Category: Georgia Politics


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

The All-Star Game was held in Atlanta on July 25, 1972, with the National League winning 4-3 in ten innings.

On July 25, 1974, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Nixon that executive privilege did not allow the White House to refuse to turn over audio recordings that had been subpoenaed by a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Secretary of State Brian Kemp‘s office sent more than 380,000 notices to voters who submitted a National Change of Address form but did not change their voter registration address.

The action in many ways is routine, while also an important part of the elections process. It ensures an accurate and current voter registration list, a central goal for every state in the nation and required under federal law.

Every other year, Georgia uses information received from the U.S. Postal Service and compares the list of people who submitted a change of address form (often called a National Change of Address or NCOA notice) with the state’s overall list of registered voters.

It then creates a list of voters in each county of those who haven’t updated their registration record to reflect a new address. It also pre-prints mailers such as the one received by Gordon. The county then pays for postage and sends those mailers to people on the list asking them to confirm their address or where they live now.

Voters who receive them are told they have 30 days to respond, either to confirm their address or to indicate their new one, and risk being moved to the state’s “inactive” registration list if they don’t. What the mailers don’t say is that so-called “inactive” voters are still legally registered to vote in Georgia, have full access to the ballot and can vote as usual.

Some advocates have decried the process as a calculated attempt to weed voters out of the process. But election officials say they have absolutely no intent of doing that and are following the law.

“It’s not a purge,” DeKalb Elections Director Maxine Daniels said.

“Accurate voter rolls are critical to election security,” said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office. “We have a statutory obligation to keep the rolls up to date, and regular list maintenance works to preserve the integrity of our electoral system.”

Cobb County Commissioners will vote tonight on raising the property tax millage rate.

Today’s 7 p.m. commission meeting will include the third and final public hearing on the tax proposal prior to commissioners’ vote on it. The public hearing comes after Boyce held four town halls in recent weeks to explain his proposal. The most recent two held were Monday night at the North Cobb Senior Center and Saturday morning’s meeting at the Thompson Community Center in Mableton, at which Commissioner Lisa Cupid was in attendance.

“There’s a lot of frustration on people’s (property) assessments going up, and also seeing the millage rate go up, and I think people are still frustrated about the Braves stadium, and that that wasn’t the panacea to keep everybody’s taxes the same or to lower them,” Cupid said Monday. “People are just frustrated, and I think that’s coupled with people still wanting to see more for their money, so there are some statements of support on us raising the millage, but more of a desire to see that return (on investment).”

Boyce’s tax proposal is not a done deal, as commissioners have been split on the measure. While Commissioner Bob Weatherford said he is in support of the proposal, Commissioner Bob Ott says he would vote against the millage proposal as it currently stands as he believes the commission’s support of the parks bond does not justify the millage increase.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell previously said she continues to ask the board to consider “a reasonable compromise” by lowering the general fund millage back to its 2010 rate of 6.82 mills, which would amount to a slight tax decrease of 0.07 mills.

Cupid, however, would not commit to a “yes” or “no” Monday afternoon.

Cobb Commissioners are also expected to vote on a “blight tax.”

The Thomas County Commission is considering lowering property tax rates for the fourth year in a row.

Decatur County in Southwest Georgia will receive the rollout of new broadband internet from AT&T.

Hall County Board of Education members approved a policy that will allow the district’s safety and security assistant to carry a gun on school grounds.

The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association named Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese Sheriff of the Year.

Last year, Terry Deese faced the most challenging and heartbreaking 12 months of his nearly 35 years with the Peach County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s really bittersweet,” Deese said of receiving the distinction. “I’ve grown up in the sheriff’s office, so it’s really an honor for my fellow sheriffs to vote for me to receive that award.

“The reason for winning that award is still kind of rough.”

On Nov. 6, Deputy Daryl Smallwood and Sgt. Patrick Sondron were fatally wounded in an encounter with Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr. outside his home.

“Sheriff Deese was at the forefront of the tragic event, directing the men and women, relaying important information, giving a handshake and a hug there, dealing with media questions,” wrote Peach County prosecutor Cindy Adams in her nomination letter. “And through it all, he was delivering a sense of strength and calm to all those around him.

“Everyone focused on their jobs because their leader led.”

The Sierra Club announced it will sue Georgia Power over coal ash retention ponds.

A Georgia Power plan to clean up toxic coal ash at 11 coal-burning power plants around the state, including sites in Chatham and Effingham counties, isn’t good enough, the Sierra Club says.

Georgia Power’s dewatering activities are already resulting in unauthorized and toxic point source discharges to Georgia state waters,” said Stephen Stetson, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Georgia. “The company’s plan to dewater the rest of its coal ash impoundments will inevitably cause more violations.”

Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal at power plants. Coal ash gained nationwide attention after enormous spills from ponds in Tennessee in 2008 and North Carolina in 2014 polluted nearby waterways.

“Georgia Power is in full compliance with all environmental regulations, which are enforced by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, and we will vigorously defend against any allegation to the contrary,” Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins said in response to the notice. “Throughout our ash pond closure process, we are going above and beyond regulatory requirements to protect Georgia’s water quality.”

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s Commission on the New Government Center and Judicial Building surveyed citizens online about whether the old government building should be retained.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry may receive a 40% raise from $250k to $350k per year.

2018 Elections

Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) endorsed David Shafer for Lieutenant Governor in 2018.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz announced his endorsement of Shafer to supporters on social media and in an email Monday. The 2016 presidential candidate praised the Duluth-based state senator for his commitment to Republican ideals and for how he’s done so far in the race, including leading the Republican field in fundraising and winning GOP straw polls.

“David is an unapologetic conservative and has a strong record of fighting for greater opportunity and more prosperity for all of Georgia from his time serving in the state senate,” Cruz said. “He has also demonstrated his support among Georgia grassroots Republicans in this race by convincingly winning the straw poll conducted at the Georgia Republican Convention.

“I urge all Georgia Republicans to join me today in supporting David’s campaign to be your next lieutenant governor.”

“I am grateful to Ted Cruz for this endorsement,” Shafer said. “Hundreds of Cruz supporters from virtually every part of Georgia have responded to his endorsement by volunteering to help the campaign.”

Cruz also had an organized team of backers in Gwinnett in late 2015 and during the primary season last year.

“Ted Cruz has a strong grass roots following in Georgia and his endorsement gives Shafer an army of volunteers,” said state Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville.

Shane T. Hazel is running for Congress in the 7th District, challenging incumbent Republican Rob Woodall in the GOP Primary. From his campaign website:

Shane is a United States Marine Corps Veteran, he lives in Cumming with his wife Meredith, and their three children; Jackson 6, Henry 4 & Sawyer 3.

“The Oath I swore to uphold the Constitution is something I take seriously. Democrats and establishment Republicans, a.k.a. ‘The Swamp,’ have turned a blind eye to the values and principles you and I hold dear. It’s important that we return back to the proper role of government; protecting and defending Life, Liberty & Property, that’s our foundation.”

Repeal, not replace. No legislation in recent memory defies the principles of the free-market more than Obamacare. Not only does it violate the United States Constutution, it has wreaked havoc upon Georgia families and Georgia businesses through skyrocketing premiums. The most efficient path to lower-cost, and high-quality healthcare is to open the industry to free-market forces. Insurance should be available across state lines, and healthcare providers should be able to focus on the patient/doctor relationship instead of over regulation.

Taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated. Taxes should be reduced or eliminated, starting with repealing the income tax and abolishing the IRS, replacing them with a simpler, flatter & fairer tax system. High taxes and huge bureaucracies like the IRS stifle innovation, prevent saving, destroy production, and discourage investment. Every Georgian is entitled to the fruits of their labor.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp visited Augusta to campaign.

Republicans from around the area gathered at the Columbia County Library to hear what the Athens native had to say about business, infrastructure and voter I.D. laws.

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

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

He followed up his rally at the Columbia County Library with an appearance at a CSRA Republican Women’s meeting at the Jones Creek clubhouse before returning to Atlanta. He plans to return to the area several times before the 2018 election.

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

Francys Johnson resigned as President of the Georgia NAACP and is exploring a run for Congress in the 12th District.

Johnson, 38, a civil rights attorney and pastor from Statesboro, has been rumored as a possible challenger to Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) in the 2018 midterms.

“Our nation is in crisis. This moment calls for every head, heart and hand to engage the work of ensuring that all the promises of our democracy are fulfilled,” Johnson said. “The upcoming election in 16 months carries consequences unlike any other midterm in our lifetime. This election will either reinforce and sustain the path we’re on — or change it. I promise no one will work harder to turn this momentum for change into a reality.”

Although Johnson hasn’t confirmed that he is running for Congress, NAACP rules require officers to step down to run for public office.


Senator Ted Cruz endorses David Shafer for Lt. Governor

From an email I just received:

I’m proud to endorse David Shafer to be Georgia’s next Lieutenant Governor.

David Shafer has a record of fighting for greater opportunity and more prosperity for all of Georgia from his time serving in the state senate – experience that he’d like to take and use as your Lieutenant Governor.

Importantly, David has also demonstrated his support among Georgia grassroots Republicans in this race by convincingly winning the straw poll conducted at the Georgia Republican Convention.

Shafer Cruz

Can I count on you to join me in standing with David today? There are three actions you can take, right now, that will make a huge impact in this campaign:

  1. Like David on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
  2. Sign up to receive updates from David’s campaign here.
  3. Show your support for David’s campaign publicly on Facebook and Twitter.

I urge all Georgia Republicans to join me today in supporting David’s campaign to be your next Lieutenant Governor.

For Liberty,

Ted Cruz Sig

Ted Cruz



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

The United States Postal Service was established by Congress on July 26, 1775. I mailed them a birthday card on Friday; they’ll probably receive it next week.

On July 24, 1778, Georgia ratified the Articles of Confederation.

Georgia’s John Walton was present on July 9, 1778, and signed the document then. Georgia’s other two delegates – Edward Telfair and Edward Langworthy – did not sign until July 24, 1778, which is the date most often used for Georgia’s ratification of the Articles.

An interesting sidenote is that John Walton‘s brother, George Walton, signed the Declaration of Independence on Georgia’s behalf.

On July 24, 1919, the Georgia General Assembly rejected ratification of the 19th Amendment, which extends the right of voting to women.

At 12:51 EDT, we mark the safe return from the moon of Apollo 11.

On July 25, 1974, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Nixon that executive privilege did not allow the White House to refuse to turn over audio recordings that had been subpoenaed by a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

The number one song in America on July 24, 1982 was “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, from the Rocky III soundtrack.

On July 24, 2000, former Georgia Governor Zell Miller was appointed to the United States Senate to serve in the seat vacated on the death of Senator Paul Coverdell.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal is among the nation’s most popular governors, according to a series of polls by Morning Consult.

Deal ranked No. 10 in a new ranking of the nation’s 50 governors. The Morning Consult Governor Approval rankings polled more than 85,000 registered voters across America to evaluate the job performance of their governors.

The polling ran from from January through March.

According to the rankings, 63 percent of Georgians approved of the job Deal is doing, while 25 percent disapproved.

First Lady Sandra Deal traveled to Columbus for a meeting of the Georgia Literacy Commission.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 21, 2017

Union General Irvin McDowell’s forces engaged Confederates under General Pierre G.T. Beauregard and General Joseph Johnston at the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run on July 21, 1861.

General William Tecumseh Sherman gained the upper hand in the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864. Estimated casualties were 12,140 (3,641 Union, 8,499 Confederate).

On July 23, 1864, Union and Confederate forces in and around Atlanta gathered the dead and worked to save the wounded. Union artillery began bombarding Atlanta. On July 23, 2014, Republicans did the same in the aftermath of the Primary Runoff Elections the previous day. Democratic artillery advertising would soon fill the air.

On July 21, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution as a condition for readmission.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois.

On July 22, 1975, the United States House of Representatives voted to restore U.S. Citizenship to General Robert E. Lee posthumously.

Though President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation of amnesty and pardon to the Southern rebels in 1865, it required Lee to apply separately. On Oct. 2, 1865, the same day that Lee was inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Va., he signed the required amnesty oath and filed an application through Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

Nonetheless, neither was Lee pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. After receiving it, Secretary of State William Seward gave Lee’s application to a friend as a souvenir. Meanwhile, State Department officials, apparently with Seward’s approval, pigeonholed the oath.

In 1970, an archivist, examining State Department records at the National Archives, found Lee’s lost oath. That discovery helped set in motion a five-year congressional effort to restore citizenship to the general, who had died stateless in 1870.

President Gerald Ford signed the congressional resolution on July 24, 1975, correcting what he said was a 110-year oversight. The signing ceremony took place at Arlington House in Virginia, the former Lee family home. Several Lee descendants, including Robert E. Lee V, his great-great-grandson, attended.

On July 21, 1988, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis accepted the Democratic nomination for President at the National Convention in Atlanta.

John Smoltz started his first game as a major league pitcher on July 23, 1988, as the Braves took a win over the New York Mets.

On July 22, 1977, Elvis Costello released his first album, My Aim is True.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Fulton County property owners will receive a new round of assessment notices beginning in August.

The county’s Board of Assessors approved the new values Thursday, clearing the way for assessment notices to be sent. County commissioners last month decided to keep residential assessments at 2016 values after an outcry from residents who saw their property values increase much more than they expected.

Additionally, preliminary estimates for the county’s tax digest put it at $52.4 billion — that’s a 4.2 percent increase from 2016, largely on the strength of higher commercial assessments.

