the district for over a decade and couldn’t even cast a ballot for himself.

Nonetheless, party elites anointed Ossoff over a slew of truly local candidates, including a former Georgia state senator, a black businesswoman running as a government reformer, an accomplished doctor running on her genuine health care expertise, and a college professor who served in the first Gulf War.

Ossoff lost to an experienced campaigner with a clear local constituency, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.

Now it’s time for another warning that Democrats should heed: run your local talent.

Doraville City Council Member Robert Patrick will seek reelection in District 1.

This year in Doraville, three seats, occupied by Patrick (District 1), Dawn O’Connor (District 2) and Sharon Spangler (District 3) are up for election. The qualifying fee is $252. The election will be held Nov. 7.

Jill Fisher will run for Rome Board of Education.

Jill Fisher, a mother of three Rome city school students who is active in the community while acting as bookkeeper in her husband’s dental practice, announced her intention to run for Rome City Board of Education Thursday.

“I am excited to enter the race to become a Rome City School board member. My husband, Mark, and I have three kids: one at Rome High, one at Rome Middle, and one at East Central Elementary. For the last ten years, I have served RCS in many ways, including two terms as PTO President. I have also served on several advisory committees designed to bridge the school system and parents.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 17, 2017

Georgia Governor Joseph Terrell signed legislation creating the State Board of Health on August 17, 1903.

Georgia Tech was designated the State School of Technology on August 17, 1908 by joint resolution of the State Senate and State House.

In a quaint bit of Georgia history, on August 17, 1908, Governor Hoke Smith signed legislation prohibiting corporate donations to political campaigns. Cute!

On August 17, 1998, President Bill Clinton testified as the subject of a grand jury investigation.

The testimony came after a four-year investigation into Clinton and his wife Hillary’s alleged involvement in several scandals, including accusations of sexual harassment, potentially illegal real-estate deals and suspected “cronyism” involved in the firing of White House travel-agency personnel. The independent prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, then uncovered an affair between Clinton and a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. When questioned about the affair, Clinton denied it, which led Starr to charge the president with perjury and obstruction of justice, which in turn prompted his testimony on August 17.

Neither History Nor Politics

Researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Mayo Clinic announced they have identified the basic pathology behind Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

The disease-causing mutation identified is the first of its kind, [Dr. J. Paul] Taylor said. Unlike in other genetic diseases, the mutation does not cripple an enzyme in a biological regulatory pathway. Rather, the mutation produces an abnormal version of a protein involved in a process called phase separation in cells.

There is currently no effective treatment for ALS/FTD. However, the researchers believe their finding offers a promising pathway for developing treatments to restore neurons’ ability to  disassemble the organelles when their cellular purpose has ended.

The TIA1 mutation was discovered when the scientists analyzed the genomes of a family affected with ALS/FTD. Tracing the effect of the mutation on TIA1 structure, the researchers found that it altered the properties of a highly mobile “tail” of the protein. This tail region governs the protein’s ability to aggregate with other TIA1 proteins. Taylor and his colleagues previously identified such unstructured protein regions, called prion-like domains, as the building blocks of cellular assemblies and as hotspots for disease-causing mutations.

In further studies, the researchers found that TIA1 mutations occurred frequently in ALS patients. The scientists also found that people carrying the mutation had the disease.

“This paper provides the first ‘smoking gun,’ showing that the disease-causing mutation changes the phase transition behavior of proteins,”  Taylor said. “And the change in the phase transition behavior changes the biology of the cell.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former Atlanta Mayor and Ambassador Andrew Young said it’s too expensive to fight the civil war again.

Said Young:

“I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War. We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together…

“I personally feel that we made a mistake in fighting over the Confederate flag here in Georgia. Or that that was an answer to the problem of the death of nine people – to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina.”

Specifically, Young was speaking of Gov. Roy Barnes’ decision to pull down the 1956 state flag that prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem. The move was a primary reason he lost his bid for re-election, split the state Democratic party, and ushered in the current season of Republican rule. Said Young:

“It cost us $14.9 billion and 70,000 jobs that would have gone with the Affordable Care Act – which we probably would have had if we hadn’t been fighting over a flag…

“It cost of us the health of our city because we were prepared to build a Northern Arc, 65 miles away from the center of the city of Atlanta – an outer perimeter that would have been up and running now, if we had not been fighting over the flag.

“I am always interested in substance over symbols. If the truth be known, we’ve had as much agony – but also glory, under the United States flag. That flew over segregated America. It flew over slavery….”

The Georgia Conference of the NAACP is calling for the removal of all Confederate memorials on public property.

On Wednesday, state conference President Phyllis Blake issued a statement calling for elected officials to remove all confederate symbols from public property owned by the state and local governments.

“The traitors of the Confederate States of America were soundly defeated over 150 years ago and today we as diverse Georgians must send a message once and for all, that Georgia is the state too busy to hate,” Blake said in a statement. “We call on all mayors within this great state, including (Atlanta) Mayor Kasim Reed, to remove all symbols of the confederacy from city government property.”

Valdosta residents will rally in response to Charlottesville at 11 AM on Saturday at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park.

Bill Torpy at the AJC writes about fighting among Georgia Democrats.

When I first saw the video of activists shouting down Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Evans at the Netroots Nation convention last weekend, I had one thought: Hello, Governor Cagle.

The event was just the latest example of why the Democratic Party seems ready to relegate itself to permanent bridesmaid status, not only here in Georgia but from sea to shining sea. And the Republican front-runner in the governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, was no doubt grinning big time.

Lisa Coston, who told me she’s a progressive Dem from Lawrenceville, responded to Abrams’ post, saying: “What the protesters did was to disrupt Rep. Evans’ speech, for no apparent reason but to try and shut her up. There is no need for that, nor an excuse for that behavior.

“This is the explicit problem with the Democratic Party in general, both at the state and national level. Infighting based on race, religion, whatever else. It prevents progressives from being united, and thus we lose and lose and lose.”

However, [Stacey] Abrams’ deputy campaign manager, Marcus Ferrell, used to be CEO of an activist org called MPACT. And his deputy director at MPACT was a woman named Anoa Changa.

Not long after the shout-down, The Washington Post talked with “protester” Anoa Changa. “An interruption is not necessarily promoting one person over another,” Changa told the newspaper.

Allen Fort, Superintendent/Principal of Taliferro County Schools, wrote about the challenges of rural Georgia in a letter that Maureen Downey ran in her AJC blog.

Taliaferro is the smallest county in Georgia with the smallest school system. There are 175 students, Pre-k-12, who attend this tiny school located about half way between Atlanta and Augusta on I-20. It is hard to imagine a county of just 1,700 citizens exists only miles from two cities that have more than six million people, but it does.

Many people will wonder why this school system even exists. Why it doesn’t consolidate? Why it doesn’t just close?

One of the greatest challenges of educating 21st century youth is that, while technology has increased access to information and experiences, students are increasingly disconnected from education. This dilemma is exacerbated in rural communities where jobs are few and opportunities appear limited. Therefore, our teachers and students must have everyday meaningful opportunities to use technology not to surf the internet, but to teach and learn, creating teachable moments and unique instruction.

We understand we may be our own worst enemy as these students graduate and move on to college (all of our last year’s graduates were accepted and are attending four-year, two-year or technical college at this time). Unfortunately, we may never see them back in Taliaferro again.

What is here to bring them back? We have no adequate housing, no viable businesses and no real industry to entice a young college graduate or recently discharged veteran to return to our community as a working citizen. When the local name for the Dollar General is the “Crawfordville Mall,” you understand your limitations.

Federal grants for the two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle are caught up in larger budget matters in the U.S. Senate.

Boosters of the estimated $25 billion project, the only one of its kind left in the U.S., think the federal bill could throw an economic lifeline to the companies behind the venture as they decide whether to move ahead with construction or abandon work amid major cost overruns and deep delays.

Under current law, newly constructed nuclear reactors can receive federal tax credits for producing electricity only if they are put in service before 2021. The bill before Congress would lift the deadline.

The extension would help preserve the roughly $800 million in tax credits that Georgia Power, which has a nearly 46 percent share of the project, has been counting on as it builds a pair of new reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta.

A bill extending the tax credits sailed through the U.S. House nearly unanimously back in June, but it needs the Senate’s approval before it can be sent to President Donald Trump’s desk. And that’s where the bill appears to be stuck, not because of outright opposition but the greater gravitational pull of a broader tax overhaul.

Meanwhile, a 1.4 million-pound steam generator was installed at Vogtle Unit 3.

Georgia Power announced … that a 1.4 million pound steam generator was lowered into the nuclear island of Unit 3 on Tuesday. The nearly 80-foot generator was built in South Korea and shipped to the Port of Savannah and delivered to the site by rail, the company said in a news release. The generators use heat from the nuclear core to convert water into steam for power generation. Each of the two new-generation AP1000 reactors will require two steam generators, all of which are currently on site, the company said.

Southern Nuclear, a division of Georgia Power parent company Southern Co., now has oversight over the expansion after contractor Westinghouse declared bankruptcy in March. Southern Nuclear operates the other two reactors at Vogtle.

Thousands of voting machines may be out of commission due to a lawsuit filed over the 6th Congressional District elections earlier this year.

The suit, filed over the July 4 holiday, demands that Republican Karen Handel’s win in a June 20 runoff be thrown out and the contest redone over concerns some election integrity advocates have about the security and accuracy of Georgia’s election infrastructure.

The machines and related hardware are central to that system, and the three metro counties with areas in the 6th District — Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton — have stored the machines used in the special election after plaintiffs sought to preserve electronic records that could have bearing on the suit.

That includes keeping intact memory cards — which might otherwise be wiped clean in preparation for a new election — as well as residual memory on the machines. Voting on the machines is anonymous — the records can’t be used to identify personal information about a specific voter — but they do track and tally how many votes are cast on individual machines or in the election overall.

Advocates who filed the suit said they aren’t trying to derail the state’s elections schedule or any of those counties’ preparations ahead of November. But their request has also resulted in a litigation hold on 1,324 voting machines in Fulton, nearly 1,000 machines in DeKalb and 307 machines in Cobb.

Gwinnett County Magistrate Judge James Hinkle resigned his office after being suspended for comments on Facebook.

Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Hammer Blum said in a statement at about 6:30 p.m. that Judge James A. Hinkle “offered his immediate resignation from his position as a part-time Magistrate.”

“For 14 years, Judge Hinkle has dutifully served this Court. He is a lifelong public servant and former Marine,” Blum said. “However, he has acknowledged that his statements on social media have disrupted the mission of this court, which is to provide justice for all.”

Governor Nathan Deal will return to Gainesville to recognize a new state law allowing direct sales of beer to consumers.

Deal will join local elected officials at the brewery on Atlanta Highway to ring in Georgia’s new law allowing direct sales of beer, from pints to cases, at breweries.

The law was approved in the most recent session of the Georgia General Assembly and signed into law by Deal. It’s being celebrated as a major step forward for Georgia breweries.

The event runs from noon to 10 p.m. Deal will make an appearance later in the afternoon, according to Datta.

The business owner is calling it a new era for Georgia breweries, heretofore restricted to selling tours of their facilities and offering “samples” of their beer. Almost all of Georgia-made packaged beer is distributed to wholesalers, but that will change come September.

“Just as with the state’s wine industry, craft breweries are becoming travel destinations, and tourists from within and outside (Georgia) are seeking out breweries to enjoy the local flavors and offerings unique to each brewery,” Datta said in his Wednesday announcement.

Thirty Georgia businesses joined the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast.

Not quite a year old, the South Carolina-based organization boasts the support of more than 41,000 business and 500,000 commercial fishing families for its efforts to protect the Atlantic Coast from offshore oil/gas exploration and drilling.

Michael Neal, owner of Bull River Cruises, is among the local participants.

“Both the beauty of Coastal Georgia and the nature of Coastal Georgia have more importance that the potential of offshore drilling,” said Neal, whose 19-year-old business employs five people for its educational and historical cruises to places such as Ossabaw Island. “Plus, there are potential impacts if anything goes wrong.”

In April, President Donald Trump revived the prospects for offshore drilling and exploration with an executive order. It calls for a review of the current five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf and directs the administration to fast-track the permitting process for seismic airgun blasting for an area stretching from Delaware to Florida.

Along with businesses, local governments along the coast have expressed opposition to both offshore drilling and seismic testing. Among those passing resolutions are Savannah, Tybee, Hinesville and Brunswick. The governors of both North and South Carolina have voiced opposition to drilling off the Atlantic coast.

But state and federal elected officials in Georgia still back drilling.

State Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) appeared at the Gainesville City Council meeting to present a state resolution.

