Category: Georgia Politics

4
Apr

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

On April 4, 1776, General George Washington began marching his troops from Cambridge, Massachusetts to New York, in anticipation of an invasion by the British.

President William Henry Harrison died in office on April 4, 1841, a month after his inauguration.

At the inauguration of America’s first Whig president, on March 4, 1841, a bitterly cold day, Harrison declined to wear a jacket or hat, made a two-hour speech, and attended three inauguration balls. Soon afterward, he developed pneumonia. On April 4, President Harrison died in Washington, and Vice President John Tyler ascended to the presidency, becoming the first individual in U.S. history to reach the office through the death of a president.

On April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln toured Richmond, Virginia the day after the Confederate Capitol fell to Union forces.

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in Memphis. James Earl Ray would later be arrested and plead guilty to the assassination.

On April 4, 1974, Hank Aaron hit home run 714, tying Babe Ruth’s record.

On April 4, 1988, the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly was recognized as the official state butterfly of Georgia.

The Atlanta Braves played their first game in Turner Field on April 4, 1997, defeating the Chicago Cubs 5-4. Denny Neagle started on the mound for the Braves and Mark Wohlers earned a save. Atlanta’s Michael Tucker hit the first homerun in the new stadium.

Presidential Cars

Love him or not, Donald Trump does have great taste in sports cars. After the 2015 offering of a 1997 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster formerly owned by now-President Trump, the latest ex-Trumpmobile to hit the auction circuit is a 2007 Ferrari F430 F1 coupe. From the auction listing:Continue Reading..

3
Apr

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

On April 2, 1513, Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, claiming it for the Spanish crown. Today he is best-known in Georgia for giving his name to be mispronounced daily on a sketchy street in Atlanta. It is not known if he was wearing jean shorts, or if those were developed later.

Georgia began its love affair with the regulation of what can and cannot be sold on this date in 1735, when James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony, helped gain passage of “An Act to prevent the Importation and Use of Rum and Brandies in the Province of Georgia.” The act provided that after June 24, 1735, “no Rum, Brandies, Spirits or Strong Waters” shall be imported into Georgia.” Permission was also required to sell beer, wine, and ale.

On April 3, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized “privateers” holding a letter of marque and reprisal to attack British ships. This essentially legalizes what would otherwise be considered piracy. Issuing letters of marque and reprisal is among the enumerated powers of Congress under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, though they have seldom been used. Thus, I hope to someday see the Jolly Roger flying at Tea Party rallies alongside the Gadsden flag.

In perhaps the most fitting historical tidbit ever, the United States House of Representatives first met on April 1, 1789 in New York City. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania was elected the first Speaker of the House. Georgia’s first Members of Congress were James Jackson, Abraham Baldwin, and George Mathews.

On April 3, 1865, Richmond fell.

On April 1, 1870, Robert E. Lee, President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, arrived in Savannah, Georgia. Lee’s career in the United States Army began with his first assignment at Cockspur Island near Savannah. While in Savannah for the 1870 trip, Lee was photographed with former General Joseph E. Johnston, who was in the insurance business there.

On April 3, 1898, President William McKinley called on Georgians to contribute 3000 volunteers for the Spanish-American War.

On April 2, 1917, Jeanette Rankin took office as the first woman elected to Congress, representing Montana.

Born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana Territory, in 1880, Rankin was a social worker in the states of Montana and Washington before joining the women’s suffrage movement in 1910. Working with various suffrage groups, she campaigned for the women’s vote on a national level and in 1914 was instrumental in the passage of suffrage legislation in Montana. Two years later, she successfully ran for Congress in Montana on a progressive Republican platform calling for total women’s suffrage, legislation protecting children, and U.S. neutrality in the European war. Following her election as a representative, Rankin’s entrance into Congress was delayed for a month as congressmen discussed whether a woman should be admitted into the House of Representatives.

Finally, on April 2, 1917, she was introduced in Congress as its first female member. The same day, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and urged a declaration of war against Germany.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., accompanied by Georgians Hosea Williams and Ralph D. Abernathy, was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting a strike by sanitation workers on April 3, 1968. He delivered what is known as the “Mountaintop Speech.”

“[L]ike anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

On April 2, 1985, Governor Joe Frank Harris signed legislation recognizing the Right Whale as the official state marine mammal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Deal’s office is busy reviewing legislation sent by the General Assembly for his signature. Here’s the running list of bills signed by the Governor.

The AJC Political Insider reviews legislation sent to Deal’s desk and what he has said publicly about the measures.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp made his first appearance on the campaign trail for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018.

The keynote appearance of Georgia’s first gubernatorial candidate for the 2018 race was one of several reasons Cobb County Republican Party Chairman Jason Shepherd believed led to a standing room-only turnout at the party’s monthly breakfast Saturday.

Many of the 211 in attendance had to stand at the party’s Roswell Street headquarters as Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp spoke. The breakfast came a day after the Republican announced his entry into the statewide race, becoming the first from either major party to do so.

“We’re honored he chose Cobb County to kick off his campaign. It shows the importance of Cobb County in general — where Cobb goes usually goes the Georgia Republican primary,” Shepherd said. “I’m expecting Secretary Kemp to have a strong presence here in Cobb as his campaign gets underway.”

“It was never my plan to run or serve in public office,” Kemp said. “I literally ran for the state Senate because I was fed up and I’d had enough — all the rules, regulations, taxes and mandates that were crushing small businesses, as well as working Georgians.”

“We absolutely must take a dadgum chainsaw to burn some job-killing regulations, destroy mandates that penalize progress, stand firm against any health care overhaul plan that punishes growth,” he said.

“No playing favorites. Rural Georgia must be a priority, not an occasional talking point — better paying jobs, stronger economy, high-speed internet and quality, accessible health care,” he said. “What’s good for rural Georgia is good for all Georgia.”

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes that Kemp’s campaign includes “Trump-ian” language.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp opened his campaign for governor Saturday by borrowing themes from Donald Trump, pledging a “Georgia first” strategy that would crack down on illegal immigration, as he took aim at establishment forces and the media.

And Kemp, a veteran of state GOP politics, drew applause from hundreds at a Cobb GOP breakfast with broadsides against “fake news” and the well-connected political status quo.

He promised his administration would “treat rural Georgia the same way we treat metro Atlanta” and emphasized his background as the owner of stone and construction firms – jobs he continues to hold while working in his $130,000-a-year state post.

“It helped that unlike many, I never, ever became a full-time politician,” said Kemp, a former state senator who was first appointed to the Secretary of State’s job by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2010.

His speech Saturday highlighted Trump-ian themes throughout, including tough talk about crackdowns on illegal immigrants and the need to boost rural Georgia’s economy. It was a reflection of rural Georgia’s importance in the Trump era: The president lost Cobb and the rest of core metro Atlanta, but still won the state thanks to huge margins in rural Georgia.

“This is Georgia,” he said, echoing another Trump mantra. “We will be putting Georgia first.”

State Representative Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville) announced he is running for Secretary of State, following Kemp’s announcement.

“I’m running for Secretary of State because I’m committed to making Georgia the easiest place to do business, not just the best,” Brockway said in a statement. “I will work tirelessly to help every Georgian who dreams of owning their own business or obtaining an occupational license fulfill that dream.

“One of our most sacred rights as Americans is the right to vote. As secretary of state, every citizen in Georgia who wants to vote will know that their vote will count and their private, personal information will be fiercely protected.”

