Category: Georgia Politics

6
Nov

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 6, 2017

Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th President of the United States and the first Republican to hold the office on November 6, 1860. By his inauguration in March, seven states had seceded.

On November 6, 1861, one year after Lincoln’s election, Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens of Georgia were elected President and Vice President of the Confederate States of America.

President Teddy Roosevelt left for a 17-day trip to Panama on November 6, 1906 to inspect work on the Panama Canal; he was the first President to take an official tour outside the continental United States.

A dam on the campus of Toccoa Falls Bible College burst on November 6, 1977 under pressure from heavy rains, killing 39 students and faculty.

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich (R-GA) resigned his office and his Congressional seat on November 6, 1998, effective in January 1999, despite having been reelected three days earlier.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue spoke Friday at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

 In Hall County, one family accounts for more of the candidates in this year’s municipal elections than I’ve ever seen before.

Now the Reeves are known in [Clermont] for more than the cute papillons. They are singled out as the husband and wife running for office in Tuesday’s election.

To boot, their son, Albert Reeves, himself a former Clermont councilman who now lives in Gainesville, is challenging for a Gainesville City Council seat against longtime incumbent George Wangemann and first-time office seeker Maria Del Rosario Palacios.

What’s the driving force behind the Reeves’ family decision to seek office at the same time?  Dad, mom and son sat down with the papillons on their laps to talk about their simultaneous excursion into the local political fray.

Donna Reeves credits her son for getting everyone in the family involved.

“He’s into it for sure,” she said of her politically savvy son.

Albert Reeves ran for a seat on Clermont Town Council in 2007 when he was living with his parents. He won the seat at age 24. After serving one four-year term, Albert Reeves and his wife moved to Gainesville.

Donna Reeves said she ran for the seat her son occupied in 2011.

“He wanted me to carry on with some of the projects he’s been pushing on council,” she said. “I  wanted to continue with the ideas my son had to make Clermont a better place. Unfortunately, I lost by two votes.”

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) writes about the Republican House tax reform proposal in The Gainesville Times.

Last Thursday introduced Northeast Georgians to what the House, Senate and president have been collaborating on since January: A conservative tax reform bill that makes the first meaningful improvements to the tax code since 1986, when I was a student at what was then North Georgia College and an intern on Capitol Hill.

Since then, time has passed and tax policy has changed, but not for the better. As pundits tackle the details of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, I want my neighbors to be confident knowing what conservatives are doing through tax reform and, perhaps more importantly, why we’re taking these steps.

The legislation the House has introduced focuses on replacing America’s labyrinth of a tax code with a plan driven by fairness, simplicity and opportunity. The IRS has reached its tentacles deep into the pockets of American workers and families to feed a bloated federal government.

I’d like to cut off those tentacles and allow everyday Americans to keep more of the money they earned by the sweat of their brows. I believe that comprehensive tax reform, specifically the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, is the answer to our country’s economic malaise. Our friends across the aisle disagree.

If the Republican tax plan actually does deliver tax relief to middle class filers — and it does — ­­­and if it does level the global playing field to allow businesses to close up their shops across the ocean and drop deep roots into American soil, then why would anyone oppose it? Because their objection isn’t practical. It’s ideological.

The Gwinnett Daily Post continues its reporting on local municipal races.

Sugar Hill City Council

Grayson City Council

Loganville Mayor and Council

 Tuesday will see nine special elections for the Georgia General Assembly.

Five Republicans and three Democrats are running for the 6th District seat of GOP Sen. Hunter Hill, who’s running for governor. GOP contenders Charlie Fiveash, Kathy Eichenblatt, Leah Aldridge, Leo Smith and Matt Bentley are on the ballot in the district, which includes parts of Fulton and Cobb counties. So are Democrats Jaha Howard, Jen Jordan and Taos Wynn.

In the nearby 39th District, four Democrats and one Republican hope to succeed Democratic Sen. Vincent Fort, who is running for mayor of Atlanta. The Senate race in Fulton County features Democrats Elijah Tutt, Linda Pritchett, Marckeith DeJesus, and Nikema Williams. Nick Carlson is the GOP candidate.

Whitfield County voters in northwest Georgia must replace Republican Rep. Bruce Broadrick of Dalton, who stepped down citing failing health. GOP candidates Beau Patton, Eddie Caldwell and Kasey Carpenter are vying for the 4th District seat. So is Democrat Peter Pociask.

The 26th District in Forsyth County north of Atlanta became open when GOP Rep. Geoff Duncan of Cumming resigned to run for lieutenant governor. Republicans Marc Morris and Tina Trent are running to replace him along with Democrat Steve Smith.

Only Democrats signed up for metro Atlanta races to replace two lawmakers running for governor — Democratic Reps. Stacey Abrams of Atlanta and Stacey Evans of Smyrna. In DeKalb County, Bee Nguyen, David Abbott, Monique Keane and Sachin Varghese are competing in Abrams’ 89th District. Just one candidate, Teri Anulewicz, is seeking Evans’ 42nd District seat in Cobb County.

Republicans also passed on competing in the 60th District after Democratic Rep. Keisha Waites of Atlanta stepped down to run for Fulton County chairman. Democrats De’Andre Pickett, Kim Schofield and Sparkle Adams are running in Fulton and Clayton counties.

Voters in northeast Georgia’s 117th District got a straight-up Republican vs. Democrat contest after GOP Rep. Regina Quick of Athens was appointed to a judgeship. Democratic attorney Deborah Gonzalez faces GOP consultant Houston Gaines in Clarke, Oconee, Barrow and Jackson counties.

In the 119th District in Clarke and Oconee Counties, GOP Rep. Chuck Williams of Watkinsville left office to become head of the Georgia Forestry Commission. Democrat Jonathan Wallace is running for the seat, as are Republicans Lawton Lord, Marcus Wiedower and Steven Strickland.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC has an interesting take on President Trump’s support among Georgia Republicans.

In short, establishment Republicans in Georgia have come to terms with — or at the very least begrudgingly accepted — Trump’s hard-edged blend of nationalism and populism.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, Trump’s most high-profile ally in Georgia, has a simple explanation: The vast majority of Peach State Republicans are enthralled by the president’s agenda and ask the senator at every turn why his chamber isn’t as supportive as he is.

“You could always talk about what he said in this tweet or that tweet,” Perdue said, “but when you back up and look at what’s happening in the country, that’s what people back home are really paying attention to.”

Most of Trump’s Washington accomplishments to date have centered on unraveling Obama-era regulations and confirming administration appointees, including a Supreme Court justice and two Georgians in the Cabinet.

Georgia’s “business community tends to be moderate, but our base isn’t. So I think what has happened is (Trump has) forced politicians to kind of choose a side, and most of them are coming home to their base as a result,” said Jack Kingston, a former Savannah Republican congressman who has become a prominent Trump surrogate.

The pro-Trump undercurrents in Georgia are so strong that GOP operative Brian Robinson tells his clients that if they’re planning on running as a “Never Trump” candidate, they’re wasting their time because they’ll get crushed in a primary.

“If you can’t say, ‘I voted for President Trump and think his agenda will make America great again,’ then don’t run as a Republican,” he said.

“They might not always agree with his style or the manner in which he goes about his business,” GOP strategist Chip Lake said, “but they believe that he represents what they want out of a president, anger and resentment toward business as usual in Washington.”

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Bethlehem) received the American Conservative Union’s Award for Conservative Excellence.

The ACU’s award is given annually to members of Congress based on their commitment “to advance conservative principles of liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values and a strong national defense.”

“I came to Congress to stand up for the advancement of conservative principles, and I’m proud that my voting record reflects that commitment,” said Rep. Hice in the press release.

“Rep. Jody Hice earns an A-plus grade for his consistently conservative voting record during a time when our country is facing so many critical issues,” said Schlapp in the press release. “It is refreshing to have a member of Congress who puts the Constitution first, especially when it comes to our First Amendment religious freedoms.”

“I’m honored to be recognized by the American Conservative Union Foundation and will continue to champion pro-growth, limited government policies that help ensure we leave this country and Georgia’s 10th District better than we found it for our kids and grandkids,” said Rep. Hice in the press release.

Floyd County voters will cast their ballots on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) tomorrow, as well as some municipal offices.

Floyd County Sheriff Tim Burkhalter is urging residents to vote yes on the SPLOST.

Troup County voters will also vote on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and local offices.

Incumbent state legislators are the main funders of Kasey Carpenter’s campaigns for State House District 4.

As of Oct. 27, Carpenter has raised $17,800, more than double what the other three candidates have received combined. Of his funding, 87 percent comes from the campaign accounts of other state lawmakers.

Carpenter, the owner of Oakwood Cafe and Cherokee Pizza and Brewing, did not return multiple calls seeking comment last week. He will face Republican Eddie Caldwell, Republican Beau Patton and Democrat Peter Pociask on Tuesday. All four are vying for a one-year term to replace retiring state Rep. Bruce Broadrick in District 4.

 

 

3
Nov

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

John Willis Menard became the first black man elected to Congress on November 3, 1868 from the Second District of Louisiana. Menard’s election opponent challenged the results and prevented Menard from taking his seat, though in defense of his election Menard became the first black man to address Congress.

Alexander Stephens was sworn-in as Governor of Georgia on November 4, 1882; Stephens had earlier been elected Vice-President of the Confederate States of America.

Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who spent part of his youth in Augusta, Georgia and married Ellen Louise Axson, whom he met in Rome, Georgia, was elected President in a landslide victory on November 5, 1912.

On November 3, 1913, details of the federal income tax were finalized and published after the ratification earlier in the year of the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Bacon, Barrow, Candler, and Evans Counties were created on November 3, 1914 when voters approved Constitutional Amendments – prior to these Amendments, Georgia was limited to 145 counties. On the same day, Carl Vinson was elected to Congress from Georgia, becoming the youngest member of Congress at the time. Vinson would eventually become the first Member of Congress to serve more than fifty years. Vinson’s grandson, Sam Nunn would serve in the United States Senate.

Howard Carter found an entrance to the tomb of King Tutankhamen on November 4, 1922.

On November 4, 1932 Georgia Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. campaigned on behalf of Democratic candidate for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to his unprecedented third term as President of the United States on November 5, 1940.

The Chicago Tribune published the infamous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline on November 3, 1948. Ultimately, Democrat Truman won 303 electoral votes to 189 for Republican Dewey.

Laika, a female Siberian Husky mix who was found stray on the streets of Moscow, was launched into space aboard Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957.

On November 3, 1964, Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson was elected President over Republican Barry Goldwater.

Richard M. Nixon was elected President of the United States by a plurality vote on November 5, 1968.

On November 3, 1970, Jimmy Carter was elected Governor of Georgia.

On November 4, 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan was elected President, winning 489 electoral votes to 49 for incumbent Jimmy Carter.

Note on the electoral map in that clip, states that Reagan won were colored blue, and Georgia was a red state, going for Jimmy Carter.

Democrat Cynthia McKinney became the first African-Amercian female elected to Congress from Georgia on November 3, 1992.

On November 3, 1998, Democrat Thurbert Baker was elected Attorney General and Michael Thurmond was elected Commissioner of Labor, becoming the first African-Americans elected to statewide executive office in Georgia.

On November 5, 2002, Sonny Perdue was elected the first Republican Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction, beginning the modern era of Republican dominance of Georgia state politics.

One World Trade Center opened on November 3, 2014, more than thirteen years after the 9/11 attacks.

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected President, becoming the first African-American elected to the position.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Americus voters are deciding whether to allow Sunday sales of liquor.

