Category: Georgia Politics

26
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 26, 2017

Lt. Colonel George Washington fought French and Indian scouts on May 28, 1754, beginning the Seven Years War.

On May 27, 1813, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams to let Adams know of the death of a mutual friend.

On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, requiring all Native Americans to relocate west of the Mississippi River.

Georgia Militia under General John Floyd began rounding up Cherokee Indians on May 26, 1838.

General Robert E. Lee wrote a letter dated May 26, 1861 to Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown asking the state to send any weapons available for Georgia volunteers who arrived in Virginia unarmed.

On May 27, 1863, Chief Justice Roger Taney, sitting as a federal district court judge, issued a decision in Ex parte Merryman, which challenged President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the right of habeas corpus. Lincoln ignored the ruling.

Today is the 153d Anniversary of the Battle of Pickett’s Mill in Paulding County, Georgia, where Sherman’s forces attacked Johnston’s Confederates on May 27, 1864. Among the combatants on the Union side was Ambrose Bierce, who would later write The Crime at Pickett’s Mill.

On May 27, 1864, the Federal Army, having been stopped in its advance on Atlanta two days earlier by the Battle of New Hope Church, attempted to outflank the Confederate position. Some 14,000 Federal troops were selected for the task, and General Howard was given command. After a five-hour march, Howard’s force reached the vicinity of Pickett’s Mill and prepared to attack. Waiting were 10,000 Confederate troops under the command of General Cleburne.

The Federal assault began at 5 p.m. and continued into the night. Daybreak found the Confederates still in possession of the field. The Federals had lost 1,600 men compared to the Confederate loss of 500. The Confederate victory resulted in a one-week delay of the Federal advance on Atlanta.

Here are some photos of the battlefield and links to additional material.

The Battle of Dallas, Georgia began on May 28, 1864. Click here to watch Week 7 of the Georgia Public Broadcasting/Atlanta History Center series on the Civil War in Georgia.

President Calvin Coolidge signed the “Comprehensive Immigration Act” on May 26, 1924.

Many Americans saw the enormous influx of largely unskilled, uneducated immigrants during the early 1900s as causing unfair competition for jobs and land. Under the new law, immigration remained open to those with a college education and/or special skills, but entry was denied to Mexicans, and disproportionately to Eastern and Southern Europeans and Japanese. At the same time, the legislation allowed for more immigration from Northern European nations such as Britain, Ireland and Scandinavian countries. A quota was set that limited immigration to two percent of any given nation’s residents already in the U.S. as of 1890, a provision designed to maintain America’s largely Northern European racial composition. In 1927, the “two percent rule” was eliminated and a cap of 150,000 total immigrants annually was established.

The law particularly angered Japan, which in 1907 had forged with U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt a “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” which included more liberal immigration quotas for Japan. By 1924, strong U.S. agricultural and labor interests–particularly from California, which had already passed its own exclusionary laws against Japanese immigrants–favored the more restrictive legislation signed by Coolidge. The Japanese government viewed the American law as an insult, and protested by declaring May 26 a national day of humiliation in Japan.

Fort Frederica National Monument was established on St Simons Island, Georgia on May 26, 1936.

On May 27, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said the United States was in an unlimited national emergency and laid out conditions under which Germany’s expansionism would constitute an attack on the United States. There are those who believe that Roosevelt suspended the right of habeas corpus with Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.

Happy Birthday to Gladys Knight, born in Atlanta on May 28, 1944.

May 26, 1949 was named Clay Day in Marietta, Georgia in honor of General Lucius Clay, who spoke at the courthouse square.

On May 27, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter blasted the “Stop Carter” movement in a speech in Cincinnati.

Actor Christopher Reeves was thrown from his horse in an equestrian competition in Culpepper, Virginia on May 27, 1995, becoming quadraplegic.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal will attend the Georgia Republican Party State Convention next weekend.

Fulton County is moving twelve polling locations ahead of the June 20 Special Runoff Election in the Sixth Congressional District.

Fulton County is moving 12 of its polling places to different locations a little more than three weeks out from the highly watched Sixth Congressional District runoff election because officials said they had no choice.

Most of the polls are located in Fulton County School District schools, and shortly after the April 18 primary election, school officials informed elections director Richard Barron that they needed to renovate those buildings, so they could not be polling locations for the June 20runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Most changes are within a mile or two of the original locations, but some are more than three miles away.

Georgia has taken the number one spot globally for film production.

More top 100 feature films released at the domestic box office in 2016 were made in Georgia than any other place, according to a new industry study by FilmL.A. – Los Angeles’ film office.

The rapid growth of the film and television industry in Georgia and the state’s steadfast commitment to its support is remarkable,” the group said in its report. “With 17 projects in 2016, the first-ranked Peach State hosted nearly three times as many feature films as fifth-place New York and Louisiana.”

The steadfast commitment came in large part to Georgia’s generous use of tax credits, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars as the state has tried to lure both movie and TV productions here.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who just helped host a “Georgia Night in L.A.” reception in Los Angeles, has been a consistent advocate of the approach while pushing executives and studios to put down roots that would keep them here. He also backed creation of ancillary efforts such as the Georgia Film Academy, which aims to provide training for Georgians to get industry-supported jobs.

Walton County hosted the greatest political event in the state this week.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, state Sen. Hunter Hill and Secretary of State Brian Kemp were among the Republicans in attendance for the annual Walton County Republican Party Barbecue on Tuesday at Nunnally Farms.

Cagle, Hill and Kemp are vying to succeed term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018.

“We need to be doing more for the conservative values of this state,” Hill, of Atlanta, said. He promised to oppose any effort to create “sanctuary cities” for immigrants in the state.

Cagle, the third-term lieutenant governor from Gainesville, said all of the candidates agreed on many of the basic values.

“I don’t have to be governor,” he said. “I want to be governor.” He pledged a $100 million tax cut in his first 100 days in office.

Kemp, a regular visitor to Walton GOP events, said he’s traveled Georgia in his current office, fighting efforts to strike down voter ID laws.

“I feel like no one has a better idea about what’s going on around the state than I do,” he said.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader and state Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) hosted an event last night discussing the epidemic of mental health issues and opioid addiction.

Schrader called the event a “reality check” for Gwinnett County to make people aware of the seriousness of mental health and substance abuse issues in the county.

“For a couple of years, I have been speaking in front of community groups about the fact that I don’t have many community resources to support my participants in drug court,” she said. “Then I realized that really the community needs resources to support everyone in the community because there is not a family today that has not been impacted by mental health or substance abuse issues.”

Unterman said she was inspired to get involved in the issue of addressing mental health and substance abuse issues in Gwinnett County partially because she is a former nurse, but also because of parents who have come to see her at the state Capitol.

“I look in their eyes and I know the feeling so intimately because I lost my child, and any parent, or any loved one, who has lost a loved one, you will do anything within your power because you know the grief and you know the feeling you had,” Unterman said. “You never get over it.”

Gainesville’s unemployment reached the lowest level since November 2007.

Metro Gainesville’s unemployment rate in April fell to 3.9 percent, the lowest it’s been since November 2007 for Hall County, when the rate was 3.5 percent.

“A diverse economy is growing and needing some workers,” [Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce CEO Kit] Dunlap said. The rate remains the lowest in Georgia, according to state Department of Labor figures released Thursday, and was down from 4 percent in March.

Metro Dalton, which includes Whitfield and Murray Counties, hit 5.2% unemployment, which is also down for the area.

The unemployment rate in April for Metro Dalton — Whitfield and Murray counties — was 5.2 percent, down from 5.8 percent in March, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. The rate in April a year ago was 5.5 percent.

The rate dropped as “employers created more jobs and reduced the number of new layoffs,” the department said in a press release.

Metro Gainesville had the lowest area jobless rate at 3.9 percent, while the Heart of Georgia and River Valley regions had the highest at 5.9 percent.

The state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for April was 5 percent, a decrease from 5.1 percent in March. The rate was 5.4 percent in April of 2016.

Lockheed Martin is testing its first commercial C-130 aircraft.

The first Lockheed Martin LM-100J commercial freighter aircraft completed its initial flight Thursday.

“This first flight is a source of pride for Lockheed Martin and serves as a proof-point to the ongoing versatility of the Super Hercules aircraft,” said George Shultz, vice president and general manager, Air Mobility & Maritime Missions, and Marietta site general manager. “ … the LM 100J is exceeding all expectations in terms of performance and capabilities.”

This first flight route took the plane over north Georgia and Alabama.

The number of able-bodied welfare recipients in Georgia has been reduced, according to new state figures.

State figures released this week revealed that 11,779 people considered able-bodied without children were required to find work by April 1 to continue receiving food stamps, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Sixty-two percent were dropped after the deadline, whittling the number of recipients to 4,528.

State officials began enforcing the work mandate in 2016, and plan to expand work requirements to all 159 counties by 2019.

About 1.6 million Georgia residents use food stamps, which are funded with federal dollars managed by the state Department of Family and Children Services. The number of food stamp recipients deemed able-bodied and without children in Georgia has dropped from 111,000 to 89,500 in a year, a drop that state officials believe is attributed to a statewide review of the population.

The Hall County Board of Education plans to adopt a property tax millage rate higher than the rollback rate, but lower than the current rate.

The Muscogee County Board of Education voted against hiring Camelot Education to run special programs, and also voted against upgrading the AV systems in the Board Room.

25
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 25, 2017

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787.

With George Washington presiding, the Constitutional Convention formally convenes on this day in 1787. The convention faced a daunting task: the peaceful overthrow of the new American government as it had been defined by the Article of Confederation.

The process began with the proposal of James Madison’s Virginia Plan. Madison had dedicated the winter of 1787 to the study of confederacies throughout history and arrived in Philadelphia with a wealth of knowledge and an idea for a new American government. It featured a bicameral legislature, with representation in both houses apportioned to states based upon population; this was seen immediately as giving more power to large states, like Virginia. The two houses would in turn elect the executive and the judiciary and would possess veto power over the state legislatures.

William Patterson soon countered with a plan more attractive to the new nation’s smaller states. It too bore the imprint of America’s British experience. Under the New Jersey Plan, as it became known, each state would have a single vote in Congress as it had been under the Articles of Confederation, to even out power between large and small states.

Alexander Hamilton then put forward to the delegates a third plan, a perfect copy of the British Constitution including an upper house and legislature that would serve on good behavior.

Confronted by three counter-revolutionary options, the representatives of Connecticut finally came up with a workable compromise: a government with an upper house made up of equal numbers of delegates from each state and a lower house with proportional representation based upon population. This idea formed the basis of the new U.S. Constitution, which became the law of the land in 1789.

The Battle of New Hope Church was fought near Dallas, Georgia May 25-26, 1864 between Confederates under General Joseph E. Johnston and Federal troops under General William T. Sherman.

On May 25, 1907, an equine statue of John B. Gordon was unveiled on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia held on May 25, 1962 that the Georgia General Assembly was malapportioned and ordered the reapportionment of the State House and Senate.

Star Wars opened on May 25, 1977.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

My Ride to Vote, a SuperPAC, will sponsor free Uber rides to the polls in the Sixth Congressional District for the Special Runoff Election.

“Our mission is to make sure every citizen has an equal ability and right to participate in the political process,” said Ben Leiner, My Ride to Vote’s executive director.

Here’s how it works: 6th District voters can text “VOTEGA” to 38470 to get a promo code for a free ride to and from the polls. They then access the ride from the Uber app, which they must download if they don’t already have it.