Brockway’s decision to run for secretary of state next year means there will now be an open seat in the Gwinnett legislative delegation that will be up for grabs. Brockway was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, and won re-election to his district 102 seats over a Democratic challenger in November with nearly 56 percent of the votes cast.

Bob Gray’s campaign for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District took a turn for the goofy on April Fool’s Day, releasing a stupid “joke” claiming Karen Handel was endorsing him.

The former Johns Creek councilman sent out an official campaign release declaring Karen Handel, the leading Republican in the nationally-watched race, had dropped out of the April 18 contest and endorsed him. He echoed it with a tweet from his official account.

It was a hoax, of course.

“The only people who think this dirty trick was funny are Jon Ossoff and the Democrats who stand to gain by a confused and divided Republican electorate,” said Sue Everhart, a former Georgia GOP chair backing Handel. “The Democrats are serious about flipping this seat and these games only help their cause.”

Judson Hill’s fundraising is no joke, with the campaign announcing nearly $500k in contributions.

The former state senator reported raising $473,000 and had $113,000 in his campaign coffers in the final stretch of the April 18 special election to succeed Rep. Tom Price.

Democrat Jon Ossoff now says his goal is to win the Sixth District Special Election outright.

“The campaign’s goal is not to get into a runoff, though we’ll be ready to fight a runoff if necessary,” Ossoff said as he announced endorsements from a handful of state legislators. “The campaign’s goal is to win this election outright on April 18.”

So far, Democrats have a slight advantage in early voting. According to The New York Times, as of Wednesday, 55 percent of voters have participated in a recent Democratic primary, compared to 31 percent who have voted in a Republican primary. And among voters who have requested — but not yet returned — absentee ballots, Democrats also have an early lead.

“That was a very big sign for Jon Ossoff,” said Georgia Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson. “We saw that the enthusiasm in this race right now is definitely amongst the Democrats.”

The Georgia Republican Party is gearing up for an expected runoff and plan to get fully behind whoever emerges as the nominee with full confidence that they’ll hold the seat.

“Once we know who our candidate is after the 18th, we will be ready with money and resources and a grassroots army to support our nominee and push them across the finish line,” said Ryan Mahoney, Georgia GOP spokesman.

“We’re working around the clock to make sure [Democrats] don’t get that win in Georgia. They are desperately trying to flip the script here, and it’s just not going to happen in Georgia.”

Early voting turnout appears to favor Democrats in the district, which is normally at least 60% Republican in General Elections.

Of the more than 8,100 people who have voted so far in the suburban Atlanta district, 44 percent were Democrats and 23 percent were Republicans, according to an analysis by Michael McDonald, a political science professor and election specialist at the University of Florida.

McDonald identified Democrats and Republicans based on the last primary each early voter participated in, information that can be found in state voter files. The remaining voters ― roughly one-third of the total so far ― have no record of primary voting in Georgia.

Although voters’ preferences can change from primary to primary, making that data imperfect, it is the most reliable indicator of partisanship in a state with nonpartisan voter registration.

It is important to note of course that early voting is not a rock-solid indicator of final election outcomes. Early general-election voting patterns in North Carolina and Florida, for example, appeared to favor Hillary Clinton but she ended up losing both states in November.

And early voting in Georgia’s 6th district continues until April 14. Election Day itself is April 18.

Campus Carry advocates and anti-gun advocates alike await word on whether Gov. Deal will veto or sign legislation to allow concealed carry on college campuses.

Some lawmakers involved in negotiating the final bill said they were “confident” that Deal will sign it. A spokeswoman for the governor wasn’t immediately available. Deal hasn’t taken a firm stance on this year’s measure, only suggesting that he was working with lawmakers.

This year’s version adds exemptions for on-campus preschools, disciplinary hearings and areas where high school students attend college classes. Deal said last year that he wanted lawmakers to exempt those areas.

The bill also preserves exemptions included in last year’s bill that would prevent weapons in student housing, including fraternity and sorority houses, and athletic facilities.

Deal has 40 days to decide whether to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature.

“This is an example of the legislative body and the executive branch working together,” said Sen. Frank Ginn, a Republican from Danielsville. He was a part of a small group of lawmakers from both chambers who met Thursday night to negotiate details of the bill.

From the AJC:

This year, the governor said he was willing to reopen the debate. In a late compromise between House and Senate leaders, lawmakers approved a measure that acceded to Deal’s demands to bar guns from on-campus child care facilities, faculty and administrative office space, and disciplinary meetings.

Deal has said he is “receptive” to the bill as long as it made those changes, but he declined to comment on the measure Friday. Supporters expressed confidence he would sign the legislation, even if they had to include the restrictions that many social conservatives opposed.

“It didn’t do all that many members wanted it to do, but I understand that,” House Speaker David Ralston said. “You don’t all the time score a touchdown on a play, but we got a first down on that, at least. I’m pleased that we were able to get a bill that improves and strengthens the Second Amendment.”

House Bill 221 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) rewrites the state’s Power of Attorney laws and is headed to the Governor for signature or veto.

“The Uniform Power of Attorney Act provides a much-needed update to Georgia’s power of attorney statute,” Efstration said in a statement. “The bill allows protections for individuals who grant the power of attorney while also giving clarification for responsible caregivers and financial institutions.”

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said the bill will help protect someone who has to assign power of attorney to another person. Among other things, the bill says a person cannot argue that use of their power of attorney authority absolves them from prosecution for a crime.

“The passage of House Bill 221, Uniform Power of Attorney Act, will give law enforcement and prosecutors the tools necessary to address individuals who are using the power of attorney to exploit elderly and disabled persons,” Keenan said in a statement. “A power of attorney should not be used as a license to steal.”

Campaigns for higher office next year may have impacted this year’s legislative session.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, has been there longer than anyone, and just finished his 43rd legislative session.

The dominant issue during the session was the governor and lieutenant governor races,” Smyre said. “And when politics enters the fray in that way, it is hard to get good public policy. There was a lot of gridlock.”

Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said it was a frustrating session and a frustrating final day.

“People who have been there much longer than I have said it was the strangest 40th day,” he said. “There was this lack of real action, but we were still in there. There was no frenzy. Then at the end there was very little cooperation between the two chambers.”

Rep. Debbie Buckner. D-Columbus, agreed.

“I would describe that session as tense because of the tension between the House and Senate,” Buckner said. “No matter what we sent to the other side, they would change it and tweak it.”

Though the session might be over, the political games are just starting, and McKoon finds himself in the middle of it. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp are planning runs for governor in the May 2018 primary. Several others, including McKoon, are considering it.

McKoon, who announced in the early days of the session he would not seek re-election for the District 29 Senate seat, said he plans take the next couple of weeks to weigh his options, which also could include a run for attorney general, another office or not seeking any office.

“I am going to be doing a lot of meetings the next few weeks,” McKoon said.

Twelve Chatham County public schools could be eligible for inclusion in the turnaround plan if Gov. Deal signs House Bill 338.

House Bill 338, was approved by both the Georgia House and Senate, and has been waiting for Deal to sign it into law since Wednesday. But the final version of the bill limits Deal’s control and will likely shorten the list of potential takeover schools by half.

Deal’s list of failing schools included 12 in Savannah-Chatham — Brock, Savannah Classical, East Broad, West Chatham Middle, DeRenne, Southwest Middle, Myers, Low, Haven, Hodge, Mercer and Shuman. All of them had College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, scores below 60 for three consecutive years.

HB 388 doesn’t place public schools under the governor’s direct control and it involves local school districts in reform efforts before a takeover is considered.