If voters pass the referendum, several package stores would be allowed to sell liquor on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

The referendum is on the ballot for Americus voters on Tuesday, November 7.

Also on the ballot for Americus voters is a mayoral election between incumbent Barry Blount and Laura Lee Bernstein.

Floyd County voters have two Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes on their ballots.

Floyd County voters are slated to decide on five-year extensions of the ELOST and SPLOST collections.

The 1-cent education local option sales tax would fund up to $80 million in school construction projects. A $63.8 million package is proposed for funding through the 1-cent special purpose, local option sales tax.

Elections Supervisor Willie Green said 3,109 voters had cast ballots as of Thursday at the three locations. Fewer than 15,000 people voted on the 2013 SPLOST and ELOST packages.

South Georgia early voters are said to be coming out in large numbers for early voting.

Residents in Mitchell County have been coming out to the polls in large numbers. District two has seen 385 early voters and district one has already seen 126 voters.

Crisp County has also seen an overwhelming amount of early voters with 570 votes thus far.

Dougherty County only has one contested election in Ward Two. As of Tuesday, 68 early voters have come out to the polls and seven have mailed in ballots.

In Worth County, 140 early voters have come out to the polls.

In Irwin County, two districts are up for grabs along with an amendment to keep SPLOST. 162 voters have exercised their right to vote early.

“Large numbers” and “overwhelming” being, of course, relative.

Candidates for Senate District 6 are spending tons of other peoples’ money.

The Gwinnett Daily Post has extensive coverage of local elections:

Duluth City Council District 2

Braselton City Council District 4

Peachtree Corners City Council Post 4

Lilburn City Council Post 3

Norcross City Council

Savannah City Council will vote whether to proceed with a $12.8 million reconstruction of Memorial Stadium.

Snellville‘s Prescription Drug Take Back event netted 243 pounds of unwanted prescription medication.

Pooler opened its new municipal complex comprising a courthouse and three-story city hall and police headquarters.

State legislators will recommend that state government consolidate data across departments.

Georgia’s agencies maintain separate files and can’t easily share information.

[Georgia’s Joint Study Committee on Transparency and Open Access in Government] — chaired by Rome Republicans Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and Rep. Katie Dempsey — plans to recommend a state data integration plan to the General Assembly in 2018.

“This is a very important path: Evidence-based policy-making,” Patterson said.

“I could feel the light bulbs going off up here,” said Dempsey, who chairs the House human resources budget subcommittee.

Hufstetler, who serves on the Health Care Reform Task Force, homed in several times on how an integrated data system would benefit a revamp of state services.

He said he expects at least one more meeting of the joint open access committee before it files its final report.

Flowery Branch city council voted to raise water and sewer rates 4%.

The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce hosted a legislative forum.

Former Rep. Ben Harbin served as the keynote speaker for the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce-sponsored breakfast at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion.

Delegates who spoke at the breakfast included Sen. Jesse Stone, of Waynesboro, representing District 23; Rep. Barry Fleming, of Harlem, District 121; Sen. Lee Anderson, of Grovetown, District 24; Rep. Jodi Lott, of Evans, District 122; Rep. Tom McCall, of Elberton, District 33; and Rep. Mark Newton, of Augusta, District 123.

Each year, the delegates espouse the goals and expectations they have for the legislative session in Atlanta, where they will begin work at the beginning of the year.

The Georgia Tea Party issued a statement supporting the completion of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The group said in a press release it acknowledges that developing a free market in electric power generation and distribution is desirable, but current technology makes that goal both expensive and impractical.

“While we are mindful of the principles of free market economics, we also acknowledge that the electric power industry, which is regulated by the elected Public Service Commission, has been successful in providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity in our state for a number of years,” said J.D. Van Brink, party chairman.

“Electric power rates in Georgia are among the most competitive in the nation. These competitive rates make life more affordable for residential customers and help businesses compete here at home and in international markets.”

Van Brink went on to call it critical that the project was finished.

“Nuclear power is a vital source for inexpensive, reliable electricity in Georgia. Finally, national security interests require that the U.S. remain a leader in nuclear power development. To allow another nation to take the lead would be a big mistake.”

The Georgia Supreme Court reversed a decision by the Court of Appeals on Open Records and remanded it to the trial court.

[T]he Georgia Supreme Court has reversed lower court rulings that barred access to Northside Hospital’s financial records.

The unanimous decision, announced Thursday, remands the case back to the trial court. Justice Nels Peterson wrote that the trial court applied the wrong legal standard in ruling against access to the records by plaintiff E. Kendrick Smith, an attorney.

At the heart of the long-running dispute was whether the nonprofit Northside Hospital was subject to the state’s open records law.

Attorney Peter Canfield had argued for the plaintiff that Northside – a hospital system based in Atlanta – is subject to the Georgia Open Records Act because it was created by a public hospital authority, which is a government entity, and that the system operates solely on the authority’s behalf.

A Northside spokesman, Lee Echols, said that “we are grateful that the Georgia Supreme Court has decisively rejected the appellant’s claim that virtually every Northside Hospital document is a public record, just as the trial court and Court of Appeals previously have stated.

“From the beginning, the single goal of Mr. Smith has been to gain access, on behalf of a Northside Hospital competitor, to confidential business information that is clearly protected from disclosure,’’ Echols said. “Northside Hospital looks forward to prevailing as we move forward in the legal process.”

Northside’s restructuring occurred in the early 1990s. It’s now an extremely successful hospital system, with more than $2 billion in revenues, and is set to add Gwinnett Medical Center, a large suburban system, to its fold. Northside has said for years that its flagship Atlanta hospital delivers more babies than any other community hospital in the nation.

Georgia Democrats are fielding candidates in all of this month’s special elections for state legislative seats.

All nine seats up for grabs in Tuesday’s state legislative special elections feature a Democratic contender — no small feat for a party that often doesn’t mount even token opposition in GOP strongholds. Party leaders hope the challengers, despite the long odds, are a taste of what’s to come next year.

Democrats are in the running to represent districts covering parts of Athens, Cumming, Dalton and Watkinsville that haven’t seen a Democratic challenger since the maps were redrawn in 2012. And they’re mounting a furious campaign to wrest away an Atlanta-based district that a political newcomer almost won last year.

Some of the Democratic candidates acknowledge it’s a long shot to win districts that have long been held by Republicans. But they say they’re eager to offer voters another choice after elections of one-party rule. Besides, they add, anything can happen in low-turnout special elections.

Several of the districts up for grabs are, like the Smyrna seat, Democratic strongholds. But House Minority Leader Bob Trammell said the Democratic challenges in more hostile territory make Tuesday’s vote a watershed moment for a party ready to scrap with the GOP.

“Our candidates are making the Democratic case from Watkinsville to Whitfield County,” he said, “and voters are excited to have competitive campaigns presenting important policy contrasts on the issues.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating allegations of animal cruelty at the Warner Robins Animal Control shelter.

The Houston County Sheriff’s Office asked the GBI to take on the case after a complaint by a county animal control officer. The county contracts with the city to keep animals at the shelter.

The Warner Robins Police Department operates the animal shelter. Police spokeswoman Jennifer Parson said in an email that she could not comment on the allegation because it is a pending investigation.

“However, we are confident that the investigation will reveal the truth,” she said. “We also stand behind our employees.”

J.T. Ricketson, the special agent in charge of the Perry GBI office, confirmed in an email that the agency had been asked to “look into some allegations of possible animal cruelty at an animal shelter in Houston County.”

The complaint came a week after the city shelter euthanized 61 dogs and cats on Oct. 20.

2
Nov

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

Richard B. Russell, Jr. was born in Winder, Georgia on November 2, 1897.

In 1927, at age 29, Russell was named Speaker of the House – the youngest in Georgia history. In 1930, Russell easily won election as Georgia governor on his platform of reorganizing state government for economy and efficiency. Five months shy of his 34th birthday, Russell took the oath of office from his father, Georgia chief justice Richard B. Russell Sr. He became the youngest governor in Georgia history – a record that still stands. After Georgia U.S. Senator William Harris died in 1932, Gov. Russell named an interim replacement until the next general election, in which Russell himself became a candidate. Georgia voters elected their young governor to fill Harris’ unexpired term. When he arrived in Washington in January 1933, he was the nation’s youngest senator.

Russell had a long and storied career in the United States Senate, during which he served for many years as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, unofficial leader of the conservative Southern wing of the Democratic party and a chief architect of resistance to civil rights legislation. He also ran for President in 1952, winning the Florida primary.

Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States on November 2, 1976.

The current Georgia Constitution was ratified on November 2, 1982 by the state’s voters.

On November 2, 2010, voters elected Republican Nathan Deal as Governor, and the GOP swept all of the statewide offices on the ballot.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced at the 2017 Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference on Jekyll Island that Georgia’s tourism industry produced record results in 2016.

“The tourism industry is a vital economic engine for Georgia, as it generated a record-breaking $60.8 billion in economic impact and provided employment for more than 450,000 Georgians last year,” said Deal. “Each year, we welcome more and more visitors to Georgia, largely due to the success of dedicated tourism professionals from Blue Ridge to Valdosta, and from Columbus to Savannah. The hard work of these individuals contributes not only to Georgia’s ranking as the No. 1 state in which to do business, but helps to solidify our reputation as the No. 1 state to visit and call home.”

Marietta Republican Tricia Pridemore announced she has filed papers to run for the Public Service Commission.

“I am thankful to Commissioner Stan Wise for his years of service on the PSC. As a result of his hard work, along with the other members of the commission, Georgia is in a position to provide reliable utility services to our citizens and keep rates affordable,” Pridemore said. “I am running to provide the Georgia taxpayer another watchdog on the commission who will ensure their interests are always protected.”

“As a conservative businesswoman, I know the impacts of over-regulation. My focus on the PSC will be to regulate our utility industries in a way that keeps Georgia the No. 1 state to do business for decades. With reliable services and increased energy capacity from a commitment to sustained infrastructure improvements we will add to a business climate that helps Georgia flourish.”

A successful small businesswoman and entrepreneur, Pridemore has previously served as the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development. She has spent decades championing conservative causes and candidates in the Georgia Republican Party, and is active in the Cobb County community. A graduate of Kennesaw State University, Tricia lives in Marietta with her husband, Michael. The Pridemores are members of Mount Paran Church.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office has recused itself from the case involving an elections database that was wiped.

The lawsuit aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily questioned touchscreen election technology, which does not provide an auditable paper trail.

The server in question was a statewide staging location for key election-related data. It made headlines in June after a security expert disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn’t fixed for six months after he first reported it to election authorities. Personal data was exposed for Georgia’s 6.7 million voters, as were passwords used by county officials to access files.

The assistant state attorney general handling the case, Cristina Correia, notified the court and participating attorneys Wednesday that her office was withdrawing from the case, according to an email obtained by The Associated Press. Spokeswoman Katelyn McCreary offered no explanation and said she couldn’t comment “on pending matters.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the main defendant, is running for governor in 2018 and his campaign said in a statement emailed to the AP that the attorney general’s office has a conflict of interest and cannot represent either Kemp’s office or the state elections board.

The secretary of state’s office had said in an earlier statement that the law firm of former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes would represent Kemp and other state election officials.

More from Governing.com:

The Department of Administrative Services has replaced Attorney General Christopher Carr with Barnes Law Group to represent Kemp, the state Election Board and others named in the case, Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce said.

“I definitely don’t see eye to eye with Governor Barnes on a lot of issues, but I think anyone would tell you he’s a damn good lawyer,” said Kemp, a Republican candidate for governor.