But it’s still almost 7 percent lower than early estimates. Before the 2017 values were returned to last year’s levels, the county expected a $56.3 billion tax digest. It was $50.3 billion in 2016.

Dwight Robinson, Fulton County’s chief appraiser, said the numbers are preliminary until signed off by the tax commissioner. They do not include the results of any appeals, since a new appeal window will open when assessments go in the mail Aug. 4. They will appear online the same day.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a $3.3 million dollar contract for case management software for the county court system.

Sandy Springs City Council member Chris Burnett announced he will run for reelection.

“It is a privilege to represent the citizens of District 3, and Karen and I are truly thankful for the support of our friends and neighbors,” he said. “Sandy Springs is a wonderful community with a very bright future and I will continue to work diligently to represent the interests of the residents of District 3 and all across our city.”

“Residents are concerned about over-development and I have pushed to slow the pace of multi-family construction so the market can absorb the units already being built and we can fully evaluate their impact on our roads and infrastructure,” Burnett added. “Since taking office last year, no new apartment zonings have been approved by council, due in part to my focus on these issues and the ordinances that I have supported.”

“We were well-prepared for the new stadium and Braves traffic has had limited impact on Sandy Springs, but much more work on transportation is needed,” he added.

Georgia legislators declined to hold a sales tax holiday this year, but Alabama’s is this weekend.

Alabama will begin its sales tax holiday spree at 12:01 a.m. CST Friday, with it lasting until midnight Sunday, according to the Alabama Department of Revenue. That means Columbus-area shoppers who wish to take part in it will need to visit Phenix City or the nearest metro area in Alabama, with that being Auburn and Opelika, Ala., about a half-hour drive from downtown Columbus.

Honorably-discharged veterans will be able to shop online tax-free and with discounts through the Army & Air Force Exchange later this year.

Savannah’s Feiler Park Neighborhood Association is asking for a moratorium on new alcohol licenses.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs says Hall County and its municipalities are ineligible for state funding and permits until they agree on a Service Delivery Strategy.

For the past 20 years, Georgia’s Service Delivery Act has required that all counties and their municipalities file with the state a plan for the delivery of local government services to minimize duplication and prevent taxpayers from paying to receive the same services from multiple government providers.

Hall County and its cities, with the exception of Lula, signed and submitted the SDS agreement on June 29. However, DCA rejected the document and has requested it be revised.

Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller called the matter “much ado about nothing.” Although he’s not seen the revision requests made by DCA, Miller said he’s been told it’s just a matter of making minor tweaks to the document.

“I understand one box was not checked,” Miller said. “It’s a matter of the state wanting to have every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed,” Miller said.

Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey said he expects the matter to be resolved quickly. Lackey added that he’s unaware of the state withholding funding from Gainesville.

“I have no reason to believe that DCA will not receive satisfactory clarification to their comments they have requested from our community, resulting in a resolution to this matter by the end of July,” Lackey said.

Three Varnell City Council members say they’ll vote to put a non-binding referendum on this November’s ballot regarding closing the police department.

Last week, council members voted 3-1 to abolish the police department. That vote was later vetoed by Mayor Anthony Hulsey. Mayor Pro Tem David Owens and council members Andrea Gordy and Jan Pourquoi, who voted to abolish the police department, had indicated they would vote to override that veto when the council meets on Tuesday.

But in a called public meeting at City Hall Thursday night, attended by about 50 people, those three council members said they would not vote to override the veto. Instead, Owens said he will introduce a resolution to place on the Nov. 7 general election ballot a non-binding referendum asking voters if the city should abolish the police department, enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office to provide police protection in the city of Varnell and abolish the property tax.

Pourquoi said he will second the motion. All three said they will vote for it and will also abide by the results.

Varnell City Council member Andrea Gordy faces a challenge to her eligibility based on allegations she no longer lives within the city limits.

Varnell City Council member Andrea Gordy has not been a resident of the city for some time and should not have been able to vote to abolish the police department, say two Dalton attorneys who say they are representing “citizens of Varnell.”

“To be a council member of the city of Varnell, you have to be a resident inside the city limits,” said Marcus Morris on Thursday. “You have to have voted in city elections in Varnell. I can say with almost absolute certainty that she is not a resident of the city of Varnell.”

“We believe she is not a resident of Varnell,” said his law partner Jeffrey Dean. “She lives in Rocky Face.”

Dean and Morris said they could not release the identities of their clients at this time.

Civil Forfeiture

Recent policy directives by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revived the practice of cooperative civil forfeiture, using federal law to help local authorities evade the requirements of state law and force the civil forfeiture of property.

State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Cherokee) wrote a letter to the Attorney General, taking issue with his expansion of civil forfeiture.

Dear Mr. Attorney General,

On January 9th of this year, I placed my hand for the third time on The Holy Bible given to me by my sister-in-law and swore an oath to, among other things, support the Constitution of the United States. It is because of this oath that I write to you now in protest of policies that you have put in place to expand the practice of taking permanent possession of property owned by individuals that have not been charged with or convicted of a crime in a practice called Civil Asset Forfeiture.

Your intentions may be good, but individual liberty and the protections all Americans should enjoy are blatantly under attack under your policy. One of the many well established practices that have always made America great is the promise that before you can be punished for a crime, you must be found guilty of that crime. Civil Asset Forfeiture takes that concept, the concept of innocent until proven guilty, and treats it not as the law of the land, but as a mere inconvenience. This is wrong.

Because our American Justice System is one of the crown jewels that makes America so great, you should take great pride in making sure that every person accused of a crime has their day in court and an opportunity to make their case prior to being punished for any crime. By instituting the expansion of Civil Asset Forfeiture, you have signaled that prosecuting crimes the way our system is intended to work is not a concern for you. Every American should be shocked by your actions, I know I am.

As an elected official, as a citizen of the United States of America, and as a human being, I demand that you reverse your Civil Asset Forfeiture Policy Directives issues on July 19th and instead work earnestly to make sure every American can be sure that the promise of presumed innocence until proven guilty is fulfilled.


Representative Scot Turner
House District 21

Rep. Turner has been concerned with civil asset forfeiture for some time,

Georgia State Rep. Scot Turner has worked doggedly to enact what he maintains should be the next step in the reform process, to mirror reforms in other states such as Ohio and California. Specifically, Turner hopes to add a statutory requirement to delay forfeiture proceedings (after law enforcement has physically seized the items) until a criminal conviction or acquittal is reached for the owner.

In the event there is no conviction, this would prevent the troublesome situation when the owner of the property is not convicted but faces an uphill battle seeking the return of the property, sometimes requiring the expensive assistance of an attorney.

Georgia’s sheriffs are the most politically-powerful group speaking against changes to asset forfeiture.

“I can tell you that the most effective tool we have in dealing with criminals who make money from criminal activity are our asset forfeiture laws,” said Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, past president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, who opposed Turner’s bill.

“It virtually is the only thing that hurts a drug dealer,” he said.

Gwinnett Sheriff Butch Conway yesterday posted the following on Facebook:

So, police stop a speeding car with 5 pounds of heroin in the back seat in an open duffel bag, 4 passengers and 1 million dollars in cash in a large suitcase. Passengers claim to know nothing about the heroin or cash.

1. Police keep the heroin.

2. Police keep the money.

3. Police keep both the heroin and the money.

4. Police let them keep both and tell them to drive safely.

2018 Elections

Former State Senator Judson Hill is considering running for Insurance Commissioner in 2018.

ObamaCare has failed. Uncertainty rules the day regarding health insurance and health care costs. As a result, health insurance companies will be forced again to either raise premiums or completely pull out of the so-called Obamacare markets. 

People need affordable and accessible health care that focuses on patients and expands choices. We need health care financing and reform. Georgians will not get access to quality and affordable health care without stability in the insurance market.

There may not be a more urgent domestic policy issue impacting taxpayers across Georgia than the ability to afford health insurance and to access quality health care.

Georgia needs a proven leader as their next Insurance Commissioner who understands the issues and has common sense solutions.  A leader is needed who will aggressively advocate with Congress to implement meaningful health care reform to re-set the insurance marketplace.

Insurance providers deserve a Commissioner who supports the free market, will eliminate burdensome government regulations, and commits to stabilize the insurance market across Georgia.

Over the next few weeks, Shelly and I will make a decision regarding the race for Georgia Insurance Commissioner. I appreciate the numerous offers of support from across Georgia.  I ask for your prayers and welcome your comments. 

It is essential Georgians have an independent Insurance Commissioner who has a history of advocating for affordable health care, who understands the needs of the insurance providers, and who will champion the needs of Georgians every day.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 20, 2017

On July 20, 1864, the Battle of Peachtree Creek took place in Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a special online section on the Battle of Atlanta.

Sir Edmund Hillary was born on July 20, 1919 in Auckland, New Zealand. He and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first to summit Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to set foot on the moon.

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.”

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton gave the speech nominating Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis for President on July 20, 1988 at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Dukakis accepted the nomination the next day.

Clinton’s performance was widely panned.

[Clinton] bombed so badly that there was speculation it might spoil his political future.

The prime-time speech would be a perfect opportunity for Clinton to regain some of the ground he’d lost to Gore and to reestablish himself as the one to watch from the party’s moderate/Southern wing.

But he blew it. The speech he delivered was long – 33 minutes, or twice the expected length – and mechanical. It only took a few minutes for convention delegates to tune him out, as the din of their conversations began drowning him out on television. Eventually, the broadcast networks began cutting away from his speech, with commentators noting the crowd’s complete lack of interest. The lowlight came when Clinton uttered the words “In closing,” prompting a spontaneous round of sarcastic cheers from the audience. His home state paper summed it up this way:

ATLANTA Gov. Bill Clinton’s big national moment his prime time speech Wednesday night in nomination of Michael Dukakis was an unmitigated disaster.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal helped cut the ribbon at the new Terry England Leadership Center at the FFA/FCCLA center in Covington.

The center is named for Barrow County state Representative Terry England, chairman of the House Appropriations committee and a longtime champion of agriculture education in Georgia.

Deal talked about the importance of the center to the state.

“We sometimes identify it as being a place where we develop agricultural leaders,” he said, “I would suggest to you more appropriately, it is a place where we develop leaders.”

“My hope is that for decades to come, this facility creates some of the memories that some of the buildings down the hill created for me,” [said Rep. England]

Addressing the FFA members in the audience he said,” I hope friendships are being made here that you will take with you for a lifetime. I hope memories are being made here that you will take with you for a lifetime.”

From the Rockdale and Newton County Citizens,

Gov. Deal, who arrived at the FFA- FCCLA Center via helicopter shortly after 11:30 a.m., recalled visiting the camp as a youngster with his father, who was an ag education teacher. As a member of FFA, Deal said he developed his public speaking skills and took part in local, state, regional and national competitions.

“This has been a place for great victories,” Deal said of those competitions. “It has also been a place for defeats and for learning to deal with defeats and learning to see the positive side of your own dreams and your own plans not being fulfilled, to understand that maybe somebody beyond you has a plan for your future that you don’t even comprehend.”

“Great leaders have been produced by virtue of the experiences and the training that they have received in FFA, in FCCLA, and in other related type organizations,” said Deal. “We are in the business of training young people. This facility does it about as good as any I have seen, and I think it has not only a great past behind it, but in my opinion, a very, very bright future.”

“FFA gave me the opportunity to learn how to stand in front of people and speak,” said England. “It gave me the opportunity to learn to be a better friend, showed me how to be a better husband, a better son and a better person. My hope is that for decades and generations to come that this facility here recreates the memories that some of the buildings down the hill have created for me.”

The Terry England Leadership Center is a 20,000-square-foot facility featuring a 14,000-square-foot room that will seat as many as 1,400 people or 750 for banquet dining. Todd Teasley, director of development and leadership at the FFA Center, has said the meeting space is the largest in the surrounding area.

The center was funded through a $9.5 million appropriation in the state budget in 2015.

If I’ve learned one thing in my time at the Georgia State Capitol, it’s that the FFA has probably produced more state leaders than any other organization.

Cherokee County Commissioners adopted a property tax millage rate lower than the rollback rate.

County Manager Jerry Cooper said not only did the finance team achieve a full rollback in the 2017 fiscal year millage, but a tax decrease was presented to commissioners and residents.

Commissioners voted June 6 to advertise a millage rate of 5.528, down from 5.680 last year, with the use of $500,000 in reserves to support its general fund for the upcoming year.

But Cooper said at Tuesday’s final public hearing that they were able to achieve a rate below the full rollback and the rate of 5.483 was unanimously approved by commissioners.

“About a month ago, before we were able to complete our review of revenue and based on the information the tax assessor’s office provided us as well as expenditures as we were finalizing our negotiations in the budget, we asked you at that time that we did not propose a full rollback of the general Maintenance and Operations millage rate,” he said. “We then must advertise the three public hearings and post a notice of property tax increase. The first public hearing that was presented to you that we would be recommending a full rollback of the millage rate.”

Cooper said the millage rate that was approved by commissioners is a .04 percent decrease to the full rollback millage.

“Although we’ve been blessed to have an increase in the digest due to growth, we also had increase to current properties based on the assessments,” Cooper said. “Our goal is to at least rollback the millage rate to offset the average increase in the assessments based on what the tax assessor’s office provides us.”

Earlier this week, the Cherokee County Tax Assessor’s Office laid off all Personal Property Appraisal Division staff and is privatizing that function.

