Category: Georgia Politics

4
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 4, 2017

On August 4, 1753, George Washington became a Master Mason at the Masonic Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

On August 5, 1774, Royal Governor James Wright issued a proclamation banning assemblies to protest British policy.

On August 6, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia began debating the first draft of the Constitution of the United States.

President Abraham Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax on August 5, 1861 at the rate of 3 percent on all income over $800 per year.

On August 5, 1910, Gov. Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing betting on election outcomes.

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank, her family, and two others were found by Nazis in a sealed area in an Amsterdam warehouse. They were sent first to a concentration camp in Holland, then most were sent to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot died from Typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March of 1945.

On August 4, 1958, a wagon train left Dahlonega, headed to Atlanta to pay tribute to the mighty General Assembly deliver 43 ounces of gold to be used to coat the dome of the State Capitol.

Gold from Dahlonega on its way to Atlanta. Photo by Ed Jackson via http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu

The caravan transporting the gold from Dahlonega to the State Capitol arrived in Roswell/Sandy Springs area on August 5, 1958. At the current price of $1270.10 per ounce, that would be worth $54,614.30.

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act; Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in attendance and was given one of the pens Johnson used to sign the Act. Here is an auction for one of the pens used in the VRA signing.

President Ronald Reagan began the process of firing all striking Air Traffic Controllers on August 5, 1981.

The first public website went online on August 6, 1991.

Divers raised the turret of USS Monitor near Cape Hatteras on August 5, 2002.

John Hughes, director of every meaningful teen angst movie of the 1980s (except Say Anything) died on August 6, 2009.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Jere Wood was removed as Mayor of Roswell yesterday in a lawsuit over term limits.

A Fulton County Superior Court Judge ruling on Aug. 3 resulted in Jere Wood’s immediate removal from the office of Mayor of Roswell.

Judge Craig L. Schwall, Sr. ruled in favor of the plantiff, Michael Litten in Litten v. Wood.

“Mayor Wood’s political enemies-unable to accomplish his defeat at the ballot box-chose to continue their battle through the courts. While this Court cannot ignore the overtly political nature of this dispute, it must ground its decision solely in the law. Unfortunately, the plain reading of the text of the city charter makes Mayor Wood the victim of this political war,” said Judge Schwall.

The order states that “Because Mayor Wood was ineligible to qualify for office in 2013 under the City Charter, this Court hereby grants the requested writ of ouster, removing Mayor Wood from office effective immediately. The office of Mayor of Roswell stands vacant and shall be filled pursuant to the terms of the City Charter.”

Pursuant to terms of Roswell city charter, in the case of a vacancy of the office of Mayor, there are two courses of action, a special election or election of mayor pro-tem.

Mayor Wood announced he will appeal the ruling.

On Thursday, Wood said he will, in fact, appeal the court’s ruling.

“However, I will not be seeking reelection this coming November,” he said in a statement issued through city spokesperson Julie Brechbill. “I will continue to serve the city until my current term comes to an end or the appellate court rules on Judge Schwall’s decision.”

The charter amendment imposing term limits was done through local legislation approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

In his ruling Schwall notes the sole issue before the court was to determine if Wood was qualified to hold office during the 2013 election. Schwall states the text of the charter’s language is clear, and that any reasonable reader would “conclude that the ineligibility limit applies to an individual who has served three or more terms.”

“The text does not make any qualification or exception for when the terms were served, whether they were served consecutively, or were designed only to apply prospectively,” he writes.

Macon lawyer Jeffrey Monroe received more welcome news in the form of a call from Gov. Deal’s office.

Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed Macon attorney Jeffery Monroe to fill a judgeship vacancy on Bibb County State Court.

He said he had just returned to the office Thursday from attending the groundbreaking for the new Elaine H. Lucas Senior Center when he got word from his secretary that Deal was on the phone.

Monroe was one of four finalists for the job, created by the retirement of Judge William P. “Bill” Adams this summer.

Chief State Court Judge Jeff Hanson said Monroe will be an asset to the court.

“He is all about public service, and I know that he and I will work well together,” Hanson said. “It is a great day for the State Court.”

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network released a report suggesting Georgia should raise the tax on cigarettes.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network lobbies for public policies to fight cancer. It recommends Georgia raise its excise tax by at least $1.50 on a pack of cigarettes.

Georgia Health News editor Andy Miller believes the additional revenue could help struggling health care providers.

“You could put it into a fund to help rural hospitals in terms of if they have to expand, if they have to upgrade their equipment, recruiting doctors,” Miller says.

He believes the idea of raising the tax in Georgia could gain traction soon.

“The political arithmetic is going to be changing in the next year with the gubernatorial election, and so it may take leadership at the top to make this happen,” he says.

Georgia Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) may have a shot at serving as Chair of the House Budget Committee.

House Republicans tend to stick to seniority when it comes to selecting who will lead committees. Woodall is currently the sixth most senior member on the panel.

The current committee chairwoman, Diane Black, announced Wednesday she plans to run for Tennessee governor. Under a House Republican rule that bars lawmakers from leading committees while they’re running for another office, she’ll eventually need to step down or seek a waiver.

Likewise, the panel’s No. 2 Republican, Todd Rokita, is said to be preparing a bid for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat.

Moving down the list, the next two Republicans, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, are already chairmen of subcommittees on the Appropriations Committee. They’d have to agree to give up those powerful perches to assume the House Budget chairmanship, possible but not all that likely.

That leaves California Republican Tom McClintock and Woodall. McClintock is technically more senior, yes, but the former Freedom Caucus member has voted against his share of budget and government spending bills over the years that party leaders had been pushing. That could very well come back to hurt him as he looks to appeal to those very leaders who help control the House Steering Committee, which selects chairmen.

Vector Space Systems successfully launched a small rocket from the proposed site of the Camden Spaceport.

The rocket was launched at 12:15 p.m. and the rocket parachuted back to the ground still inside property owned by Bayer Crop Sciences that formerly manufactured pesticides there. The company said the launch would not reach 10,000 feet, but John Simpson, a spokesman for Camden County, said he could not provide the exact altitude reached.

Camden County promised two years ago, “we’d make history again. Well today, we did just that,” County Manager Steve Howard said.

The liftoff of Vector-R’s rocket was the first ever commercial launch from Georgia, Howard said, and “we anticipate many more launches at Spaceport Camden in the future.”

The State House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding approved language for an RFP seeking a consultant to study the state’s transit needs.

The chosen consultant will recommend short- and long-term investments in mass transit, as well as a governance structure to oversee the system. In metro Atlanta, an alphabet soup of agencies – MARTA, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, Gwinnett County Transit, CobbLinc – provide various mass transit services. Some lawmakers believe consolidating those agencies might yield better, more efficient service.

The House commission – a group of local and state elected officials and representatives of various transportation agencies – is expected to study such issues for the next year and a half. However, with the consultant’s help, it may identify some interim measures that could be taken up by the General Assembly next year, according to Rep. Kevin Tanner, the commission chairman.

The Atlanta Regional Commission hopes to hear from citizens about improving economic competitiveness.

ARC officials announced they will hold an open house input session from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Aug. 8 at the Gwinnett Chamber. The strategy is being renamed CATLYST — emphasis on the “ATL” — and the goal is to visualize the region’s future and sort out what will be the biggest issues facing metro Atlanta over the next five years.

“Attendees can offer their opinions and can also learn about the strategy, see the results of a regional survey and see highlights of the research to date,” ARC spokesman Jim Jaquish said in an email.

The session will be conducted as a drop-in and drop-out format so residents and business owners can visit the chamber building at any time during the two-hour window to offer their input. The ARC will serve light refreshments for attendees.

A questionnaire can also be found at http://atlantaregional.org/catlyst.

3
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 3, 2017

16th Amendment

On August 3, 1910, Georgia became the ninth state to ratify the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allows Congress to levy a tax without apportioning it among the states.

Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President on August 3, 1923 after Warren Harding died in office.

On August 3, 1982, Michael Hardwick was arrested, setting in motion the prosecution that would eventually lead to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick.

The World of Coca-Cola opened on August 3, 1990 between Underground Atlanta and the Georgia State Capitol.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal visited Gordon Hospital in Calhoun to talk up the First Steps Georgia program.

Mrs. Deal began her visit meeting with staff of Family Resource Center of Gordon County, showing them the children’s book, “Who I’d Like To Be,” written by 90-year-old Elizabeth Brown, with illustrations by the author’s 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Alexandria Elizabeth Brown. She left several copies of the book to be handed out to new families.

“It’s a nice message,” said Mrs. Deal of the book. “I just love this book. It’s important for parents to read to their children, and this book is a good one for families to read together.”

Mrs. Deal also discussed the importance of childhood immunizations.

“I like to encourage immunizations,” said Mrs. Deal. “I was raised in a time with mumps and measles, so I know what it’s like to go through those things. It’s important to protect our babies and protect our children.”

The hospital received immunization cards from Mrs. Deal to pass on to new mothers. The cards have a section to add any immunizations received and can be conveniently carried in a wallet or purse.

First Steps Georgia is a parenting support service for all families who are expecting a child or who have children less than five years old. First Steps provides universal support services including a localized community resource guide, referrals to relevant resources and age-appropriate information in maternal health, newborn/child health, home and child safety, community and family safety, school readiness and family economic self-sufficiency.

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash attended the beginning of demolition of Olympic Tennis Stadium.

“It is a little bit sad to see a facility like this, that was part of the Olympics in ’96, at the point where it’s time to take it down and do something else, but that’s sort of the circle of life,” said Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash. “A building is just like everything else. It has a lifetime, and at points in time it’s time for it to come to an end and be recycled for another use.”

The county acquired the property from the Stone Mountain Memorial Association in a land swap last fall. Officials announced at that time that the stadium would be demolished so the site could be turned over to developers for redevelopment.

Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood vetoed a rewrite of the city’s alcohol ordinance.

More than a week after Canton City Council members voted to approve a new alcohol ordinance that would allow growler stores to pour alcohol, Mayor Gene Hobgood has vetoed the ordinance on grounds that it is “complicated, confusing and in some cases arbitrary,” according to an official veto.

However, council members will have the opportunity to overrule the mayor’s veto at a special called meeting Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall, as allowed by the city’s charter.

Council members voted to approve the ordinance to permit consumption on premises of retail package stores in historic downtown Canton 5-1 at the last business meeting July 20. Only 25 percent of the business’s profits could come from pouring; 75 percent of revenue would have to come from packaged beer and wine consumed at home, according to the proposed ordinance changes.

In the veto, Hobgood lays out several points, including that the ordinance would allow growler stores to offer craft beer and wine with 13 to 14 percent alcohol content, but no food requirement, that it only applies to the downtown district, it has been redrafted and changed four times already and the 25 percent maximum consumption limit is “arbitrary and has no real foundation for the limit” since it could be challenged in court to extend to the current 40 percent requirement for restaurants.

Hobgood wrote that this amendment would be “the first of its kind in this city which would allow for both package sales and consumption on premises at the same retail establishment.”

DeKalb County Commissioners have objected to Emory University’s attempt to annex itself into the City of Atlanta.

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday to object to Emory’s annexation, invoking a state law requiring arbitration to settle disputes over zoning, density and infrastructure.

If approved, the annexation would add 744 acres to Atlanta’s borders and could lead to city tax money being used to fund a light-rail MARTA line from Lindbergh Station to the university’s campus. The area would remain in DeKalb County, but many services would be taken over by the city.

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond said the county, city, Emory, MARTA and public school systems should negotiate before completing the annexation of the region, which is currently unincorporated.

“The objections submitted by the county should not be seen as opposition to the proposed Emory annexation,” Thurmond said in a statement. “… Our objections are designed to ensure that all the issues associated with the proposed annexation are thoroughly vetted and that citizens have the ability to be informed regarding potential impact on their neighborhoods, communities and the county as a whole.”

