Category: Georgia Politics


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 28, 2016

On June 28, 1742, Spanish forces based in Florida invaded Georgia.

On June 28, 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s second draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On June 28, 1887, John Pemberton patented Coca-Cola Syrup and Extract.

Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia on June 28, 1914, sparking the First World War.

The first production Corvette was assembled on June 28, 1953 in Flint, Michigan.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Columbus attorney Mike Garner has abandoned his effort to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot for Muscogee Superior Court Clerk, instead running as a write-in candidate.

The law states that candidates who want to run as independents must gather and submit petitions signed by enough voters to equal 5 percent of those registered during the last election. In this case, that would be 5,226 signatures, and they would have to be submitted by July 12.

“Mike Garner therefore has abandoned his effort to obtain signatures and will instead mount a vigorous campaign to tine the election for clerk by write-in vote,” Garner’s release states.

Hardman defeated incumbent Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce in the May 24 Democratic Party primary, 6,699 to 4,480.

Sheriff John Darr, … will face Democratic nominee Donna Tompkins and Republican nominee Mark LaJoye in the November election. Darr will run as an independent, but as an incumbent, he does not have to gather any signatures to do so.

Holly Springs City Council member Dee Phillips is facing a recall petition that seeks to remove her from office.

A group of residents aiming to have a longtime city council member recalled have received enough signatures to begin the petition process, the elections office confirmed Friday.

The Holly Springs residents, led by Chris Heeter, are looking to have Dee Phillips removed from her seat on the Holly Springs City Council.

Phillips has been councilwoman for more than 16 years. She was initially elected in 1999, and took office at the beginning of 2000.

Heeter will need to obtain the signatures of 30 percent of the city’s registered voters. That means the group will need 1,438 signatures, [Elections Director Kim] Stancil said.

Another Columbus attorney, Walker Garrett, won his election on May 24th and was interviewed last week by the Ledger-Enquirer.

Q: There are other young people who have been trying to win elections here in Columbus that have not been as successful. What’s your advice to them?

A: Keep running. Mine was an open seat. I don’t think you can use that as the benchmark, because my opponent was also young, and we were both political newcomers. There’s no telling what would have happened if I had run against an incumbent.

I did work really hard. You’ve got to put in the man hours. You have to go door-to-door. It’s an unfortunate reality that raising money is integral to any campaign these days. Advertising is necessary. You’ve got to build up that network. You don’t want to be discouraged from running, but you also want to make sure you’re ready and that you have the network in place, because you’re going to have to have volunteers. Your employers have to be on board….

Q: You were in a unique situation where you actually won two elections in one night. That’s very interesting. What was that like?

A: It made counting the ballots really hard when you’re going up and counting the ticker tape and you’re on there twice, and other people are behind you. I think somebody from the Ledger was actually over there. They were trying to count. I was trying to count two different elections. … It was scary, though, because I was worried maybe people would get confused and they’ll think I shouldn’t vote for him but once.

Fortunately, in every forum, whenever I went door-to-door, and when I did my mailers, I was very clear: “I’m going to be on the ballot twice, check twice,” and I really got that out to the voters.

Muscogee County School Board adopted a $274 million dollar FY2017 budget by a 7-2 vote with Frank Myers and John Thomas voting against it.

The Cherokee County Commission is considering a FY2017 budget that would include a property tax increase.

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to advertise a millage rate of 5.825 to support its general fund for the upcoming year, which would mean the majority of Cherokee homeowners will likely see property taxes increase.

However, commissioners could end up voting on a lower rate, but all plans under consideration include some tax increase for property owners.

While an official rate has not been set, the county is required to advertise its proposed rate and will hold three public hearings before approving the hike next month.

Those meetings are scheduled for July 5, July 19 and July 21. County officials say the public is typically interested in those meetings and that they generally see large turnouts.

A study by Georgia State found that charter schools approved by the State Charter Schools Commission are performing about on par with traditionally-structured schools.

The City of Atlanta has submitted proposals for addressing 60 issues with the streetcar that were raised by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The Sugarloaf Community Improvement District has been formed in Gwinnett County.

A certificate of need has been approved for a new mental hospital in Newnan.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes about a potential expansion of Medicaid in the 2017 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Powerful business interests have endorsed an expansion, setting up another potential fight between the Republican base and the corporate forces that led to the downfall of “religious liberty” legislation this year. Politicians won’t have an election looming in 2017. And it will come as lawmakers prepare for a brutal debate over whether to extend a tax that plugs a gaping hole in the state Medicaid system.

“I just think lawmakers are weary of searching around and digging in the trenches for other money. We’ve got this pot of money here that’s ready to be tapped,” said state Sen. Renee Unterman, who once opposed expansion but has changed her mind. “And if we don’t, how many other issues are going by the wayside? To me, that’s the shame.”

Unterman, the chairwoman of the Senate’s health committee, is working with a handful of other Republicans to gather steam behind the initiative next year. Some are new converts to the cause, frustrated with the financial struggles of rural hospitals and trauma centers. Others bucked the party line years ago to endorse an expansion.

“I just think lawmakers are weary of searching around and digging in the trenches for other money. We’ve got this pot of money here that’s ready to be tapped,” said state Sen. Renee Unterman, who once opposed expansion but has changed her mind. “And if we don’t, how many other issues are going by the wayside? To me, that’s the shame.”

Unterman, the chairwoman of the Senate’s health committee, is working with a handful of other Republicans to gather steam behind the initiative next year. Some are new converts to the cause, frustrated with the financial struggles of rural hospitals and trauma centers. Others bucked the party line years ago to endorse an expansion.

State Rep. David Stover, R-Newnan, echoed a familiar complaint that the White House’s promise to subsidize the program can’t be depended upon in the long term. The law requires the federal government to cover 100 percent of the cost for three years and then gradually scale back its support to a permanent level of 90 percent.

“The gridlock in D.C. is the exact reason that we should not expand Medicaid in Georgia,” he said, adding: “Who will have to pick up the slack for the cuts once Medicaid has been expanded? Quite simply, the states will.”

“I still have the same concerns. And you won’t see anyone advocating a wholesale Medicaid expansion,” Deal said in an interview. “But I do think there will be variations that will be discussed, and I look forward to talking to members of the General Assembly.”

“There are major challenges any time you look to alter a joint federal and state program, and I’m always reluctant when we as a state become more dependent on the federal government with all the uncertainty in Washington,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said. “We are constantly looking at ways to improve our health care system, and Senator Unterman is very knowledgeable in this space and always willing to engage in difficult discussions.”

Heads-up: this will likely be the biggest issue of 2017 in the Georgia legislature, whether it gets the most headlines and airtime or not.

Is the Peach State becoming Gangland?

Earlier this month, Bill Torpy of the AJC did another drive-by column, about the changing appearance of gangs in DeKalb County.

Gangs had invaded DeKalb, we surmised [in spring 2014].

District Attorney Robert James agreed. Police were more skeptical. “We have not seen a big influx of people coming from out of state recruiting,” the gang crime unit commander told me. “We’re not seeing an escalation of violence with gangs.”

Then last summer saw a 10-week period in DeKalb that DA James called a “reign of terror.”

About five years ago, James noticed more violent gang-related crime, something that can eat away the soul of a community.

“You saw an influx of the national gangs and everything changed,” he said. “It was like a hostile takeover” of the home-grown hoodlums. A cop as a gang member is just the cherry on the top.

The question is no longer whether big-time gangs are here.

“That’s a closed issue,” James said. “It’s not up for debate.”

The Ledger-Enquirer has written an editorial about the gang situation in Columbus.

Gang violence is becoming less organized, more diffuse, less bound by any semblance of moral limits even by the perverse standards of criminal “codes.”

In a sense, and on a more localized scale, it seems to present the same kinds of challenges as a nation fighting terror cells instead of armies or other organized and identifiable threats. The enemy is as deadly or deadlier, but harder to spot.

Of the dozen homicides recorded in Columbus as of this writing, most seem to have at least some connection to gang activity. Mayor and public safety chief Teresa Tomlinson said that while these killings aren’t officially designated as gang related, some of the people involved “self-identify themselves as being associated with a gang.”

Sgt. Roderick Graham, who heads the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Columbus PD, said the gang structure is “evolving and changing … no longer do you see 15 kids walking through the neighborhood with the same colors on like you did in the ’80s.”

The Ledger-Enquirer editorial follows a story in the same paper published last week.

As details unfold concerning recent Columbus shootings, a new picture is emerging of the city’s gang culture.

Even a former gang member says there’s a difference in the way young criminals operate these days, and he’s surprised at how cold-blooded some of the crimes have been.

“In my days of being in a gang, you were a gang, you represented your set, your beliefs and what you were about,” said Xavier McCaskey, a certified mental health therapist who ran with gangs as a youth living in the Baker Village public housing complex. “Now, it’s like people are in gangs as individuals; and you’ve got people in the same gang who’ve got beef with other people in the same gang. And ya’ll fighting and beefing. And you got your set homeboys, so it’s cliques within cliques.”

Tomlinson said gangs now operating in the city are very different to those in generations past, and the city has had to adapt to current trends while trying to address the problem.

“I think when people hear gangs, they think of Bloods and Crips and things from the ’80s and the ’90s. That’s not so much what we deal with on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “What we typically have are criminal enterprises, sort of affiliations of opportunity. Individuals who knew each other, either from middle school, high school, perhaps they’re related. Groups of cousins, for instance. People who live in the same neighborhood, and they, through their relationships and affiliations, decide their highest and best use is criminal activity. And they collude and conspire to do a great deal of smash and grabs, break-ins, largely property crimes, drug trafficking, things of that nature.”

The Savannah Morning News looks as the related topic of recidivism among criminals released from prison.

According to State Rep. Jesse Petrea, who is hosting an anti-crime forum this Thursday at 6 p.m. at Calvary Baptist Temple, 86 parolees who were released from state prisons since Jan. 29 this year have been re-arrested for committing crimes in Chatham County.

And if Chatham County has experienced such a large number, it makes you wonder what the trend looks like for other Georgia counties.

Unfortunately, the state is making it Chatham County’s problem by opening the flood gates of parole and dumping more violence-prone individuals into our community.

While two-term Republican Gov. Nathan Deal generally rates high marks for his criminal justice reform efforts, aimed at rehabilitating those who have been locked up in expensive state prisons for drug-related and non-violent offenses, the governor should worry that some of his efforts are having unintended consequences, when violent offenders are released and are committing more crimes.

[T]he state must hold off on sending so many rotten apples from the prison system to Chatham County.

Finally, the Covington News chimed in about trends in Newton County.