Columbia County Commissioners are considering a property tax millage rate lower than last year, but not a full rollback.

Columbia County officials plan to roll back tax rates to a countywide 6.189 mills, but will still raise an extra $1.3 million from taxes on new development and reassessments in the rapidly growing county.

County Administrator Scott Johnson called the rate reduction, advertised July 9, a rarity among area governments.

The new tax rate will result in a total of $31 million in property taxes levied by Columbia County government, up from about $30 million last year. Since 2012, county taxes levied have risen 15 percent, as the population has grown 11 percent, to 147,450, according to Census Bureau estimates.

On average, the new rate will add 50 cents or so to a homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment, Deputy Administrator Matt Schlacter said.

Other Columbia County governments including Grovetown and Harlem are not lowering tax rates. Columbia County Board of Education is raising tax rates by almost half a mill to 18.3 mills, with an annual impact of $39.44 on the tax bill of a homesteaded home worth $200,000.

Richmond County Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve a tentative millage rate of 19.736 mills, a decrease of .018 mills from last year.

Lawrenceville City Council adopted a millage rate lower than the previous year’s.

Lawrenceville’s mayor and City Council voted July 12 to roll back the millage rate to 1.909 mills and decrease the city property tax rate for the 2017/18 fiscal year.

“The city has rolled back the millage rate to effectively maintain an affordable cost of living for residents in the city,” said Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson. “The Council believes that keeping a low tax structure today will create opportunity for the future. As the city moves forward to execute capital projects, low millage now would offer flexibility for citizens to invest in these projects and maintain competitive rates along the way.”

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler released new unemployment numbers for June.

For the fifth consecutive month, the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate has dropped.

According to numbers released Thursday morning by the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), the rate decreased to 4.8 percent in June, down one-tenth of a percentage point from 4.9 percent in May. The last time the state recorded a jobless rate as low as 4.8 percent was in September 2007. In June 2016, the rate was 5.3 percent.

“Georgia’s unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in almost 10 years, because our employers continue to create jobs and put record numbers of people to work,” said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “We now have record highs for the number of employed individuals, the labor force size and total number of jobs in Georgia.”

Employers added 27,400 jobs in June, a 0.6 percent growth rate, which increased the total number of jobs to 4,496,000. The growth more than doubled the average May-to-June increase of 12,100 jobs for the past three years.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr returned to familiar territory, speaking to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

“One of the things that I have found in the eight months that I have been attorney general is this,” Carr said. “Most people know there is an attorney general, and are pretty sure we have an office somewhere. But beyond that it gets a little fuzzy about what we do.”

Carr did bring some community issues, such as opioid abuse and human trafficking, to the attention of the chamber.

He pointed out that while he was involved with efforts to lure high profile events, such as the Super Bowl and the college football national championship game, to Atlanta when he was the economic development commissioner, his new role has made him aware of issues that come with those events — namely human trafficking.

“If you start looking at stings that have occurred recently in Gwinnett or Dunwoody, it’s in the northern suburbs,” Carr said. “If you talk to folks who deal with this issue downtown, it’s folks coming from the suburbs and then going back home. That has to stop. Children deserve a right to live a life where they are not victimized by adults.”

Columbus City Council is considering regulating short term rentals, like AirBNB.

As more short-term lodging rental units come online in Columbus, one city councilor has asked for the staff to bring an ordinance for consideration to govern the growing enterprise.

Councilor Skip Henderson called [for] information that could lead to an ordinance that would regulate the new lodging option.

“I want to make sure everybody is playing by same rules and its a level field,” Henderson said on Tuesday. “Others in the hospitality industry are subject to rules and regulations. It makes sense that anybody doing short-term rental like Airbnb would be subject to those same rules and regulations.”

Because there is currently no regulation, [Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau President Peter] Bowden said, there is no mechanism for those offering short-term rentals to pay taxes or fees that other hospitality providers pay. The room tax in Columbus is 16 percent, with 8 percent of that sales tax that is distributed to the state, city and school district, while the remaining 8 percent is divided between the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Columbus Civic Center, trade center and RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.

“For us, it gets back to lost revenue for the city,” Bowden said. “We want to make sure it is a level playing field. We have to be careful at the CVB because we don’t want to interfere with anyone being an entrepreneur. We need to make sure the system is working for everyone.”

The primary online booking source for short-term rental is

With both Savannah and Columbus considering regulating short term rentals, I’d be suprised if we don’t see an “AirBNB bill” in the 2018 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Cobb County Board of Education members are considering a policy change that would open dual-enrollment for more high school students to take college courses.

Cobb County has the second-highest number of Latino/a voters in Georgia.

Based upon the statewide voter data file and the analysis in his report as of Dec. 2, 2016, the Latino electorate is now 244,190 voters strong, representing 3.66 percent of Georgia’s overall electorate. The Latino electorate grew by 60,224 new Latino voters since the 2012 report, representing a growth rate of 25 percent, he said.

Gwinnett County leads the pack of metro Atlanta counties with 44,567 Latino registered voters.

Cobb County was in second place with a total number of Latino voters of 27,150 and 59.62 percent of them turned out to vote in the 2016 election. Taken alone, Cobb County accounted for 11.11 percent of the statewide Latino electorate. According to the 2016 election summary, Cobb County had a total of 423,890 registered voters. Latinos were 6.40 percent of the electorate in Cobb County.

In the 2016 election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton beat Republican candidate Donald Trump by 7,209 votes in Cobb County. In 2012, the Romney campaign was able to succeed in Cobb County with a margin of victory of 38,598 votes, Gonzalez notes.

According to the latest U.S. Census numbers, Cobb County has a Hispanic or Latino population of 12.9 percent, compared to Gwinnett County’s 20.8 percent, DeKalb’s 8.5 percent and Cherokee County’s 10 percent.

The Savannah Downtown Business Association hosted a panel discussion on violent crime.

Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach, Savannah-Chatham police Chief Joseph Lumpkin, District Attorney Meg Heap, the Rev. George Lee from St. John’s Baptist Church, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Jim Durham and Dulany Industries President and CEO Reed Dulany took turns fielding audience questions and criticisms about the current state of crime in the city.

SDBA president Karen Guinn opened the discussion by noting that the violence in City Market after the July 4 celebration has “awoken and mobilized a group of people that want more and want better for our city.”

“Many of you are here today because you’re angry, you’re frustrated and perhaps even afraid, and you’re looking for answers,” Guinn said.

“Everyone is feeling endangered. It’s a natural response,” Lumpkin said. “The challenges that we’re facing from some people in our community are significant, and they typically do not happen at City Market. We have tried to address those issues, and I think we’ve made significant progress in building collaborations that have actually reduced the homicides, year-to-date, from last year.”

University of North Georgia and Lanier Tech report no problems since campus carry has been allowed in Georgia.

UNG Police Chief Justin Gaines said one incident was reported in which a gun “became unconcealed while the person was carrying it.” He said the person who saw the weapon “didn’t know how to address that particular situation.” Campus police helped the person understand how to respond in the future.

Lanier Tech Police Chief Jeff Strickland said no violations of the law have been reported to his office.

“We had not had any issues that have come up at this point,” Strickland said. “As I have walked around campus, I have not seen anybody that appeared to have a firearm on them.”

House Bill 280, commonly referred to as the campus carry law, became law July 1. The bill makes it legal for those with a Georgia weapons carry license to have a concealed handgun in some campus areas previously prohibited.

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) wants to revisit the “Hidden Predator Act,”

When his bill extending the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file civil claims was signed into law in 2015, State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) knew it didn’t go far enough.

The lawsuits that have been filed since the Hidden Predator Act took effect bear him out. While the law allows victims to go after the individuals they say abused them, the businesses and nonprofits that allegedly enabled or covered up predatory behavior have so far avoided any potential financial liability.

“What these cases have proven is that we stopped short,” said Spencer, who is proposing an amendment to the Hidden Predator Act that would close that loophole. “It’s our duty to balance the scales of justice for victims.”

The new law allowed victims up to 35 years to confront their abuser in court. The window to file those suits, however, closed on July 1.

At least a dozen cases have been filed since the Hidden Predator Act became law. Spencer said opponents of the bill claimed it would lead to an avalanche of frivolous lawsuits.

“None of these cases are frivolous,” Spencer said. “A judge would’ve thrown them out if they were.”

“We need to take the next step,” he continued. “We can’t allow entities to turn a blind eye to sexual abuse.”

Congressman Karen Handel (R-6) announced senior staff hires.

Serving as Handel’s chief of staff will be Muffy Day, who comes to the team from the office of U.S. Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah where she held the same position. Before Love’s election, Day was chief of staff for Rep. John Campbell from 2008 until his retirement. She has 15 years of experience on Capitol Hill where she got her start as a legislative assistant for Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Others working in the D.C. office include scheduler, Ashley Dalton, who held the same position on Handel’s campaign; legislative correspondent, Kim Waskowsky; and staff assistant, Justin Forrister.

The Roswell office will be led by District Director Ashley Jenkins, a Cobb County resident who previously served on the Sandy Springs City Council. She’s been a 6th District resident for about two decades. Serving as deputy district director will be Donovan Head, who comes home to the 6th District after working for Congressman Austin Scott in Warner Robins.


State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) discussed federal health care reform and how Georgia can respond.

Rep. Katie Dempsey said Georgia lawmakers are prepared to react to whatever Congress does.

“Georgia has shown it can take care of people in need,” said the Rome Republican, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s human resources subcommittee. “Children, mothers, they’re covered, and we’re not going to let that fail.”

“I’m still encouraged that, at the end of the day, states will be given the ability to draft their own plans, because it’s different in Georgia than it is in Texas or New York,” Dempsey said. “But I do think the conversation has to switch to health care. Right now we seem to be dealing with insurance care.”

Dempsey said she has faith in Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a physician and former Georgia congressman. He’s going to do his job, she said, and he’s very familiar with the needs of his home state.

“We can’t let Americans not have the resources, the opportunities, for better health and better healthcare,” she said. “I think that burden will fall on him, period, if they can’t come up with a workable plan or if they do.”

The Georgia Department of Community Health and Department of Education are seeking federal funding that would more than double the number of school nurses in the state.

In a joint effort with the Georgia Department of Education, the Department of Community Health board voted to approve a nursing services reimbursement program that would draw an estimated $48.6 million in additional federal dollars, assuming no major changes to Medicaid.

There were 1,629 nurses and 307 unlicensed health care and clinic workers in Georgia schools last spring. They are the only medical workers some students see, especially in rural areas where hospitals have closed and doctors are scarce. School nurses provide routine and preventive screenings and examinations, diagnosis of health problems and monitoring and treatment of chronic conditions.

The money is available as a subsidy to schools that provide such care to students who qualify for Medicaid services, generally those from lower-income households.

That “assuming no major changes to Medicaid,” is a pretty big assumption, however.

The State House Rural Development Council heard about mental healthcare needs at its meeting in Thomasville.

One major thing representatives from the Department of Behavioral Health talked about was getting people out of state hospitals and back into community-based services. There are still 209 patients at state hospitals in Georgia.

“You can’t just close a hospital and figure it out,” said Judy Fitzgerald, Commissioner of Department of Behavior Health and Development Disabilities.

It’s been almost five years since Southwestern State Hospital closed its doors in Thomasville, but state and local leaders said the community still feels the effects of that decision every day.

“Can we do something about it? Are more beds needed?” asked Darlene Taylor.

“How do we get the people to the right level of care? And maybe it’s a bed, but maybe we put them in one of the other resources available in region 4,” said Fitzgerald.

Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell told the representatives that a lot of the time his deputies and officers are having to deal with crisis situations out in the community

Powell said sometimes his staff even has to transport those folks to places as far as Savannah and Columbus on a weekly basis.

“Your local people are picking up the tab and are picking up the [lion's] share of the cost,” said Powell.

Rural hospital closures also affect the surrounding community’s economy.

While a closed hospital would be bad for doctors and patients, it would also do disproportionate damage to delicate rural economies where the local hospital is often one of the largest employers along with the public school system.

When Parkway Regional Medical Center in Fulton, Kentucky, closed in 2015, the city lost $200,000 in tax revenue, or about 8 percent of its annual budget. City leaders responded by raising a tax on alcoholic beverages so they could continue to fund their police department.

“It had a devastating effect on our community,” Fulton City Manager Cubb Stokes said.

Two professors of economics write that the U.S. Senate health care bill could exacerbate the opioid crisis.

This epidemic is one of the most critical public-health issues facing the United States today, but Republicans in Congress seem uninterested in truly grappling with it. Under their proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act, a situation that had been slowly improving wouldget much worse.

Before the ACA was implemented in 2014, most impoverished adults with substance abuse issues – no matter how poor — had limited access to health coverage because Medicaid doesn’t treat substance abuse as a qualifying disability for benefits. Opioid overdose death rates rapidly escalated, but treatment rates remained flat.

The good news is that, primarily due to changes in Medicaid, the United States has more than doubled its total spending on evidence-based substance-abuse treatment for the poor. The bad news is that even with that success, we are facing a massive shortfall in addressing the needs of those with opioid addiction issues. Four out of five people with opioid use disorder do not receive treatment, which means there are nearly 2 million Americans who are addicted to opioids and do not benefit from the proven treatment that could help them.

We need a comprehensive strategy to build on the insurance expansions of the ACA to reach those millions of Americans. The original Senate health-care bill, however, proposes a rollback of the Medicaid expansions that had finally slowed the rapid growth of this devastating problem.