Two commissioners left the meeting before the vote: Nancy Jester and Larry Johnson.

Jester said she didn’t agree with protesting the annexation. She said she recused herself from the vote because her husband, Stan Jester, is a member of the DeKalb school board.

“We really need to work on being friends. That’s where we should be, and not trying to make someone stay when they don’t want to,” Jester said. “They’re still going to be in DeKalb County, and there will be services that DeKalb County renders, so how do we make the best of that relationship?”

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) wants to further extend the statute of limitations for some victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Current laws “protect child predators and deny justice to abuse survivors,” said state Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine). Spencer is sponsoring House Bill 605, which would allow victims to sue not only abusers but also institutions that sheltered them.

Spencer led the effort to pass the Hidden Predator Act of 2015, which created a two-year window for victims to sue their abusers even if the statute of limitations had passed. Normally, adults must sue over childhood abuse by age 23.

Thirteen cases were filed under the Hidden Predator Act before it expired June 30.

“I was unaware of how stiff the opposition was,” Spencer said. “The opposition worked the back channels of the legislative process. That is unacceptable with this issue.”

Phrasing.

Five Georgia legislators have been appointed as commissioners to a national conference of states meeting.

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer and House Speaker David Ralston have appointed two Romans among five Georgia commissioners to attend the first national conference of states meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, beginning Sept. 12. Rome attorney and 2016 Republican National Convention delegate David Gulden­schuh and State Senator Chuck Hufstetler-R, of Rome, will be joined by Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, Rep. Andrew Welch, R-McDonough, and Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens.

The conference of states was called for by the Arizona legislature to start the planning for a prospective balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In order to pass such an amendment, 34 states have to pass a resolution calling for the convention and 38 states would have to ratify any proposed amendment.

Columbus State University received a grant from the National Security Agency to develop a cybersecurity training tool.

“The award makes CSU one of the top universities in the nation in providing technologies for cybersecurity workforce development to universities, government and private sector across the nation,” said Shuangbao Wang, a professor in CSU’s TSYS School of Computer Science in a press release.

The tool will be internet-based, allowing it to be accessed anywhere in the world. Wang expects it will eventually be used by global Department of Defense installations and other private and public organizations.

“We are building a tool that people across the nation can use to develop cybersecurity training, which guarantees compliance with government and industry standards for cybersecurity workforce development,” said Wang.

Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez said the city is willing to match job offers for police officers as the municipal-county police merger is undone.

Richmond County Commissioners and Board of Education members approved rollback millage rates for their respective portions of property tax bills.

Fort Gordon will launch a Cyber District as the focal point of anticipated growth in the cyber security industry.

The Alliance for Fort Gordon is announcing today the launch of a partnership among military, business and civic leaders to position the Augusta area to best distribute economic benefits expected with the area’s growing boom in cybersecurity jobs and businesses.

The term “Fort Gordon Cyber District” was coined last year to broadly describe the concept of the new partnership. Now the focus is on fostering what the alliance has called “a unique, welcoming culture combined with advanced technological opportunities to create the ideal environment for technology professionals to live, work, and play.”

With the anticipated rise of cyber-related workers coming to the Augusta area, the new residents will need homes and apartments, convenient places to work and a variety of options on how to spend their leisure time. Partners in the Cyber District are committing to touting and improving those areas of demand.

The Cyber District encompasses Richmond, Columbia, Burke, McDuffie and Lincoln counties in Georgia, and Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina. That includes the Army’s Cyber Center of Excellence and Augusta University’s Cyber Institute.

The Army’s Cyber Command is expected to move to Fort Gordon by 2020 from Fort Belvoir, Va. Also, the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center – designed to promote modernization in cybersecurity through public-private partnerships – is under construction on Reynolds Street downtown.

Billions and Trillions

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) discussed federal funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

Carter, R-1, answered a question from Rotary [Club of St Simons] member Gary Schwartz by saying part of President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan will include harbor dredging, and that he is working to have the ports in Brunswick and Savannah included in that plan.

“Whether we can get it into that trillion, I don’t know. There are a lot of projects out there across this country, and they are expensive,” Carter said. “You’d think a trillion dollars is a lot of money, and it is, but it gets sucked up pretty quick.”

Jennifer Broadus asked what Carter thought about having the states individually run their own health care programs. State sovereignty is more effective than the federal government’s “cookie cutter” approach, he said. A proposal to that effect had been made, but he has not read it yet, he added.

Carter was asked in the final question if there was anything Congress could do to get doctors the resources they need to provide effective health care to all, or at least give doctors more support.

Carter said the primary issue was with Medicaid. The majority of people who were able to get insurance because of the Affordable Care Act were just added to Medicaid, he said. Many of them were able bodied, he said. Medicaid, a state-federal program to insure low-income adults, children and disabled people, was expanded in some states under the ACA. Carter said the once-proposed Republican replacement, the American Health Care Act, would have addressed this.

Southern Company released their latest estimate for a cost to complete two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The full price of expanding Plant Vogtle has swelled to more than $25 billion and the project has slipped further behind schedule in the wake of a key contractor’s bankruptcy, according to estimates disclosed Wednesday by Southern Company.

The Atlanta utility hasn’t made a decision about whether the troubled nuclear expansion should continue.

But in comments during a conference call with investors, Southern CEO Tom Fanning indicated he leans toward recommending to state regulators that it be completed.

“From a lot of scenarios, going forward with nuclear may make sense,” Fanning said.

The $25 billion pricetag is nearly double the original forecast of about $14 billion to add two reactors to the two already at Vogtle.

From BusinessInSavannah.com,

If work goes forward, the completion of Unit 3 would now go from June 2019 to sometime between February 2021 and March 2022, according to the schedule. The prospects of bringing Unit 4 online would go from June 2020 to somewhere between February 2022 and March 2023.

The cost to Georgia Power would increase anywhere from $1 billion to $1.7 billion, raising the company’s commitment for its 45 percent share of the project from $5.7 billion to anywhere from $6.7 billion to $7.4 billion. The company projected it would cost $400 million to cancel the project.

After the company makes its report to the commission, a final decision on whether to proceed is expected by the end of the year, according to commission chairman Stan Wise.

While the economics should make sense for the decision, there is also where the project fits in terms of the state’s desire to have a diversity of fuel sources in its overall energy plan, Fanning said. For Georgia, “nuclear is important,” he said.

Coweta County is considering a property tax millage rate increase to fund additional public safety positions.

Coweta County is considering a property tax increase of 8.6 percent, and three public hearings are scheduled on the proposed increase.

Hearings will be Aug. 8 at 6 p.m., Aug. 22 at 7:30 a.m. and Aug. 22 at 6 p.m. The hearings will be held in the county commission chambers, upstairs at 37 Perry St. in downtown Newnan.

The county is proposing the increase in the millage rate to fund 44 new public safety positions.

County staff are proposing 26 new positions at the Coweta County Fire Department along with two additional ambulances, and 18 new positions for the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office.

The new fire department positions will be budgeted as 12 emergency medical positions and 14 firefighter positions, said Coweta County Administrator Michael Fouts. The two new ambulances will bring the county’s total to nine.

The county has applied for a federal grant that will cover 75 percent of the personnel costs for the new fire and EMS positions for two years, and 35 percent for the third year. If the county receives the grant, the money from the millage rate increase will first go toward the county’s portion of the salaries, and the rest into a fund to pay for the future personnel costs for the positions.

Healthcare

Don McKee at the Marietta Daily Journal reviews the thinking on how Georgia can proceed on healthcare funding.

Gov. Nathan Deal says his administration will consider Medicaid waivers, which allow a state to try new ways to deliver and pay for services provided by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.Waivers from the federal government would mean the state could get federal funds with more flexibility on how to spend them — and, hopefully, do a better job of it.

Deal indicated in late June that options to be explored could include changing the “mandated minimum coverage” requirements of Medicaid.

But Georgia should follow the lead of other states, says state Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, co-chairman of the House Rural Development Council, as Georgia Health News reported. “There’s no point in reinventing the wheel,” he said at a Bainbridge meeting. As for expecting action by Congress, Powell said: “We can’t wait for them. I mean, hopefully they’ll do something that makes sense, but if we wait for them, we’re going to lose another eight hospitals. So we can’t wait for them.” That’s for sure.

A story by Elly Yu at WABE explains how Medicaid waivers work.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said the state is in a crisis, citing rural hospital closures in recent years and high healthcare costs.

“It’s a crisis and if we take one tool off, and say — ‘Well, we’re not going to look at that, we don’t like that,’ — I think that’s not a good thing. I think that everything should be on the table,” Unterman said.

Medicaid waivers allow states to “waive” certain requirements under the law and allow them flexibility with Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, elderly and people with disabilities.

“They’ve been used over many years to allow states an avenue to test new approaches in Medicaid that, of course, differ from the program rules that are part of federal law,” said Robin Rudowitz, associate director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

Unterman said she’s expecting to see the issue of waivers come up in next year’s legislative session. Two committees in the legislature are currently looking at rural health and healthcare.

“We need to move forward, and we need to be proactive and we need to be ready for the session to start in 2018,” she said.

Monroe County Commissioners and Hospital Authority members voted to approve $10 million in bonds to support their local hospital.

Chairman of the Monroe County Commission Greg Tapley said the commission is upholding the wishes of Monroe County residents to keep the hospital up and running.

“They wanted to save the hospital and that’s part of what we’re going tonight,” Tapley said.

In a March special election, residents voted for a tax increase to “support the availability of health care services at the Monroe County Hospital.”

Bond attorneys issued $6.2 million in taxable bonds to pay off the existing line of credit and hospital debt.

The other $3.9 million is tax-exempt for renovations to keep the hospital financially successful in the future. The bonds will close on Aug. 10.

2
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 2, 2017

Georgia delegates Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.

On August 2, 1983, the United States House of Representatives voted to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday on the third monday in January.

President Barack Obama visited Georgia on August 2, 2010 – his first trip to Atlanta and second to Georgia after his election in November 2008. The occasion of his 2010 trip, like his trip to Atlanta in 2016, was to deliver a speech to the Disabled American Veterans Conference at the Hyatt Regency. From his 2010 speech:

As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.  Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised and on schedule….

As agreed to with the Iraqi government, we will maintain a transitional force until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

At the same time, every American who has ever worn the uniform must also know this: Your country is going to take care of you when you come home. Our nation’s commitment to our veterans, to you and your families, is a sacred trust. And to me and my administration, upholding that trust is a moral obligation. It’s not just politics.

That’s why I’ve charged Secretary Shinseki with building a 21st century VA.  And that includes one of the largest percentage increases to the VA budget in the past 30 years. We are going to cut this deficit that we’ve got, and I’ve proposed a freeze on discretionary domestic spending. But what I have not frozen is the spending we need to keep our military strong, our country safe and our veterans secure. So we’re going to keep on making historic commitments to our veterans.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal visited new mothers at Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton.

“I just wanted to talk to them about how important it is that we protect our babies and what we can do to protect them,” Deal said. “We talked about putting the baby in a crib and letting it sleep on its back. They used to advise letting them sleep on their tummies, but now we know it’s safer for them to sleep on their back.”

Georgia’s Safe Sleep program says that babies should sleep alone, on their backs and in a crib, with a firm, flat mattress and no toys or other items in the crib. That reduces the risk of sleep-related deaths. Georgia’s First Steps program provides new mothers with a small crib.

“We also talked about the importance of immunizations,” Deal said.

Deal noted that many childhood illnesses such as whooping cough are seeing a resurgence. She said that those illnesses can be fatal and it’s important for children to get their scheduled immunizations and for adults who care for children to also be up-to-date on their immunizations.

“We also talked about how important it is for them (mothers) to talk to their children, to not only teach them vocabulary but also teach them how to listen,” she said.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session spoke yesterday to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE) Annual Convention.

Sessions spoke about the Justice Department’s “commitment to support law enforcement and reinforce the rule of law.”