Once HB 388 becomes law, a “chief turnaround officer” will be hired to lead reform efforts in the state’s bottom five percent schools. This turnaround chief will report to the state board of education, which is appointed by the governor. If local turnaround efforts are unsatisfactory after three years, the state could take over, replacing staff and requiring charter school conversions.

Gwinnett County Commissioners are talking about transit a lot more than they have previously.

Gwinnett County commissioners identified about seven key priorities on the final day of their strategic planning session in Athens on Friday, but there was one issue that dominated the conversation more than the others: transit.

“Most of these important issues that we grapple with — there’s a time for each one of those to be a major focus, and we’re at that right now with transit,” commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. “We’re coming off of our transportation plan and have that as the backdrop for us to do the work that needs to be done on the transit development plan.”

“We can put the emphasis on the transit aspect of it that I think it takes to try to help the community as a whole be educated about what the potential options are.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is working with truckers to reduce cargo theft.

Cargo theft is a growing problem that’s costing businesses billions of dollars every year, especially in Georgia, which has the dubious distinction of ranking sixth in the nation for such losses.

There are a number of reasons Georgia has been a favorite of cargo thieves, Cornell said, including its arterial highway system, vibrant economy, large airport in Atlanta and world-class port in Savannah. Within the state, Chatham County ranks fourth for cargo theft, after three Atlanta-area counties.

While electronics remain the top targets for cargo theft in many states, in Georgia they rank third, after food and beverages and home and garden.

“Energy drinks, beer, frozen meats and seafood are popular items to steal, primarily because they are easy to unload and difficult to track — the evidence is virtually gone in a matter of days,” Cornell said.

Houston County Commission Chair Tommy Stalnaker says last month’s passage of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) will be a boon to the county.

Q: Back to the county SPLOST — a penny on the dollar in sales tax for county and municipal projects, what do you see as its benefit?

A: I see it as the fairest tax. It’s a consumption tax everybody pays and the money doesn’t just come from Houston County residents but visitors who come to shop, come for sports events and tournaments, visit local attractions, come in as contractors visiting Robins Air Force Base — all these and others spend money that helps us improve our community in a number of ways.

Q: Including further economic development?

A: Absolutely. These improvements are attractive, necessary really, to continue bringing people, business and industry to Houston County. And keeping them here.

Eton, Georgia City Council Member Steve Shaw was arrested on felony drug charges.

“We received information he was attempting to purchase prescription medication which obviously wasn’t his,” [Murray County Detective Shannon] Ramsey said. “During the course of the investigation, we recorded conversations arriving at a price and setting up a meeting location. Once all of that was agreed upon with the undercover officer, we went to that location and arrested him.”

Shaw, 56, was charged with criminal attempt to violate Georgia’s Controlled Substances Act and use of a communication facility in commission of a felony involving controlled substances, both felonies. He was released from the Murray County jail on Sunday on a $2,000 bond.

31
Mar

Sine Delay – Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 31, 2017

Last night, following a fire below an elevated section of I-85 north of downtown Atlanta, a section of roadway collapsed.

Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency shortly thereafter.

Gov. Nathan Deal [Thursday] evening declared a state of emergency for Fulton County following a major fire and subsequent bridge collapse on Interstate 85. State government agencies in Metro Atlanta will delay opening until 10 a.m. Friday and employees able to telecommute are encouraged to do so.

“The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety and minimize disruption of traffic as we continue emergency response efforts,” said Deal. “The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is coordinating response efforts with the Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency and other state and local officials. As this safety investigation and bridge assessment continues, we encourage the public to avoid the affected area, remain patient and allow first responders to perform their jobs. We will continue updating the public on alternative traffic routes and other information as it becomes available.”

GDOT and other state and local transit agencies are working to quickly identify all possible options for commuters, including utilizing the Xpress Bus Service and Peach Pass express lanes. As GDOT continues its assessment, DPS is working closely with local law enforcement to safeguard motorists and ensure safe operation of alternate routes and detours.

Today, Governor Deal is receiving a briefing from federal officials on the highway.

Gov. Nathan Deal today met with the Acting Deputy Director of the Federal Highway Administration Butch Waidelich, senior adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation James Ray, Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Commissioner Russell McMurry, Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner Mark McDonough and other officials to receive a full briefing and updates regarding the Interstate 85 fire and bridge collapse.

“As we continue to assess the damage and begin repairs, I ask for the public’s patience and understanding. The fact that no lives were lost is a blessing, and I’m grateful for the courage, hard work and tireless efforts by our state and local first responders. I’m also thankful for the timely response from the federal government. Their expedited assistance will allow GDOT, city officials and private contractors to begin work immediately. The state of Georgia, City of Atlanta and federal government are committed to an expedited and safe resolution of this disaster.”

“Despite our coordinated efforts, this will be a long process. This is due, in part, to the fact that bridge beams must be cast, poured, tested, transported and individually installed. During this time, public safety is our chief priority and primary concern. With your help, we will be better able to ensure the safety of motorists, travelers, first responders and construction crews.”

Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Congressman Jody Hice honored Jon Richards of Gwinnett County on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I rise today with a heavy heart to celebrate the life of Jon Richards, a Georgia treasure, brilliant political journalist and selfless mentor,” Hice said. “I pray and grieve for the family and friends of Jon during this incredibly difficult time.”

Richards’ death has brought an outpouring of grief from a wide range of politicians, from local officials and legislators to Gov. Nathan Deal, congressmen and U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. In his brief remarks, Hice highlighted the work Richards did with GeorgiaPol.com and his mentoring high school and college students who are interested in politics.

The political writer’s involvement in the Gwinnett County Republican Party, the Gwinnett Chamber, the Gwinnett Transit Advisory Council among other community groups and organizations was also highlighted in the congressman’s remarks.

“Jon Richards was known by the Gwinnett community as someone who lived life to its fullest and made the most of every day. His leadership was unmatched and cannot be overstated,” Hice said. “I’m grateful to know that, through Christ, we will be able to meet again.”

The Georgia General Assembly continued legislating well past midnight last night, finally adjourning Sine Die near 1 AM. We’ll have much more on Monday, but today, we’re resting after getting home at 2 AM last night.

Former Governor Sonny Perdue’s nomination for Secretary of Agriculture in the Trump Administration moves forward after an affirmative vote by the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Perdue’s nomination now heads to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote. It was not immediately clear when that vote would be held. Perdue, a former two-term GOP governor of Georgia, was supported by every lawmaker present for the vote, except for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who logged her disapproval over Perdue’s record on food stamps, and Sen. David Perdue, Sonny Perdue’s cousin, who abstained.

The timing of a full Senate vote on Perdue’s nomination is tricky. Next week the upper chamber will be dominated by intense partisan debate over the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch. After it wraps up its business next Friday — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that Gorsuch will be confirmed by then — the chamber will break for a two-week recess.

This morning, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced he is running for Governor in 2018.

Kemp Governor Header

From the email sent by his campaign:

Conservative small businessman and Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced today that he is running to serve as Georgia’s next governor.

“I’m a conservative small business owner who knows how to put government in its place,” said Kemp. “In the State Senate, I fought to cut taxes and fees on job creators and hardworking Georgia families. As Secretary of State, I’ve used my decades of experience in the private sector to turn bureaucracy into business-friendly government.

“I’m running for Governor because I’m not finished fighting for Georgia. As your Governor, I will fight to make Georgia #1 for small business, treat all parts of our state – including rural Georgia – the same, work to fundamentally reform government, and always put the needs of Georgians – not special interests – first.