For the most part, there has been little evidence of gang activity in Newton County, according to local law enforcement. However, in March of 2015, eight alleged members of the Ghost-Faced Gang, a violent gang thought to be operating out of prisons, were indicted in Newton County Superior Court on three counts of the racketeering influenced corrupt organizations (RICO) act. Three of them were also charged with seven counts of aggravated assault, one count of conspiracy to commit murder and 14 counts of criminal street gang related acts.

In May of 2016, 32 members of Gangster Disciples were federally indicted on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) charges. One of those charged was Conyers resident Charles Wingate, who allegedly served as chief of security for a Covington group.

Crum said the NCSO has a Crime Suppression Unit with five deputies who do intelligence and statistical gathering to predict where gang activity may be happening. “We’ll send in patrols, see who’s hanging out on the corner, try to get in the community and parents involved,” he said.

“It’s a misnomer to say you can prevent [gang activity],” said Sgt. James Fountain of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO). “What we do is monitor gang activity. We try to track if there’s someone who’s showing signs of gang activity.”

“Gang activity is so evolving, you have to keep up,” he said. In addition to courses, officers read materials as they are published, research online and take part in an association that meets once a month to discuss gang investigation.


Candidates may be on hook for private club memberships

Last week I noted that a case before the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission might leave some candidates on the hook to reimburse their campaign for past payments to private clubs. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story I cited,

State officials have put Georgia politicians on notice: You can’t spend campaign funds at business clubs and similar organizations unless it’s for legitimate election expenses.

The notice came in a civil case against former Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards, who admitted misspending $13,836 at the Commerce Club in Atlanta. Under a settlement approved by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission Thursday, Edwards agreed to repay his campaign that amount or donate it to a charity.

Commission attorney Robert Lane told the board the ruling would come as a surprise to many politicians, who he said routinely spend campaign cash on memberships and expenses at business clubs, chambers of commerce and similar organizations.

“This will cause a lot of consternation among elected officials,” Lane said. “A lot of them do it.”

Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 27, 2016

On June 25, 1788, the Commonwealth of Virginia became the tenth states to vote for ratification of the United States Constitution by a vote of 89 to 79. A committee was appointed to be chaired by George Wythe to draft a proposed Bill of Rights.

On June 27, 1864, Sherman’s Union forces attacked General Johnston’s Confederates at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

One year later, the Military Department of Georgia was created to oversee Reconstruction in the state.

On June 25, 1868, the United States Congress provisionally readmitted Georgia to the Union following the Civil War with the requirements that they ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and never deprive any citizens of voting rights.

On June 25, 1876, Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeated the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry under Lt. Colonel George Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

On June 25, 1888, the Republican National Convention nominated Benjamin Harrison for President of the United States; Harrison’s grandfather was WIlliam Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States.

On June 26, 1918, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the Eighteenth Amendment, which outlawed the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol. Governor Hugh Dorsey did not sign it for nearly a week, but the United States Secretary of State considers an Amendment ratified when the state legislature has voted on final passage.

The Gone with the Wind scene that includes the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was filmed on June 27, 1939, along with an alternate that used the line, “Frankly, my dear, I just don’t care.”

On June 26, 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco.

The Berlin Airlift began on June 26, 1948 after the Soviet Union had blockaded West Berlin, which was occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France.

On June 25, 1990, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in Georgia v. South Carolina, a boundary dispute. From Wikipedia:

A… 1922 Supreme Court decision, also called Georgia v. South Carolina, 257 U. S. 516, also held that all islands in the river belong to Georgia, but that the border should be in the middle of the river between the two shores, with the border half way between any island and the South Carolina shore.

Since the 1922 case, a number of new islands were created in the river between the city of Savannah and the ocean, due to the deposit of dredging spoilage or the natural deposit of sediments. In some cases, the new islands were on the South Carolina side of the previously drawn boundary, and Georgia claimed that once a new island emerged, the border should be moved to the midpoint between the new island and the South Carolina shore of the river. In some cases, the state of South Carolina had been collecting property tax from the land owners and policing the land in question for a number of years.

When an island causes the border to leave the middle of the river, it raises the question as to how the border line should return to the middle of the river at each end of the island. South Carolina advocated a right angle bend at each tip of the island, while Georgia advocated a “triequidistant” method which kept the border an equal distance between the two shores and the tip of the island (resulting in a smooth curve).

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Deal took umbrage at the AJC’s suggestion he ducked the Georgia Republican Party State Convention earlier this month.

“I’ll send you a dictionary so you can learn how to spell valedictorian.”

Gov. Nathan Deal greeted us with those words Tuesday, and it wasn’t because of a typo. He was taking umbrage with the coverage of his decision to skip this month’s Georgia GOP convention.

The governor sent word about a week before the convention that he wouldn’t attend because he was hosting more than 1,000 high school valedictorians at the Governor’s Mansion. But his decision also came as GOP activists threatened a sharp rebuke of the Republican for his controversial vetoes.

Said the governor:

“You did a disservice to me. You did a disservice to those graduates. This was the 23d consecutive year that governors have hosted valedictorians’ day at the governor’s mansion. Not a word was put in the print media about that being the reason I was in Augusta. That was not fair, that was not balanced reporting.

“I would like to know how many Republican delegates would have suggested to a Republican governor that he break a 23 year tradition to honor valedictorians and their families so he would be with them. Sandra and I stood there and took some 1,300 pictures and shook most of their hands over Friday afternoon, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. I think that was the appropriate place for the governor to be.”

“To the GOP leadership, they should have looked at the governor’s schedule when they changed the date of the state Republican convention. They apparently did not bother to find out this was a 23-year tradition.”

Congratulations to Leah Levell, Bruce Levell’s daughter, who will begin work at the Republican National Committee as a member of the Strategic Initiatives team.

In her new role, announced Friday, LeVell is expected to help to craft a message for the RNC that will focus on engaging HBCUs and young Black voters this election cycle.

The 21-year-old rising college senior will be based in Washington, D.C. and will work closely with the RNC’s Director of African American Initiatives and Urban Media, Telly Lovelace.

Tamar Hallerman writes in the AJC Political Insider that Congressman Lynn Westmoreland will endorse Drew Ferguson in the runoff election to succeed him.

The Coweta County Republican said Ferguson, who faces the state senator July 26, is “a strong, conservative voice for hard-working Georgians.”

“Drew knows that through building our local economy, creating stable jobs, and fostering economic opportunity that our community will perform at its best,” Westmoreland said in a statement.

The two are campaigning together today at Sprayberry’s in Newnan.

After virtually tying in the May 24 primary, Crane and Ferguson have spent the weeks since stock-piling endorsements, the former from prominent conservatives– Sen. Ted Cruz and radio provocateur Erick Erickson are the most recent — and the latter basically everybody else. Ferguson has snagged nods from the other five Republican challengers in the race who did not make the runoff last month.

Incumbent Madison County Sheriff Kip Thomas will face challenger Michael Moore in a July 26 runoff election.

In DeKalb County Commission District 4, Steve Bradshaw is scheduled to appear at a forum with incumbent Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton on Thursday night.

Providing mental health care for inmates is a major issue for the Dougherty County Jail, where one-third of prisoners suffer from a mental health disability, according to the Albany Herald.

Appling County attorney Stephen Tillman will take over as the Brunswick Judicial Circuit Public Defender, covering Appling, Glynn, Jeff Davis, Wayne and Camden Counties.

More than 350 citations were issued last Thursday night in Hall County during the “Operation Thunder Task Force” high-profile traffic enforcement action.

The Savannah NAACP Political Action Committee held a forum to discuss increasing voter turnout in this year’s elections.

In the most recent election on May 24, Chatham County’s voter turnout was only 17 percent.

At the forum, NAACP members and others in attendance were given progress updates on the three facets of the empowerment campaign: voter registration, voter education and getting voters to the polls.

Linda Carter, executive committee secretary for the Savannah NAACP and head of the voter registration effort in the empowerment campaign, said that registration isn’t as much of a problem as education and getting people to the polls.

Another major piece to the puzzle is inspiring millennials to register and vote, Jackson said.

“I think it’s apathy and people not really knowing the issues. This is something that’s happening across the country. It’s mainly just motivating our young people”

Former Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau finds himself facing the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

On Thursday, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission found probable cause that former Gwinnett Commissioner Mike Beaudreau broke the law during his 2014 bid for state Senate by accepting four campaign contributions exceeding contribution limits, failing to file required disclosure reports for three of those contributions (though they were disclosed on later reports) and failing to disclose the general purpose of his spending, including the expenditure recipients, on eight occasions.

At Thursday’s meeting, Beaudreau attributed the civil violations to the death of his campaign treasurer during the 2014 campaign. He said his campaign should have divided the contributions that exceeded limits for a single election into two elections — a primary and a primary runoff. And he characterized all the violations as simply clerical errors.

Beaudreau faces more than $13,000 in civil penalties for the alleged violations, but the amount is likely to be reduced. The commission gave him 60 days to work out a settlement agreement with the agency’s attorneys.

It appears the Commission is taking a tougher stance on violations and working to relieve the backlog that built up over years of leadership drama.

The Hall County Commission will vote tonight on the FY2017 county budget.

Dunwoody City Council rejected a proposal to prevent Dunwoody Homeowners Association members from serving on city boards.

Lower water levels at Lake Lanier have officials watching water flows.

[U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resources Manager Nick] Baggett, who oversees Lake Lanier for the corps, said the lake isn’t at a crisis point yet. However, he added there are reasons for officials, as well as people who either live on the lake or use it for recreation, to keep an eye on its water levels and use caution.

Lake Lanier’s full pool level is 1,071 feet mean sea level, and the lake is now more than three feet below that. Rocks around the base of red hazard pole behind the Lake Lanier Management Office and Visitor’s Center are currently above the water line, as are several other rocks along the shoreline that are normally just at or under the water line.

“We’re in a drought, and whenever we’re in a drought it affects our whole system,” Baggett said.

The Gainesville Times looks at the procedures in a lawsuit between Georgia and Florida over waterflows from Lake Lanier and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.

If Georgia and Florida settle before the trial this fall, “then obviously somebody has got to implement whatever the settlement terms are,” Morris said. “If they don’t settle, then somebody has got to implement whatever the court decrees.”

The trial, set to start Oct. 31, centers around a lawsuit filed by Florida against Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Florida is basically accusing Georgia of “overconsumption” of water in the basin, leading to economic troubles for Florida’s oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Georgia has denied the allegations.

Ralph I. Lancaster, a Maine lawyer appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee the case, would preside over the trial, which would be held in U.S. District Court.

He “doesn’t have the authority to rule (in the case),” Morris said. “He will make a recommendation to the Supreme Court, then it’s up to justices to actually render an order.”

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said he believes if the case moves to trial, “I would feel good from Georgia’s position in that we have a history here,” Collins said. “We have won in court, we have won in appeal and Georgia has been a leader in conservation.