“I’m here on behalf of President Trump and the Department of Justice to say thank you,” Sessions told attendees. “The Department of Justice is proud to stand with you.”

“We have your back, we are in this together. We cannot restore public safety in our country if we are not united,” Sessions said. “We can all agree that you are safer on your rounds when everyone respects law enforcement. The communities you serve are safer if everyone respects law enforcement.”

“It hasn’t been my best week for my relationship with the president,” Sessions told The Associated Press. “But I believe with great confidence that I understand what’s needed in the Department of Justice and what President Trump wants. I share his agenda.”

Freshman State Representative Meagan Hanson spoke about her first year in the General Assembly.

Christopher Wray was confirmed by the Senate as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Wray led the Justice Department’s criminal division during the George W. Bush administration before he transitioned to private practice at the Atlanta-based mega-firm King & Spalding, where he built ties with some of Georgia’s largest corporations.

From the New York Times:

The 92-to-5 vote to confirm Mr. Wray, a former federal prosecutor, is likely to be a relief to many agents at the F.B.I. who want a strong director to stave off any attempts by the White House to meddle in its investigations. The deteriorating relationship between Mr. Trump and the previous F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, was widely viewed as harmful to the bureau.

“Now more than ever, the bureau needs a resolute and independent leader,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Christopher Wray has assured us he can be that leader.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue embarks on a five-state Midwestern tour.

The secretary of agriculture will travel to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana on a Back to our Roots tour to gather feedback on the 2018 farm bill, according to a news release.

Perdue, Georgia’s former governor, will be meeting with farmers, ranchers, foresters and political leaders as he also looks for ways to increase rural prosperity.

Perdue is scheduled to arrive Thursday in Wisconsin, where he will appear with Gov. Scott Walker at the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair and plans to meet later with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul announced he will seek reelection in November.

I want to complete the City Springs project, making sure we stand it up successfully.

Three other goals are: 1) implementing the current transportation initiative approved by voters and push a regional mass transit solution that offers true mobility options for residents; 2) ensuring the land use protections and commitments we’ve made to our residents in The Next Ten project are followed; and 3) gaining more control over the water system serving the City. We pay water rates well above the norm, we have water leaks that go unrepaired for weeks, months and years, while our fire hydrants are often impaired or have low pressure. This is truly a life and death concern.

Joe Musselwhite will run for Mayor of Warner Robins against incumbent Randy Toms.

Musselwhite, 64, said Tuesday that he will make a formal announcement next week that he is seeking the office. Mayor Randy Toms has said he will seek re-election to another term.

Musselwhite made the runoff against Toms in the 2013 election that began with six candidates, but he lost, with Toms getting 3,159 votes to Musselwhite’s 1,662.

Representative Karen Handel spoke to the Georgia Tea Party.

“It’s unfortunate in the world of the media right now. Many outlets now, their compensation package is based on clicks to an article, and that puts intense pressure to have the most salacious things that you can cover,” Handel said. “And I don’t necessarily put that in the lap of the individual reporter as much as I do with the management at a particular media outlet.”

The Roswell Republican made her remarks during a special meeting of the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party.

On issues closer to home, the congresswoman gave a shoutout to Cobb Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Bob Ott, both of whom were present, not just for their support, but for voting down a proposed county property tax increase last week.

“They went to bat for Cobb County,” Handel said to applause.

Hall County‘s Service Delivery Strategy with its municipalities was approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Madison County Commissioners are considering whether to raise the property tax millage rate in order to boost reserves.

The state recommends that counties Madison County’s size have two to three months of operating budget in reserves for emergencies such as a natural disasters or a government shutdown, something the county had just a few years ago.

This year, new Chairman John Scarborough said reserves are virtually non-existent.

Since 2011, the county has steadily pulled money from reserves each year. In 2011, the amount pulled was $379,000; last year over $1 million was required to cover the deficit.

Finance Department Director Kathy Clark came up with “four scenarios” for how the board might proceed.
Those scenarios ranged from keeping the status quo with the mill rate remaining at 14.266, to increasing it up to two mills.

Scarborough also asked the board to continue to think about things that could be cut in 2018.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a deal to allow documentary cameras from an A&E show to follow county police detectives.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a request from producers of the A&E network show “The First 48” on Tuesday to give filming crews access to the county’s police department as its detectives investigate murders. The commission had postponed a vote on the request last month because of questions about the agreement.

“I had some reservations related to previous documentary programs that the county had been involved with,” Commissioner John Heard said. “But after discussions with (Police Chief Butch Ayers and County Administrator Glenn Stephens), those reservations are overcome by the fact that we do have a great police department (and) we do have a great homicide investigation team.”

The name of the show refers to the first 48 hours of a homicide investigation, with camera crews following investigators at various law enforcement agencies as they work to develop leads in the early stage of a homicide investigation.

Georgia Public Service Commission Chair Stan Wise wrote about the reactor construction at Plant Vogtle after SCANA in South Carolina abandoned construction of two reactors.

“It is my hope that we do not retreat from nuclear power,” Wise wrote. “It is critical that we keep our fuel mix diversified, especially considering the exodus from coal and the growing reliance on natural gas, the prices of which have fluctuated in extremes during my tenure.”

Wise said renewable energy is important, but not yet reliable enough to be practical. He said nuclear power has high initial costs, but ultimately pays off with cheaper and cleaner energy.

“Today, Vogtle units 1 and 2 are the pride of the Georgia Power fleet and time has proven the critics wrong,” Wise said. “Vogtle is producing a kilowatt hour 2.8 times cheaper than the best natural gas combined cycle, 3.3 times cheaper than the best coal unit, and 6.8 times cheaper than the best gas combustion turbine unit.”

“And yes, it is true consumers have been paying as construction work is in progress, just as we all do with most water systems and other large public infrastructure projects,” Wise wrote. “We all benefit today from the investments made by generations before us. By spreading these costs over time, borrowing costs are lower and consumers are not hit with rate shock when the plants come on line.”

Wise said the similarities between Summer and Vogtle are less significant than they may seem.

He said Georgia Power has three times as many customers as the SCANA affiliate that owns the majority of the South Carolina plant. That means the impact on customers has been lower in Georgia — 5 percent here compared to 18 percent there, he said.

In Georgia, there are four co-owners of the Vogtle plant, compared to just two in South Carolina, he said, and Vogtle is guaranteed more money from Toshiba to reduce the impact on customers than Summers, $3.7 billion compared to $2.2 billion.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Once the commission receives that report, its staff will begin working on it and Wise said he expects a decision on whether the project should move forward by early December.

One of the outstanding issues that could affect the project, whether to extend production tax credits that could aid the project past its current 2020 expiration date, has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives but is still awaiting action by the U.S. Senate. That is one of the things that will be included in the analysis, Hawkins said.

But Wise said there is generally a favorable view in Washington, D.C., of the the tax credits and encouraging new nuclear power.

“I believe Congress has continued to be supportive of the extension of the (production tax credits),” he said. “I believe the White House is appropriately supportive of that as well.”

Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry echoed that at a June news conference.

“This administration believes that nuclear energy development can be a game-changer and an important player in the development of our clean-energy portfolio globally,” he said. “One of the things we want to do at DOE is to make nuclear energy cool again.”

Buford Commissioners are considering adopting a property tax millage rate higher than the rollback rate.

The Buford Board of Commissioners is set to adopt a millage rate of 12.80 mills for 2017, an increase of .580 mills over the rollback rate, which will result in an increase in property taxes of 4.75 percent.

The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $200,000 is approximately $46.40 and the proposed tax increase for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $550,000 is approximately $127.60.

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) appeared in Rome yesterday.

He started the morning with a tour of one of the county’s large employers, Redmond Regional Medical Center, then headed to his office for a personal meeting with Kathy Melton of Rockmart and her family. He presented Melton with a set of medals earned by her deceased father, Johnnie Brooks, who served in Africa during World War II, along with a copy of his military records.

“Veterans don’t always share a lot of their stories, and sometimes this is the first time families have ever heard about their service,” he told Melton as she beamed with pride.

Lunch was at Red Lobster, with the Floyd County Republican Women and the 50 or so party stalwarts drawn by the announcement that he’d be their speaker this month.

Graves had the group help him call off the Georgians tapped for important jobs in the Trump Administration — new FBI Director Christopher Wray, Health And Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers, to name a few. Graves’ own former scheduler, Morgan Joyce, is now deputy assistant scheduler for the secretary of state.

“Rex Tillerson stole her,” he laughed.

His reference to Pence drew applause, and he spoke of the locally organized September 2016 rally that Pence headlined in Dalton. The event came up, he said, during a recent flight on Air Force Two he shared with the vice president.

“When he sees me, he thinks of Northwest Georgia,” Graves said. “The rally here was the largest single rally for him in the country. Mike has never forgotten that, so he loves Georgia.”

Healthcare

Rep. Tom Graves spoke about federal healthcare legislation at Redmond Medical Center in Rome.

After close to seven years of talk about the repeal and replacement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — Graves said the GOP majority still has not found an alternative that can pass both the U.S. House and Senate.

Graves said the solutions have to be broad-based and the system in place now is missing affordable coverage for families.

“This is where a lot of families were misled in the original debate, the deductible argument was never brought up,” Graves said. He suggested allowing individuals to deduct from taxes the cost of insurance just like businesses do would be a good starting point.

State Senator Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) spoke about rural healthcare challenges in Georgia.

Sen. Burke stressed the importance of saving the local hospital as it is a necessary tool for economic development to occur.

Speaking of economic development, there is another public area of note. A rural investment tax credit for up to $60,000,000 million dollars, that is state-wide and is for economic development, not health care is considered very controversial. He said most legislators do not like tax credits cause it takes money out of their pocket to spend, “so the less we have to spend, the less influence we have with our constituents. So it is hard to get a tax credit bill through the legislature. That one did win, last minute, by one vote. I am hoping that can be another tool for small towns to use to get businesses to locate in their communities.”

He stated that Georgia rates 49th in most studies of health outcomes. “In other words, we are sicker as a state than most other states in the country.” Most of the problem is no doubt the type of food we enjoy. But the focus is to help people practice better health.

Sen. Burke expressed his thanks to the community, and especially the political leaders who stepped up and supported our local hospital to receive $2.5 million to make necessary improvements.

He said, “We can make Bainbridge great. Atlanta can’t do it, nor can Washington, DC; but Bainbridge will make Bainbridge greater.”

Andy Miller of Georgia Health News looks at a community’s efforts to keep their hospital open.

Elbert County commissioners are holding public hearings this week and next on a proposed one-mill property tax increase for one year to raise about $500,000 to offset the Elberton hospital’s costs for indigent care.

Without the money, the 52-bed hospital will close, officials warn. That would eliminate more than 200 jobs, and residents would have to travel more than 30 miles to the nearest hospital. A closure would jolt the mostly rural county’s economy.

Elbert Memorial lost $1.5 million in its last fiscal year, CEO Jim Yarborough said Tuesday. “Our concern is that charity care and bad debt are trending upward,” he said. Yarborough calls the financial crunch facing many Georgia hospitals “a silent epidemic.”

The hospital’s predicament demonstrates how counties and hospitals depend on each other financially, and how revenue pressure on each is creating an unprecedented squeeze.

Hospitals are facing lower reimbursements from government programs and private health insurers, along with high levels of uninsured and underinsured patients.

But another key issue is Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid, hospital execs say.

Reimbursement reductions for hospitals “translate into an unfunded mandate onto the county,” Lewis added. “Rural unemployment rates are so high there’s no millage capacity to support the unfunded mandate.”

Opioid overdoses are taking a toll on Emergency Management Services, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Opioid overdoses in Whitfield County are on the rise this year, says Scott Radeker, director of Hamilton Emergency Medical Services.