The money to pay for the rides is coming from My Ride to Vote, which is raising money toward the project using the crowdsourcing site Crowdpac. Uber itself is not providing free rides or making any sort of political endorsement.

My Ride to Vote is also working with several voter advocacy groups to get the word out to voters about the service, including Voto Latino, the New Georgia Project and the left-leaning Georgia Engaged, which is a coalition of progressive organizations in the state.

“We offer rides to any voter who needs one, regardless of their political views,” Leiner said. “We’ve partnered with progressive organizations in the district simply because they are in contact with the voters who most need rides.”

Of course this will benefit Democrat Jon Ossoff, because most free riders are Democrats or progressives.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley has issued implementation guidelines for campus carry.

“I understand that many of you have strong feelings about this bill,” Wrigley wrote in the statement. “Yet, whether you opposed or supported the legislation, it will soon be state law, and I respectfully ask everyone to exercise patience, understanding and respect as we implement it. We all share the same goal of ensuring a safe campus environment. We should work together to implement the law as written and thoughtfully address any complications that may arise.”

Wrigley noted six points for how House Bill 280 should be implemented.

Wrigley said that while current law already allows license-holders to keep weapons secured in motor vehicles, beginning on July 1, House Bill 280 will allow anyone who is properly licensed in Georgia to carry a concealed handgun on property owned or leased by public colleges and universities, with some exceptions.

“It will not allow any other type of gun to be carried around campus; nor will it allow handguns to be carried openly,” said Wrigley, who noted that the pending law does not apply to institution-sponsored events or excursions away from campus on property not owned or leased by a University System institution.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) wants poultry processing speeds boosted to increase competitiveness with foreign producers.

Poultry producers in South America, Asia, Canada and Europe “are safely operating at line speeds that outpace the maximum speeds allowed in American facilities,” states a press release from the congressman’s office.

And those practices represent “a significant disadvantage to Northeast Georgia’s poultry industry and America’s domestic production.

Mike Giles, president of Gainesville-based Georgia Poultry Federation, said he supports the line change, pointing to the success of the pilot program.

“We have the data,” he said. “We know it can be done … in a way that produces safe food and protects worker safety.”

He also agreed with Collins that “restricting our plants to lower line speeds reduces our competitiveness with other countries.”

The Augusta Chronicle spoke to locals about proposed federal healthcare legislation.

U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., said the [Congressional Budget Office] score was proof his vote in support of it showed he was doing what his constituents wanted him to do.

“Some Georgians in the 12th District have only one choice when it comes to insurance providers – and often not the choice they want,” Allen said. “Enough is enough. I promised my constituents that I would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare and nearly a month ago, my colleagues and I passed the American Health Care Act. Today, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that this legislation will lower premiums and lower the deficit. I am proud to have supported the American Health Care Act and urge my colleagues in the Senate to act swiftly to end this Obamacare train wreck.”

Cindy Zeldin of Georgians for a Healthy Future, who estimated the previous version of the bill would cut coverage for more than a half-million people in the state, said the score showed this version was not an improvement.

“This legislation would crush consumers by destabilizing insurance markets, eliminating critical protections, and forcing too many Georgians into the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured,” she said. “Congress should go back to the drawing board and take time to craft responsible health care legislation that helps, not harms, consumers.”

President Trump‘s proposed federal budget could add $50 million to funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

Boosters had hoped for about $100 million in the fiscal 2018 budget to dredge the Savannah River, but the White House’s spending plan of $50 million, while a high-water mark for the federal government, falls well short.

And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dashed hopes by Georgia leaders late Wednesday when it announced no discretionary construction funds from fiscal 2017 would be added to this year’s appropriation. That decision could put the project at risk of further delays

“In a budget crafted with many spending reductions, it is extremely reassuring to see that this administration realizes how important this project is not only to our area, but to the entire nation,” said U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, whose 1st Congressional District includes the Savannah port.

“Now, I will work diligently with my colleagues to continue this momentum and fight for (the project) as budget discussions continue,” he added.

On Wednesday, Deal’s office said in a statement that it was “grateful” for the $50 million from Trump’s budget, calling it a “sign of good faith from the federal government.”

“Unfortunately, the Army Corps of Engineers chose not to prioritize this project in its discretionary funds,” the statement said. “It is our hope that the Corps will decide to devote future funding to (the Savannah port project) so that it will continue on its current timeline.

“While the governor is certainly thankful for President Trump’s and the Congress’ contributions to this effort, we look forward to the federal government following Georgia’s lead by fully funding its portion of this vital project,” Deal’s office said.

Chatham County Commission is considering a contribution to beach renourishment on Tybee Island.

Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning held a Q&A with shareholders and talk turned to Plant Vogtle.

“This spring Westinghouse…declared bankruptcy,” Fanning told shareholders. “We were well-prepared when that unfortunate event happened. We have been working on an agreement with Toshiba for the $3.7 billion.”

Fanning expects the project development to transition to Southern and a couple of partner contractors.

“We are 65 percent complete on site,” Fanning said, adding that the company is studying the efficiency, the schedule and the costs. “We believe we will make that evaluation probably in August. We’ll know the cost to complete somewhere in that time frame. The board will make a conclusion (about whether to continue or stop the work on Plant Vogtle).”

During the annual meeting, Fanning outlined what the company has done to move away from coal, increase its renewable energy offerings and invest in natural gas.

“Before I got here, 70 percent of our energy came from coal,” Fanning said. “Now it is below 30 percent.”

At the time, Southern was “zero on renewables,” Fanning added, “and now it’s just less than 10 percent of renewables. Renewables are growing.”

But the problem remains with “what do you do when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?” Fanning asked. The company is trying to bridge the intermittency of renewables with natural gas, fuel cells and ways to store renewable energy.

Elections 2018

State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Cobb) has announced she is running as a Democrat for Governor in 2018.

The Smyrna attorney’s campaign sets up what will likely be a divisive Democratic primary for the state’s top job in 2018. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams has also filed paperwork to run for governor and is expected to soon make a formal announcement.

Evans said in an interview she is putting “hope” – the scholarship and the concept – at the heart of her bid to replace a term-limited Nathan Deal. She has been one of the most forceful critics of the 2011 law he signed that slashed funding to the popular program.

“It gutted the program that was responsible for everything that’s good in my life,” Evans said. “The Stacey Evans born today doesn’t have the same opportunity that the Stacey born in 1978 had.”

“The party will be fine. Choices are a good thing,” she said. “My intention is to be positive and spread my message – a message that all Georgians want to hear. I’m not running against Stacey Abrams. I’m running for Georgia.”

“My story starts with the HOPE scholarship. It was the center of my success,” she said. “But it’s also about a much broader theme. It’s about having hope in your government. And it’s about having hope in yourself.”

Former Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-Senoia) said yesterday he will not run for Governor in 2018.

“After much prayer and consideration, Joan and I have decided that I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2018. While I am humbled by the kind words and encouragement that we have received from so many over the last few months, I think the best contribution that I can make to our state is outside of elected office. I’ve always thought of public service as a noble cause and it was truly an honor of a lifetime to represent so many hard working Georgians for so many years in both in the legislature and then later in congress. I look forward to doing all I can to support the Republican nominee for Governor and the entire Republican ticket in 2018.”

Ken Hodges, a former Dougherty County District Attorney and 2010 Democratic candidate for Attorney General, launched his campaign for the 2018 election to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

24
May

Lynn Westmoreland will not run for Governor in 2018

A statement from former Congressman Lynn Westmoreland:

“After much prayer and consideration, Joan and I have decided that I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2018. While I am humbled by the kind words and encouragement that we have received from so many over the last few months, I think the best contribution that I can make to our state is outside of elected office. I’ve always thought of public service as a noble cause and it was truly an honor of a lifetime to represent so many hard working Georgians for so many years in both in the legislature and then later in congress. I look forward to doing all I can to support the Republican nominee for Governor and the entire Republican ticket in 2018.”

 

24
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 24, 2017

John Hancock was elected President of the Second Continental Congress on May 24, 1775.

Then-Lt. Governor Marvin Griffin announced his candidacy for Governor on May 24, 1954.

John Smoltz tied the record for most strikeouts by a Braves pitcher, throwing 15 Ks against Montreal Expos on May 24, 1992.

Happy Birthday to Bob Dylan, who was born on this day in 1941.

One year ago today, the 2016 General Primary and Nonpartisan General Election was held in Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Nick Ayers is profiled in Politico as a Presidential advisor who might become a candidate for Governor of Georgia.

Ayers has been a mainstay in Republican politics for a decade, working as a former top hand at the Republican Governors Association and as a campaign consultant.

Ayers joined up with the Trump campaign after Trump won the primary. There, he served as then-vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s senior adviser and on the White House transition team.

Now, Ayers advises America First Policies, the Trump-affiliated nonprofit that promotes his agenda outside of the White House.

But there are major warning signs coming from suburban Atlanta, where anti-Trump backlash has prompted a serious tightening in the upcoming House special election runoff there. That could mean that moderate Georgia Republicans will be willing to turn against the president, especially if a more moderate Republican makes a strong showing in the run-up to the primary.

More money and more staffers are heading to the Sixth Congressional District Special Runoff Election between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC favored by House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Wednesday it will hire another 45 door-knockers to reach an additional 100,000 households. The group also stuck to its latest theme – linking Ossoff to San Francisco – with a new radio spot.

The group has doled out $6.6 million and already had a team of 90 field operatives on the ground in the district, which spans from east Cobb to north DeKalb. It also plans to keep its field office in the district open after the June 20 runoff – regardless of who wins – to prepare for the 2018 vote.

House Democrats upped their ante as well. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it will pour in another $2 million to back Ossoff, bringing the total investment to nearly $5 million.

Much of the money will be spent on TV, though about $150,000 will fund radio on stations geared to African-American listeners.

Handel and Ossoff will debate live on WSB-TV on June 6th at 8 PM.

It is the first debate announced between the two candidates in the hotly-contested June 20 runoff to represent Georgia’s 6th District, which spans from east Cobb to north DeKalb.

It’s unclear how many additional debates will be held, but Handel’s campaign has said it would agree to “several” others – though it has not confirmed which ones.

The Georgia State House Rural Development Committee discussed broadband service in their first meeting this week in Tifton.

“Tell me why I shouldn’t look at asking for y’all to come up with something that guarantees us 100 percent of that tax exemption you’re getting will be used in rural Georgia,” Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Albany, said to internet service providers on Tuesday.

Rynders was referring to a plan to give up state revenues from a sales tax on equipment used to build out broadband networks in underserved communities. Several rural lawmakers have questioned whether waiving the tax would actually lead to a boost in coverage in the areas that need it most.

The tax break is among the changes that service providers say would help spur expanded broadband services in areas where companies have been reluctant to invest limited resources because of a smaller customer base.

“I think it’s ironic that here on the rural development council we’re having a conversation about rural broadband access that’s livestreamed and most of rural Georgia won’t get to watch it because of limited access,” said Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas.

“This is a two-year task, so don’t think that we’re going to solve this in a day, in a month or in a year,” said Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, who is co-chairing the council.

Rob Hosack has been appointed as the new County Manager for Cobb County.

Rob Hosack officially became Cobb’s county manager Tuesday night after commissioners’ voted 5-0 to approve his contract.

Hosack had been serving as interim county manager since May 1 as his salary and employment terms had not been negotiated last month when commissioners tapped him to succeed longtime County Manager David Hankerson, who retired April 30.

