Category: Georgia Politics


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

Georgia and American History

Georgia’s trustees asked Britain to repeal the law against importing slaves to the colonies on May 17, 1749.

On May 17, 1769, George Washington introduced resolutions in the Virginia House of Burgesses, drafted by George Mason, criticizing Britain’s “taxation without representation” policies toward the colonies.

George Washington continued his tour of Georgia on May 17, 1791, staying overnight in Waynesboro; on May 18 he arrived in Augusta.

General Winfield Scott issued an order on the removal of Cherokee people from Georgia on May 17, 1838.

On May 17, 1864, Sherman and Johnston engaged in the Battle of Adairsville, Georgia.

The United States Supreme Court released its unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education on May 17, 1954, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson.

The historic decision, which brought an end to federal tolerance of racial segregation, specifically dealt with Linda Brown, a young African American girl who had been denied admission to her local elementary school in Topeka, Kansas, because of the color of her skin.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Dr. Kay Kirkpatrick (R) was elected to the Georgia State Senate from the 32d District with 56.98% of votes cast; Democrat Christine Triebsch took 43.02%.

Speaking to the MDJ before the final results were tallied, Kirkpatrick said her campaign’s biggest strength has been its organization.

“I think that I’ve run a very organized and positive campaign, and we’ve done all of the things that we’ve needed to do as far as grassroots efforts and getting name recognition and getting the word out,” she said. “I also think I’ve had a pretty positive message, and I’ve tried to stay on that positive message throughout.”

Also speaking before the final results, Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint said a Kirkpatrick win would not be unexpected because of District 32’s history of going red.

“That’s the kind of situation sort of like the 6th (Congressional District) where Democrats normally can’t compete in an election,” Swint said. “Also similar to the 6th, you have a special election where you have all the candidates on the same ballot, so I think that the nature of special election offered an opportunity for Democrats to be more competitive than normal.”

From Kristina Torres at the AJC:

Turnout hovered above 20 percent among eligible voters. The outcome appeared to confirm Kirkpatrick’s belief that dedicated GOP supporters would show up at the polls and Republicans will see it as an encouraging sign for the 6th District race.

“This is a fairly good indicator for Karen Handel that Cobb County’s Republican base is still energized to vote for Republicans,” said Brian Robinson, a Republican strategist and former aide to Gov. Nathan Deal, referring to his party’s congressional candidate who has been locked in a battle with Democrat Jon Ossoff. “As I said to Republican leaders in this state, I wasn’t concerned that Dr. Kirkpatrick wouldn’t win. I was concerned that an overly close showing would really throw gas on the fire for Ossoff. But this wasn’t competitive.”

Gov. Nathan Deal issued a new Executive Order updating the earlier order naming a committee to investigate allegations against DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann. From the AJC:

Deal’s new order addresses concerns raised by Mann’s attorney, who said last week the alleged city ordinance violations by Mann don’t amount to criminal charges. Deal had cited criminal charges as the justification for appointing an investigative committee.

The updated executive order broadens the investigative committee’s scope to include other purposes allowed by state law. Besides criminal charges, the committee will also look into alleged misconduct in office or alleged incapacity to perform the functions of office.

The committee must report its findings within 30 days and, based on its findings, Mann could be suspended for up to 90 days.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says the state’s first death from “Grey Death” overdose occurred in Brookhaven.

Gray death is a deadly combination of heroin and fentanyl, but it’s much more potent than either drug on its own.

The GBI crime lab tested the drugs found at the scene. They contained heroin, furanyl fentanyl and cocaine, which is one of the many formulations of gray death. GBI crime lab supervisor Deneen Kilcrease labeled the drug “gray death” earlier this year, and the name is now used worldwide.

“It’s the only gray drug that I’ve ever seen and when I heard what components were it it, I didn’t see how anyone can survive it,” she said.

GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said that although Camp’s death is the first confirmed from gray death, she believes there could be more.

“You believe there are many more where the lab work is not complete?”Winne asked.

“Absolutely. At the rate we’re going with these samples that come in, absolutely,” Miles said.

The United States Supreme Court released a schedule in the lawsuit between Georgia and Florida over waterflows.

The court agreed to Florida’s request to extend deadlines for responses to a report by the special master. The last deadline is Aug. 30, which is well after the court typically concludes its session in late June or early July. The court convenes, by statute, on Oct. 1.

The Georgia Public Service Commission approved a $200 million dollar solar project covering hundreds of acres near Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins.

The array would go online in 2019 and would generate 139 megawatts of electricity. Georgia Power will spend $200 million to build the facility.

He said the project will help Robins meet its goal for alternative energy. It is the company’s sixth solar facility connected to a military base, and McKenzie said it will be “by far” the largest. While it will provide power to the overall power grid, during times of grid outage it will be able to directly power the base, McKenzie said.

The project will be built on about 870 acres purchased to reduce housing in a zone north of the base considered at risk for aircraft crashes and excessive noise, referred to as the encroachment zone.

The Houston County school system says that students who take CBD oil for medical reasons cannot do so on school property due to a conflict between state and federal laws.

The oil, derived from the cannabis plant, wasn’t a problem for administrators at First Presbyterian Day School, a private school in Macon. But the rules are different at public schools, the Harrises learned during a recent transfer process to Houston County.

“I told them about it, you know, ‘He takes (the) oil for his seizures … , and that’s when they went into a panic, like, ‘We don’t know what to do about this,’” Curtis Harris said of Houston County school officials. “They called the head state nurse, and the head state nurse told him that he can’t even have it on campus.”

Beth McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the Houston County school district, said the school can’t administer — or even store — CJ’s medicine.

“By law, the only person whose name is on the registration card issued by the Department of Public Health for cannabis oil may store the oil,” she said in an emailed statement to The Telegraph. “In addition, per the Safe and Drug Free Schools federal law, the oil may not be

[State Rep. Allen] Peake said the Harrises aren’t alone.

“Stories like this are happening and will be happening all over our state as the medical cannabis law continues to expand,” he said, adding that protocols have been developed for how to administer other prescription drugs.

He added, “I’m looking for education administration officials to show some courage and do what’s in the best interest of students.”

The Gwinnett County Medical Examiner opened a new facility yesterday.

The new facility has 15,000 square feet of space and brings the morgue and medical examiner’s office together under one roof.

“I’ve heard that some have questioned why such a facility as this was needed,” [Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Carol] Terry said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Anybody who would ask that question obviously never visited the old morgue. Anyone who saw the old morgue would realize it was better suited to be a staging area for some movie from the ‘Saw’ franchise.…”

The new $5.7 million facility includes three state-of-the-art autopsy stations, as well as a lab where Terry’s staff can process and store evidence. It has a family conference room and outdoor respite area and office space for Terry, her medical and administrative staff and investigators.

The facility was built with funding from the 2014 SPLOST.

Floyd County will converts its old animal shelter into the county’s first morgue.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved the demolition of the 1996 Olympic tennis venue in Stone Mountain.

The goal is to tear down the center and then seek proposals for developers on how to redevelop the site, possibly in a mixed-use capacity. Commissioners said the center is in a severe state of disrepair, and would be far too costly to rebuild.

“It does two things,” Commissioner Lynette Howard said of the stadium. “It hinders people’s creativity, but most importantly, it’s a huge liability with people breaking in and going in and shooting videos of themselves doing all sorts of crazy things in there. Somebody is going to get hurt.”

Eventually, the stadium site — after the stadium is demolished and redevelopment proposals are received — will be turned over to private developers to build something on the land. That will put it back on the public tax rolls for the first time in decades, but it will also provide an opportunity for redevelopment in that area.

Gainesville City Board of Education approved a 2018 budget that keeps the millage rate unchanged and will raise taxes for some property owners whose valuations have increased.

The Whitfield County Board of Education proposed 2018 budget increases pay for teachers and uses money from reserves to make up the difference.

Columbia County Commissioners voted to restructure their Emergency Management Service Division.

Chatham Area Transit board members unanimously adopted a FY2018 budget and asked Chatham County Commissioners to raise property taxes by .15 mills to cover increases.

Carroll County’s Board of Education proposed a FY2018 budget that includes teacher raises and new school buses.

The Houston County Board of Education tentatively adopted a FY2018 budget with teacher pay raises.

“Each teacher will get a 2% increase on their state based portion of their salary, as well as their local salary supplement will be increased 2%,” [Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Business Operations Stephen] Thublin said.

Starting salary is just over $34,427 for a teacher, plus an additional $3,150 in local supplement that Houston provides. Those numbers increase with years of service.

“The majority of our teachers will earn a step increase because of their years of service,” Thublin said. “They will also get an increase for that step increase. For a lot of them, it will be a 3 ½% to 4 ½% increase.”

The Clarke County Board of Education will issue $60 milion dollars worth of bonds for school construction.

The school board, like many other school districts, borrows bond money in anticipation of collections of a special voter-approved 1 percent sales tax dedicated to construction and infrastructure projects. It pays the money out as sales tax collections come in from the state.

The tax is expected to yield at least $112 million over five years.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson proposed eliminating a city subsidy to Uptown Columbus, the organization redeveloping downtown Columbus.

2018 Elections

Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus is supporting Senator David Shafer for Lieutenant Governor in the 2018 election.

“For more than 15 years, David Shafer has served the people of Georgia in the Georgia State Senate,” Marcus said in a statement. “I am proud to endorse him for lieutenant governor because he understands the importance of job creation and growth to the success of our great state.”

The backing of Marcus, now a billionaire philanthropist whose name is well known in Georgia, is a big eye-catching win for Shafer. Colleagues had already said as recently as early April that several state lawmakers had been encouraging Shafer to run for the seat.

“Bernie Marcus is one of Georgia’s greatest business and civic leaders and one of America’s greatest job creators,” Shafer said in a statement. “I am proud to have his support. As lieutenant governor, I will be committed to doing everything in power to create and maintain a business environment that encourages job creation.”

Stacey Abrams, the Georgia State House Democratic Leader who is considering running for Governor in 2018, will deliver the keynote address to the Georgia Gwinnett College graduation on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Abrams was quoted in The New York Times calling Republicans “Fascists.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 16, 2017

Button Gwinnett v Lachlan McIntosh

Button Gwinnett and Lachlan McIntosh met outside Savannah on May 16, 1777 and fought a duel; Gwinnett was mortally wounded.