So far this year, Hamilton paramedics have administered Narcan, a drug that blocks the effects of opioids, 70 times. By comparison, they used Narcan 85 times in all of 2016 and 95 times in 2015. There have been individuals who have received the drug on more than one occasion but that number is not tracked.

“We are on a pace to almost double last year,” Radeker said.

“This is a problem everywhere, and Dalton isn’t immune,” said state Rep. Bruce Broadrick, R-Dalton, himself a pharmacist.

“If we get to the scene and see powder, we do have to take precautions,” [Radeker] said. “If it become airborne and someone inhales it, it can be quite toxic. We haven’t had to deal with that yet, but I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time.”

Georgia’s 911 Medical Amnesty Law allows people to call 911 for help with overdoses without fear of arrest for drug or alcohol possession.

More than one-third of US Adults were prescribed opioid painkillers in 2015.

Researchers found that more than one third of U.S. adults were prescribed the medications in 2015 and many also misused the drugs.

“A very large proportion and large number of adults use these medications in a given year,” said study author Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland. “I was still a bit surprised that 38 percent or about 92 million people used prescription opioids in 2015.”

1
Aug

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

August 1 was a big day for Benjamin Mays – he was born on August 1, 1895 and became President of Morehouse College on August 1, 1936.

PT-109, commanded by LTJG John F. Kennedy was sunk on August 1, 1943.

On August 1, 1982, Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal yesterday announced the creation of the Georgia Defense Exchange, an interactive business development platform designed to assist Georgia businesses in finding new opportunities in Department of Defense (DOD) contracting.

“From the Bell Bomber Plant during WWII to the NSA and U.S. Army Cyber Command in Augusta today, Georgia enterprises enjoy a storied history of fulfilling contracts for national defense,” said Deal. “Last year alone, defense contracts executed in Georgia were valued at $6.4 billion. These contracts provide significant opportunities for Georgia businesses and drive new development in local communities across the state. The GDX platform will allow us to equip companies with the tools they need to be competitive in acquiring DOD contracts while ensuring that this long-standing tradition continues in Georgia.”

“We pride ourselves on maintaining the best business environment in the nation, and providing top-notch resources for our citizens,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) Commissioner Pat Wilson. “GDX levels the playing field, giving small businesses in Georgia the chance to know about and respond to the many defense contracting opportunities that are available. I am confident that all Georgia companies will benefit tremendously from GDX, and that our state will increase its competitive advantage in this sector.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office performed maintenance on the Georgia voter registration file, pruning it of over 500,000 registrants. From Kemp’s office:Continue Reading..

31
Jul

Bob Barr endorses David Shafer for Georgia Lt. Gov.

Bob Barr

Former U.S. Attorney and Congressman Bob Barr issued the following statement in endorsing David Shafer for LG in 2018.

“David Shafer has a proven track record of advancing conservative ideals.  He wrote the state’s zero based budgeting law.  He authored the constitutional amendment capping the state income tax.  He is a staunch defender of the Second Amendment and the only candidate for Lieutenant Governor rated A+ by the National Rifle Association.  I judge politicians based on their accomplishments, not their promises.  David Shafer is the clear choice for Lieutenant Governor and I am proud to endorse him.”

Senator Shafer expressed his appreciation for Barr’s endorsement:

“I am grateful to Congressman Bob Barr for his endorsement and support.”

Bob Barr is one of three Georgians to serve on the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association.

31
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 31, 2017

On July 31, 1777, the Marquis de LaFayette was commissioned a Major General in the Continental Army, serving without pay.

The cornerstone for the first United States Mint was laid in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 31, 1792, becoming the first building constructed by the federal government under the Constitution.

Former President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded President Lincoln upon his assassination and oversaw much of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, died of a stroke in Tennessee on July 31, 1875.

On July 31, 1906, a bill to create place a Constitutional Amendment on the November election for voters to decide whether to create an intermediate-level Georgia Court of Appeals was approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

On July 31, 1962, the one-millionth immigrant was welcomed into Israel.

Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in major league baseball history, won his 300th career game on July 31, 1990. During eight innings, Ryan threw 146 pitches, while today, many pitchers are pulled at around the 100-pitch count.

“In the old days throwing that many pitches was a normal game,” said Nolan Ryan, who tossed a record seven no-hitters and is the all-time leader in strikeouts, fifth in innings pitched.

Ryan, currently the Rangers’ team president, is an outspoken detractor of the recent trend toward monitoring pitch counts. In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Ryan expressed his belief that today’s pitchers are “pampered” and that there is no reason why today’s pitchers cannot pitch as much as he and his colleagues did back in the day. As a result, Ryan is pushing his team’s pitchers to throw deeper into games and extend their arms further, emphasizing conditioning over what some would call coddling.

As Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux told SI: “This generation of players has become a creature of the pitch count. Their ceiling has been lowered. It’s up to us to jack it back up.”

Although I think that time he whipped Robin Ventura should count as a win.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Lynne Linder, wife of former Congressman John Linder, died, and the Congressman wrote a stunning obituary.

We met in Deer River, Minnesota on a beautiful Sunday evening 19,767 days ago. My brother Bill and I played in a county league baseball game that afternoon and strolled over to Gram’s Kozy Korner for a milk shake.

A blue Buick convertible pulled up with a beautiful young lady driving. She asked for directions to Cedarwild Resort. We gave her directions and I asked her why she was in town. She said she was staying with her girl friend whose parents owned Cedarwild. She had bleached her friend’s hair that afternoon and it turned blue. She was sent to town to get some brown dye to repair the damage.

After she drove off I looked at my brother and said, “Let’s go meet the girl with the blue hair.”

It’s a fantastic remembrance of their more than 54 years together.

Nick Ayers was sworn in on Friday as Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence.

Nick Ayers Pence Tweet

From CNN:

Though it seemingly wasn’t coordinated, both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence saw two new chiefs of staff join the White House ranks on Friday.

Nick Ayers, a longtime adviser to Pence, was sworn into office on Friday, as his wife and three children looked on. Pence’s office announced Ayers’ new role in June. He takes over the reigns from Josh Pitcock — both men are considered to be in the vice president’s inner circle.

From the AJC:

Ayers, 34, had worked for Pence for three years and was his chief political strategist when Trump chose the Indiana governor as his running mate. From his office in suburban Atlanta he also helped lead America First Policies, a super PAC supporting the White House.

The promotion meant that he won’t be joining the crowded field running for Georgia governor. Ayers had long been floated as a possible contender for the job, and several influential allies of President Donald Trump’s in Georgia had encouraged him to run.

Ayers got his start in politics as a protégé of Sonny Perdue, and he managed Perdue’s successful re-election campaign for governor in 2006. He was head of the Republican Governors Association for four years and was a contender to lead the Republican National Committee.

Senator Johnny Isakson did a Q&A with the Marietta Daily Journal.

What is next for health care? Is Obamacare the law of the land, or is there still a chance for repeal?

“The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. As said by the majority leader and the minority leader Thursday night or Friday morning, neither party did anything to fix it. We’ve still got some things that need to be done. We’ve got to come together, Republicans and Democrats and deal with the issues that are making insurance so expensive. I think we will, and I think we’ll eventually get it done.”

Will you make an endorsement for the Georgia Governor’s race?

“No. I’ve got my own race to run. Let them run theirs.”

The Georgia Ports Authority has ordered six new ship-to-shore cranes to add to its capacity to work larger post-Panamax ships.

The cranes will be delivered in the first half of 2020 as Georgia’s ports anticipate more growth after a record year for container volume.

Larger vessels and additional container services coupled with a positive economic forecast meant the Georgia Ports Authority handled 3.85 million TEUs for the fiscal year ending in June –  6.7 % more TEUs compared to the previous year, or 242,221 additional TEUs.

The Konecranes STS cranes currently on order have a lifting capacity of 66 tons, an outreach of 61 meters, and a lifting height of 46 meters above the dock.

Griff Lynch, GPA Executive Director, said: “By 2020, we will have 18 Neopanamax cranes and the ability to work three 14,000-TEU vessels at a single terminal simultaneously.

“Our volume growth continues to outpace forecasted demand. Shipping lines are moving 13,000- and 14,000-TEU vessels into service on the East Coast more quickly than anticipated, and concentrating their deliveries at efficient gateway ports like Savannah.

“This new crane purchase, along with the four already on order, will enable GPA to increase crane capacity by nearly 40%.”

The Port of Savannah currently operates 146 Konecranes RTG cranes and 26 Konecranes STS cranes, with four more under delivery in 2018. The new six units will add the total number of Konecranes STS cranes in the terminal to 36.

Peaches are a tiny part of Georgia’s agricultural production, but retain an out-sized role in our culture.

In May growers predicted an 80 percent crop loss, and now they are lamenting one of the worst years in living memory.

Where would we be without any Georgia peaches at all? One response, surprisingly, is a shrug. Georgia peaches account for only 0.38 percent of the state’s agricultural economy, and the state produces only between 3 and 5 percent of the national peach crop.

But this is not a simple matter of costs and profits. Georgia peaches are a product of history. And as [Kennesaw State Professor Thomas Okie has] documented, their story tells us much about agriculture, the environment, politics and labor in the American South.

The Georgia House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding meets on Wednesday at MARTA’s headquarters.

The group also includes officials for transit systems around the state, residents and other officials who work on transportation issues.

House leaders, including Speaker David Ralston, backed creation of the group. Its members are charged with studying how transit systems around the state can work together and what role the state should play, including any funding.

Advocates hope the effort leads to a state commitment for mass transit options.

 The League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area is planning to gather signatures for a petition to dissolve the municipal school system.

Officials with the League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area made plans last week to begin gathering signatures for a petition to place a referendum on the May 2018 general primary ballot that would call for the city school system to give up its charter.

“We will need 25 percent of the registered voters in the last city election,” said League board member Jevin Jensen. “That’s roughly 3,000 voters.”

Under Georgia law, if the League gathers enough signatures the Dalton City Council would have to put the measure on the ballot.

Georgia law says “only qualified voters residing within the municipality or district for six months prior to the election shall vote” on the measure.

“It’s the city’s school system,” Jensen said. “If the city drops the charter for the school system, the county is legally obligated to take over.”

League President Helen Crawford said the group has supported consolidation of the two school systems for almost 20 years.

State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) says that electric members cooperatives (EMCs) could play a role in extending broadband internet in rural areas.

Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said he doesn’t expect everyone under the Gold Dome to be quite so enthused by a plan to turn loose cooperatives to offer broadband. Gooch said he expects existing providers, in particular, to push back on the proposal.

“It’s going to be a fight,” Gooch said in a recent interview. “I don’t think it’s going to be easy. But again, nothing down there ever is. With anything this important, there’s going to be people who are against it because of self-motives and financial reasons.

“And I’m fine with that. I love to debate, and in fact, I challenge all the providers to come in and get involved and help us perfect the bill,” he added.

Gooch pitched a measure earlier this year that would grant the state’s 41 not-for-profit electric membership corporations, which serve about 2 million customers, the authority to offer broadband service in some of the state’s most sparsely populated places.

His measure stalled but remains alive for next year when lawmakers return.

“They already have the customers, the equipment, the manpower. They have the poles already in place,” he said of the EMCs.

When asked, two major providers in rural Georgia – Windstream and AT&T – expressed reservations about Gooch’s proposal.

Spotty broadband is an underlying issue for other hurdles in rural communities, such as economic development and access to quality education and health care. It was the first matter taken up this summer by the House Rural Development Council, which is expected to propose legislative fixes.

Industry representatives have told lawmakers that the meager return on investment, due in part to fewer available customers and often low participation rates, makes it tough to justify the investment in these low-density, rural areas.

State Senator Renee Unterman will serve on two study committees ahead of the 2018 legislative session.

[Lieutenant Governor Casey] Cagle appointed the senator from Buford to serve as the chairwoman for the Senate Study Committee on Homelessness and to serve as a member of the Senate Stroke Trauma Study Committee.