Lost opportunities for substance-abuse care in non-Medicaid expansion states have already cost countless lives. Repealing the ACA would take away access to treatment from hundreds of thousands more. This would be nothing less than a grave moral failing and a travesty for our country.

Former Georgia Congressman John Linder addresses federal healthcare legislation.

The U.S. Senate Republicans failed to agree on a replacement for Obamacare, so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that they will vote on the repeal-only bill that passed two years ago before being vetoed by President Obama. If they pass the repeal-only bill, they will have two years to come up with a replacement. Let us hope that they stick to healthcare and set political payoffs aside for another day.

For beginners, they should jettison the perverse provision that keeps 26 year-old children on Mommy and Daddy’s insurance policy. That was a political payoff to a group that voted overwhelmingly for President Obama in 2008. It increased the cost of Mommy and Daddy’s insurance and removed millions of healthy young people from the general pool leaving it older, sicker and costlier. Welcome to government healthcare!

When you begin reform with a political payoff you ought not be surprised to see your colleagues lining up with their political wish lists? Republican senators stepped up with their demands: more money!

The opioid crisis is real and urgent, but was not caused by our healthcare system and ought not be addressed in a reform of our healthcare system. It is being forced into the reform debate because there is a lot of money sloshing around. It should be addressed separately. Perhaps by the CDC.

Linder’s piece is long and hard to pull excerpts from, but it’s definitely worth reading in its entirety.


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

On July 19, 1879, Griffin, Georgia native John Henry “Doc” Holliday killed Mike Gordon after Gordon shot up Holliday’s saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The 1996 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony was held on July 19, 1996 and competition started the next day.

The Georgia State Quarter was released on July 19, 1999.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gwinnett County Commissioners voted by a 3-2 margin to set a higher property tax millage rate.

Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and Commissioners Lynette Howard and Jace Brooks voted for the millage rate increase, while Commissioners John Heard and Tommy Hunter voted against it. The overall rate was set at 13.51 mills, and that includes the higher operations rate of 7.4 mills.

The higher rate is intended to balance the county budget while also setting aside money to address employee hiring and retention issues, particularly in the county’s public safety departments.

“We need to make sure we’re not 7 percent behind our peers in compensation (and) we need to make sure we slow down the attrition rate,” Howard said. “That’s why I can’t support a rollback of the millage rate.”

An increase in the rate means taxes will go up, but the exact amount per home varies depending on the fair market and taxable values, as well as whether the homeowner has homestead and value offset exemptions.

The City of Atlanta and the United Way of Greater Atlanta are committing $51 million to fight against homelessness.

On Monday, the city council agreed to a $26 million bond commitment that will be added to $25 million promised by the United Way.

The plan – called the Homeless Opportunity Bond – comes in five different parts aimed at countering different types of homelessness. The overall goal, Reed said in a statement, is to make homelessness “rare, brief and non-recurring.”

The biggest chunk will go to buying or renovating 500 permanent homes. These will be available for the chronically homeless, who are people who have a mental or physical disability and have either been consistently homeless for over a year or had four spates of homelessness in the last three years.

Only about 13 percent of Atlanta’s homeless population are believed to be chronically homeless, according to last year’s estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The second part of the bond will go toward securing 300 units for “rapid rehousing.” This is another popular policy nationwide. It quickly puts people who are on the verge of becoming homeless into temporary housing, providing them a chance to put together a plan for a permanent home themselves.

The Georgia Lottery Corp. transferred $1.1 billion to the state treasury in FY 2017.

The record transfer surpasses last year’s, which was boosted by a world-record $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot.

Georgia Lottery players won $2.74 billion in prizes in fiscal year 2017, and retailers earned more than $268 million in commissions.

Fiscal year 2017 spanned from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.

All Georgia Lottery profits go to pay for specific educational programs, including the Hope Scholarship Program and Georgia’s Pre-K Program. More than 1.7 million students have received HOPE, and more than 1.4 million 4-year-olds have attended the statewide, voluntary pre-kindergarten program.

Fort Gordon will receive $85 million in federal funding after the House passed the defense authorization act for 2018.

The National Defense Au­thor­ization Act for fiscal year 2018, passed in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sentatives on Friday, provides funding toward the move of the U.S. Army Cyber Command to Fort Gordon and military construction projects, said Rep. Rick Allen.

The legislation must still be approved by the Senate.

“For the past nine years we’ve been flat-lined so we’re trying to catch up,” he said regarding the bill and its effort to restore appropriate funding for troops on Monday.

The Georgia Senate Special Tax Exemption Study Committee began hearings on Tuesday.

A Georgia Senate committee on Tuesday began what could be a years-long study to determine whether the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks the state gives industries and individuals each year do what they were designed to do.

State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, who heads the special panel, told colleagues there is no way they will be able to finish going through the dozens of income tax credits and sales tax breaks the General Assembly has approved by the end of the year.

“I am more interested in lowering everyone’s income taxes and not having credits be so prevalent in Georgia,” state Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta, a member of the committee, said Tuesday.

Whether lawmakers approve a tax break in the first place generally depends on how good lobbyists for specific businesses and industries are at selling their proposal. Lobbyists packed the meeting room Tuesday for the committee’s first hearing.

Albers said, “We are going into this with no preconceived notions.”

Gainesville Board of Education members will be given three millage rate options by the superintendent.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said he will present three options to the school board to consider before it votes on a tax rate in September to fund its 2018 fiscal year budget.

The Gainesville school board approved a $70.1 million budget for the 2017-18 year in June. That budget required more than $2 million coming out of the school system’s fund balance if the millage rate remained at the current 6.85 mills. The millage rate equals $1 of taxes on every $1,000 of taxable value.

Williams said he wants to have three options for the board to consider before voting on a tax rate and the cost to the fund balance associated with each.

“What we anticipate doing is when we bring the millage rate forward is looking at the different options, looking at the current millage rate and seeing what that will require, the full rollback rate and maybe somewhere in between,” Williams said. “We’ll look at those three options. If we need more than that, if we need to look at somewhere in between those three, we would.”

Guyton City Council may revisit its recently adopted budget.

Mayor Jeff Lariscy said at the council’s July 11 meeting that if the current 2.2 millage rate is to be maintained, cash reserves might have to be used, which could leave the city short if unforeseen issues arise.

Lariscy also said he and the council members are required to review thoroughly the last five years of tax receipts, as reported by Effingham County Tax Assessor, Linda McDaniel. Collections have been stagnant, reflecting the recent state of real estate in Guyton and the extended community.

Lariscy reported he and council members will be reviewing the budget and the millage rate over the next week. If they decide to propose a millage rate higher than the current 2.2 rate, the city will have to schedule three public hearings before Sept. 1.

Lariscy suggests residents “stay tuned” for such an announcement. He also reminded the public that residential tax receipts only account for between eight to 10 percent of city receipts.

Varnell City Council will hold a public meeting to discuss the recently-closed municipal police department.

The City Council will hold a called meeting [Thursday night] at 7 at City Hall, 1025 Tunnel Hill Varnell Road N.W.

A press release announcing the meeting says it will be “for the sole purpose of a public discussion and conversation with citizens of the city of Varnell concerning the issue of dissolving the Varnell Police Department. No action will be taken by the mayor and council other than hearing from and communicating with the citizens.”

Council members voted 3-1 on July 10 to abolish the police department with council members Andrea Gordy, Jan Pourquoi and Mayor Pro Tem David Owens voting for the measure and council member Ashlee Godfrey voting against the move. Mayor Anthony Hulsey, who only votes in the case of a tie, vetoed the measure two days later. The council will hold its regular meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Varnell gym and council members could vote then to overturn Hulsey’s veto.

Cherokee County, Woodstock, and Canton have agreed on how to split proceeds from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that will be on the November ballot.

The present one-cent SPLOST expires next year. If voters approve in November, the new tax would take effect July 2018 and raise nearly $253 million for county and city capital projects.

According to an intergovernmental agreement recently approved by the Woodstock and Canton city councils, the county would collect the tax, keep about 70 percent and divvy up the rest among its seven cities. Woodstock and Canton, the county’s two largest cities, would get roughly 12.2 percent and 10.4 percent of total revenues, respectively.

2018 Elections

Republican Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle has added fighting poverty to his pitch in the 2018 election for Governor.

In his first public event in Gainesville since launching his campaign in May, Cagle spoke to an audience of more than 200 people during a meeting at the Kiwanis Club of Gainesville at the First Baptist Church on Green Street about his campaign.

On policy, Cagle gave what was for the most part his stump speech: Build out infrastructure (including tunneling under Atlanta, building suspended roads and harnessing the port in Savannah), expand alternative education opportunities and continue workforce development programs from the state.

But new this time around was a discussion about how the state should use its accelerating economic growth to help the poor.

“I can tell you fundamentally that metro Atlanta, certainly in our area, we’re seeing great economic prosperity,” Cagle told the Kiwanis Club. “But you can go to Sen. Tyler Harper’s area or Sen. Greg Kirk’s area in Sumter County and Ocilla, and you’ll see they’re losing population.”

Close to the end of his remarks, Cagle reminded the audience from Gainesville’s business community, elected officials and government employees that “this poverty issue is real.”

He said that 25 percent of Georgia children live in poverty.

“These individual kids are going to need to have a community resource center built around them, to where if they’re coming out of a family that has no parental involvement, where we can get mentors in there to help those (children), if it’s food, if it’s clothing — all of those things,” Cagle said. “I’m talking to one of the greatest civic organizations in the world. You are part of a commitment and a desire to serve.”

“Imagine if we all, collectively, took on this challenge of solving poverty and giving kids the skills that they need and an opportunity for a better way of life.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams held an event in Columbus for her 2018 campaign for Governor.

Stacey Abrams, the House Minority Leader who is running for Georgia governor, introduced her plans for strong education, economic diversity and good government during a campaign stop Tuesday at the Frank D. Chester Recreation Center in Columbus.

“I’m running for the whole state of Georgia,” Abrams told about 70 supporters in the gym at the Benning Drive center. The Democrat, who grew up in Mississippi, is expected to face a stiff challenge from both parties in the 2018 race. Columbus was one stop on a 10-city tour after she kicked off her campaign in Albany.

Abrams said reforming education is important but it is also about expanding what people think about going from cradle to career, educating bold and ambitious children and building a thriving and diverse economy.

“The issue is not just more jobs,” she said. “It is good paying jobs and that going to be the focus. To make those things happen, government has to work for everyone. Voter suppression is an import issue. You can’t get people to trust their government if you can’t get people to participate in it.”

The state lawmaker supports expanding Medicaid, which would provide more jobs.

“Building an economy is important but also important to start helping entrepreneurs,” she said. “If you think about criminal justice reform, think how we make sure everyone who touched government that we fixed it so it works for them.”

Democrat Chalis Montgomery announced she will run against Republican Congressman Jody Hice in 2018.

[Montgomery is] centering her campaign on a call for universal healthcare. Her announcement tells of her 9-year-old daughter Gwen, who suffers from the pre-existing condition of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and thus is covered by the Affordable Care Act.

She said Hice, who voted to repeal and replace the measure this year after initial concerns that it didn’t shave costs too deeply, took a stance that is “devastating to children like her.”

She faces a tougher battle than candidates eyeing nearby suburban Atlanta districts, like the newly-competitive Sixth and Seventh Districts, where changing demographics and skepticism to Trump have buoyed Democratic hopes. Trump easily carried the 10th District and Hice, who captured two-thirds of the vote when first elected in 2014, didn’t even face an opponent in November.

From Flagpole in Athens,

One of the last speakers was Chalis Montgomery, a Barrow County Democrat who’s challenging Republican Rep. Jody Hice. She said she has a brother with Down syndrome and that Medicaid enables him to live independently. “No cuts, no caps!” she said.

Herman West, brother of former Florida Republican Congressman Allen West, will run against Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop in the Second Congressional District.

Control of Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District could come down to a longtime incumbent versus a conservative newcomer looking for change in the district.

The 2nd District covers several counties in the News 3 viewing area, including Chattahoochee, Clay, Marion, Quitman, Randolph, Schley, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Taylor, and Webster Counties.The district also covers part of Muscogee County.

West grew up on a farm in Randolph County. He believes in bringing several small businesses back to the area where he grew up. West’s brother Allen served as a Florida congressman from 2011-2013.

News 3 spoke with West’s senior advisor, who says despite not having any political experience, West’s message could resonate with thousands of voters who live in the 2nd District.

“The 2nd District is still one of the poorest districts in the United States,” Eddie Pritchett said. “And that puts a strain on larger cities like Columbus, because people from the 2nd District come to Columbus and use our services. And unfortunately, they’re not taxpayers.”

Pritchett adds West supports President Trump’s platform “Make America Great Again.” West also wants to find another way to provide affordable health care to US citizens.


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

The greatest political journalist to ever put pen to paper, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, was born on July 18, 1929. That makes today “Gonzo Day.” You have been warned.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for a third term at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on July 18, 1940.

President Harry S. Truman signed the second Presidential Succession Act on July 18, 1947

The original succession act designated the Senate president pro tempore as the first in line to succeed the president should he and the vice president die unexpectedly while in office. If he for some reason could not take over the duties, the speaker of the house was placed next in the line of succession. In 1886, during Grover Cleveland‘s administration, Congress removed both the Senate president and the speaker of the house from the line of succession. From that time until 1947, two cabinet officials, (their order in line depended on the order in which the agencies were created) became the next in line to succeed a president should the vice president also become incapacitated or die. The decision was controversial. Many members of Congress felt that those in a position to succeed the president should be elected officials and not, as cabinet members were, political appointees, thereby giving both Republican and Democratic parties a chance at controlling the White House.