“Now is not the time to compromise our conservative values, make empty promises, or play political games in the State Capitol. It’s time to fight for Georgia and I am prepared to lead the charge.”

Kemp’s first stop on the campaign trail is the Cobb County Republican Party Breakfast on Saturday, April 1.

Tax breaks were a hot topic in the last hours of the General Assembly yesterday.

If Gov. Nathan Deal signs on to what the General Assembly has done, Georgia musical artists and music producers would for the first time receive income tax credits for musical and theatrical performances and musical recordings that take place in the Peach State.

In a nod to a growing number of lawmakers critical of special interest tax breaks, the legislature on Thursday reduced the proposed tax credits from 20 percent in earlier versions of the bill to 15 percent. To qualify for the credit, a performer or producer would have to spend at least seven days in Georgia.

The film industry, which already has benefited greatly from the tax credits the General Assembly enacted in 2008, would for the first time receive tax credits for money spent in Georgia on post-production work.

The legislature also approved a bill expanding the rural hospital tax credit program lawmakers created last year by increasing the credit from 70 percent of the amount donors contribute toward rural hospitals to 90 percent.

The AJC reports that yacht repairs and vehicle leases also will get tax cuts.

The General Assembly approved legislation to lower taxes on Georgians who lease vehicles on the last night of the 2017 session, but only after stripping a controversial provision that would have raised taxes on many used-car buyers.

Owners of giant yachts willing to get their boats repaired in Savannah also got a tax break from legislators.

But lawmakers couldn’t reach a deal on a bill to lower the state’s top income tax rate.

Senators said the Georgia House sent them $588 million worth of tax-credit and tax-cut bills to consider this year. Some got through, some didn’t.

Kathleen Foody and Ezra Kaplan of the Associated Press wrap-up the legislative session:

Georgia lawmakers approved legislation permitting concealed handguns on college campuses but failed to pass an update to state law on adoption before the gavel fell on the legislative session.

Attention now turns to Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican in his final term. Georgia law gives Deal 40 days to decide whether to sign, veto or allow measures to become law without his name.

Changes to Georgia adoption law that proponents call long overdue stalled in the Senate despite a last-minute effort to force a vote.

Senators brought that measure up for a vote past 12:30 a.m. and after a testy debate, sent it to a committee for further debate. The move killed the bill for the year.

An expansion of Georgia’s program allowing patients with certain conditions to possess oil derived from marijuana is headed to the governor’s desk

After House and Senate leaders announced a compromise, the bill adds new diagnoses to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis oil, including autism, AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Party On

Atlanta City Council will consider lowering fines and eliminating jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Tybee Island will ban public consumption of alcohol for four days expected to coincide with some Spring Break festivities.

 

30
Mar

Gov. Deal declares state of emergency following I-85 fire

Gov. Nathan Deal this evening declared a state of emergency for Fulton County following a major fire and subsequent bridge collapse on Interstate 85. State government agencies in Metro Atlanta will delay opening until 10 a.m. Friday and employees able to telecommute are encouraged to do so.Continue Reading..

30
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 30, 2017

On March 31, 1776, future First Lady Abigail Adams wrote her husband, John Adams, suggesting that a greater role for women be considered in the fight for Independence and establishment of the United States.

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

On March 31, 1889, Gustave Eiffel led a group of government officials and press to the top of the Eiffel Tower by foot. It would open to the public nine days later.

On March 31, 1976, the Georgia General Assembly adopted a joint resolution proposing a new Constitution of Georgia, which would be placed on the ballot for voter referendum on November 2, 1976.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The House Rules Committee meets at 9 AM in Room 341 of the Georgia State Capitol.

Click here for  legislation tabled on Day 39 and available today in the Senate.

Today is Sine Die, the 40th and final day of the Georgia legislative session. It may go past midnight.

The Marietta Daily Journal has a chart of where some of the major legislation stands going into today’s session.Continue Reading..

29
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for March 29, 2017

Charles Wesley, hymnist, and brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, died on March 29, 1788 in London, England. Charles Wesley served as Secretary to James Oglethorpe and as a Chaplain at Fort Frederica on St Simons Island. This past Sunday, his hymns were played in churches across the globe, including Christ the Lord Is Risen Today and Rejoice, the Lord Is King.

On March 29, 1865, Federal troops under General Ulysses S. Grant began the Appomattox campaign.

On March 29, 1937, Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation imposing the first state tax on distilled spirits in Georgia.

If made in another state and imported into Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 80 cents per gallon and alcohol at $1.60 per gallon – or at fractional amounts for smaller containers. If made in Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 40 cents per gallon and alcohol at 80 cents per gallon.

On March 29, 1973, the last American troops left Vietnam, ending United States engagement in the war.

Tonight, friends and family will gather at the 1818 Club at 7:30 PM to celebrate the life of Jon Richards.

The gathering at the 1818 Club is expected to draw a diversity of people ranging from elected officials to journalists, Gwinnett community leaders, as well as Richards’ friends and family. His family will receive guests beforehand, starting at 7 p.m.

Richards had long been a presence in Gwinnett political circles, including being heavily involved in the county’s Republican Party. He also continued attending some local events — such as Chairwoman Charlotte Nash’s State of the County Address in February — while battling cancer.

At the same time, Richard was also a popular member of the press corps at the State Capitol, receiving applause from senators when he visited earlier in the session.

Gwinnett County Sens. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, David Shafer, R-Duluth, Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, and Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, honored Richards’ life by filing a resolution recognizing him on Friday.

The news of Richards’ death brought reactions on Twitter from officials at various levels of governor, including Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and current and former state legislators.

“May God rest his soul,” Deal wrote.

The earlier resolution honoring Jon and naming him an “honorary Georgia native” was Senate Resolution 539. A new version sending condolences was introduced yesterday as Senate Resolution 558.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections

The Joint House and Senate Education Committee meets today at 10:30 AM in room 606 of the CLOB to hear two presentations.

After yesterday, in the tradition of Jedediah Springfield and Whacking Day, the 39th Legislative Day of the Georgia General Assembly will be known as “Rat Stomp Day.”

On the third floor of the Capitol, a large rat skittered across the floor outside the Senate Chamber, drawing screams from young children and a single well-placed stomp from a Senate doorkeeper. Now, the rat’s brother has opened a Twitter account.

Later, in the evening, we were treated to an early Festivus, in which the Lieutenant Governor aired the Senate’s grievances against the House, noting Senate legislation that languished in the lower chamber. Among the bills notably delayed were Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2.

The House would go on to vote twice against Senate Bill 1, leaving it ineligible for another shot at passage.

The first vote on passage of Senate Bill 1, one of that chamber’s top priorities for the year, was 85-83. It takes 91 votes to pass a bill in the House. After a procedural vote to revive the bill, the House then voted 84-83 to pass SB 1.

That measure is now dead, although it can be added to another measure before lawmakers quit for the year on Thursday.

“Less than one week after a deadly terrorist attack struck London, and in the wake of countless acts of terrorism at home and abroad, 83 members of the House declined to approve a measure to enhance Georgia’s defense against potential terrorist threats,” [Lieutenant Governor Casey] Cagle said. “I will not give up on protecting our citizens and we can never subject the safety and security of Georgians to political gamesmanship.”

SB 1 would classify a crime as “domestic terrorism” if it is a felony that causes bodily harm or death, or the disabling or destruction of “critical infrastructure” that results in major economic losses. It would also have to be proven the crime was intended to intimidate residents or to change public policy.