Three members of the Gwinnett legislative delegation will sit on a joint study committee that will look at issues affecting stream buffers in Georgia.

Ralston has picked state Reps. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, and Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, as two of his five legislator appointments to the committee. The Senate appointees to the committee include another Gwinnett delegation member, Sen. Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain.

[Speaker David] Ralston appointed state Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, to serve on the [Joint Study Committee on Transparency & Open Access in Government] while Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle appointed Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, and Gwinnett Medical Center’s Patty Lavely. The group will look at policies that deal with state agencies sharing data and how information technology can be used to increase the transparency of public data.

Gainesville and Hall County law enforcement agencies are reporting problems with recruiting and retaining enough officers.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed the fiscal year 2018 budget May 1, which included $55.2 million to provide a 20 percent salary increase for state law enforcement.

Starting salary for a Georgia State Patrol trooper upon graduation is now $46,422, a $10,312 pay increase.

At the Gainesville Police Department, starting pay is $35,543; deputies with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office can expect $37,658.

Gainesville Police Chief Carol Martin said the department was already seeing a slowdown of certified applicants even before the pay increase was announced.

“I think it has brought to light the situation not only in the state of Georgia but nationwide — the shortage of police officers and the applicants,” she said. “It can be blamed on many factors: pay, benefits, the national spotlight and the economy. When the economy’s better, our applicants go down.”

Sheriff Gerald Couch said he has lost at least one employee to Georgia State Patrol recently, as he and other law enforcement leaders struggle with hiring and retention.

“The more seasoned officers — eight to 10 or 12 years — they get to that point and they go, ‘I need a better retirement.’ And they may go to another agency, whereas the newer officers will leave for a variety of reasons,” Couch said.

A small number of Columbus residents marched to protest efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Property owners in Muscogee County and Columbus are being hit hard by rising property tax assessments.

To grasp the impact of Muscogee County’s recent countywide property tax reassessment, just consider the case of Jason Hilton.

As the owner of rental properties throughout east and south Columbus, the local businessman saw significant increases in his assessments this year, mostly in Beallwood where the county’s appraisals of his shotgun houses jumped from $20,000 to $220,000, he said. His estimated taxes are $3,300 for each house that he rents for $450 per month.

Hilton has already filed 190 appeals with the Muscogee County Tax Assessors Office. He also has put city officials on notice.

“I’ve been emailing back and forth with my city councilor, Gary Allen,” he said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “I did tell him if something isn’t resolved fairly quickly we will be notifying our approximately 400 tenants of what’s going on, if they haven’t already heard.

“We will be letting them know that their rents will be going up approximately 50 percent,” he said. “We will also put in the letter to tenants the contact info of their city councilor and mayor, along with the Tax Assessor’s Office, so that their voices can be heard.”

Hilton is not the only property owner frustrated in the wake of the recent reassessment of the county’s nearly 70,000 parcels, which spiked some assessments by as much as 1,000 percent. The project was conducted in conjunction with the Tax Assessor’s Office’s conversion to new software.

The Ledger-Enquirer looks at “who knew what and when” on rising Muscogee County property tax assessments.

property owners are in an uproar over exorbitant tax assessment increases, which have some elected officials pointing fingers over who knew what and when.

At a July 25 Columbus Council meeting, Councilors Garrett, Thomas and Davis chided the Tax Assessors Office for not notifying council sooner about the dramatic tax increases. A few days earlier, Thomas had told a group of Midland property owners that she didn’t become aware until receiving her tax bill at the end of June. She made similar comments at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Just to clarify, I think what Councilor Thomas was talking about was that council should’ve been notified before assessments went out that jacked up people’s prices 1,000 percent,” said Garrett, backing her up. “… I think the whole issue is that council was not approached with how much these assessments went up.

“… We should have caught this on the front end,” he said. “This should have been caught before this ever happened.”

Georgia bat populations are being impacted by white nose syndrome, an imported affliction.

State Department of Natural Resources wildlife scientists first confirmed white-nose in Georgia in February 2013. Since then the fungus has been found in numerous north Georgia bat caves, with mortality rates of 90 percent and higher, according to DNR’s annual report on the disease.

In a Rabun County tunnel where more than 5,000 bats hibernated in 2013, a DNR monitoring team found only about 500 in 2015, and about half that number in 2016. This year, they found just 152 tri-colored bats.

A Gilmer County mine once inhabited by more than 500 bats had just seven on March 1; a 99 percent decline since 2013. DNR monitors found 57 tri-colored bats and 13 gray bats in a Dade County cave March 8, which is a 96 percent decline from the more than 1,700 there in 2012.

DNR expanded its monitoring this year to several south Georgia caves, but found no evidence that white-nose had made it that far south.

“Last year we were seeing 50 percent declines in bat numbers at some sites, compared to the year before. This winter we didn’t see those drastic declines,” Morris said “It seems like we’re getting to a point where we might not be seeing such major changes. But it’s also because we have fewer bats.”

Chatham County Commission Chair Al Scott says local officials are working to protect residents as the merger of Chatham and Savannah police forces is dissolved.

Chatham Superior Court Clerk Tammie Mosley and her colleagues in the State, Probate, Recorder’s, and Magistrate courts are transitioning to an electronic filing system.

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials disputes statements by some municipalities claiming to be in compliance with Spanish-language requirements.

The Department of Justice informed Gwinnett County officials in December that they had to comply with Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires communities that have large numbers of voters who speak the same non-English language to provide election information in that language. That requirement includes the cities as well.

The immediate question is whether the cities, whose elections this fall will be the first held in the county since that requirement was announced, and the county are doing enough so far to be in compliance with the law. City officials say they are, but the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and LatinoJustice PRLDEF have concerns.

GALEO Executive Director Jerry Gonzalez singled out Auburn, Berkeley Lake, Braselton, Loganville and Lilburn as places the organization has particular concerns about, although he raised concerns about other cities as well.

“As recently as (July 18), their websites, which contain valuable information on upcoming municipal elections this year, were in English only and they were failing to provide the same information online in Spanish,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “Some municipalities fail to even offer voter registration forms in Spanish.”

Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Company, will take over for Westinghouse as primary constuction contractor on two new reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Previously, Westinghouse, the developer of the AP1000 nuclear technology being used by the new units, served as the primary contractor with oversight and responsibility for all construction activities. Under the new service agreement, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy on July 27, Southern Nuclear (the Southern Company subsidiary which operates the existing units at Plant Vogtle) will oversee construction activities at the site.

“We are already in the midst of a seamless transition for the thousands of workers across the site, allowing us to sustain the progress we are making every day on both units,” said Mark Rauckhorst, executive vice president for the Vogtle 3 and 4 project. “We remain focused on safety and quality as we complete this transition.”

Georgia Power also continues work with the project’s Co-owners (Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities) to complete a full-scale schedule and cost-to-complete analysis of the project. Once complete, Georgia Power will work with the Georgia Public Service Commission to determine the best path forward for customers.

State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Cherokee) wants you to read this article about civil asset forfeiture and a Georgia gun store. After reading that article, you can attend a forum on civil asset forfeiture reform sponsored by the Cherokee County Young Republicans, tonight at 7 PM at Marlow’s Tavern, 881 Ridgewalk Pkwy Suite 108, Woodstock, Georgia 30188.

Camden County will host a test-launch where the proposed spaceport would be built.

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved a permit for Vector Space Systems to conduct a low- altitude launch on Thursday of a full-scale prototype of the company’s Vector-R launch vehicle.

The rocket will be launched from the site of a proposed spaceport, the same location in Camden County where NASA tested solid-fuel rocket engines in the 1960s.

No target altitude has been announced, but Simpson said the rocket will travel at least several thousand feet high. The trajectory will take the rocket straight up and straight down, so there are no concerns about safety to surrounding areas.

“Everything stays within the confines of the launch area,” said County Administrator Steve Howard.

Elections

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) will host a “Women for Cagle” event on August 14, 2017 at the Buford Community Center. Click here to R.s.v.p.

Women for Casey Cagle

Watkinsville Mayor Charles Ivie announced he will not seek election to a fourth term in November.

Ivie, who had planned to seek a fourth term, learned this month of a health condition that needs medical attention.

“I am told I’ll be hospitalized for about a week and after that I’ll have eight to 10 weeks in recovery,” he said. “I don’t need to be trying to run a campaign at the same time I’m trying to recover.”

The election for mayor takes place in November; qualifying for the race begins in late August.

Sandy Springs City Council District 2 member Ken Dishman also announced he will not run for reelection.

28
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 28, 2017

BossDeKalb

Boss is a 3-year old mixed breed male dog who is available for adoption from DeKalb County Animal Services in Chamblee, GA.

Blessings

Blessings is a three-year old female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from DeKalb County Animal Services in Chamblee, GA.

Paco

Paco is a three-year old male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from DeKalb County Animal Services in Chamblee, GA.

Coweta County is waiving adoption fees for some dogs and cats who have been longtime residents at the shelter.

The shelter is overcrowded, and in an effort to help that problem, Coweta County Animal Control is offering free adoption of animals that have been at the shelter for over 120 days.

Dogs and cats that have been at the shelter between 90 and 120 days may be adopted for half of the standard adoption fee.

As of last week, there were over 30 dogs that had been at the shelter at least 90 days, according to Tom Corker, Coweta communications manager.

Though there aren’t any cats who have been there more than 60 days, “We have such an abundance of cats, we have chosen to reduce the adoption fee by half,” said Warden Bill McKenzie, director of Coweta Animal Control.

All animals adopted from Coweta County Animal Control are spayed or neutered, vet-checked and microchipped, and have at least their first round of shots.

The standard adoption fee at animal control is $70 for cats and $126 for dogs.

28
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 28, 2017

July 30th could be celebrated as the birthday of democracy in America, as the Virginia House of Burgesses became the first legislative body in the New World on July 30, 1619.

 Its first law, which, like all of its laws, would have to be approved by the London Company, required tobacco to be sold for at least three shillings per pound. Other laws passed during its first six-day session included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness, and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath observance mandatory.

On July 28, 1868, United States Secretary of State William Seward proclaimed that the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution had been ratified and was now part of the Constitution. The first section of the 14th Amendment often forms the basis for litigation and reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Georgia initially rejected the 14th Amendment in 1866, later ratifying it on July 21, 1868 as a condition for readmission.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his eighth visit to Warm Springs, Georgia on July 29, 1927.

On July 30, 1931, Georgia Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. signed legislation merging Milton and Fulton Counties if voters in each county approved a referendum. Fulton had earlier merged with Campbell County, to the south.

Congress passed legislation establishing the National Aeronautic and Space Admininistration (NASA) on July 29, 1958.

Actor Laurence Fishburn was born in Augusta, Georgia on July 30, 1961.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare, for seniors, and Medicaid for some low-income people on July 30, 1965.

The Doors’ “Light My Fire” became their first #1 hit on July 29, 1967.

On July 28, 1978, Animal House was released, instantly becoming one of the greatest films of all time. In case you’ve never seen the film, there is a tiny little bit of adult language in the following clip.

Carl Lewis won his fourth consecutive gold medal in the long jump at the Atlanta Olympics on July 29, 1996.

On July 28, 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating “The General” locomotive, which was stolen in 1862 during the Great Locomotive Chase. Today, The General may be viewed at The Southern Museum in Kennesaw.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved the project list for the county portion of a projected $950 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

The county is set to receive $748.2 million of the $950 million expected to be raised by the SPLOST, but officials plan conservatively in case revenues come up short. That means they are budgeting for receiving $673.4 million to be on the safe side.

“This is a well-thought-out list of projects that addresses some of our more pressing needs in a way that is fair to everyone in the County,” Gwinnett County Chairman Charlotte Nash said in a statement. “I commend the members of the selection committees and their dedication toward making Gwinnett County a great place to live and do business.

“These projects improve everyone’s quality of life, and without the SPLOST, they would be difficult to impossible to accomplish without borrowing money.”