“We’re being good stewards of the resources we have and, frankly, Alabama and Florida, in many instances, wouldn’t know water conservation if it hit them upside the head.”


Gators aren’t just a problem for Florida – the beach at Reed Bingham State Park in Adel was recently closed so that professional trappers could remove alligators who were getting too close to people.

Panama Canal sends larger ships to Savannah

Larger “New Panamax” container ships are now transiting the Panama Canal, as new locks are opened for business.

The waterway’s capacity doubles with the new locks, and canal authorities are hoping to better compete with the Suez Canal in Egypt and tap new markets such as natural gas shipments between the United States and Asia.

“The Panama Canal, with this expansion, is an important player not only for regional maritime commerce but worldwide,” said Oscar Bazan, the Panama Canal Authority’s executive vice president for planning and commercial development. “The canal is a winning bet.”

Authorities said Sunday said that 85 percent of the 166 reserved crossings scheduled for the next three months are for container ships. Container cargo accounts for nearly 50 percent of the canal’s overall income.

While authorities anticipate increasing commerce between Asia and ports on the U.S. East Coast, doubts remain that not all those ports are ready to handle the huge New Panamex-class cargo ships. Net cargo volume through the canal from the U.S. East Coast toward Asia fell 10.2 percent in 2015, according to official statistics. Meanwhile, the Suez recently lowered tariffs by up to 65 percent on large container carriers in an attempt to keep its traffic.

“It’s important to remember that the canal does not create demand. The canal opens the route. Supply and demand on a world level is what will decide whether the Panama Canal will really bring more volume or not,” said Antonio Dominguez, a general manager for global shipping leader Maersk Line, which moves about 14.2 percent of world commerce. “What is certain is that the current canal has maxed out.”

Harbor deepening at the Port of Savannah continues to allow larger container ships to be loaded and unloaded.

State and U.S. taxpayers are betting $706 million — the cost of deepening the Savannah River so larger ships can use it — on the hoped-for benefits of an expanded canal.

More cargo, revenue and jobs will come Georgia’s way, backers say, with metro Atlanta and its welter of warehouses and trucking terminals taking the lion’s share of new business.

“No one knows with absolute certainty what it means for Georgia and the East Coast,” said Griff Lynch, incoming executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, who’s in Panama for the festivities. “But people feel confident that there will be some incremental growth to Savannah, Georgia, Atlanta and other locations in the Southeast.”

The stakes for Atlanta and its network of distribution centers, trucking companies, rail yards and logistics firms, are huge.

Savannah and the port of Brunswick account for an estimated $40 billion in statewide economic impact, according to the University of Georgia, with most activity in and around metro Atlanta.

Power Plants and Plans

The Albany Herald takes a look at plans by Georgia Power to consider whether a location in Stewart County would be appropriate for a third nuclear reactor site in the future.

“One of many points of discussion during this IRP process has been the property and preliminary activities in Stewart County,” GPC spokesperson John Kraft said. “We are committed to preserving the option to build new nuclear generation to meet customers’ electric needs in the most reliable and cost-effective manner. However, Georgia Power has not committed to building another nuclear plant or announced any plans.”

Kraft stressed that no decision had been made on the construction of a future plant and that the company is just preserving its future options.

“We have only taken steps to preserve nuclear as an option for the future, such as selecting the site in Stewart County that is suitable for further study and evaluation,” Kraft said. “Again, we are only undertaking activities that are required given the long lead times associated with the development, licensing and construction of nuclear generation.”

The company has begun preliminary work, including geological and water studies, on the 7,000-acre tract.

“Making this decision requires thorough and detailed and years of effort to gain the necessary regulatory approvals,” GPC Chairman, President and CEO Paul Bowers said in a recent news release. “We continue to believe that nuclear energy is a vital part of a diversified generation mix for our customers and the state of Georgia.”

As GPC learned with the new units at Vogtle, it takes about seven years to secure a combined construction and operating license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and then another decade after that to build a nuclear plant. At the earliest, it would be after 2030 before a new nuclear plant would be built, Bowers said.

The company also agreed to add 1200 megawatts of solar over the next five years.

In a stipulation with the PSC staff signed Thursday, Georgia Power agreed to add 1,050 megawatts of utility-scale renewable power through two requests for proposals the Atlanta-based utility intends to issue next year and in 2019. The first 525 megawatts would go into service in 2018 and 2019, while the other 525 would go on line in 2020 and 2021.

In addition, Georgia Power will make its most significant commitment to date to distributed generation of renewable energy, typically smaller-scale solar projects installed on rooftops of homes or businesses. The agreement calls for 150 megawatts of distributed generation by the end of 2018.

“This agreement represents hours and hours of negotiations on behalf of ratepayers,” Commissioner Tim Echols said.

“We are pleased to have reached a stipulated agreement with the Georgia PSC … staff that balances the elements of our long-term energy plan and furthers our ability to deliver reliable and affordable energy for our 2.5 million customers,” Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft added.

The various renewable provisions in the agreement are part of Georgia Power’s Renewable Energy Development Initiative, a key element in the 2016 Integrated Resource Plan the company filed with the PSC last January. Georgia Power submits an IRP every three years, outlining the mix of energy sources it plans to rely on to meet customer needs during the next two decades.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 24, 2016

On June 24, 1497, John Cabot first sighted North America, claiming it for the British Crown.

On June 24, 1795, the United States Senate voted to ratify Jay’s Treaty between the UK and United States. The terms of the treaty required an appropriation from the U.S. House of Representatives to implement it, and Congressional opponents tried to defeat the appropriation, which was approved by a 51-48 margin on April 30, 1796. Click here for more background on the treaty and controversy.

On June 24, 1853, President Franklin Pierce signed the Gadsden Purchase, acquiring what it now southern Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico.

General Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River toward Pennsylvania on June 24, 1863.

John R. Lynch was the first African-American elected Chairman of the Republican National Convention on June 24, 1884; Lynch was nominated by Theodore Roosevelt.

Woodrow Wilson married Ellen Louise Axson of Rome, Georgia in Savannah on June 24, 1885.

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin from all road, rail, and barge traffic.

Following World War II, Germany was divided into occupation zones. The United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and, eventually, France, were given specific zones to occupy in which they were to accept the surrender of Nazi forces and restore order. The Soviet Union occupied most of eastern Germany, while the other Allied nations occupied western Germany. The German capital of Berlin was similarly divided into four zones of occupation.

The United States response came just two days after the Soviets began their blockade. A massive airlift of supplies into West Berlin was undertaken in what was to become one of the greatest logistical efforts in history. For the Soviets, the escapade quickly became a diplomatic embarrassment. Russia looked like an international bully that was trying to starve men, women, and children into submission. And the successful American airlift merely served to accentuate the technological superiority of the United States over the Soviet Union. On May 12, 1949, the Soviets officially ended the blockade.

General Lucius D. Clay of Marietta, Georgia was military Governor of occupied Germany at that time.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in West Germany on June 24, 1977. It’s astounding.

Rickey Henderson made his major league debut with the Oakland A’s on June 24, 1979, stealing his first base.

On June 24, 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution was defeated, having garnered the ratification of thirty-five states, three shy of the requisite Constitutional Majority.

Hopes for ratification before the deadline next Wednesday were dashed this week when the amendment was rejected by the Illinois House and the Florida Senate, two states in which supporters felt they had a fighting chance.

Had Illinois and Florida ratified the amendment, there was at least some chance that either Oklahoma or North Carolina would have provided the final needed vote.

Prospects were far slimmer in the other nonratifying states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Phyllis Schlafly, a leader of a group called Stop-ERA, hailed the defeat of the amendment tonight, saying: ”They realized E.R.A. is dead and I think that that is an admission they have lost the battle. My feeling is that E.R.A. will take its place with the prohibition and the child labor amendments as ones which did not have enough support of the American people to be in the Constitution.”

Dr. Ralph Stanley died yesterday at 89 years of age.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Representative Joe Wilkinson (R-Sandy Springs) will be honored by the Georgia Pet Coalition for his work on Senate Bill 168, the Adoptable Dog bill, which made the adoptable dog the official state dog. An award ceremony will be held at the Georgia State Capitol on the South Wing Steps on Monday, June 27, 2016 at 3 PM.

Senator Judson Hill (R-Cobb) Chairs a Senate Finance Sub-Committee on Tax Reform, meeting today at 10 AM.

“We need to do all we can to reduce the tax burden on Georgia’s hardworking families and businesses,” said Sen. Hill. “Our goal is, in the most fiscally responsible way, to enable Georgians to keep more dollars in their pockets and make their own decisions on whether those dollars should be saved, invested or spent.”

The committee will hold several meetings before the 2017 legislative session to engage constituents, legislators and policy experts to discuss the best potential reforms to the tax code in Georgia.

Two Georgians have been named to a board to advise presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump on the Evangelical community.

The make-up of the board includes Jentezen Franklin, Senior Pastor of Free Chapel in Gainesville.  Another member with Georgia ties is Ralph Reed, founder of the Christian Coalition, who ran an unsuccessful race for Lt. Governor in 2006.

According to a news release from the Trump camp, the leaders on the executive board were not asked to endorse Trump as a prerequisite for participating on the board.

“Rather,” the release states, “the formation of the board represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of those diverse issues important to Evangelicals and other Christians, and his desire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders as needed.”

“I have such tremendous respect and admiration for this group and I look forward to continuing to talk about the issues important to Evangelicals, and all Americans, and the common sense solutions I will implement when I am President,” Trump said.

Take note, campaign treasurers and candidates: spending on private clubs might be curtailed under the most recent ruling of the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

State officials have put Georgia politicians on notice: You can’t spend campaign funds at business clubs and similar organizations unless it’s for legitimate election expenses.

The notice came in a civil case against former Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards, who admitted misspending $13,836 at the Commerce Club in Atlanta. Under a settlement approved by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission Thursday, Edwards agreed to repay his campaign that amount or donate it to a charity.

Commission attorney Robert Lane told the board the ruling would come as a surprise to many politicians, who he said routinely spend campaign cash on memberships and expenses at business clubs, chambers of commerce and similar organizations.

“This will cause a lot of consternation among elected officials,” Lane said. “A lot of them do it.”

But the ruling on the Commerce Club spending may have a bigger impact on Peach State politicians.

Lane said state law requires money raised for political campaigns to be spent on “ordinary and necessary campaign expenses.” He said the commission gives candidates plenty of leeway – any expenditure calculated to improve a candidate’s chances of winning an election would qualify.

But in Edwards’ case, “there was absolutely no evidence” the Commerce Club expenses were for campaign purposes, Lane said.

Under state law – which mirrors federal law – candidates cannot use campaign cash for social club memberships, he said.