Shortly after SB 1 failed the second time, the Senate adjourned until Thursday morning.

Earlier in the day, the Senate passed House Bill 280, the Campus Carry legislation.

The proposal would allow anyone 21 and older with a state-issued permit to carry a concealed handgun on campus.

Hoping to win Deal over, lawmakers retained exemptions included in last year’s measure — fraternities, sororities, other student housing, and athletic facilities — and added new exemptions: for on-campus preschools and buildings where high school-age students attend classes.

In his sweeping veto last year, Deal signaled that his opposition to permitting concealed handguns on the state’s public campuses was deeply rooted. Citing legal precedent, he referenced Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s opposition to guns on the University of Virginia campus, as well as U.S. Supreme Court opinion by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, which described schools as “sensitive places” under the Second Amendment.

Senate Amendments to HB 280 mean that the House will vote to agree or disagree with the Senate version. An agree vote by the House would send the legislation to the Governor’s desk, while a disagree would send it to a conference committee of three House members and three Senators.

The Senate also amended and passed House Bill 329, the original version of which would have flattened Georgia’s income tax rates to 5.4 percent.

The Senate bill, which passed 38-16 along party lines, would reduce the income tax rate in Georgia from the current maximum of 6 percent to 5.65 percent. While that’s not far from the rate set by the House bill, senators made other changes that will have to be worked out with the House.

Besides lowering state income taxes, the House bill would establish a flat tax rate of 5.4 percent. But a flat tax actually would raise taxes on low- and middle-income Georgians, according to an analysis by Georgia State University cited by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome.

The Senate bill would keep the current graduated system, setting the lowest tax rate at 1 percent. It also would increase the exemption Georgia taxpayers currently receive by $300, indexed to inflation.

With Georgia’s economy humming along, state government can afford to reduce taxes, Hufstetler told his Senate colleagues.

“We have had a good increase in revenue,” he said. “We have a record fund balance now.”

House Bill 338 by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) passed the Senate and is headed to the Governor for signature.

About four months after voters rejected Gov. Nathan Deal’s amendment to take over failing schools, a similar piece of legislation is heading to his desk.

Tuesday, the Georgia House voted 133 to 36 to approve the latest version of House Bill 338, authored by state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville. The Senate passed the measure Friday.

House Bill 37 by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) addresses potential sanctuary campuses and was passed by the Senate.

The Georgia Senate passed the bill on Tuesday by a vote of 37-16.

If signed by the governor, Ehrhart’s bill would revoke all state funding, including scholarship and research grants, if a private college in Georgia became a “sanctuary campus” to protect undocumented students.

Sanctuary campuses are colleges and universities who have said they will not provide student information to federal immigration authorities.

“You must follow the law,” Ehrhart, a Powder Springs Republican, told the MDJ after his bill passed the Senate on Tuesday afternoon.

There are no sanctuary colleges in Georgia, and Ehrhart’s bill would keep it that way.

The House adopted Senate Bill 16 in a compromise version, expanding the use of medical cannabis in Georgia.

“While this bill does not go as far as many of us would like, it does add six more conditions to the already successful program in our current law and this will allow many more hurting Georgians to benefit from medical cannabis oil as an option,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, presenting Senate Bill 16 to the House on Tuesday. The House approved it on Tuesday by a vote of 167-4.

The diagnoses that would be added are: “severe” autism for people under the age of 18; autism for people ages 18 or older; severe or end-stage cases of Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS or peripheral neuropathy; severe Tourette’s syndrome; or any case of the painful skin disease epidermolysis bullosa. It would also open the registry to people in hospice.

The bill is a compromise with the state Senate, which passed a bill which would have added only autism and would have lowered the cap on THC. The state House approved a bill with more diagnoses and left the 5 percent THC cap untouched.

State Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, authored the original Senate Bill 16 and has said he expects the Senate will approve the compromise, which also leaves the THC cap at 5 percent.

Gwinnett County Commissioners are in Athens this week for strategic planning meetings.

Gwinnett Tax Commissioner Richard Steele notes that Saturday is the last day to apply for a homestead exemption if your situation has changed.

Sixth District

University of Florida Professor Michael McDonald crunched the numbers on early voting so far in the Sixth District and it looks bad for Republicans.

The Club for Growth is airing a new TV ad attacking Republican Karen Handel in the Sixth District.

It’s a $250,000 ad buy on Atlanta cable, according to a Club source, and is scheduled to run through the initial April 18 election. If none of the 18 candidates receives a majority of the vote in the jungle primary, the top two finishers, regardless of party, will move on to a June 20 runoff. The conservative outside group endorsed one of Handel’s 10 GOP opponents, businessman Bob Gray, on March 14.

The 30-second ad, entitled “Trees,” highlights Handel’s spending record as Georgia secretary of state and Fulton county commissioner (since she doesn’t have a legislative voting record).

It’s the first negative ad against Handel that mentions her by name. Previous ads made references to career politicians and one featured an elephant wearing a pearl necklace.

As a former statewide officeholder and with two other unsuccessful bids for statewide office, Handel started the special election with the highest name identification. While Gray has improved his standing with his own ads, someone (or some group) likely needed to dethrone Handel first for a Republican other than Handel to make the runoff.

All 18 candidates for the Sixth District are invited to debate today at 11:30 AM at Cobb Energy Centre.

Former Democratic candidate for Attorney General Ken Hodges will run for an open seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals in 2018, according to the AJC.

The former Dougherty district attorney signed on former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss to chair his campaign. And his campaign treasurer is Edward Johnson, the court’s former chief judge.

“The people of Georgia deserve fair judges who bring a diverse and broad range experience to the bench,” said Hodges. “That’s exactly what I’ve done throughout my legal career representing Georgia families and businesses, and that’s exactly why I’m running to serve on the Georgia Court of Appeals.”

 

28
Mar

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

The British Parliament enacted The Coercive Acts on March 28, 1774.

The Coercive Acts were a series of four acts established by the British government. The aim of the legislation was to restore order in Massachusetts and punish Bostonians for their Tea Party, in which members of the revolutionary-minded Sons of Liberty boarded three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 crates of tea—nearly $1 million worth in today’s money—into the water to protest the Tea Act.

Passed in response to the Americans’ disobedience, the Coercive Acts included:

The Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.

The Massachusetts Government Act, which restricted Massachusetts; democratic town meetings and turned the governor’s council into an appointed body.

The Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in Massachusetts.

The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in their private homes as a last resort.

Governor Ernest Vandiver signed legislation authorizing the construction of monuments to Georgians killed in battle at the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields on March 28, 1961.

Identical 15 1/2-foot-tall monuments of Georgia blue granite were sculpted by Harry Sellers of Marietta Memorials. At the top of the shaft is the word “GEORGIA” over the state seal. Lower on the shaft is the inscription, “Georgia Confederate Soldiers, We sleep here in obedience; When duty called, we came; When Countdry called, we died.”

Georgia’s first “Sunshine Law” requiring open meetings of most state boards and commissions, was signed by Governor Jimmy Carter on March 28, 1972.

A nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania overheated on March 28, 1979 and within days radiation levels had risen in a four county area. It was the most serious accident in commercial nuclear history in the United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Bart Simpson Chalkboard Erratum

Former United States Senator Saxby Chambliss has endorsed Karen Handel in the Sixth Congressional District.

Chambliss served in the United States Senate from 2003 to 2015.

“Karen is one of those people who simply gets things done,” he said. “Her reputation from Atlanta to Washington is that she is the kind of person…that you can work with. And she will do what she says she’s going to do.”