“Whereas the State of Georgia lost one its finest citizens and most dedicated law enforcement officers with the tragic passing of Officer Henry Tilman Davis,” Hawkins began reading.

Hawkins continued, “When his life was tragically cut short in September of 1972 after his patrol car was struck from behind and forced into oncoming traffic while traveling on Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville…”

“Be it resolved…that the intersection of Beechwood Boulevard NW and State Route 53/Dawsonville Highway in Hall County is dedicated as the Officer Henry Tilman Davis Memorial Intersection.”

In Gainesville, qualifying for Mayor and two Council seats opens Monday, August 21st.

Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott will hold a Town Hall tonight at 7 PM at the East Cobb Library, located at 4880 Lower Roswell Road in Marietta.

Voters in Athens-Clarke County will decide on November 7, 2017 whether to levy a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tac (T-SPLOST).

With little discussion, Athens-Clarke County commissioners gave final approval to a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax during a special-called meeting Tuesday.

Officials expect to accrue $109.5 million in collections over the course of the sales tax window to fund road-paving projects, an extension of the Firefly Trail, fixes to the Oconee Rivers Greenway and much more.

The TSPLOST list will go to voters as part of a referendum that also would allow county officials to seek a $95 million bond to get started on some of the projects. Proceeds from the tax would be used to repay the bond.

If voters approve the referendum, collections on the sales tax will start April 1.


Northside Hospital and Gwinnett Health System have filed plans to merge, possibly beginning joint operations in 2018.

The hospital systems have filed their proposed merger agreement with the Georgia Attorney General’s office.

Northside has hospitals in Atlanta, Cherokee County and Forsyth County. The Gwinnett Health System has Gwinnett Medical Center campuses in Duluth and Lawrenceville. The hospitals expect to have nearly 21,000 employees and 3,500 physicians once the merger is complete.

The Dougherty County Commission voted 5-2 to oppose the opening of a hospital in neighboring Lee County.

Dougherty County Commission voted Wednesday at a special called meeting to send the state Department of Community Health a notice of opposition to a certificate of need sought by the group that plans to build the Lee hospital.

After Dougherty Attorney Spencer Lee told the board, “You need to act today if you want to be part of this process,” the board voted 5-2 to send a notice of opposition to the Lee CON to the state Department of Community Health.

Commissioners Lamar Hudgins, who said he “could not vote against a fellow county that is so entwined with us,” and John Hayes, who said he’d had a number of county citizens — including physicians — express their support for the proposed hospital, voted against the resolution to oppose the CON.

[Dougherty County Commission Chair Chris] Cohilas made it clear during discussion of the notice of opposition that Dougherty County’s primary reason for taking the action is to protect the interests of citizens and the health care provided by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, which cannot speak out against the CON application because of an agreement the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County reached with the Federal Trade Commission while in the process of purchasing Palmyra Medical Center in Albany. In fact, one of the stipulations included in a letter Lee sent to DCH Commissioner Frank Berry asked that body to allow Phoebe to offer its opposition to the application.

The Times-Georgian in Carrollton looks at the struggles of a local rural hospital and its patients.

Part of the nonprofit Tanner Health System, Higgins General Hospital doesn’t have shareholders — every bit of revenue is reinvested into the facility, financing new equipment, new facilities like the new surgical services center that’s now under construction, and to provide care for people in the community who cannot otherwise afford it.

Each year, Higgins General Hospital alone spends about $10 million on charity and indigent care, ensuring everyone in the community has care when they need it. But like many of their patients, the hospital, too, has to make ends meet.

“It’s unfortunate, but cost is a real barrier to care for a lot of people,” said Bonnie Boles, MD, MBA, administrator of Higgins General Hospital and Tanner Medical Center/Villa Rica. “I saw it first-hand when I was in practice, and I see it now in administration. Having regular access to care, especially for people with chronic diseases like COPD or diabetes, is essential for keeping those diseases under control. And when you can’t, you end up needing a much more acute level of care, like a hospitalization. But you’re not better off financially when you leave the hospital, so the cycle just continues.”

But the cost of providing uncompensated care is making things difficult for hospitals, too.

Since the beginning of 2013, six Georgia hospitals have closed, and others — especially those in rural areas — are struggling to keep their doors open. The most recent Georgia Department of Community Health Hospital Financial Survey found that 42 percent of all hospitals in Georgia had negative total margins in 2015, while 68 percent of rural hospitals in the state lost money in the same year.

Much of that strain is coming from uncompensated care — care hospitals provide but for which they receive little or no reimbursement. According to the Georgia Hospital Association, in 2015 the state’s hospitals absorbed more than $1.7 billion in costs for care that was delivered but not paid for.

Senate Bill 258 — the Georgia Rural Hospital Expense Tax Credit program — allows Georgia taxpayers to make contributions to select rural hospitals in Georgia, including Higgins General Hospital in Bremen. Originally providing a 70 percent credit, lawmakers in the General Assembly this year passed Senate Bill 180, extending the credit to 90 percent and making it retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017.

Under the enhanced rural hospital tax credit, by contributing to Higgins General Hospital in exchange for a 90 percent tax credit, Georgia taxpayers can pay substantially all of their Georgia income taxes — up to the maximum amounts allowed.

Higgins General Hospital is among the rural Georgia hospitals that qualify for the credit. Tanner’s leadership has been making the rounds, visiting civic groups and hosting meetings with local tax advisors and accountants to extol the benefits of the program. The health system has also launched a website,, with information about how people can donate and benefit from the program.

“We are grateful that our state’s lawmakers have signaled that they understand the importance of our rural hospitals to the communities they serve by supporting this innovative program,” said Loy Howard, president and CEO of Tanner Health System — and also a certified public accountant. “This is a unique opportunity for residents to keep their tax money local and do something positive for their community.”


Leo Smith, former Director of Minority Engagement for the Georgia Republican Party, will run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Hunter Hill.

Leo Smith said Thursday he’s running as a “conservative bridge builder with a unique set of skills” to serve the district, which stretches across parts of north Atlanta and Smyrna. He would be the first black Republican in the Georgia Senate in modern times.

The seat is a juicy target for Democrats. Republican Hunter Hill, who is vacating the position to run for governor, only narrowly held it in November. And Hillary Clinton carried the affluent district in November.

Three Democrats are already in the contest. Pediatric dentist Jaha Howard is making a comeback bid after his slim defeat last year. Trial lawyer Jen Jordan has already announced her candidacy.  And political newcomer Nigel Sims has entered the race.

Newt Gingrich endorsed David Shafer for Lieutenant Governor in the 2018 election.

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich endorsed Shafer on Tuesday. The veteran Georgia politician and ex-presidential candidate, known for his Contract With America that helped lead to Republicans taking control of the House in 1994, praised Shafer for his conservative credentials.

Shafer led the Georgia Republican Party in the early 1990s and has championed issues such as zero-based budgeting and limiting tax increases.

“David Shafer is an effective, innovative legislator with a solidly conservative record to back up his campaign promises,” Gingrich said. “He has proven time and again that he will fight for us. David Shafer will make an outstanding Lieutenant Governor for Georgia and I am proud to endorse him.”

Gingrich’s endorsement of Shafer is the latest person who, one time or another, had a national profile in Republican politics. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former congressman and ex-presidential candidate Bob Barr have announced their support for the state senator, as has former Rep. John Linder.

State Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming) announced that former Coca-Cola Enterprises chief executive John Brock has endorsed his campaign for Lt. Governor.

John Brock … said he wanted to back a candidate for lieutenant governor who “knows what it’s like to sign the front of a check and not just the back of one.”

Brock, who retired as the bottling giant’s chief executive in 2016, said in the statement that he’s endorsing the state legislator because of his entrepreneurial experience. Duncan led several health startups before seeking to succeed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running for governor.

John Bradberry will run for Johns Creek City Council Post Three in November 2017.

Johns Creek small business owner and former United States Marine, John Bradberry, has announced his intention to run for City Council Post 3 in this November’s election.
“Whether it is zoning or road improvement projects, every decision made by the City of Johns Creek should ask “How will this affect our residents’ quality of life?”  said Bradberry.

Bradberry’s campaign slogan is “Preserve Johns Creek…Protect Our Quality of Life!”  Bradberry said, “This is more than just a slogan to me.  Our community is at a critical juncture.  It is vital that we return to our original vision for Johns Creek.  We are a high-end residential community with great schools, low crime, and a high quality of life.  As long as we continue to be the best at that, then there will always be high-demand for our ‘product’.   It sets us apart and makes us unique.  We love it and call it home.”

The highlights of Bradberry’s platform are:
* Restore trust in local government
* Focus on traffic relief for OUR residents
* Stop high density development, billboards and widenings that create cut-through highways
* Term limits for locally elected officials

“These issues are critical to my family and the future of Johns Creek.  I’ll be an independent voice for the residents.”

Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms has launched his reelection campaign.

Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms officially began his re-election campaign Wednesday by saying he had kept his lone campaign promise, which was to bring more calm to city government.

Although he admitted before his announcement that the last City Council meeting wasn’t a good example, Toms said overall he has kept that promise.

“I believe the environment has calmed down and I believe this calmness has facilitated a resurgence in growth in the area,” he said.

Monday is also the day that qualifying for the Nov. 7 election begins. Joe Musselwhite, the city’s former public works director who lost to Toms in the 2013 election, has said he is making another try as mayor. Councilman Chuck Shaheen said during the debate on the city administrator that he plans to run for mayor, but he declined to confirm that afterward and has not officially announced.

Toms was a city firefighter for 27 years and won the mayor’s seat in a 6-way race.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 16, 2017

The State Highway Department was created on August 16, 1916 to comply with federal funding requirements, when Georgia Governor Nathaniel Harris signed legislation by the General Assembly.

Georgia Governor Hugh Dorsey signed legislation creating the State Department of Banking on August 16, 1919.

Georgia Governor Clifford Walker signed legislation changing the method of execution in Georgia from hanging to the electric chair on August 16, 1924.

On August 16, 1974, The Ramones played their first public show at CBGB in New York.

Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal appointed Douglas Chalmers, Jr. to the Judicial Nominating Commission. Congratulations and concolences to Doug.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr spoke to the Athens Republican Party meeting.

Among other topics, Carr discussed his role in Georgia politics.

“It’s a little bit legal, a little policy, a little communications and awareness and a little bit managerial,” he said after being appointed in October 2016.

Carr is set to run for attorney general in the 2018 election and said that over the course of his time in the position, his main priorities are social security, concealed carry and prayer in the legislature.

Looking to the future, Carr hopes to tackle human trafficking, opioid abuse and elder abuse.

“From June 1, 2016 to June 1, 2017, 541 million illegal doses—that’s 51 illegal doses for every man, woman and child in the state of Georgia,” Carr said. “This issue is ravaging families, communities and companies.”

More than 100 people marched in Gainesville in response to Charlottesville.

Josh McCall organized the event after violent clashes in Virginia on Saturday ….

People began trickling into Roosevelt Square near the Hall County Courthouse a bit after 4:30 p.m. for the 5:15 p.m. march, called A March for Equality and Dignity.

The group was a cross-section of Gainesville, including members of both political parties, white, black and Hispanic residents, old and young, long-timers in the community and students new to the area.

Appeals to Christian beliefs bookended the demonstration by preachers and other speakers at the end of the march.

“All human beings in this country are equal,” McCall told the crowd at the beginning of the event. “Every human being in this country deserves dignity.”

McCall announced earlier this year he is running against U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, next year.

The Hall County Board of Tax Assessors appeared in the Georgia Supreme Court in a case involving ad valorem tax appeals.

Attorneys for the Hall County Board of Tax Assessors and the companies argued before the Supreme Court of Georgia in Atlanta. The case involves Westrec Properties, PS Recreational Properties, Chattahoochee Parks, March First and AMP III-Lazy Days on their 2015 tax assessments.

A law effective Jan. 1, 2016, amended the Georgia code regarding ad valorem tax assessment appeals, which must first go to the Board of Equalization for an appeal.

Within 45 days of receiving an appeal on the Board of Equalization’s ruling and “before certification of the appeal to the Superior Court, the county board of tax assessors shall send to the taxpayer notice that a settlement conference” will be held, according to the code.

The marinas’ attorney J. Ethan Underwood said his clients believed the floating and movable docks should have been taxed as personal property, leading to the initial appeal.

University of North Georgia Police Chief Justin Gaines held another Town Hall to discuss campus carry.

Gaines has done more than a dozen of the meetings over the past few months on UNG’s five campuses. Like the last one in Gainesville in June, Gaines dealt with some faculty and staff members concerned that people could walk on campus with a concealed handgun.

“Where is our rights?” asked one person who did not identify herself but said she was concerned she is not allowed to know who has a gun in her classroom.