“It’s not often you get a chance to come back and work with such a fantastic group of folks. I feel really blessed just to get this opportunity,” Hosack told the MDJ before Tuesday’s meeting, alluding to his nearly three decades of experience with the county.

Under the terms of the approved contract, Hosack will be paid $210,000 per year, retroactive to his May 1 start date, with the contract running until Dec. 31, 2019.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr argues to the Georgia Supreme Court that Northside Hospital should be required to comply with the Open Records Act.

Chris Carr, in office since late last year, said in a Monday court filing that the Georgia Open Records Act is broader in its applications than what Northside Hospital has argued.

Attorneys for the plaintiff have argued that Northside is subject to the Open Records Act because it was created by a public hospital authority, which is a government entity, and that it operates solely on the authority’s behalf.

“The Office of the Attorney General has long served as a champion of open government,’’ Carr wrote in his brief. “The Attorney General — as a champion of open government, and as the state’s chief legal officer — urges the Court to honor the plain text of the Georgia Open Records Act, which embodies the state’s “strong public policy . . .  in favor of open government.”

Northside has said it is not bound by the open records law. The hospital says that because it’s a private nonprofit corporation, not a public entity, the records law does not apply to it. An attorney for Northside, Randy Evans, told the state’s highest court last month that the system is a regional player, owning other hospitals in areas that are not governed by the hospital authority in Fulton County.

The Georgia Supreme Court asked for Carr’s opinion on the case after oral arguments were heard. A request by the court for an attorney general or an agency to weigh in on a case doesn’t happen a lot, but it’s not unheard of, said Jane Hansen, a spokeswoman for the court.

“And when it does happen, it usually involves a legal question posed to the agency responsible for enforcing the area of law in question,’’ Hansen said Tuesday.

“Project Meatball” is the moniker given to a project in which a private company is seeking for the Development Authority of Cobb County to assist in refinancing an airplane through issuance of a $50 million bond.

“We can’t release (the company’s name) right now,” Geter said. “They requested that we not release the information. … That’s why we’re calling it ‘Project Meatloaf.’”

The company’s name will be made public at the Development Authority’s next meeting, Geter said, when the board will vote on the final bond resolution. Also at that meeting, the results of a fiscal impact study of the proposal to be conducted by Georgia Tech will be presented.

The entertainment company wants to use most of the funds to refinance the jet, but also plans to spend some of the money to upgrade a hangar at Cobb County International Airport-McCollum Field, where the jet and two others could be housed, according to Andrew Egan, an attorney at the firm Kutak Rock who represented the company at Tuesday’s meeting.

The company is also seeking a tax abatement on the plane, meaning it would be added to the tax rolls gradually over 10 years, Geter said. In the first year, the company would only pay 10 percent of the local taxes owed on the plane; in year two, it would pay 20 percent and so on.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods told Gainesville Rotary Club members that students and teachers should prioritize being “life ready.”

“You hear a lot about being college and career ready, but, for myself, it is about being life ready,” Woods told Gainesville Rotary Club members this week. “I think that’s more inclusive for what we want for our children. For our young people who step into a new phase of life (after high school), we want them to be prepared to take on that next challenge.”

Woods pointed to the state’s Move On When Ready program that allows high school students in grades 9-12 to start taking college classes through technical colleges and schools in the University System of Georgia tuition free.

“That is a growing gem for our state,” he said. “Not only are students graduating with a high school diploma, but now I am meeting students who are graduating with an associate degree with two years of college that’s paid for. I can’t think of a better bargain when we talk about our kids getting ready for life.”

“I think all of our students should be exposed to band, music, dance, drama and visual arts,” he said. “Those are aspects of life which I think reflect a very healthy society. They add critical thinking pieces and open up higher-order thinking in the brains of students.”

Flowery Branch property owners could see higher property tax bills even with the millage rate unchanged.

“The increase is strictly due to the value of … property rising,” City Manager Bill Andrew said.

Because of higher property values, to pull in the same amount of revenue, the city would need to reduce the tax rate of 3.264 mills to 3.012 mills.

The city is proposing to keep the rate at 3.264 mills, with 1 mill equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value.

The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $175,000 is $17.64, city officials said.

SACS, the regional school accrediting agency, will begin an investigation of the Savannah-Chatham County public school system.

Mariama Jenkins, spokeswoman for AdvancEd — which oversees the SACS accreditation process — said they have received complaints of school board interference and will investigate after Levett takes over as superintendent of the Savannah-Chatham Public School System.

“We received complaints in response to allegations that Savannah-Chatham County Public School System is in violation of AdvancED Accreditation Standards for Quality School Systems. Based on the merits of those complaints we will be conducting an on-site review this fall,” Jenkins said.

SACS investigators can put districts on probation and revoke accreditation if they find that school boards are disrupting the educational effectiveness of a district. Loss of accreditation disqualifies graduates for HOPE scholarships and admission to most colleges and universities. SACS findings may also prompt the governor to suspend and replace board members. In 2013, Gov. Nathan Deal suspended and replaced six of nine DeKalb County School Board members. In 2016, Deal suspended and replaced the entire five-member Dooly County School Board.

Savannah is considering new rules to govern short term rentals.

Staff is considering limiting the number of vacation rentals that can operate in the city, as well as placing caps on how many can be located on a block or street because of concerns among the Savannah City Council members and residents that neighborhoods are being overrun with visitors. Property owners would also have to live onsite for new vacation rentals in more residential areas, and there could be a maximum number of days a property can be rented, under other proposed changes.

The changes are being developed by a group of stakeholders composed of residents, neighborhood leaders, rental owners and management companies that offered feedback to city staff Monday.

The hope is that discussions will lead to an ordinance that will help preserve communities as the number of vacation rentals grows, said Trudy Herod, who was representing the Victorian Neighborhood Association.

The owners of some rental companies have concerns about how their businesses will be affected by some of the proposed changes, such as the potential rental cap and owner-occupied requirement.

An RQ-4 Global Hawk became the first unmanned aircraft to land at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia.

The Georgia Ports Authority and Virginia Port Authority have been approved to move forward on an information sharing agreement designed to improve service.

The agreement, approved April 10, allows the Georgia Ports Authority and the Virginia Port Authority to begin discussing ways the two ports can share information in certain operational areas to position themselves as the U.S. East Coast’s leading gateways for containerized cargo.

A joint application to proceed with development of the East Coast Gateway Terminal Agreement was filed by the ports on Feb. 24. The application set into motion a 45-day review period – including a 12-day public comment period – by the Federal Maritime Commission. The approved agreement encourages the exchange of information and best practices in five areas of operational and supply chain efficiencies, safety, communications and customer service.

“Our industry is changing rapidly and, as a result, increased collaboration between ports is necessary to provide the service excellence our customers expect and deserve,” said Griff Lynch, GPA’s executive director. “It is clear that both Georgia and Virginia are East Coast gateway ports and this step further allows us to create jobs, economic development and improve safety. I would like to thank our respective employees and partners in the ILA as we move forward together.”

Columbus city employees may have to wait up to three additional weeks for paychecks as part of a move to a new payroll system.

The gap in the normal cycle — weekly for some and bi-weekly for others — is included in Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s recommended fiscal year 2018 budget as part of the electronic conversion to a new payroll system. City officials say the conversion is an effort to move all CCG employees to a common bi-weekly pay period, and the lag-time won’t affect the annual amounts employees are paid.

“In addition to getting employees all on a common pay period, the city is upgrading its budgeting financial system and it’s payroll and human resources system and moving to a cloud-based solution,” said City Human Resources Director Reather Hollowell, who notified city employees of the changes in an April 28 memo. “That’s really the initial impetus for this. We need to do it for a system conversion reason.”

Hollowell said all full-time employees will receive a pay bonus on Aug. 11 to help supplement their income during that period. The bonus will be equal to 1/4 of their weekly salary or 20 hours. The first bi-weekly paycheck after the conversion will be issued on Aug. 18. Current federal and state taxes would apply.

In her memo to employees, she wrote: “For employees who are paid every week, your pay period will be converted to a bi-weekly pay period with one week in arrears. For employees who are paid biweekly, you will continue to be paid bi-weekly with one week in arrears. For increased accuracy in your paychecks and to improve reporting of finances, all employees will be paid bi-weekly with a seven (7) day lag time or one week in arrears.

“The one-time bonus paycheck is being given to you in order to avoid any cash flow hardship during the transition,” she explained. “The bonus paycheck is in addition to your annual salary and will be subject to required federal and state taxes, but not other payroll deductions.”

23
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 23, 2017

Serial bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot to death near Sailes, Louisiana by a group of LA and Texas state police on May 23, 1934.

On May 23, 1954, the NAACP petitioned the Fulton County Board of Education to desegregate after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Virginia Caucus on May 23, 1976, gaining 24 delegates. On May 25, 1976, Carter won the Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky Primary Elections for President.

On May 23, 1990, the NFL announced that Atlanta would host the 1994 Super Bowl.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

 The State House Rural Development Committee met in Tifton yesterday to begin a series of meetings discussing rural issues.

“Your zip code or county of residence should not dictate your lot in life,” Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told members of the House Rural Development Council Monday at its kickoff meeting in Tifton, Ga. “Moving to the big city should not, cannot be the only way to get ahead.”

From the AJC’s coverage:

House leaders promised answers but said they won’t come quickly or easily.

“We are going to make a very concerted effort to deal with a lot of issues,” said state House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jay Powell, R-Camilla, the council’s co-chairman. “This is a two-year task.”

State House Speaker David Ralston said rural Georgia can’t afford to wait for the next election to find progress and solutions.

“Rural Georgia cannot wait on political seasons to come and go because they will always come and go,” the Blue Ridge Republican said at the council’s first meeting. “I refuse to allow any personal ambitions to get in the way of what we are doing.”

From the Albany Herald,

State representative Ed Rynders is one of 15 on the council.

He said the policy will help stimulate rural Georgia.

“We’ve got problems, where we got to find fixes that isn’t just about writing checks but about developing good policy to strengthen South Georgia,” said Rynders.

“If we’re going to make significant head way and revitalizing rural communities in South Georgia. We got to deal with the people issue, we got to provide leaders,” said Bridges.

More than 5500 new voters have registered in the Sixth Congressional District after a federal judge ordered the reopening of voter registration.

The total includes two types of voter: the newly registered, plus so-called “transfer” applications — already registered Georgia voters who moved into the district after March 20, when the registration period originally closed.

Several thousand additional applications are still pending, although all three counties that have areas that fall within the 6th District — Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton — have been working overtime to process them ahead of the hotly contested June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

The 6th District already boasts more than 521,000 registered voters. The impact of several thousand more is unclear, but it has the potential to swing a race that polling suggests is separated by only a few percentage points and within the margin of error for either candidate.

“It’s not beyond the realm of possibility,” GOP strategist Chip Lake said. But, he added, “we won’t know until the votes are counted and the dust is settled and we can have a definite record-by-record look at who voted.”

Vice President Mike Pence will campaign for Karen Handel on June 9th.

Vice President Mike Pence has plans to stump for Karen Handel’s campaign for Georgia’s 6th District on June 9, which would make him the latest high-profile Republican to trek to suburban Atlanta in the nationally watched race.

The details for Pence’s visit have yet to be finalized, according to people with knowledge of the plans, though it would come as little surprise. Handel has said she is an “all hands on deck” mode ahead of her June 20 runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

John Watson’s campaign for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party received an endorsement from the Trump campaign’s Georgia Chair.