Kemp said he looks forward to working with Barnes, a Democrat, despite their differing political views.

“He will be a zealous advocate for the state Election Board and the secretary of state to show that these claims are baseless,” he said.

Barnes drew some heat from fellow Democrats at his decision to represent Kemp in the legal matter.

Kemp has long been at odds with former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, a top Democratic gubernatorial contender. Barnes has endorsed another Democrat, former state Rep. Stacey Evans, in the race.

“I was dumbfounded that Roy Barnes would defend the secretary of state in such a case,” said state Rep. Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus, who was long Abrams’ top deputy in the Georgia House.

So, that’s former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes representing Republican Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp.

The Oconee Enterprise predicts a likely runoff election in State House District 119.

Four candidates—three Republicans and one Democrat—are vying for a spot in the Georgia House of Representatives to fill a vacancy left when incumbent Chuck Williams accepted an appointment as director of the Georgia Forestry Commission.

If no candidate attains more than 50 percent of the vote, two candidates will be eliminated and the two remaining will be on the runoff ballot Dec. 5.

Those four candidates are Tom Lord, Steven Strickland, Jonathan Wallace and Marcus Wiedower. Wallace is the lone Democrat. Although the district is split between Oconee and Athens-Clarke, all the candidates are residents of Oconee County.

Some DeKalb County voters will vote using paper ballots next Tuesday.

The city of Atlanta’s elections and DeKalb County’s special-purpose local-option sales tax, SPLOST, vote are on the same day.

So polling locations in the small part of Atlanta that’s in DeKalb will have both city and county ballots. But polling hours for the city and county are different by state law. If you’re in Atlanta, polls will close at 8 p.m. If you’re in the rest of DeKalb County, 7 p.m.

DeKalb’s director of voter registration and elections, Erica Hamilton, said to keep the playing field even, if you will, the Atlanta polling locations in DeKalb will switch to paper ballots for the last hour of voting Tuesday. This way DeKalb can make sure all of its ballots close simultaneously.

“We have trained our poll workers, and we do have procedures in place to ensure that it’s a smooth transition,” Hamilton said. She added the SPLOST question will still be on the paper ballots, but even if a vote is cast, it won’t count.

Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson will retire from the city to become the new Executive Director of the Georgia Municipal Association.

Honda moved nearly three times as many cars as the previous year through the Port of Brunswick in FY 2017.

American Honda Motor Company added 34,700 vehicles to its traffic through the local port in fiscal year 2017, a move made largely because of expansion at the terminal and its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, said Charles Kendig, assistant vice president for automobile operations at American Honda.

“Honda’s partnership with the Port of Brunswick is one of many bright spots in our finished vehicle supply chain,” he said in the release. “The port’s proximity to open ocean, its expansive and expandable capacity, the connections to our inland supply chain, award-winning auto processors and — perhaps most importantly — the complete alignment between state and local government on finding business-friendly solutions for shippers makes the Port of Brunswick an easy choice.”

 

1
Nov

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

Georgia’s Trustees decided on November 1, 1732 that the first settlement would be named Savannah and located on the Savannah River.

Parliament passed the Stamp Act on March 22, 1765 with an effective date of November 1, 1765, to fund British military operations.

The Stamp Act, however, was a direct tax on the colonists and led to an uproar in America over an issue that was to be a major cause of the Revolution: taxation without representation.

Passed without debate by Parliament in March 1765, the Stamp Act was designed to force colonists to use special stamped paper in the printing of newspapers, pamphlets, almanacs, and playing cards, and to have a stamp embossed on all commercial and legal papers. The stamp itself displayed an image of a Tudor rose framed by the word “America” and the French phrase Honi soit qui mal y pense—”Shame to him who thinks evil of it.”

Outrage was immediate. Massachusetts politician Samuel Adams organized the secret Sons of Liberty organization to plan protests against the measure, and the Virginia legislature and other colonial assemblies passed resolutions opposing the act. In October, nine colonies sent representatives to New York to attend a Stamp Act Congress, where resolutions of “rights and grievances” were framed and sent to Parliament and King George III.

Georgia Commissioners and Creek leaders signed a treaty on November 1, 1783.

Jimmy Carter ended his first Presidential campaign with a rally in Flint, Michigan on November 1, 1976.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting continues today through Friday, though Ringgold municipal races are seeing light turnout.

This year’s Ringgold City Council race features four candidates vying for two at-large seats, in which the top two vote-getters will be the winners.

The race includes incumbents Randall Franks and Jake Haynes, as well as new candidates Rhonda Swaney and Kelly Bomar.

As of Tuesday morning, Oct. 31, officials with the Catoosa County Elections Office say 155 of the 1,751 active voters in the city of Ringgold have voted early, which comes to about 8.8-percent.

The 155 votes includes in-person and absentee ballots that were mailed out.

Governor Nathan Deal appointed a commission comprising Attorney General Chris Carr, Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston, and Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese to review an indictment of Worth County Sheriff Jeffy Hobby.

Click here for more information on the indictment if you’ve missed the story.

Gov. Deal also announced that Amazon will open a new fulfillment center in Macon-Bibb County, creating 500 new jobs there.

“Amazon’s continued investment in our state speaks to our dedication to improve, expand and modernize Georgia’s logistics and distribution network,” said Deal. “As a top national distribution hub, suppliers can reach 80 percent of the U.S. population from Georgia in just a 2-day truck drive or a 2-hour flight. Our robust technology network and world-class logistics infrastructure have been immeasurably beneficial in attracting new business to Georgia and spurring growth for companies already operating here. Georgia’s strategic location, skilled workforce and innovative spirit are a perfect fit for Amazon’s innovative approach to business, as the company’s needs align with many of our key industries, from technology to distribution to connectivity.”

Amazon currently has three operating fulfillment centers in Georgia located in Jefferson, Lithia Springs and Union City as well as a facility in Braselton that supports customer fulfillment. Employees at the new facility will pick, pack and ship large-sized items for customers including household furniture, sporting equipment and gardening tools.

“Georgia continues to be a great place for Amazon to do business and we look forward to adding a fulfillment center to better serve our customers in the region,” said Sanjay Shah, Amazon vice president of North America customer fulfillment. “Our new fulfillment center in Macon will create hundreds of full-time jobs with competitive pay and great benefits. We’re glad to be a part of the community and provide a positive economic impact for the region.”

Area residents are talking about how the new Amazon fulfillment center will affect traffic.

Amazon will also open an brick-and-mortar bookstore in Lenox Square Mall.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp defended KSU’s elections center after it wiped an election system hard drive.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office said Monday that Kennesaw State University’s elections center acted “in accordance with standard IT procedures” when it wiped data from a computer server shortly after a lawsuit was filed seeking to force the state to overhaul its election technology.

KSU  said that a server that had been examined by the FBI was wiped so it could be repurposed, and that the FBI had a copy of the data that was on the server. KSU officials did not disclose that information until several hours after stories on the data wipe became national news.

Sapelo Island residents can proceed with their civil rights lawsuit, a federal court ruled.

The Sapelo plaintiffs filed suit in December 2015 alleging unequal and discriminatory treatment by the county and state, going back decades, leading to a dwindling population among the Gullah-Geechee community, with people leaving the island for the mainland.

According to the complaint, the island “has no school, no firehouse, no medical services and no police. The county does not adequately maintain the roads and does not contribute to any water or sewer system.”

The plaintiffs in the case argue that not only white mainland residents, but white island residents receive better treatment than black residents in the Hog Hammock area on the south end of the island. The state and the county, though, dispute the contention that mainland residents are comparable, and that white island residents are subject to the same lack of resources as black residents.

Suwanee City Council candidates discussed growth, traffic, and related issues.

A federal judge enjoined deoirtation proceedings against Kennesaw student Jessica Colotl.

Cobb County’s Medical Examiner will receive a nearly $324k federal grant to pay for faster toxicology results.

“This will allow us to help grieving families get answers and death certificates faster,” said Dr. Gulledge, “and this will let us give law enforcement more real-time information about dangerous drugs causing deaths in our community.”

The grant will allow the Cobb ME’s office to send requests to a private laboratory that will provide test results in two weeks compared to an average wait time of around 90 days.

A La Mesa, California school board member faces trouble after having voted absentee in the November 2016 Georgia elections.

Rebekah Basson, the 25-year-old church secretary named to a La Mesa-Spring Valley School District vacancy in August, now faces questions of potential voter fraud.

The San Diego native lived in Georgia from age 12 to about three years ago, when she enrolled in a Murrieta Bible college.

“Her problem is she’s voting [in Georgia] quite a long time after saying she moved to California,” said David Lublin, an elections expert at American University in Washington, D.C.

“That’s a real problem,” said the Harvard Ph.D. “You shouldn’t be voting in a state where you do not live. … She has voted illegally though she’s no longer a resident of the Peach State.”

The AJC looks at the Special Election in Senate Ditrict 6, a rare potential swing district in the state legislature.

In 2012, Hunter Hill ousted four-term Democratic state Sen. Doug Stoner in a newly redrawn district, flipping the seat for the Republicans.

With Hill vacating his post in September to run for governor, three Democrats have joined the field of eight hopefuls and are trying to take back the 6th Senate District.

The socio-economically diverse district stretches from Smyrna to parts of Buckhead and has a pretty even mix of residents affiliated with the Democratic and Republican parties, candidates said.

The crowded race will also be an expensive contest, likely topping more than $1 million spent by the contenders. Combined, the candidates in the 6th District who filed campaign disclosures as of Tuesday have reported raising more than $950,000 for the contest.

Republican Houston Gaines is outraising his Democrat opponent in the Special Election for House District 117.

Republican Houston Gaines has raised nearly four times as much campaign money as Democrat Deborah Gonzalez in their race for the House District 117 seat in the state legislature.

Gaines’ campaign had used $62,514.79 of his $202,950.66 in campaign contributions, according to reports filed with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (formerly known as the State Ethics Commission). That left him with more than $140,000 in the bank 15 days before the Nov. 7 election.

Gonzalez’s campaign had raised $56,896.55 as of Oct. 25, including a $5,000 loan. She had spent $19,655.92, with $36,264.60 remaining.

Georgia State Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) said that Medicaid waivers could be part of the upcoming legislative session.

A healthcare reform task force is expected to recommend that the Georgia General Assembly seek waivers next year to change some of the federal mandates under the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said they’re looking at different types of proposals to help uninsured people keep their health issues from escalating into chronic or serious conditions. If approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the waiver programs could act as alternatives to Medicaid expansion — which the state has rejected.

Hufstetler said that, in hindsight, the requests should have gone in during the last 40-day session, which ended March 31.

“We may have made a mistake in thinking the ACA would be repealed,” he said. “We said we have to wait and see what the federal government has done, but they haven’t done anything.”

At the group’s final hearing, held at Berry College Monday, a number of speakers said costs spiral out of control because many people wait until they’re sick enough to go to an emergency room.

“The overriding recommendation was preventative care,” Hufstetler said. “You’ve heard that out of me for several years and the lieutenant governor, who I believe will be elected governor next year, believes that too.”

Monty Veazey, president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, showed a video of the lone physician working in Clay County, where the nearest small hospital is at least 20 miles away.

“All of rural Georgia has problems with poverty, transportation and access to good health care,” Veazey said.

The Muscogee County Tax Assessors are asking for additional budget in order to hire more workers to process property tax appeals.

“… Because of this historic number of appeals, we directed and dedicated all of our resources to processing and reviewing those appeals,” said Deputy Chief Appraiser John Williams, addressing councilors during a consent agenda/work session. “… As you would imagine, that four months of allocating all our resources to appeals has caused our normal workload not to be accomplished.