In 1945, then-Vice President Truman assumed the presidency after Franklin Roosevelt died of a stroke during his fourth term. As president, Truman advanced the view that the speaker of the house, as an elected official, should be next in line to be president after the vice president. On July 18, 1947, he signed an act that resurrected the original 1792 law, but placed the speaker ahead of the Senate president pro tempore in the hierarchy.

On July 18, 1988, the Democratic National Convention opened at the Omni in Atlanta. That night, actor Rob Lowe would shoot a videotape in a hotel with two hairdressers, one 22 and one 16. Several weeks later, the era of the celebrity sex tape began.

On July 18, 2000, United States Senator Paul Coverdell died of a cerebral hemorrhage. I remember where I was when I heard the news.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens announced yesterday that he will not run for reelection in 2018. I first heard about it from Tim Bryant on Twitter.

Tim Bryant Ralph Hudgens

And from

Mr. Hudgens, a Republican who served in the Georgia House of Representatives and state Senate, said in a statement that “after much thought, prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided not to seek a third term” as Georgia’s insurance commissioner.

“I am immensely grateful for the opportunity that the people of this State have given me to serve in this capacity,” the statement continued, “but I look forward to retiring from elected office to spend more time with my wife Suzanne, my four kids, and 12 grandchildren.”

“While I am retiring from elected political office, I intend to stay involved in politics,” Mr. Hudgens said.

Likely Republican candidates
to succeed Hudgens include Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jay Florence, former Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, former State Senator Judson Hill, and Mark Shane Mobley of Macon.

On the Democratic side, Georgians for a Healthy Future Executive Director Cindy Zeldin will run, as will Tomeka Marie Kimbrough.

Gwinnett County property owners took both sides on a proposal to increase the property tax millage rate.

On top of growth in the county’s property value-based tax digest, county officials want to increase the general operations millage rate from 6.826 to 7.4 mills. The millage rate is one of the factors that determines how much a person has to pay in property taxes from year-to-year.

An increase in the rate means taxes will go up, but the exact amount per home varies depending on the fair market and taxable values, as well as whether the homeowner has homestead and value offset exemptions.

“We’ve got to tighten up on y’all’s spending on what we’re doing in the county,” Dacula resident Ralph Williams said. “We want this hometown feeling, but we’re spending it just like it’s the City of Atlanta. Now, you can’t have both because it doesn’t work.”

Meanwhile, Peachtree Corner resident Teddy Murphy said, “If this is a millage rate increase to help pay police officers more and support what they do in the community, then I think it’s 100 percent absolutely worth it.”

[Commissioners] are scheduled to take up the issue at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, as part of their business meeting at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which is located at 75 Langley Drive, in Lawrenceville.

Cobb County Commissioners also began public hearings on raising the property tax millage rate.

Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce faced a packed room of community members Monday night, but only a handful expressed open opposition to his plan to raise property taxes.

Among the few who did so was Trish Hay of south Cobb, who questioned Boyce on his reasoning for the tax increase. The county chairman has contended that the proposed rate increase of 0.13 mills is needed even amid growth in the county’s tax digest in order to pay for services that were furloughed or cut out during the recession, as well as covering ongoing costs.

Hay asked Boyce why the county was not looking at potential cuts in services in order to find areas to save money.

“Why don’t they cut instead of always raising our taxes? They’re always talking about raising — (but) when do they ever stop? They never cut,” Hay said after Monday’s meeting. “I felt this was deja vu, with the Braves all over again — we’re just going to get it rammed down our throat.”

Part of the county’s general fund millage rate goes to cover the bonds on SunTrust Park in Cumberland, but Boyce’s proposed increase of 0.13 mills in the total county-assessed millage is the result of the Board of Commissioners’ decision earlier this year to fund a portion of the 2008 parks bonds.

Grayson City Council kept the millage rate unchanged for a third year in a row.

Elected officials in Augusta are discussing whether to tear down a currently-unused jail.

Work requirements for food-stamp recipients in Georgia appear to be reducing the numbers on the rolls.

Work requirements have halved the number of single adults receiving food stamps in Hall County and in 23 other counties.

The number of able-bodied adults without dependents getting food stamps in Hall County fell from 529 people in 2016 to 264 at the start of 2017, according to the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

Single adults earning less than $1,287 a month are eligible for a maximum $194 in food assistance each month.

In January 2016, a federal waiver from work requirements that were created for federal welfare programs in the 1990s was removed from Hall, Gwinnett and Cobb counties because of their strong economies and low unemployment.

Augusta University held a forum on the new “campus carry” laws in effect.

Carrying a concealed weapon on the Augusta University campus is now generally permitted but a series of places where it is not left faculty and staff with a number of questions and concerns.

AU officials held a forum Monday afternoon for faculty and staff at its Summerville Campus and will have another on July 28 on the Health Sciences Campus, with more coming in August, said AU Chief of Police James C. Lyon. The university is operating under edicts promulgated by the University System of Georgia, which opposed the bill before it became law and went into effect July 1. It permits concealed weapon holders to carry a handgun in a concealed manner on campus but with a number of notable places where it is not permitted:

It is that last exemption [classrooms in which a high school student is enrolled] that created many of the questions. It is the responsibility of the permit holder seeking to carry a gun on campus to check with the Registrar to find out if any high school students are enrolled in the class, Lyon said. It is also the ongoing responsibility of the permit holder to find out if a high school student adds the class later, officials said.

Some of the exemptions created a kind of Catch-22 for faculty. For instance, faculty can carry a concealed weapon into a classroom that does not have a high school student but because offices are exempt, it is forbidden there.

“They cannot bring it into their own office,” said AU General Counsel Chris Melcher. “We are following the law.”

Flooring manufacturer Beaulieu Group filed bankruptcy on Monday, and say it will not likely affect its 2500 employees.

Dalton-based Beaulieu Group filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Rome. Chapter 11 is often called reorganization bankruptcy because it allows a firm to reorganize its debt, as opposed to Chapter 7 bankruptcy in which a company is typically liquidated. In most Chapter 11 cases, the court does not appoint a trustee but allows the debtor to continue to run the business.

“Beaulieu family members and our board of managers believe pursuing a restructuring through chapter 11 is the best path forward at this time,” said Michael Pollard, president of Beaulieu Group, in a press release.

It has some 2,500 employees in 12 locations, mostly in northwest Georgia, including corporate headquarters in Dalton and three plants and a distribution center in Whitfield County. As a privately owned company, it does not report revenues.

Warner Robins City Council approved a charter amendment to require at least 4 months reserve funding at all times.

The city currently requires two and half months of a reserve fund, which has been used in recent years to balance the budget.

The council approved the amendment 5-1, with Councilman Mike Davis casting the lone vote against it.

Violent crime in Savannah dipped slightly for the first six months of 2017, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In recent years, violent crime in Savannah has been as high as it’s been since the early 1990s, when the Ricky Jivens Gang terrorized the streets. In 2015, metro investigated 53 homicides. In 2016, the number dropped slightly to 50. The most ever recorded in the city was 60, back in 1991.

So far in 2017, there have been 25 homicides in the Savannah-Chatham police jurisdiction. At this point in 2016, there were 30.

Earlier this year, Savannah saw the longest stretch without a homicide in three years. From March 6 to April 24, metro tallied no killings. The last time the city went 49 days without a homicide was April 2014.

[Mayor Eddie] DeLoach said any decrease in violent crime numbers is a welcome one.

“The numbers, whether (the public) feel they’re moving fast enough or quick enough, they’re moving in the right direction from one year to the next,” DeLoach said. “They’ve headed down, and that’s what we promised we would get done.”

According to numbers from Savannah-Chatham police at the start of July, overall violent crime — which includes homicide, rape, commercial, street and residential robberies, aggravated assault with a gun and aggravated assault without a gun — is down by 6 percent compared to the same time last year. The largest dip in violent crime was in street robbery; on July 1, there had been 117 robberies in 2017, compared to the 180 in 2016.

Muscogee County School Board members appointed a committee to supervise projects funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in March 2015.

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren held the annual Corn Boilin’ fundraiser yesterday.

Among those in attendance were several gubernatorial hopefuls: state Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Smyrna, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

The charity gathering was started by former Cobb Sheriff Bill Hutson in 1990 as a campaign event, but over the years has evolved into something much greater: a community gathering where Cobb residents can mingle with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, a place where folks can catch up with each other before diving into plates of delicious food.

What began as an event for about 50 or 60 people quickly grew and now boasts crowds of closer to 2,000, organizers said. Proceeds from admission prices go toward funding the Cobb County Youth Museum, which teaches local youngsters about historical events that helped shape the world.

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, who spent all afternoon cooking in the hot sun, spoke with the MDJ after pausing to take a seat and enjoy a chocolate covered ice cream bar.

Tippins has volunteered for the event each of the last 28 years. The Corn Boilin’, he said, began with them cooking around an old wash pot they heated with burning wood.

2017 Elections

Sandy Springs City Council members Andy Bauman and John Paulson will both seek reelection in November’s municipal elections.

Andy Bauman, who represents District 6, and John Paulson of District 1 said Monday they are both running for additional four-year terms on the council. Both men made their announcements separately.

The city’s general election is slated for Nov. 7, and the office of mayor as well as the six City Council seats are up for grabs. Qualifying for the elections will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21 through Thursday, Aug. 24 and from 8:30 a.m. to noon Friday, Aug. 25. The qualifying fees for mayor is $1,000 and $540 for the city council seats.

Flowery Branch City Council member Joe Anglin announced he will run for reelection.

2018 Elections

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle announced that 58 Sheriffs from across Georgia have endorsed his 2018 campaign for Governor.

Casey Cagle, the leading conservative Republican for governor, announced today that 58 sheriffs across Georgia have endorsed him. The announcement of this statewide network of respected and trusted leaders follows Cagle’s unmatched fundraising haul of $2.7 million in just two months, and the endorsements of 64 elected officials in Northwest Georgia alone.

“You simply don’t receive such widespread support without being a proven leader,” said Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle. “Casey’s unwavering commitment to the law enforcement community is most impressive. In fact, his first stop as a candidate for governor was a visit with our law enforcement officers.”

“Casey is our go-to guy,” said Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway. “He is a proven leader that always delivers for the law enforcement community. He has also led to protect Georgians by eliminating sanctuary cities in our state, and I fully support Casey Cagle’s candidacy for governor.”

“The sheriffs are among the most respected and trusted leaders in communities all across our state,” said Cagle. “I am humbled to have the support of these selfless public servants. We are all indebted to the brave men and women that wear the badge and put their lives on the line for us. When I am governor, I will continue to fight tirelessly to support our law enforcement heroes.”

Cagle has pledged to cut taxes by $100 million in his first 100 days, deliver a comprehensive 10-year infrastructure plan, and create 500,000 new jobs in the first four years of his administration. He has also made workforce development a top priority, and will continue to lead on developing a world-class education system in Georgia.

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer spoke about his campaign for Lt. Governor in Hall County.

First elected in 2002, Shafer is now running to replace Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle as Georgia’s next lieutenant governor in the 2018 election — a step up in his leadership of the Senate. He’s raised about $900,000 in his race against Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, and Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, for the second-most powerful seat in the state.

Shafer had an introduction and endorsement from Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who introduced and praised the Duluth senator and said he’ll “make a terrific lieutenant governor.”

On policy fronts — beyond reducing the welfare state “in a very serious way” — Shafer touted his work capping the state income tax at 6 percent and moving the Georgia General Assembly to a zero-based budgeting system, in which one-eighth of the budget is rebuilt “from scratch” each year, forcing department heads to justify their spending requests.

He criticized state spending on “soft” programs and said the legislature’s recent changes on motor fuel taxes have set the state up well to pay for new roads and bridges. He noted that he does not support expanding MARTA northward and thinks Gov. Nathan Deal was right to refuse Medicaid expansion.

Shafer also noted that he supports the lieutenant governor’s current scope of power in the capital.

“If I become lieutenant governor, I don’t want to change the rules at all,” he said. “I don’t want to try to take more power for the (position). I don’t want to see any power taken away.”


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

On July 17, 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman set up headquarters in Fulton County on Powers Ferry Road near the Chattahoochee River. Late that night, Confederate General Joseph Johnston was replaced by newly-commissioned Gen. John Bell Hood.

For nearly three months, Johnston and Sherman had maneuvered around the rugged corridor from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Although there was constant skirmishing, there were few major battles; Sherman kept trying to outflank Johnston, but his advances were blocked. Though this kept losses to a minimum, there was also a limit to how long Johnston could maintain this strategy as each move brought the armies closer to Atlanta. By July 17, 1864, Johnston was backed into the outskirts of Atlanta. Johnston felt his strategy was the only way to preserve the Army of Tennessee, but Davis felt that he had given up too much territory.

Georgia-born Ty Cobb died on July 17, 1961.

The Beatles premiered The Yellow Submarine on July 17, 1968 in London.

John R. Dominey, Jr., a WWII veteran, was buried in Laurens County, Georgia last week.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

An awesome video of a fully-laden containership transiting the Savannah River channel to the Port of Savannah.

The AJC Political Insider reports that Georgia’s Republican National Committeeman, Randy Evans, is in line for an ambassadorship.