Rayna Casey called Watson, a former aide to Sonny Perdue, the only contender in the four-candidate contest with a “proven record of success in winning elections.”

“Why take a chance with a likeable amateur when we have a professional willing to volunteer his strategic political expertise, including raising millions, to win our elections?” she wrote in a dispatch sent to GOP activists across the state.

Democracy for America, a progressive PAC, will email its supporters, urging them to support Stacey Abrams in 2018.

Democracy for America, a progressive PAC, is set to send an email to its members encouraging them to “pledge their support” to the Georgia Democrat when she announces she’s formally in the governor’s race.

The organization has more than 32,000 members in Georgia and about a million across the nation, and it’s the first significant group to pledge an endorsement in the still-evolving race for governor.

In a statement, DFA executive director Charles Chamberlain said Abrams is “undoubtedly the best candidate” to lead the state. He cited her opposition in the Legislature to new restrictions on abortions and a tax overhaul that critics saw as unfair to poor Georgians.

“Winning the governorship will require a progressive leader like Stacey who can turn out voters who are ready for a strong contrast to the Republican agenda,” said Chamberlain. “If Stacey Abrams enters the ring, she can count on us to be in her corner.”

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office hosted a class in cyber security and crimes for local law enforcement agencies.

Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods visited Gainesville to promote summer reading.

“We’re working with our public library systems to make sure that during the summer that not just students, but families, are enrolled together,” Woods told the Gainesville Rotary Club.

He acknowledged following the meeting that he was surprised to learn when he took office that the State Department of Education did not partner with library systems during the summer months to promote summer reading programs.

Woods said DOE is giving away 100,000 books to students across the state this summer, many of those through the public libraries. He said maintaining strong reading skills is a natural tie-in to other subject areas.

Paulding County Commissioners heard from department heads about the FY 2018 budget.

The Fulton County Board of Education tentatively approved a $1.5 billion dollar FY2018 budget unanimously.

Chattahoochee Circuit Juvenile Judges are asking Columbus City Council for a raise.

Georgia Ports Authority notched another monthly record, with more container moves than any prior April, as well as larger ships calling.

The GPA handled 333,006 20-foot containers, or TEUs, last month, which was up nearly 12 percent compared to April 2016. Total tonnage increased across all ports by 13 percent to 2.94 million tons, to mark the GPA’s busiest April ever.

“We feel pretty good about a record TEU count for the FY2017,” Griff Lynch, GPA’s executive director said on Monday.

Much of the recent growth, Lynch said, can be attributed to the Panama Canal expansion and a strong economy.

“… This is really organic growth. We’ve seen larger capacity vessels like the COSCO Development, more moves per vessel and it’s everything that we’ve talked about for years, so we’re happy to see it coming together,” he said.

The COSCO Development, which was the largest container ship to ever call on the U.S. East Coast, arrived May 11 at the GPA’s Garden City Terminal where crews completed 5,500 container moves in 30 hours.

“I think what we’ve shown is not only did we handle it, but we handled it better than anybody else ever did in the U.S.,” Lynch said.

Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education members voted to hire Ann Levett as the next Superintendent, but then started Festivus early with an Airing of Grievances.

Although Levett’s hire was approved pending finalization of the terms of her contract, the board split 5-4 along racial lines, and the four dissenting white board members made their dissatisfaction clear.

The four black board members — Dionne Hoskins, Irene Hines, Ruby Jones and Connie Hall — praised Levett for her extensive experience, educational background and dedication to the district. Levett is a Beach High graduate and worked as a principal in the 1980s. She left to work at districts and universities across the country, including the Comer School Development Program at Yale University School of Medicine. She was hired back four years ago to serve as chief academic officer.

Then one by one the remaining board members listed the reasons they opposed her. Board Member Julie Wade said Levett has surrounded herself with “yes people” and described her leadership style as “dangerous.” Michael Johnson said nearly 100 people in his West Chatham-area district said they don’t want to see her in the position. Shawn Kachmar said the district hasn’t made substantive academic progress.

Board President Jolene Byrne said she doesn’t trust Levett.

“Did you see the red come out those necks? They were bright red during all that talking. I haven’t seen anything like that in a long time,” said Rep. Mickey Stephens, D-Savannah, a former school board member who worked for Levett when she was principal at Savannah High. “That was total disrespect.”

Byrne, Johnson, Kachmar and Wade insisted that their criticisms weren’t personal and pledged to follow board policy and support Levett.

22
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 22, 2017

On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner with his cane. Brooks used the cane as the result of injury sustained in a previous duel, and found Sumner at his desk in the Senate Chamber. In the course of a two-day Senate speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have nullified the Missouri Compromise on the expansion of slavery, Sumner had criticized three legislators, including a cousin of Rep. Brooks, Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina.

On May 22, 1819, the steamship Savannah left the port of Savannah for Liverpool, England. After 29 days, it became the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. On May 22, 1944, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the voyage of the Savannah.

On May 22, 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the commencement address for Oglethorpe University at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

Florida archaeologists found remains thought to be from the first decade of European settlement in the United States.

According to FirstCoast, last October hurricane Matthew damaged a wine shop on St. Augustine’s plaza. After the hurricane, building owner David White decided to renovate the space. According to a press release from the city, the floor of the building was built on a joist system constructed in 1888, which left the soil below relatively intact. White offered the city archeologist Carl Hibert a chance to take a peek under the floor before the repairs began.

During the first week of digging in February, archeologists first discovered an intact adult skeleton and an adult skull nearby. According to Susan Parker at The St. Augustine Register, the bodies have been preliminarily identified as a relatively young white European woman and a man of African ancestry. Outside of the wine shop, they found a leg bone and another skull from two other graves. Last week, they discovered the remains of the children.

Pottery fragments found with the skeletons date the burials between 1572 and 1586, a few years after St. Augustine, known as America’s oldest city, was founded.

The History Blog reports that Hibert believes the burials may come from the floor of the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Remedios, the parish church built in St. Augustine soon after the colony was established by conquistador Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, 42 years before the Jamestown Colony was established by the English and 55 years before the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Karen Handel hosted an event this weekend with Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL) and Rep. Will Hurd, (R-TX).

“It was a great honor to have both Congressman Brian Mast and Congressman Will Hurd in Georgia today as we honored those who have served and are still serving in our nation’s military,” said Handel in a statement released by her campaign.

“These men understand the difference between talk and commitment, between intention and results. They were tested and they continued to persevere and it would be an honor to serve side by side with them in Congress.”

On Thursday, Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader will host “Gwinnett Connects,” a summit on community resources for fighting mental illness and opioid addiction.

Unterman and Schrader will host a Mental Health and Substance Abuse Summit at 6 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive, in Lawrenceville. The summit is being called Gwinnett Connects.

The goal of the summit is to foster a discussion between mental health stakeholders on community-based therapy services provided to those people who need it. A Facebook page created to promote the event says participants will “seek positive solutions, understanding, and … unite our community on mental health and substance abuse.”

Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald is expected to participate in the summit, along with other state and local leaders, and collaborative stakeholders.

In addition to mental health and the broader topic of substance abuse, the issues of opioid addiction and the way in which governmental and non-governmental agencies respond to these issues is expected to be discussed.

Newly-registered voters in the Sixth District are being relied on to keep Democratic hopes alive.

To [win, Ossoff will] likely need to find new voters and turn them out to the polls.

So when federal district court judge Timothy Batten extended the voter registration deadline from March 20 to May 21, he breathed new life into Ossoff’s campaign. Outside groups have rushed into the district to find eligible but unregistered voters—most of them young people and minorities—who are more likely to vote for Ossoff than his Republican opponent, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.

“It was a game-changer,” says Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist based in Atlanta. “The extension of the deadline presents a tremendous opportunity for the Ossoff campaign to expand the electorate and bring a lot of new registered voters to the polls.”

One of the groups that quickly ramped up their efforts in the district was the New Georgia Project, which was launched by state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams in 2013 to enroll minorities under the Affordable Care Act. It soon became apparent that many people of color in Georgia were not registered to vote. “We dug into the numbers,” says Nse Ufot, the executive director of the New Georgia Project, and it turned out there were more than 800,000 eligible but unregistered people of color in Georgia. Since 2014, she says, the group has registered nearly 210,000 minority voters in the state.

By overlaying voter registration information from the secretary of state’s office with the latest census data, the group concluded that there are nearly 27,000 unregistered African Americans in the 6th Congressional District. Voter registration rates in the 6th District—a historically white, wealthy, and educated suburb—are the highest in the state. But like the rest of Georgia, it’s becoming more ethnically and economically diverse. To reach these new residents, Ufot says, staff and volunteers are knocking on 1,200 to 1,400 doors a day and setting up voter registration booths at malls and grocery stores on the weekends. Several other groups are actively registering voters, as is the Ossoff campaign itself, which says it is registering about 100 people per day.

As organizers and the campaign are aware, registering new voters is the easy part. Making sure they get to the polls is harder. “It’s a combination of knocking on doors and helping people get voter IDs, and identifying people who need help getting rides to the polls,” says Ufot.

The Gainesville Times profiles a Latino member of the Hall County Republican Party.

From standing shoulder to shoulder with the faithful at the recent National Day of Prayer event in downtown Gainesville, and offering a bilingual prayer this week at the start of a Gainesville City Council meeting, Art Gallegos Jr. is quickly making his name known.

Gallegos’ unabashed pro-life convictions, strong family values, firm stand for law and order and unflinching support of President Donald Trump, have endeared him to local Republicans.

“They are just trying to reach out to everybody,” Gallegos said of the GOP. “When they were pursuing me, they said, ‘Hey, you know you can become a member…’ They were just pulling me in, pulling me in. I felt intrigued by it. This is the change (Republicans) need.”

Gallegos is making the most of the GOP’s welcome mat. In March, during the County Convention at party headquarters in Gainesville, he became the first Latino elected to the party’s executive board as assistant treasurer.

To help fan the cause of conservatism among Hispanics in the area, Gallegos and his young Puerto Rican friend, Angel Rosario, joined forces to form LCO — Latinos Conservative Organization.

Gallegos said that when a position opens up on the Gainesville City Council, he intends to run for public office.

“One thing that really sets me aside from a lot of leaders is my willingness to take on challenges, but also the passion that I have for people,” said Gallegos, who is active with Impact Ministries, a faith-based organization focused on the needs of the homeless and impoverished. “I don’t think I would be in ministry if I wouldn’t love people and serve people.”

Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) speaks to the Buckhead Business Lunch hosted by the Fulton County Republican Party at Maggiano’s in Buckhead.

Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) may see increasing competition for his seat.

The next potential battleground could be Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, which slices through much of Gwinnett County.

Washington analysts still consider the seat safely Republican, in part because it’s been held by the GOP for more than 20 years. Seismic demographic forces, though, are transforming the region.

Once one of the richest sources of Republican votes in the state, Gwinnett for the first time in 2016 no longer had a majority-white voting population. Hillary Clinton swept the county in November, flipping it blue for the first time in decades.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report now estimates the 7th District is one of the top Democratic-trending areas in the nation.

[Woodall]’s quick to acknowledge that the district’s design has helped insulate him from more electoral pressure.

“It’s gerrymandering that makes these things noncompetitive, right?” Woodall said in an interview. “Gwinnett County, if it was one district, it would be an incredibly competitive district.”

C.W. Matthews, the contractor who completed the I-85 bridge replacement, has donated $10,000 to a camp for children with special needs.

The funds are part of the company’s financial incentives received from the Georgia Department of Transportation for recently completing repairs to the Interstate 85 bridge in northeast Atlanta that collapsed on March 30.