Gwinnett returned to Georgia immediately after signing the [Declaration of Independence] to find city Whig Lachlan McIntosh commanding Georgia’s nascent military efforts. Determined to take control of Georgia politics, Gwinnett became speaker of the legislature, guided the Georgia Constitution of 1777 into existence and took over as governor when Archibald Bulloch died suddenly in office.

Gwinnett then wanted to lead an expedition to secure Georgia’s border with Florida. A dispute between McIntosh and Gwinnett over who would command the effort ultimately led to their duel and Gwinnett’s death.

A Constitutional Convention met on May 16, 1795 in the capital of Louisville to amend the Georgia Constitution of 1789

The United States Senate voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson of 11 Articles of Impeachment passed by the House of Representatives on May 16, 1868.

The North Georgia Electric Company was incorporated on May 16, 1901 to build a hydroelectric dam on the Chattahoochee River near Gainesville; in 1916, it would be bought by the company that today is known as Georgia Power.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Senate District 32 voters go to the polls today in a Special Runoff Election.

Democrat Christine Triebsch faces off against Republican Kay Kirkpatrick in the race to replace former state Sen. Judson Hill.

The district covers much of east Cobb County and parts of north Fulton County.

“The runoff in state Senate District 32 is tomorrow, not June 20, 2017 when Karen Handel faces Jon Ossoff in the highly publicized 6th Congressional District runoff,” Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a statement Monday. “Although the dates can be confusing, I am encouraging all eligible voters to go to the polls and ensure their voice is heard in both of these contests.”

Voters are encouraged to check the Secretary of State’s ‘My Voter Page’ at the Secretary of State’s official website to determine if they are eligible to vote in Tuesday’s runoff. At that page, voters may check their registration status, view a sample ballot and find their polling location. On Tuesday, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

President Donald Trump met Blaiklyn Freeman, daughter of a Bibb County Sheriff’s Deputy who was killed in a crash while on duty.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan rallied with Karen Handel yesterday in the Sixth District.

“There are be-ers and there are do-ers,” he said, comparing District 6 U.S. House of Representatives candidates Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, and Karen Handel, a Republican, respectively. “The be-er is someone who wants to be somebody. It’s someone who wants to parachute into a Congressional district he doesn’t even live in, to try and fool you to think he thinks like you and shares your values. The do-er is someone who actually lives, eats, sleeps, breathes the principles you share, somebody who believes in specific principles and then goes and affects those principles. Someone who actually does what she says and is from where she says she’s from, Karen Handel.”

“This is going to be a dogfight. … This is going to be the most expensive Congressional election in history,” Sandy Springs Mayor Paul said. “But it’s not going to come down to money. It’s going to come down to the crew that works the hardest.”

Said Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, “Out in California, they say it’s a referendum. They’re right. It’s a referendum of who represents the Sixth District of Georgia and has positive values and does not represent California or Manhattan.”

“I don’t want to wake up on June 21 and have a new Congressman named Peloisioff,” he said, referring to Ossoff’s support from U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes about the issue of health care reform in the 6th District election.

Handel hopes to fire up the Republican base by embracing the House GOP’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and her side-by-side appearance with Ryan — the proposal’s chief architect — further highlighted her support for the plan.

Ossoff has called the measure a dangerous partisan attempt to roll back insurance protections.

“I’m speaking my mind on an issue that affects thousands of families here in Georgia,” [Ossoff] said in a recent interview. “Folks who are elected have an obligation to put politics aside and do what’s right for the community here. Throwing folks off their health insurance, denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions — it’s just wrong.”

Several of Handel’s supporters at the rally on Monday said they were just as energized by her promise to vote for legislation that would roll back the Affordable Care Act.

“Obamacare is failing, and I can tell you it’s really hindered our ability to provide health care,” said Marci McCarthy, the Brookhaven owner of a marketing firm. “The new House plan still needs refining. It needs work. But I have faith that when the Senate gets their hands on it and finesses it, we are going to have great health care.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville) convened the state Senate Health Care Reform Task Force yesterday to discuss federal changes.

Cagle hopes his task force can help Georgia benefit from, or even shape, whatever Congress eventually passes. And on the front lines, U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue are already outlining their positions. They spoke to the AJC last week.

The takeaways: All three are Republican, and all three say they’re for repealing and replacing Obamacare. But all say the U.S. House version needs work. And all acknowledge it could be months before any of that actually happens.

Among their top priorities is making sure that the 19 states that didn’t expand Medicaid under Obamacare, including Georgia, don’t get financially disadvantaged under such legislation.

“I want to get something that works for the people who need it and that we maintain the independence for the states in terms of taking care of their own people,” Perdue said.

The House GOP’s bill would fundamentally change the way the federal government pays states for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. The federal government has for years paid states a certain percentage of all of their Medicaid costs. The measure passed by the House instead would allow states to opt for “block grants,” which would pay states lump sums based on a predetermined formula.

Isakson and Perdue say they worry that a state with a growing population such as Georgia could end up worse off: locked into an outdated formula that could limit the stream of federal dollars.

United States District Court Judge Amy Totenberg rejected a motion by Gwinnett County to dismiss a voting rights lawsuit that alleges County Commission and Board of Education districts illegally disciminate against minorities.

The Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and several residents filed the suit last August in an effort to have the federal court force the redrawing of the county commission and school board districts to make it easier for minority candidates to be elected.

Although Totenberg rejected the request to dismiss the case, she did grant county officials more time to respond to an amended complaint filed against them in late April.

The county commission and school board are accused of having districts which are drawn to allegedly disenfranchise voters in minority groups, such as African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, by making it harder for members of those groups to get elected to public office

“Under a fairly-drawn single-member districting plan, blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans together, blacks and Latinos together or blacks and Asian-Americans together can comprise a majority of the citizen voting age population and have the opportunity to elect their candidates choice in two of five districts, which are reasonably compact and regular in shape, for both the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education,” the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint.

“One such district can be created among four single-member districts for the Board of Commissioners.”

State Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) spoke about a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST) on the November ballot in Athens-Clarke County.

Boosting Athens-Clarke County’s sales tax rate to 8 percent, as would happen if a November referendum on a 1 percent sales tax for transportation-related projects is approved, would build on the community’s reputation of being unfriendly toward business, and would disproportionately affect the county’s poorest residents, state Sen. Bill Cowsert told Athens-Clarke County commissioners on Thursday.

Cowsert, who attended a non-voting commission work session with the other Republican members of the local delegation to the state legislature, urged the commissioners — who will be making decisions in the coming month regarding which proposed projects would be funded with the tax — to “make sure those projects are important enough” to earn a share of the $104.5 million the tax is projected to raise during its five-year life. Collection of the additional 1 percent levy would begin in April 2018 if the tax is approved in a Nov. 7 countywide vote.

“I don’t see businesses coming here,” Cowsert went on to tell commissioners, noting that if the local sales tax rate is higher than in surrounding counties, that would serve as a disincentive for businesses to locate in Athens-Clarke County.

“Let’s make sure there’s enough of a need” for the proposed transportation projects, Cowsert urged commissioners.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) will hold a telephone town hall Thursday at 7:05 PM.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College will expand its Whitfield Murray Campus with nearly $19 million in state funding.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed off on the state of Georgia’s fiscal year 2018 budget. Included in the legislation is $18.7 million to build a 75,000-square-foot facility on the GNTC campus serving Whitfield and Murray counties. This will be the first new construction on the Whitfield Murray Campus of GNTC since the establishment of the campus in 2010.

The addition of the new building was made possible in large part by the transfer of approximately 23 acres of land to the Technical College System of Georgia by the Whitfield County school board. The donation of land will allow the college to expand classroom space adjacent to the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy and enhance opportunities for high school and college students to develop the occupational skills and knowledge needed by area business and industry. GNTC has received tremendous support from Gov. Deal, state elected officials, local elected officials, the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, the Whitfield County school system, area businesses, local industry and the entire community since the opening of the campus.

The Marietta City Board of Education may tentatively approve the FY 2018 budget today.

 The Marietta school board could tentatively approve Superintendent Grant Rivera’s fiscal 2018 budget tonight, which includes an average salary increase of 2.5 percent for all employees.

Salary increases for all employees could range from 1 to 6 percent, depending on years of experience and education degrees.

There will be no tax increases to fund the raises and the budget, according to Erin Franklin, the district’s finance director.

Hall County property owners could see lower tax rates from the Board of Education.

Superintendent Will Schofield presented an update of work on the 2018 fiscal year budget at the  meeting at Chestatee High School.

“We’re pleased with this budget,” Schofield told the board. “This budget reflects exactly what you’ve told our employees, and that is when times got better you’d put as much money as you possibly could into their paychecks. And it also fulfills a promise you’ve told our taxpayers, and that is when we have the opportunity and the tide started to turn upward, we’d do all we could to lower millage rates.”

The proposal presented Monday would lower the millage rate, which determines how much people pay in property taxes for schools. Schofield presented a plan to lower the tax rate from 18.8 mills to 18.5 mills in the next fiscal year that begins July 1.

Property tax exemptions are a challenge to budgeting in Hall County, according to Superintendent Schofield.

“One of the challenges of our budget, and it continues to be a challenge year after year, is we have now reached the place in Hall County where $1.2-billion of our local digest is exempt from school tax,” Schofield said.

“That’s 20-percent or more of our digest that is exempt from school tax,” he added.

Among those exempt from the school tax portion on their annual property tax bill are property owners 70 years and older.

“We really need to have a policy debate at the state level about how we’re going to raise funds for schools if, in fact, we’re going to have school districts that have twenty and thirty and forty percent of their digest that is exempt from school taxes.”

Augusta City Commissioners will vote on a proposal to use inmate labor for demolition work.

Commissioner Sammie Sias called for Augusta to return to using state prisoners housed at Richmond County Correctional Institute for demolition projects to save money. Some 100 city-owned houses slated for demolition in Hyde Park were a suitable starting point, with contractors continuing to handle asbestos abatement, City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson said.

Sias hasn’t returned messages seeking comment but signed up to address the commission about “administration access” after other commissioners accused him of working in isolation with Jackson and Commissioner Ben Hasan on the project.

Dawsonville City Council voted 3-1 to remove Mayor James Grogan from office after allegations of misuse of funds and decisions in violation of the city charter.

Georgia Democrats

Georgia State House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams (Atlanta) is among the group of “Young Black Democrats, Eager to Lead From the Left,” profiled by The New York Times.