“It’s not for me to answer,” Gaines said. “All I can tell you is what the law is.”

Gaines recommended that students and faculty take cellphones into classrooms so they could alert officials about police or medical emergencies either through a call or by using the school’s public safety app, Rave Guardian.

“It may not be a person with a gun; it may be someone seizing on the floor in your classroom that needs (attention for) a medical emergency right then and right there,” he said.

Gaines said he hopes the town halls in recent months have been beneficial to those who attended.

“The whole point of it is for voluntary compliance,” he said. “We protect and serve, but we also educate. Education is a big part of what we do. By investing the time to educate, I think it has been a benefit. Time will tell if it has been.”

Gwinnett County Magistrate Judge James Hinkle has been suspended over Facebook posting.

“After reviewing the Facebook posts brought to my attention this morning, I suspended Judge (James) Hinkle effective immediately while I consider the appropriate final action,” Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Hammer Blum said.

Hinkle reportedly called protesters concerned about Confederate monuments in Charlottesville “snowflakes.”

“As Chief Magistrate Judge, I have made it clear to all of our judges that the Judicial Canons, as well as our internal policies, require judges to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity, impartiality and fairness of the judiciary,” she said. “I consider any violation of these principles and policies to be a matter of utmost concern.”

From the AJC:

“Another compelling argument to not engage in social media,” longtime Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said of Hinkle’s posts. “I think that the comments could raise questions about the judge’s impartiality, and I think [Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Hammer Blum] did exactly the right thing suspending him immediately upon learning of the posts.”

Joe Sawyer will run for Peachtree Corners City Council Post 4 this November.

The Lowndes County Board of Education adopted the rollback millage rate for property taxes.

The City of Dalton will keep the same millage rate as last year, which under state law must be advertised as a property tax increase.

Augusta Commissioners voted 10-0 to allow small breweries and distilleries in business districts.

The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission approved an application for a “beer garden.”

The Society Garden at 2367 Ingleside Ave. plans to sell beer and wine and have occasional live entertainment, according to co-owner Megan Evans.

It also will offer gardening supplies, plants and outdoor furniture for sale, said Evans and co-owner Andrew Collier.

“It will have a very small retail (space) with some small, easy-to-pick up things,” she said, addding that she wanted to get the beer garden portion opened first.

The business will not prepare any food on site except for popcorn and Popsicles, the staff report said.

The Varnell City Council has become my favorite soap opera. From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

In the middle of a city council meeting Tuesday night, an elected official stood up to leave, blocking any further votes.

“I’m calling this meeting,” Varnell City Councilwoman Ashlee Godfrey told the crowd at a local gym. “There is no longer a quorum developed. No more city business can take place. Thank you.”

In the bleachers, a crowd of about 100 people rose and cheered as Godfrey walked outside, ending the meeting just as the council’s two other members planned to vote to put a referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot. Councilmen Jan Pourquoi and David Owens want residents to decide whether to eliminate the city’s police department.

At the same time, voters would also decide whether to eliminate property taxes, which sit at about 2.4 mills. But Godfrey and Mayor Anthony Hulsey objected to the wording on the potential referendum, as did some residents who spoke during the meeting. They feel as though the councilmen should not tie the elimination of the police department to the elimination of taxes.

“It’s kind of like a bribe,” Hulsey said.

In Varnell, the council needs three members present to conduct public business. In the last two months, two other council members have already resigned. This means all three current members have to appear. On July 25, when Pourquoi and Owens tried to vote on this same referendum, Godfrey did not show up, canceling the meeting.

Savannah’s Coastal Center for Developmental Services hosted Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

“Our mission is very simple,” CCDS executive director Ken Boyd told the group assembled for lunch. “It’s to place individuals with developmental disabilities into community-wide employment. The more we can assimilate individuals into the community, the better.”

CCDS works with 132 employers in the area and currently has approximately 225 individuals working either full-time or part-time in the community or training with CCDS in anticipation of community employment.

“One of the biggest advantages for an employer is that we provide an on-site job coach, so that when the individual goes out on a job, one of our job specialists is with them, making sure they are fully aligned with the needs and requirements of the job,” Boyd said.

For Butler and Black, Tuesday’s program provided an eye-opening look at the potential and abilities of people who are “differently abled.”

“It’s clear that there is opportunity for everyone, but we have to make people aware of this,” Black said, adding he’d like to explore the application of CCDS’s approach to agricultural employers down the road.

“But certainly there are opportunities in food processing and retail …,” he said. “We just have to recognize that there is opportunity for everyone, if we are just willing to invest in them.”

Butler said he had visited many similar programs around the state and called CCDS “one of the best I’ve seen in both organization and effectiveness.

“We have to do a better job of highlighting these types of programs, because we have a lot of employers who aren’t aware of them,” he said. “These are individuals who are getting the training, and the soft skills will make them the kinds of workers that employers are looking for.”

Savannah will accept applications for citizen members of several boards and commissions.

Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton) met with local farmers to hear their needs.

The congressman, who represents the 8th Congressional District that includes Macon-Bibb County, said he wanted to hear farmer’s concerns ahead of the new farm bill that’s in the works.

The average age for a Middle Georgia farmer is 60 years old, said Andrew Bahrenburg, policy director for the National Young Farmers Coalition.

“As the U.S. farm population rapidly ages … there’s a great deal of farmland that’s ready to transition and will need a new farmer,” Bahrenburg said. “It’s estimated that a 100 million acres of farmland will transition over the lifetime of this upcoming farm bill, so over the next five years.”

About half of the farmers invited to sit on the panel with Scott were first-generation farmers.

Julia Asherman, who operates Rag and Frass Farm in Jeffersonville, said a shift in paradigm is to be expected, but the agriculture industry should “expect and invite people you don’t expect” to farming.

Broadband internet was also a concern for farmers, which often work in rural areas.

Bobby Losh-Jones and his wife, Chelsea, said they need internet to operate their boxed farm food subscription.

The Georgia Public Service Commission has instructed Georgia Power to answer a series of questions regarding nuclear construction at Plant Vogtle.

Georgia’s utility regulating agency voted Tuesday for an action intended as a show of support for the struggling Plant Vogtle.

This vote today sends a message to the company, the company’s partners, ratepayers, and Wall Street that the commission continues to be supportive of this project – provided it can be done economically,” Stan Wise, chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission, said in a statement.

In addition, the PSC voted Wednesday for an action that requires Georgia Power, the primary owner of Plant Vogtle, to state in its next Vogtle monitoring report whether or not it intends to proceed with Vogtle’s construction. The PSC expects that report to be filed on Aug. 31. Wise sponsored the action.

Wise’s action includes an amendment that enables the PSC to revise or rescind any future PSC action if Plant Vogtle is abandoned. PSC Vice-Chairperson Tim Echols sponsored the amendment.

Wise’s measure cites 14 issues that must be addressed in the upcoming report. They include:

“Should the commission approve revisions to cost and schedule?
“What is the company’s new estimate to complete the project and what is the new schedule for commercial operation of the two units if the commission decides to go forward with one or both units?”

“This information will help us in deciding the appropriateness of whether this project should go forward or not go forward,” Wise said.

2018 Elections

Tom Crawford writes that 2018 may see a Democratic Primary that tears the party apart.

You could easily have a situation where Abrams wins the primary by energizing black voters, but in the process turns off white voters who don’t bother to vote for her in the general election.

Similarly, if Evans were to win a bitterly contested primary race over Abrams, that could result in demoralized black voters staying at home during the general election.

We’ve seen this kind of division tear apart the Democratic Party before.

Back in 2006, the party’s two major candidates for governor were Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox (both of the candidates were white).

It became a political bloodbath between two candidates who clearly had a deep personal dislike for each other. Cox and Taylor both aired hard-hitting commercials that accused each other of lying and double-dealing. Taylor’s campaign, for good measure, also filed two civil lawsuits against Cox and her aides.

Taylor eventually prevailed in the slash-and-burn primary, but it was an empty victory. The nastiness of that campaign turned off quite a few Cox supporters who either sat out the general election or voted for the Republican incumbent, Sonny Perdue.


Georgia’s state Medicaid chief, Linda Wiant, has left the Department of Community Health.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded a $2.3 million dollar grant to Georgia health centers.

The 32 centers receiving the funds will look to improve performance in the following categories: improving quality of care; increasing access to care; enhancing delivery of high value health care; addressing health disparities and achieving patient-centered medical home recognition.

The recipients include centers in Albany, Athens, Marietta, Palmetto, Ringgold and Swainsboro.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 15, 2017

On August 15, 1903, Georgia Governor Joseph Terrell signed legislation requiring that Georgia schools teach elementary agriculture and civics. Two days later, on August 17, 1903, the General Assembly condemned the practice of whipping female inmates.

The Panama Canal opened on August 15, 1914. On September 7, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty promising to give the Canal to Panama.

Georgia Governor Thomas Hardwick signed legislation creating the Georgia State Board of Forestry on August 15, 1921.

On August 15, 1969, the Woodstock Festival began in upstate New York.

Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppolla was released on August 15, 1979.

Paul Anderson, known for years as the “Strongest Man in the World” for his weightlifting feats, died on August 15, 1994 in Vidalia, Georgia. Anderson was born in 1932 in Toccoa, Georgia. He won an Olympic gold medal in the sport of weightlifting in 1956.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal issued an Executive Order suspending Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman from office for thirty days for thirty days.

From CBS46:

Gov. Nathan Deal has suspended Walton County Sheriff Joseph Chapman for 30 days following an investigation into his May 2016 arrest in Florida.

Surveillance video shows Chapman and Major Kipling Mercer get into a scuffle last May.  Both men were arrested.

Our investigation found they never reported the incident to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council within 15 days as required.

Attorney General Chris Carr investigated the incident and according to a letter he sent to the governor, “Sheriff Chapman indicated to the committee that he regretted not having reported this matter to P.O.S.T. at an earlier time, but stated he was unaware of the 15-day reporting requirement.”

The Sheriff’s suspension will take effect on Wednesday, August 16. CBS46 asked the governor’s office if the suspension will be with or without pay and a spokesperson said it’s a county decision.

In addition, P.O.S.T. is investigating the incident and could take up the issue in October.

Senator Johnny Isakson held a Town Hall at Kennesaw State University last night.

Isakson’s first remarks were a stern rebuke of the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend and received a standing ovation for doing so. The senator singled out the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other racist groups as having no place in American discourse.“We can have differences over a lot of things, but there’s never going to be a difference over human dignity, the right to life and the right to live in the freest, greatest country on Earth without fear of intimidation because of your race, your religion, your sex, your national origin or any other factor,” Isakson said.

One of the hottest topics of the night was health care. An advocate for people with developmental disabilities from Temple asked Isakson why he voted for the failed Senate health care plan that would have stripped insurance from millions of Americans, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Isakson said he did not like the bills, but voted for them with the belief that the plan would be improved in a conference committee.

“I couldn’t get to where I wanted to go unless I followed the road that led me there,” Isakson said. “If I was going to downtown Atlanta and didn’t get on 75, I probably couldn’t get there. But getting on 75 and fighting traffic would eventually get me where I wanted to go. And where you are is where I wanted to go.”

Many of the questioners said they wanted Congressional leaders not to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to expand Medicaid in Georgia.

Isakson did not commit to either of those actions, but said he will work to ensure Americans have access to health care.

“I know how lucky I’ve been all my life, how fortunate to live in America,” he said, adding that he does not intend for the government to cut services for people with disabilities.

Isakson said he wants to replace the individual mandate with “something better,” and gave the example of how requiring drivers to have auto insurance to get their license increased the number of people with auto insurance in Georgia.

The Fulton County Board of Elections voted against a proposal to change some voting precinct locations.

The Fulton County Board of Elections met on Monday to discuss proposed changes to several polling locations in predominately black neighborhoods in Fulton County.

The board voted to reject those changes for now.

After many voters said the changes would affect mainly African-Americans, the American Civil Liberties Union fired back with a lawsuit, claiming voters weren’t given proper notice of the changes. That lawsuit was filed on July 18.

Georgia law requires election officials to publish proposed polling place changes for at least 14 consecutive days before approving them. The Board had published the proposed changes just 6 days in advance.

State Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell) now says she’s unlikely to run for Mayor of Roswell.

Dr. Price, the former City Council member and wife of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price, said she is considering the run “like anything else,” but the likelihood of her running is not a great one.

“I’m very happy where I am in the legislature, and our issues there are in line with my experience,” she said, adding it would not be “wise” to abandon the State House District 48 seat to run for mayor. “I can’t imagine running, but a lot of people are encouraging me.”

The man who filed the lawsuit against Wood, Michael Litten, has already declared his candidacy several months ahead of next week’s qualifying period.