The camp was founded by Athens-based Extra Special People, which has plans ranging from allowing kids in wheelchairs to sleep on the top bunk and individuals with autism to safely and intentionally wander.

For more information, visit www.camphooray.com.

The Marietta Daily Journal profiles the company.

C.W. Matthews has placed more tons of asphalt on Georgia roads than any other company and has developed a network of asphalt plants throughout the state.

Garcia said the company’s experience and engineering expertise helped them complete the construction of the I-85 bridge, which was destroyed in a fire in March, ahead of schedule.

“On the concrete that was utilized, there were some additives utilized to speed the process and gain strength, so instead of having to wait somewhere around 14 days, we were able to get strength within three days,” Garcia said.

He said they were called by the Georgia Department of Transportation within 30 minutes of the collapse. He believes C.W. Matthews was chosen because they were working on another project nearby and because they had done similar bridge work in the past.

“First and foremost, it’s working together with the DOT,” he said. “They were critical in getting the plans to us to begin within three days of the fire. Of course the weather was a big factor, we had great weather during the whole event but I would say mainly it was due to the employees and their hard work and sacrifice.”

Garcia said C.W. Matthews is currently working on 30 to 40 projects as far south as Dooly County west to Columbus, up I-75 to the Tennessee state line and up I-85 to the South Carolina line.

Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport  is showing strong growth, in part due to more flights from more carriers.

April numbers are up 11 percent over the same month last year, with nearly a quarter-million passengers using the airport in that month alone. Total passengers for 2017 through April number more than 730,000, an increase of 13 percent over the same period last year.

The number of available seats in April also grew by double digits.

Greg Kelly, airport executive director, attributed the continued passenger growth to the addition of flight options from seven airlines — Air Canada, Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Sun Country and United — offering nonstop service to a variety of major cities including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and, most recently, Toronto .

“In 2013, our enplanements were approximately 840,000. Last year, our enplanements were just under 1.1 million. This year we are on track to hit 1.2 million,” he said, adding that he attributes the growth to the collective efforts of an air service development partnership established in 2013 and consisting of the Savannah Airport Commission, the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, Visit Savannah, the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and the Savannah Economic Development Authority.

Locust Grove transportation blogger Clayton Carte is being credited for convincing the Henry County Commission with moving forward on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST).

“The state of Georgia is doing its part to help Henry County citizens, and we the citizens can do our part by enacting the transportation sales tax or the T-SPLOST,” said Carte.

The additional 1-percent sales tax could be used to complete major projects not funded by the state, Carte said. Based on current SPLOST revenues, Carte estimated that an additional $165 million can be generated from 2018 to 2023, if enacted in November by voters.

The T-SPLOST could also be used for sidewalks and intersection improvements.

“I believe with a T-SPLOST we could fund the projects in full and not be dependent on the prospect of federal funding to move these forward,” said Carte.

The BOC voted to move forward with staff gathering information to present to each of Henry County’s cities to support a T-SPLOST.

19
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 19, 2017

Button Gwinnett died on May 19, 1777 of a gunshot wound received in a duel with Lachlan McIntosh.

On May 19-20, 1791, George Washington spent his second and third days in Augusta, where he visited Richmond Academy. Washington left Georgia on May 21, 1791 to go to Columbia, South Carolina.

Georgia ratified the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which governs voting for President and Vice President on May 19, 1804.

The Battle of Spotsylvania ended on May 19, 1864. In Georgia, the Affair at Cassville occurred on May 19, 1864.

Blue jeans with copper rivets were patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis on May 20, 1873.

On May 20, 1916, more than 20,000 visited Stone Mountain for the dedication ceremony to mark the beginning of a Confederate memorial on the north face.

On May 19, 1933, the Atlanta City Council voted to allow beer sales in the city.

On May 21, 1936, FDR signed the Rural Electrification Act, attributing it to events that occurred when he visited Georgia in 1924.

The Rubik’s Cube is 43 years old today.

When, in the spring of 1974, Ernő Rubik, a Hungarian professor of design, invented his eponymous cube, he had no idea that it would become one of the world’s best-selling toys. Nor did he envision that it would impact fields as diverse as science, art, and design – the subject of “Beyond Rubik’s Cube”, an exhibit at the Liberty Science Center, in Jersey City, New Jersey, that opened 26 April to celebrate the puzzle’s 40th anniversary. And he certainly couldn’t have imagined that, one day, his puzzle would be at the center of a competitive sport in which the top performers can re-solve it in less time than it takes to read this sentence aloud.

The first Rubik’s Cube competitions began in the early 1980s and were largely a promotional affair that vanished with the collapse of the initial fad for the puzzle. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Internet allowed hobbyists around the world to find each other and run competitions of their own. More than 1,700 competitions have taken place in 66 countries since the 2004 founding of the World Cube Association, a governing body modeled after FIFA, the arbiter of international soccer. (Unlike, soccer, however, there is no qualification for any of these tourneys, including the World Championship: anyone can sign up.)

On May 19, 1977, “Smokey and the Bandit” was released.

On May 20, 1995, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed to automotive traffic.

The 400th episode of The Simpsons aired on May 20, 2007.

Herman Cain announced his candidacy for President of the United States on May 21, 2011.

President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College on May 19, 2013.

Three years ago today, Georgia voters went to the polls in the earliest Primary elections in modern history. In the Republican Primary, 605,355 ballots were cast in the Senate contest, while the Democratic Primary for Senate saw 328,710 ballots.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, and GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the re-opening of the collapsed section of I-85 in Atlanta yesterday.

“When this portion of I-85 collapsed on March 30, Georgia residents and motorists from around the Southeast were confronted by an unexpected and tremendous challenge,” said Deal. “The Georgia Department of Transportation, employees of C.W. Matthews and the people of Georgia responded remarkably by overcoming this challenge in just six short weeks. Georgia’s success is largely the result of strong partnerships that we enjoy, and the same can be said of this particular chapter in our unfolding story. In Georgia, we get things done, and this is a prime example of multiple levels of government, the private sector and the general public working together for the best possible result. I commend the efforts of everyone who worked to make the early reopening of I-85 possible.”

This high-traffic section of I-85 carries nearly 243,000 vehicles each day under normal circumstances. GDOT worked around the clock, totaling 54,000 hours of manpower, to rebuild and replace the 700-foot section of roadway quickly and safely, saving motorists an estimated $27 million by reopening the corridor ahead of original projections. In total, crews removed 13 million pounds of debris, and replaced 13 columns, 61 beams and four caps.

First Lady Sandra Deal will dedicate a garden at the Governor’s Mansion featuring camellias named after Georgia first ladies.

Two years ago, The Tifton Garden Club named a camellia Sandra Deal, after the state’s first lady. The camellia was provided by [camellia expert Mark] Crawford, according to a press release.

The first lady wanted other camellias named for previous first ladies planted in a separate garden at the mansion. Other camellias provided by Crawford have been named for Rosalynn Carter, Mary Perdue and Marie Barnes.

The camellia Betty Foy Sanders was named in 1965 by a grower in Statesboro and has been commercially available for several years.

Plans are to name a camellia for each of the other first ladies within the next year while Sandra Deal lives in the Governor’s Mansion.

The Democratic National Committee will hire 10 new field directors in the Sixth District Special Runoff Election.

The push will allow the state party to hire 10 new field organizers who will target voters that did not cast a ballot in the April 18 election. The field team will mainly aim at inclusivity to gain the support of minority groups, including outreach in multiple languages.

“The emerging coalition of African American, Latino, and AAPI voters in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District have been at the heart of the resistance and will be at the heart of Jon Ossoff’s victory in June,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

I probably wouldn’t complain if they sent Alyssa Milano back to the district.

From TheHill.com:

Minutes after the DNC announcement, the House Majority PAC — a super PAC tied to House Democratic leadership — announced that it would sink $700,000 in the district.

The majority of that will be in the form of a half-million dollar ad buy in partnership with the non-profit Patriot Majority. The remaining $200,000 will go toward turning out Democratic votes.

Special Runoff Election voters in Senate District 32 may have set a new state record for turnout.

The 32,673 people who voted in this week’s state Senate runoff may have just broken a turnout record for special legislative runoffs in Georgia.

No other similar legislative runoff has had more voters, according to state records going back to 1996.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education adopted a $2 billion, yes, billion with a “b,” dollar FY 2018 budget.

After the superintendent called it an “investment portfolio” for the students and community, the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Thursday adopted a $2 billion budget for the coming year.

“You do with what you have and try to prioritize those things and spend our money wisely,” CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said during a fourth meeting discussing the budget in public.

Thursday was the second public hearing where citizens could address the Board, but none did. Only one resident spoke at a similar meeting last week. The School Board and senior district staff previously had two other meetings beginning in March to outline the budget.

Overall, the budget is $2.092 billion, an increase of about $37 million or 1.8 percent from last year. Much of the increase is tied to an additional 1,972 students expected in August to raise the overall enrollment to more than 180,000, and raises for teachers and all other employees.

DeKalb County Police rescued more sex trafficking victims than any other agency in Georgia last year.

The report said the Internet Crimes Against Children/Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Unit worked 34 sex trafficking cases last year. They resulted in 15 victims rescued.

The unit also received a “Certificate of Excellence” from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in 2016.

The unit also investigated 45 cases of online child exploitation, executed 44 search warrants and made more than 30 arrests.

Hall County’s planning efforts revolve around population growth and the traffic issues that results.

Former Warner Robins city council member John Williams attended the most recent council meeting after being released from federal prison.

Muscogee County schools Assistant Superintendent Rebecca Braaten has resigned.

Ogeechee Riverkeeper Emily Markesteyn Kurilla is leaving her position after six years.

Dusty Nix of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer lauds U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for influencing President Trump’s position on NAFTA.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton with the public endorsement of every living former president, was one of candidate Donald Trump’s prime targets. Calling it “the worst trade deal ever,” the GOP nominee said scrapping NAFTA would be a top priority.

According to WSJ, the president planned on moving full speed ahead to show action on some of his top agenda items, including NAFTA, in the first 100 days of his administration. But Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian President Justin Trudeau urged him to reconsider, and Trump said he’d think about it. Then, according to the Times, “the former Georgia governor and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross persuaded the president to stay his decision to scrap NAFTA by showing him a map of places in the country that would be hard-hit in the event of its demise.”

Perdue has also announced that the USDA is creating a new position of undersecretary for international trade, about which he said in a video presentation for the department, “I want someone who wakes up every morning and asks the question, ‘Where can I sell more U.S. products today, and what are the barriers to trade that we can take down today?’”

The previous Georgia governor appears to have provided the Trump administration with some wise counsel on international trade, at least with regard to agricultural products. If only his successor, the incumbent Georgia governor, could do the same with regard to criminal justice reform.

18
May

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

George Washington departed Waynesboro, Georgia on May 18, 1791, headed to Augusta.

Abraham Lincoln was nominated for President by the Republican National Convention on May 18, 1860.

The United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Plessy v. Ferguson on May 18, 1896.

The U.S. Supreme Court rule[d] seven to one that a Louisiana law providing for “equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races” on its railroad cars is constitutional. The high court held that as long as equal accommodations were provided, segregation was not discrimination and thus did not deprive African Americans of equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Sixth District

The normally-liberal Politifact found that Democrats stepped over the line in 6th District attacks on Republican Karen Handel, rating an ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as “Mostly False.”