President Donald Trump is said to be likely to tap veteran Georgia attorney Randy Evans as U.S. ambassador to the European nation of Luxembourg, according to two people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The Luxembourg posting would seem to be a cushy gig. The wealthy nation, sandwiched between France, Belgium and Germany, is known for its medieval castles and wineries.

A lifelong confidant of Gingrich, the two could soon be a short hop away from each other in Europe: Trump has nominated Gingrich’s wife, Callista, to serve as ambassador to the Vatican.

A vacancy in Georgia’s Republican National Committee representation would presumably have to be filled. It appears that RNC Rule Four would govern the choice of a replacement.

(d) In the event of the death, resignation, disqualification, removal, or disability of any member of the Republican National Committee, the vacancy shall be filled according to adopted state Republican Party rules. If no rule exists, vacancies shall be filled by majority vote of the Republican state committee.

The Georgia Republican Party’s Rule 7.7 states in part, “In the event of a vacancy in the position of National Committeeman or Committeewoman, the State Committee will elect a replacement.”

Defense spending legislation passed the U.S. House with the support of all ten Georgia Republicans.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Hall County saw more than twice as many overdoses in 2016 as in 2015.

In Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Gainesville emergency room, the doctors saw roughly 400 more drug overdoses between 2015 and 2016.

For Angela Gary, executive director of emergency services, there’s no rhyme or reason to explain the jump in the number of patients.

“In all three of the emergency departments that I’m in contact with, it’s kind of all over the place on who it is, the age of them and what they’re overdosing from,” she said.

The Gainesville emergency room handled 275 overdoses in 2015 and almost 700 in 2016.

Civic leaders around Gainesville and Hall County have recently formed the Partnership for a Drug Free Hall to combat the opioid drug epidemic.

“The demographic trends parallel those in the U.S., with historically more cases in men than women, but the number of overdoses in women being on the rise,” said Deborah Bailey, executive director of governmental affairs at Northeast Georgia Health System. “When it comes to other demographics, opioid overdoses cross all geographic and economic lines.”

Gov. Nathan Deal signed the Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. Act in May, which removed naloxone from the dangerous drug list and made the antidote accessible over the counter. Hall County is home to the family of the law’s namesake who overdosed in 2012: Dallas Gay, the victim’s grandfather, who has been a vocal advocate and head of the Partnership for a Drug Free Hall.

“Hall County needs that. They really need a lot more awareness than what we’ve had, a lot more prevention,” said Scott Hinchman, program director at The Agora House for Men residential drug treatment.

“[W]e do know the costs are significant, and one example can be seen in newborn babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome because their mothers are addicted to drugs,” Bailey said.

The average hospital stay for a newborn is two days, Bailey said.

“The average length of stay for a newborn baby who is born addicted to drugs is 23 to 24 days at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she said.

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials says that Gwinnett County has more registered Latino/a voters than any other county.

The data shows various aspects of how Latinos in Gwinnett and Georgia are registered, and how they turn out at the ballot box. The most staggering fact, however, may be that 18 percent of all registered Latino voters in Georgia live in Gwinnett County. That’s more Latino voters in one county than anywhere else in Georgia, according to the data.

In Gwinnett, Latinos voters make up 10.32 percent of the county’s total electorate, according to GALEO Executive Director Jerry Gonzalez said.

“I think it shows the Latino electorate is growing and engaging in Gwinnett County, and I think it shows that elected officials and candidates need to be reaching out,” Gonzalez said

“The Latino electorate continues to grow and engage in the State of Georgia despite the hostile environment of many years of anti-immigrant policies and politics,” the study states. “At 244,190 strong in 2016 and with 25 percent growth rate since the 2012 election, the Latino electorate is poised to continue its growth and influence in future elections in Georgia.”

In Gwinnett, the Latino voter population showed higher turnout rates than the statewide and national Latino electorate. Fifty-seven percent of Gwinnett’s Hispanic electorate came out to vote. Statewide, the Latino voter turnout number was 53.3 percent, and nationwide, it was 47 percent.

Gonzalez said the number of Latino voters in Gwinnett has grown significantly over the last 14 years. In 2003, there were only 800 registered Hispanic voters in the county, he said. Five years later, during the 2008 presidential election cycle, that number was up to 2,500 Latino voters in the county.

In 2012, it was up to 32,600 voters and it went up again, to about 44,600 voters, for last year’s presidential election.

Blount, Georgia, in Monroe County, hosts an impressive collection of railroadiana housed in a replica depot.

New Chatham County Probate Judge Tom Bordeaux and Clerk of Superior Court Tammie Mosley are working to implement process improvements suggested by internal auditors.

Georgia education leaders visited Valdosta State University.

Officials from the Georgia House of Representatives Higher Education Committee, Technical College System of Georgia, Office of the Governor and University System of Georgia recently spent the day discovering the many ways Valdosta State University inspires excellence on campus, in the community, and around the world.

They toured various facilities, including the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Center for Applied Creativity and Innovation, Student Recreation Center, Education Center, Student Union, West Hall and Health Sciences and Business Administration Building, according to a university press release.

Plant Vogtle’s Unit Two nuclear reactor will receive a new form of fuel pellets.

The chromia-doped fuel pellets are part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) Program. Areva NP will begin manufacturing the pellets at its Richland, Wash., facility later this year. Four lead test assemblies featuring chromia additions to the fuel pellets and a chromium coasting to the fuel rod cladding will be loaded into Vogtle Unit 2 in the spring of 2019, according to World Nuclear News, an industry newsletter.

The fuel technology aims to offer reactor operators more time to respond in emergency situations. Chromia-doped fuel pellets have a higher density and help to reduce fission gas release should a reactor lose cooling. The addition of a chromium coating to the fuel’s existing zirconium alloy cladding offers advantages including improved resistance to oxidation at high temperatures, the reduction of hydrogen generation, and resistance to wear, the newsletter stated.

John Williams, nuclear fuel director for Southern Nuclear Operating Company, which operates Vogtle on behalf of Georgia Power and the plant’s other co-owners, told World Nuclear News that advanced technology fuel assemblies would make plants “even safer” and result in more flexible operations. “This game-changing technology is not a small step, but a leap for our industry,” he said.

Whitfield County Republicans heard from City of Refuge about the charity’s local programs.

Slow your roll on Georgia’s highways, as the Peach State joins Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee in “Operation Summer Shield.”

Suwanee City Council is expected to adopt the same property tax millage rate as last year.

Summer School for Politicos

The Republican National Committee is accepting applications for its Campaign Management College in Washington, DC.

Campaign Management College (CMC) is the premier training ground for campaign managers on the right assigned to targeted congressional- and state-level campaigns and senior state party directors. This course is designed to provide comprehensive knowledge of campaign strategies and to simulate the tactical decisions the manager will face in the field. Considered an essential training ground for generations of political talent, the CMC has been modernized to give future managers the tools to be victorious in this hyper-competitive political environment.

Ideal attendees for CMCs are current campaign managers (statewide, congressional or legislative), State Party Executive Directors and Political Directors and individuals with extensive prior campaign experience who are interested in taking the role of a manager.

Topics presented during CMC include, but are not limited to: Voter Data, Media Buying, Fundraising, Digital and Social Media, Message Development, and many more.

Attendees will be responsible for their own travel and lodging expenses. The CMC is located at RNC Headquarters in Washington, DC. Each student is encouraged to bring their own wi-fi-enabled laptop computer.
The cost of the course is $350. Meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) will be provided during the course.

Nanc Bocskor and her eponymous company will hold a Fundraising Workshop in conjunction with New Power PAC on Saturday, July 22, 2017 from 9 AM to 1 PM.

2018 Elections

The Forsyth County Republican Party drew most of the 2018 statewide candidates to their second annual Chill and Grill.

“We absolutely got the entire field here to mobilize and energize the Republican grassroots. It was a fantastic event,” said Justin Hawkins, chairman of the party. “We had over 200 people here, and it’s July 3rd, which is obviously a huge holiday.”

“It shows the energy that is growing with the Forsyth County Republican Party,” he said. “We are becoming a regional powerhouse across the state for two reasons: No. 1, Forsyth County is the most conservative; No. 2, we are one of the most populated counties now in the state.”

“I’ll tell you, with President Trump in the White House, I’ve never been more optimistic about Forsyth County values,” [Congressman Rob] Woodall said. “There is not one bill we can’t pass that the president won’t sign; the only question is can we pass it.”

District 45 state Sen. David Shafer, who serves as the senate’s president pro temp, is seeking the lieutenant governor office and said he would continue fighting for conservative ideals.

“For the last 15 years, I have been the workhorse for conservative ideals in the state Senate,” Shafer said. “I pushed the constitutional amendment to cap the state income tax to make sure Georgia’s income taxes will never be any higher … I served on the conference committee that did away with the state tax on gasoline.”

Lobbyists fueled much of the campaign fundraising disclosed on this month’s campaign disclosure reports, according to the AJC.

The top firms and the special interests they represent have almost exclusively written big checks in recent weeks to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of campaign disclosures filed last week.

Cagle, whom some pundits call the favorite to win the Republican nomination, has taken in more than 10 times as much money from lobbyists and statehouse political action committees as the other GOP candidates combined.

If Cagle has any competition for the lobby money, records show, it is from Georgia Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, R-Duluth, who is running to replace him as lieutenant governor.

Lobbyists who contributed to the candidates say they’re going with the candidates they know, especially in the case of Cagle, who was first elected as lieutenant governor in 2006 and served 12 years in the Georgia Senate before that.

The two biggest fundraisers were Cagle, at $2.7 million collected in a few months, and Kemp, at about $1.7 million.

Cagle’s campaign finance report showed overwhelming support from the statehouse crowd. Hill and Kemp reported contributions from 11 lobbyists or firms between them, totaling about $15,000. Cagle got checks from at least 37, totaling about $109,000, according to the AJC review.


From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

• The Barrow County Republican Party will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Monday at the Winder Woman’s Club, 15 W. Midland Ave., in Winder.

• Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will host a “Coffee With Casey” meet and greet from 8 to 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Gwinnett County Republican Party headquarters at Gwinnett Place Mall. The event is part of Cagle’s campaign for governor. Attendees can talk with Cagle about his plans for leading the state if elected next year.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 14, 2017

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

Happy Birthday to the French, who today celebrate the 225th anniversary of Bastille Day, 14 July 1798, when citizens stormed the Bastille, a prison in Paris.

On July 14, 1798, the Alien and Sedition Act became federal law.

The first three acts took aim at the rights of immigrants. The period of residency required before immigrants could apply for citizenship was extended from five to 14 years, and the president gained the power to detain and deport those he deemed enemies. President Adams never took advantage of his newfound ability to deny rights to immigrants. However, the fourth act, the Sedition Act, was put into practice and became a black mark on the nation’s reputation. In direct violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech, the Sedition Act permitted the prosecution of individuals who voiced or printed what the government deemed to be malicious remarks about the president or government of the United States. Fourteen Republicans, mainly journalists, were prosecuted, and some imprisoned, under the act.

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

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

On July 14, 1864, General Sherman issued Special Field Order 35, outlining the plan for the Battle of Atlanta.

On July 15, 1864, Sherman’s army began crossing the Chattahoochee River and would take the better part of three days to complete the crossing. Georgia Public Broadcasting has a series on Sherman’s Georgia campaign, and you can watch this week’s episode here.

Major General George Stoneman’s cavalry had come to the area south of Atlanta. On July 15, 1864, Stoneman wrote from camp near Villa Rica, Georgia.

As I indicated to you in my last note, we completed the bridge (Moore’s), and were ready to cross at daybreak yesterday morning, but before we essayed it a report came from Major Buck, in command of a battalion seven miles above, that the enemy had been crossing above him on a boat or a bridge, and that his pickets had been cut off.

Colonel Biddle, who was left with his brigade at Campbellton, reports the enemy quite strong at that point, with two guns of long range in each of the two redoubts on the opposite bluff, which are opened upon him whenever any of his men show themselves.

I was very anxious to strike the railroad from personal as well as other considerations, but I became convinced that to attempt it would incur risks inadequate to the results, and unless we could hold the bridge, as well as penetrate into the country, the risk of capture or dispersion, with loss of animals (as I could hear of no ford), was almost certain.

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

On July 15, 1870, Georgia was readmitted to the United States, with the signature by President Ulysses Grant of the “Georgia Bill” by the U.S. Congress.

On July 15, 1948, President Harry Truman was nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago to run for a full term as President of the United States.

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

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

Six Flags Over Georgia opened on June 16, 1967.

On July 14, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination for President at the Democratic National Convention.

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former President Jimmy Carter was hospitalized in Winnipeg, in Manitoba, Canada, after becoming dehydrated at a Habitat for Humanity worksite.

President Donald Trump nominated three Georgians to federal district court judgeships.

Michael Brown of Alston & Bird and Georgia Court of Appeals Judge William “Billy”Ray II are Trump’s picks to fill openings on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Tripp Self is Trump’s choice for the Middle District of Georgia.

Georgia’s U.S. senators cheered the choices in a news release following the White House announcement Thursday.

“The president has nominated three outstanding Georgians, and I look forward to working with them as they go through the confirmation process in the Senate,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, said in the joint release.

“President Trump nominated an impressive and qualified group of individuals to fill the vacant federal judgeships in the Middle and Northern Districts of Georgia,” said Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia. “I look forward to meeting with Mike Brown, William Ray and Tripp Self as they go through the Senate confirmation process.”