In Georgia, a Democratic lawmaker planning a run for governor promises to confront President Trump and what she calls the “fascists” surrounding him.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic leader in the Georgia House of Representatives and a likely candidate for governor, said Democrats would win by confronting a president who was viewed with fear and hostility by the party’s base.

Rather than pivoting to the center, Ms. Abrams, 43, said Democrats should redouble their focus on registering and energizing blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, as well as young and low-income voters, who often decline to participate in politics.

“There is a hunger for representation,” Ms. Abrams said in an interview. “There is a desire to make certain the state starts to serve everyone.”

At a “Macon Resists” town hall event in central Georgia last month, Ms. Abrams appealed to an auditorium of anxious Democrats with just that approach. The state, she said, is speeding toward a political crossroads, with Republicans “terrified of the evolving nature of our state.”

“We can either move forward or we can let the president, and those fascists that surround him, pull us backwards,” she said. “I plan to go forward.”

“A Democrat wins an election in Georgia by speaking truth to power,” she said.

Lt Gov. Casey Cagle voiced his disagreement on Facebook:

Casey v Stacey

The Democratic Party of Georgia is working to charter a local party in Paulding County.

The Georgia Democratic Party is helping some Paulding County Democrats formally reform the local political organization.

The group has scheduled a Saturday, April 29, “formative meeting” to “officially start the process” of formally chartering the local party, said Lukas Newborn, who helped organize the event.

The Paulding County Democratic Committee currently has an “in-formation” status, said Georgia Democratic Party spokesperson Michael Smith.

No Democrat has won a local or state seat from a district wholly representing Paulding since the early 1990s. The county’s voters are primarily Republican and typically vote around 70 percent for the GOP candidate for president.

Some Democrats think that Trump’s shortfall in the General election in some areas could lead to Dem gains in 2018.

There’s a small election Tuesday in Atlanta’s suburbs, but it could be a sign of big political changes coming to the Georgia Statehouse. State Senate District 32 in east Cobb County sits inside a political district getting a lot more attention, and money right now: Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

But, the less discussed Senate District 32 race is the first in a slew of contests, most in the 2018 midterms, that will likely test the grip of Georgia Republicans on Atlanta’s northern suburbs.

Compared to Mitt Romney, Donald Trump won 20 fewer percentage points in Senate District 32, according to analysis from the liberal blog Daily Kos.

The data show similar swings for at least a dozen legislative seats, most in the North Atlanta suburbs, that could mean tough reelection battles for Georgia Republicans. In a few of those seats, longtime incumbents plan to run for statewide office.

Take for example, Republican David Shafer of Gwinnett, the second ranking member of the Georgia Senate. In 2012, Romney pulled in 57 percent of the vote in Shafer’s District 48, but in 2016 Trump won only 45 percent. Shafer has filed paperwork to run for lieutenant governor, a statewide office.

The Democratic National Committee is targeted by a lawsuit that alleges the organization underpaid field workers.

Dozens of field workers have filed a class action lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee, claiming the party that is pushing employers to pay a $15 minimum wage and more in overtime failed to pay overtime and minimum wages to its own employees.

Justin Swidler, the attorney representing the field workers, argued the Democratic Party failed to pay workers a minimum wage and denied them overtime compensation. Swidler “says the lawsuit seeks ‘fair pay for fair work,’ and holding the Democratic Party to the very ideals that it embraces,” according to CBS Philly.

The 2016 Democratic platform pushed for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, a nearly $8 increase from the current minimum, and promised to defend an Obama-era regulation forcing employers to pay a higher rate to employees for working more than 40 hours.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 15, 2017

On May 15, 1791, George Washington left Augusta for Savannah.

On May 15, 1800, President John Adams ordered all 125 employees of the federal government to begin packing to move the capital from Philadelphia to Washington, DC.


American artist Jasper Johns was born May 15, 1930 in Augusta, Georgia.

Carl Sanders was born on May 15, 1925 in Augusta, Georgia. He served in the United States Air Force, Georgia House of Representatives and State Senate, where he was President Pro Tem. In 1962, Sanders won the Democratic Primary for Governor, defeating former Governor Marvin Griffin, and in November was the first Governor of Georgia elected by popular vote after the County Unit System was abolished.

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz was born on May 15, 1967 in Lansing, Michigan. Smoltz pitched a complete game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the seventh game of the National League Championship Series in 1991, sending the Braves to their first World Series since moving to Atlanta in 1966. Smoltz was chosen for the All Star team eight times and won the Cy Young award in 1996.

Original heart-pine floors in the Macon federal courthouse were restored during renovations.

Built in 1905, the federal courthouse at the corner of Mulberry and Third streets in downtown Macon is steeped in history.

A long-hidden piece of that history was uncovered earlier this year as part of a project to replace the sound system in the building’s original courtroom.

Audio and video connections had run underneath carpet there for years, and in the process of converting the sound system from analog to digital technology, the carpet was pulled up and removed, U.S. District Court Clerk David Bunt said.

The $140,000 project — which includes both the sound system and floor work — is set for completion later this month.

Judge Marc Treadwell, who uses the courtroom the most, said he’s happy that the floors, a lost part of the building’s past, were rediscovered.

“This courthouse is a historic treasure — not just as a building, but as a place where a lot of history has taken place,” he said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Speaker Paul Ryan will headline a Get Out The Vote Rally for Karen Handel today at 3 PM at Five Seasons Brewery in Sandy Springs.

Voters in Senate District 32 go to the polls tomorrow in a Special Runoff Election.

May 16 is Election Day in District 32. Voters will choose a replacement for former Sen. Judson Hill, who gave up his seat to run for the District 6 seat of Tom Price, who left the U.S. House to become health and human services secretary.

On the ballot will be Democrat Christine Triebsch, a lawyer, and Republican Kay Kirkpatrick, a physician. Both women call east Cobb home.

In last month’s jungle primary, Triebsch earned 14,199 votes, equaling 24.22 percent of ballots cast. Kirkpatrick came in second place with 12,369 votes, equaling 21.09 percent.

The Marietta Daily Journal endorsed Kay Kirkpatrick in the state Senate District 32 election.

In the race, this newspaper endorses Dr. Kay Kirkpatrick.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, came to know Kirkpatrick from her involvement in the Republican Party when she worked on his campaign in the 1990s. It was Kirkpatrick who recommended the doctor who performed Isakson’s back surgery four months ago.

Isakson calls her a good person and hard worker.

“I think she’ll do a great job, and I think if you look at her race in the primary, she really did a heck of a job because they all went after her, they went after her to discredit her as a woman, to discredit her as a Republican, discredit her as a doctor, and they struck out in all three cases. How they stand up against the voters, that’s the best test,” Isakson said.

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren says Kirkpatrick brings the right experience as a physician and businesswoman, which will be needed to restore the health care system after the Obamacare disaster. Kirkpatrick also shares Warren’s conservative views and is the right candidate to keep the residents of Cobb and all of Georgia on the path to greater prosperity, he believes.

Check here to see if you’re in the district, and if so, where to vote; polls are open from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Chuck Berk writes in the Atlanta Jewish Times that Karen Handel deserves the support of Jewish voters.

Karen Handel and the Republicans, on the other hand, have been great supporters of Israel and Jewish causes. Karen supported the Republican-led legislature’s passage of anti-BDS legislation last year, prohibiting any company from doing business with the state of Georgia if it boycotts, divests from or sanctions Israel.

She supported Iran divestiture legislation passed by the Republican-led legislature a few years ago. And she has always been supportive of Georgia’s decision, with support from Republican governors, to purchase Israel Bonds.

As the chairwoman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, Karen turned a $100 million deficit into a balanced budget without raising taxes. As Georgia’s first elected Republican secretary of state, she reorganized the office and reduced expenses by 20 percent.

So, as a Jewish voter, you have a choice. You can choose a young, inexperienced person who will be a rubber stamp for Pelosi, who lives outside the 6th District and who can’t even vote for himself.

Or you can choose Karen Handel, a proven, mature, conservative leader who has a record of getting things done, who has been supportive of Jewish issues, and who has worked and lived in the 6th District for 25 years.

President Donald Trump is expected to nominate Callista Gingrich, wife of former Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich, as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment, and the announcement is pending approval from the Office of Government Ethics, according to CNN, which first reported the news on Sunday.

Mr. Gingrich, reached by phone on Sunday evening, declined to confirm or deny that his wife would be nominated, saying only that he and his wife were told to “be very cautious” until an actual nomination was announced.

The idea of nominating Ms. Gingrich first became public in January, and during the transition Mr. Trump half-jokingly said he was intrigued by the idea of picking Ms. Gingrich because it could also get Mr. Gingrich, with whom he has a hot-and-cold relationship, out of his hair, according to one of the people with knowledge of Mr. Trump’s remarks.

I-85 in Atlanta reopened in both directions over the weekend, in time for today’s rush hour.

The bridge was closed for more than 40 days after it caught fire and collapsed several weeks ago.

Gwinnett County Transit may be affected in the future after the bridge collapse.

County officials made adjustments to Gwinnett County Transit Express Routes that went into the city because of the shutdown of the interstate just south of Ga. Highway 400. Among the changes were rerouting of some Express routes and the addition of temporary routes from Park and Ride lots to MARTA’s Doraville and Chamblee rail stations.

The temporary routes end this weekend, but Gwinnett County Transportation Director Alan Chapman didn’t rule out the possibility that they could come back in the future.

“We are polling our riders right now to find out their thoughts on providing that service to the MARTA rail stations,” Chapman said Thursday. “So it’s something we could potentially consider doing in the future if there’s a strong demand for it.”

The collapse of the I-85 bridge happened as Gwinnett County was gearing up to begin a transit study and while it was continuing work on its Comprehensive Transportation Plan update. As a result, it gave county officials a scenario to think about as they decide how to move Gwinnettians around in the future.

Beer brewers and liquor distillers are looking forward to being able to sell directly to consumers beginning September 1, 2017.

But SB 85 will affect more than just crisp, delicious beers. The language of the bill includes all sorts of distilled spirits and malt beverages. That means anything from liquor to alcoholic soda pops to hard apple cider.

For a time, brewers could only offer their beverages as “free souvenirs” to customers going on tours of the facilities. Wheeler said there was a hubbub about whether proprietors could offer different tour prices based on how much the “free souvenirs” customers would receive at the end of the tour was worth.