I will probably tell my clients this going forward: I would recommend not paying for dues for the Commerce Club, the Georgian Club, or wherever, out of campaign funds. But I think that reimbursement for meals and rooms used for campaign functions is okay. So if you hold your fundraiser at your club, the catering bill, room charge, etc. is probably okay to pay with campaign funds. Avoiding the possibility of an ethics complaint going forward is worth the personal expense of membership or doing away with the membership. I have no opinion on reimbursing past dues payments.

Congratulations to Attorney General Sam Olens, who was elected Vice President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

The Association’s members are the 56 state and territorial attorneys general.

The election of Olens by his fellow attorneys general occurred yesterday during the NAAG meeting in Burlington, VT. Along with being Vice President, Olens will serve on several committees including:

- Federalism/Preemption, Co-Chair
- Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Relations Working Group, Co-Chair
- Internet Safety/Cyber Privacy and Security
- Human Trafficking
- Training

“I am honored to be elected Vice President of NAAG during the coming year,” said Olens. “I want to congratulate our newly elected President, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen. I look forward to working with him and my counterparts on ways to better our individual states.”

Olens also released a statement on the Supreme Court’s deadlocked 4-4 decision on President Obama’s plan to limit deportation of illegal aliens.

“The Supreme Court’s action today leaves in place a decision affirming that President Obama cannot evade the Constitution. Our nation’s laws, the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, and the Constitution, must be followed.”

Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols (R-Athens) writes in the Atlanta Business Chronicle about the need to end human trafficking.

Cobb County’s new Braves stadium will create headaches for Sandy Springs under a traffic plan introduced to the Sandy Springs City Council.

Cobb County plans to direct game-day traffic for the new Braves stadium off I-285 and onto local streets at Northside Drive, an idea that drew shock and outrage from the Sandy Springs City Council on June 21.

“This was our nightmare,” said a visibly angry Mayor Rusty Paul, blasting the plan and saying Cobb County leaders have not returned his calls for traffic management planning. He demanded that Cobb leaders “get everybody in a room real fast…We’ve got to figure out some alternative to this.”

Two days later, Paul and Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee met to talk about the traffic plan, according to a jointly issued press release.

The news was delivered in a non-voting council work session by Jim Wilgus, Cobb’s interim transportation director. The specific topic was permission to install directional signs for the Braves’ SunTrust Park and related Battery Atlanta commercial development, which are slated to open early next year in Cobb’s Cumberland area at I-285 and I-75.

Then Wilgus dropped his bombshell: On days of games and other big events, the signs—with “dynamic” messages that change on the fly—would direct stadium-goers to get off highways one exit before Cumberland and use local streets. On 285, that exit is Sandy Springs’ Northside Drive, and traffic would route onto Powers Ferry Road and Interstate North Parkway, known locally as the “access road.” Cobb wants to put one of the signs on Powers Ferry near the Chattahoochee River.

Wilgus said the idea is to lessen congestion on highways. Mayor Paul and councilmembers noted that means increasing congestion on local streets.

“You want to take all the traffic off 285 and put it on surface streets?” asked an incredulous Councilmember Tibby DeJulio.

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee met with Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul yesterday and the two issued a joint press release.

“We have work to do, but we are committed to collaborating with Cobb County in developing viable solutions that create a win-win scenario for both communities,” said Paul in the press release.

“Cobb County and Sandy Springs have a long history of collaborating on many projects and we plan to add traffic management around SunTrust Park to our record of success,” said Lee in the press release. “I am confident that we will end up with a plan that works in the best interest of both communities.”

Paul and Lee met along with “members of their senior team,” the press release said, adding, “The group reviewed signage, game day and public safety initiatives, with agreement that cooperative efforts have produced a strong base related to operational considerations. The group also discussed systemic issues, specifically the need for significant capital projects to alleviate traffic concerns in and around the New Northside [Drive] area in Sandy Springs.”

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) is pushing back against suggestions that Georgia consider Medicaid expansion under a waiver.

Proponents of Medicaid expansion claim that it’s federal money that could supplant state spending.  Chief proponents of Medicaid expansion say, “if you draw down federal dollars, you can free up some of those state dollars,” implying that Georgians could save money at the expense of Washington. Arkansas’ “Private Option” proves that is not the case.

When a state expands Medicaid, it agrees to support these newly enrolled with the support of the federal government. Unfortunately, that financial support dwindles over time, and because it is a large line item in the Congressional budget, House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that it may become a key target for cuts. That would put Georgia on the hook for covering even more of the Medicaid costs for this new enrollment base.

Furthermore, proponents state that “at some point you have to look at sustainability.” Well, a massive expansion of the state’s welfare program will put “sustainability” in a whole new light.

Taxpayers in Georgia already foot a bill of more than $3 billion every year to cover health services through Medicaid, plus an additional $2 billion for services for the aged, developmentally disabled, addictive diseases, behavioral, mental and public health. Georgians currently pay for 60% of all births in this state through our current Medicaid program.

Our Medicaid costs have already grown by 40% over the last decade. With the increased enrollment through Medicaid expansion, those figures will only get worse.

Governor Nathan Deal spoke about the importance of educating state prisoners at the Georgia Department of Corrections 2016 Academic Education Summer Conference.

“If somebody has an education and they can read when they couldn’t read before,” said the Governor.  “When they have a skill that is marketable in the general community that they didn’t have before, it’s just common sense the likelihood that they’re coming back is significantly reduced and that’s good news for all of us.”

Over 8,000 inmates are educated as apart of programs every year, and can earn their high school diplomas, GED’s, or even learn a trade such as welding.

“It’s giving them jobs, but it’s also giving them hope,” said Buster Evans, the assistant commissioner for the Division of Inmate Services. “It’s giving them a skill, and we believe we’re equipping them to be successful.”

“More remarkable than even to that, is that the programs are working, they’re changing lives,” continued Gov. Deal.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 23, 2016

On June 23, 903 AD, the Icelandic Parliament, the Althing or Althingi, was established and is the world’s oldest.

In honor of the Icelandic Parliament, here’s the greatest Icelandic band ever, the Sugarcubes, playing at Auburn in 1988.

Off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, British Commodore Sir Peter Parker spent June 23, 1776 preparing to land the next day, charged with supporting loyalists to the British crown.

On June 23, 1819, Texas declared its independence from Spain.

On June 23, 1862, General Robert E. Lee met with his commanders in preparation for what would be known as the Seven Days’ Battles.

On June 23, 1865, Georgia-born Cherokee Stand Watie became the last Confederate general to surrender.

On June 23, 1888, Frederick Douglass became the first African-American nominated for President, receiving one vote from Kentucky at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

Former Atlanta mayor Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. died on June 23, 2003.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission may proceed in its action against former Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.

Judge Henry Newkirk rejected former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine’s bid to get ethics charges stemming from his failed 2010 campaign for governor dismissed. One of those charges dates to 2009.

Newkirk ruled that the state ethics commission should be able to adjudicate Oxendine’s case before the former longtime Georgia politician can fight the issue in court.

“Under clearly established Georgia law, any party to an administrative action must completely exhaust their administrative remedies before seeking judicial review,” Newkirk wrote.

Ken Hodges, a former Dougherty County District Attorney who ran for Attorney General as a Democrat in 2010, will serve as the new Treasure of the State Bar of Georgia.

Georgia Republican Party First Vice Chair Michael McNeely sent a statement to the AJC Political Insider about the Trump event at the Fox Theater last week.

Last week, an event staffer and I had a discussion about room access.  Security surrounding a Presidential candidate being what it is, he couldn’t relent from protocol and I left the building.

There were no ill feelings.  We’re looking forward to defeating Hillary Clinton and working together to elect Donald Trump as the next president of the United States.  Efforts made by the media to question our unity is nonsense and has no basis in fact.

Not a story, never was.

Look, up in the sky! It’s Josh McKoon!

The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has taken out some number of digital billboards thanking State Senator Josh McKoon (R-GA) for introducing religious liberty legislation.

The six billboards, which are expected to be up for about a week, read: “Georgia Baptists are GRATEFUL for SENATOR McKOON’S devoted efforts for RELIGIOUS LIBERTY in Georgia.”

McKoon has been the architect and primary supporter of religious liberty legislation that passed the Georgia General Assembly this year but was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Mission Board Public Affairs Director Mike Griffin said that his organization wanted to show its support for McKoon and his stand, which has spread over three legislative sessions.

“He has been a leader on religious liberties and he has been a spokesman for religious liberties and we wanted to thank him for his faith and protection of the First Amendment,” Griffin said.

Campaign Flyers Gone Bad

Note to all candidates for office – think very carefully before including anything recognizable from a municipal police department in your direct mail, flyers, or other campaign materials.

District Attorney Parks White of the Northern Circuit (Elbert, Franklin, Hart, Madison and Oglethorpe counties) was apparently arrested in Hart County for violation of the Georgia “Municipal and County Police Departments’ Nomenclature Act of 1996.”

From WYFF,

In his recent re-election campaign, District Attorney Parks White took a photo with Hartwell Police Chief Anthony Davis and several police officers to use in an election flyer.

According to the Hart County Sheriff’s Office, several citizens “called him out” for using the photo without getting permission from the city council. It’s required by Georgia election laws to have the permission of a city or county’s governing body to use such photos. In Hartwell, that’s the city council.

White said he had the permission of Chief Davis and Mayor Brandon Johnson and denies any wrongdoing, deputies said.

This incident became public in May just before the Republican Primary election in which White stood for re-election.

Local attorney Lane Fitzpatrick published an ad [in mid-May] stating that district attorney Parks White committed a felony in using a badge, emblem and photo of the Hartwell Police Department without the city council’s permission.

Last week, Fitzpatrick filed a complaint on behalf of Hartwell resident Liz Parsons seeking the arrest of the incumbent district attorney, who faces a challenge for the DA’s post from Richard Campbell Tuesday, May 24.

“Georgia Law states that no one can display the badge and emblem of a police department in any advertisement without the written permission from the local governing authority,” stated the ad paid for by Fitzpatrick in the May 12 Madison County Journal. “The Hartwell City Council did not approve his advertisement. District Attorney Parks White’s violation of the law is a felony.”

Fitzpatrick filed the request for an arrest warrant against White with the Hart County Magistrate’s Office….“He (White) sent out campaign literature with a picture of officers from the Hartwell City Police Department and the Chief of Police,” the complaint states. “He did not get permission from the City of Hartwell before the picture was made. The officers and Chief of Police are in uniform in the picture and they have on their city police patches and badges.”

The request for White’s arrest includes an affidavit from Hartwell City Manager David Aldrich.

“No request has been made from the Chief of Police to the City Council for Parks White to use the City Police Officers’ badge, patch or uniform in a political advertisement,” stated Aldrich.