Handel is the candidate he “feels most comfortable” with as Republicans work to maintain control of the seat, which covers north Fulton and parts of Cobb and DeKalb counties.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to receive the support of Senator Chambliss, who was an effective advocate in Washington,” Handel added. “If elected to represent the 6th Congressional District, I intend to lead by his example and always put the interest of Georgians first.”

Senator David Perdue endorsed Dan Moody for the Sixth District this morning. From the Press Release:

U.S. Senator David Perdue today endorsed Dan Moody’s campaign for Congress in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.  Perdue, a successful businessman and CEO before his outsider campaign for the U.S. Senate, is seen as a major force for change and getting things done in Washington, and is a staunch ally of President Donald Trump.

“In politics, there are endorsements and there are endorsements,” Moody said.  “This is an Endorsement with a capital “E.” and I couldn’t be prouder to have David’s support.  He is one of the top “get things done” members of the Senate and I look forward to helping him strike while the iron is hot and implement real conservative change in Washington.”

In the ad, Perdue says:

You sent me to Washington as an outsider to help fix a broken system. With a new president who isn’t afraid to shake things up, we finally have a real chance.

Trust me, we don’t need another career politician up here.

Dan Moody cares more about getting results, than getting credit. 

That’s so uncommon and exactly what we need.

Dan’s one of us.

The ad is running on broadcast and cable television across the district.  Bigly.

Liberal Democrat Jon Ossoff has Alyssa Milano and some guy I’ve never heard of driving voters to the polls for early voting.Continue Reading..

27
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 27, 2017

Thomas Jefferson was elected as a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress on March 27, 1775.

Colonel James Fannin, a Georgia native and Colonel in the Texas Regular Army and more than 300 other members of the Georgia battalion were executed on March 27, 1836 after surrendering to Santa Anna’s Mexican Army. Fannin County, Georgia is named after Col Fannin.

On March 27, 1912, the first Japanese cherry trees were planted on the northern bank of the Potomac River near the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. This past weekend, Brookhaven held its third annual Brookhaven Cherry Festival, while Macon’s Cherry Blosson festival continues through April 2d.

On March 27, 1941, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation outlawing the handling of venomous snakes in such a way as to endanger another person or to encourage another person to handle a snake in such a way as to endanger them. The legislation resulted from a six-year old handling a venomous snake during a church service in Adel, Georgia, during which she was bitten and died. Under that act you could still handle snakes yourself as long as you didn’t endanger someone else.

On March 27, 1947, Governor Melvin Thompson signed legislation that made Georgia a “Right to Work State,” meaning that employees cannot generally be forced to join a union or pay dues in order to take a job. On the same day, gambling on sporting events was outlawed by another bill signed by Gov. Thompson.

Ron Daniels, our Poet Laureate, has a short history of the prohibition on sports gambling on the website.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Bart Simpson Chalkboard Erratum

On August 21, 2017, the first Total Eclipse of the Heart Sun in 38 years will cross the continental United States. In Georgia, it will only be fully visible in the Extreme Northwest Northeast (upper left-hand) corner of the state.

The centerline path of the eclipse just barely touches the state in Rabun and Stephens counties.  Clayton, Rabun Gap, and Dillard in Rabun County are located in the centerline of the path of totality.  Totality will occur there at 2:35:45 PM and last for 2 minutes, 34 seconds.  The entire event will take place over a couple of hours and viewers will have to wear protective eyewear.

Rabun County will party like it’s the end of the world. And for 2.5 minutes, you can say that Northwest Northeast Georgia is literally benighted.

Jon Richards, a fixture of the Gwinnett County Republican Party, the Gwinnett Chamber, and the General Assembly press corps, died at the age of 61.

Richards was an active member of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Republican Party, and various other civic, social, and political organizations.

He has also served as a member of the Gwinnett Transit System Advisory Board, and has been heavily involved in the county GOP for years, serving as the person the party turned to for information.

On Friday, a resolution was placed in the Senate hopper in recognition of Richards.

The resolution stated, “Richards has been a great family man as son to his mother, Caroline, and his late father, Glenn; his sisters Amy and Anne; his brother-in-law Andrew; and his nephews, Cal, Matthew, and Stuart, for whom he is an experienced pumpkin carver and the official distributor of presents found under the tree on Christmas morning.”

It continued: “Jon Richards has several decades of dedication to the Gwinnett and Georgia Republican Party organizations but has always sought to find solutions to problems based on the needs of our citizens rather than the needs of a political organization. Jon Richards has devoted hours and given selflessly to mentor high school and college students to become the leaders of tomorrow, many of whom are already the leaders of today.”

From the AJC’s Greg Bluestein:

About the only time we saw him struggle for words was at the Georgia GOP’s 2015 convention, when Jon was named the party’s volunteer of the year. He beamed for days after that award.

“He is the first to arrive and the last to leave and is always there to do a little more if needed,” former state Rep. Ed Lindsey wrote at the time.

As his cancer grew worse, Georgia’s political class united to show him their love. At a visit to his hospital in early January, a steady stream of friends and readers came to see him, hold his hands and tell him he was cared for. He hated to admit it, but he was worried he wouldn’t be able to follow the legislative session from his hospital bed.

He made one last visit to the statehouse in late February, escorted by Harper and other friends. He met with Gov. Nathan Deal, took pictures with the Capitol press corps and couldn’t move an inch without well wishers sending him their love.

From Charlie Harper at GeorgiaPol:

Jon was an active member of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Republican Party, and various other civic, social, and political organizations. He wasn’t “active” in the “member in good standing” meaning of the term. Jon was active in that he was always moving, always doing, always contributing. There was a constant theme in everything Jon did: Always helping.

Jon was a bit of a contrarian in political circles, as he was someone that eschewed the limelight, but instead preferred to remain behind the scenes. He strove to ensure that events were well planned and professionally executed. While having strong beliefs of his own, his overall goal was that the political processes and systems he participated in to be fair, transparent, and productive.

We anticipate a Celebration of Life service for Jon this Wednesday evening, in Gwinnett County. We will update here as plans are finalized with time and location.

Polls open today for early voting in the Sixth Congressional District and the 32d Georgia Senate District.

“As Georgia’s chief elections official, my top priority is ensuring elections are secure, accessible, and fair for all eligible voters,” said Secretary of State Brian Kemp in a statement. “With expanded early voting opportunities and new technologies in place, it has never been easier to take part in the electoral process, and I want voters to make sure their voices are heard in these important contests.”

In District 6, which includes parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties, 18 are vying to replace Tom Price, who resigned his seat to become the nation’s health secretary. In District 32, which covers parts of Cobb and Fulton, eight candidates are trying to replace Judson Hill, who gave up his seat to run for the District 6 seat.

For more information on early voting, you can log into the Secretary of State’s MVP webpage or contact your local elections office.

Four of the Republican candidates for Congress met in a debate yesterday.

The candidates in attendance were David Abroms, Bob Gray, Judson Hill and Kurt Wilson. Karen Handel and Dan Moody were invited, but canceled beforehand. The winner will replace Tom Price, who resigned to serve as U.S. Health and human services secretary.

Health care was front and center in the debate, which followed House Republicans’ failure to pass a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The candidates for District 6 suggested that they would have voted against the alternative plan if they had the opportunity.

“I don’t think we actually saw the legislation,” Gray said. “And I’m not sure we should do, as Republicans, what the Democrats did and vote on something we haven’t yet seen … What I’d like to see is the establishment and Paul Ryan lead a collaborative approach … Once we have seen it, then we can determine whether it’s something we can pass.”