“The way the state had gone back and forth and said originally you could do the souvenir thing and then the department of revenue came back and said ‘Well you can’t do tiered pricing, everything has got to be the same’ and this and that, it was just kind of a headache, and we just had other things we prioritized ahead of that, just because it was something we could push off and didn’t have to deal with it right away … We sped up our time line a little. We probably would have waited until fall or a little later, but we just pushed it forward a little bit because of the bill.”

Wheeler said work on the tasting room should start in the next week or so. He hopes it will be completed by July, so they can be ready for the law to go into effect in September.

Senate Bill 109, signed last week by Gov. Deal, authorizes Georgia to join an Interstate Nursing Licensure Compact.

The compact is designed to set up a multi-state licensing system, and a coordinated licensure information system, for nurses so that they can cross state lines to provide care for patients. An Interstate Commission of Nurse Licensure Compact Administrators was also established as part of the new law.

“I want to commend everyone that worked together to get SB 109 passed with several important components that will benefit health care in Georgia,” Unterman said in a statement. “Nurses are not only some of the most compassionate and hardworking men and women, but also represent a vital pillar in our health care community through a lifetime devoted to the care and well-being of our citizens.

“I am overjoyed that our nurses will now be able to take part in an interstate network and help those in need across state lines.”

Hall County leaders are coming together to discuss fighting the opioid abuse epidemic.

“We’re seeing a significant increase in the epidemic in Hall County, so it’s time for us to gather together, rise up and try to come up with ways that we can inform the public,” [Dallas] Gay said.

Gay, whose grandson died a month short of his 22nd birthday in October 2012, is banding together with members of law enforcement, medical groups and the faith community to bring awareness. The group had its first meeting in April and plans to hold public forums in the near future.

“We’re looking at different angles to explore on how do we increase people’s awareness, how do we address concerns around treatment and also prevention and the conversations we need to have around stress in life, exacerbating factors that lead to addiction, family dynamics — just the whole comprehensive picture,” said the Rev. Stuart Higginbotham of Grace Episcopal Church, the clergy representative in the group.

In December, Deal signed an executive order making Naloxone, the overdose antidote, available over the counter. Senate Bill 121, known as the Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. Act, was signed by the governor May 4 to turn the order into law and remove Naloxone from the dangerous drug list.

Gay said it was a “great honor” for his family to be with the governor when the legislation was signed, as it will “save innumerable lives” in his estimation.

“This bill now permits anyone to go to a pharmacy, anyone who might be at a risk of the scene of an overdose, and buy Naloxone without having to go through a doctor and getting a prescription,” he said.

For Gay, the focus of the group’s work would be tackling the stigma attached to addiction.

“Addiction is a well-documented medical condition,” he said. “It is a disease, and we tend to treat it with a stigma attached to it that people don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want to admit to it. Family members are shunned, but it’s a disease no different than leukemia or heart disease or cancer.”

Governor Nathan Deal said he supports dedicating additional state funds to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

Speaking to reporters after a welcoming ceremony for the largest container ship to ever call on an East Coast port, Deal said completing the project is vital to keeping the port competitive and to jobs across the state.

“I support whatever is going to be necessary to complete this project in a timely fashion and if that’s what it takes I think the citizens, and the voters and the elected representatives in the General Assembly will be willing to do that extra part,” Deal said.

The Savannah River deepening took a hit last month when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated its cost would climb 38 percent to $973 million and take two years longer to finish because rising dredging costs and other complications.

“We are going to continue to ask the federal government to live up to their 75 percent share,” Deal said. “It’s a cooperative effort and we’re going to keep it that way.”

A fundraiser for Congressman Barry Loudermilk drew liberal protesters in Acworth.

Many of those who stood outside the Cedar Plantation special events facility held signs and chanted as attendees drove into the venue’s driveway, the site of a “spring reception” held for Loudermilk. A flyer for the event listed prices of $125 a head to attend a general reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with sponsorship levels ranging from $500 to $2,700, earning a donor passage to VIP photo reception held half an hour earlier.

The protest was hosted by the Georgia Sierra Club and Indivisible Georgia’s Eleventh District, a citizen group whose website said its members “share progressive values and are united in opposition to the reactionary, divisive, dystopian Trump agenda.”

“Barry Loudermilk specifically voted for the Trump health care plan, which I am totally against. I’m here to tell him and the other senators that I don’t support you. You have to make this fair for everyone, and not just the rich — I don’t support you,” Harriman said. “They’re going to do away with pre-existing conditions, and they’re going to leave the market open, and my insurance is like $300 something a month now. My insurance will probably go up to God-knows-what unaffordable.”

Becky Beaver, a 27-year-old Kennesaw State senior studying communications and media studies residing in Kennesaw, said her participation was due to elected officials such as Loudermilk refusing to hold town hall-style meetings open to the general public.

“It bothers me that we have elected officials that won’t be transparent with us. Regardless of whether you’re registered as a Republican or Democrat, you have a right to speak to your officials,” Beaver said. “There’s a lot of things that people are very afraid of right now, and (legislators) need to be open about it.”

 Tifton will be at the center of events in a new state push for economic development in rural Georgia.

[T]he Atlanta-based Georgia Chamber of Commerce will open the first regional office in its 102-year history on May 15 in Tifton, a city in the heart of economically distressed South Georgia.

Just one week later, Tifton also will play host to the first meeting of a council the state House of Representatives created this year to look for ways to foster economic growth in Georgia’s rural communities.

The numbers are eye-opening. While metro Atlanta is expected to add about 1.5 million residents by 2030, 74 of Georgia’s 159 counties – primarily in rural areas – are projected to lose population during the same period, according to research conducted on the chamber’s behalf.

The chamber is attacking the sluggish rural economy with a new committee of chamber members that will look for ways to take advantage of rural Georgia’s strengths, including the defense industry’s strong presence, and examine how to tailor state tax incentives to attract business to rural communities.


Medicaid changes in federal law could also affect local school systems.

Administrators say programming and services even beyond those that receive funding from the state-federal health care program could be at risk should Congress follow through with plans to change the way Medicaid is distributed. They say any reduction in the estimated $4 billion schools receive in annual Medicaid reimbursements would be hard to absorb after years of reduced state funding and a weakened tax base.

Southern Living magazine named Savannah the second-best city in the South.

According to Southern Living, Savannah ranked highly because “like a time capsule of historic architecture and city planning, Savannah’s old-school exterior belies its status as a progressive art, design, and culinary hub.” The magazine added that the city has “become a visual arts and design hub thanks to Savannah College of Art and Design.”

The magazine named The Grey as the second best restaurant in the South. The venue, located on Martin Luther King Boulevard near City Market, was narrowly beat out by Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, La., for the top spot.

Other restaurants on the list were Husk in Charleston, S.C.; Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Ala.; Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, Ala.; Hominy Grill in Charleston, S.C.; Cooks & Soldiers in Atlanta, Ga.; Chef & The Farmer in Kinston, N.C.; Brennan’s in New Orleans, La.; and FIG in Charleston, S.C.

The Grey specializes in American cuisine with Travel and Leisure calling the spot “one of (Savannah’s) best dining experiences” and Zagat adding that the restaurant “offers contemporary Southern dishes with Italian influences.” It was also named one of the top five restaurants in the country in 2015.

A 100-year-old Dutch tall ship named Oosterschelde visited Savannah last week.

Plant Vogtle

Westinghouse, the primary contractor for the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle will reject the fixed-price construction contract in bankruptcy proceedings.

“Georgia Power and Westinghouse have, in principle, reached a new service agreement which allows for the transition of project management from Westinghouse to Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power once the current engineering, procurement and construction contract is rejected in Westinghouse’s bankruptcy proceeding.”

“The interim assessment agreement will remain in place until June 3 while the new service agreement is finalized and all approvals are obtained. During this time, work will continue at the site and an orderly transition of project management will begin. As previously stated, the company will take all actions necessary to hold Westinghouse and Toshiba accountable for their financial obligations.”

“Georgia Power will continue work to complete its full-scale schedule and cost-to-complete analysis and work with the project Co-owners (Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities) and the Georgia Public Service Commission to determine the best path forward for customers.”

“The best case scenario is Westinghouse abandons the project and Southern Nuclear takes over, we get the guarantee from Toshiba, and we finish the project,” Commissioner Tim Echols said.

“I think the project can be finished even with Westinghouse abandoning it. I don’t think we can survive it if Toshiba, the parent company, goes bankrupt,” Echols said.

When asked how he would respond to rate-payers who say this is a never ending hole they keep paying into without any return on investment, Echols replied, “You know, that’s what people said about the old reactor 1 and 2 back in 1987 and 1989, but Plant Vogtle is the pride of our generating fleet.”

He’s right; it’s not a new storyline. Back in the ’70s, construction was halted on the first two reactors when Georgia Power almost went bankrupt. This case is a little different, but Echols says the ending should be the same.

“Clearly finishing the project is the best conclusion,” he said.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 12, 2017

Georgia and American History

On May 13, 1607, English settlers founded the first permanent English settlement in America, at Jamestown on the James River. This led to the first English-language politics in America:

Dispatched from England by the London Company, the colonists had sailed across the Atlantic aboard the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery. Upon landing at Jamestown, the first colonial council was held by seven settlers whose names had been chosen and placed in a sealed box by King James I. The council, which included Captain John Smith, an English adventurer, chose Edward Wingfield as its first president.

On May 12, 1740, Georgia forces under James Oglethorpe took Fort Diego in Florida from the Spanish and mocked the defenders’ jean shorts.

Lyman Hall arrived in Philadelphia as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress on May 13, 1775.

The worst American defeat of the Revolutionary War occurred at Charleston, South Carolina on May 12, 1780. American Major General Benjamin Lincoln, who surrendered that day would later accept the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia.

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention began assembling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 14, 1787, the designated starting day. Because a large number of delegates had not arrived the opening of the Convention was moved to May 25.

On May 12, 1789, the Society of St. Tammany was founded in New York and would grow to a dominant home for political bosses. Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics (Signet Classics) remains one of the best historical versions of how political machines worked.

George Washington visited Georgia on May 12, 1791. From Purysburg, South Carolina, Georgia officials escorted Washington on a barge twenty-five miles down the Savannah River to Savannah, where he would stay four days.

On May 13, 1798, a Constitutional Convention adopted the Georgia Constitution of 1798.

On May 14, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left St. Louis, Missouri to explore the Northwest United States from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.

The Mexican War began on May 13, 1846.