Hartwell police officers are pictured with White in a recent mailout sent to Northern Judicial Circuit voters. The ad states “Officers Support Parks White….Ask a law officer who they support for district attorney.

Hartwell Chief of Police Anthony Davis is pictured standing next to White and above the two is a quote from Davis in support of White, saying White has helped “reduce crime rates,” “supported officers across the district,” “made communities safer” and “delivered swift justice for victims.”

Parks White won re-election in the May Primary with 63.67% of the vote.

The Athens Banner-Herald notes that the charge is a felony.

Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland said White voluntarily surrendered at the county jail, where he was booked, then released on a $1,000 bond set by Stephens County Senior Superior Court Judge Robert Struble.

“I look forward to my day in court and being vindicated of these baseless allegations,” White said Monday.

White, who said he was surprised to learn about the warrant, declined to further discuss the charge.

White’s attorney, Mark Wiggins of Athens, said that despite the warrant White “can continue to perform the duties the people elected him to do.”

“As you know, probable cause is a whole lot different than being guilty of something and that’s all the court found at this juncture,” he said.

The case at some point will be presented to a grand jury in Hart County.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 22, 2016

On June 22, 1633, Galileo Galilei recanted his published theory that stated the sun was the center of the world and the earth was not.

Georgia’s Trustees voted on June 22, 1737 to seek bids for building churches at Savannah and Frederica.

Georgia Whigs voted on June 22, 1775 to join a boycott against British goods. That same day, the Continental Congress approved the issuance of $2 million in debt-backed currency.

The donut was invented on June 22, 1847.

The Battle of Kolb’s Farm was fought near Marietta, Georgia on June 22, 1864.

The United States Department of Justice was established on June 22, 1870.

On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill.

On June 22, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed a law extending the 26th Amendment Right to Vote at age 18 to all federal, state, and local elections.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Chris Burnett has been elected to Sandy Springs City Council District Three after yesterday’s runoff election.

Growing numbers of Asian and Latino registered voters isn’t likely to affect November elections very much.

According to Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, the number of registered Latino voters jumped by about 20 percent in recent months; Asian Americans grew by 16 percent. However, the two voting blocs combined are still less than 5 percent of the state’s electorate.

“If they all showed up to vote, it probably wouldn’t affect the election outcome,” University of Georgia political science professor Tre Hood said.

Hood studies demographic voting trends. He said the increase in registered voters could be the result of a growing population.

“It’s not surprising that there are more Hispanics registering to vote,” he said. “We have an ever-increasing number of Hispanic citizens as a base in Georgia. Now, as to the motivations, I’m not sure at this point.”

Republican fundraiser Eric Tanenblatt discusses why some of his GOP colleagues may not be jumping on the Trump train.

By insisting on his ability to self-fund during the primary, Trump failed to build the kind of fundraising base that will enable him to compete on an even playing field with Clinton, said Eric Tanenblatt, a member of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s finance team and former Jeb Bush supporter.

“I was very involved in Mitt Romney’s fundraising effort in 2008, and immediately after he got out of the primary he got his team together and he said we all need to get behind John McCain, and I ended up raising more money that year for John McCain than I did for Mitt Romney by the time the election ended,” Tanenblatt said. “There wasn’t that effort with regard to the Trump campaign because the Trump campaign didn’t raise money on their own and didn’t reach out to supporters of the other candidates like donors are accustomed. Typically, the nominee is the one who is magnanimous and reaches out to the supporters of the other campaigns and unifies and works to unify the party. I don’t think that happened to the extent it should have.”

The question now, Tanenblatt said, is what Trump does going forward in terms of picking a vice-presidential candidate and what he says in public. That could determine whether his fundraising picks up or not.

“I think that says a lot about him as a candidate,” Tanenblatt said. “That’s probably the biggest decision that he’s going to make in the campaign, so that will send a signal.”

Georgia Republican Party First Vice Chair Michael McNeely may or may not have been asked to leave the backstage area at the Trump event at the Fox Theater. From Buzzfeed,

Michael McNeely, the first vice chair of the Georgia Republicans, was escorted out of Atlanta’s Fox Theatre by Secret Service after being told there was “no more room for you” by Trump campaign state director Brandon Phillips, according to a party official briefed on the incident. The official requested anonymity said they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the party.

McNeely was stopped while trying to enter an area where Trump had been greeting supporters, the sources said. Neither Phillips, the Trump campaign, nor the Georgia Republican Party returned messages seeking comment.

So, “a party official briefed on the incident” who requested anonymity. Third party rumor-mongering at best.

In a move that has nothing to do with his coming in second in the primary election and headed into a July 27 runoff, incumbent Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee will propose lowering the property tax millage rate.

Due to an increase in the county’s property values, Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee said on Tuesday he will propose reducing the county’s tax rate by 0.5 mills, a rate commissioners are scheduled to vote on next month.

The county’s 2016 preliminary tax digest, which is the total value of all property within the county, is estimated to be 8.5 percent higher than 2015’s digest.

Due to homestead and other exemptions, the net increase in taxable properties is estimated to be about 3 percent, Lee said. The final digest is expected to be approved today by the Cobb Board of Tax Assessors.

As a result of that growth, Lee told the MDJ on Tuesday he is set to propose a general fund millage rate of 6.82 mills — down from the current 7.12 mills — while the fire service rate and debt service rate would each go down by 0.1 mill to 2.96 and 0.23 mills, respectively.

“To the naysayers that say this is all politics, well, no, because I did it a year ago,” Lee said. “We made a decision — my recommendation to the board and they adopted it — a year ago, to adopt a budget with a reduced millage rate and work towards that in anticipation of growth in the digest, based on the economic activity that we started to see the year prior.”

Population growth in Georgia has begun again after lagging during the recession. Most of the growth is concentrated in a small number of counties while more than half of Georgia counties lost population.

About two-thirds of Georgia’s growth is now happening in just six of the state’s 159 counties, said Matt Hauer, a demographer with the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Those include five metro Atlanta counties and Chatham County.

And half the state’s population growth is concentrated in just three Atlanta metro counties — Fulton, Gwinnett and Forsyth, Hauer found when he analyzed U.S. Census data.

Many other counties are adding more people, including Clarke County. Clarke is now one of the state’s fastest-growing counties, adding more than 1,100 people from 2015 to 2016, and could be close to 130,000 people four years from now, according to population projections of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.

But Hauer was surprised to find nearly half of Georgia’s 159 counties were actually losing population in the first part of this decade. Between 2010 and 2013, 82 Georgia counties, many of them rural, lost population. More than two dozen of them saw negative growth of 10 percent or more. From 2000 to 2010, 30 counties lost population, most of them in southwest Georgia.

Georgia’s population of people 65 years and older will double over the next five decades, Hauer said. The number of people 18 to 64, the working years, will increase only 4 percent, however, he said.

White people make up the majority of the state’s population, but at the current rate of change, by around 2030 Georgia will be a “majority-minority” state where the number of people in minority racial groups is greater than the number of white people.

The two new reactors being built at Plant Vogtle won’t be the only new nuclear power design in Georgia, as Congress approved $1.48 billion for reactor design work for the submarines slated to replace Ohio-class subs at Kings Bay.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 21, 2016

Georgia’s Royal Colony Seal was approved on June 21, 1754.

Georgia Colony Seal

A lynch mob including members of the KKK killed three young civil rights activists who were trying to register African-Americans to vote near Meridian, Mississippi on June 21, 1964.

When Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, a young black man, were coming back from a trip to Philadelphia, Mississippi, deputy sheriff Cecil Price, who was also a Klan member, pulled them over for speeding. He then held them in custody while other KKK members prepared for their murder. Eventually released, the three activists were later chased down in their car and cornered in a secluded spot in the woods where they were shot and then buried in graves that had been prepared in advance.

When news of their disappearance got out, the FBI converged on Mississippi to investigate. With the help of an informant, agents learned about the Klan’s involvement and found the bodies. Since Mississippi refused to prosecute the assailants in state court, the federal government charged 18 men with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney.

John W. Hinckley, Jr. was acquitted of attempted murder of President Ronald Reagan and others in the Presidential party by reason on insanity on June 21, 1982.

Voters in Sandy Springs approved the new city’s incorporation on June 21, 2005.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that a Kennesaw State University police officer had no jurisdiction to arrest a driver outside of his jurisdiction, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

In a unanimous decision, the Georgia Supreme Court has reversed the Court of Appeals’ ruling.

“We agree that Officer Mason had no authority to effect a custodial arrest of (Zilke) outside the jurisdiction conferred by (the Georgia law cited by the trial court),” the opinion states, but Mason also lacked authority to do so under the law cited by the Court of Appeals.

“Indeed, the purpose of (that law) has never been to enlarge the territorial boundaries of the various law enforcement agencies in the state, but rather to give law enforcement officers the discretion to write a citation in lieu of making a custodial arrest for motor vehicle violations,” the opinion states.

Attorney David Willingham, who argued on behalf of Zilke in the Georgia Supreme Court, said the court’s decision means officers can no longer arrest people for traffic violations outside their jurisdictions.

“If a police officer is completely outside of his jurisdiction, he can’t write a citation or arrest somebody even if he witnesses something happen in his presence. He can still detain that person, and we never challenged the officer’s power to detain the person, but the whole point of the case is there is a specific statute that says campus police officers do not have any power to make an arrest unless they’re on campus or within 500 yards from campus or any property owned by the University or the Georgia Board of Regents. There’s a similar statute on the books for municipal police officers,” said Willingham, a former Cobb assistant district attorney.

As seems to be the case after every tragic shooting, gun sales are soaring in Georgia and Metro Atlanta.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 20, 2016

On June 20, 1732, the signing of the Georgia Charter was completed by the British government.

On June 20, 1782, Congress adopted the Great Seal of the United States. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, was responsible for the final design presented to Congress. The design approved by Congress was a written description without any sketches.

On June 20, 1819, the SS Savannah entered the port at Liverpool, England, marking the first transatlantic crossing by a steam-powered ship, having sailed out of Savannah on May 20th.

General Robert E. Lee moved on Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant at Petersburg, Virginia on June 20, 1864.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gwinnett County’s first ever trial for human trafficking resulted in the conviction of Quantavious Lee Jackson, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Quantavious Lee Jackson, a young Brookhaven man with a crude dollar sign tattooed between his eyes, was found guilty of keeping two teen girls as prostitutes before their rescue in November 2014. After the verdicts, which a jury returned late Thursday, he faces life in prison during his sentencing hearing later this month.

“These convictions are the result of a tremendous effort put forth by multiple law enforcement agencies,” prosecutor Jennifer Hendee told the Daily Post on Friday afternoon. “We are very pleased with the jury’s verdict and we hope it sends the message that human trafficking will not be tolerated within Gwinnett County.”