The majority of the county’s portion of the SPLOST — 65 percent of it to be exact — will be spent on transportation related projects that were split up into Tier 1 and Tier 2 lists. That equates to about $437.7 million for transportation-related projects.

Sugar Hill Mayor Steve Edwards says his name shouldn’t have been on the list of endorsements released by Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s campaign for Governor.

Kemp’s campaign listed Edwards’ name last week among a long list of endorsements it said it had received from mayors and city councilmen from around Georgia. That was because the campaign was under the impression that it had his support after Edwards and Kemp ran into each other last month.

The Sugar Hill mayor disputed that claim this week, however, saying he hasn’t decided who he will endorse in next year’s governor’s race. Kemp is one of four Republicans seeking the post.

“I met Mr. Kemp in late June for the first time in Savannah while at a local government conference,” Edwards told the Daily Post in an email. “Although I will support a Republican candidate, I have not had a chance to officially endorse any candidate yet.”

Gainesville is considering rewriting its alcohol ordinance.

Gainesville’s liquor laws could be getting an update to allow downtown diners to carry alcohol outdoors and lift restrictions on breweries.

The city is considering changing its alcohol code to track with state law.

“State law changed this past year addressing breweries and brewpubs so that they can sell the product they make on-site and also allow people to … take it home with them,” City Manager Bryan Lackey told the Gainesville City Council during its Thursday work session.

The Bartow County Board of Education voted 3-2 to tentatively adopt a 19.2 mills property tax millage rate.

At a called meeting before the regular monthly meeting, the board voted 3-2, with members Derek Keeney and Fred Kittle opposed, to approve Superintendent Dr. John Harper’s recommendation to tentatively keep the millage rate at 19.2 mills rather than lowering it to the rollback rate of 18.713 mills.

Harper said the school system couldn’t afford to adopt the rollback rate with all the budget increases being passed on to it by the state, namely in the Teacher Retirement System and classified insurance costs.

In 2015, the school district was responsible for contributing 13.15 percent to TRS, he said. For fiscal year 2016, the rate increased to 14.27 percent, costing the system $9,852,745. For FY 2018, the rate jumped again to 16.81 percent, a cost of $11.5 million.

Keeney said by not rolling back the millage rate, the board is asking the county’s property owners to give it an additional estimated $1.6 million next year.

“For the majority of us, most of us sitting in this room, the additional tax burden isn’t that significant for us,” he said. “We won’t even notice the money moving out of our pocket. However, we’ve got many of our students and their families and our neighbors that would be significantly impacted by this tax burden. They’re having to make hard decisions today. So those most in need of relief from the government entity will be those most impacted.”

Dr. Tom Smiley was appointed Chair of the Hall County Board of Elections.

Smiley’s appointment was approved 4-1 with District 4 Commissioner Jeff Stowe being the only opposition. Stowe said while he respected Smiley, he felt that commissioners should have taken more time to examine his appointment.

“Tom’s a personal friend of mine. I’ve known him a long time. I think he’s an upstanding person,” Stowe said. “My only reason for voting against Tom would be just to table it and explore what other options are out there.”

Stowe’s comment came after two audience members, including one member of the Board of Elections, Kimberly Copeland, said they felt Smiley’s public stances on political issues made him unable to be non-partisan. Smiley is the Senior Pastor of Lakewood Baptist Church and is a regular co-host of WDUN’s “Morning Talk.”

The Augusta Historic Preservation Commission denied a permit to demolish an historic church.

Tybee Island Public Safety Committee members want to discourage fireworks on the island.

The widespread use of consumer fireworks during the recent July 4 holiday has ignited an effort on the part of Tybee Island officials to get restrictions in place before the next big celebration rolls around.

During a discussion of the issue Thursday, members of Tybee’s public safety committee said they’re looking at every avenue available in an ordinance proposed to ramp up restrictions after the consumer use of fireworks during this year’s holiday far exceeded anything the city has seen in the past.

City Manager Shawn Gillen said the public’s use of the explosives on Tybee’s beaches before the island’s official fireworks show caused concerns about public safety. In addition, Tybee Island Councilwoman Wanda Doyle, the chair of the public safety committee, said many of the people who were shooting fireworks off across the island did so well past the time limits imposed on their use by Georgia law.

“It was enough to make me uncomfortable,” Gillen said. “A crowded beach, drinking and explosives —it’s not a good mix.”

A crowded beach, drinking, and explosives sounds like the beginning of a Hunter S. Thompson novel. Or maybe a short story.

Savannah Under Construction is a new webpage designed to help the public keep track of public construction projects.

The goal of the Savannah Under Construction website is to increase the city’s transparency and accountability with the public, said Management Services Coordinator Daphanie Williams.

“This is definitely a collaborative effort among city employees,” Williams said. “I’m happy to say that our IT staff designed the website in house so there was no external costs to the city.”

Click here to check out the interactive map.

Hancock County public schools will be removed from the “under review” list by SACS, the regional school accrediting agency.

County Officials Gone Wild

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter wants to drag out the embarrassing headlines about his ethics charges appeal the decision of his fellow commissioners.

A specially empanelled ethics board recommended the Board of Commissioners issue a written reprimand against Hunter because of controversial comments he made on Facebook, including calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” and referring to Democrats as “Demonrats” and “Libtards.” Hunter’s fellow commissioners agreed and issued the reprimand last month.

Hunter’s attorney, Dwight Thomas, is appealing Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner’s decision to throw out his legal challenge to the constitutionality of the county’s ethics ordinance and ethics board. He wants to take the case to the Georgia Supreme Court, according to a notice of appeal.

In her ruling last month, Conner said she was throwing out Hunter’s legal challenge because she did not see the ethics board, or the ethics ordinance that created it, as violating the state’s constitution.

DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of prohibited activity.

Mann, accused of exposing himself to a stranger who turned out to be a cop and then fleeing, was initially booked with charges of indecency and obstruction May 6. Under a deal reached with prosecutors Thursday, the indecency charge was dropped. Mann instead pleaded guilty to prohibited conduct that night in Piedmont Park, as well as the original obstruction count.

He was ordered to pay $2,000 in fines and perform 80 hours of community service, which he already completed this month by volunteering for Hosea Feed the Hungry. He was also banished from all city of Atlanta parks for six months.

Mann’s guilty plea won’t have an immediate effect on his job as the county’s top law enforcement officer. Since he was re-elected to a four-year term in November, the sheriff will retain his position unless his license is revoked or voters petition to recall him from office.

27
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Election for July 27, 2017

On July 27, 1974, the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved the first impeachment article against President Richard M. Nixon.

The first such impeachment recommendation in more than a century, it charge[d] President Nixon with unlawful activities that formed a “course of conduct or plan” to obstruct the investigation of the Watergate break-in and to cover up other unlawful activities.

The vote was 27 to 11, with 6 of the committee’s 17 Republicans joining all 21 Democrats in voting to send the article to the House.

The majority included three conservative Southern Democrats and three conservative Republicans.

A bomb exploded at a free concert in Centennial Park in Atlanta on July 27, 1996.

Police were warned of the bombing in advance, but the bomb exploded before the anonymous caller said it would, leading authorities to suspect that the law enforcement officers who descended on the park were indirectly targeted.

Within a few days, Richard Jewell, a security guard at the concert, was charged with the crime. However, evidence against him was dubious at best, and in October he was fully cleared of all responsibility in the bombing.

Former Georgia Governor Zell Miller took the oath of office as United States Senator on July 27, 2000. Miller would go on to win a special election for the remainder of the term in November 2000.

On July 27, 2014, former Braves manager Bobby Cox and pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with former White Sox player Frank Thomas, who was born in Columbus, Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Election

Congressman Buddy Carter sent Yankees non-southerners to their online dictionaries yesterday.

[MSNBC] Anchor Ali Velshi had asked the Pooler Republican about what he made of President Donald Trump calling out Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Twitter this morning for voting against opening Senate debate on health care. That’s when Carter responded with something about knots needing to be snatched from specific places, a phrase yours truly had to look up on the interwebs. (To save you some time on Google , it means to smack someone as an act retribution.)

Here’s Carter’s full response:

“I think it’s perfectly fair. Let me tell you, somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass. I’m telling you, it has gotten to the point where, how can you say ‘I voted for this last year, but I’m not going to vote for it this year?’ This is extremely frustrating for those of us who have put so much into this effort.”

I’ve generally heard that idiom as “yank a knot in their tail.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp‘s office hasn’t yet shared voter data with President Trump’s panel.

Georgia has still not released public voter data to President Donald Trump’s national commission on election integrity, with officials saying they have not heard back from the panel over a requirement that it pay a standard $250 fee for the information.

Under state law, some — but not all — of the information requested by Trump’s voter fraud panel is already publicly available, but the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office requires a $250 payment to collect the information and burn it to a data disc. Officials in the office said they are treating the panel’s request no different than a typical public records request, and are requiring payment of the fee before the state will process the information.

State law allows information such as voter names, addresses, race and gender, among other data points, to be included on the list. Georgia will not share information considered private under state law such as registered voters’ driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers. Since the ballot is secret, there are no records that show who a person voted for in any election.

Kemp spoke about his campaign for Governor in Columbia County.

Kemp, an Athens native, spoke to a small crowd gathered at a meeting room in the library to hear him speak about business, infrastructure and voter ID laws.

“I’ve got a record of fighting and not just fighting, but winning, on the issues that I simply told everyone that I would do,” Kemp said. “I’m truly making government smaller and more efficient. I won’t belabor all we’ve done in the secretary of state’s office to do that, but I’m going to take that same record into the governor’s office.”

Kemp held the short rally at the library before a speaking engagement with the CSRA Republican Women’s Club. And Kemp said it was the first of many trips to the county since announcing his candidacy. But while his platform is focused heavily on Georgia’s rural towns, he said he believes his goals are important for the more-populous Augusta area.

“If people in rural areas are doing better and have more money in their pocket, they’re going to be coming to the CSRA to go to the ball game, go to the movie theater, whatever it is that may not be in their local community,” Kemp said. “I think that helps build the whole state’s economy.”

After the meetings, Kemp returned to Atlanta but said he plans to return to the area several times before the 2018 election.

“This is a huge block of votes,” Kemp said. “I’ve got a lot of friends here, as you can see by the crowd today. There are a lot of great things here going on and I want to be a governor that helps continue to foster that environment.”

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and LatinoJustice are threatening litigation if local governments don’t provide voting information in Spanish.

Two Latino advocacy groups sent letters last week to Gwinnett County and several cities therein, alleging varying levels of noncompliance with a new mandate to provide Spanish-language voting materials to their constituents — and threatening litigation if they don’t change things quickly.

Gwinnett’s new Census Bureau designation, which falls under Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act, requires jurisdictions to provide bilingual ballot access if more than 5 percent or 10,000 citizens of voting age are members of a single language minority and have difficulty speaking English. Providing “ballot access” involves offering everything from online election information to voter registration forms.

Gwinnett — the only Georgia county included on the designation list released last year — is home to an estimated 171,000 Latinos, according to the latest census estimates. A recent study released by GALEO estimated that Gwinnett County had more than 44,000 registered Latino voters last November, a number that accounted for 18 percent of Georgia’s total Latino electorate.

In a press release about his organization’s letters, GALEO executive director Jerry Gonzalez said he was worried specifically about the Gwinnett cities of Auburn, Berkeley Lake, Braselton, Loganville and Lilburn complying with the new mandates.

“As recently as [July 18], their websites, which contain valuable information on upcoming municipal elections this year, were in English only and they were failing to provide the same information online in Spanish,” Gonzalez wrote. “Some municipalities fail to even offer voter registration forms in Spanish.”

Augusta was recognized as the “Mid-Market of the Year” by Southern Business & Development magazine.

The South’s leading economic development magazine has named Augusta its “Mid-Market of the Year” to recognize the area’s strong uptick in attracting businesses and jobs.