Georgia Whigs, led by Governor George Crawford, Alexander Stephens, and Robert Toombs, criticized the war for raising divisive questions about slavery in the territories. Georgia Democrats, led by Howell Cobb and Herschel Johnson, staunchly supported the war and states’ rights afterward. Because Whigs, nationally, appeared to be antislavery, Georgia Whigs lost the governorship in 1847. The Compromise of 1850 temporarily settled the slavery question in the territories, but the moderating influence of Georgia’s Whigs dissolved in the heated rhetoric of states’ rights in the 1850s. The next war would find Americans fighting Americans.

On May 12, 1864, Confederate General Joseph Johnston pulled his Army of Tennessee and Georgia back to Resaca, Georgia. In Virginia, Major General John B. Gordon saved the life, or prevented the capture of General Robert E. Lee at Spotsylvania. After the war, Gordon would serve as Governor of Georgia and United States Senator.

The first fighting at Resaca, Georgia took place on May 13, 1864 and Union forces marched into Dalton.

On May 12, 1864, the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets awoke in Staunton, where they had marched from Lexington 18 miles the previous day; after another 19 miles headed north up the Shenandoah Valley, the would make camp at Mt. Crawford, near Harrisonburg. The cadets ranged in age from fifteen to twenty-five years.

On May 14, 1864, the VMI Corps of Cadets marched 15 miles and camped overnight at Mt. Tabor, near New Market, Virginia. The next day they would march into history.

On the same day, the Battle of Resaca was fully engaged in Northwest Georgia.

On Saturday, May 14, the fighting at Resaca escalated into a full-scale battle. Beginning at dawn, Union forces engaged the Confederates along the entire four-mile front. In the early afternoon Schofield’s Army of the Ohio attacked the sharply angled center of the Confederate line. The assault was badly managed and disorganized, in part because one of Schofield’s division commanders was drunk. As the Union attack unraveled and became a fiasco, Johnston launched a counterattack on Sherman’s left flank. The counterattack collapsed, however, in the face of a determined stand by a Union artillery battery. In the evening Union forces pushed forward and seized the high ground west of Resaca, which placed the bridges leading south from the town within artillery range and threatened Johnston’s line of retreat.The following day Sherman renewed his assault on the Confederate center.

On May 12, 1970, Georgia National Guard troops were mobilized to end race riots that had broken out the night before in Augusta. On that same day, Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, my father’s favorite player as a youth, hit his 500th home run.

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

On May 13, 2005, the Pentagon Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended the closing of Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Fort Gillem in Forest Park, the Naval Air Station in Marietta, and the Naval Supply Corps School in Athens.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Deal ordered the flags at all state buildings to half-staff today to honor the memory of First Lieutenant Weston C. Lee, who was killed outside Mosul, Iraq.

600 Georgia Capitol Flags Half Staff

First Lt. Lee will be returned home today.

A U.S. Army paratrooper killed in action last month in Iraq will arrive home to Georgia Friday morning when his body is flown into Lawson Army Airfield at Fort Benning.

First Lt. Weston Lee, 25, of Bluffton, Ga., will be escorted home by a procession of law enforcement officers led by the Georgia State Patrol.

Georgia State Patrol Capt. Buddy Johnson is coordinating the procession that will take Lee from Fort Benning to a funeral home in Blakely, about 80 miles to the south.

There will be about 20 State Patrol cars and 10 members of the motor squad out of Atlanta leading the procession, Johnson said. Local law enforcement on the route will join as it passes through their communities.

“There is nothing more rewarding than to be a part of this escort of a fallen soldier,” Johnson said Thursday night. “This is how we can show our respect as we take Lt. Lee home.”

The plane bringing Lee from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware is scheduled to land at Fort Benning about 11 a.m.

Deal also signed an Executive Order appointing Attorney General Chris Carr, Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, and Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese to a committee to investigate charges filed against DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann.

From the AJC:

The committee must report their findings within 30 days and, based on its findings, Mann could be suspended for a period of up to 90 days. If that happens, DeKalb’s chief superior court judge would appoint an interim sheriff.

The Gwinnett County Ethics Board will hold its second meeting today at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

The Ethics Board’s meeting is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. in Conference Room A at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive, in Lawrenceville.It is the second meeting of the board, which was created specially to handle the complaint against Hunter.

Atlanta resident Nancie Turner’s complaint against Hunter alleges he violated the county’s ethics policy in several Facebook posts, including ones that called U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” and referred to Democrats as “Demonrats” and “Libtards.”

The agenda for the board’s meeting shows it will hear an attorney’s report, schedule a date to hold a hearing on the complaint and then deal with “preliminary matters to be addressed with complainant’s counsel.”

The Marietta Daily Journal spoke to the Senate District 32 Special Runoff Election candidates.

Democrat Christine Triebsch and Republican Kay Kirkpatrick both lived to fight another day. They will compete at the ballot box during a Tuesday runoff to take the seat of former Sen. Judson Hill, R-east Cobb, who gave up his spot to launch an unsuccessful bid for the congressional seat formerly held by Health Secretary Tom Price.

As of 15 days before the special election, Kirkpatrick had received $308,439 in donations and had $87,728.89 on hand. Triebsch had received $5,174.02 in donations and had the same amount of cash on hand, according to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint said the District 32 race could give hints about what could happen in District 6.

“It could be a bellwether,” he said. “That’s what a lot of people are wondering. It could give an early idea of enthusiasm and voter turnout, at least for that section of the district.”

The MDJ interviewed both candidates in separate meetings Monday. Kirkpatrick spoke for about an hour. Triebsch said she only had 15 minutes to speak and did not respond to further questions via phone later in the week.

DeKalb County Board of Elections will open additional early voting locations ahead of the 6th District Congressional Special Runoff Election.

The DeKalb County Elections Board voted 5-0 to open three additional advance voting sites. They will be located in Brookhaven, Chamblee and Tucker — areas that generally supported Ossoff more than Handel and the other Republicans during the April 18 special election. Only two DeKalb early voting sites were open before that election.

Last week, Fulton County added two early voting locations for a total of six. In Handel’s stronghold of Cobb County, election officials declined to open extra early voting sites beyond the two existing locations.

Increased access to early voting in DeKalb could work in Ossoff’s favor, said Republican strategist Brian Robinson. Ossoff won 59 percent of the vote in DeKalb but 48 percent across the 6th Congressional District, short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

“Ossoff wants to maximize votes in DeKalb,” Robinson said. “Early voting there is of particular importance to him.”

Maps show which parties and candidates got the most votes in each neighborhood in the Georgia 6th District special election.

Both Ossoff and Handel said they support more early voting locations so that their potential constituents have more opportunities to vote, especially before the June 20 runoff, which comes during summer vacations for many families.

Former Democratic State Representative Sally Harrell announced she will run for the state Senate District 40 seat currently held by Republican Fran Millar.

I am proud to announce my candidacy for Georgia’s 40th Senate District.

We are at a crucial moment in Georgia’s history. Our demographics are changing. Our politics are evolving. Now is the time to stand up, claim our shared values and create change.

Government can have a positive impact on people’s everyday lives. All our citizens deserve affordable healthcare, universal high-quality education from early childhood through college, practical and efficient transportation options, and clean air and water. It’s time that our government works for the people.

I look forward to working with people throughout the district, listening and shaping an agenda that works to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods and throughout Georgia.

Medical Cannabis activist Dale Jackson told the LaGrange News he’s considering running for Governor or Lieutenant Governor in 2018.

Jackson is preparing for future battles in the state legislature and said he is “contemplating” running for the governor or lieutenant governor seat in 2018.

“My main objective for the next few months is to sit down and talk with all the individuals running for state offices,” Jackson told the Daily News in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, May 10. “I want to find a ‘champion’ for our cause. If I am unable to find someone that I am confident will be able to champion our cause, then I will be forced to explore options myself.”

Jackson’s cause is ultimately to pass a referendum that would allow patients “safe access” to medicinal marijuana in Georgia, and create statewide cultivation labs.

Jackson was not shy in stating what his primary focus will be for the 2018 legislative session.

“The next step is to get a safe access program established in Georgia,” he said. “Our efforts next year will be to pass that ballot referendum. The good news is that Governor (Deal) can’t veto that. It doesn’t go to his desk, it would be signed by the new governor.”

The Lowndes County Commission voted 3-2 to join a regional Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST).

Lowndes County’s leaders will support a regional sales tax that residents will vote on in May 2018.

The Lowndes County Commission voted 3-2 — with Scott Orenstein and Clay Griner opposing — in favor of a regional T-SPLOST that, if approved by voters, would fund transportation projects throughout 18 counties.

The one-penny tax would bump local sales taxes up to eight cents on the dollar.

The public will vote on the tax May 22, 2018. If approved, the tax would go into effect October 2018 and last for 10 years.

Even if voters shoot down the regional T-SPLOST, counties will have the option to call another vote for an individual T-SPLOST.

The Floyd County 2017 SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee will accept project proposals for inclusion in a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on ballots in November.

The 2017 SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee set a deadline of 5 p.m. June 8 to receive applications. The 12 appointed local residents will vet the projects for inclusion in a package that will go before voters in the Nov. 7 election. If approved, collections would start when the current tax expires on March 31, 2019.

Gainesville city government staff have proposed a property tax millage rate rollback.

Mayor, for the General Fund, no tax increase is recommended for the General Fund,” City Manager Bryan Lackey said as he began his FY2018 budget presentation at Thursday morning’s Gainesville City Council work session.

“What that means is we’ll be proposing a full rollback on both the General Fund and the Debt Service Fund,” Lackey continued.

That means the current (FY2017) General Fund millage rate of 1.63-mils will be rolled back to 1.55-mils, and the current (FY2017) Debt Service millage rate of 0.60-mils to 0.56-mils.

The Parks and Recreation property tax in Gainesville, however, will rise.

Gainesville officials introduced a budget Thursday that technically raises taxes 1.42 percent, thanks to a special tax approved by a few thousand voters in 1924.

The special tax in the books for the past 93 years requires that not less than 0.75 mill nor more than 1 mill be collected annually for Parks and Recreation services in Gainesville.

City Manager Bryan Lackey explained at a city council work session that because a full rollback would result in a rate of less than 0.75 mill, a 1.42 percent tax increase is required to maintain the minimum level.

“We will have to advertise a legal tax increase for Parks and Recreation,” Lackey said. “They are at 0.75 right now, so therefore, we can’t go below that unless we go back to the voters, and we’re not suggesting that by any means. So, we will need to advertise a 1.42 percent tax increase to the voters.”