“So that’s one of the reasons why I’m here with you today,” he continued. “Unless we address this delay in our annual work, it would preclude us from timely submitting our portion of the tax digest to the Tax Commissioner by June 1.”

In order to meet the June 1 date, Williams explained, the Tax Assessor’s office would have to get notices of assessment out in April. He said the current 2017 tax appeal process is expected to continue until about that month, leaving very little time to start the 2018 tax assessment process. He said the request for more help only applies to the residential division, which is under-staffed.

31
Oct

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

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg.

The United States Congress admitted Nevada as the 36th state on October 31, 1864. Kind of fitting, in a way.

The carving on Mount Rushmore was completed on October 31, 1941.

President Bill Clinton hit the campaign trail to help his wife, Hillary Clinton, in her race for United States Senate from New York on October 31, 2000. On October 31, 2014, Bill Clinton came to Atlanta to campaign for Michelle Nunn for United States Senate.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting is open through Friday for municipal elections and some county issues.

Rome voters will choose three city commissioners and all seven school board members. Cave Spring has three city council seats on its ballot.

All Floyd County voters are deciding two proposed local option sales tax extensions: An $80 million ELOST for school construction and a $63.8 million SPLOST for special projects overseen by the governments.

Clarke and Oconee Counties are seeing low turnout in early voting.

Unless there’s an unprecedented surge in early voting this week or on election day Nov. 7, only a small fraction of voters are expected to determine the outcome of three special elections in Oconee and Clarke counties.

As of Monday afternoon, only about 2,700 people in Clarke and Oconee counties had cast ballots, out of about 49,000 “active” voters — people who’ve cast a vote in one of the past two federal elections, or who have responded to postcards from election officials asking for address verification.

Two vacant seats in the Georgia House of Representatives are at stake, and in Clarke County, a special 1 percent transportation sales tax that would fund a slate of transportation-related projects.

Governor Nathan Deal announced yesterday that Site Selection magazine named Georgia the #1 state for business for the fifth consecutive year.

“For the fifth year in a row, Georgia has been named the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business, highlighting the value of our business-friendly environment and the success of our economic development initiatives,” said Deal. “I’d like to thank Site Selection for this recognition. I’m also deeply grateful for the hard work of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), and for the strong foundation laid by our community partners. We are so proud to be ranked No. 1 for business, because behind this ranking is a new job opportunity for a parent, a new business for a community and more economic opportunity for all Georgians.

“By emphasizing strong partnerships on both the state and local levels, we have cultivated an economic environment that produces greater opportunities for hardworking people, generates investment in local communities and improves the overall quality of life for Georgia families. Our low tax burden and economic assets, including a robust workforce and unparalleled connectivity, lead the nation in attracting industry leaders from across the country and around the world. As we continue building upon our strategic resources by investing in workforce development initiatives such as the HOPE Career Grant, we are ensuring that industry leaders remain connected to a skilled labor pool capable of meeting the challenges of today, tomorrow and beyond.

“I am confident that the efforts of state industry leaders, community partners and the people of Georgia will help us maintain this momentum for many years to come.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of this ranking,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “It’s not only a testament to Governor Deal’s leadership, but to each and every economic development partner across the state. For five years in a row, our top-notch business environment and astounding global infrastructure has earned us this honor. The future of economic development in Georgia is incredibly bright and we are looking forward to more big wins. We are proud of this achievement, and all of the work our local partners do across the state to help Georgia thrive and remain competitive in this dynamic economy.”

Deal also announced the addition of five new strategic industry programs to the HOPE Career Grant, effective January, underscoring the critical importance of training our current and future workforce to meet the needs of employers. The new fields include Construction, Aviation, Electrical Line Work, Logistics and Automotive Technology through the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), bringing the total number to 17 HOPE Career Grant areas of study. This effort is aimed at better aligning Georgia’s workforce with the needs of growing industries and providing students with new opportunities to learn skills that lead to high-wage professional employment.

Gov. Deal is proposing an expansion of the HOPE Career Grant.

The governor’s proposal would expand the HOPE Career Grant to include tech college students taking courses in five more fields: automotive technology, aviation, construction, electrical line work and logistics.

If lawmakers adopt the proposal next year, the tech school program will cover students in 17 fields including computer programming, diesel mechanics and film set design. The governor did not have an immediate cost estimate on the expansion but said it’s “money well spent.”

“I do hope the next governor will at least carry it forward,” said Deal, who is preparing for his final legislative session as governor. “We are training Georgians to do the kind of things we need to do, that industries are demanding.”

Savannah was named the #1 city in the nation for rats.

Pest control service Terminix recently released its 2017 list of the top 15 roof rat-infested cities in America, based on service data from more than 300 branches across the country. The rankings represent metropolitan areas with the highest number of actual services for roof rats so far this year. Savannah was number 1, followed by Memphis and then Miami.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson visited Georgia yesterday.

Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, was in Atlanta Monday, and will remain in the city Tuesday.

Carson met with local leaders and tour a transformed permanent supportive housing development. On Tuesday, Carson will visit two holistically-designed communities supported by public-private partnerships.

Carson also headlined the 2017 Georgia Republican Party’s Chairman’s Dinner.

Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Atlanta) thinks the special election for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District was stolen from Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson says he thinks Republicans may have stolen an election from his fellow Democrat, Jon Ossoff. Ossoff lost a special congressional election to Republican Karen Handel in June in the most expensive congressional election in US history.

“A difference of about 3200 votes,” recalled US Rep. Hank Johnson. The Democrat had employed Ossoff as a congressional aide. Ossoff stayed consistently ahead in most polls leading up to the runoff – then lost on election night.

“I think it’s quite possible that Jon Ossoff won that election and the election was stolen from him. That’s my suspicion,” Johnson said Monday.

Johnson points to some delayed election results that came from Fulton County that night. He points to other races in 2014 where Democrats like Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn polled ahead before the election, but lost on election night.

Republicans say there’s zero evidence to back Johnson’s claim of a stolen election. “That is absurd,” said state Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), an early backer of Handel. The claim “is that of a sore loser unable to accept the results of the people.”

Georgia’s members of Congress are lobbying colleagues to include language in tax reform legislation that would benefit the Plant Vogtle construction project.

All but two of the state’s U.S. House members wrote to the chairman of the chamber’s tax-writing committee on Friday urging him to fold language into the upcoming tax overhaul that ensures the operators of the $25 billion project receive roughly $800 million in federal tax credits.

The tweak, which would eliminate a 2020 sunset date on the previously-promised credits, would only benefit Vogtle since it’s the sole remaining new nuclear project under construction in the U.S. But Georgia’s lawmakers said the change would benefit the entire country since it would be underwriting a first-of-its-kind project.

“Beyond simply benefiting Georgia, this credit is integral to protecting our nation’s energy security and independence, ushering in an American nuclear energy renaissance,” the group of 12 wrote to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

The House easily passed standalone legislation back in June that would make the same changes, but the bill has stalled in the Senate as lawmakers have zeroed in on a broader rewrite of the tax code.

The Trump administration doubled down on its commitment to Vogtle last month when it gave initial approval to $3.7 billion in additional loan guarantees to help cover the project’s recent cost overruns. That’s in addition to the $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees Vogtle previously received.

All 10 of the state’s House Republicans signed onto the letter, including Rick Allen, whose Augusta-area district is home to the nuclear plant. Democrats Sanford Bishop of Albany and David Scott of Atlanta were also signatories.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is applying for “secret” security clearance to discuss Department of Homeland Security efforts to secure voting systems.

According to a spokesperson in his office, Secretary of State Brian Kemp is applying for the “secret” level security clearance as part of a DHS effort to coordinate with states. Last month, the agency reported it had evidence Russian hackers targeted elections systems in 21 states leading up to the 2016 election. Georgia was not one of those targeted, according to Kemp’s office.

About two dozen chief elections officials around the country are applying, said Scott McConnell, a spokesperson with DHS.

“We are working with secretaries of state and other chief election officials to refine processes for sharing information about risks to election infrastructure,” McConnell said. “Part of this includes making security clearances available to officials who would potentially need access to classified information in their oversight of state election infrastructure.”

Kemp’s office is investigating a candidate for Blakely City Council.

A Blakely City Council candidate could possibly face criminal charges after it appeared he offered a reward on social media to people who voted.

As of right now, Travis Wimbush’s name is still on the ballots in Blakely, but the secretary of state has an open investigation.

Wimbush posted on Facebook saying anyone who voted on that day would be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card. The post continued on by saying “Vote Travis Wimbush City Council District 2 Post 1.

The Secretary of State’s office said it has an open investigation into the matter.

The office said when it learns about a potential election law violation, the Investigations Division has the authority to conduct some preliminary fact-finding and, if warranted, open a formal investigation.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens suggests you change the batteries on all smoke detectors this weekend when you move your clocks forward.

“If you have a smoke alarm, make sure it’s in working order,” Hudgens said in a statement. “Changing the battery at least once every year and cleaning dust from the device is a simple way to ensure continued protection of your family and your property. Having a working smoke alarm doubles the chances you will survive a fire in your home.”

Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, when the United States officially reverts to what is known as Standard Time. Fire officials traditionally use the beginning and ending of Daylight Saving Time as an opportunity to remind residents of the need to regularly change the batteries in their smoke detectors.

Cobb County Commissioners are facing a $30-million dollar shortage in the 2019 budget.

When Cobb commissioners last month approved the county’s fiscal 2018 budget, they passed a plan that used one-time funds to fill a $20.8 million gap.

They learned Monday that a similar shortfall in the fiscal 2019 budget could grow to as much as $30 million if the county’s revenues and expenditures remain unchanged.

“That’s a realistic number. That’s not enhanced services — that’s what we’re doing today,” Bill Volckmann, the county’s finance director, told commissioners during the first day of their two-day retreat at the Threadmill Complex in Austell. He said his predecessor, the late Jim Pehrson, had predicted in 2014 an eventual overtaking of expenses to revenues, which the county has now reached.

Among the biggest cuts offered as possibilities by county staff include shuttering all county libraries, which would save about $9 million; and closing of animal control and the Cobb Safety Village, which would total nearly $4.4 million in savings.

Georgia’s Healthcare Reform Task Force, chaired by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, met in Rome yesterday to discuss primary and preventative care.

“The path to a more affordable system starts with preventative care,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who chairs the committee of seven state senators that includes Chuck Hufstetler of Rome.

The nine speakers, representing a variety of state and national medical-industry organizations, accepted the premise but differed somewhat on the main obstacles and how to overcome them.

High deductibles in privately funded plans also keep people from following through on treatment that can keep chronic conditions from escalating, said Dr. Scott Bohlke, president of the Medical Association of Georgia.

“Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean you have healthcare,” he said.

Monty Veazey, president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, spoke of the many difficulties facing rural counties. He said 63 have no pediatrician and 78 have no OB-GYN — and telemedicine is not an immediate fix because broadband speeds aren’t up to par.

That makes the state’s certificate of need law “absolutely vital” to preserve residents’ current level of healthcare access, he said. CON regulations require state approval before most expansions or the addition of new services in an area.

“It’s the only tool the state has to ensure geographic distribution of healthcare resources…of financially stable facilities with an appropriate payer mix,” he said.

[Disclaimer: I do some work for the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.]

Cobb County Commission Chair Mike Boyce has proposed cost-cutting measures.

A freeze on the hire of new county staff members is one of the proposals Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce aims to discuss with commissioners as part of their efforts to balance the county’s budget during today’s second day of the board’s two-day retreat.