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“Judge Billy Ray currently serves as the presiding judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals,” The White House said in its announcement about the nominations. “Prior to his appointment to the Court of Appeals, Judge Ray served for 10 years as a Superior Court judge on the Gwinnett Judicial Circuit.”

Ray has a long career of public service in Georgia. He joined the law firm of Andersen, Davidson and Tate P.C. (now Andersen, Tate and Carr P.C.) in 1990 and became a partner in 1995. He was then elected to represent state Senate District 48 in 1996, serving on the Judiciary, Special Judiciary, Rules, Appropriations, Natural Resources and Transportation Committees, participating on the Governor’s Education Reform Commission from 1999- 2000, and working to get tougher DUI laws passed.

Ray was then appointed to a Gwinnett County Superior Court judgeship in 2002 by then-Gov. Roy Barnes. Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him to the Court of Appeals in 2012.

Ray also helped found the Gwinnett County Drug Treatment Court in 1995, according to his biography on the Court of Appeals website.

Perdue PAC, associated with former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, gave $55,000 to the Georgia Republican Party.

Perdue PAC, a federal fund started a decade ago with money left over from his successful 2006 re-election campaign, donated $55,000 left in the account June 29 to the Georgia Republican Party, according to recently filed campaign disclosures.

The contribution came a few weeks after GOP convention delegates elected Perdue’s former chief of staff, John Watson, to run the party. Watson also served as chairman of Perdue PAC.

Separate GOP funds run by House and Senate leaders and a Republican lobbyist have nearly $2 million banked.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle discussed the idea of a minimum wage for law enforcement officers.

“We are looking for mandatory minimums for our local law enforcement officers. We raised our state troopers [pay]. We’ve got to find a way for local law enforcement to do the same,” Cagle said.

The minimum wage would only affect post-certified officers, Cagle said.

Since troopers got a 20-percent pay hike this year, staffing is a concern for local police and sheriff’s department, according to Chattooga County Sheriff Mark Schrader.

“I’ve got several deputies that are definitely checking into working for the State Patrol,” Sheriff Schrader said. “They could make $15,000 more a year just on the starting salary.”

“We are going to find some ways that are going to help some of our poorer counties that do not have the tax base to compensate officers the way they need to be. We may have to look at doing something like we do with education equalization where the state finds ways to help offset some of the costs that is needed,” Cagle said.

Two Bartow County firefighters were hospitalized after working a fire at Plant Bowen.

Hall County Commissioners voted to move forward in the first phase of building a gun range to serve the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.

Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon delivered the State of the City address.

The Fulton County Board of Elections voted to fine-tune some voting precincts.

Fulton County election board members on Thursday unanimously approved closing, consolidating or moving several polling locations in precincts that are mostly African-American, a decision officials said was meant to streamline how voters cast their ballots on Election Day.
They also said many of the locations had seen Election Day usage decline as the popularity of early voting has surged.

Voting advocates, however, warned that the changes could disenfranchise voters. In a letter to the board, the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law along with several Georgia groups said they believed officials have not fully considered “the significant burden and negative, disparate impact the closure of these polling locations will have on low income and minority voters,” including those who typically walk or take public transportation in order to cast their ballots.

Some Georgians are removing their names from voter lists in fear of a federal election integrity investigation.

Under Georgia law, some voter information is public, such as a voter’s home address, race and gender. Georgia voters do not declare party affiliation, but whether someone voted in a Democratic or Republican primary is publicly available information.

Kemp’s office has said it plans to provide only public voter data, satisfying some of the commission’s request, and only after the commission pays $250 just like everyone else.

Savannah’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen will hold public hearings to discuss the property tax millage rate.

The mayor and aldermen of the city of Savannah have tentatively adopted a millage rate which will require an increase in property taxes by 3.810 percent over the rollback millage rate. The 3.810 percent increase over the rollback millage rate will maintain the current 12.48 mills, which was tentatively adopted on December 22, 2016.

The proposed millage rate of 12.48 mills is the lowest millage rate in the City of Savannah since 1987, and represents a 29 percent reduction over the past two decades.

When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred. The proposed millage rate of 12.48 mills is an increase of .458 mills over the rollback millage rate of 12.022 mills. The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $125,000 is approximately $22.90 and the proposed tax increase for a non-homestead property with a fair market value of $550,000 is approximately $100.76


Georgia healthcare leaders are looking at how the newest U.S. Senate health care bill will effect the state.

For rural hospitals, the latest revision of the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, an advocate said; one for patient care called it destabilizing. A signal issue for them remained the fundamental scaling back of Medicaid that the Senate Republicans would do.

But for taxpayers and insurance customers, it’s an even better step toward consumer choice and market efficiency, said Kelly McCutchen of the libertarian-leaning Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, with backing from his colleague David Perdue, scored a bargaining win with a funding formula for indigent care hospitals that is now included in the newest bill. The formula will now be more friendly to states such as Georgia that didn’t expand Medicaid. And the amendment in the bill to ease requirements on what plans insurance companies can sell is a longtime conservative goal.

Of high concern for Isakson, Perdue and Gov. Nathan Deal in recent months has been ensuring that Georgia, which did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, was not at a significant disadvantage in the Senate bill compared with the 31 states that did.

Isakson aimed to do that in part by securing more money for charity hospitals such as Grady Memorial Hospital, which take on a greater share of uninsured patients. After the first Senate GOP bill screeched to a halt, Isakson asked McConnell to change the way Medicaid funds Grady and other safety-net hospitals through its Disproportionate Share Hospitals program.

Isakson said he felt like some of his concerns were addressed in the new Senate bill.

“I worked hard to see that the distribution formula was more equitable for” those hospitals, Isakson told reporters Thursday. The new bill “is going to make the formula of reimbursement to disproportionate share hospitals more equitable than it would have been under the Affordable Care Act. And I think hospitals like Grady and others will feel like it’s a much fairer treatment.”

[S]tate Sen. Renee Unterman, a Republican from Buford who has taken up the issue as chairwoman of the state Senate’s health committee, was pleased.

She touted the inclusion of $45 billion over 10 years for opioid addiction treatment, also mentioning the provisions that protected HSAs.

“We are moving the dial,” she said. “I think it’s an improvement.”

Grady Memorial Hospital became the second nationally-certified Level I trauma center in Georgia.

“Verified trauma centers must meet the high standards set by the ACS for trauma care capabilities and institutional performance. Our success at achieving verification validates what we have known for some time – Grady’s trauma care is second to none,” said Dr. Peter Rhee, Chief of Acute Care Surgery and Medical Director for Grady’s Marcus Trauma Center.  “As a nationally-recognized ACS Level I trauma center, our patients and families know we provide the highest levels of care.”

“It was not enough for us to be designated a Level I Trauma Center. Seeking verification from a national body and attaining it adds a standard of excellence for trauma care so there is no question about it, we are equipped and ready for any kind of trauma that enters our doors,” said Liz Atkins, Trauma Program Director.

Grady Memorial also is working to raise $165 to expand its Downtown Atlanta campus and AIDS Treatment Center.

Navicent Health Hospital received a national award for stroke care.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon has a new Commander, Col. David E. Ristedt.

2018 Elections

The Republican Governors Association posted record fundraising numbers for the first half of 2017.

The Republican Governors Association announced Tuesday it hauled in a record-high $36 million in the first six months of the year.

The GOP group’s previous record was $23.5 million in the first half of 2013. An RGA spokesman said the new record puts conservatives in a position to win re-election bids and defeat Democratic governors with a new era of Republican leaders.

“The RGA’s record fundraising is the direct result of the hard work and meaningful reform accomplished by every Republican governor,” RGA Chairman Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said in a statement.

“Republican governors are America’s doers – they are expanding opportunity, driving job creation, reining in wasteful spending and making government more efficient. With this fundraising success, the RGA is in prime position to re-elect our incumbents and elect even more Republican governors this cycle.”

The Republican Governors Association is headed by Executive Director Paul Bennecke, a Georgian.

Senator Michael Williams held a press conference yesterday. Let me know how you think it went.

From the AJC Political team:

Republican Michael Williams vowed his press conference at the Georgia statehouse would release a trove of new and “corroborating” details about the front-runner in the race for governor. Instead, he used the event to blast Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle with no proof to back his claims up.

With a handful of reporters and a few supporters watching on, the state senator accused Cagle of thwarting his proposal to boost pay for police. And he again asserted that Cagle and his allies offered him a plum position to drop his campaign.

Pressed after his roughly 7-minute speech about delivering the promised evidence, Williams came up empty.

At one point, he said the fact that he could only convince two other GOP senators to co-sponsor his police-pay legislation was proof of Cagle’s interference, saying he based that on “comments they made to me.” He would say nothing else.

When asked for verifiable details about his claim that he was offered a powerful committee chairmanship to back out of the governor’s race, he repeatedly refused comment.

After the event, as Williams quickly disappeared and head-shaking staffers returned to their offices, state Sen. Renee Unterman stayed behind. In unsparing terms, she accused Williams of running a “fraudulent” campaign and of playing bait-and-switch with overhyped promises.

“He wants to lead the voters on and the media on,” said Unterman, who backs Cagle. “It’s fluff. And it’s not very good fluff.”

And from 11Alive’s Doug Richards:

Georgia’s 2018 race for governor got a curious public start today when a state senator held an event in which he promised to expose what he called “the reprehensible behavior” of another candidate. It ended up raising at least as many questions as it answered.

The race to become the Republican nominee to replace Governor Nathan Deal includes four candidates. Thursday’s event involved the one who has raised the least amount of money trying to take down the one who has raised the most.

Williams went on to blame Cagle for tanking two bills Williams sponsored – and to renew an old charge that an unnamed Cagle operative tried to bribe him to get out of the governor’s race.

Williams was asked four times to name the operative. Williams declined.

“He knows he is last probably in a field of four,” said state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), a Cagle backer who watched Williams’ performance.

“And then you don’t bring out the facts. They don’t appear! And I think it’s because it’s not true,” Unterman said.

Williams has raised a bare fraction of the campaign money Casey Cagle has. And it was Williams who called on Cagle to withdraw from the race.

Former Georgia politico Rob Simms, who was General Consultant for Karen Handel’s congressional campaign, and his business partner Mike Shields, penned “Seven Winning Lessons for Republicans for 2018.”

Lesson #1: Republicans need every part of the Republican coalition to win elections — including, and sometimes especially, those voters who supported President Trump in 2016. Karen Handel invited the President and the vice president to the district and they both came down to appear at fundraisers. They also recorded get-out-the vote calls for her.

Don’t play a game of trying to distance yourself from the President. Regardless of what commentators say on TV, this is not a winning strategy. You do not gain any new votes, and you alienate yourself from voters who are inclined to vote for you. Further, you invite endless questions about your “distance” rather than the issues you want to talk about. The fact is, President Trump is simply his own brand, and the idea that you can successfully turn a Republican member or candidate “into” President Trump was a strategy that Democrats tried in dozens of campaigns in 2016. It failed badly then, and it just failed again in Georgia.

Lesson #7: Politics is a team sport, but candidates matter the most. Karen Handel is one of the hardest working, most disciplined candidates we have ever worked with. Under tremendous pressure, she set the messaging for the race and performed magnificently in debates and on the stump. In addition to providing accurate data, the RNC spent millions of dollars on an effective ground game operation. The NRCC also deserves a tremendous amount of credit for investing in the race during the primary; they helped drive Republican turnout and ensured that Ossoff did not reach 50% and win the race outright in the first round. Our outside allies like the Congressional Leadership Fund, Ending Spending, America First Policies and the US Chamber of Commerce all did a great job too.

But if you don’t have a leader like Karen Handel, no amount of outside help is going to matter. Just ask the outside groups that spent millions on Jon Ossoff.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 13, 2017

On July 13, 1787, Congress enacted the Northwest Ordinance, in which states ceded some claims to the west, and a process was set up for admitting new states.

On July 13, 1865, James Johnson as provisional Governor of Georgia, issued a proclamation freeing slaves and calling an election in October of that year to elect delegates to a state Consitutional Convention. Johnson had previously opposed Georgia’s secession and after the war was appointed Governor by President Andrew Johnson.

Savannah, Georgia-born John C. Fremont, who was the first Presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 1856, died in New York City on July 13, 1890.

Erratum: an eagle-eyed reader noted that yesterday’s history section left something important out. Marine Corps Lt. Frank Reasoner was the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in connection with the war in Vietnam, not the first Marine ever to be awarded the MOH.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal appointed a committee to investigate an incident with Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman and make recommendations.

The United States Senate will delay its August recess.

Shortly after eight rank-and-file Republican senators urged postponing the recess to focus on the GOP agenda, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the break would start two weeks later than originally scheduled.

“In order to provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle, the Senate will delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August,” McConnell said in a statement.

McConnell’s announcement followed calls from within the Republican conference for such a delay led by Sen. David Perdue. The Georgia senator discussed the matter with President Donald Trump at the outset of the July Fourth break. Perdue and seven other Republicans held a news conference Tuesday to tout their effort ahead of McConnell’s announcement.

Muscogee County election officials addressed the issue of letters sent to voters warning that they could be placed on “inactive” status.

in [odd-numbered] years Georgia routinely compares postal service records to voter registrations to determine whether voters have moved, said Nancy Boren, executive director of the Muscogee Board of Elections and Registrations.

So the elections office recently mailed out notices to those who either have changed their mailing addresses or had their mail forwarded, asking them to fill out a form and send it back, so election workers can update their records.