As a result of the tax increase, the city will be required by state law to hold three public hearings on the budget instead of the usual two. Tentatively, the first public hearing will be after a work session June 1, the second will be during a special called meeting June 6 and the final will be June 20 at the regularly scheduled council meeting.

Augusta received a strong assessment of its ability to issue bonds to pay for a parking deck at the new Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center.

Davenport and Co. Senior Vice President Courtney Rogers gave a detailed overview of the city’s standing with Moody’s, currently the only agency rating all city bonds, and said Moody’s officials will be in Augusta today for a rare site visit.

Moody’s Aa2 rating – considered “very strong” and investment grade – on Augusta’s November sale of sales-tax backed bonds noted the city’s strength as a regional economic center with a strong military and health care presence, historically sound reserves, a low direct-debt burden and manageable pension costs, Rogers said.

The Georgia Constitution limits the amount of long-term debt payable by property taxes to 10 percent of the assessed value of taxable property – and Augusta’s existing liability is only $26 million, well below its legal limit of $489 million, Rogers said.

“You’ve got plenty of room on the legal side to issue general obligation bonds,” he said.

Davenport is recommending a competitive sale of fixed-rate bonds for Augusta’s parking deck, rather than a negotiated sale, using Moody’s ratings alone in the rapid turnaround required for the state project, he said.

“It makes sense to do competitive sales,” Rogers said. “There is no uncertainty in the marketplace right now” and a recent offering drew 15 bids, something Rogers said he’d never seen.

Savannah City Council voted to double parking rates in downtown.

COSCO Development, the largest container ship to call at the Port of Savannah, docked successfully yesterday.

Capable of carrying more than 13,000 TEUs — or 20-foot equivalent units — the Development made history last week as the largest container ship to pass through the newly expanded locks of the Panama Canal.

The ship called on the Port of Virginia on Monday, where approximately 1,500 containers were moved on and off the ship. It left Norfolk on Tuesday, bound for Savannah. The ship’s expected container moves at GPA’s Garden City Terminal is close to 5,500, more than triple those in Virginia. The Port of Charleston did not disclose the number of container moves expected there, but reports put it at less than 1,000.

Gov. Nathan Deal will join GPA board chairman Jimmy Allgood and GPA executive director Griff Lynch on the docks Friday to officially welcome the Development and watch as six ship-to-shore cranes and hundreds of workers facilitate the loading and unloading.

With this visit, the Development begins a regular schedule of calls on Savannah. The ship is part of a regular rotation deployed in the OCEAN Alliance’s new South Atlantic Express Service, or SAX, which will bring the ship — or others its size — into port every two weeks.

Georgia Power will build a 139 megawatt solar facility near Robins Air Force Base if the Georgia Public Service Commission approves.

“It is large, a very large solar farm,” said John Kraft, with Georgia Power’s media relations department.

“It’s a great location … in the middle of the state,” Kraft said. “It’s available use of land that might not have other uses as is. Also, it’s adjacent to the Air Force base so we can tie it into the base and help Robins meet its energy resiliency and security goals.”

The solar facility would serve Georgia Power’s grid “to the benefit of all customers” and would provide electricity to its overall system, he said.

Although the use of solar energy to produce electricity might not lower residential electric bills, “a primary goal is so electricity doesn’t cost residents more,” he said. “We anticipate ways it would be available to the base to support their energy security needs in a special kind of situation should that occur.”

Georgia Power was before the PSC yesterday and discussed ongoing issues with the construction of new nuclear power units at Plant Vogtle.

Officials from Georgia Power say that construction deadlines on two new nuclear reactors do not seem feasible and the company is evaluating new completion dates now.  The reactors are about three years behind schedule and in February, a new round of completion dates had been set for December of 2019 and September of 2020. But a Georgia Power official told members of the Public Service Commission today those deadlines “no longer seem feasible.”

Testifying before the Public Service Commission, David McKinney, Vice President of Nuclear Development at Georgia  Power, said that the company is evaluating its options now.  McKinney says the company continues to analyze what new completion costs may be now and also a “cancellation assessment.”

In response to a question from an attorney representing a consumer group, McKinney indicated scenarios and cost analyses are now being considered for 1) completion of both reactors 2) completion of one but not the other and or 3) cancellation.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections of May 10, 2017

Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded on May 11, 1864 at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, near Richmond.

On May 11, 2011, Newt Gingrich announced via Twitter that he would run for President. Two days later, I caught up with Newt at Fincher’s Barbecue in Macon for a brief interview the day he was scheduled to speak to the Georgia Republican Party State Convention.

Happy Birthday to Minnesota, which became a state on May 11, 1858. Y’all talk funny.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced yesterday that the collapsed section of I-85 in both directions will reopen by rush hour on Monday, May 15th.

The new opening date is nearly two weeks earlier than GDOT’s most recent commitment of Memorial Day weekend, and five weeks ahead of the original projected opening date of June 15.

“While this situation has been a tremendous challenge, the response from the people of Georgia has been nothing less than remarkable,” said Deal. “It is extraordinary that in just six weeks, this critical piece of infrastructure is nearly ready to reopen for motorist use following the fire and bridge collapse. I am grateful to President Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for providing the financial assistance necessary to complete the bridge on an expedited timeframe. I’d also like to thank Commissioner Russell McMurry for his leadership throughout this project, as well as the leadership of MARTA, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and the State Road and Tollway Authority for leading the charge in providing alternative commute options. Most importantly, I thank the motoring public for their patience and the Atlanta business community for its flexibility. In Georgia, we get things done, and we have risen to the occasion for I-85 to be completed as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Today, I will celebrate that re-opening by eating lunch at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, one of a number of businesses that was hurt by the I-85 collapse.

Georgia tourism set a new record in 2016, according to state economic development officials.

State officials touted Georgia’s estimated tourism haul for 2016 in an announcement on Tuesday. Including direct, indirect and “induced” economic benefits, the state saw $61 billion in economic activity from its visitor industry last year. That’s a record for the state and up from $58.9 billion in 2015, according to Emily Murray, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Georgia’s tourism economy is growing faster than the rest of the United States — 3.5 percent to the nation’s 2.1 percent, according to Pat Wilson, the state’s economic development commissioner. The demand for Georgia tourism is 34 percent higher than its pre-recession market in 2008.

New voters registering in the Sixth Congressional District after a federal judge re-opened registration, have caused a backlog in the system.

Local counties under order to reopen voter registration in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District face a backlog of tens of thousands of applications and have already begun working overtime to process them all in time for the June 20 runoff election.

Still, despite concerns that a federal judge’s order would back them into a corner, no problems have been reported so far as the counties themselves appear to have hit the ground running.

“Everything has been going very smoothly,” said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state’s top elections official.

All three counties that have areas in the 6th District — Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton — had contingency plans in place in anticipation of Thursday’s ruling. The first of tens of thousands of backlogged registration applications have already begun to be processed, although officials said it is impossible to know how many of them involve residents in each county who actually reside in the district itself.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall takes the gavel today as chief judge for the Southern District of Georgia.

During a ceremony Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood will hand over the duties of the chief judgeship to Hall. It will be the first time a chief judge has been sworn in at the 101-year-old U.S. District Courthouse in Augusta.

As chief judge, Hall will take on the administrative and operational duties for the Southern District, which is composed of 43 counties with six federal courthouses. Hall will be responsible for personnel, budgets and the local rules of the court. He also will serve as the contact for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Courts Administrative Office, he said.

Hall practiced law in the Augusta area for 26 years before being selected by President George W. Bush to serve as a federal judge. He was sworn into office on May 1, 2008. He will serve as the chief judge for the next seven years.

Marietta may soon term-limit the Mayor and City Council, according to the MDJ.

Marietta mayors and council members may soon have term limits of three four-year terms if an amendment to the city charter proposed by Mayor Steve Tumlin is approved.

“Georgia code is always broad enough to find an argument, and I think we have an argument,” Tumlin said after the May 10 meeting during which the plan was discussed. “We have a constitutional right to home rule … There’s enough in the code to do it.”

The plan would begin in 2018 with a clean slate for everyone, so current leaders would not reach their term limits until 2030.

Savannah City Council is considering a plan to reduce poverty by requiring city contractors to hire locally.

The program presented to the Savannah City Council on April 27 would establish employment agreements with contractors to hire qualified Savannah residents for city projects when they have vacancies for a job.

In addition to keeping local dollars in the city and reducing the city’s poverty rate, the program could help Savannah obtain a skilled workforce and make the city more competitive, said Taffanye Young, Community and Economic Development Bureau chief.

The program would apply to construction contracts of $250,000 or more and service contracts, such as food preparation, security, and maintenance, of $100,000 or more.

Savannah is also considering subsidizing ride-share services for some seniors.

Lowndes County Board of Education voted against putting a referendum on the ballot to term-limit members.

Henry County Board of Education members are considering live-streaming meetings.

Cave Spring City Council member Michael Phillips resigned his office.

Phillips’ four-year term runs through 2019 and the City Council decided to fill the seat by appointment. Letters of interest will be accepted at City Hall through June 6.

The terms for Posts 3 and 4 end this year, along with Post 5. Those seats — held by Councilmembers Nellie McCain, Charles Jackson and Mike Ragland — will be on the city’s regular election ballot in November.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 10, 2017

Georgia and American History

Savannah received news of the battle at Lexington on May 10, 1775, leading to a raid of British gunpowder for the colonial effort. On the same day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Second Continental Congress met.

On May 10, 1863, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died a week after being shot at by his own troops.

He died, as he had wished, on the Sabbath, May 10, 1863, with these last words: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

On May 10, 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops near Irwinville, Georgia.

On May 10, 1869, a ceremonial “Golden Spike” was driven in Promontory, Utah, symbolizing completion of a transcontinental railroad line joining the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad.

The first observance of Mother’s Day was May 10, 1908 at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first official “Mother’s Day.”

On May 10, 2006, Georgia State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko, a Republican, pled guilty to federal charges of fraud and money laundering, beginning a streak of Republican State School Supers to leave office under a cloud.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

This morning at 10 AM, Governor Nathan Deal will give an update on the status of construction at the I-85 bridge collapse.

Yesterday, Governor Deal signed what I count to be 56 bills into law. He also issued Veto statements vetoing nine bills.

Gov. Deal signed three pieces criminal justice reform legislation at the Department of Community Supervision Reentry Summit in Macon yesterday.