The case had been one of many human-trafficking cases pending in the county since the General Assembly enacted Georgia’s law specifically addressing the crime in 2011, but it was the first to go to trial.

The DA’s office said Jackson, represented by Robert Booker, kept the girls, ages 15 and 16, for several days in various hotels in College Park, Buckhead and ultimately Gwinnett.

A study committee of Georgia General Assembly will consider once again tax breaks to attempt to promote a recording industry in the state.

The Joint Music Economic Development Study Committee will examine ways to “measure, expand and promote” music and foster connections between recorded music and other arts, such as film, digital media and gaming.

The committee is charged with finding ways to support and promote music tourism, post-secondary education in music and new studio spaces for artists to record their work.

Incentives for small music studios and musicians could be part of a package for lawmakers to consider when they reconvene next year.

Advocates say tax credits for music recorded here, particularly for film, television and theater, could help the industry attract new artists, retain and nurture up-and-comers, and spur the development of new recording facilities and event spaces.

The Middle Georgia Regional Commission is set to meet and discuss a new T-SPLOST, but may not be able to get it on this year’s ballot, according to the Macon Telegraph.

It appears unlikely, however, that all the steps can be completed to get the referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot. That means that any public vote probably would be held sometime next year.

Designated elected officials from each of the 11 counties in the region are expected for a roundtable meeting soon.

The push for the referendum began in September after the Middle Georgia Regional Commission polled the 11 county commissions and a majority wanted to move forward with it. But Houston County, the second most populous in the region, opposed it, along with Putnam, Monroe and Twiggs counties.

Those in favor of a transportation sales tax referendum are Peach, Crawford, Macon-Bibb, Jones, Baldwin, Wilkinson and Pulaski counties.

Atlanta City Council will vote Monday to put a half-cent MARTA sales tax on the November ballot.

A Glynn County SPLOST may be on the back burner as County Commissioners postponed voting on a proposed agreement with Brunswick.

On Thursday, the Glynn County Commission deferred its vote on an agreement with the city to allow Brunswick to have $15.99 million in projects included in the proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax the governments are hoping to get on the November general election ballot.

The agreement is necessary for the city to get more than the 19.32 percent it is legally entitled to of the more than $71 million in taxes expected to be collected. That comes out to around $13.8 million.

As expected, Mayor Cornell Harvey was not happy about the sudden change and questioned how the city is supposed to trust the county when it appeared the county was set to move forward with the agreement.

“I’m sadly disappointed in them for not taking the vote,” Harvey said Friday. “This was something that we had already agreed to and had whittled our list down. They are right that they only have to give us 19.32 percent but we had gotten past all that. The county doesn’t like that we have the purchase of police vehicles on our list.”

County commission chairman Richard Strickland said the agreement may now in limbo.

When asked if he thought an agreement would ever be approved, Strickland said, “I can’t tell you that right now. There were a number of commissioners who had reservations that hadn’t changed. There was a (previous) compromise but the county commissioners had time to think about it and thought the county had given enough.”

Strickland went on to say that the city needs to come down on the amount of money they’re asking for.
“The (intergovernmental agreement) is only in effect because the city wants more money than they’re entitled to,” Strickland said. “Based on the city’s population they are entitled to 19.32 percent which comes out to $13.8 million.

Peachtree City approved its list of SPLOST projects to be included in a possible November 2017 Fayette County SPLOST vote.

“Ultimately, it is a special purpose tax countywide, and the only ones who can call for that are county commissioners. The cities do not have any say whatsoever in terms of calling for a ballot initiative regarding to a SPLOST. All we’re doing is working with the county to try to develop a very feasible project list as we go forward,” [said City Manager Jon Rorie].

Forsyth County’s Board of Education voted unanimously to place a renewal E-SPLOST on this November’s ballot.

If approved on the Nov. 8 ballot by Forsyth County voters, a 1-percent sales and use tax, called SPLOST, will be re-imposed from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2022.

A SPLOST approved in 2007 will end on June 1, 2017, so this fifth SPLOST referendum would simply pick up where that one finished — approving the option on the ballot in November would not increases sales taxes more than they are now.

SPLOST V would be used to fund up to about $35 million in capital outlay projects and up to about $159 million for debt service retirements, said Rick Gunn, chief financial officer for Forsyth County Schools.

A maximum revenue of about $195 million could be collected from this SPOLST program, Gunn said.

Voters will have the choice to approve or deny this SPLOST continuation on their ballot when they vote for President and local elected offices in November.


The Chatham County Commission is expected to vote Friday on millage rates for the 2017 budget.

The commission anticipates maintaining the millage rate for Chatham Area Transit at 1 mill, for the countywide general fund at 11.543 mills, and for the property tax paid by only unincorporated residents at 4.13 mills.

“The board of commissioners has stated its plan to keep the millage rates the same as they were last year,” Commission Chairman Al Scott said at an earlier hearing on the millage last week.

Although the county doesn’t intend to increase the property tax, the move by the commission to adopt a millage above next year’s rollback rate could result in an increase for some property owners’ annual tax bills. The county has reported that anticipated growth in property values could raise these payments on an average property by about $9.

The Gwinnett County Republican Party will open a new headquarters in a storefront in Gwinnett Place Mall.

High levels of vanadium have been detected in groundwater at a landfill near the Okefenokee Swamp in South Georgia.

A second round of bulk-buying of solar panels in the Solarize Tybee program makes eligible any rooftop within 100 miles  of Savannah.

That wait ends Tuesday when Solarize Savannah kicks off, with what’s shaping up as a 90-day period for interested property owners to sign up and have their rooftop evaluated for suitability.

Solarize is a national program supported by the U.S. Department of Energy that helps local governments promote solar energy to homeowners and business owners by streamlining the selection of an installer and buying in bulk to reduce cost. Begun in Portland, Ore., the program has been implemented in more than 200 communities around the nation. Solarize Tybee, which spread countywide, was the first Solarize project in Georgia. Solarize Athens and Solarize Decatur-Dekalb are currently underway.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 17, 2016

On June 17, 1759, Sir Francis Drake claimed California for England.

On June 17, 1775, British forces under General William Howe engaged American colonists at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

On June 17, some 2,200 British forces under the command of Major General William Howe (1729-1814) and Brigadier General Robert Pigot (1720-96) landed on the Charlestown Peninsula then marched to Breed’s Hill. As the British advanced in columns against the Americans, Prescott, in an effort to conserve the Americans’ limited supply of ammunition, reportedly told his men, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” When the Redcoats were within several dozen yards, the Americans let loose with a lethal barrage of musket fire, throwing the British into retreat.

After re-forming their lines, the British attacked again, with much the same result. Prescott’s men were now low on ammunition, though, and when the Redcoats went up the hill for a third time, they reached the redoubts and engaged the Americans in hand-to-hand combat. The outnumbered Americans were forced to retreat. However, by the end of the engagement, the Patriots’ gunfire had cut down some 1,000 enemy troops, with more than 200 killed and more than 800 wounded. More than 100 Americans perished, while more than 300 others were wounded.

A distant ancestor of mine, John Logue, fought with the Americans at Bunker Hill, though he was not yet an enlisted soldier.

President Andrew Johnson appointed John Johnson (no relation) provisional Governor of Georgia after the Civil War on June 17, 1865; John Johnson had opposed secession.

France announced its intention to surrender to Germany on June 17, 1940.

Five men were arrested for burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate office and apartment complex in Washington, DC on June 17, 1972.

The affair began with the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) connected cash found on the burglars to a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, the official organization of Nixon’s campaign.

In July 1973, as evidence mounted against the president’s staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee, it was revealed that President Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and he had recorded many conversations.

After a protracted series of bitter court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the president had to hand over the tapes to government investigators; he ultimately complied.

Recordings from these tapes implicated the president, revealing he had attempted to cover up the questionable goings-on that had taken place after the break-in.

Facing near-certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and equally certain conviction by the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974. His successor, Gerald Ford, then issued a pardon to him on September 8, 1974.

Newton Leroy Gingrich was born on June 17, 1943 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Gingrich graduated from college at Emory University, where he founded the Emory College Republicans. Gingrich’s congressional papers are collected in the the Georgia’s Political Heritage Program at West Georgia College, where he taught before being elected to Congress. Also at West Georgia are the papers of former Congressmen Bob Barr, Mac Collins, and Pat Swindall, along with a near-perfect replica of Georgia Speaker Tom Murphy’s office.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

One of my favorite accounts of Donald Trump’s trip to Georgia comes from Carolyn Hall Fisher, via Facebook.

Today was a big day. I got up at 4 AM and met Senator Michael Williams at Best Buy in Cumming at 5:30 and he drove us to Charlie Loudermilk’s gorgeous home where we were wanded and searched by the Secret Service. Michael was a guest and I was a volunteer.

I was assigned to bathroom duty. I had to stand by this gorgeous bathroom and tell people whether or not it was occupied. Had to keep them off of a large staircase and away from Charlie Loudermilk’s bedroom. I did a great job as the bathroom monitor because I was a teacher for 31 years. I was very tempted, but did not tell anyone not to stand on the toilet or pee in the sink.

I had everybody in a nice line and one elderly gentleman came over and he had to go really bad so I asked a lady if he could go ahead of her. She said no and I almost wrote a note for her to take home and get signed by somebody.

There was a beautiful winding staircase in the front hall and Donald Trump stood there and spoke to everyone. I was amazed. He was absolutely a perfect gentleman. He was gracious, and he spoke eloquently. I was stunned and extremely impressed. He patiently answered questions and many times called people by name.

Once he left Ginger Howard and I journeyed to the Fox Theater where we had VIP seats on the front row. The place became packed and my friend Julianne Thompson made a lovely speech and led us in GOD BLESS AMERICA in her lovely voice.

Other people spoke and then Donald Trump came out and gave a very nice speech. There were some protesters in the crowd but there always are at these things.

Once he finished speaking, Mr Trump came down and shook hands, signed autographs, and spoke to each one of us on that row. He was quite the gentleman, not in a hurry to get away, and was appreciative of our work and our being there.

I was going to work for and vote for Mr. Trump because I am terrified for us and our children when I think of Hillary Clinton appointing even one Supreme Court Justice. After meeting him today I am now a fan. I believe he really wants to help America. After all, look what America has done for him.

So for those of you who just feel that you must surrender and let Hillary Clinton be our next President you might want to ask yourself what’s worse? Somebody who sometimes comes off as crass be president or a woman who is a murderer and liar? Doesn’t seem to be a hard choice to me.

What I like about it are (1) it’s a first-person narrative; (2) it’s more personal than political; and (3) it’s unrelentingly positive. Carolyn was chosen as a Delegate to the Republican National Convention by the Seventh Congressional District in April.