Daily Kos, which gave Jon Ossoff much of his early fundraising momentum, says that Republican Kay Kirkpatrick’s 14-point drubbing of Democrat Christine Triebsch is somehow a positive for Democrats and liberals in Georgia.

While you might think Republicans, who have good reason to fret about the June 20 runoff in the 6th, are breathing a sigh of relief, a closer look at the numbers in the 32nd should only worry them.

For starters, in the primary, which took place on the same day as the congressional primary, the five Republican candidates on the ballot combined for 60 percent of the vote while the three Democrats took 40 percent. (As with the race for the 6th, all candidates ran together on a single ballot, with the top two vote-getters advancing.) This means that the GOP saw its overall margin slip from 20 points to just 14, a drop of 6 points. Needless to say, a similar shift in the 6th District would be lights out for Republican Karen Handel.

While this is just one data point, it’s a key one, because it shows that Democrats can hope to hang onto the gains they made in areas like Georgia’s 32nd Senate District. If that same pattern holds true for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which is similar—but less Republican—turf, then that’ll be good news for Ossoff.

I’d offer two suggestions here. First, if you start a piece about elections by wrongly calling a Special Election a “Primary,” you’ve just proven you don’t know of which you speak. Second, it’s probably not correct to call the 6th District “less Republican,” as Tom Price routinely trounced opponents by 20 points or more. It may be less likely to support President Trump, but that doesn’t make it less Republican overall.

San Francisco officials have demanded that the Congressional Leadership Fund remove images of the iconic Bay City trolleys from an ad spoofing Jon Ossoff’s California campaign financing.

San Francisco’s cable cars have long been used in commercials, but there is one ad that the SFMTA wants to go away.

Muni spokesman Paul Rose said, “It looks like that cable car depiction was doctored or photo shopped and they imposed a picture of the Congressman.”

And real or put on with special effects, Muni says it violates their no political ad rule.

Rose said, “We don’t want to get involved in political campaigns.”

Once again proving they don’t know what they’re talking about, this time, by referring to Jon Ossoff as “the Congressman.”

State and Local Government Operations

CobbLINC employees represented by a transit union are threatening to strike over payroll problems.

Ken Howell, a local representative of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732, said some employees have had to wait an additional two weeks to receive their correct pay due to payroll issues with Cincinnati-based First Transit, which took over as CobbLinc’s operator in late March.

Other pay issues have involved employees being given their pay on debit cards, and when the cards were taken to their bank, they would not activate.

Howell says the operator has also not paid some employees correct amounts on their regular pay rates, overtime and “spread time,” the latter involving workdays that span more than 11.5 hours. A driver who drives four hours in the morning, four hours in the evening with four hours in between those shifts, for example, is supposed to be paid at half-time for the four hours between the driving periods.

“Since March, none of the checks have been correct,” Howell said, adding that while the number of affected employees has varied each pay period, 20 workers affected per period was a fair estimate.

Hall County homeowners are appealing their property tax assessments at a quicker rate than in previous years.

With a jump in property values expected this year, there are 100 more appeals of property tax assessments rolling into Hall County government than there were at this time in 2016.

The Hall County Tax Assessor’s Office has approximately 915 appeals already filed, according to Deputy Chief Appraiser Kelly McCormick.

“If the pace kept the same we’d be just over 2,000, in the 2,100 to 2,200 range, but these last two weeks will tell the story,” McCormick told the Hall County Board of Tax Assessors on Wednesday. “We’ll get more in the last week than we probably did in the entire rest of this process.”

Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms presented City Council with a proposed budget that foregoes tax hikes but dips into reserve funds to the tune of $2.7 million for FY 2018.

Toms defended using reserve fund money to balance the budget, which the city also did last year. Toms said he expects revenues to grow beyond the current projections and it may be that the city won’t need the reserve fund money, or at least not as much as the budget projects.

“The truth is in the past we’ve taken money from the reserve funds, put it in there to balance the budget and then it doesn’t get used,” he said. “It goes right back into the reserve fund.”

Augusta has fired its Equal Employment Opportunity officer, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

The Carroll County Sheriff’s Department is stretched thin by rising jail populations.

[T]he inmate population at the county jail has risen to 580, compared to around 450 last year. In the past four to five months, the jail staff has had several vacancies, Robinson said.

“We are continuing to look for outstanding qualified applicants to fill those vacancies and we are continuing to make progress on that,” said Robinson. “Being fully staffed will always be a plus but what we would like to do is hire personnel in the jail. We are looking for employees there to apply and go to peace officer school which will then allow us to bring them into the law enforcement section of the office.”

Carroll County is setting up a transit system, with some service available as soon as this July.

[County Commissioner Michelle] Morgan said the transit service will be a “demand service model” that will go door to door.

“So there will be no planned bus stop under the currently proposed service model,” she said. “Designated bus stops are done under urban transit grants, Section 5307, and that service would require a detailed transit study before being considered. Generally, though, the destination point for the transit service will be in or around the municipal areas where people work or receive various types of services. The committee will closely monitor the services to determine demand, assess gaps, and make recommendations to the Carroll County Board of Commissioners as needed. This will be a key component of the committee … to educate and inform the public of when it is up and running and how to reserve or request a ride.”

Richard McIntosh and Thomas Wallace are running for Temple City Council in a July 20 Special Election.

Both men, neither of whom have ever held political office, will face each other during a special election to be held on June 20, the earliest date available on the state’s election calendar. Although the winner will represent Ward 4, all registered voters in the city will be able to cast ballots. The registration deadline is May 22.

Early voting for the post will begin on June 5 and close on June 16, and will be held at the Carroll County Elections and Registration Office, 423 College St., Carrollton. The polling place for election day will be the Temple Senior Center, 280 Rome St.

the special election may well become a referendum on a controversial proposal to lower marijuana fines in the city.

McIntosh favors a three-strike punishment for those found possessing one ounce or less of marijuana, with first offenders having a chance to pay a $100 fine with no jail time. Third-time offenders would face a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. Wallace, however, opposes any change in the current law. Both men, however, say the council should focus on other matters.

Nevertheless, the marijuana issue has become one of the most contentious issues in city politics, roiling public controversy ever since an ordinance to reduce the penalty for possessing small amounts of the drug was first proposed in March by Ward 1 council member Penny Ransom.

When the matter came up to a vote on May 1, it failed on a tie vote among the four council members, with the Ward 4 post vacant after Simmons’ death. Ransom has vowed to introduce the matter again sometime after the election, so whoever fills the fifth council seat will be in a position to cast a deciding vote on the issue.

Neither McIntosh nor Wallace appeared willing to make the matter the defining issue of the race.

2018 Elections

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp continues to sound populist themes as he tours South Georgia.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said he and the President share a large commonality, namely they both are focused on fighting for the “everyday Georgians” who have felt largely forgotten by politicians in recent years.

“I think (Donald Trump) struck a chord with working Georgians and with small business people that are literally … just fed up with government. They are ready for somebody to fight for them. I’m going to … be leading that fight,” Kemp said Tuesday when he stopped by Valdosta as part of a whirlwind tour of southwest Georgia, the latest move in his campaign for governor.
He wants to give rural Georgia the best and fastest Internet.

“If we’re going to do this, we need to go big, we need to go bold. (Internet) is the next interstate, if you will. It’s the next rail line,” Kemp said.

“That will open a lot of doors to a lot of problems in rural Georgia, like getting better paying jobs (and) more opportunities where people’s children can actually stay in their local community versus having to leave to go find a good paying job.”

Like Trump, Kemp has taken a hard-line stance against illegal immigration.

But many farmers in Georgia have said they need undocumented workers to fill the jobs that no one else wants, and they’re worried massive deportation would cause a crash in the farming industry.

Kemp said he understands the needs of farmers and that his main frustration is not with field workers but rather the illegals flocking to sanctuary cities.

Part of running a modern Democratic campaign is rolling out your message in national progressive circles, building name-ID (and SEO value) in the leftosphere and courting progressive would be-kingmakers on sites like Daily Kos, which helped Jon Ossoff immensely in raising his $8.3 million dollar special election war chest.

So take the article at The Nation, which touts likely Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, notably at the expense of her fellow State House Democrat Stacey Evans.

It’s no accident that Barack Obama’s historic candidacy inspired record high turnout among African-American voters, propelling him into the White House by a near-landslide margin. In Georgia, Obama received 47 percent of the vote in 2008, a higher percentage than any Democratic presidential candidate since native son Jimmy Carter’s 1980 campaign (Bill Clinton won Georgia in 1992, but he received only 43.5 percent of the vote in a race where third-party candidate Ross Perot siphoned off significant Republican support).

Abrams is poised to ride the same sort of wave that carried Obama to victory. In the 241-year history of the United States, there has never been an African-American woman elected governor of a state—any state. As one of the highest-ranking Democrats in Georgia, Abrams represents the best opportunity to finally smash that glass ceiling. A majority of all voters in the Democratic primary will be black, making her the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. In a state that is rapidly approaching “majority-minority” status (whites currently comprise 53.9 percent of the population), the electoral calculus for Democrats is increasingly favorable.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution article reported that the rationale for getting behind Evans is that she could perform better with white voters. That approach, however, was tried—and failed—in the last midterm election. In 2014, the Democratic nominees for governor and senator had two of the most famous last names in Georgia politics—Carter and Nunn. Jimmy Carter’s grandson Jason was the gubernatorial standard-bearer, and former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn’s daughter Michelle Nunn ran for the Senate. They both lost by slightly more than 200,000 votes, receiving the standard 23 percent of the white vote that Democratic candidates in Georgia have received since 2008.

Why would lesser-known candidates from less-beloved families do better? There is simply no empirical evidence that a Georgia Democrat can do much better than 23 percent of the white vote. The greatest upside and clearest path to victory in that state lies in expanding the number of voters of color—the most Democratic voters of all.

It is rare when the stars line up as they have for Abrams’s campaign in Georgia, and the moment of truth will be whether the state and national Democratic power players can see the light. Will Emily’s List, the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic National Committee, and progressive activist groups embrace this dark-skinned black woman the way they have other progressive candidates? Will progressive donors step up and make massive, multimillion-dollar investments in inspiring and organizing the 1.3 million voters of color who have not previously been motivated to participate in Georgia elections?

17
May

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

Georgia and American History

Georgia’s trustees asked Britain to repeal the law against importing slaves to the colonies on May 17, 1749.

On May 17, 1769, George Washington introduced resolutions in the Virginia House of Burgesses, drafted by George Mason, criticizing Britain’s “taxation without representation” policies toward the colonies.

George Washington continued his tour of Georgia on May 17, 1791, staying overnight in Waynesboro; on May 18 he arrived in Augusta.

General Winfield Scott issued an order on the removal of Cherokee people from Georgia on May 17, 1838.

On May 17, 1864, Sherman and Johnston engaged in the Battle of Adairsville, Georgia.

The United States Supreme Court released its unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education on May 17, 1954, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson.

The historic decision, which brought an end to federal tolerance of racial segregation, specifically dealt with Linda Brown, a young African American girl who had been denied admission to her local elementary school in Topeka, Kansas, because of the color of her skin.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Dr. Kay Kirkpatrick (R) was elected to the Georgia State Senate from the 32d District with 56.98% of votes cast; Democrat Christine Triebsch took 43.02%.

Speaking to the MDJ before the final results were tallied, Kirkpatrick said her campaign’s biggest strength has been its organization.