The new issue of Southern Business & Development, out today, cites the Augusta area’s “banner year” with expanded and new manufacturing, service projects and military-related projects.

“It shows our project managers we work with and all the site-selection consultants we’re in touch with that, A, we have a good track record with economic development, and B, we’re continuing to do that,” said Walter Sprouse, executive director of the Augusta Economic Development Authority.

“Mid-market” is defined as an area with a population between 250,000 and 749,999 people.

Floyd County’s tax digest includes $6.8 million worth of real estate that is exempt from property taxes.

Columbus city council members have been told the tax digest will be 6-7% higher due to reassessments.

City councilors were notified of the potential boost to the property tax digest in a May 25 email sent by Teasha Johnson, assistant to City Manager Isaiah Hugley, according to documents provided by the mayor’s office.

“We have just received the preliminary digest projections from the Chief Tax Assessor, Betty Middleton,” the notice reads. “… The preliminary projections indicate the digest may increase by 6%. However, we cannot come in over any projection, and accordingly will be projecting as much as a 7% increase in the digest to be advertised for the Taxpayer Bill of Rights on May 30th.”

But with many property owners appealing their assessments, city officials say they’ll have to wait until the process is over before they know for sure how much they’ll collect in property taxes. The appeal deadline is Aug. 14.

“These are just preliminary projections and are subject to change as the digest is finalized for submission to the State,” according to the email. “Of course, this increase is due to the growth of the total digest, not from any tax rate increase to individual homeowners with homestead exemptions unless they have made alterations to their property.

Marietta City Council voted to keep the property tax millage rate the same as last year.

Marietta’s leaders opted to maintain the city’s millage rate at 5.617 mills Wednesday, but because of rising property values, that could mean higher taxes for residents.

The value of assessed property in the city rose by $250 million since 2016, which translates to a 7.24 percent tax increase.

Critics, including former Gov. Roy Barnes, have accused governments that maintain millage rates of performing “backdoor tax increases.”

Georgia employers are now required to allow employees to use paid sick days to care for family members.

“You can call this is a feel-good bill if you want to because it don’t do a whole lot,” Rep. Jason Shaw, R-Lakeland, said from the House floor in March. “But if it’s a feel-good bill, I’m going to press green and I’m going to feel good about it.”

Shaw, who is also an employer, said the proposal was simply the right thing to do. But others saw it as massive government overreach.

“What’s next? Are we going to start writing vacation policies, attendance policies for businesses?” said Rep. Tom Kirby, R-Loganville.

The change doesn’t force employers to offer paid sick days, but for those who do, they now have to let employees use that time to care for their child, spouse, parent, grandchild, grandparent or any dependent claimed on their most recent tax return.

There are a few exceptions. The law only applies to employers with at least 25 people on their payroll, and it exempts companies that offer an employee stock ownership plan. It also only covers five days of earned sick leave per year.

Healthcare

State House Rural Development Council members heard about rural hospitals facing financial problems.

Eighty percent of rural hospital income comes from the government, Lewis said, and they’re still barely making it.

As the U.S. Senate debates health care, state lawmakers are trying to figure out what they can do.

Oklahoma and Texas used something called a Medicaid waiver to get more federal health care dollars through the ACA.

A waiver in Georgia could boost rural hospitals, and get more people health care coverage, Magers said.

Republican state Rep. Jay Powell, co-chair of the House Rural Development Council, said Georgia should replicate what’s worked in other states.

“The health care issue,  it’s probably overwhelming as anything we’ve heard about,” Powell said. “There’s no point in reinventing the wheel.”

For at least a year, the state’s top politicians have talked about a Medicaid waiver, Powell brought it up again at the Bainbridge meeting, saying Georgia just can’t sit and wait for Congress to act on health care.

“They don’t know what they want to do,” he said. “We can’t wait for them. I mean hopefully they’ll do something that makes sense, but if we wait for them we’re going to lose another eight hospitals so we can’t wait for them.”

Republican lawmakers have said their former colleague, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, would support a Medicaid waiver for Georgia.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, the only Obamacare provider to offer insurance in all 159 counties, joined 36 other BCBS companies in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association signing a letter to the United States Senate.

Wednesday, they took part in a message to the Senate on the dangers of repealing the Obamacare individual mandate.

The mandate says that every person must have health care insurance. It’s one of the core tenets of the Affordable Care Act. And repealing it is one of the core tenets of Republicans’ effort to repeal Obamacare.

Blue Cross laid out the business case for the mandate in its message:

“If there is no longer a requirement for everyone to purchase coverage, it is critical that any legislation include strong incentives for people to obtain health insurance and keep it year-round. A system that allows people to purchase coverage only when they need it drives up costs for everyone.”

“Immediate funding for the cost-sharing reduction program also is essential to help those individuals most in need with their out-of-pocket costs, so they can access medical services. And dedicated funds must be provided to help pay for the care of those with significant medical conditions.”

Elections

Republican Hunter Hill spoke to the Gainesville Times about his campaign for Governor.

In his run for governor, he argues that state leaders have missed the mark in recent years by allowing the state budget to grow without increasing transportation spending. The state now spends about 5 percent of its budget on transportation, he said.

Hill is pitching a limited-government perspective that relies on civil society — ministries, the business community, families and nonprofits — to build a social safety net.

“The expanse of government has created a false sense of security that the government is going to do something for them,” Hill said. “And it’s failed in the last 50 years on delivering on that promise.”

To promote that worldview, the state senator hopes to pull back state funding for social welfare programs, cut spending and taxes, and push more money into constitutionally mandated functions of state government.

“I believe we can get to 10 percent without raising taxes in my first term by reprioritization and spending less on areas where I believe families and nonprofits and ministries are better equipped to deal with the brokenness in our society as opposed to government,” Hill said. “I’m looking at food stamps, I’m looking at welfare, I’m looking at Medicaid. I’m looking at any area where the government is intending to try to make somebody’s life better, really, because the government doesn’t deliver results in those areas.”

“We all want to help people, and I do too, but the government has failed in its promise to deliver results for these folks by giving them money for nothing.”

“You have people who philosophically believe that government should do more and provide more, and then you have people like me who recognize that’s an empty promise,” Hill said. “… I think a more limited government approach would actually bring our communities together because we would have to depend on one another when something bad happens to a family member or a neighbor instead of looking to the government. I think the size and scope of government is what’s created this divisiveness.”

Democratic candidate for Governor Stacey Abrams has a new book deal.

The state representative, D-Atlanta, is scheduled to release the Inspirational Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change in spring 2018 through Henry Holt and Co., according to the Associated Press.

According to Holt, her book will combine her life story with “real-world, how-to advice” for women and minorities “who must grapple with the implications of race, class, gender and otherness.”

Abrams is vying to make history as the country’s first Black woman governor. She is calling her book “Lean In for the rest of us.”

“This is a book about how potent and compelling being the minority can be and how it can transform your destiny when properly harnessed,” she said in a statement.

Democrat Steve Jarvis announced he will run for Congress in the First District, against incumbent Republican Buddy Carter.

Claiming a return to the First District’s old persona as the home of conservative Democrats like Bo Ginn and Lindsay Thomas, Jarvis’s approach seems downright nostalgic in this era when conservative Democrats, especially in the South, are a nearly extinct species.

Jarvis thinks his extensive military record as a U.S. Army combat infantry veteran of the Iraq War will help him gain traction in a district which has a heavy military presence.
Where do you stand on the current debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act?

President Trump said for seven years Republicans have been wanting to repeal and replace, but that was easy to say when they knew they had a president that wouldn’t sign it.

Now they have a president in office waiting with pen in hand. Why hasn’t anything been done? Because it doesn’t benefit them.

But what would you like to see? Obamacare kept, fixed, done away with?

I would like to see a health care program where the buyer has more say. Health care is broken and it needs to be fixed. It needs to be affordable and accessible. Right now it’s not either. People should be able to have a policy that works for them. But frankly this is probably going to be taken care of before I take office.

Qualifying for Johns Creek elections for Mayor and City Council will be held August 21-23 for November elections.

The City of Johns Creek will hold qualifying for the upcoming Nov. 7 General Election for the City Council seats of Post 1, Post 3, Post 5 and the Mayoral seat.

Qualifying will be held Monday, Aug. 21 Tuesday, Aug. 22, and Wednesday, Aug. 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (GA Election Code 21-2-132).

Qualifying will be held in the City Clerk’s Office at Johns Creek City Hall, 12000 Findley Road, Suite 400, Johns Creek, GA 30097.

The qualifying fee is $450 for each Council seat and $750 for the Mayoral seat, which is 3 percent of the total gross salary for the preceding year.

LaFayette city council and Mayoral candidates will also qualify August 21-23.

26
Jul

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

On July 26, 1775, the United States Postal Service was created by the Second Continental Congress, may God have mercy on their souls. Benjamin Franklin served as the first Postmaster.

On July 26, 2015, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first pitcher inducted who had undergone Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.

Smoltz won the 1996 Cy Young award and reached the playoffs 14 times with Atlanta. The Braves won five pennants and the 1995 World Series with Smoltz on the roster. He’s the first pitcher to win more than 200 games and save at least 150 games. He’s also the first player inducted with Tommy John surgery on his resume.

Smoltz understood his debt to John.

“I’m a miracle. I’m a medical miracle,” Smoltz said. “I never took one day for granted.”

Smoltz also heaped praise on former manager Bobby Cox and teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, who were inducted a year ago, and delivered a message to parents of the players of tomorrow as the number of Tommy John surgeries continues to escalate.

“Understand that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 or 15 years old,” Smoltz said to warm applause. “Baseball is not a year-round sport. They’re competing too hard, too early. That’s why we’re having these problems.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Senator Johnny Isakson (R) and Senator David Perdue (R) both voted to move the debate over repealing Obamacare to the floor of the Senate.

Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, Georgia’s two GOP senators, provided two much-needed votes for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had worked furiously over the last several days to secure the required GOP votes to kick off debate on repealing Obamacare. The final vote of the full Senate was 51-50 after Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie.

Senator Isakson released a statement:

“Repealing the failing Obamacare law that has driven up costs and eliminated choice for many Georgia families is a commitment of mine because hardworking Georgia families deserve better,” said Isakson. “Today’s vote allows my Senate colleagues and me to participate openly in debate on just how we plan to help families and address this failed law. I will be actively engaged in debate and will carefully review the final bill to ensure we do the right thing for Georgians and all Americans.”

Senator Perdue released the following statement:

“Obamacare is collapsing under its own weight and soon the very people who need help the most will lose their insurance. In Georgia, 96 of 159 counties only have one health care provider leaving consumers with no choice. Premiums have risen more than 105% because of Obamacare making healthcare unaffordable for so many Georgians who need it most. To make matters worse, just a few weeks ago, the only provider in those 96 counties announced it will be increasing premiums 41% next year. Due to the flaws of Obamacare, more than 300,000 Georgians today do not have access to the insurance they were promised.

“This failed system isn’t going to fix itself, and I am glad the Senate has started a full debate on ways to improve health care. For weeks, Democrats have refused to work with us on bipartisan solutions and today not one of them voted to help fix the damage they did to our health care system. The Senate’s action this week is designed to increase competition, lower prices, and expand choices. Now that debate has begun, it is my hope Democrats decide to put aside their political self-interests and work with us to improve health care for Georgians and all Americans.”

The City of Columbus is asking for state help in addressing soaring property tax assessments.

Columbus Council approved a motion Tuesday to seek guidance from state officials about what council can do to address tax assessments that have jumped by as much as 1,000 percent.

Councilors made the decision with an unanimous vote after nearly three hours of intense discussion over the issue. Councilor Glenn Davis made the motion despite legal counsel from City Attorney Clifton Fay, who told councilors that they had very limited authority in the tax assessment process.

Councilor Walker Garrett was the first to bring up the question of council’s authority. He said drastic increases in property assessments should have been caught ahead of time and taxpayers are angry.