Two of Boyce’s top priorities among his 13 recommendations focused on county employees. The hiring freeze he is proposing would last until the county had identified areas that could be better served by the private sector. In addition to the freeze, he is seeking a halt of all county travel not associated with training to maintain certifications.

Boyce’s recommendations also list his aim to implement at the first of the year new criteria for the funding of nonprofits. The chairman did not include $1.1 million in nonprofit grants in the fiscal 2018 budget approved in September, opting instead to push the issue until after the county’s Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year.

The Cobb County Republican Women’s Club honored veterans and raised money for the Cobb County Veterans Memorial Foundation.

Hall County Director of Emergency Management David Kimbrell was terminated for violating county policy.

Valdosta City Council candidates met voters in a forum Sunday night.

Augusta Commissioner Bill Fennoy has proposed reducing penalties for marijuana possession.

Augusta Commission member Bill Fennoy wants to reduce the penalty for possession of “small amounts” of marijuana to a fine with no jail time.

The term-limited District 1 commissioner did not return calls seeking comment. He attached to his agenda item for the Augusta Commission Public Safety Committee’s Tuesday meeting a copy of Atlanta’s new ordinance, which reduces the penalty for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana to a $75 fine.

Senate Minority Whip Harold Jones, D-Augusta, has pushed to decriminalize possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana statewide. His Senate Bill 105 made it to the Rules committee last spring.

“I’m not sure we’re capable of doing it,” Jones said. “Cities, without a doubt, yes. Consolidated counties, I cannot say we actually have that power.”

Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, credited Jones with “opening the conversation” about reduced penalties statewide.

“Law enforcement is going to be a lot more watchful in the quantity they collect,” Howard said.

State Rep. Henry “Wayne” Howard, (D-Augusta) had both legs amputated, but plans to return to the Capitol in the next session.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Howard, who went public with his condition Sunday. “This is a way for me to let the public know that I’m ready to go back to work.”

Howard, 62, is in the second year of his sixth term representing the 124th District and his sixth year as chairman of the seven-member Augusta legislative delegation. He has held the House seat since winning it in 2006 from his stepmother, Rep. Earnestine Howard, who replaced her husband, Rep. Henry Howard, after he died in 2005.

Wayne Howard’s colleagues on the delegation said they afforded his family privacy during his illness but now welcome him back into service.

“He’s a very good friend of mine and a good colleague and I’m glad he’s coming back to work,” said Senate Minority Whip Harold Jones, D-Augusta.

“I’m excited to hear he was doing so well and that he’s looking forward to coming back,” said state Rep. Brian Prince, D-Augusta. “Having something to look forward to will help his recovery, as well.”

The capitol is fully accessible to wheelchairs, but his new life in a chair has been a learning experience, Howard said.

“It makes you aware of some of the things that disabled folk go through once you go through it yourself,” he said. “Walk a mile in my shoes, you understand that.”

Howard said the experience has inspired him to improve services for people with disabilities, and senior citizens.

State Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon) spoke to local residents about the rumored closure of L.H. Williams Elementary School.

Columbus State University dedicated the TSYS Center for Cybersecurity to train students in the field.

30
Oct

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

King Henry VII of England was crowned on October 30, 1485.

King Charles I of England granted a charter for a new colony called Carolana that included much of present-day Georgia, along with the current states of North and South Carolina, on October 30, 1629.

Stephen Douglas of Illinois campaigned in Atlanta for President of the United States on October 30, 1860. Douglas had defeated Abraham Lincoln for United States Senate in 1858, giving rise to the Lincoln-Douglas style of debate.

On October 30, 1871, Republican Benjamin Conley became acting Governor of Georgia after Republican Governor Rufus Bullock resigned; Conley served as President of the state Senate before taking office as Governor.

Conley took the oath of office on Oct. 30, 1871. Two days later, the new General Assembly convened and elected a new Democratic president of the Senate, but Conley refused to give up the office. The General Assembly then passed a law over Conley’s veto to hold a special election for governor on the third Tuesday in December. In that election, Democratic House speaker James M. Smith defeated Conley and assumed office Jan. 12, 1872.

On October 30, 1938, a science fiction drama called War of the Worlds was broadcast nationwide in the form of a series of simulated radio broadcasts.

Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 30, 1945, becoming the first African-American professional baseball player in the major leagues.

On October 30, 1970, a fastball from Nolan Ryan was timed at 100.9 miles per hour, putting him in the record books. On the same day, Jim Morrison of the Doors was sentenced to six months in prison and a $500 fine for allegedly exposing himself during a Miami concert. Morrision died before the case was heard on appeal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal appointed former state Senator JaNice Van Ness to the Department of Family and Childrens’ Service Board.

Van Ness is the founder and CEO of Peachtree Academy. She is a former member of the Georgia State Senate and served on the Education and Youth, Economic Development and Tourism, Health and Human Services, State Institutions and Property and MARTOC committees. Van Ness is a graduate of the Regional Leadership Institute and previously sat on the board of directors for the United Way of Greater Atlanta. She earned an associate degree from Oxford College of Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from Auburn University. She and her husband, Ken, have three children and reside in Conyers.

Gov. Deal also presented Midway-based Elan Technology with the Georgia Innovator of the Year award at the second annual Georgia Automotive Awards.

“Elan has helped develop and evaluate glasses for the next generation of oxygen sensors in automobiles. This improvement increased engine response time when transferring needed information to the emissions control system, allowing engines to effectively react and reduce emissions,” the nomination read.

Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson credits Elan and the other honorees for playing a large role in attracting multi-million dollar investments to the state from around the world.

“Georgia has become a global hub for many industries, and the continued growth from one of our most important sectors, automotive, shows no sign of slowing down,” Wilson said.

“While Georgia has worked hard to cultivate the nation’s top business environment and provide the resources and workforce this industry needs to thrive, it would be nothing without the commitment from automotive companies and their many suppliers who continue to discover the unrelenting benefits of doing business in Georgia.”

Speaking of Georgia’s growing automotive industry, my favorite story of the week comes from LaShaunda Jordan with The Valdosta Daily Times. Ms. Jordan’s story tells how Georgia’s Technical Colleges helped attract manufacturing jobs with programs to train welders and electricians. It features a young family whose lives were improved through technical/voacational training, a Florida company that decided to re-locate in Georgia, and custom high-performance Ford Mustangs. In many ways, it’s the story of how Georgia focused on developing manufacturing and is a success story on all counts. Click here to read it. You won’t be sorry.

The Georgia Senate Health Care Reform Task Force meets this morning in Rome to discuss primary and prevantative care and mental health.

“The other areas of focus are on mental health and integrating mental health care in with primary care,” said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler.

Hufstetler is one of the seven state senators appointed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to come up with a sustainable model for the state’s system in light of changes at the federal level. They’ve been meeting around the state since this summer and a final report is expected before the end of the year.

“We believe that the biggest savings and the most improvement in health will be focusing on preventative health care — instead of treating symptoms and disease after the fact — and we’ll be hearing about innovative ways to do that,” Hufstetler said.

The session starts at 10 a.m. in the Spruill Ballroom of the Krannert Center at the college off Martha Berry Highway. It’s slated to last into the afternoon and is open to the public.

Hufstetler said the task force also hopes to hear of viable ways to address opioid abuse and addiction with monitoring and treatment.

Funding, he said, is key.

“We’ll also be proposing waivers with the federal government to help bring better mental health, drug treatment and preventative care treatment to the uninsured and under-insured population of Georgia,” Hufstetler said.

Piedmont Healthcare will partner with Columbus Regional Health.

The deal, announced Thursday, would bring Atlanta-based Piedmont’s hospital total to 10. Columbus Regional Health operates two hospitals in the city: Midtown Medical and Northside Medical.

The announcement comes just a month after Piedmont finalized its acquisition of Rockdale Medical Center, about 25 miles east of Atlanta. That hospital — in Conyers, the seat of Rockdale County — was purchased from LifePoint Health.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) says a shortage of addiction treatment programs is part of Georgia’s opioid crisis.

To fight the opioid crisis in Georgia, the state must consider bringing in federal dollars by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, according to State Sen. Renee Unterman.

She said the growing number of drug addicts in Georgia need help.

“Right now, if you’re a young man and you are 18 to 35 years old and you’ve already run your family off, you have no money, you have no job and you’re addicted, there’s absolutely no place to go for addiction services,” she said.

In Georgia, Sen. Unterman said she will make the opioid crisis a priority as part of her legislative agenda when lawmakers meet again in January. She said flexibility with Medicaid expansion dollars is what she is hoping for from Congress.

Sen. Unterman and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle addressed President Trump’s declaration of a national public health emergency for the opiod abuse crisis.

On Friday, State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle pledged to support President Donald Trump’s declaration that the opioid epidemic is a nationwide public health emergency.

The opioid issue is one that Unterman in particular has been highlighting and targeting in recent months with local and state criminal justice and law enforcement officials, including Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader. They have held summits and press conference to bring attention the issue.

Now comes Trump’s declaration, which means his administration will mobilize resources to address the issue. Unterman, who is the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee chairwoman, and Cagle pledged to take legislative steps in 2018 to supports that effort in Georgia.

“Throughout this year, I have worked closely with Lt. Governor Cagle to develop a comprehensive set of solutions that will allow our state to jump to the forefront of taking on addiction, the opioid crisis, and strengthening behavioral health services,” Unterman said.

“In the coming weeks, we will come forward with legislation ready on day 1 in January to continue our fight against this epidemic.”

David Shafer’s kickoff for his Lieutenant Governor campaign was a smashing success.

State Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer’s campaign said about 550 people attended the official kickoff for his bid to be Georgia’s next leiutenant governor at the Atlanta Colliseum in Duluth last weekend.

The campaign said Snellville-based former state Rep. Melvin Everson gave the invocation while Rock 100.5 FM’s “Southside” Steve Rickman emceed the event. County commissioner Jace Brooks, state Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, state Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners and Public Service Commissioners Stan Wise, Bubba McDonald and Chuck Eaton were among the attendees, according to the campaign.

Attorney Matt Reeves, who is running as a Republican to replace Shafer in the state Senate, also spoke at the event.

Smyrna is the promised land for the Lobbyist-Industrial Complex.

If you live in Smyrna, you have three lobbyists representing you as council members on the City Council.

Council members Derek Norton, Ron Fennel and Doug Stoner are registered as lobbyists with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly the State Ethics Commission. Travis Lindley, a candidate for the city’s open Ward 3 seat is registered as well.

Though no other Cobb cities have a registered lobbyist currently serving on city council, other nearby municipalities do. Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul is a lobbyist, as is Councilman Brandon Hembree of Sugar Hill.

Fennel and Stoner did not respond to interview requests, but Norton and Lindley both said their careers will not get in the way of doing their jobs as council members.

Early voting in Coweta County continues this week.

All Cowetans get to decide on whether or not to extend the 1 percent SPLOST, which goes to fund various capital projects, from roads to buildings to parks and patrol vehicles, in the county and its cities. The current SPLOST expires Dec. 31, 2018.

There are also city elections in Grantville, Senoia, Sharpsburg and Turin. There are city elections in Palmetto and Chattahoochee Hills as well, though those are not handled through Coweta’s elections office.

The Georgia Department of Community Health continues to monitor federal legislation for an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Georgia’s Peach Care.

The federal funding was provided through fiscal year 2017, which expired Sept. 30.

The Georgia Department of Community Health said this week it is “closely monitoring the program budget to determine when and what action the state will need to take.”

“DCH remains optimistic that Congress will reauthorize the program prior to any detrimental impacts to Georgians,” press secretary Fiona Roberts said.