Hill said the bill did not go far enough to protect consumer choice.

“I would not have voted in favor of this version,” Hill said. “Americans deserve better. Americans deserve to address pre-existing conditions. We deserve to have an affordable health care system … We deserve to have expanded choice. We deserve to buy health care across state lines.”

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

1:30 PM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE SMALL BUSINESS 506 CLOB

Tuesday will be the penultimate day of the Georgia General Assembly, and Thursday they are expected to adjourn Sine Die.

The Rome News-Tribune looks at legislation of interest to Northwest Georgia in the last days of session.Continue Reading..

24
Mar

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

On March 26, 1734, the British House of Commons voted £10,000 to subsidize the Georgia colony, down from £26,000 the previous year.

The British Parliament closed the Port of Boston on March 25, 1774, passing the Boston Port Act in retaliation for the destruction of $1 million worth of tea in the Boston Tea Party.

On March 26, 1920, This Side of Paradise, the debut novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald was published. The author was 23 years old.

Flannery O’Connor was born on March 25, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia. She would come to be recognized as one of the greatest American fiction writers. O’Connor graduated from the Georgia State College for Women, now called Georgia College and State University. She returned to Milledgeville in 1951, living at the family farm, called Andalusia, until her death at age 39 in 1964.

At GCSU, the Flannery O’Connor Room is located in the GC Museum, the Flannery O’Connor Collection includes manuscripts, and the College includes a program in Flannery O’Connor Studies.

O’Connor died of Lupus, which also killed her father.

Horton Smith won the first Masters tournament on March 25, 1934.

On March 25, 1937, Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation creating the Georgia Department of Labor; in 1945, the Commissioner of Labor was upgraded from statutory office to Constitutional.

Governor E.D. Rivers signed a resolution on March 24, 1939, calling for the return of “General” locomotive made famous in the Great Train Chase from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Georgia. It currently resides in The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia. The other locomotive involved in the chase, The Texas, is displayed at the Atlanta Cyclorama in Grant Park  until late last year, when it was removed for restoration and will be displayed in the Atlanta History Center beginning in fall of 2018.

Elvis Presley was inducted into the United States Army on March 24, 1958.

On March 24, 1970, Gov. Lester Maddox signed legislation naming the Largemouth Bass the Official State Fish.

On March 26, 1982, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Washington, DC for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; the design approved a couple weeks earlier was by 21-year old Yale architecture student Maya Lin.

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

COMMITTEE MEETINGS – LEGISLATIVE DAY 38

8:00 AM REAPPORTIONMENT AND REDISTRICTING 307 CLOB

8:00 AM >FULL HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP

8:30 AM REGULATED INDUSTRIES AND UTILITIES 310 CLOB

9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 38) HOUSE CHAMBER


SENATE RULES CALENDAR

HB 437 – Agricultural Education Advisory Commission; recreate (ED&Y-50th) Dickey-140th

HB 222 – HOPE; members of Georgia National Guard and reservists meet residency requirement; provide (Substitute) (H ED-46th) Blackmon-146th

HB 88 – Superior courts; qualifications for judges; revise (Substitute) (RULES-23rd) Fleming-121st

HB 340 – Alternative ad valorem tax; motor vehicles; change manner of distribution of proceeds (Substitute) (FIN-52nd) Blackmon-146th

HB 338 – Education; system of supports and assistance for low-performing schools in the greatest need; provisions (Substitute) (ED&Y-37th) Tanner-9th

HB 341 – Crimes and offenses; mandatory terms for trafficking individuals for sexual servitude; provisions (Substitute) (JUDY-45th) Reeves-34th

HB 290 – Ad valorem tax; definitions related to exemption of certain agricultural equipment; revise (FIN-7th) Watson-172nd

HB 261 – Penal institutions; certain individuals sentenced between March 18, 1968 and October 31, 1982; allow to petition court for first offender status (JUDY-19th) Werkheiser-157th

HB 510 – Alcoholic beverages; population and measurement of certain distances; repeal certain provisions (RI&U-15th) Smyre-135th

HB 221 – Commerce and trade; powers of attorney to a uniform Act; update and conform provisions (Substitute) (JUDY-18th) Efstration-104th

HB 202 – Public officers and employees; annual salary for the Governor; change provisions (Substitute) (APPROP-4th) Powell-171st

HB 153 – Council on American Indian Concerns; attach to Department of Natural Resources (NR&E-20th) Rogers-10th

HB 192 – Banks, trust companies, and corporations; responsibilities and standard of care of directors and officers; change provisions (B&FI-18th) Beskin-54th

HB 224 – Quality Basic Education Act; military student may attend any school in local system; provide (ED&Y-6th) Belton-112th

HB 452 – Georgia Bureau of Investigation; publicly post certain information to extent permitted by federal law; require (Substitute) (PUB SAF-6th) Petrea-166th

HB 241 – Cove’s Law; enact (H&HS-51st) Hawkins-27th

HB 210 – Health; certain specimen collection stations and blood banks are not considered clinical laboratories; provide (H&HS-17th) Lott-122nd

HB 134 – Sales and use tax; special district mass transportation; provisions (Substitute) (FIN-21st) Epps-144th

HB 234 – Motor vehicles; drivers stop at crosswalks with user activated rectangular rapid-flash beacons; require (PUB SAF-50th) Frye-118th

HB 253 – Special license plates; dog and cat reproductive sterilization support program; increase the proportion of moneys derived from the sale (Substitute) (PUB SAF-54th) Willard-51st

HB 257 – Local government authorities; register with Department of Community Affairs; require (SLGO(G)-7th) Tankersley-160th

HB 506 – Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Act of 1965; award certain contracts involving concessions; provide for vote by Board (TRANS-21st) Taylor-79th

HB 154 – Dental hygienists; perform certain functions under general supervision; authorize (Substitute) (H&HS-45th) Cooper-43rd

HB 117 – Sales and use tax; certain voluntary contributions; exclude from definition of retail sales (FIN-56th) Watson-172nd

HB 205 – Mining and drilling; regulate exploration and extraction of gas and oil; provisions (Substitute) (RI&U-52nd) Meadows-5th

HB 453 – County law library; board of trustees; add chief judge of magistrate court (SJUDY-42nd) Dreyer-59th

HB 481 – Aviation; unmanned aircraft systems; provide for preemption (TRANS-21st) Tanner-9th

HB 67 – Crimes and offenses; entering a motor vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or felony; provide for increased punishment (Substitute) (JUDY-30th) Boddie-62nd

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HR 462 – House of Representatives; commitment to strengthening military installations located within state; reaffirm (D&VA-Belton-112th)

SB 8 – “Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act”; health insurance; provide consumer protections; definitions (Substitute)(Ins-Smith-134th) Unterman-45th

SB 117 – Georgia Technology Authority; definition of the term “agency”; change; establishment of certain policies and standards used by all agencies; provide (Substitute)(GAff-Rogers-10th) Martin-9th

SR 229 – Public Property; granting of non-exclusive easements for the construction, operation, and maintenance of facilities, utilities, roads; authorize 10 counties (Substitute)(SProp-Pirkle-155th) Jones-25th

Modified Structured Rule
SB 153 – Hearing Aid Dealers and Dispensers; exempt certain activities (Substitute)(RegI-Ehrhart-36th) Brass-28th

SB 219 – Motor Vehicles; definitions; operation of motor vehicles with automated driving systems on certain public roads; provide (Substitute) (Trans-Kelley-16th) Gooch-51st

Note: I would guess that more Senate Bills will be added to the House Rules Calendar at the 9 AM House Rules Committee meeting.