Governor Nathan Deal appointed Jacqueline Bunn to the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Bunn has been executive director of the state’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council since 2013. Bunn previously worked as an assistant attorney general focused on civil rights and as deputy director of the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s legal services unit.

The board consists of five full-time members who make parole decisions. During 2014, the board made more than 76,000 clemency decisions regarding parole cases.

Former state representative Jay Neal will serve as the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s interim executive director. He is currently the council’s criminal justice liaison.

Congratulations to Ms. Bunn and to Mr. Neal.

Congratulations also to Savannah lawyer Pat O’Connor, who is taking the reins on Saturday as President of the State Bar of Georgia.

The Savannah Morning News writes that the legislature should heed Senator Renee Unterman’s advice to look at Medicaid expansion under a waiver.

Georgia has already lost out on billions of federal dollars that would have covered medical costs of people with incomes too low to qualify for health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act but not low enough to get Medicaid. We are talking about an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 Georgians without coverage who would likely qualify if Medicaid were expanded. These are people who use the closest emergency room for all medical issues, which forces hospitals to foot the bill, close or pass the cost along to the rest of us. At least four rural hospitals in Georgia have closed during the past three years.

Locally, Memorial Health University Medical Center is losing millions of dollars annually, in large part because of its commitment to treating uninsured patients. That loss has helped fuel the hospital’s ongoing effort to find a third party to be a financial partner with the hospital, resulting in a major political controversy that continues to boil.

“Times have changed,” Unterman said. “How many years in a row can we pump in hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals that are closing, to physicians that are going out of business?”

Unterman qualified her remarks by pointing to modified, hybrid plans that Republican governors in 10 other states have fashioned to take partial advantage of the additional dollars. Arkansas, for example, buys private insurance for low-income residents who were in that gap. Georgia is one of 19 states still not offering any kind of Medicaid expansion.

For the state to sign on now, it would take an act of the legislature as well as the governor’s signature. Democrats, a minority in both chambers, have pushed for Medicaid expansion, but Republican opposition remains strong. We urge Chatham County’s delegation to join Unterman and encourage the legislature and Gov. Deal to reconsider their past objections to Medicaid expansion in this state.

It’s not too late to get help for hospitals like Memorial and their staffs, physicians, low-income residents and state taxpayers.

Don McKee, writing in the Cherokee Tribune Ledger News also urges the legislature to consider Medicaid expansion.

The question is: will Unterman’s fellow Republicans in charge of the General Assembly show an interest in her idea or reject it out of hand? They should at least give it thoughtful consideration. It could be a workable way to help nearly half a million Georgia residents get needed health care insurance without breaking the bank for the state. It deserves a hearing in the General Assembly with input from the people.

If I’d known former Governor Roy Barnes was appearing in a Gwinnett County Courtroom, I’d have gone to watch the master at work.

[Gwinnett and Cobb] counties, represented by former Gov. Roy Barnes’ Marietta firm, are seeking a total of $52 million in the case, which involves 16 lawsuits. Barnes told the court the money at stake is owed to the counties and necessary to avoid using taxes to upgrade the emergency calling systems and keep up with rapidly changing technology.

The hearing in Gwinnett Superior Court was over a motion by BellSouth and Earthlink to dismiss two of the suits. Judge Randy Rich offered no hint of where he stood after the attorneys’ arguments and said he expected to issue a decision in about two weeks.

The former governor was animated in dark thick-rimmed glasses, slapping papers in his hand as he spoke about the “arrogance of the telephone providers.”

“They’ll do anything until they get to the next session of the General Assembly to try and kill the case,” he said, accusing the defendants of sending lobbyists to get legislators to add protections in the law.

In Cobb County, the NAACP along with the county Republican and Democratic parties will celebrate Juneteenth this weekend.

Live music kicks off the weekend-long celebration tonight, and Saturday’s 13th annual Juneteenth Culture Festival and Sunday’s third annual Gospel Festival will round out the weekend. All events are free and open to the public.

Deane Bonner, Cobb County NAACP president, said tonight’s live music will include jazz, blues and spoken word performances.

The weekend celebration continues Saturday with more than 100 clothing, jewelry, hat and food vendors stationed throughout Marietta Square.

“There’s something for everyone,” she said.

Mayor Steve Tumlin described the event as “joyful and fun,” saying the city has “embraced it from every angle.”

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were free, Bonner said.

“Because we have a true definition of what Juneteenth is, people will begin to know. This will be a learning curve, so to speak, and appreciate why we celebrate Juneteenth,” Bonner said.

It’s not just impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety that elected officials should avoid. But Cobb County Tax Assessor’s Office Director Stephen White sees nothing wrong with how he’s lowered his own property taxes.

Stephen White serves as director and chief appraiser of the Cobb Tax Assessor’s Office. Though in his 40s, his west Cobb home property is eligible for an exemption from taxes paid to the Cobb School District because his father, who is in his 70s, resides in the home and is on the home’s deed.

Cobb County grants the school tax exemptions to homeowners who are at least 62 years old on or before Jan. 1 of the current tax year.

“If the thought is I moved my father into my home just to get school tax exemption, that didn’t happen. I was taking care of my parents in my situation, and that’s why I moved my parents into the home,” White said.

White said his father also provided financial support to aid in setting up the home as the two were moving in.

“My father made a large investment into our home to help assist for caring for elderly family members. In return for that, I put him on the deed to my house,” White said. “He made an investment in my home.”

White said the exemption for his home is annually worth about $1,900.

If you live in DeKalb County, please take a few minutes to take a brief survey on the upcoming SPLOST election.

DeKalb Commissioner Nancy Jester has made her own concerns over the SPLOST known.

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners (BOC) has not yet voted to put the SPLOST referendums on the November ballot, although the County Administration has presented the BOC with a request to put the SPLOST in front of DeKalb voters, but have not yet voted on this matter. “I have deep concerns and reservations about increasing the County sales tax,” Jester adds. “I am absolutely opposed to the list of SPLOST projects that has been presented to the BOC. The list does not prioritize paving and public safety. It does include a new government center for politicians.”

Kennesaw City Council is considering adopting social media guidelines, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

The latest version of the proposed policy removes language found in an earlier version that said the city “may seek injunctive relief from a court of competent jurisdiction” if an official refused to remove a social media post that violated the guidelines within 10 days of receiving oral or written notice.

But the policy says any online activity that interferes with the city’s ability to conduct business “may result in the issue being brought before the entire council to address.”

“Do you have to follow it? No, from the standpoint we recommend it. This is like table manners,” City Attorney Randall Bentley said at the council’s work session Wednesday night. “But I must tell you as far as a number of things that we are very limited to what we can do in regards to your social media.”

“A lot of it is to bring to you and recognize the fact that you can have a violation of open meetings rules in the fact that you can’t discuss city business — if three of you were to come online and start discussing city business, that would be a violation of open meetings, so we talk about that in here,” Bentley said. “We also talk about the fact that if you discuss city business, there is a real possibility that you can be subject to open records requests, so we want to make sure that you recognize that that is a possibility.”

Under open records laws, Bentley told the council, discussions of city business on officials’ personal social media accounts could be required to be retained in case they became the subject of open records requests.

“If we have an open records request, and you’ve been discussing it on your site, and it falls within that open records request, then you have to produce that,” he said. “(This policy) is kind of a wake-up call just to kind of say, ‘Hey, I could be subject to (that).”

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter announced he will seek charges against Snellville Mayor Tom Witts.

Former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine will have his day in court on today, arguing (through his lawyer) that ethics charges filed last year against his 2010 campaign must be dismissed.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk will hear arguments in Oxendine’s bid to get the courts to essentially throw out charges from an amended state ethics commission complaint filed against him last year.

The commission’s complaint said that Oxendine took illegal contributions and spent campaign money on runoff and general election races he never ran after losing the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010.

The ethics commission dismissed several charges against Oxendine in December after his lawyer argued that the statute of limitations had run out on the allegations. But it voted to move ahead with other charges.

If Oxendine is successful, the case could lead to more politicians asking the courts to interpret state ethics laws while cases are ongoing, rather than leaving it up to the commission.

Georgia and South Carolina will each contribute $2.5 million toward environmental studies for a proposed new container port on the Savannah River.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 16, 2016

On June 16, 1736, General James Oglethorpe arrived in England with Tomochichi, the Yamacraw Indian chief, Tomochichi’s wife and several other members of the tribe on a trip to meet the Georgia Trustees and King George II.

Creek Indians signed the Treaty of Fort Wilkinson on June 16, 1802, ceding two parcels of land in Georgia to the United States.

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Illiniois Republican Convention as a candidate for U.S. Senate and warned that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The Atlanta Constitution was first published on June 16, 1868.

Bob Dylan recorded “Like a Rolling Stone” on June 16, 1965.

The Monterey Pop Festival opened at the Monterey Fairgrounds on June 16, 1967, often considered one of the opening events of the “Summer of Love.” Among the artists playing the Festival were the Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Macon-born Otis Redding.

Six Flags Over Georgia opened on June 16, 1967.

Atlanta Braves player Otis Nixon tied the modern record for steals in one game with six stolen bases agains the Montreal Expos on June 16, 1991.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The biggest Presidential campaign news coming out of Georgia is definitely the nomination of former Congressman Paul Broun as the Vice-Presidential candidate on the Constitution Party ticket.

The Constitution Party of Georgia (CP-GA) held its state convention on June 10th in McDonough. As expected, members selected Darrell Castle, the keynote speaker and Constitutional attorney from Tennessee, as its Presidential nominee.

In a surprise move the members also unanimously nominated Dr. Paul Broun, a native son and former U.S. Congressman, for the Vice-President slot. CP-GA Chairman Ricardo Davis explained: “Dr. Broun has one of the most impressive conservative track records of any Congressman who has ever served in Washington. The CP-GA’s mission is to elect individuals like him in all facets of civil government.”

Dr. Broun wrote a Jobs Act that was highly rated by the Club for Growth, an Audit the Fed bill that passed the U.S. House by a 333-92 margin, and legislation considered to be the best Obamacare alternative. Dr. Broun never voted for a tax increase, never voted to increase the debt ceiling and never voted for a bailout. He also proposed more targeted spending cuts than any other U.S. Representative.

Davis noted, “With the recent endorsement of Darrell Castle by Georgia Right to Life PAC, the Constitution Party of Georgia has the only ticket with endorsed president and vice-president candidates.  Castle and Broun have proven track records in defending the sanctity of life.”

The CP-GA is attempting to get Mr. Castle and Dr. Broun on the ballot in November by collecting 7,500 petition signatures according to a new interim federal ruling. Though still high, that number is a dramatic reduction from current Georgia law requiring about 52,000 signatures.  Voters wanting to see them on the ballot are working to meet the approaching deadline.