Georgia and other states still have some money left over from previous years that can be used until a federal plan is potentially reached. According to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, Georgia had $147.1 million unspent that would be available in fiscal year 2018 and was projected to receive another $56.6 million after funds were redistributed.

The commission estimated Georgia would exhaust its funding in April.

DCH said more than 131,000 children were covered by the program in fiscal year 2017.

“I just cannot fathom Congress not covering the children’s health care program. Moving them all into Medicaid just creates more hardship for each state,” said state Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville.

Rep. Doug Collins said the House bill would extend the CHIP program for five years.

“I’m pleased that the legislation put forward by House Republicans charts a more cost effective — and therefore sustainable — path forward for serving some of Georgia’s most vulnerable populations,” Collins said in a statement.

Latino voters may flex their muscles in Gainesville city elections.

The race for the Gainesville City Council Ward 4 seat again looms as a litmus test for the strength of Latino voters in a city where they are 41.3 percent of the population.

Adding interest to the outcome is the participation of Maria Del Rosario Palacios, who is hoping to become the first Hispanic elected to Gainesville City Council. She’s banking on succeeding where other Hispanics before her have failed by turning out the Latino vote in large enough numbers to upend incumbent George Wangemann, who has been on City Council for 30 years.

Businessman and former downtown Gainesville restaurateur Albert Reeves is also contesting the seat.

Wangemann is taking nothing for granted. Last week, he visited a stretch of Atlanta Highway where more than 90 percent of the businesses are owned by Latinos.

“If you look at the Gainesville school system, I think 65 to 70 percent of the students are Hispanics,” Wangemann said. “Years ago, the Hispanics were not what I would call a significant force like they are today. It’s different today, so you do have to get to know the people, and you have to work with them and be out there in their parts of the community.”

Interstate 75 construction near Macon may have unearthed Georgia’s first brewery.

There on a steep embankment between a blighted cemetery and Interstate 75, a deep, dark hole leads to a cave that is the site of what was likely Georgia’s first brewery.

The nearly 200-year-old beer cave is no secret to longtime residents in Macon’s Pleasant Hill neighborhood.

However, it was an unexpected discovery for Georgia Department of Transportation contract workers, which first saw it in September as they were cutting back trees to widen the interstate.

Back in the late 1830s, the 50 feet deep cave was used to age ale and German lagers crafted by Russell & Peters’ Brewery.

Immigrants Jacob Russell, of Bavaria, and Julius Peters, of Germany, started brewing beer, distilling liquor and fermenting wine before the Civil War and continued during it, according to a 1938 Telegraph article.

The Gordon County Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Committee hosted a forum for local candidates.

Only five candidates fielded questions from moderator Jesse Vaughn, of Vaughn & Clements, LLC. The candidates who participated in the forum include: Calhoun City Council Post 3 incumbent councilman Matt Barton and challenger George Crowley; Calhoun City Council Post 4 candidates Ed Moyer and Alvin Long (candidate Ray Denmon did not participate); and Town of Resaca Council Post 3 candidate Randy Barron (candidates Mitch Reed and Michael Austin did not participate.

27
Oct

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

Christopher Columbus “discovered” Cuba on October 28, 1492.

Sir Walter Raleigh, founder of the first permanent English settlement in America, was beheaded on October 29, 1618 for conspiring against King James I.

Georgia’s first Royal Governor, John Reynolds, arrived at Savannah on October 29, 1754.

On October 27, 1775, King George III addressed Parliament, raising concerns about an American rebellion.

John Hancock resigned as President of the Continental Congress on October 29, 1777.

The First of the Federalist Papers, an essay by Alexander Hamilton published under the pseudonym Publius, was published on October 27, 1787.

The United States and Spain signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo, also called Pinckney’s Treaty on October 27, 1795, setting the 31st parallel as the border between Georgia and Florida.

The nation’s first Gold Rush started after Benjamin Parks discovered gold in what is now Lumpkin County, Georgia on October 27, 1828.

Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 27, 1858.

The Battle of Wauhatchie, one of a handful of night battles in the Civil War, began along the Georgia-Tennessee border on October 28, 1863.

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886; the first ticker tape parade followed.

President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the Volstead Act, which implemented the Eighteenth Amendment prohibition on alcohol, on October 27, 1919; the House overrode his veto that same day and the United States Senate overrode the veto on October 28, 1919.

Navy Day was established on October 27, 1922.

October 27 was suggested by the Navy League to recognize Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday. Roosevelt had been an Assistant Secretary of the Navy and supported a strong Navy as well as the idea of Navy Day. In addition, October 27 was the anniversary of a 1775 report issued by a special committee of the Continental Congress favoring the purchase of merchant ships as the foundation of an American Navy.

The New York Stock Exchange crashed on October 29, 1929, beginning the spiral to the Great Depression.

The first ballpoint pen went on sale at Gimbel’s Department Store on October 29, 1945.

The Cuban Missile Crisis ended on October 28, 1962 as Kruschev agreed to remove Soviet missiles from Cuba if the United States would respect Cuban sovereignty.

Ronald Reagan delivered the “A Time for Choosing” speech on October 27, 1964.

And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.

This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down—[up] man’s old—old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.

We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia on October 29, 1971.

Jimmy Carter campaigned in New York on October 27, 1976.

Gladys Knight and the Pips reached #1 with “Midnight Train to Georgia” on October 27, 1973.

Democratic President Jimmy Carter debated Republican Ronald Reagan in Cleveland, Ohio on October 28, 1980.

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Andrew Young was elected Mayor of Atlanta on October 27, 1981.

The Atlanta Braves beat the Cleveland Indians 1-0 to win the World Series on October 28, 1995.

On October 29, 1998, at 77 years of age, John Glenn became the oldest human to travel in space, on the shuttle Discovery.

Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy accepted the last Ford Taurus built in Hapeville, Georgia on October 27, 2006.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University wiped a server connected to an elections lawsuit.

The server’s data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system. The data wipe was revealed in an email sent last week from an assistant state attorney general to plaintiffs in the case that was later obtained by the AP. More emails obtained in a public records request confirmed the wipe.

It’s not clear who ordered the server’s data irretrievably erased.

The Kennesaw election center answers to Georgia’s secretary of state, Brian Kemp, a Republican running for governor in 2018 and the suit’s main defendant. His spokeswoman issued a statement Thursday saying his office had neither involvement nor advanced warning of the decision. It blamed “the undeniable ineptitude” at the Kennesaw State elections center.

It could still be possible to recover relevant information from the server.

The FBI is known to have made an exact data image of the server in March when it investigated the security hole. The Oct. 18 email disclosing the server wipe said the state attorney general’s office was “reaching out to the FBI to determine whether they still have the image” and also disclosed that two backup servers were wiped clean Aug. 9, just as the lawsuit moved to federal court.

On Wednesday, the attorney general’s office notified the court of its intent to subpoena the FBI seeking the image.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has launched an investigation of the data destruction.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said Thursday that his office is launching an investigation after data was quietly destroyed on a computer server shortly after a lawsuit was filed seeking to force the state to overhaul its election technology.

The KSU center’s system will be used in the upcoming elections.

KSU represenattives late Thursday issued a statement explaining that the server, which had been examined by the FBI, was wiped so it could be repurposed. School spokeswoman Tammy DeMel said in the statement the FBI made a copy of all of the data on the server before informing KSU it had not been compromised and returning the technology.

“The data and information that was on the server in question has been and is still in the possession of the FBI and will remain available to the parties in the event it is determined to be relevant in the pending litigation,” DeMel said.

In a lengthy statement, Kemp said his office had no involvement in the decision to wipe the server, nor was it notified in advance.

“We will not stand for this kind of inexcusable conduct or gross incompetence,” said Kemp, whose office oversees Georgia’s elections. “Those responsible at KSU should be held accountable for their actions. The Secretary of State’s Office is also coordinating with FBI officials to get our own copy of the data that was erased at KSU.”

Kemp, who is running for governor, said his office stands by the results of previous elections. “Despite the undeniable ineptitude at KSU’s Center for Elections Systems,” he added, “Georgia’s elections are safe and our systems remain secure.”

Republican State House candidate Houston Gaines has come under fire from Democrats.

The sole Republican running for a conservative-leaning Athens-based House district is facing criticism from Democrats for comments he made to a reporter who pressed him on his perspective in the race.

“It’s obvious by just looking at us that we have a different perspective,” Houston Gaines told the Flagpole reporter.

Gaines, a white former University of Georgia student body president, faces Democratic attorney Deborah Gonzalez, who is Hispanic, in the Nov. 7 race.

Michael Smith of the Democratic Party of Georgia called his remarks “disgraceful and disqualifying” and compared it to “racist filth.” He added: “Character counts, and Houston Gaines is found wanting.”

Gaines spokesman Brian Robinson said the candidate was referring to himself as “the voice of a new generation of leaders” He called it “just one more ridiculous and inane example of Democrats resorting to identity politics.”

Two Bibb County deputies resigned after being caught using the website Backpage.

The sheriff’s office began investigating in May after the FBI reported finding that one of the deputy’s personal cellphone numbers was among contacts in a sex trafficking victim’s phone, according to an investigative file The Telegraph obtained Thursday.

According to a nearly 50-page internal investigation file, the victim told the FBI that Cranford had contacted her “in reference to her Backpage ad stating he was ‘a man in uniform,’ and that ‘if she let him come on a date, he would not tell anyone and would protect her going forward.’ ”

The site’s adult section has been a clearinghouse for prostitutes and customers seeking their services.

Columbus Council approved a resolution asking the General Assembly to support legislation to allow casino gambling.

The resolution came after a request by Columbus businessman, civic leader and philanthropist Bob Wright, who last year raised the possibility of a casino as a possible economic, entertainment and tourism draw for Columbus, south Columbus in particular.

Mike Baker, who also cast a “nay” vote (as did Councilor Glenn Davis), said he doesn’t have a problem with citizens voting on it, but “I’d like to know what we’re calling for … I really don’t have that much information as far as an actual draft.”

Mayor Pro Tem Evelyn Turner-Pugh said council is simply asking that “if, indeed, there is a constitutional amendment, that citizens be allowed to vote for it or against it, and that we be included.” That proposed amendment, she said, may be different from the previous ones, and “may include Columbus and some other cities.”

The Valdosta Board of Education is considering leasing land for a solar installation.

Radiance Solar has discussed utilizing unused property owned by Valdosta City Schools to host solar arrays. Radiance Solar would pay to lease the land from VCS and would sell the energy its solar arrays generate to Georgia Power as part of the Renewable Energy Development Initiative program.

Previously, Radiance Solar proposed $50,000 a year to lease the land at the VCS Transportation Center for a 2.4-megawatt solar array.

However, upon inspection of the property’s power bills provided by VCS and abiding by the program’s cap for electricity, the size of the solar array was limited to a smaller 1.5-megawatt array for $30,000 a year during a 25-year lease.

The Snellville Police Department will host a National Drug Take Back Day event on Saturday.

The United States Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination by President Trump of Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Tillman “Tripp” Self to a United States District Court judgeship, sending it to the floor of the Senate.

Self’s nomination was approved in a block vote along with four other judicial nominees from Texas and South Carolina.

Last week, the Judiciary Committee forwarded the names of two nominees for the Northern District of Georgia to the Senate floor, where they await a final vote. Alston & Bird partner Michael Brown was approved in a voice vote, but the panel split along party lines in a roll call vote on Georgia Court of Appeals Judge William Ray.