Governor Nathan Deal earlier this week appointed Jeffery N. Osteen as State Court Judge of Liberty County. Osteen previously served as Solicitor General for Liberty County, which opens that seat up.

Nineteen-year old Spelman student Mary-Pat Hector, whose candidacy was challenged on account of her age, reached the runoff election for Stonecrest City Council against first-place finisher George Turner, Jr.

Voters in two counties passed referendums to dedicate public funding to keep local hospitals open.

Voters in Monroe and Jefferson counties Tuesday approved tax increases to help preserve their rural hospitals, which are in financial danger.

[T]he Tuesday vote in the hospital referendums in Monroe County, just north of Macon, and Jefferson County, in east Georgia, had many in the health care industry breathing sighs of relief. It followed similar success in Cook County, in South Georgia, where commissioners, hearing from residents and businesses, voted to approve funding to build a new hospital there.

Jefferson County residents, in a nonbinding referendum, voted to let commissioners raise the county millage rate by up to 3 mills to support operations at Jefferson Hospital. Three mills is the equivalent of $1.2 million, the Jefferson Reporter newspaper said.

Monroe County voters also easily approved a tax increase to keep the local hospital open. County officials in January had voted to begin a shutdown of Monroe County Hospital pending the outcome of the vote.

Ronnie Ridley was elected to the Haralson County Commission, winning the seat vacated up the death of his twin brother, Donnie Ridley.

“I promise them I’ll do a good job, not just for those who voted for me, for everybody,” Ridley said.

Last week, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation secured an arrest warrant for him and 10 other people as a result of a commercial gambling investigation. The bureau had executed search warrants at several businesses in Carroll and Haralson counties in January as part of the investigation. Ridley had turned himself in on Thursday. He was released on $15,000 bond.

Mary Layton, a supporter of Ridley who was at the after party and also the subject of one of the warrants, said the timing was bad, and she had worried that it might affect the election. She was excited about the win.

Speaking of commercial gambling, yesterday a House subcommittee heard testimony on the Destination Resorts Casino Gambling bill previously declared “mostly dead.”

Thursday Rep. Ron Stephens, R -Savannah, presented an updated “destination resort” bill to the House Regulated Industries Committee.

The House Bill 158 substitute expands the maximum number of state-licensed casinos from two to four, which Rep. Stephens believes could garner it more statewide support.

“We’ve eliminated the opportunity for certain places around the state to even be part of the game, if you will.  No pun intended,” said Rep. Stephens.

“Casinos are a net loss for the state,” said Dave Baker, executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia.  “They bring addiction, bankruptcy and crime– that includes human trafficking.  And we work to fight so many of these things in so many other bills to bring casinos to the state is just moving completely in the wrong direction.”

But that meeting may have been a distraction from the Fantasy Sports betting legislation, which was tacked onto other legislation by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody). From a Facebook post by Senator Millar,

My SB 156 that limits how the DeKalb Splost can be spent (no government complex, etc) has been “improved” in the House. Fantasy Sports bill and Yacht Repair bills have been added. I previously indicated I would be voting no on the Fantasy Sports bill but will have to vote Yes on SB 156 because I want to make sure DeKalb spends $300 million on the right projects over the next five years.

Senate Bill 156 is “must have” legislation for DeKalb County homeowners.

Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) is on the House floor today in the form of a dramatically reworked version by House Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus).

The House Insurance Committee on Monday passed revamped legislation to reduce “surprise billing,’’ in which patients using hospitals in their insurance network may still get unexpected bills from doctors who are not in the network.

The new version of Senate Bill 8 is vastly different from the original proposal that passed the state Senate unanimously.

The previous version relied on a percentage of charges from a national database as the tool to resolve billing situations disputed by patients. The substitute legislation sets up a new formula for out-of-network reimbursement for emergency services, but does not have a similar setup for scheduled patient care by other hospital-based physicians, such as anesthesiologists.

The revamped legislation drew praise from the health insurance industry, with the Georgia Association of Health Plans saying the proposal mirrors a federal formula for out-of-network ER reimbursement.

But physician groups favored the previous Senate Bill 8, which called for the medical provider to be paid at a rate that’s 80 percent of benchmark charges for a particular procedure in the ZIP code where the service was delivered. And on Monday, doctors’ organizations said they oppose the new version, calling it “one-sided.”

Smith, a Republican from Columbus, said he has told MAG that “you’ve got some rogue doctors out there’’ responsible for much of the surprise bill problem. “It’s that small group out there that’s generating this conversation.”

If Senate Bill 8 passes the House, the two chambers must settle the differences between the original and revised versions in a conference committee.

Senate Resolution 258 by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) would, among other property conveyances, renew the lease of the Western & Atlantic Railroad to the CSX Railway. It has been amended in the House, purportedly to allow its use for public transit in conjunction with CSX’s operations.

The Western & Atlantic Railroad has been running since 1851. It passes through four of Cobb’s six cities and behind Cumberland Mall, which could make it a perfect path for business commuters or travelers seeking to come to and from SunTrust Park.

Some rail advocates worried about Senate Resolution 228, which would extend rail company CSX’s lease on the 137 miles of rail until 2070.

CSX or its predecessors have been subject to multiple lease agreements for the rails for about the past 100 years, but there were fears that the new lease would grant exclusive rights to CSX trains on the railroad line. That would put the kibosh on passenger rail service in Cobb County for over 50 years.

“The (House Rules) committee initially decided not to add any language to SR 228, but since then, evidently our testimony had more weight than we thought,” [Sierra Club lobbyist Neil] Herring said. “They have added language into SR 228, the Rules Committee added language to it that says in a general way that nothing in the new lease will impede the right of the state, the county or any other legitimate public agency from providing public transportation.”

State Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Cobb) writes about the rail transit issue in The Marietta Daily Journal.

The Seventh District Georgia Republican Party is hosting the Zellner-Jennings Dinner on Friday, April 21, 2017.

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

Patrick Henry addressed the Virginia Convention in Richmond on March 23, 1775, stating,  “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

On March 23, 1861, the Georgia Secession Convention adopted a new state Constitution to be submitted to a referendum of the voters on the first Tuesday in July and then adjourned.

On March 23, 1972, in the case of Gooding v. Wilson, the United States Supreme Court held that a Georgia statute, OCGA § 26-6303, which provided: “Any person who shall, without provocation, use to or of another, and in his presence . . . opprobrious words or abusive language, tending to cause a breach of the peace . . . shall be guilty of a misdemeanor,” was unconstitutionally vague and violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan called for the development of an anti-missile system that would come to be known as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETING SCHEDULE

9:00 AM HOUSE NAT’L RES & ENV’T 403 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE GAME, FISH & PARKS 403 CAP

11:00 AM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 506 CLOB

12:00 PM House Energy Sub Energy, Util & Telecom 403 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE REGULATED IND & UTIL – CANCELED 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY – CANCELED 307 CLOB

1:00 PM WAYS & MEANS 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SVCS Time & Room Change – 515 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE BANKS & BANKING 341 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES & TELECOM 403 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE RULES 450 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECH 310 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SVCS – CANCELED

2:00 PM House Transportation Sub Resolutions 506 CLOB

2:15 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION – CANCELED 310 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE REAPPORTIONMENT AND REDISTRICTING 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUD’Y 307 CLOB