When asked if she planned to endorse anyone, Price said she will most likely sit on the sidelines, as it will be a “good sport to watch” candidates battle for the hearts and minds of Roswell voters.


The Muscogee County School District will ask Board of Education members to approve a loan to address a delay in property tax collections.

The Muscogee County School District administration plans to ask the school board next week to approve a resolution authorizing a short-term loan that would plug the expected gap in delayed local revenue as the Columbus Consolidated Government deals with thousands of appeals from property owners upset about their assessments soaring by as much as tenfold.

The delay is a bigger issue for the school board than the Columbus Council because MCSD receives a larger percentage of the Columbus property tax revenue than the Columbus Consolidated Government, approximately a 60-40 split, and 41 percent of MCSD’s fiscal year 2018 revenue is expected to come from local property taxes while the figure is 31 percent for CCG.

Although the school district previously announced it postponed nonessential expenditures while CCG deals with the property tax controversy, MCSD chief financial officer Theresa Thornton told the Muscogee County School Board during its monthly work session Monday evening the administration now recommends securing a Tax Anticipation Note.

If the board approves the resolution during its Aug. 21 meeting, Thornton said, the administration must decide by the September meeting whether to seek the loan through a request for proposals or an invitation to bid for the funds to be available by October and for MCSD to pay back the loan by the end of December.

The University of Georgia New Faculty Tour stopped in Tifton and Griffin, where Georgia Agriculture was highlighted.

The tour, which introduces new UGA faculty members to economic mainstays throughout the state during a five-day trip, visited the Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center (FoodPIC) at UGA-Griffin Wednesday. Thursday, the tour stopped at UGA-Tifton, where faculty visited the energy-efficient Future Farmstead home and learned about peanut breeding and dairy research, according to a UGA press release.

“We are very happy the New Faculty Tour made a stop at the Griffin campus this year,” said Lew Hunnicutt, assistant provost and UGA-Griffin director. “They had a great tour and a great meal and I think they left impressed with what we offer at the Griffin campus.”

n terms of Georgia agricultural production, which totaled $13.8 billion in farm gate value in 2015, UGA-Tifton is an important stop on the tour every year, said Joe West, assistant dean for UGA-Tifton.

“What makes Georgia agriculture unique is its diversity,” West said. “Multiple commodities dominate the agricultural landscape and I’m glad we are able to showcase a few of those.”

“It is important for these new faculty members to learn about the importance of agriculture to the state and the many ways the University of Georgia is helping Georgia farmers sustain their operations,” said Laura Meadows, UGA interim vice president for public service and outreach. “Most of the faculty members on the tour are new to Georgia, many are new to the South, and they need to understand the major drivers of the economy here.”

Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart is on the defense for allegedly partying at a strip club.

While partying at Rumors strip club on a Friday night, several customers recognized him and called a local Forest Park councilwoman.

“They said he was a mess, dancing on stage, twirling his shirt around, walking around, and falling over on people. People holding him up,” said Latresa Wells.

We caught up with Mayor Lockhart at the ribbon cutting for a new restaurant in the city.  He explained before he was Mayor, he was a lead singer in a band and he likes to entertain people.

Then, we showed him a picture sent to us of him, apparently wearing a bra in the middle of the barroom.

“That’s just outrageous, isn’t it? It looks outrageous to me,” admitted Lockhart. “Not sure if that’s a tank or what. In any case, would I advertise that? No, absolutely not. I wouldn’t advertise that, but it’s ok to act silly from time to time, in the right circumstances.”

City Councilwoman Sandra Bagley defends her Mayor and believes all the attention is due to the fact that David Lockhart is up for reelection.

“I don’t think it’s fair. I think its trial in media.  Exactly what I feel, trial in media during an election year,” said Bagley.

But councilwoman Wells, an admitted political adversary sees it differently.

“You represent everyone who voted for you to be Mayor of our city. It’s not only embarrassing to your family and council members; it’s embarrassing to the entire city.”

The Hall County Board of Education voted to fund a program called “We Celebrate All That Unites Us” in response to Charlottesville.

Augusta National Golf Club is suing to prevent the sale of a green jacket.

Augusta National Inc. filed the federal lawsuit against Florida-based Green Jacket Auctions Inc. seeking to stop the company from selling a champion’s green jacket and two member green jackets, as well as silverware and a belt buckle bearing Augusta National’s map and flag logo.

The jacket may not be removed from the Augusta National grounds except during the first year after it is presented, according to the lawsuit. After that first year, the jacket must be stored on Augusta National premises and can only be used on the grounds and during the annual tournament. Augusta National said it owns the jackets, and the champions have “possessory rights” when they’re on Augusta National grounds.

The same rules apply to the member green jackets, except they may never leave Augusta National grounds, the lawsuit says. Each jacket is marked for identification and authenticity.

“It appears that Augusta National Golf Club is attempting to assert ownership claims to every green jacket ever produced, regardless of who currently owns or possesses the jackets,” Green Jacket Auctions co-owner Ryan Carey said in an email. “Obviously we at Green Jacket Auctions dispute such claims, and will litigate the matter, if necessary.”

The jacket was where it was supposed to be, in storage at Augusta National, during a physical inventory in 2009. But a recent check determined that it is now missing, the lawsuit says. It is unclear how the jacket and other items ended up on the auction block.

By mid-afternoon Monday, the online bidding on the jacket, which closes at 8 p.m. Saturday, had reached $114,874.

Former Bibb County Superintendent Romain Dallemand pled guilty to taking a $100,000 bribe.

Grand jurors indicted Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority Chairman Cliffard Whitby, 54, of Forsyth on charges of conspiracy to pay a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, conspiracy to launder the proceeds of unlawful activity, and five counts of paying a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In a move related to the indictment, former school Superintendent Romain Dallemand, 49, pleaded guilty in Florida Wednesday to filing a false tax return for 2012, under-reporting his income and over-reporting his itemized deductions, according to a statement from federal prosecutors.

The indictment, unsealed Friday morning, said Whitby approached Dallemand sometime between August 2011 and June 2012 “to ensure Dallemand would support” the Promise Neighborhood plan. That was an ambitious project designed to help transform the impoverished Unionville and Tindall Heights neighborhoods so students there — and their families — would have better lives.

Later, Whitby “offered Dallemand $100,000 for his support.” Dallemand, the indictment said, “accepted this offer and agreed to support” the program.

Later, Whitby offered Dallemand 10 percent of the $1 million the school district would contribute to the Promise Neighborhood program each year, the indictment said. “Thus, Whitby indicated that Dallemand would be paid $100,000 every year for 10 years for his continued support” of the program.

Dallemand accepted this offer and “understood that he needed to ensure the (Bibb County school district) continued to financially support” the Promise Neighborhood plan.

Dallemand received a $100,000 check from Whitby on Nov. 19, 2012, “with assistance from” Harold Knowles, part owner of Pinnacle/CSG, a Florida-based construction company that was contracted to provide software to the Bibb school system in 2012, according to Dallemand’s plea agreement.

2018 Elections

State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), a candidate for Governor in 2018, called for the removal of the Stone Mountain carving.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called for the removal of the giant carving that depicts three Confederate war leaders on the face of state-owned Stone Mountain, saying it “remains a blight on our state and should be removed.”

“We must never celebrate those who defended slavery and tried to destroy the union,” Abrams said in a series of tweets posted early Tuesday, a response to the deadly violence sparked by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Va.

The Georgia code has a clear mandate for the memorial, saying it should be “preserved and protected for all time as a tribute to the bravery and heroism of the citizens of this state who suffered and died in their cause.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville) held a rally in Buford last night.

Atlanta resident Angelic Moore considers herself a “huge supporter” of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and his wife, Nina — so much so that she hopped in her car and drove to Buford on Monday night to show it.

Moore was among the supporters who attended the Women for Cagle Rally at the Buford Community Center. The event was a launch of sorts for the Cagle campaign’s effort to reach out to women voters, although there were a few men and several children in the crowd as well.

More than 60 people attended the rally, including local officials, grassroots Republican activists and families. The event was first of several campaign events Cagle will attend around north Georgia throughout the week.

It was sort of a hybrid between a political rally and an end of summer party, with the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office showing off its Jail Dogs program in the parking lot and a balloon artist making balloon animals and play toys for kids.

Cagle also laid out his vision for the state as he addressed the crowd. He said he wanted to address Medicaid issues to make sure groups such as senior citizens, the blind and people with disabilities can get medical care while still being fiscally responsible.

Cagle also pledged to cut taxes by $100 million for a family of four, to create 500,000 new jobs, to invest infrastructure, such as building out the road system, and to focus on workforce development.

“When you look at Georgia, there is so much opportunity, so much chance, to be first in class in every category, and we’re going to do that,” he said.

Buford-based Sen. Renee Unterman, who is the Women for Cagle chairwoman, said the idea behind the group is to highlight women-related topics, such as health issues, medical care and issues facing the elderly.

“Women for Cagle is focusing on those types of issues, and we have Nurses for Cagle and different groups to get women out to vote,” Unterman said. “We’re excited about it.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 14, 2017

On August 14, 1784, Russians invaded settled Alaska, founding the first permanent Russian settlement at Three Saints Bay.

Dentist, gambler, and gunfighter Doc Holliday was born on August 14, 1851 in Griffin, Georgia.

On August 14, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln hosted a group of African-American men at the White House to discuss emancipation of American slaves outside the United States as colonists.

The Second Battle of Dalton was joined on August 14, 1864.

The County Unit System of elections was created on August 14, 1917 when Governor Hugh Dorsey signed legislation by the General Assembly.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935. The road to perdition is paved with good intentions.

On August 14, 1945, the Japanese surrender to the Allies was made public in Japan.

In the afternoon of August 14, Japanese radio announced that an Imperial Proclamation was soon to be made, accepting the terms of unconditional surrender drawn up at the Potsdam Conference. That proclamation had already been recorded by the emperor.

A Special Session called by Governor Miller to address legislative redistricting after the United States Supreme Court threw out Georgia’s Congressional redistricting map was convened on August 14, 1995.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Netroots Nation attendees this past weekend shouted down Democratic State Representative Stacey Evans.

Democrat Stacey Evans’ speech to a conference of progressive activists descended into chaos on Saturday, as protesters interrupted her repeatedly and she struggled to make herself heard over chants of “support black women.”

Almost as soon as she took the stage, a ring of demonstrators – some holding stark signs criticizing her – fanned out in front of Evans. The chanting soon followed. Pleading repeatedly for the room to speaks – “let’s talk through it,” she implored – the demonstrators at times drowned her out.

One of the demonstrators, Monica Simpson, said she made her stand because she wanted to show she was “true to progressive values.”

Asked why Evans hasn’t met that standard, Simpson couldn’t point to any votes or policy stances. But she said she wants “a candidate that truly speaks to my community.”

“This is our opportunity, especially as black women, to make it known or clear that this is standing on true progressive values,” said Simpson, who lives in Atlanta. “And if you’re not, we’re going to make that clear.”

Abrams said in a statement that she would not “condemn peaceful protest” and that the demonstrators were voicing their concern with Evans’ support for a Republican-led effort to give the state new powers over struggling schools.

“From what I observed from Savannah, activists in Atlanta peacefully protested this morning on the critical issue of preserving public education for every family in our state,” she said. “The mantra of ‘trust black women’ is an historic endorsement of the value of bringing marginalized voices to the forefront, not a rebuke to my opponent’s race.”

Georgia Republicans spent Saturday coming together in Rome.

Georgia GOP Chairman John Watson called [Rome City Council candidate Randy] Quick up to the front of a crowd of over 350 at the Tillman Hangar and said even though the commission seats are nonpartisan his presence at the rally meant something. Quick, the general manager of Rome Radio Partners LLC, with a 42-year career in radio, will aim to grab one of the three Ward 2 commission spots up for grabs in November’s municipal election. He would be up against incumbents Jamie Doss, Sue Lee and Wendy Davis — who have said they intend to seek re-election — and Monica Sheppard, a freelance graphic designer and beekeeper, is campaigning as well.

The four announced GOP gubernatorial candidates — Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and State Sens. Hunter Hill, of Atlanta, and Michael Williams, of Cumming — attended the rally put on by the Floyd County Republican Party. Of the four, Cagle spoke first, following up an address from U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, of Ranger.

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

On August 12, 1492 by the current calendar, Christopher Columbus set sail from the port of Palos de la Frontera in southern Spain with the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Other accounts date his arrival at the Canary Islands off the coast of northwestern Africa on August 12, 1492.

Juan Ponce de Leon invaded Puerto Rico on August 12, 1508 and declared himself Governor.

On August 11, 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg declared martial law in Atlanta.