“… I’m more interested in how we fix this than what the status is of tax appeals, and what are our legal options as far as getting this basically sent back to the Department of Revenue or possibly keeping things at 2016 levels,” he said. “People are furious. … They’re mad at us and we need to figure out a way to fix this at this point.”

Garrett, along with Thomas, said councilors should have been notified of the significant tax increases before notices went out June 30.

Houston County’s tax digest exceeded $4 billion for the first time since 2013.

The digest, formulated by the Tax Assessors Office, compiles the value of all taxable property in the county. It includes real estate, vehicles, mobile homes and heavy equipment.

The net digest, which takes out the deductions property owners are allowed and is used to set the millage rate, was $3.77 billion, which is about $50 million more than last year.

That results in $437,634 more in additional tax revenue for the county, which is a 1.18-percent increase from 2016. It’s the first time the county has seen revenue growth from property taxes in four years. Although it’s far from the increases the county saw in its booming years, Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker liked it.

That’s after the county commission on Tuesday set the millage rate at 9.935 mills, which is down from the 9.95 mills that it has been. The decrease is an adjustment for a $56,000 increase in revenue the county would have seen due to property revaluations if the tax rate had remained the same.

Stalnaker explained that state law requires the county to roll back any increase related to revaluation, or either hold three public hearings announcing it as a tax increase. He said the board was not inclined to hold three public hearings to get $56,000.

Richmond County has not yet set a property tax millage rate.

The commission was at one point scheduled to set the tentative millage rate Tuesday but did not make the decision. The millage rate is applied against property tax values to determine an owner’s tax bill.

Commissioners have said they do not expect to raise the millage rate, and are running out of time to hold the required public hearings to do so. But the lack of growth means they’re unlikely to lower it, either.

Hall County is looking at how to regulate unlicensed short term rentals.

Complaints spurring the latest look into short-term rentals of residential property are coming from the North Hall neighborhoods of Cherokee Forest and Northlake Road off Cleveland Highway.

They surfaced during the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ Monday work session, when Commissioner Scott Gibbs relayed the complaints from his district of college fraternity-style gatherings at residences that had been rented out online, or vacation rentals by owner.

“I don’t see the benefit of the VRBO, I’m going to just tell you, because it opens our neighborhoods up for problems,” Gibbs said.

Short-term rentals through websites like VRBO and Airbnb have become common in Hall County — especially along Lake Lanier, where relatively limited commercial space along the lake itself has put a premium on beds for rent.

Susan Rector, director of the Hall County Business License Department, agreed on Monday that the county needs “a little more regulation” on vacation rentals.

“We need to be a little more specific about the number of people who can be in the home in (a) … single-family residence,” Rector said.

Along with zoning, the county requires homeowners who rent out their property to register with the county, get a business license and pay excise taxes regardless of their zone. The current rules were approved in 2010.

Almost everyone ignores these requirements.

The county has only nine licensed vacation rental locations, according to Rector. There are dozens and dozens of properties listed on VRBO and Airbnb.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll undoubtedly say it again: look for an “Airbnb bill” to address this issue in next year’s Georgia General Assembly.

Cobb County Commissioners rejected a proposed property tax hike.

Cobb commissioners Tuesday voted to keep the millage rate the same, departing from Chairman Mike Boyce’s original proposal to increase property taxes amid the county’s highest-ever tax digest.

Under the approved measure, the county-assessed millage rate will remain at 9.85 mills, with the county expected to use $4 million in economic development contingency funds in this year’s budget, with another $4 million slated for the 2018 budget, according to Commissioner Bob Ott, who made the proposal.

The vote was 3-2, with Boyce and Commissioner Lisa Cupid opposed.

The board voted down Boyce’s proposal, which was only supported by Cupid. The chairman said the higher millage had been needed due to commissioners’ decision earlier this year to fund a portion of the 2008 parks bonds, and to pay for the county’s 2017 budget, which ends on Sept. 30.

Marietta City Council will likely adopt property tax rates at its meeting today.

The council is scheduled to adopt the final tax rates for both the city government and Marietta City Schools at the meeting. The city plans to set its rate at 5.617 mills and will set Marietta City Schools’ rate, which was already approved by the Marietta school board, at 17.97.

Despite the rate staying steady, the total value of assessed property in Marietta increased by nearly $250 million since 2016, so property owners may see higher tax bills this year.

Keeping the same property tax millage rate, means an effective property tax hike of 7.24 percent for the city and 7.51 percent for the schools.

Tyler Perry will receive a tax abatement in Cobb County for his airplanes.

The Development Authority of Cobb County voted unanimously Monday morning to adopt a $35.3 million bond resolution allowing Tyler Perry Studios to refinance its private, 70-passenger Lineage jet.

Perry’s attorneys said he will house the aircraft at a county-owned hangar along with his 14-seat Gulfstream G-5 and an 8-seater Embraer Phenom 100.

In an attempt to keep the company’s identity a secret, Development Authority members referred to the bond and abatement request as “Project Meatloaf” before finally revealing Perry’s identity at their meeting Monday.

The tax abatement approved by the Development Authority gradually brings the jet onto the tax rolls over ten years, but despite the percentage of taxes owed on the jet increasing annually, both governing bodies will collect less money each year as the plane’s value depreciates.

Clark Hungerford, the Development Authority’s chairman, said housing the planes locally could spur additional film production around the county, possibly even prompting other corporations to follow suit and bring their commercial jets to Cobb’s airport.

“This state is significantly impacted by the film industry,” Geter said. “Atlanta is a hot-bed for the movie industry — Cobb just wants to be part of that.”

The abatement schedule now moves to the Cobb County Board of Tax Assessor’s for approval, Geter said. If approved, the Development Authority will seek to have the bonds validated in Cobb County Superior Court. Geter said he hopes to close on the process sometime in September.

The Mayor and City Council of Newnan will consider adopting the rollback property tax millage rate.

“The opportunity presented itself to send a message to our citizens that Newnan wants to ease the burden faced by so many of our taxpayers as we make every effort to maintain a high and consistent level of services,” [Public Information Officer Gina] Snider said.

“The city continues to show our taxpayers that we are good stewards of tax dollars. The city has seen a millage rate decrease from 4.5 to 4.05 over the last decade.”

Grantville City Council failed to pass the first recommendation for the property tax millage rate.

The motion to set the tentative millage rate at 6.25 mills for 2017 died from the lack of a second at Monday night’s meeting, which would have been an increase of 1.234 mills. With the measure failing, the city must revert to its rollback rate 5.016. Under state law, the rollback rate is configured to bring in the same amount of money as last year.

Last year’s millage rate was 5.25 mills, but the 5.016 rate takes increases in property values into account. A mill is one dollar of tax for each $1,000 in assessed property value.

City Manager Al Grieshaber said the proposed increase would “restore the city to fiscal year 2012 and compensates partially for increased costs of materials, supplies and labors, while providing employee benefits.”

Councilwoman Ruby Hines said she did not feel at peace to vote in favor of the increase.

Valdosta City Council member Sandra Tooley will seek re-election in November.

Two other council seats will be up for grabs this November: Robert Yost’s District 6 seat and Alvin Payton Jr.’s District 4 seat.

Yost has already said he will not run for re-election, ending his 16 years on the council. Payton has not made an official announcement on the topic.

Brookhaven City Council Member Joe Gebbia announced he will seek re-election.

Gebbia’s first election victory awarded him a seat on City Council for a two-year term. In 2013, he was re-elected to a full four-year term after running unopposed.

During his time in office, Gebbia has led the creation of Keep Brookhaven Beautiful, the annexation efforts to bring Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Executive Park into Brookhaven, and played a leadership role in development of the Peachtree Creek Greenway.

Gebbia explains if re-elected, he will continue to provide a business style approach to Brookhaven. “I’ve worked hard to successfully address the three P’s – Police, Parks and Pot Holes, and to lower property taxes while creating and approving balanced and sound budgets,” he said in the release. “We have accomplished a great deal since the inception of cityhood.”

Over the next 4 years Gebbia says he hopes to “continue to be a part of the process of making Brookhaven one of the most desirable cities in the region by working on: 1) the redevelopment of Buford Highway, 2) the building and completion of the Peachtree Creek Greenway, 3) the building of a new and permanent City Hall.”

Andrea Gordy resigned from the Varnell City Council after her residency was challenged.

Andrea Gordy resigned from the council on Tuesday just hours before a meeting of the council.

Gordy sent a two-sentence letter of resignation to Mayor Anthony Hulsey and pointed to her upcoming marriage and “recent changes in the plans of my new family” as reasons she stepped down. The resignation came hours after she sent an email to City Manager Mike Brown, citing threats she had received and safety concerns after she was one of three council members to vote in favor of dissolving the Varnell Police Department, a vote that was later vetoed by Hulsey.

Her resignation is the second on the council in the last month. Sheldon Fowler resigned from the council on June 28 after criminal charges were brought against him for a domestic disturbance at his home on June 13.

Mama Louise of the H&H Restaurant in Macon will receive the Harriet Tubman Act of Courage Award.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division issued a water discharge permit for a new turpentine plant in Effingham County.

The Georgia Ports Authority set a new record for container moves in FY 2017.

In fiscal 2017, which ended June 30, the port handled an all-time high of 3.85 million TEUs – or 20-foot equivalent container units – marking an increase of nearly a quarter-million TEUs over FY2016.

While year-over-year growth in box numbers came in at a very respectable 6.7-percent, it was the second half of FY2017 that provided an indication of things to come.

Beginning in May with the arrival of the 13,000-plus TEU container ship, the COSCO Development, Garden City Terminal’s numbers have soared.

In the last half of FY2017 alone, the Port of Savannah handled nearly 2 million TEUs, for a growth rate of 11.6 percent over the same period last year.

“We could not have achieved this record-breaking year without the hard work and outstanding dedication of our employees,” GPA executive director Griff Lynch told his board Monday.

Columbus City Council voted to give $1000 bonuses to full-time employees.

Georgia Democrats

State Rep. Bob Trammell, Jr. (D-Luthersville) was elected as the Democratic Leader in the Georgia State House, succeeding Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta).

Trammell said his decision to run for the leadership of the Georgia House Democratic caucus was prompted by the vacancies in leadership positions.

“I ran because I want to work collaboratively to benefit Georgians and better serve our district,” said Trammell.

The House minority leader is relatively new to the caucus. He was elected to represent District 132, which covers parts of Meriwether, Troup and Coweta counties, in January 2015. Yet last November in the regular caucus election for the current term, his colleagues made him vice chairman.

Trammell said he believes in his party’s ability to make improvements “to provide Georgians with a better way of life.” He said the touchstone of the Democratic caucus is reflected in Robert F. Kennedy’s 1966 Day of Affirmation Address:

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice. He sends forth a tiny ripple of hope…”

From the AJC Political Insider:

Trammell won on the second round, beating state Rep. Carolyn Hugley of Columbus and Winfred Dukes of Albany. Dukes was ousted on the first round, gaining only nine votes.

Gwinnett County Democrats will hold their first “Democracy Day.”

The political party is planning to celebrate its first Democracy Day, beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 5. The day will be part caravan and part cookout as local Democrats look to shake things up and get their message out.

“This is a day for high visibility, nerve rattling and loads of fun,” party officials said in an announcement. “First we will get in our cars and roll all over the city in a convoy, making noise and making our presence felt.”

Participants will first gather at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville, to line up for their convoy, with a traffic cop leading them.

They will then head out into the city at 9:45 a.m., and after driving around for a little bit, they will end up at Rhodes Jordan Park, at 100 E. Crogan St., in Lawrenceville, by 11 a.m. for festivities at the park’s Pavilion No. 3.

The Democratic Party of Georgia appears to have fully bought in to the idea of resisting President Trump. Or something. A recent email from the DPG identified the sender as “DPG Resistance.” No doubt they’re knitting themselves hats.