“I think that I’ve run a very organized and positive campaign, and we’ve done all of the things that we’ve needed to do as far as grassroots efforts and getting name recognition and getting the word out,” she said. “I also think I’ve had a pretty positive message, and I’ve tried to stay on that positive message throughout.”

Also speaking before the final results, Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint said a Kirkpatrick win would not be unexpected because of District 32’s history of going red.

“That’s the kind of situation sort of like the 6th (Congressional District) where Democrats normally can’t compete in an election,” Swint said. “Also similar to the 6th, you have a special election where you have all the candidates on the same ballot, so I think that the nature of special election offered an opportunity for Democrats to be more competitive than normal.”

From Kristina Torres at the AJC:

Turnout hovered above 20 percent among eligible voters. The outcome appeared to confirm Kirkpatrick’s belief that dedicated GOP supporters would show up at the polls and Republicans will see it as an encouraging sign for the 6th District race.

“This is a fairly good indicator for Karen Handel that Cobb County’s Republican base is still energized to vote for Republicans,” said Brian Robinson, a Republican strategist and former aide to Gov. Nathan Deal, referring to his party’s congressional candidate who has been locked in a battle with Democrat Jon Ossoff. “As I said to Republican leaders in this state, I wasn’t concerned that Dr. Kirkpatrick wouldn’t win. I was concerned that an overly close showing would really throw gas on the fire for Ossoff. But this wasn’t competitive.”

Gov. Nathan Deal issued a new Executive Order updating the earlier order naming a committee to investigate allegations against DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann. From the AJC:

Deal’s new order addresses concerns raised by Mann’s attorney, who said last week the alleged city ordinance violations by Mann don’t amount to criminal charges. Deal had cited criminal charges as the justification for appointing an investigative committee.

The updated executive order broadens the investigative committee’s scope to include other purposes allowed by state law. Besides criminal charges, the committee will also look into alleged misconduct in office or alleged incapacity to perform the functions of office.

The committee must report its findings within 30 days and, based on its findings, Mann could be suspended for up to 90 days.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says the state’s first death from “Grey Death” overdose occurred in Brookhaven.

Gray death is a deadly combination of heroin and fentanyl, but it’s much more potent than either drug on its own.

The GBI crime lab tested the drugs found at the scene. They contained heroin, furanyl fentanyl and cocaine, which is one of the many formulations of gray death. GBI crime lab supervisor Deneen Kilcrease labeled the drug “gray death” earlier this year, and the name is now used worldwide.

“It’s the only gray drug that I’ve ever seen and when I heard what components were it it, I didn’t see how anyone can survive it,” she said.

GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said that although Camp’s death is the first confirmed from gray death, she believes there could be more.

“You believe there are many more where the lab work is not complete?”Winne asked.

“Absolutely. At the rate we’re going with these samples that come in, absolutely,” Miles said.

The United States Supreme Court released a schedule in the lawsuit between Georgia and Florida over waterflows.

The court agreed to Florida’s request to extend deadlines for responses to a report by the special master. The last deadline is Aug. 30, which is well after the court typically concludes its session in late June or early July. The court convenes, by statute, on Oct. 1.

The Georgia Public Service Commission approved a $200 million dollar solar project covering hundreds of acres near Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins.

The array would go online in 2019 and would generate 139 megawatts of electricity. Georgia Power will spend $200 million to build the facility.

He said the project will help Robins meet its goal for alternative energy. It is the company’s sixth solar facility connected to a military base, and McKenzie said it will be “by far” the largest. While it will provide power to the overall power grid, during times of grid outage it will be able to directly power the base, McKenzie said.

The project will be built on about 870 acres purchased to reduce housing in a zone north of the base considered at risk for aircraft crashes and excessive noise, referred to as the encroachment zone.

The Houston County school system says that students who take CBD oil for medical reasons cannot do so on school property due to a conflict between state and federal laws.

The oil, derived from the cannabis plant, wasn’t a problem for administrators at First Presbyterian Day School, a private school in Macon. But the rules are different at public schools, the Harrises learned during a recent transfer process to Houston County.

“I told them about it, you know, ‘He takes (the) oil for his seizures … , and that’s when they went into a panic, like, ‘We don’t know what to do about this,’” Curtis Harris said of Houston County school officials. “They called the head state nurse, and the head state nurse told him that he can’t even have it on campus.”

Beth McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the Houston County school district, said the school can’t administer — or even store — CJ’s medicine.

“By law, the only person whose name is on the registration card issued by the Department of Public Health for cannabis oil may store the oil,” she said in an emailed statement to The Telegraph. “In addition, per the Safe and Drug Free Schools federal law, the oil may not be

[State Rep. Allen] Peake said the Harrises aren’t alone.

“Stories like this are happening and will be happening all over our state as the medical cannabis law continues to expand,” he said, adding that protocols have been developed for how to administer other prescription drugs.

He added, “I’m looking for education administration officials to show some courage and do what’s in the best interest of students.”

The Gwinnett County Medical Examiner opened a new facility yesterday.

The new facility has 15,000 square feet of space and brings the morgue and medical examiner’s office together under one roof.

“I’ve heard that some have questioned why such a facility as this was needed,” [Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Carol] Terry said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Anybody who would ask that question obviously never visited the old morgue. Anyone who saw the old morgue would realize it was better suited to be a staging area for some movie from the ‘Saw’ franchise.…”

The new $5.7 million facility includes three state-of-the-art autopsy stations, as well as a lab where Terry’s staff can process and store evidence. It has a family conference room and outdoor respite area and office space for Terry, her medical and administrative staff and investigators.

The facility was built with funding from the 2014 SPLOST.

Floyd County will converts its old animal shelter into the county’s first morgue.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved the demolition of the 1996 Olympic tennis venue in Stone Mountain.

The goal is to tear down the center and then seek proposals for developers on how to redevelop the site, possibly in a mixed-use capacity. Commissioners said the center is in a severe state of disrepair, and would be far too costly to rebuild.

“It does two things,” Commissioner Lynette Howard said of the stadium. “It hinders people’s creativity, but most importantly, it’s a huge liability with people breaking in and going in and shooting videos of themselves doing all sorts of crazy things in there. Somebody is going to get hurt.”

Eventually, the stadium site — after the stadium is demolished and redevelopment proposals are received — will be turned over to private developers to build something on the land. That will put it back on the public tax rolls for the first time in decades, but it will also provide an opportunity for redevelopment in that area.

Gainesville City Board of Education approved a 2018 budget that keeps the millage rate unchanged and will raise taxes for some property owners whose valuations have increased.

The Whitfield County Board of Education proposed 2018 budget increases pay for teachers and uses money from reserves to make up the difference.

Columbia County Commissioners voted to restructure their Emergency Management Service Division.

Chatham Area Transit board members unanimously adopted a FY2018 budget and asked Chatham County Commissioners to raise property taxes by .15 mills to cover increases.

Carroll County’s Board of Education proposed a FY2018 budget that includes teacher raises and new school buses.

The Houston County Board of Education tentatively adopted a FY2018 budget with teacher pay raises.

“Each teacher will get a 2% increase on their state based portion of their salary, as well as their local salary supplement will be increased 2%,” [Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Business Operations Stephen] Thublin said.

Starting salary is just over $34,427 for a teacher, plus an additional $3,150 in local supplement that Houston provides. Those numbers increase with years of service.

“The majority of our teachers will earn a step increase because of their years of service,” Thublin said. “They will also get an increase for that step increase. For a lot of them, it will be a 3 ½% to 4 ½% increase.”

The Clarke County Board of Education will issue $60 milion dollars worth of bonds for school construction.

The school board, like many other school districts, borrows bond money in anticipation of collections of a special voter-approved 1 percent sales tax dedicated to construction and infrastructure projects. It pays the money out as sales tax collections come in from the state.

The tax is expected to yield at least $112 million over five years.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson proposed eliminating a city subsidy to Uptown Columbus, the organization redeveloping downtown Columbus.

2018 Elections

Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus is supporting Senator David Shafer for Lieutenant Governor in the 2018 election.

“For more than 15 years, David Shafer has served the people of Georgia in the Georgia State Senate,” Marcus said in a statement. “I am proud to endorse him for lieutenant governor because he understands the importance of job creation and growth to the success of our great state.”

The backing of Marcus, now a billionaire philanthropist whose name is well known in Georgia, is a big eye-catching win for Shafer. Colleagues had already said as recently as early April that several state lawmakers had been encouraging Shafer to run for the seat.

“Bernie Marcus is one of Georgia’s greatest business and civic leaders and one of America’s greatest job creators,” Shafer said in a statement. “I am proud to have his support. As lieutenant governor, I will be committed to doing everything in power to create and maintain a business environment that encourages job creation.”

Stacey Abrams, the Georgia State House Democratic Leader who is considering running for Governor in 2018, will deliver the keynote address to the Georgia Gwinnett College graduation on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Abrams was quoted in The New York Times calling Republicans “Fascists.”

16
May

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

Button Gwinnett v Lachlan McIntosh

Button Gwinnett and Lachlan McIntosh met outside Savannah on May 16, 1777 and fought a duel; Gwinnett was mortally wounded.

Gwinnett returned to Georgia immediately after signing the [Declaration of Independence] to find city Whig Lachlan McIntosh commanding Georgia’s nascent military efforts. Determined to take control of Georgia politics, Gwinnett became speaker of the legislature, guided the Georgia Constitution of 1777 into existence and took over as governor when Archibald Bulloch died suddenly in office.

Gwinnett then wanted to lead an expedition to secure Georgia’s border with Florida. A dispute between McIntosh and Gwinnett over who would command the effort ultimately led to their duel and Gwinnett’s death.

A Constitutional Convention met on May 16, 1795 in the capital of Louisville to amend the Georgia Constitution of 1789

The United States Senate voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson of 11 Articles of Impeachment passed by the House of Representatives on May 16, 1868.

The North Georgia Electric Company was incorporated on May 16, 1901 to build a hydroelectric dam on the Chattahoochee River near Gainesville; in 1916, it would be bought by the company that today is known as Georgia Power.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Senate District 32 voters go to the polls today in a Special Runoff Election.

Democrat Christine Triebsch faces off against Republican Kay Kirkpatrick in the race to replace former state Sen. Judson Hill.

The district covers much of east Cobb County and parts of north Fulton County.

“The runoff in state Senate District 32 is tomorrow, not June 20, 2017 when Karen Handel faces Jon Ossoff in the highly publicized 6th Congressional District runoff,” Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a statement Monday. “Although the dates can be confusing, I am encouraging all eligible voters to go to the polls and ensure their voice is heard in both of these contests.”

Voters are encouraged to check the Secretary of State’s ‘My Voter Page’ at the Secretary of State’s official website to determine if they are eligible to vote in Tuesday’s runoff. At that page, voters may check their registration status, view a sample ballot and find their polling location. On Tuesday, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

President Donald Trump met Blaiklyn Freeman, daughter of a Bibb County Sheriff’s Deputy who was killed in a crash while on duty.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan rallied with Karen Handel yesterday in the Sixth District.

“There are be-ers and there are do-ers,” he said, comparing District 6 U.S. House of Representatives candidates Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, and Karen Handel, a Republican, respectively. “The be-er is someone who wants to be somebody. It’s someone who wants to parachute into a Congressional district he doesn’t even live in, to try and fool you to think he thinks like you and shares your values. The do-er is someone who actually lives, eats, sleeps, breathes the principles you share, somebody who believes in specific principles and then goes and affects those principles. Someone who actually does what she says and is from where she says she’s from, Karen Handel.”