On August 12, 1864, Confederate General John B. Hood prohibited Confederate soldiers from seizing civilian property.

The first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line on August 12, 1904.

On August 12, 1908, Ford’s first “Model T” rolled off a Detroit, Michigan, factory floor. Within six years, the car, company and man were propelled to unprecedented success, thanks to the new Highland Park plant’s first-of-its-kind assembly line, which created the intricate product quickly and in large numbers.

“If it hadn’t been for Henry Ford’s drive to create a mass market for cars, America wouldn’t have a middle class today,” wrote [Lee] Iacocca.

Increased travel spurred appeals for better and more roads, the development of suburbs, the oil industry’s rise and a boom in gas stations, strip malls and motels.

But the assembly line itself had the biggest impact on American society, Hyde contended, in making possible the swift, mass production of everything from computers to “fast food.”

On August 12, 1910, Georgia Governor Joseph M. Brown signed legislation prohibiting the carrying of a pistol or revolver without a license.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the summer commencement address at the University of Georgia on August 11, 1938. Later that day, Roosevelt endorsed Lawrence Camp over incumbent Governor Walter F. George, saying George had not been sufficiently supportive of the New Deal.

East Germany began building the Berlin Wall on August 12, 1961.

[T]he government of East Germany, on the night of August 12, 1961, began to seal off all points of entrance into West Berlin from East Berlin by stringing barbed wire and posting sentries. In the days and weeks to come, construction of a concrete block wall began, complete with sentry towers and minefields around it. The Berlin Wall succeeded in completely sealing off the two sections of Berlin.

Three churches in Albany, Georgia first allowed African-Americans to attend their services on August 12, 1962.

The Atlanta Braves signed legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige on August 11, 1968.

On August 12, 1968, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played together for the first time.

The first Space Shuttle, Enterprise, made its first flight in the earth’s atmosphere on August 12, 1977.

President Jimmy Carter was nominated for reelection as President by the Democratic National Convention in New York City on August 13, 1980.

President Ronald Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act on August 13, 1981.

The ERTA included a 25 percent reduction in marginal tax rates for individuals, phased in over three years, and indexed for inflation from that point on. The marginal tax rate, or the tax rate on the last dollar earned, was considered more important to economic activity than the average tax rate (total tax paid as a percentage of income earned), as it affected income earned through “extra” activities such as education, entrepreneurship or investment. Reducing marginal tax rates, the theory went, would help the economy grow faster through such extra efforts by individuals and businesses. The 1981 act, combined with another major tax reform act in 1986, cut marginal tax rates on high-income taxpayers from 70 percent to around 30 percent, and would be the defining economic legacy of Reagan’s presidency.

Reagan’s tax cuts were designed to put maximum emphasis on encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship and creating incentives for the development of venture capital and greater investment in human capital through training and education. The cuts particularly benefited “idea” industries such as software or financial services; fittingly, Reagan’s first term saw the advent of the information revolution, including IBM’s introduction of its first personal computer (PC) and the rise or launch of such tech companies as Intel, Microsoft, Dell, Sun Microsystems, Compaq and Cisco Systems.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High was released on August 13, 1982.

On August 11, 1984, Ronald Reagan jokingly announced that he had “signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever…we begin bombing in five minutes,” without knowing he was speaking into a live microphone.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Composite Medical Board voted yesterday to require doctors to take 3 Continuing Education credits on proper administration of opioids.

Starting next year every medical doctor in Georgia will be required to undergo opioid training.

Dan DeLoach, Chairman of the Georgia Medical Board, says, “Georgia is experiencing an opioid epidemic.”

He says the new training requirement was needed. “We’re seeing the number of people addicted to opioids increase on an annual basis. We’re seeing the number of people dying from an opioid overdose increase on an annual basis.”

The new training required for Georgia doctors will cover instruction on the guidelines for properly prescribing the powerful painkiller, as well as recognizing signs of abuse.

From Carrie Teegardin at the AJC:

DeLoach said the board hopes that doctors may cut back opioid prescribing as a result of the training, something he said many Georgia doctors have already done as the problems associated with the medications have become widespread.

“I’ve decreased the number of opioids that I write probably by 70 or 80 percent,” DeLoach said. “There are other agents that are available. You can also better tailor the number of tablets that you are prescribing so that there are not a lot of medication that is left over that could fall into the wrong hands.”

The Medical Association of Georgia, the state’s lobby arm for physicians, opposed the requirement. The group said it is concerned that mandating continuing education on a single issue could lead to requirements for specific training on other issues as well. MAG said it supported voluntary training on opioids.

Georgia elected officials lauded President Trump’s declaration that the opioid crisis constitutes an emergency.

Advocated by a White House commission on opioids, the emergency declaration is expected to send more federal dollars to states to address the crisis, including improving access to medications that reverse overdoses.

“This is something that (Trump) can be applauded for,” said Bibb County Sheriff David Davis, who has seen the effects of the opioid crisis firsthand.

In his middle Georgia community, five people died and more than two dozen others overdosed on opioids within a matter of days earlier this summer.

“Those of us in law enforcement and public health have realized that this is on the way to becoming a national crisis,” Davis said.

Each county has different needs, but each county is still facing an epidemic where people die,” said Renee Unterman, a Republican state senator from Buford who has sponsored legislation combating the opioid crisis.

Unterman said her office received many calls in the last few days from residents disappointed that Trump hadn’t yet declared a national emergency. Thursday’s announcement, during which Trump said he is drafting paperwork to formally declare a national emergency, is “really exciting,” Unterman said.

More than 170 people in Georgia have died of an opioid overdose so far this year, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In 2016, more than 534 died from opioids.

State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) wants to consider expanding the rural hospital tax credit program to include small rural for-profit hospitals in addition to non-profits.

There are nine for-profit hospitals in Georgia that are in counties with less than 50,000 people, which is the population cutoff for the program. One of them, Chestatee Regional Hospital, is in Gooch’s district.

That hospital, he said, has struggled just as much as the state’s nonprofit facilities.

“I just feel like if we’re going to really do something for rural health care, we really can’t let the IRS designation stand in the way,” Gooch said at a recent meeting of the Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee.

“If we’re going to try to help communities in rural Georgia, we’ve got to figure out a way around that for-profit versus not-for-profit status,” he added.

The state Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee discussed expanding Universal Service Fund fees in order to pay for expansion of broadband access.

Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, who is chairing the Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee, which met Tuesday in Dahlonega, said the additional revenue is needed to quickly spur results in areas of the state that are being left behind.

Lucas said he has no reservations about asking city dwellers to help pay for services they will not use because of the advantages they enjoy in an urban area.

“The state has to make a commitment,” Lucas said. “There is no way to get around it.”

Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, who sits on the committee, has already proposed legislation that would expand the fee to all phone lines, including cellphones, and allow the proceeds to be used on broadband.

Under Gooch’s proposal, expanding the program would mean a significant influx of cash for rural broadband. Gooch said he expects a more broadly applied fee to bring in about $200 million annually, which he said could be divvied up among service providers through a grant program.

“I personally believe that the consumer will justify that dollar a month if they know the money’s being spent to upgrade their level of service,” Gooch said.

Gooch said he doesn’t consider it to be a new fee, since some people are already paying it. For example, he said he’s paying it now even though his local provider, Windstream, is not eligible to receive the funds.

Everyone should have to pay it, he said, including Atlanta residents who often enjoy much faster speeds and more reliable connections at more affordable rates.

“Not everybody can move to Atlanta,” Gooch said.

Major General John Morrison, Jr., commander of the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, says the TechNet trade show will expand as Augusta becomes the center of Army cyber security.

“These kinds of forums are absolutely critical,” said Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., Fort Gordon’s commanding general. “It brings together industry with military in an open forum where we can collaborate and share ideas, because we all have the same problem when it comes to cybersecurity. And the reality of it is, we want to leverage industry innovation to increase our capabilities. And we want to learn from each other.”

Morrison said he is seeing and feeling how the Augusta area is becoming the bustling center of Army cyber operations.

“In just three short years, Army Cyber Command will be down here in total,” he said. “They’re already here with a forward presence, and it is just an exciting time. And it’s going to mean a lot not only to Fort Gordon, but it’s going to mean a lot to the entire community.”

Morrison said the trade show attracted about 20 percent more attendees and about 15 percent more exhibitors than last year’s event, and he sees that trend continuing.

“For all those in the local Augusta area, you can start seeing that it really is becoming the center of the universe for Army cyber,” Morrison said.

Savannah will issue $8.6 million in bonds to fund street improvements.

The Judicial Council of Georgia voted to recommend adding a new judge to the Cobb County Superior Court.

The council is the state judiciary’s chief policy-making body and is made up of 27 members who represent various levels of courts in Georgia, including its chair, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harris Hines.

“Every year, every circuit has to submit their caseload numbers to the Administrative Office of Courts and the state Judicial Council as to what their caseload (and) case count is,” explained Cobb Superior Court Administrator Tom Charron. “This year, our numbers suggested that our judges had one of the highest caseload per judge throughout the state. And so we submitted our statistics along with a request that we be considered for an additional Superior Court judgeship.”

In addition to presenting the Judicial Council with caseload data, officials also provided letters of support from Cobb Commission Chair Mike Boyce, Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren, Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds and former Gov. Roy Barnes, who practices law out of his Marietta office.

Warren, who supervises the Cobb jail, wrote in his letter that a new judge would help control the population at the jail, which houses those accused of crimes before and during their trials.

“Considering our growing population, the number of cases being handled each year and the population of our detention facility, this expansion is clearly needed,” Warren wrote. “Having an additional judge will enable cases to be heard sooner and provide relief to our courts as well as law enforcement when addressing the responsibilities of housing pre-trial inmates.”

Georgia Power appeared before the Georgia Public Service Commission to discuss the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

A lawyer for Georgia Power on Thursday said that if the company recommends completing the project, and the Public Service Commission agrees, the utility will also need a definite decision from the PSC approving additional delays and costs.

He said state law dictates that the PSC must make a decision or Georgia Power’s recommendation will take effect 180 days after being filed.

But some PSC staff members told the five-member commission that Georgia Power has agreed to delay Vogtle-related cost decisions in the past, and that the commission has to tread carefully.

PSC attorney Jeffrey Stair said PSC approval of higher costs could short-circuit a settlement between the commission and Georgia Power late last year on the plant.

The settlement cuts Georgia Power’s profit margin on the project if it isn’t finished by the end of 2020. It also puts the burden on Georgia Power to prove that additional cost overruns are reasonable and deserve eventual reimbursement through customers’ monthly bills.

“Once you approve a higher cost … you have forever foreclosed” arguing that the higher costs are unreasonable, said Stair.

Oglethorpe Power, a co-owner of the nuclear project, suggests a financial wrinkle may be upcoming.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Oglethorpe Power Corporation said it has doubts “about Toshiba’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Toshiba is supposed to make its first payment to Oglethorpe and the other owners of Plant Vogtle in October. Without the payment, Georgia regulator Stan Wise said the project might not be completed.

“If Toshiba’s not going to make that payment, then clearly that affects everyone’s decision adversely,” said Wise, the chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission. “That’s a milestone that we can’t go forward without.”

Toshiba released its earnings results on Thursday, with a loss of more than $8 billion.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 10, 2017

On August 10, 1774, a group calling itself the “Sons of Liberty” met at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah, the first move in Georgia toward what would become the Revolutionary War. The Sons of Liberty adopted eight resolutions, among those one that reads,

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That we apprehend the Parliament of Great Britain hath not, nor ever had, any right to tax his Majesty’s American subjects; for it is evident beyond contradiction, the constitution admits of no taxation without representation; that they are coeval and inseparable; and every demand for the support of government should be by requisition made to the several houses of representatives.

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That we concur with our sister colonies in every constitutional measure to obtain redress of American grievances, and will by every lawful means in our power, maintain those inestimable blessings for which we are indebted to God and the Constitution of our country–a Constitution founded upon reason and justice, and the indelible rights of mankind.

The first copy in Georgia of the Declaration of Independence was read publicly in Savannah on August 10, 1776.

On August 10, 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completed “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”

Missouri was admitted as the 24th State, and the first entirely west of the Mississippi River, on August 10, 1821.

On August 10, 1864, the bombardment of Atlanta by Union force continued, with Sherman writing, ““Let us destroy Atlanta and make it a desolation.”

Sherman-and-Cannon Atlanta

The first Georgia state Motor Fuel Tax was enacted on August 10, 1921, when Governor Thomas Hardwick signed legislation imposing a one-cent per gallon tax.

Japan accepted unconditional surrender on August 10, 1945, one day after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

Red Dawn, the first movie rated PG-13 was released on August 10, 1984.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The State of Georgia’s lawsuit against Florida over water flow in the Chattahoochee River gained stream as several county governments filed an amicus brief.