Self, who also served a decade as a Macon Judicial Circuit Superior Court judge, marks the third generation of judges in his family. Both his grandfather, for whom he is named, and his uncle served as county probate judges. Gov. Nathan Deal named Self to the state appellate court last year.

Self appeared before the committee Oct. 4 where he was introduced by Georgia’s two senators, including David Perdue. In his introduction, Sen. Johnny Isakson said Tripp was “not just a man who can call balls and strikes or officiate in a courtroom, he’s also a Southern Conference [football] official and did the national championship game in 2017.”

Albany has seen low turnout in early voting for a city commission seat.

Currently, there is a highly competitive race going on for a city commission seat in Albany, but so far, only 30 people have cast a ballot in nine days of early voting.

By late Thursday afternoon, only two voters had cast a ballot that day.

There are five people running for the Ward 2 seat, the only race on the ballot.

There are 6,000 registered voters.

Metro Atlanta governments are increasingly putting transit issues on their ballots, according to the AJC.

Fulton and Gwinnett County officials are finishing transit studies with an eye toward seeking voter approval of expansion plans next November. Cobb County also has begun a study that could lead to a future transit vote. MARTA is researching its options for an expansion along I-20 in DeKalb County.

Already, Atlanta and Clayton County have approved new sales taxes to pay for transit expansions. If voters in other counties follow suit, metro Atlanta could soon see the biggest transit building boom since construction on the MARTA system began more than 40 years ago.

“I think voters in this region are ready to embrace transit in a very big way,” said Dave Williams, a vice president at the Metro Atlanta Chamber. “So many signs point toward some good things happening.”

Georgia Ports Authority posted record numbers for FY 2017 and the first quarter of FY2018.

In July, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch reported a record Fiscal 2017 to his board – 3.8 million containers and $373 million in revenues for the period ending June 30.

Lynch [reported] last week that the Port of Savannah moved more than 1 million TEUs across Garden City Terminal in the first quarter of FY2018, which ended Sept. 30.

“Sustained organic growth coupled with increased market share are driving these volume increases,” Lynch said. “We’ve also achieved major gains through the addition of Neo-Panamax vessels to the fleet serving Garden City Terminal.”

Not only is Garden City Terminal the fastest growing major port in the Western Hemisphere, as of the end of June, it’s the third fastest-growing container terminal in the world behind only the ports of Ningbo and Guangzhou in China.

Today, Garden City Terminal hosts 36 weekly vessel calls, more than any other container terminal on the East Coast.

“Smart investments that will double our rail lift capacity at Garden City, build inland terminals around the state, and put 36 cranes on one dock – coupled with the deepening of the harbor – will position Savannah to take on a new era of business expansion,” Allgood said.

26
Oct

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

Colonists in Georgia signed a letter allowing the beginning of the slave trade in Georgia on October 26, 1749.

Georgia Sons of Liberty protested against the British Stamp Act on October 26, 1765.

A state Constitutional Convention at Milledgeville, Georgia repealed the state’s Ordinance of Secession on October 26, 1865.

President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act on October 26, 2001.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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25
Oct

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

On October 25, 1774, the First Continental Congress addressed a petition to King George III raising concerns about the Coercive Acts passed by Parliament and asserting its loyalty to the monarch.

The wooden keel of USS Monitor was laid at Continental Iron Works at Greenpoint, New York on October 25, 1861.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal will deliver the keynote address at a legislative luncheon in Valdosta on December 6th.

The partnership of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Valdosta, Valdosta North Rotary Club, Home Builders Association of South Georgia and Valdosta Board of Realtors host the annual state legislative lunch, Dec. 6, at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center.

“It’s really significant that Gov. Deal has chosen to come to Valdosta as we make preparations for the final legislative session of his governorship,” state Sen. Ellis Black said. “His presence here shows his concern for South Georgia and his commitment to rural Georgia as the agenda for the next legislation is developed.”

During his gubernatorial campaign, Deal listed as his four top priorities: public safety, education, transportation infrastructure improvements and finding a solution to the controversial issue of health care.

“Our chamber very much appreciates Gov. Deal coming to Valdosta to inform us of the activities and opportunities that the State of Georgia leaders are focusing on and supporting,” Chamber Chairman James McGahee said. “We want him to see what Valdosta is doing to attract new business and to grow existing business. We will have the opportunity to show the governor some of the areas we need the state’s support.”

Georgia Public Service Commission Chair Stan Wise (R-Cobb) wrote Governor Deal that he will resign before his term ends, giving the Governor an appointment to the five-member board.

In a letter to Deal on Oct. 17, Wise wrote: “My announcement was silent on whether I intend to serve out my current term. After careful thought, I have decided that early next year, I will resign, creating a vacancy mid-term.”

Wise told the governor he has “unfinished business” at the PSC. He said the commission has a “critical vote” in February as part of the body’s determination whether to continue or cancel the Plant Vogtle project.

“As an unabashed supporter of nuclear power,” Wise wrote, “I intend to be present for that vote and will resign shortly thereafter so that you may appoint my successor prior to the (candidate) qualifying period for the 2018 elections.”

Among the names being floated for Wise’s seat, which covers a stretch of territory west of metro Atlanta, are Republican activists Tricia Pridemore and Justin Tomczak. Political insiders have also said some Georgia state senators are looking at the race.

The skids are greased for a successor.

The DeKalb County Commission voted 6-1 to seek a legal way to remove an obelisk on the old courthouse grounds.

The resolution, approved on an 6-1 vote, orders the county’s attorneys to find a legal way to remove or relocate the 30-foot obelisk located outside the former county courthouse in Decatur.

State law prohibits such monuments from being “relocated, removed, concealed, obscured, or altered in any fashion,” but governments are allowed to take action to preserve or protect monuments. The resolution notes that the monument has been recently vandalized twice.

The county government will try to determine if it actually owns the monument, then explore how it can be moved.

The monument glorifies the Confederacy and says its soldiers “were of a covenant keeping race,” according to the resolution.

DeKalb Commissioner Nancy Jester cast the only vote against the resolution. She said monuments should be put in their historical context instead of being moved.

The Georgia Conservancy and other environmental groups are seeking more funds for parks and greenspace.

A coalition of environmental groups is pushing for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act to land on state ballots in 2018. It would shift 75 percent of the existing sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment to a conservation fund to purchase new parkland and improve existing greenspace.

The measure, House Bill 332, didn’t gain much traction during this year’s legislative session, but supporters hope to win over some high-profile allies. Robert Ramsay of the Georgia Conservancy met with Deal chief of staff Chris Riley on Tuesday to pitch the idea.

“It’s not a red or blue issue,” Ramsay said. “This would give the state new advantages because you’d have the ability to plan long-term to acquire this land. This would be a real game-changer.”

The governor, who is approaching his final legislative session in office, said through a spokeswoman he is “receptive” to the idea.

It would need two-thirds support in the Legislature and approval by a majority of voters to get baked into Georgia’s law. Ramsay said the new funding would finance land acquisitions, new roads and improvements for existing parks and matching funds for regional and local greenspace initiatives.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved 4 percent pay raises for county law enforcement workers.

Gwinnett County commissioners voted to give 4 percent raises to sworn police officers, sheriff’s deputies, corrections officers and E-911 communications officers. That is on top of a 3 percent market adjustment for eligible employees that was approved by commissioners.

“County employees went without a pay raise for four years during the recession,” County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in a statement after the meeting. “While this board was able to reinstate increases starting in 2014 with a market adjustment and each year thereafter with annual raises tied to performance, a further adjustment is needed to address hiring and retention issues.

“Our competitors are granting pay increases, too, and frankly we have to keep up or risk losing talented employees to other agencies.”

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth) won the Gwinnett County GOP straw poll for Lt. Governor with 56 percent of votes cast.

Alcohol sales is the hot issue in the upcoming Clermont municipal elections.

The town of about 1,000 residents with deep-rooted conservative values has resisted pressure in recent years from a few business owners who have been clamoring for Clermont to lift its ban on alcohol sales. They claim they can’t compete with other businesses that are able to sell alcohol throughout most of Hall County.

Fielding questions related to the controversial issue were incumbent Mayor James Nix and his challenger Steve Reeves; and Ward 4 council rivals Donna Reeves and James Castleberry Jr. Sharing the stage with them was Marcia Kesler, a former Clermont council member who is running uncontested for the Ward 3 seat.

“This is the hot topic,” Donna Reeves, who is married to Steve Reeves, said when asked about alcohol sales right off the bat. She said the same issue cropped up in Gainesville where she owns a restaurant along with a massage therapy establishment.

Donna Reeves and her husband said they were glad to see that the issue is being placed on the Nov. 7 ballot by way of a straw poll.

Everyone except Castleberry was OK with letting the residents decide the matter in the straw poll.

“My whole issue about beer and wine sales in Clermont has to do with the quality of life in Clermont,” Castleberry said. “This is where I live, this is where I hope my children and my grandchildren will live someday and I hope the generations after us will have a nice town to live in.”

Thunderbolt may lose its library branch, planned to close this week.

Last week, during a forum at Thunderbolt Town Hall, each candidate for mayor and Town Council vowed to fight for the library’s survival, with several of the candidates saying they would entertain opening a town-run library if other options are exhausted. Still, staff answering the phone at the library Tuesday said it will close this week. Plans are to relocate staff and reading material to Islands Library, about 2.8 miles away on Johnny Mercer Boulevard.

On Sept. 26, the Live Oak Public Libraries Regional Board, acting on recommendations from interim executive director Stephen Whigham, voted to close the branch out of concern the library system did not have the money to maintain the facility.

The town of Thunderbolt owns the property, something Live Oak’s legal counsel said during the board meeting meant the town was responsible for maintenance. In his report to the board, Whigham said the building was in need of an estimated $100,000-$200,000 in repairs, and that operating costs are roughly $147,000 each year.

“It’s the primary responsibility of the Board of Library Trustees to be conscientious of how our funding is spent throughout the library system,” board chair Charlotte Welch said in a prepared statement. “Our largest funding agent is Chatham County and its taxpayers, and we must make difficult decisions in order to best serve the community.”

Columbus police are targeting distracted driving for enforcement, according to The Ledger-Enquirer.

Police issued more than 102 citations Oct. 18 in three hours of patrolling between North Lumpkin and South Lumpkin roads. Of that, 29 were for distracted driving, which includes texting or manipulating a cellphone.

It was the third such operation since June 1.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is successfully raising money for his reelection campaign, according to the Brunswick News.

As the 2018 election cycle crests the horizon, the Pooler Republican is in an even more-secure position ahead of a contested general election effort in what is known as a safe Republican seat.

Carter raised more than $210,000 during the third quarter of 2017, besting his 2015 numbers by more than $32,000.

And despite spending slightly more during this cycle, the two years in-between were good for the Carter campaign coffers — he shows more than $793,000 on hand, besting the mark of more than $393,000 two years ago.

And, that happened while cutting his campaign debt from just over $500,000 in October 2015 to $250,000 today. The debt represents the hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal money Carter loaned to the campaign during his initial run for the seat in 2014.

The Banks County Commission voted to move forward with plans to place a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the ballot.

The commission acted on a formal request from the Development Authority of Banks County, whose members suggested the 1-cent sales tax would bring the county’s roads up to the level needed for sustained economic development and related residential growth.

Scott Ledford, chairman of the Development Authority of Banks County, told commissioners and those in the audience the proposed 1-cent tax would raise about $3 million per year over its five-year term.

If approved by the voters of Banks County, the current 7-cent sales tax would become 8 cents on each dollar purchased.