The actual news is that the Constitution Party might be able to make it on the ticket as the first party to place candidates on the ballot under the federal court ruling that invalidated Georgia’s requirement for more than 50,000 signatures and substituting the federal court’s completely made up requirement of 7500 signatures.

On Tuesday, Columbus, GA lawyer Mike Garner filed a lawsuit seeking to have the federal court ruling applied to his effort to gain ballot access as an independent candidate for Muscogee County Clerk of Court.

The Columbus attorney attempting an Independent bid for Muscogee County Superior Court clerk has filed suit claiming the law requiring him to have 5,226 voter signatures to get on the ballot is unconstitutional.

Mike Garner filed the suit on Tuesday in Muscogee County Superior Court, naming as the defendant Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations Executive Director Nancy Boren, who must enforce the law.

The law says candidates trying to run as Independents must by July 12 submit supporting petitions signed by enough eligible voters to equal 5 percent of those registered during the last election for the office sought. That’s the origin of the 5,226 number.

“Plaintiff has learned that no independent candidate has ever been successful in Muscogee County getting the required signatures,” Garner wrote, later adding: “The signatures must be obtained on an approved form given by the election board. This form requires the name, printed name, date of birth and address of the voter. Voters are reluctant to give their addresses and date of birth to strangers in fear of identity theft.”

So high a goal is unconstitutional under the First and 14th Amendments, he said, asking that a judge set a more reasonable standard.

“A proper number, an obtainable number, a number that would restore to … independent candidates in this case their constitutional right to run for political office would be 500 to 750 signatures in place of the 5,226 signatures now required,” he wrote.

He based his arguments on a March 17 ruling by Richard W. Story, a federal judge for the Northern District of Georgia, who found unconstitutional a Georgia law requiring Independent presidential candidates seeking ballot access to get signatures equal to 1 percent of registered voters during the last election.

Typically a judge from outside the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit that includes Columbus is appointed to hear such cases, to avoid the perception local judges are trying to influence elections here.

A Democratic organization called is seeking to register new voters in advance of the November General Election. From the AJC’s Kristina Torres,

More than 950,000 people in Georgia could soon be getting mailers from a Washington-based voting advocacy group with instructions on how to register to vote, part of a multistate effort to boost voting rolls ahead of this year’s presidential election.

The Voter Participation Center is aiming its efforts at communities of color, unmarried women and millennials—groups historically underrepresented in voting counts. Past registration efforts, however, have at times been met with confusion — including in 2012, when the group mailed registration forms addressed to people’s deceased pets.

The group uses commercially collected information and says it has since refined its mailing process. It also says residents contacted in error can ask to be removed from its list at 202-659-9570.

Here’s what their voter registration mailers look like:

Voter Participation Center Envelope

Voter Participation Center Letter

Voter Participation Center App

Trump in Atlanta

Donald Trump came to Atlanta’s Fox Theater yesterday, to what Fox5 Atlanta called a crowd of about 2500.

“We love Georgia, we had a big, big victory in Georgia a little while ago and we’re going to have another one thank you very much everybody” said Trump.

Trump doubled down on his controversial stand on immigration, calling for a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants, and for the surveillance of mosques as part of the war on radical Islamic terrorism.

Trump spent much of his speech on terrorism in the wake of the deadly Orlando nightclub shooting.

11Alive also covered the Trump campaign rally.

Conservative leaders Ralph Reed and Herman Cain posed for photos behind stage at the Fabulous Fox Theatre as a handful of protestors outside grew to about fifty.  When the conservative leaders took the stage, they both slammed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, mocked Republicans that have spoken out against Trump, and blamed the “liberal” media for biased coverage of Trump

After an introduction from legendary former University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley, Trump took the stage about an hour late as the crowd inside cheered. “Wow!” Trump said as he praised the Georgia crowd, promising to take the state in November.

“We had a horrible, horrible event this weekend in Orlando,” Trump said. “Unthinkable.” As he started laying out plans for America to “be tough”, the first chants of “Trump,Trump!” started.

He said the LGBT community supports him and his policies: “When I say, ‘Make America Great Again’, it has to be for everybody. Everybody.”

I’m not sure what this does for Trump’s credibility as an outsider in the mold of David Perdue – rapper Waka Flocka Flame, who endorsed Perdue for Senate in 2014, called for his Twitter followers to “protest peacefully” at Trump’s Atlanta event.

Perhaps the biggest endorsement of the day for Trump was legendary University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley.

Dooley’s endorsement of the presumptive Republican nominee came at a Trump campaign rally Wednesday afternoon at the Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta. Dooley previously was scheduled to attend an event later Wednesday afternoon at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, and appeared at the rally at the urging of his son-in-law, whom Dooley described as “a big supporter” of Trump.

“I think the whole thing is that you have to make a choice now,” Dooley said in an interview following his Trump endorsement, noting the presidential field was winnowed to just two people, with Trump as the presumptive GOP nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic contender for the White House.

“I don’t exactly agree with everything he’s done,” Dooley said of Trump. But, Dooley went on to say, the United States “has lost prestige in a lot of ways … it’s time for a new beginning.”

Dooley all but ruled out any active campaigning for Trump, saying he might appear at some future Trump event in Georgia, but likely wouldn’t do much beyond that.

“I doubt it,” he said when asked about the possibility of campaigning for the GOP presidential contender.

Dooley’s endorsement of Trump brings him in line with his wife, Barbara, whom Dooley said has favored Trump almost since the real estate magnate’s announcement nearly a year ago that he would be seeking the presidency.

“Early on, she said she was going to be for him,” Dooley said.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Council announced their 2016 Legislators of the Year.

Each year, the Georgia Chamber’s Government Affairs Council recognizes legislators for their votes on critical business legislation. During this year’s spring meeting Senator Jeff Mullis, Representative John Meadows and Representative Beth Beskin all received top honors in recognition of their support of pro-growth and pro-job policies.

“I would like to thank our state legislators for their leadership and support of legislation that will continue to create jobs, improve the quality of life, and promote economic growth for the State of Georgia,” said Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark. “As we continue our mission of leading the nation as the number one state for business we need our leaders now more than ever to continue to support pro-business polices.”

Chair of the Senate Rules Committee – Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) was awarded Legislator of the Year for being a champion for the business community in voting, actions as well as behind the scenes. He consistently works to make Georgia a great place to do business. “Senator Mullis has carried Chamber-supported legislation many times and we are fortunate to have him as Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee,” said Elizabeth Chandler, GAC Chairwoman (2014-2016). Mullis also received a scorecard vote of “A” on the Georgia Chamber’s legislative scorecard.

Chairman of the House Rules Committee – Representative John Meadows (R-Calhoun) was also recognized as Legislator of the Year for his steadfast support and advocacy for advancing a pro-business agenda in the House. Chairman Meadows scored an A+ on the 2015-2016 Scorecard, however more importantly, he’s often a trusted and respected voice of reason and counsel on difficult votes and issues.  “He’s always willing to listen to the Chamber’s viewpoint on an issue and never fails to provide candid and sage feedback,” said 2016 Georgia Chamber Board Chair and Executive Vice President, AGL Resources Hank Linginfelter.

For the past 6 years, the Georgia Chamber’s Government Affairs Council has recognized legislators from both sides of the aisle who work hard to pass legislation that supports economic progress.  The Georgia Chamber’s new digital scorecard provides the opportunity for the business community and Georgia voters to track how legislators vote on important economic issues.

The final award of the legislative season was given to the Rookie of the Year – Representative Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) for quickly asserting herself as the leading champion on the House Judiciary Committee for common-sense, pro-business civil justice legislation.  As the sole “No” vote in committee on a very anti-business E-Discovery bill during the 2016 session, Representative Beskin was the only legislator willing to stand up in support of the business community on a tough vote.  She also earned an A+ on the Chamber’s 2015-2016 Scorecard and has quickly become a strong friend and ally of the business community.

Georgia is fortunate to have leaders like these who strongly support economic development in our state. The Georgia Chamber will continue to cultivate the important partnership we have between the state and the business community to ensure we are promoting further growth in Georgia.

Chatham County Commissioner Helen Stone appeared before the Savannah-Chatham Board of Education to ask them to vote against a proposed millage rate increase.

Stone asked the school board not to approve their proposed .5 mill property tax increase because it creates a financial burden for homeowners like herself as well as retirees on a fixed income.

“As a citizen and a taxpayer I have watched my tax rate creep up since I bought my house in 2007,” she said.

Stone complained that ESPLOST, the penny sales tax for public education improvements, should keep tax rates down, but instead expenses have risen each time the district replaces and renovates a 1940s- and ’50s-era school. She argued that she attended public school until she reached high school and it was teacher quality that made a difference, not fancy facilities.

“When I was a student at Ellis Elementary there was no air conditioning or fancy gym and playground,” she said. “Many of us have gone on to be successful.”

State Senator Harold Jones (D-Augusta) will receive the Guiding Star Award from Georgia Equality for his vocal opposition to religious freedom legislation during this year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly.

“Whether it is a passionate floor speech against legislation that would discriminate against LGBT Georgians or by showing up at LGBT events in the Augusta area, he is proving to be a stalwart ally of a community that too often struggles to find allies in more rural parts of our state,” Graham said.

Jones said that despite representing a district far from Atlanta that is majority black, a group that polls show is among the least supportive of gay marriage, he’s heard no objections to his stance.

“I’ve gotten no blowback on that at all,” he said.

Sponsors of the “religious freedom” bill have said they will try again next year.

Georgia Department of Economic Development Deputy Commissioner Ben Hames told the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce that workforce development is a priority for job creation.

Hames explained the state has been going through a shift in its focus on how to attract business in recent years, going from primarily looking at incentives for businesses to also focusing on workforce development.

“Incentives remain important, but companies have been in this part of the economic cycle long enough, and have had enough strain and struggle in filling workforce positions, that all of a sudden they understand it doesn’t matter what the package is, what the location looks like,” Hames said.

“If you can’t find the skilled, work-ready individuals to step up and take the positions, (or) if you don’t have the programs and capacity in place to develop and deliver those individuals, it’s not going to work.”

The deputy director said Georgia officials have taken some steps at the policy level to encourage work force development, including letting computer programming stand in for math, science and foreign language requirements in high schools, setting up the Georgia Film Academy and offering free tuition for 11 high demand areas, such as industrial maintenance technicians, or CDL programs, at the High Demand Career Institute.

“Georgia should provide its own talent,” Hames said. “That’s not a statement about migration of emigration with an ‘E’ or an “I” or any of that. What it says is we should have the capacity, we should have the programming, the aspirational goal to provide talent, therefore creating a sustainable, quality work force.”