A deluge of counties and cities on Monday joined in the war for water among Georgia and Florida that centers on Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River basin.

Gainesville joined with the Atlanta Regional Commission, Forsyth, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Fulton counties and the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority in filing an amicus brief on Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court. It argues that Florida had not proved that tighter water-use restrictions on Georgians would benefit Florida residents.

Florida is aiming for a cap on water consumption in Georgia, arguing that the resource is overused in the Peach State on its way to Florida and that the state’s environment and oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico are being damaged.

The brief filed on Monday by Gainesville and other municipalities and organizations in Georgia supports Lancaster’s decision.

“Florida challenged two basic water uses in this case: municipal and industrial water use in Metropolitan Atlanta and agricultural water use in Southwest Georgia,” the brief states. “In neither region would the damage inflicted on Georgia be remotely justified by the benefits of a consumption cap.”

It’s estimated such a consumption cap would cost Georgia’s economy billions of dollars.

Superior Court Judge H. Patrick Haggard was elected Chief Judge of the Western Judicial Circuit, which comprises Oconee and Clarke Counties.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) held a Town Hall in Gainesville that was disrupted by angry Democrats.

Right out of the gate, Democratic protesters jeered and debated Collins on congressional Republicans’ failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. President Donald Trump was none too popular with the group, either.

The Public Safety Center on Queen City Parkway, where the town hall was held, was overflowing and late attendees were turned away at the door.

The climax of the protests came close to the end of the town hall, which lasted about 80 minutes. Protester Marisa Pyle, who at various points argued health care points with Collins, stood and unfurled a sign proclaiming “Collins voted to kill me.” The sign was seized by local law enforcement and Pyle was escorted out of the courtroom.

At this point, the rest of the protest group walked out of the town hall in solidarity with Pyle, who was present at the May protest in Gainesville. She has met with Collins and his staff to talk about health care in the past.

Collins left on a positive note.

“I’m just glad that they were here, and I’m glad that you were here,” he said, noting to loud applause that America’s best days are ahead of it and that disagreements along the way will happen. “But I do not believe evil on anyone who was here who disagrees with me and I would pray they would not believe evil on me because I disagree with them.”

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) continues his tour of Town Hall meetings.

Some residents of Georgia’s First Congressional District were surprised to find out late Monday that their tickets to town halls with U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, this week had been canceled.

Carter, a second-term Republican, scheduled nine town halls throughout the First District this week. By the time online registration ended Monday, four of the town halls – Savannah, Richmond Hill, Rincon and Darien – were listed on Carter’s site as “sold out.” In a statement sent Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Carter said that “less than 1 percent” of tickets for at-capacity venues were canceled for people who requested tickets to multiple town halls.

“The only instance where this happened was if a constituent was still guaranteed an opportunity to attend another meeting they requested,” Mary Frances Carpenter, Carter’s deputy chief of staff, said in an email.

In her statement, Carpenter said the decision to switch to ticket-based registration was made to “ensure that constituents in the First District are able to attend town hall meetings in an orderly and efficient fashion.” Carter exited his last town hall meeting in Savannah through a back door, avoiding a lobby full of chanting protesters.

Senator Johnny Isakson (R) will hold a Town Hall meeting at Kennesaw State University on Monday, August 14, 2017.

The doors for the town hall open at 6 p.m. and the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting will be held in the Dr. Bobbie Bailey & Family Performance Center located on Prillaman Way. Space is limited and available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Isakson has held three telephone town hall events in 2017, two in March and one in July, according to Marie Gordon, spokesperson for Isakson.

Liberal agitators are expected to make an appearance at Isakson’s event.

A local chapter of the progressive group Indivisible indicated it’s planning to make its presence known when the Republican takes the stage at Kennesaw State University on Monday evening.

“THIS IS WHAT WE’VE BEEN TRAINING FOR!!!” read the description of the Facebook event inviting members of Indivisible Sea Change, the 6th Congressional District chapter of the Trump resistance group, to the town hall.

Georgia is the second-most strict state in punishing DUI convitction, according to WalletHub.

Columbus City Council adopted a resolution urging the Muscogee County Board of Tax Assessors to refrain from changing assessments from last year’s values.

The impetus for this resolution, of course, is an unprecedented spate of tax increases, some of them as high as tenfold, that recently hit local property owners. The resolution presented by Councilor Glenn Davis rightly notes that some of these increases “are a burden on the citizens … and are, in many cases, far in excess of that which is appropriate.”

With a Monday deadline for filing appeals, a Sept. 1 deadline for the Muscogee Tax Commissioner to submit the tax digest to the state and a Dec. 1 deadline for people with unresolved appeals to pay either their 2016 taxes or 85 percent of this year’s while they wait for a decision, this process is nothing short of frantic.

After state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, confirmed with the Georgia Department of Revenue that the Board of Tax Assessors is indeed empowered to roll back the assessments to 2016 levels, it became likely that the city governing body would propose a “freeze” of another kind, in this case a short-term rather than a permanent one.

Augusta Commissioners will not have offices in the Augusta Municipal Building.

2018 Elections

Former President Jimmy Carter says “hopefully,” Stacey Abrams will win the 2018 elelction for Governor.

The Georgia Democrat was introducing former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams at a July 25 fundraising dinner in Americus for the Boys and Girls Club when he went off script.

“I shouldn’t say it, but she’s going to be – possibly, and hopefully for me – our next governor of Georgia,” he said to applause. The Plains native goes on to call her a “remarkable” politician who “knows how to reach out to both sides.”

Clay Tippins, nephew of State Senator Lindsey Tippins and a former Navy SEAL, is considering a bid for Governor, according to the AJC Political Insider.

He joined the elite Navy SEALs shortly after graduating and later moved to Silicon Valley to work for several startups. In the mid-2000s, he re-enlisted in the Navy Reserves and was recently dispatched to Iraq for a counter-terrorism tour of duty.

He’s now an executive vice president of Capgemini, the global consulting firm, and lives with his wife and two kids in Atlanta.

Should he run, Tippins would face significant hurdles. He would have to build non-existent name recognition up quickly in a field that includes Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams.

But there are also decided advantages to coming to the race as a blank slate – namely, he has no voting record, little history of public statements to scour. He could fill a lane as an outsider in a Republican race replete with candidates trying to position themselves the same way despite elected experience.

Democrat Lindy Miller will take on John Noel in the 2018 Democratic Primary for Public Service Commission.

Read more here:

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 9, 2017

Herman E. Talmadge was born on August 9, 1913, son of Eugene Talmadge, who later served as Governor. Herman Talmadge himself served as Governor and United States Senator from Georgia.

On August 9, 1988, President Ronald Reagan announced his nomination of Dr. Lauro Cavazos as Secretary of Education, succeeding William Bennett. Cavazos was the first Hispanic to serve in a Presidential Cabinet position. Interestingly, he was born on the King Ranch.

On August 9, 1990, voters in the City of Athens and Clarke County chose to unify the two governments into Athens-Clarke County government.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former Georgia State Senator Tim Golden will join Valdosta State University Professor Dixie Haggard to teach a course on recent Georgia political history.

The class, Political History of Modern Georgia, covers what’s happened in the state since 1980, and that’s where Tim Golden has the experience.

Golden is now a state board member for the Georgia Department of Transportation but he has decades of experience in politics, including eight years in the Statehouse and 16 years in the state Senate.

Him being in the classroom (means) you’re going to get an experience I can’t give you any other way. I can show videos, I can show recordings, (but) he was there,” Haggard said of Golden, who graduated from Valdosta State with a history and political science degree in 1977.

“A student (who) takes this class is going to have the opportunity to really see how history is done.”

To give some context to Georgia’s modern political scene, Haggard and Golden will reach back to post-World War II times and sometimes even as far back as the Civil War, specifically when it comes to the fight over the state flag.

“How do you explain the flag and the lottery and all the things we did from the ’80s on if you don’t go back and learn?” Golden said.

Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth) addressed students at the Georgia Gwinnett College summer graduation.

In the theme of the day that was noted by GGC President Stas Preczewski, Durham and Shafer, the politician said that many of the graduates completed their coursework while carrying “significant family responsibilities” such as caring or providing for a relative, and working 20 hours a week.

“Your days of being nurtured were over,” Shafer said. “… You have been paying taxes and discharging adult responsibilities for years. … What made you stronger here at Georgia Gwinnett College was not the nurture, but the struggle. The challenge of completing your academic studies while leading a real adult life.”

Shafer, a veteran of Georgia politics, encouraged the graduates to treat everyone they meet like a friend, or a future friend, because in politics, for example, he said your enemy one day could be your friend the next.

The value of the institution, Shafer said, is in the improvement it made to each graduate. The liberal arts education teaches students how to think, how to learn and how to collaborate with others.

Lieutenant General Paul M. Nakasone, commander of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, spoke of Augusta’s role in cyber security.

Nakasone was in Augusta last November to help break ground at Fort Gordon for the new U.S. Cyber Command headquarters, which is now at Fort Belvoir, Va. It will relocate to Fort Gordon by 2020.

Before that, Nakasone last was in Augusta in 2004.

“Thirteen years ago when I left, it was interesting to see that everyone was talking about Boston or Austin as critical components to the high-tech revolution,” he said. “And so my thoughts this morning were, ‘What happens 13 years from now? Is Augusta going to be in that same league?’ I certainly think it will be because we have the opportunity, we have the momentum, we have the capabilities and we have the talent as convergent in the next couple years here in Augusta.”

“I would offer that Army Cyber’s move to Fort Gordon will increase Army readiness and technological superiority not only today, but well into the future,” he said. “The synergy created when we enhance operational effectiveness by establishing a single center here at Fort Gordon can’t be underestimated.”

The general said the headquarters’ move would bring Army Cyber into a “regional hub of innovation in cyber development,” alongside private-industry and academic partners.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) held the first of nine Town Hall meetings he’s hosting during the August congressional break.

Tuesday morning in Jesup he held the first of nine town halls.

“Washington sometimes is described as a bubble and it is,” said Rep. Carter. “You get up there and you don’t see outside that bubble. That’s why it’s very important for us to stay grounded and come here and to interact with the people, this is my home, this where i was born and raised and i need to hear from them.”

And those in attendance are grateful for the opportunity to have their voice be heard.

“I think it’s a wise move,” said Gabe Madray, Jesup Resident. “It’s very positive to have the local availability option to be able to talk directly with your federal congressman.”

“My voting card has my picture on it,” explained Rep. Carter. “But it’s really for the First Congressional District of Georgia, that’s who it represents and I need to hear from them and I want to hear from them. I appreciate everyone coming out and giving me the opportunity to hear from them.”

Congressman Carter will hold five more town halls in our area over the next two days.

One will be in McIntosh County Wednesday at Darien City Hall from 10-11 AM.

On Thursday August 10, it’ll be held in Effingham County at the Rincon First Baptist Church from 10-11 AM.

From there, it’s onto Bryan County and the Bryan County Administrative Complex in Richmond Hill from 2-3 PM.

And it all wraps up in Savannah at Bible Baptist Church from 6-7 PM.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods helped deliver backpacks to students at Jenkins-White Elementary in Augusta.

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods and Deputy Superintendent for School and District Effectiveness Stephanie Johnson visited the school, delivering 30 backpacks filled with school supplies. Faith Outreach Ministries supplied an additional 100 backpacks.

“It’s one less thing they have to think and worry about,” Woods said about the school supplies. “Providing these supplies gives them the assurance that they have all the school supplies they need to come into a classroom, sit down with a teacher and focus purely on the academics.”

The donations were made possible through the Georgia Foundation for Public Education. Monetary donations were made on the foundation’s website, while some people chose to donate backpacks and supplies.

“We do struggle with poverty throughout [the state],” Woods said. “One thing I have found out is that Georgia is a very generous state and when there is a need…they have risen to the occassion.”

Woods and his team made previous stops in Tifton and East Sylvania to deliver backpacks and will conclude the tour in Columbus on Thursday.

Muscogee County Sheriff Donna Tompkins ran over her department’s budget by about $400,000, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Tompkins said most of the money was spent on bailiffs and reserve deputies used for security at the City Services Center, Government Center and local courts. She said the expense was budgeted at $311,000, when historically it has cost about $700,000.

Two of the cost-savings initiatives that she planned for the year just went into affect, she explained, and it’s too early to see results.

“First off, I’d like to say, this is not really shocking to us,” she said. “When I took over, we estimated that this particular budget would probably be around $400,000 over, and there really wasn’t a lot that we could do about that.”

In the end, councilors approved the additional funding with a unanimous vote. They also approved more funding for Probate Court Judge Marc D’Antonio, who exceeded his fiscal year 2017 budget by $3,800.