SB 174, SB 175 and SB 176 are based on recommendations from the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform and build upon Deal’s previous criminal justice reform initiatives.

“This most recent legislative package is another meaningful step forward in making Georgia a safer, more prosperous place to call home,” Deal said. “The unprecedented criminal justice reforms we’ve implemented since 2009 have already had a remarkable and positive impact, with overall prison commitments down 15.4 percent through the end of 2016. The bills I signed today will build upon our previous successes to strengthen the accountability court system, continue to reduce recidivism rates and provide juvenile court judges with additional tools to help young offenders. I’d like to thank the sponsors of this legislation, as well as the entire General Assembly, for their continued commitment to these reforms. When we discuss the statutes, statistics and successes, we are ultimately considering the reclaiming of lives, the overcoming of past mistakes and the repairing of families and relationships in Georgia’s communities.”

Legislation signed [yesterday] includes:
SB 174 ensures the sustained success of Georgia’s accountability courts and enhances the state’s probation system so that resources are focused at the front-end of terms when chances of recidivism are highest. It also implements reforms to ensure appropriate victim and prosecutorial input in the parole process.

SB 175 aims to reduce juvenile delinquency and protect public safety when a juvenile is deemed incompetent to proceed in the judicial process. It also creates new parental accountability orders, tools for juvenile court judges to encourage increased parental involvement, which numerous studies show reduces the likelihood of delinquent conduct.

SB 176 includes provisions to require that individuals are notified by mail prior to the issue of a bench warrant for failure to appear for a non-serious traffic offense. It also clarifies terms regarding Habitual Violator driving permits.

Deal vetoed House Bill 359, dealing with adoption.

The bill would have allowed parents to transfer the power of attorney for their children to family members or outside agencies.

In his veto statement, Deal worried the measure would “create a parallel and unchecked system to our Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS)” and would put children at risk.

He encouraged lawmakers to return to the issue–and to review the state’s other adoption laws–next year.

The governor also vetoed a bill establishing a new agency to manage 911 fees from emergency calls, questioning whether the agency would have enough oversight.

However, Deal said he’d create a separate agency by executive order aimed at improving Georgia’s public safety communications network.

Self-driving cars could hit the Georgia roads after Gov. Deal signed Senate Bill 219.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill Monday making self-driving cars that have the proper insurance and registration legal on Georgia roads.

Harry Lightsey, General Motor’s executive director of public policy on emerging technologies, said GM already has 50 cars it’s testing in three cities: San Francisco, Scottsdale, Ariz. and Detroit.

“By adopting this legislation, the state of Georgia has put itself in the running and at the forefront as a possibility I think for us or for any other company that wants to develop and deploy self-driving technology,” Lightsey said.

GM has nearly 1,100 employees at its IT innovation center in Roswell. Lightsey said some of them are focused on analyzing data collected by its self-driving fleet.

Senate Bill 16 was signed by Gov. Deal, expanding eligible conditions for use of medical cannabis oil.

The new qualifying conditions include autism, AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease. Patients must register with the state to be eligible and have a doctor’s permission.

Many of the additions restrict use to patients who are in severe or end-stage condition. The new law also allows people in a hospice program, regardless of diagnosis, to legally possess the oil that’s low in THC, the chemical responsible for the marijuana high.

“I’m grateful to my colleagues, Speaker David Ralston, and Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle for their support in getting this bill to Governor Deal’s desk,” Peake said. “My hope is that in 2018 we can fill the gaping hole that still remains, and provide legal access to medical cannabis oil here in our state with a safe, lab tested product produced within our own borders. The job will not be finished until we accomplish this task.”

The Valdosta Daily Times looks at which parts of their local college campus will be open for campus carry by permit-holders.

Guns will remain banned from the following parts of campus: student housing; fraternity and sorority houses; any preschool or childcare space; any “room or space” where high school students take classes through dual enrollment; buildings or property used for athletic events; faculty, staff and administrative offices; and places where disciplinary proceedings are held.

The caveats included in the two-page bill signed by Gov. Nathan Deal into law last week seem straightforward on the surface but become more vague and messy when digging deeper.

The law does not include detailed explanations or guidelines on how the legislation should be interpreted or enforced. That responsibility is now in the hands of the University System of Georgia, the network of 28 public colleges and universities that includes VSU, University of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Also, only people with weapons carry licenses will be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus and a person has to be 21 or older to apply for the license. That age restriction automatically disqualifies a large part of the student body from carrying guns.

From there, the questions abound, particularly with the restrictions involving faculty, high school students and athletic events.

Bibb County Public Schools Superintendent Curtis Jones received a contract extension through 2021.

COSCO Development will be the largest container ship to call on East coast ports, and is headed for Savannah.

Katie Deal, daughter of Gov. Nathan and First Lady Sandra Deal, stars in “Today, Tomorrow and Forever — A Tribute to Patsy Cline” on May 13 at Sautee Nacoochee.

Piedmont Healthcare and Columbus Regional are in discussions over a “strategic affiliation.”

A letter of intent was executed Monday, initiating an exclusive negotiation period between the two organizations that expires on Sept. 30, Columbus Regional Health President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Hill said.

The partnership would include Columbus Regional’s two hospitals — Midtown Medical Center and Northside Medical Center — as well as its John B. Amos Cancer Center, MyCare Urgent Care Centers and multiple physician practices.

A deal would have to be approved by the Piedmont and Columbus Regional boards of directors, as well as the Georgia Attorney General’s Office. The goal is to have a deal finalized by the end of the year, Hill said.

When asked to define “strategic affiliation,” Hill said it was a merger.

“If we reach a definitive agreement with Piedmont, we will merge into the Piedmont organization,” Hill said. “There is a Piedmont Healthcare board and we expect there will be Columbus participation on that board. Our board, locally, will stay intact and there will be some participation from Piedmont on our board.”

2017 and 2018 Elections

Democrat Christine Triebsch and Republican Kay Kirkpatrick meet in the Special Runoff Election for Senate District 32 on Tuesday, May 16th.

One area of agreement is that there are too many elections.

“The community, they are not happy that they have had to go to the polls five times,” said Triebsch, a lawyer. “They are not happy about that.”

Kirkpatrick would like to see a legislative fix, calling it wasteful.

“So we had a SPLOST vote that was the only thing on the ballot in March, then we had a special election in April, now we’ve got a runoff in May, then we’ve got a runoff in June,” she said. “My understanding is that every time we open the polls, it’s $300,000. So there’s got to be a way to avoid wasting that money. … I think it’s led not only to wasting money but also to voter fatigue and a lot of other problems.”

“Our office and Cobb elections officials always follow the letter of the law, and Georgia statutory law establishes these dates. However, there will be more flexibility in the future following the signage of House Bill 42 by Governor Deal,” said Candice Broce, [Secretary of State Brian] Kemp’s press secretary.

Under House Bill 42, which Deal signed earlier this year, they will be able to hold special election runoffs for local or state offices at the same time as a runoff for a federal election.

Matt Reeves has formally announced for the state Senate seat held by Sen. David Shafer, who is running for Lieutenant Governor.

“I am running for public office to provide this community with the next generation of conservative leadership at the State Capitol,” Reeves said in a statement. “I’m not a career politician. I am a family man, community leader, and a committed conservative who will fight to implement serious reforms guided by our conservative principles to create a more prosperous future for every citizen of this district and our state.”

Reeves pledged to be an advocate for taxpayers, homeowners and small business owners in the Senate.

“I will fight to cut the state income tax on families and businesses, cap government spending and focus tax dollars on essentials that promote private sector job growth like law enforcement, local schools, and workforce-oriented transportation and mobility improvements,” he said.

“Finally, I will support longtime efforts by leaders in North Fulton to re-create Milton County and work to promote the traditional American family by making Georgia a national leader in adoption and foster care.”

Reeves’ campaign said he has already received support from state Reps. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, and Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, as well as Gwinnett County Commissioner Jace Brooks, Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris, Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette and Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason.

Two Democrats filed paperwork to run for State School Superintendent in 2018, against incumbent Republican Richard Woods.

Otha Thornton, the immediate past president of the National PTA; and Sid Chapman, current president of the Georgia Association of Educators, registered with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, which is required to raise election funds — Chapman on Friday and Thornton in late March.

“I’m exploring the possibility,” said Chapman, who has been on leave from his job as a high school social studies teacher in Clayton County while he’s been leading GAE the past few years. He lobbied the parent group, the National Education Association, to put millions of dollars into last year’s successful campaign to defeat the Opportunity School District referendum, which would have endowed the governor with unprecedented power over “chronically failing” schools.

Thornton, a defense contractor at Fort Stewart, also spoke publicly against the OSD. Like Chapman, he said he plans to run as a Democrat.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson will take a pass on running for statewide office in 2018.

“I plan to finish strong as the two-term mayor of the great city of Columbus, Georgia,” Tomlinson said in a prepared statement. “We have important work to finish to achieve our vision for Columbus as we head into our bicentennial. Being a good steward of this amazing city has always been my primary objective. While in the batter’s box, I keep my eye on the ball, not on the stands.”

One of the reasons Tomlinson, cited for not running was her current duties as chairwoman of Sweet Briar College in central Virginia, which Tomlinson and other alumnae fought to save in from closure in 2015.

“Resurrecting Sweet Briar College has been nothing short of a miracle. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to see that storied institution return to its previous vibrancy and to continue its important mission of educating the next generation of women leaders. The next two years are critical to completing its transition and I need to be there to help see it through,” Tomlinson said in the prepared statement.

“Serving in public office was not a life I envisioned for myself, but it has been exhilarating and rewarding,” she said. “Good government is important and good leaders are essential. I would not rule out serving in another public capacity, but that will be after my term as mayor has concluded.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 9, 2017

Georgia and American History

On May 9, 1862, a Union general, David Hunter, ordered the freedom of all slaves held in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, but President Lincoln issued a counter-order.

In Georgia on May 9, 1864, Union troops under General Sherman took Snake Creek Gap. In Atlanta, a notice was published,

“ATTENTION MILITIA! All persons between the ages of 16 and 60, not in the service of the Confederate States, in the second ward, are hereby notified to be and appear at the City Hall today, at 2 o’clock P.M., for the purpose of being armed and equipped for local defense. Herein fail not under penalty.”

On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first official “Mother’s Day.”

On May 9, 1974, the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary opened hearing on the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.

On May 9, 1977, the Grateful Dead played at Buffalo War Memorial Auditorium.