Normally those notices would have been mailed out much earlier in an odd year, but this year was even odder in that Georgia held a special election to fill the congressional seat Tom Price left vacant to take a position with the Trump administration. So the state had to wait until that was over to start updating county voter rolls, Boren said.

The state ships the confirmation notices to county elections offices, which then mail them out. Voters are getting them now.

If they only had their mail forwarded to another address temporarily and have not moved away, they are asked to fill out the form to confirm that, and nothing will change. If they have moved to another address within Muscogee County, they should fill out the mailer with their new address, and the elections office will change their registration to reflect that.

If they do not reply, their names will be moved from the county’s list of “active” voters to the list of “inactive” ones. This does not mean they can’t vote: They’re still eligible, but if they don’t vote in one of the two subsequent general elections or conduct some business with the elections office that shows they’re still engaged, their names will be deleted, so it’s preferable to return the mailer now, rather than risk becoming ineligible.

The Valdosta Daily Times editorial board opines that state legislators should develop a way to allow in-state sources for medical cannabis.

It was right for state lawmakers to make it easier to obtain medical cannabis in Georgia for patients who can find no other effective treatment for their conditions, and there should be no reason for patients or providers to have to conceal their actions.

Selling, using and even cultivating controlled medical marijuana in Georgia has nothing to do with fostering a drug culture and incubating an environment for illegal behavior.

We support the efforts of Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, to make legally restricted cultivation possible in Georgia.

Regulated medical cannabis is not a gateway drug and will not lead to illegal drug use and abuse.

The only real way to make treatment more readily available is a change in federal law.

When the U.S. Congress made marijuana a Schedule I, illegal, drug in 1970, it said cannabis had no accepted medical use. The medical community now knows that is not true.

When state lawmakers legalized the possession and use of the low-level oils, without allowing cultivation and manufacturing, they effectively created a black market that may be lucrative for suppliers but forces families seeking relief for a suffering child to run afoul of the law.

It is time for legal in-state cultivation.

Sonny Perdue, former Georgia Governor now serving as Secretary of Agriculture differs on medical cannabis.

It is currently illegal to grow marijuana in Georgia for any reason. And Perdue indicated Wednesday that he thinks it ought to stay that way. “I think it’s against federal law,” he said when asked his view on a pending resolution to allow cultivation for medical marijuana.

Patients using medical marijuana may legally possess and use it in Georgia, but can’t legally obtain it in-state — and trafficking it from out of state violates federal law. Asked about changing the federal approach to it, Perdue answered “The fact is I think it’s a very slippery slope how you enforce.”

“As governor, I was always aware of the federal supremacy law, which meant that federal law preempted state law when when it spoke,” Perdue added.

The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office will offer free firearms safety classes on upcoming Saturdays, while the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office will host an already sold-out womens-only class.

Marietta City Council adopted twelve-year term limits for Mayor and City Council members.

In February, the council sent a measure to the state Legislature containing language for a term limit bill.

That came months after over 80 percent of Marietta voters came out in favor of term limits during the November election.

State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, proposed a bill, but was unable to obtain the minimum number of signatures needed by representatives in the Cobb Legislative Delegation for it to move forward.

After that, Mayor Steve Tumlin and Haynie moved to enact term limits without going through the state, invoking the right of local rule.

Muscogee County Board of Education members voted to lawyer-up to deal with accreditation issues.

Savannah-Chatham police hired Daniel Kelin as their first Intelligence Commander.

“My main focus and mission here is to provide officers on the ground and our decision makers on both the law enforcement and civilian side with the best, most accurate, timely intelligence information possible so they can remain progressive and proactive in their duties,” Kelin said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Kelin’s position is a new one, but metro’s intelligence department, the Savannah Area Regional Intelligence Center, has been around since 2007.

The group’s main goal is to provide information about short- and long-term crime patterns and trends, and to assist in daily investigative efforts, according to the department’s website.

Chatham County Commissioners are considering levying a one-time fee of $131 for yard waste removal on owners of single-family residential properties.

The fee, which will be levied on top of the annual dry trash fee of $43, would bring the total cost for the weekly removal of tree branches, limbs, brush and other clippings to $174. It is meant to help the county replenish the reserve fund in its solid waste account, which according to agenda documents, was all but drained after the arrival of two tropical storms last fall.

In a memo to the commission attached to the agenda for Friday’s meeting, Chatham County Finance Director Amy Davis said the cost to remove debris from the unincorporated areas of the county after Hurricane Matthew in October was more than $30 million when all was said and done. After reimbursements from the state and federal emergency management agencies, the county was required to pay about $4 million for the storm debris cleanup.

In addition, Davis wrote, it cost the county another $600,000 to clean up after Tropical Storm Hermine the month prior.

“These two storms effectively eliminated the fund balances in Solid Waste,” Davis wrote in her memo. “The implementation of a Solid Waste Fee of $131 has been calculated to restore the fund balance in the Solid Waste Fund.”

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners are working to set a final list of projects to be funded by a SPLOST renewal.

With a list of recommendations from a citizens advisory committee as a starting point, commissioners are working toward an Aug. 1 meeting where they will set the final list of projects that would be funded if voters approve a 1 percent Transportation-Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in a November referendum.

Third Infantry Division attack helicopter operators are training at Fort Stewart for the transition to laser-guided rocket systems.

Savannah officials will monitor water quality as an upstream turpentine plant comes online.


Mosquitoes carring the West Nile virus have been identified in southeast Chatham County.

Eastside Medical Center in Gwinnett County announced a partnership with Navigate Recovery Gwinnett’s LIFELINE program to provide addiction recovery services.

Now, peer recovery coaches from Navigate Recovery Gwinnett’s LIFELINE program will be available to anybody suffering from addiction who seek treatment from Eastside emergency rooms.

“LIFELINE connects with people who have overdosed, or those who are at high risk for overdose and their families with Peer to Peer Recovery Support Coaches, every day,” according to a press release. “Peer recovery support services like LIFELINE have been highly effective in combating the opioid crisis in other parts of the country.”

“We are pleased to partner with Navigate Recovery to assist individuals in their journey to long term recovery,” said Eastside Medical Center’s Vice President of Behavioral Health Services Margaret Collier. “As Healthcare professionals, we recognize the great need for this service. By collaborating with our community, we feel that we will be able to make a significant impact on this crisis.”

Former Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-11) is urging Republican Senators to rethink their approach to repealing Obamacare.

If this were an operating room instead of a legislative chamber, I’d be calling “Code Blue” for a Senate health care bill. Like every doctor, however, I’ve seen even the most critically ill patients revive, survive and even thrive.

Recovery begins when all sides — not just conservative and moderate Republicans, but Democrats as well — come together to create a transparent process with a willingness to examine the best ideas, regardless of their provenance.

We should all recognize that the dominant health care policy and program we are living under today is not the ACA, but uncertainty. Insurance providers, troubled by the uncertainty of the future of cost-sharing subsidies and the future insurance market generally, are pulling out of ACA exchanges in state after state.

The polls show, however, that most Americans see the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the House Republicans as an unacceptable replacement.

While complete repeal and replacement may have made sense in 2010 —when the GOP first took back control of the Congress and the ACA was not yet implemented— too much time has passed and too much of our nation’s health care infrastructure has been altered to get all the toothpaste back into the tube. A solution today should focus on keeping what works, fixing what is broken and tweaking the areas that need refinement and revision. Perhaps a more accurate name than “repeal and replace” would be “retain/repair/revise.”

Health care will soon consume almost one-fifth of the economy. It is a life-or-death issue for individuals and our nation. If Congress takes more time, engages in more compromise and avoids the high risk of “fast but wrong,” it will be well worth it — even if it means enduring the long, humid days of Washington in August.

Eight Georgia hospital organizations were recognized as among the “most wired” in the nation.

In the list of more than 300 hospitals and hospital systems, Atlanta’s Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Grady Memorial Hospital and the Piedmont Healthcare System (seven hospitals) all made the list.

Marietta’s WellStar Health System, which consists of 10 hospitals, was also recognized among the country’s “most wired,” according to H&HN’s searchable database.

Other Georgia hospitals or hospital systems recognized include Navicent Health in Macon, Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Union General Hospital, Inc. in Blairsville and West Georgia Health in Lagrange.

Navicent Health and its three hospitals also earned the “Most Wired Advanced” award, while Union General’s two earned awards for most improved.

Atlanta Magazine writes about the reduced options for maternity healthcare in Georgia.

Joy Baker’s patients travel 40 miles on average to see her. Some pull up in their own cars, but if they’re too poor to own one, they might hitch rides with friends or on the Medicaid van, which must be scheduled three days in advance and also can run early or late.

She’s one of only two OB/GYNs in a swath of rural Georgia that spans eight counties and 2,714 square miles. Baker works out of the Upson Regional Medical Center in Thomaston, about halfway between Macon and Columbus. We hear a lot about safety net hospitals, but Baker is a safety net doctor. Half of Georgia’s 159 counties—79, to be precise—do not have a single obstetric provider. Rural hospitals are closing. In Georgia a pregnant woman has a greater chance of dying before she delivers, or in the weeks after, than in any other state in America. So Baker’s practice here in Upson County, where nearly a quarter of the residents live below the poverty line, represents a kind of miracle—but a precarious one.

Upson’s struggle to recruit a new OB/GYN is representative of that faced by rural hospitals across the country. As more and more Americans shun economically depressed small towns in search of greater opportunity in cities, it has become harder to convince doctors—no matter what their specialty—to go into rural communities.

“When I came here in 1981, there were six mills open and thousands of people working there,” [Dr. Hugh] Smith says. “After the last mill closed, most of those patients ended up on Medicaid, and we lost nearly all of our third party payer insurance.” (It’s estimated that 80 percent of patients in south Georgia are insured through Medicaid, compared to just 10 percent in north metro Atlanta.) Because Medicaid typically pays providers much less than do private insurers, the financial implications were considerable.

Many of the state’s hospitals have had to make tougher choices. Between 1994 and 2015, more than 30 labor and delivery units have closed in Georgia. “When you have a rural hospital that’s already struggling financially, if they have to choose one thing to go, it’s often labor and delivery,” says Dr. Adrienne Zertuche, an OB/GYN and the president of Georgia Maternal and Infant Health Research Group. Even that’s not always enough to keep hospitals in business. Since 2010 eight rural Georgia hospitals have shut down completely. As the providers attached to those hospitals or delivery units have scattered, wide swaths of rural Georgia have turned into maternal healthcare deserts. By 2020 it’s estimated that 75 percent of rural primary care service areas will lack adequate obstetrics care.

St. Francis Hospital in Columbus will layoff 55 employees and reduce hours for others.

St. Francis has operated at a financial loss since at least 2014, Koontz said. The loss in 2016 was not as large as the previous two years prior to LifePoint ownership, Koontz said. He declined to state the amount of the losses, only saying they “were in the tens of millions of dollars.”

Since its inception, St. Francis had operated as a nonprofit corporation. That changed when LifePoint, a public company, purchased the hospital. LifePoint trades on Nasdaq and closed Tuesday at $64.85 per share, down 80 cents.

When St. Francis shifted to for-profit ownership, the hospital was subject to additional taxes, including property taxes. In 2016, the hospital paid about $6 million in property, sales and professional taxes, Koontz said.

St. Francis opened 65 years ago as the result of a community-based fundraising effort as a 154-bed hospital. The hospital averages more than 300 patients in beds per day, Koontz said.

2018 Campaigns

State Senator Michael Williams will hold a “press conference regarding reprehensible actions of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle at the State Capitol.”

State Senator and Republican candidate for Governor, Michael Williams, will make a statement regarding previously undisclosed actions of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. The actions and corroborating details will be presented at the press conference.

Thursday, July 13, 2017
2:00 PM (please arrive 15 minutes prior for seating)

Georgia State Capitol
South Wing Stairs (interior)
206 Washington St SW
Atlanta, GA 30334

Senator David Shafer has another endorsement: former Congressman John Linder.

Linder, first elected to Congress in 1992, became one of House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s top lieutenants. He retired in 2011 and now lives near Athens. Shafer, the president pro tem of the Senate, describes Linder as “one of the pioneering leaders of the Republican party in Georgia.” Said Linder, via the press release:

“David Shafer has been a champion of fiscal reform under the Gold Dome. He authored the constitutional amendment capping the state income tax and the bill that brought back zero-based budgeting.  He has always supported the Fair Tax.”

Linder’s FAIRPAC has contributed $2,500 to Shafer’s campaign.

The Flagpole in Athens adds some information on the nascent race for House District 117, currently held by State Rep. Regina Quick.

Quick is not running for re-election and signed off on Gaines’ announcement, according to one of his campaign advisors, Brian Robinson, a former spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal.

She is widely rumored to be Deal’s pick to replace the retiring Superior Court Judge David Sweat. If she is appointed, she will have to resign her House seat, and a special election will be held. If not, the primary will be in May 2018, with the general election the following November.

Smooth (Job) Moves

Georgia Republican Party Chair John Watson named Carmen Foskey as the new Executive Director and Leigh Ann Gillis as Finance Director for the state party.

Jason Lawrence will serve as the new Chief of Staff for Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton).

Jason Lawrence had worked as a federal liaison to the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA’s lobbying arm, since 2015. The NRA gave Scott, a lifetime member of the advocacy group, a 93 percent rating last year for his positions on gun issues.

Before moving to the NRA, Lawrence worked for Austin and a series of other Georgia Republicans: retired Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, Rep. Tom Graves and retired Sen. Saxby Chambliss.