Tompkins replaced John Darr as sheriff in January, after defeating him in a 2016 run-off election. Before leaving office, Darr sued the city over budgeting issues, arguing that the budget set by elected officials had hindered his ability to fulfill his constitutional duties. Tompkins dismissed the lawsuit after being elected to office.

Morris Communications announced the sale of the Savannah Morning News, ten other daily newspapers, and associated assets to GateHouse Media.

“With the announcement of a transition in ownership of the Savannah Morning News from the Morris family to Gatehouse Media, our mission to provide credible, accurate and timely local information remains the same,” said Michael Traynor, publisher of the Savannah Morning News. “In the more than 57 years since the Morris family purchased the Savannah newspaper, we have evolved into a diversified, multi-platform media company that includes print, digital, events and ticketing solutions. We are excited about the next chapter in our future with GateHouse Media and look forward to the many available opportunities to serve our readers and advertisers in new and compelling ways.”

“Since my father took a job as bookkeeper at The Chronicle in 1929, our family has been dedicated to journalism, and to the readers and advertisers in the communities we serve,” said William S. “Billy” Morris III, chairman of Morris Communications. “Although this has been a difficult decision for me, we have found a wonderful buyer for the newspapers in GateHouse, as they are strongly committed to providing good community coverage for readers and effective solutions for advertisers.”

Under terms of the sale, Michael Traynor will remain as publisher of the Savannah Morning News. Billy Morris will continue as publisher of The Augusta Chronicle and will oversee editorial-page policy for the three Morris newspapers in Georgia – The Chronicle, the Savannah Morning News and the Athens Banner-Herald. The Morris family will retain ownership of the Savannah Morning News building and property on Chatham Parkway where the Savannah Morning News will remain in what is now a multi-tenant facility.

GateHouse Media is a division of New Media Investment Group, a publicly traded company (NEWM) on the New York Stock Exchange. It is one of the largest newspaper companies in the country, owning more than 130 daily newspapers and more than 500 non-daily publications across the United States.

Daily papers included in the sale, in addition to the Savannah Morning News, are The Augusta Chronicle, the Athens Banner-Herald, The Florida Times-Union and The St. Augustine Record in Florida, the Amarillo Globe-News and Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in Texas, The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, Conway (Ark.) Log Cabin Democrat, and the Juneau Empire and Kenai Peninsula Clarion in Alaska.

Non-daily publications included in the sale under the Savannah Morning News portfolio include Bluffton (S.C.) Today, the Jasper County (S.C.) Sun Times, La Voz Latina, the Tell-N-Sell Shopper, BiS (Business in Savannah), Effingham (Ga.) Now, Bryan County (Ga.) Now and Beaufort (S.C.) Today.

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree asked Augusta Commissioners for pay raises for his department.

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree is pushing for across-the-board pay increases for his department that would likely require a tax hike next year, city officials said Tuesday.

Roundtree pitched his budget request at an Augusta Commission meeting as city officials begin the 2018 budgeting process. He told commissioners the need is greater in the Sheriff’s Office than other city departments because starting salaries for his deputies are among the region’s lowest while call volume is highest.

“How many other agencies have one of these hanging in their lobby,” or have to plan and train for funerals, Roundtree said, pointing commissioners to memorial images of officers killed in the line of duty. “How many agencies in this government garner this type of community support?”

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle mentioned that city officials are completing a comprehensive study of all city salaries, which would require funds to implement, but said he is “not opposed” to the sheriff’s request. Guilfoyle asked City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson for a source of funds.

“I’m not sure how you do it without a tax increase,” Jackson said.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy asked Roundtree if the Sheriff’s Ooffice would grow community support for a tax increase. Roundtree said he was “more than happy to openly ask the public for their support.”

Augusta millage rates are subject to a decades-old cap that has only about three-quarters of a mill, currently about $5 million, before it reaches the cap, officials said.

Friction with elected officials led Wayne Stradley to resign from the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Citizens Advisory Committee.

Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller told Stradley before the meeting he believed Stradley had overstepped his bounds to the extent that he should resign from the Citizens Advisory Committee, and if he didn’t, Miller would ask Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell to replace him.

Stradley is Powell’s appointee on the committee, which works to give citizen input to the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, the local area’s lead transportation planning agency.

[I]n emails, Stradley said there’s an issue of autonomy.

“Either the CAC is a ‘citizen’ committee, representing the citizens, or not,” he said.

“I think the CAC should be autonomous and able to form subcommittees as long as they know the purpose, the members and (have) a deadline.”

Lawrenceville City Council voted to adopt a $182 million dollar budget for FY 2018.

The Port of Savannah‘s record cargo hauls are driving warehouse space shortages.

While not in agreement on the exact numbers, both Colliers International and Cushman &Wakefield – two major global commercial real estate companies — concur that the Savannah area industrial vacancy rate is too low for comfort.

Both companies released their mid-2017 industrial market reports last week, with indications that the demand for space around the ports is not slowing. If anything, it’s putting increased pressure on the market.

According to Colliers, total industrial inventory for the Savannah market at the end of June was 50.9 million square feet, with 5.2 million square feet under construction and only 999,000 square feet vacant.

“The industrial vacancy rate dropped to 1.96 percent in the last quarter, reminiscent of the all-time low of 1.93 percent recent this time last year,” said David Sink, a principal in Colliers’ Savannah office.

Campaigns and Elections

Former Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck announced he will run for Insurance Commissioner next year.

Jim Beck, successful businessman, entrepreneur, and a former Deputy Commissioner, announced his candidacy for Georgia’s Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.

Georgia families deserve bold, experienced, and innovative leadership in the Insurance Commissioner’s office. Jim Beck’s incredible insight into the workings of the insurance business, gained through over 30 years of experience on the front lines, guides his vision for comprehensive change in the insurance department. As Commissioner, Jim Beck’s single focus will be advocating for and protecting Georgians. In making the announcement Beck said, “Dramatic insurance rate increases have left many Georgia families struggling to pay premiums for even the most basic protection. Simply put, the family budget has taken an unprecedented beating. While the job of Insurance Commissioner is very technical in nature and generally there is a long learning curve, I can say with absolute confidence that I will be a “Day One” Commissioner. I know how to effectively serve as the consumer’s champion, while capitalizing on untapped opportunities to improve the insurance marketplace and hold companies more accountable. I will fight for your right to be treated fairly and I would be honored to earn your vote and support to be the next Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner for our great State. “

Lawrenceville City Council member Rey Martinez will resign to run for Mayor in an open seat election this November.

Martinez’s council seat, like the mayor’s seat, was already scheduled to be on the ballot in November — since his term ends in December —before he announced his plans to run for mayor .

Martinez is in his second term on the City Council, serving on the city’s public safety, planning and development and transportation committees. He is also a retired Navy veteran, having spent 25 years in the military, including three deployments during Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom.

He has served on the City Council since 2010 and is also a member of American Legion Post 233, the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity and president of the Loganville Lyon’s Club.

He was also the chairman of Georgia Hispanics for Trump during last year’s presidential election.

Former State Senator Dan Moody has endorsed Matt Reeves for the Senate District 48 seat being vacated by David Shafer, who is running for Lieutenant Governor.

Joe Musselwhite will join the growing field of candidates for Mayor of Warner Robins.

Joe Musselwhite, a former Warner Robins public works director, formally announced his candidacy for mayor Tuesday.

Musselwhite, 64, ran for mayor in 2013 in a field of six candidates. He landed in a runoff with Randy Toms, but he lost by nearly a 2-1 margin.

I have a clear vision for our city’s government, and I have many innovative ideas to share as the election process continues,” he said.

He is the first candidate to formally announce that he is opposing Toms, who has said he plans to run for re-election.

Councilman Chuck Shaheen said during a debate Monday on whether to establish a city administrator that he also plans to run for mayor, but he declined to confirm that intention afterward.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 8, 2017

The first printed copy of the Declaration of Independence arrived in Savannah on August 8, 1776 and was read publicly for the first time on August 10, 1776.

On August 8, 1863, General Robert E. Lee offered his resignation in a letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, following the Battle of Gettysburg.

On August 8, 1925, Georgia Governor Clifford Walker signed legislation outlawing the brazen act of dancing publicly on Sunday.

On August 8, 1929, Georgia Governor Lamartine Hardman signed legislation placing on the ballot for Fulton and Campbell County voters a merger of the two.

The old Campbell County Courthouse still stands in Fairburn, Georgia.

Campbell County Courthouse Fairburn GA 3

Historic Campbell County Courthouse in Fairburn, GA.

Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew were nominated for President and Vice President by the Republican National Convention on August 8, 1968.

On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned, effective at noon the next day.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gov. Nathan Deal announced that July tax collections increased more than seven percent.

Gov. Nathan Deal [] announced that Georgia’s net tax collections for July totaled nearly $1.72 billion, for an increase of $113.4 million, or 7.1 percent, compared to last year when net tax collections totaled roughly $1.61 billion. Gross tax revenue receipts for the month totaled $2.27 billion, for an increase of $112.5 million, or 5.2 percent, compared to July 2016.

The changes within the following tax categories contributed to the overall net tax revenue increase in July:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for the month totaled $861.5 million, up from nearly $780.7 million in July 2016, for an increase of roughly $80.9 million, or 10.4 percent.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections deposited during the month increased by $46.7 million, or 5.1 percent, compared to July 2016.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for July totaled nearly $19.4 million, for an increase of $13 million, or 205.6 percent, compared to last year when net Corporate Tax revenues totaled $6.3 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections for July decreased by nearly $0.1 million, or -0.1 percent, compared to last year when Motor Fuel Tax revenues totaled $146.1 million.

Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees: Tag and Title Fee collections for July increased by $7.4 million, or 28.4 percent, compared to July 2016. Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections for the month totaled $81.5 million, for a decrease of $10 million, or -11 percent, compared to last year.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) will hold a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 PM at the Gainesville Public Safety Building, 701 Queen City Parkway in Gainesville.

For security reasons, no bags or signs will be allowed into the courtroom where the town hall is taking place, according to the announcement.

Congressman Buddy Carter has scheduled nine Town Hall meetings in his coastal Georgia district.

The Pooler pharmacist is planning on leading nine events between Tuesday and Thursday in his coastal district, including town halls in Jesup, Brunswick and Savannah.

According to the tracking website Town Hall Project, he’s in rarefied air. Only two other Georgia House members have planned in-person town halls during the August recess: Democratic Rep. David Scott will hold an Aug. 19 event in Jonesboro and Republican Rep. Doug Collins will host a Wednesday evening town hall in Gainesville.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office has also said he plans to hold an in-person town hall meeting, while other lawmakers – including newly-elected Rep. Karen Handel of Roswell – have said they will organize telephone town halls.

Carter was the only of Georgia’s 10 Republican House members and two U.S. senators to hold a town hall meeting in February amid a wave of national protests that have rocked GOP events since Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Former Governor Roy Barnes addressed the Cartersville/Bartow County Chamber of Commerce.

“In my lifetime, we have seen the booming of this entire region,” he said. “Bartow is growing at a much faster rate than Cobb because Cobb is about developed out. Bartow has been growing by 30 to 37 percent every 10 years and will continue to do so. That is true of the entire Atlanta region.“What I want to discuss with you today is actually a question. ‘What do we need to do to continue this growth without destroying this quality of life that we all treasure?’”

He said three requirements are essential to Georgia’s continued growth.

“The first is transportation,” he said. “We must have adequate transportation to make sure this region grows and does not suffocate. When I was governor, I proposed a highway extension running from I-85 across to I-75 on what was called the ‘Northern Arc,’ which then swung further west across I-20 to south of Newnan where it would connect with the Fall Line Freeway, so truckers could entirely bypass Atlanta.”

Barnes said the second requirement is education.

“We have made great strides in education, but we have only scratched the surface,” he said. “Just like we need infrastructure and capital for infrastructure, we also need intellectual capital. There is a gap between the jobs created by industries and the skills of the workers necessary to fill those jobs. We should be panicked about that, but we seem to not be concerned.”

The third requirement, Barnes said, is leadership.

“I am disgusted with leadership to a large extent,” Barnes said. “Local level leadership is far superior to what we see on a state and national level. The local leaders have to actually solve problems —  make sure the garbage gets picked up, that the water is there when you turn on the spigot and you can flush the commode and nothing comes back — but on the state and particularly the national level, and I’m talking about both Democrats and Republicans, the purpose of elected leaders is to actually solve problems and to accomplish that you have to talk to each other.

Blue Cross Blue Shield announced it will not offer insurance plans for metro Atlanta residents on the federal exchange.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia said it will not offer insurance plans on the Obamacare exchange in any of metro Atlanta’s counties next year.