“This is going to be a dogfight. … This is going to be the most expensive Congressional election in history,” Sandy Springs Mayor Paul said. “But it’s not going to come down to money. It’s going to come down to the crew that works the hardest.”

Said Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, “Out in California, they say it’s a referendum. They’re right. It’s a referendum of who represents the Sixth District of Georgia and has positive values and does not represent California or Manhattan.”

“I don’t want to wake up on June 21 and have a new Congressman named Peloisioff,” he said, referring to Ossoff’s support from U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes about the issue of health care reform in the 6th District election.

Handel hopes to fire up the Republican base by embracing the House GOP’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and her side-by-side appearance with Ryan — the proposal’s chief architect — further highlighted her support for the plan.

Ossoff has called the measure a dangerous partisan attempt to roll back insurance protections.

“I’m speaking my mind on an issue that affects thousands of families here in Georgia,” [Ossoff] said in a recent interview. “Folks who are elected have an obligation to put politics aside and do what’s right for the community here. Throwing folks off their health insurance, denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions — it’s just wrong.”

Several of Handel’s supporters at the rally on Monday said they were just as energized by her promise to vote for legislation that would roll back the Affordable Care Act.

“Obamacare is failing, and I can tell you it’s really hindered our ability to provide health care,” said Marci McCarthy, the Brookhaven owner of a marketing firm. “The new House plan still needs refining. It needs work. But I have faith that when the Senate gets their hands on it and finesses it, we are going to have great health care.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville) convened the state Senate Health Care Reform Task Force yesterday to discuss federal changes.

Cagle hopes his task force can help Georgia benefit from, or even shape, whatever Congress eventually passes. And on the front lines, U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue are already outlining their positions. They spoke to the AJC last week.

The takeaways: All three are Republican, and all three say they’re for repealing and replacing Obamacare. But all say the U.S. House version needs work. And all acknowledge it could be months before any of that actually happens.

Among their top priorities is making sure that the 19 states that didn’t expand Medicaid under Obamacare, including Georgia, don’t get financially disadvantaged under such legislation.

“I want to get something that works for the people who need it and that we maintain the independence for the states in terms of taking care of their own people,” Perdue said.

The House GOP’s bill would fundamentally change the way the federal government pays states for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. The federal government has for years paid states a certain percentage of all of their Medicaid costs. The measure passed by the House instead would allow states to opt for “block grants,” which would pay states lump sums based on a predetermined formula.

Isakson and Perdue say they worry that a state with a growing population such as Georgia could end up worse off: locked into an outdated formula that could limit the stream of federal dollars.

United States District Court Judge Amy Totenberg rejected a motion by Gwinnett County to dismiss a voting rights lawsuit that alleges County Commission and Board of Education districts illegally disciminate against minorities.

The Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and several residents filed the suit last August in an effort to have the federal court force the redrawing of the county commission and school board districts to make it easier for minority candidates to be elected.

Although Totenberg rejected the request to dismiss the case, she did grant county officials more time to respond to an amended complaint filed against them in late April.

The county commission and school board are accused of having districts which are drawn to allegedly disenfranchise voters in minority groups, such as African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, by making it harder for members of those groups to get elected to public office

“Under a fairly-drawn single-member districting plan, blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans together, blacks and Latinos together or blacks and Asian-Americans together can comprise a majority of the citizen voting age population and have the opportunity to elect their candidates choice in two of five districts, which are reasonably compact and regular in shape, for both the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education,” the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint.

“One such district can be created among four single-member districts for the Board of Commissioners.”

State Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) spoke about a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST) on the November ballot in Athens-Clarke County.

Boosting Athens-Clarke County’s sales tax rate to 8 percent, as would happen if a November referendum on a 1 percent sales tax for transportation-related projects is approved, would build on the community’s reputation of being unfriendly toward business, and would disproportionately affect the county’s poorest residents, state Sen. Bill Cowsert told Athens-Clarke County commissioners on Thursday.

Cowsert, who attended a non-voting commission work session with the other Republican members of the local delegation to the state legislature, urged the commissioners — who will be making decisions in the coming month regarding which proposed projects would be funded with the tax — to “make sure those projects are important enough” to earn a share of the $104.5 million the tax is projected to raise during its five-year life. Collection of the additional 1 percent levy would begin in April 2018 if the tax is approved in a Nov. 7 countywide vote.

“I don’t see businesses coming here,” Cowsert went on to tell commissioners, noting that if the local sales tax rate is higher than in surrounding counties, that would serve as a disincentive for businesses to locate in Athens-Clarke County.

“Let’s make sure there’s enough of a need” for the proposed transportation projects, Cowsert urged commissioners.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) will hold a telephone town hall Thursday at 7:05 PM.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College will expand its Whitfield Murray Campus with nearly $19 million in state funding.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed off on the state of Georgia’s fiscal year 2018 budget. Included in the legislation is $18.7 million to build a 75,000-square-foot facility on the GNTC campus serving Whitfield and Murray counties. This will be the first new construction on the Whitfield Murray Campus of GNTC since the establishment of the campus in 2010.

The addition of the new building was made possible in large part by the transfer of approximately 23 acres of land to the Technical College System of Georgia by the Whitfield County school board. The donation of land will allow the college to expand classroom space adjacent to the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy and enhance opportunities for high school and college students to develop the occupational skills and knowledge needed by area business and industry. GNTC has received tremendous support from Gov. Deal, state elected officials, local elected officials, the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, the Whitfield County school system, area businesses, local industry and the entire community since the opening of the campus.

The Marietta City Board of Education may tentatively approve the FY 2018 budget today.

 The Marietta school board could tentatively approve Superintendent Grant Rivera’s fiscal 2018 budget tonight, which includes an average salary increase of 2.5 percent for all employees.

Salary increases for all employees could range from 1 to 6 percent, depending on years of experience and education degrees.

There will be no tax increases to fund the raises and the budget, according to Erin Franklin, the district’s finance director.

Hall County property owners could see lower tax rates from the Board of Education.

Superintendent Will Schofield presented an update of work on the 2018 fiscal year budget at the  meeting at Chestatee High School.

“We’re pleased with this budget,” Schofield told the board. “This budget reflects exactly what you’ve told our employees, and that is when times got better you’d put as much money as you possibly could into their paychecks. And it also fulfills a promise you’ve told our taxpayers, and that is when we have the opportunity and the tide started to turn upward, we’d do all we could to lower millage rates.”

The proposal presented Monday would lower the millage rate, which determines how much people pay in property taxes for schools. Schofield presented a plan to lower the tax rate from 18.8 mills to 18.5 mills in the next fiscal year that begins July 1.

Property tax exemptions are a challenge to budgeting in Hall County, according to Superintendent Schofield.

“One of the challenges of our budget, and it continues to be a challenge year after year, is we have now reached the place in Hall County where $1.2-billion of our local digest is exempt from school tax,” Schofield said.

“That’s 20-percent or more of our digest that is exempt from school tax,” he added.

Among those exempt from the school tax portion on their annual property tax bill are property owners 70 years and older.

“We really need to have a policy debate at the state level about how we’re going to raise funds for schools if, in fact, we’re going to have school districts that have twenty and thirty and forty percent of their digest that is exempt from school taxes.”

Augusta City Commissioners will vote on a proposal to use inmate labor for demolition work.

Commissioner Sammie Sias called for Augusta to return to using state prisoners housed at Richmond County Correctional Institute for demolition projects to save money. Some 100 city-owned houses slated for demolition in Hyde Park were a suitable starting point, with contractors continuing to handle asbestos abatement, City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson said.

Sias hasn’t returned messages seeking comment but signed up to address the commission about “administration access” after other commissioners accused him of working in isolation with Jackson and Commissioner Ben Hasan on the project.

Dawsonville City Council voted 3-1 to remove Mayor James Grogan from office after allegations of misuse of funds and decisions in violation of the city charter.

Georgia Democrats

Georgia State House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams (Atlanta) is among the group of “Young Black Democrats, Eager to Lead From the Left,” profiled by The New York Times.

In Georgia, a Democratic lawmaker planning a run for governor promises to confront President Trump and what she calls the “fascists” surrounding him.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic leader in the Georgia House of Representatives and a likely candidate for governor, said Democrats would win by confronting a president who was viewed with fear and hostility by the party’s base.

Rather than pivoting to the center, Ms. Abrams, 43, said Democrats should redouble their focus on registering and energizing blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, as well as young and low-income voters, who often decline to participate in politics.

“There is a hunger for representation,” Ms. Abrams said in an interview. “There is a desire to make certain the state starts to serve everyone.”

At a “Macon Resists” town hall event in central Georgia last month, Ms. Abrams appealed to an auditorium of anxious Democrats with just that approach. The state, she said, is speeding toward a political crossroads, with Republicans “terrified of the evolving nature of our state.”

“We can either move forward or we can let the president, and those fascists that surround him, pull us backwards,” she said. “I plan to go forward.”

“A Democrat wins an election in Georgia by speaking truth to power,” she said.

Lt Gov. Casey Cagle voiced his disagreement on Facebook:

Casey v Stacey

The Democratic Party of Georgia is working to charter a local party in Paulding County.

The Georgia Democratic Party is helping some Paulding County Democrats formally reform the local political organization.

The group has scheduled a Saturday, April 29, “formative meeting” to “officially start the process” of formally chartering the local party, said Lukas Newborn, who helped organize the event.

The Paulding County Democratic Committee currently has an “in-formation” status, said Georgia Democratic Party spokesperson Michael Smith.

No Democrat has won a local or state seat from a district wholly representing Paulding since the early 1990s. The county’s voters are primarily Republican and typically vote around 70 percent for the GOP candidate for president.

Some Democrats think that Trump’s shortfall in the General election in some areas could lead to Dem gains in 2018.

There’s a small election Tuesday in Atlanta’s suburbs, but it could be a sign of big political changes coming to the Georgia Statehouse. State Senate District 32 in east Cobb County sits inside a political district getting a lot more attention, and money right now: Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

But, the less discussed Senate District 32 race is the first in a slew of contests, most in the 2018 midterms, that will likely test the grip of Georgia Republicans on Atlanta’s northern suburbs.

Compared to Mitt Romney, Donald Trump won 20 fewer percentage points in Senate District 32, according to analysis from the liberal blog Daily Kos.

The data show similar swings for at least a dozen legislative seats, most in the North Atlanta suburbs, that could mean tough reelection battles for Georgia Republicans. In a few of those seats, longtime incumbents plan to run for statewide office.

Take for example, Republican David Shafer of Gwinnett, the second ranking member of the Georgia Senate. In 2012, Romney pulled in 57 percent of the vote in Shafer’s District 48, but in 2016 Trump won only 45 percent. Shafer has filed paperwork to run for lieutenant governor, a statewide office.

The Democratic National Committee is targeted by a lawsuit that alleges the organization underpaid field workers.

Dozens of field workers have filed a class action lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee, claiming the party that is pushing employers to pay a $15 minimum wage and more in overtime failed to pay overtime and minimum wages to its own employees.

Justin Swidler, the attorney representing the field workers, argued the Democratic Party failed to pay workers a minimum wage and denied them overtime compensation. Swidler “says the lawsuit seeks ‘fair pay for fair work,’ and holding the Democratic Party to the very ideals that it embraces,” according to CBS Philly.

The 2016 Democratic platform pushed for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, a nearly $8 increase from the current minimum, and promised to defend an Obama-era regulation forcing employers to pay a higher rate to employees for working more than 40 hours.