Tuesday night’s decision was to begin the process of getting the 1-cent LOST on an upcoming ballot so the voters of Banks County can decide the issue. During that process, there will be an education and public input phase where residents will have the opportunity to learn specifics of the proposed tax, its impact on Banks County households and individuals, and how the proceeds would be used by the county.

24
Oct

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

On October 24, 1733, the Georgia trustees ordered a ship to Rotterdam to pick up a group of Lutherans expelled from Salzburg, Austria, and then send the Salzburgers to Georgia.

On October 24, 1775, Lord John Murray Dunmore, British Governor of Virginia, ordered the British fleet to attack Norfolk, VA.

On October 24, 1790, the Rev. John Wesley wrote the last entry in his journal, which he began keeping on October 14, 1735.

The first American “Unknown Soldier” was chosen on October 24, 1921 in Chalons-sur-Marne, France.

Bearing the inscription “An Unknown American who gave his life in the World War,” the chosen casket traveled to Paris and then to Le Havre, France, where it would board the cruiser Olympia for the voyage across the Atlantic. Once back in the United States, the Unknown Soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.

The Charter of the United Nations took effect on October 24, 1945.

On October 24, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower pledged the United States’ support for the South Vietnam government led by President Ngo Dinh Diem.

On October 24, 1976, Newsweek released a poll showing Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter leading President Gerald Ford in 24 states, with a combined 308 electoral voters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Elaine Myers, who spent more years at the Georgia State Capitol than most legislators, has died.

The state Capitol is mourning the death of Elaine Myers, a longtime House employee.

The Sharpsburg resident retired from the General Assembly in 2014, but returned to work part time in the House majority leader’s office during the 2015 session. She then worked as one of the page desk supervisors in the 2016 session, but illness prevented her from returning to the page desk in the 2017 session.

Myers was diagnosed with ALS in February and died on Saturday. She was 73.

“Elaine Myers was an institution at the state capitol. She was a beacon of joy in an environment that can sometimes get caught up in political conflict and tension. She served this state with a cheerful heart and with grace,” said House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

Governor Nathan Deal appointed William J. Edgar as State Court Judge for Bacon County, replacing Judge Kenneth E. Futch, who resigned.

Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Frank J. Jordan announced he will retire effective December 31, 2017.

Deal will appoint Jordan’s successor. If Jordan had remained in the judgeship, he would have been up for re-election in May.

Jordan, 70, said the decision to retire after a more than 45-year legal career was made after lengthy conversations with his wife, Pamela.

“My wife and I are both still working, and we have talked about this,” Jordan said. “The timing just felt right.”

Jordan said he is most proud of starting a drug court in Columbus 10 years ago. The accountability court allows those accused of drug-related offenses to enter counseling and rehabilitation programs with the goal to end the addiction.

He saw a drug court in action in 2002, while attending a conference in Reno, Nev. It took almost five years before he could, with the help of others in and out of the court system, activate such a court in Muscogee County.

The Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit serves Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot, and Taylor Counties.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), who chairs the House Transportation Committee, is turning his attention to transit funding.

At a panel discussion on mass transit in Georgia Monday, Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, said he’s “confident we’re going to see some good things happen” on mass transit – in part because the Peach State has the right political leadership. Among those he cited were some of his fellow panelists – state Sen. Brandon Beach, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and MARTA Board of Directors Chairman Robbie Ashe.

“We have the right group of people to take a giant leap forward when it comes to transit,” Tanner said during the discussion at the American Public Transportation Association exposition at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Tanner is in a better position than most to know what’s possible. He’s chairing the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding, a group put together by Speaker David Ralston earlier this year. Its mission is clear from its title – to study how public transportation should be paid for, and what governing structures would be needed if the state were to devote regular funding to transit.

“If you’re going to be competitive for economic development in the future, if you want Amazon or companies like Amazon, you have to have transit,” he said.

State Rep. Matt Dollar (R-Marietta) will introduce legislation to preempt local governments from regulating short term rentals through services like AirBNB.

State Rep. Matt Dollar said since the industry is not going away, legislators need to define a statewide framework for how the businesses should operate.

Earlier this year, Dollar introduced legislation that would keep local governments from banning the short-term rental businesses.

Savannah already has restrictions in place for short-term rentals, which the city defines as renting a home for less than 30 days at a time. The regulations include, among other things, only allowing the rentals in certain parts of the city and ensuring that no more than 20 percent of the homes in areas such as the historic district are available for rent at a time.

As written, Dollar’s legislation would repeal the laws Savannah has in place.

“As this becomes a bigger issue, I believe that more locals are going to start putting forth guidelines, restrictions (or) bans,” the Republican said.

I’ve been predicting such legislation since at least July 20, 2017.

Steve Bannon came to Georgia to pitch his anti-establishment efforts to Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus.

A Home Depot co-founder who’s been one of the most prolific givers to Senate Republicans, Marcus fumed to Bannon for hours about the lack of return on his investment. In the past six months alone, Marcus has funneled $2 million to a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and tens of thousands more to the National Republican Senatorial Committee — only to watch the Senate fail again and again.

Marcus is thinking about joining Bannon. An adviser, Steve Hantler, said the billionaire intends to give his party until the end of the year to pass legislation and then would weigh his options.

“Like many donors, if the gridlock continues in Washington, Mr. Marcus will consider new approaches to breaking the gridlock, including those proposed by Steve Bannon and others,” he said.

Asked whether Marcus is open to funding primary challenges to Republican incumbents, Hantler responded: “You will have to draw your own conclusion.”

Georgia has seen the largest price decrease for gasoline as the delivery system recovers from hurricanes and disruption.

The average price per gallon of unleaded regular has fallen 29 cents to $2.38, compared to $2.67 cents in September, according to AAA. The price per gallon is eight cents cheaper than the national average of $2.46.

“The national average gas price is lower for the sixth straight week, the longest such decline since the summer of 2016,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, a technology company that tracks gas prices. “Perhaps even more wild is that the national average has now remained under $3 per gallon for nearly 3 years, or 1,087 days as the days of cheap oil have continued. While recent actions from OPEC may cause oil prices to hold above the key $50 per barrel level, there is no threat of a quick return to the $3 per gallon days. In fact, the national average may continue to decline for a few weeks before leveling off as gasoline inventories continue to heal after Harvey.”

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs recognized Perry as a PlanFirst Community, recognizing its efforts to develop and implement community planning.

Grantville City Council candidates met voters in a public forum last week.

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce is concerned with drug abuse and resulting crimes and their affect on economic development.

“We know — at least what I’ve heard from people in the community — is that much of the crime is to support drug issues, whether it be the use or the trade of drugs,” said Chamber CEO Brian Anderson.

It’s a big concern for the entire city, he explained, and could negatively impact efforts for more job creation.

“We just had a group of site selection consultants in town to kind of grade us on how we do in the economical development arena,” said Anderson. “… They gave us all good, high marks in many, many areas, and then turned around and basically said, ‘Your crime numbers, if anybody does research on your community based on what they can get off the Internet, you could get d-listed for projects because your crime number is so high.

“That was a wake-up call for the business community, that not only is this hurting families, hurting individuals, creating law enforcement and cost-to-city type of concerns, now we also know the numbers themselves could negatively impact our ability to recruit companies and more jobs to the community,” he said. “So we have to work on it if we’re going to be competitive.”

Anderson provided data that the Chamber collected as part of its Regional Prosperity Initiative, the precursor to Columbus 2025. The information was derived from FBI uniform crime reports for the year 2015.

“The overall crime rate in Columbus, GA is 79 percent higher than the average of crimes committed in Georgia,” according to the information. “It is also 113 percent higher than the national average. When it comes to violent crimes, Columbus, GA shows a crime rate that is 47 percent higher than the Georgia average. The crime rate is also 49 percent higher than the national average. When it comes to property crimes, Columbus, GA is shown to be 83 percent higher than the Georgia average and 123 percent higher than the national average.”

The Harris County Chamber of Commerce released its legislative priorities for 2018.

The five items on the 2018 State and Local Legislative Agenda are:

1. We support SB 232 – Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) – which would assist Harris County in its economic and workforce development efforts through enhanced broadband access for residents and businesses.

2. We support streamlining government regulatory processes and support incentives for companies investing in critical infrastructure upgrades.

3. We support increased funding for tourism marketing to make Georgia competitive with other southeastern states.

4. We support legislation and initiatives, such as HOPE, Move-On-When-Ready Apprenticeships, Georgia College & Career Academies and other efforts, that address early childhood, pre-K-12 and higher education to effectively prepare all students for the careers of the future and to provide a skilled workforce to support the region’s employers.

5. We support policies that increase the retention of Georgia’s post-secondary graduates and attract talent in high demand fields.

The AJC reports that DeKalb County is seeing slightly elevated early voting turnout.

As of Friday afternoon, the latest numbers available, 766 people had cast ballots in early voting. Early voting opened last Monday at select locations.

Erica Hamilton, who’s at the helm of the DeKalb elections office following the retirement of the director last month, described the numbers as more or less normal.

The reason for the slight uptick, she said, is that DeKalb is taking ballots for the DeKalb County portion of the city of Atlanta (about 10 percent of the city). Normally, Fulton County has been over the city’s entire elections, Hamilton said.

Mark Niesse at the AJC looks at the effects of proposed tax changes in DeKalb County.

Everyone in DeKalb County will pay higher sales taxes and lower property taxes if voters approve on Election Day. But the total cost of the tax proposals varies widely depending on where you live.

Some homeowners in cities will actually make money if the referendums pass. That’s because the property tax break is larger than the cost of the sales tax hike for those residents.

Meanwhile, most residents in unincorporated DeKalb would face higher costs. They would receive a smaller increase in their property tax refund after years of higher tax breaks than city residents.

On average, the tax proposals would cost roughly $80 to $100 per person annually to fund road repaving, fire station repairs and other infrastructure.

A new inland container port in Chatsworth could reduce the number of tractor-trailers on Georgia’s roads by as many as 50,000 per year.

A new inland port opening next year will take 50,000 trucks off the road in Atlanta annually, according to the state Port Authority. The port is expected to shift all that truck traffic to freight trains.

The Port of Savannah dispatches thousands of trucks throughout the state. Many of them use highways connecting Savannah to Atlanta and points north. The new port is expected to divert much of that truck traffic by sending freight on railroad lines from Savannah, through Atlanta and on to Chatsworth.

State officials say that freight will get dispatched by truck from Chatsworth, eliminating 50,000 trucks per year from Atlanta’s highways. Do the math, it comes to about six fewer trucks per hour on Atlanta highways.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is showing off a mobile telemedicine unit that could improve healthcare delivery across Georgia.

The Telehealth Education Delivered mobile unit stopped by the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta to show off telemedicine technology that the national VA is using to reach out to provide greater access, particularly through its 700 outpatient clinics. The Augusta VA has seen 2,500 telehealth visits in the last year, primarily through its community clinics in Athens, Aiken and Statesboro, said April Harris, facility telehealth coordinator. And it is looking to do more with what it calls clinical video telehealth, she said.

“We’re really looking to expand in our (video visits) into the home where veterans do not have to travel, do not have to come in, where it is more convenient, patient- and family-centered for the veteran,” Harris said. The provider back at the medical center has a camera and the VA provides patients with a tablet device to create the video link, she sad.

“Now it is more convenient because we are able to send a device into the home,” Harris said.

The technology can also be used to check on patients after a procedure. VA patient Robert Thompson of Augusta said he has not yet signed up for telehealth but is considering it and actually thinks it should have come sooner.

“We should have had this process a long time ago to save time and money,” he said. Thompson recently had stents placed in his heart and he would like to use telehealth to find out more about his condition.