The move comes as the company is still waiting on whether the Trump administration will continue federal cost sharing subsidies that help provide coverage for low-income families.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georiga said in a statement that continued uncertainty on the federal level makes it difficult to offer plans on the marketplace exchange statewide.

The company did agree to offer plans in 85 mostly rural counties that would be left with no insurance plan.

But the company is expanding its offerings in some non-metro areas.

State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens’ office reported that BlueCross and BlueShield of Georgia agreed to offer coverage in the state insurance exchange in 2018, but only for 85 counties that would have had no other health coverage companies.

Blue Cross is the sole health plan offering exchange coverage this year in all of Georgia’s 159 counties. If Blue Cross had pulled out, the commissioner’s office said it would have devastated Georgia’s market.

“You would have had thousands of people in that 85 county area that would have either had to change jobs, or go without coverage, or move.  Really that would have been their options if they wanted health insurance,” said Florence.


Gainesville Board of Education members heard options for setting the property tax millage rate.

Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Williams began, “what we want to do tonight is bring these three numbers to you; then over the next couple of weeks take this document and go back and look, and if you’ve got requests…communicate that to me and we’ll be sure to get some information for you so at our next meeting we can set a tentative millage rate.”

Williams explained that leaving the current rate of 6.85-mils in place would constitute a tax increase by definition, and would require three public hearings and the prerequisite advertising in the newspaper to announce each of those hearings as set forth under Georgia law.

Only by rolling back the rate to 6.453-mils would a revenue-neutral situation occur and eliminate the need for the public hearings.  That option would, however, create a projected budget shortfall of $2.4-million.

Should board members decide to use a rate higher than 6.453-mils when they reconvene August 21st, dates for the required trio of public hearings will be set at that time.

The Fayette County Board of Education is considering adopting a property tax millage rate lower than the current rate but above the full rollback rate.

The Fayette County Board of Education plans to raise the property tax millage rate 9.16 percent above the rollback rate, which will require three public hearings before the rate is decided on Aug. 21.

The board wants a rate of 19.500 mills, a 0.250 mill decrease from last year. The rollback rate is what would produce the same amount of revenue at the current millage rate if no property reassessments had occurred, but the board’s new budget requires a higher millage than what the rollback rate would have provided. The approximately $10 million budget increase is due mostly to cost-of-living raises, higher retirement plan contributions and health insurance premiums.

Millage hearings will be held at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Aug. 14 and at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 21, all at 210 Stonewall Ave. in Fayetteville.

Suwanee City Council will maintain the property tax millage rate at last year’s level.

Suwanee has proposed a millage rate of 4.93 mills, the same rate used in the proposed FY 2018 budget and the same rate used by the city over the past four years.

Because the proposed rate is anticipated to generate a 4.96 percent increase in property tax revenue, the city will hold three public hearings to discuss the tax increase at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10 and at noon and 6:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at City Hall, 320 Town Center Avenue. The millage rate will be adopted during the city council meeting following the final public hearing Aug. 22.

Property owners will see a slight increase due to rising property values.

Dalton City Council voted to place a $50 million bond issue on the ballot.

The City Council voted 3-1 (Gary Crews voted against) to place a referendum on the Nov. 7 municipal election ballot that asks:

“Shall the City of Dalton, Georgia, issue general obligation bonds in the principal amount of up to $50,650,000 for the purposes of providing funds to (i) acquire land for school purposes, acquire, construct, install and equip a new secondary school building and facilities, acquire new technology, to be used at educational and administrative facilities, including, but not limited to, classroom technology infrastructure, computers, laptops, tablets and mobile devices for students and staff, servers, wiring, wireless antennas, displays and other technology upgrades with necessary hardware, software and programs, acquire school equipment, including, but not limited to, safety and security equipment, and acquire any other property, both real and personal, necessary or desirable therefor(e), for Dalton Public Schools; (ii) capitalize interest on the bonds; and (iii) pay all expenses incident to accomplishing the foregoing?”

Jevin Jensen noted the school system could pay as much as 5.5 percent interest on the bonds. Over the 30-year life of the bonds, the principal and interest that would be paid at that rate is $103 million.

“At 3.5 percent, that would be $82 million,” he said.

Members of the League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area asked council members to delay voting on the measure. The League plans to try to circulate a petition that would place a referendum on the May 2018 general primary ballot asking Dalton voters to dissolve the school system.

University of Georgia School of Law is creating a Veterans Legal Services Clinic to provide services to military veterans.

As described on the UGA website, the clinic “will provide veterans in Georgia with legal assistance they might not otherwise have access to or be able to afford, with particular regard to denied or deferred claims before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It also includes an educational scholarship component … [it] will be staffed by law students who will work directly with veterans and their dependents to ensure access to benefits and services, especially for those with mental or physical disabilities resulting from their time in the military.”

This clinic will not only offer legal assistance and advice for veterans; it will also provide $5,000 matching scholarships each year for two veterans studying at the UGA law school.

And the benefit, Butler added, isn’t limited to veterans.

“Another attraction is the opportunity to train law students,” he said. “The University of Georgia law school’s clinical programs are among the best in the country. You take these young law students in their formative years and get them involved in helping people, it affects what they will do as lawyers.”

The Augusta Planning Commission amended its code to allow small brewers and distillers in business areas.

The amendments create new categories of “nano-“ and “pico-“ breweries and distilleries, smaller than traditional microbreweries and distilleries, which will be allowed with a special permit in business zones.

Postponed several times, the amendments appear just in time for state law changes going in effect Sept. 1 that will allow small brewers and distillers to sell packaged beer and liquor over the counter, in limited amounts.

The approval drew contrasting reviews from Augusta’s two existing microbreweries, which were required to open in an industrial zone a few blocks from downtown because the current planning code considers brewing and distilling as an industrial operation, regardless of the amount of beverage being made.

The city’s discussion had touched on creating a “brewery district” around the Fifth Street area where the two breweries are located, planning and development manager Brendon Cunningham said, although Sloan said she wasn’t “all that enthusiastic” about having more brewer neighbors in the area.

The amendments define a nanobrewery as making up to 3,000 barrels of beer per year, the equivalent of 992,000 12-ounce bottles. A picobrewery can make up to 500 barrels, or about 27,556 six-packs.

Neither definition includes a food component. Brewpubs, which are already allowed, can make up to 10,000 barrels per year but must make half their money from food sales.

Warner Robins City Council members argued over whether to hire a city administrator.

A simmering debate about whether to hire a city administrator boiled over at the Warner Robins City Council meeting Monday, including allegations of secret meetings.

The discussion began in pre-council when Councilman Keith Lauritsen suggested that the council state its plans for a city administrator so that those running for mayor will know what the job will entail. Council members Mike Davis and Clifford Holmes disagreed and the discussion soon became heated.

The discussion became especially heated when Mayor Randy Toms said he wanted all future meetings on the subject to be in the open. Shaheen and Holmes both took offense, saying they took that as an accusation.

“There was one meeting that I absolutely believe was illegal,” Toms said.

Holmes said he did go to a meeting and when he got there he saw there were three other council members, and he implied that he did not go in. He also said City Attorney Jim Elliott was there.

[City Council member Chuck] Shaheen has said he would run for mayor if the council approved a city administrator. But he said in the meeting that he is running for mayor “whether it is full or part time.”

Part of Georgia’s seashore may be designated as a place of international importance for shorebirds.

A group of public and private organizations — including two federal agencies but not the state Department of Natural Resources — submitted the nomination to the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network to have Georgia’s barrier islands and marshlands designated a “landscape of hemispheric importance for shorebirds.”

The network is a long-standing conservation strategy for celebrating and protecting shorebirds over a wide geographic range in North and South America. Currently, there are 95 sites in North America meeting its criteria, supporting shorebirds in all three stages of habitat need: nesting, migration and non-nesting. The Altamaha River Delta was dedicated as a Coastal Georgia site of regional importance by the WHSRN (pronounced whiss-ern) Council in 1999.

The network invited the Georgia Shorebird Alliance to apply to broaden the designation and encompass more of the coast. A decision on the application is expected next month.

If approved, the designation would highlight the coast’s importance, a plus for eco-tourism as well as researchers looking for grant funding.

“It really is a way to showcase the Georgia coast,” said Alice Miller Keyes, vice president for conservation at One Hundred Miles, which organized the application process. “It can be a real draw for the growing ecotourism and for Georgia as a birding destination.”

The City of South Fulton is considering designating election day as an official holiday.

A proposal last month offered Election Day as a holiday mandatory for the city and “encouraged” for other Georgia elected bodies and for South Fulton businesses.

Sponsoring it was City Councilman khalid kamau, who said in the proposed resolution that Election Day is already a holiday in Puerto Rico during presidential races, leading to high turnouts at the polls.

kamau also said the holiday can create a culture of voting and political education.

City council arguments against it included misalignment with the Fulton County School System calendar, causing parents among city employees to seek child care or take time off when students are out of school Oct. 9.

Mayor William “Bill” Edwards said there was insufficient information available to make a sound decision.

“I don’t think we went into depth enough,” he said. “We need to have a committee to study this further.”

The Board of Regents will consider a request by Georgia Tech for a campus at Lockheed in Marietta.

The state Board of Regents is scheduled Tuesday to consider a $63 million proposal by Georgia Tech to buy land to expand its research space in Cobb County and give it flexibility for future development.

Tech wants a lease revenue bond package to acquire and renovate 32 acres in Marietta owned by Lockheed Martin, according to the board’s agenda. The buildings that Tech plans to purchase are on the aerospace giant’s south campus along Atlanta Road.

“This ownership structure will allow flexibility for future development, such as opportunities for industry partnerships and investment. Over the long term, development of the entire 52-acre campus is expected to accelerate (Georgia Tech’s) research growth in national security, homeland defense, and commercial advanced technology initiatives,” an explanation on the board’s agenda read.

2017 Elections

Powder Springs will hold qualifying for three city council seats.

Powder Springs will hold a general election Nov. 7 to elect three City Council members from Wards 1, 2 and 3.

Qualifying will be held between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Aug. 23-25 (closed 1 -2 p.m. for lunch) in the second floor conference room, Powder Springs City Hall, 4484 Marietta St., Powder Springs.

The qualifying fee for each council candidate will be $360 payable by cash, check or money order made out to the City of Powder Springs.

Brookhaven will elect two City Council members in November.

The qualifying fee for Council District 2 (two) and District 4 (four) is $360.00 which is 3% of the total gross salary of the preceding year (Georgia Election Code 21-2-131 (a) (1) (A). Each candidate shall file a notice of candidacy in the office of the City Clerk of Brookhaven and must meet the qualifications of the Charter and Code of the City of Brookhaven, as well as all applicable state and constitutional laws.

The date of the Municipal Election for the Offices of Councilmember of Council Districts 2 (two) and 4 (four) is Tuesday, November 7, 2017. In the event no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, a Run Off Election shall be held Tuesday, December 5, 2017, between the candidates receiving the two highest number of votes. DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections will conduct the November 2017 Election and if any Run-Off Election.

Each candidate shall file a notice of candidacy in the office of the City Clerk of Brookhaven between Wednesday, August 23, 2017 and Friday, August 25, 2017, between the hours of 8:30 am and 12:30 pm, and 1:30 pm and 4:30pm.

Sandy Springs will host two contested city council elections.

Jody Reichel this week formally declared her candidacy for the Sandy Springs City Council District 4 seat held by Gabriel Sterling, who previously said he is running for Fulton County Commission chairman.

Reichel said Sandy Springs has been fortunate to have elected officials and other community leaders “who have worked hard to make our city an extremely desirable place to lay down roots, raise our families and be involved with our community.”

“There are, however, many important issues that need a strong advocate and much work that needs to be done in order for Sandy Springs to reach its potential,” she said, adding that’s the reason why she’s running for the City Council.

If elected, Reichel said she will focus her time and energy on issues such as traffic challenges, smart business growth and working on efforts to make Sandy Springs a more pedestrian friendly community. She also notes she’ll regularly listen to the viewpoints of others to continue the city’s reputation as a great place to live.

Another resident, Steve Soteres, on Thursday also revealed his plans to run for the District 2 seat held by Ken Dishman, who will not be seeking re-election.

Mayor Rusty Paul and Council members Andy Bauman, Chris Burnett, Tibby DeJulio and John Paulson are all seeking re-election.

The city’s general election is slated for Nov. 7, and the office of mayor as well as the six City Council seats are up for grabs. Qualifying for the elections will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21 through Thursday, Aug. 24 and from 8:30 a.m. to noon Friday, Aug. 25. The qualifying fees for mayor is $1,000 and $540 for the city council seats.


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.