On May 9, 2005, Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation recognizing the Green Tree Frog at the official state amphibian.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) will campaign in Georgia’s Sixth District for Republican Karen Handel.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan will headline an event in Georgia with Republican Karen Handel on May 15, making him the latest high-profile GOP leader to stump with the 6th Congressional District candidate.

Ryan campaign spokesman Zack Roday said the speaker is “proud to stand with Karen Handel, a strong conservative leader who will be a fighter for Georgians.”

Ryan and his allies have poured millions into the race. He’s raised record sums for the House GOP’s campaign arm, which has spent more than $6.2 million on the race. And the Congressional Leadership Fund — a super PAC endorsed by Ryan — has laid out an additional $5 million on the contest.

Also, Ryan’s [Washington, DC] Handel fundraiser took in $150,000, and he’s signed four emails that have netted an additional $50,000 for her campaign.

The visit will come in the middle of the fight in Congress over an Obamacare repeal.

Governor Nathan Deal left more legislation to the closing days for signature or veto this year as part of a strategy.

The governor has waited a bit longer than in past years to sign off on the crush of legislation awaiting his approval, but top aide Chris Riley said the delay was part of a new strategy from the governor’s office.

Riley said the decision to wait until just before the deadline to sign many of them came from Julia Ayers, Deal’s deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs. He said it was a “great tactic for 2017” because it spared proposals that might meet his veto pen on Tuesday – the deadline to sign or veto proposals – of additional attention and pressure.

“This late date for bill signings with the governor has certainly kept members a little curious, I am sure,” said Riley. “But more importantly it’s what it has accomplished on the other side of the argument: The bills that may not make it have not been singled out with a spotlight for additional pressure from the authors and the stakeholders.”

More than 50 measures are set to be signed Monday at ceremonies in Deal’s office.

According to the Governor’s Office website, Deal signed 57 bills yesterday, but Channel 2 news says he signed nearly 100.

Senate Bill 85, allowing beer brewers and distilleries to sell directly to consumers was signed by Gov. Deal.

“Our state leaders have been committed to ensuring Georgia remains a great state in which to brew beer and that local economies benefit from the industry’s steady growth,” Martin Smith, executive director of the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association, said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to have worked alongside our brewer partners and retailers in supporting the bill and look forward to the positive impact the new law will have on the industry.”

The most noticeable change for local booze aficionados may be how breweries and distilleries offer drinks for on-site consumption. No longer will they be forced to offer paid tours of their facilities that come with limited samples of their beverages. State Rep. Ron Stephens, a Republican from Savannah, previously called this process “a shell game.”

Senate Bill 180 by state Senator Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) was signed by Gov. Deal and increases the tax credit for donations to certain rural hospitals.

Senate Bill 180 increases from 70 percent to 90 percent the value of the credit taxpayers can earn from contributions to qualifying rural hospitals.

Lawmakers originally passed the 70 percent measure last year, but backers said a bigger incentive was needed because so few people had agreed to donate.

Alan Kent, president and CEO of Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia, applauded the move, as did other supporters including the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.

“This is a chance for people to step up individually and for corporations to step in as business leaders and be able to make a difference in their very own communities,” Kent said.

State Representative Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) lauded Gov. Deal’s signature of House Bill 87.

“House Bill 87 saves business owners time, resources and hassle and I am grateful for Governor Deal signing this into law today,” said Raffensperger.

“This legislation will now provide business owners the flexibility to do up to 3 year corporate registration renewals with the Secretary of State Office instead of only an annual process.”

A Spaceport in Camden County may be ready to launch after Gov. Deal signed legislation easing the way.

“Commercial spaceflight is the next great space race. It is a $320 billion industry that offers tens of thousands of good, high-paying jobs. By signing this legislation today, Gov. Deal is sending a message to the global space industry that we are open for business,” said Camden County Administrator and Spaceport Camden Project lead Steve Howard.

Howard said that after the general assembly passed HB 1, companies began contacting his office expressing interest in launching from Spaceport Camden.

“HB 1 put Georgia on the radar of the industry and Gov. Deal’s signature only reinforces to those companies that Georgia wants their business,” Howard said.

“The signing of HB 1 not only represents the huge strides taken in developing space flight legislation, but also demonstrates the viability of Spaceport Camden to support Vector’s goal of conducting hundreds of launches a year,” said Jim Cantrell, co-founder and CEO of Vector. “Vector is honored to make Camden County one of our homes for upcoming rocket launches, including our first sub-orbital test there this summer, making ours the first rocket launch out of this historic location, ever.”

From the Atlanta Business Chronicle,

Deal said the spaceport bill will help enhance Georgia’s reputation as the nation’s No.-1 state in which to do business. Georgia has won that designation four years in a row from Site Selection magazine.

“For the last four years, numerous companies have found that Georgia is the best state in the nation to do business,” the governor said. “We look forward to Spaceport Camden becoming the best place in the nation to launch a rocket.”

Camden officials expect regulatory review of the project to continue through this year and hope Spaceport Camden will secure an operational license from the Federal Aviation Administration by next year.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes about legislation signed and some still waiting for signature and veto.

Senate Bill 201 would require some large employers to let their employees use sick leave to care for immediate family members, and the debate over the measure divided Republicans, with some criticizing what they saw as a new mandate.

And Senate Bill 160, known as the “Back the Badge” bill, stiffens penalties against people who assault law enforcement officers. That measure earned widespread legislative approval after a provision that targeted protesters was removed.

[S]till pending on Deal’s desk is Senate Bill 16, which would expand the list of disorders eligible for treatment under Georgia’s growing medical marijuana program, which now has 1,700 patients and more than 350 physicians.

State Rep. Allen Peake, the Macon Republican who is the godfather of the program, said he has “every expectation that (the governor) will sign the bill” on Tuesday. That would let patients suffering from severe forms of autism, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome have access to cannabis oil. Patients in hospice programs, no matter their diagnosis, would also be allowed to access the oil.

United States Senator David Perdue met with supporters of Georgia’s military bases, according to the Macon Telegraph.

 Perdue, a Georgia Republican, said he appreciated having all of the base communities represented in one room.

“The consensus is that every single one of our bases is strong,” he said. “The performances are very competitive with the bases they compete with inside their service, but we recognize with the debt crisis and all of the problems we have with funding the military that we can’t take anything for granted.”

One topic discussed was the formation of a military commission that would meet regularly to address issues among bases across the state.

Perdue said all of the state’s military bases combined have a $23 billion economic impact, with Robins being the largest.

Although many still advocate for a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission, Perdue doesn’t expect that to happen any time soon.

“I don’t think BRAC is in our immediate future but we have to assume that sooner or later all of these bases will come under some sort of rationalization,” he said.

Effingham County Commissioners declined to renew the contract of County Administrator Toss Allen.

The Gainesville Department of Water Resources is waiting for federal approval to begin upgrades for a dam on Lake Knickerbocker.

Georgia’s peach crop could be the worst in decades, according to USDA scientists.

“The closest comparison we have right now is, looking back at the historical records has to go back all the way to the 1930s,” says research horticulturist Tom Beckman, making it what they say is one of the worst peach seasons in about a hundred years.

“We have never been so short. Hardly any of the commercial material that’s out at grower’s orchards was designed to deal with chill this low. We’ve never seen trees this low on chill before. I haven’t, in my entire career, seen trees in some cases receive less than half the chill that they normally expect,” says Beckman.

They say the poor production is due to not enough cold temperatures in the winter and an unexpected freeze in the Spring.

“We have fruit. In fact, we’ll probably have fruit throughout the season, but it’s going to be a lot less than what we could consider normal. I’d say it will be well under a half a crop,” explains Beckman.

He says the peach shortage will affect how much you will pay at the grocery store.

“The prices will be a little higher. You will probably see fewer loss leaders. There will be peaches, more California peaches probably than regional, but there will be peaches,” says Beckman.

2018 Elections

Bee Nguyen joins the race for House District 89 to succeed State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), who is considering running for Governor.

State Senator Burt Jones will not run for higher office in 2018, instead running for reelection.

Jones, R-Jackson, issued this statement:

“The past few months have been filled with speculation as my name has been circulating as a potential candidate for higher office. This has been a very exciting time as I have been humbled and honored by all the calls, texts and messages of support to run for higher office. After much deliberation and discussion with my family, I have decided not to seek higher office and will continue to work hard to serve the citizens of Senate District 25.”

“My family and I looked at all of the options on the table and I came to the conclusion that I enjoy what I am doing on the state level as a public servant for Senate District 25. While serving in this capacity, I am able to remain active in my growing business and daily family life and activities. It is truly a pleasure to serve on your behalf and I look forward to continuing to serve you as long as you allow me to do so and I have your support. I look forward to growing my skills and leadership as your state senator.”

“During my short time serving in the senate, I have the honor of being appointed as a Chairman of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and currently the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee. I will continue to seek new opportunities to serve as a leader in the senate while being a proponent of what is best for Senate District 25.”

“While now is not the right time for me to seek higher office, I will continue to work hard and look forward to future opportunities. I am grateful for your continued support and overwhelming encouragement. It remains an honor to serve the citizens of Senate District 25 and all Georgians as a member of the Georgia State Senate.”

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution,

State Sen. Burt Jones is not running for lieutenant governor or any other higher office, and he’s endorsing his Republican colleague David Shafer’s bid for the state’s No. 2 job.

Jones said in an interview that he’s staying out of the governor’s race for the time being but would support Shafer, who he said has done a “terrific” job reaching out to grassroots Republicans.

His decision means that Shafer has dodged another bullet in his bid for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s job. Although there were weeks of rumbling from other Senate Republicans that they might challenge Shafer, none have yet emerged.

That means his main GOP opponent remains state Rep. Geoff Duncan, the former pro baseball player who announced in April. Cagle, of course, is running for governor.

The Gwinnett Daily Post has more on David Shafer’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor.

Shafer announced to supporters on Friday that he was entering the race to seek the No. 2 position in state government. It came days after Cagle announced — in unincorporated Duluth — that he plans to run for governor next year after spending three terms as the lieutenant governor.

“I have spent the five weeks since the Legislative Session ended on the telephone and in meetings, talking with and listening to nearly 1,200 of my fellow Georgians, old friends and new,” Shafer said in his announcement on one of his Facebook pages. “The response has been heart-warming. I have filed paperwork to begin running for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia.”

The lieutenant governor’s race is wide open with Cagle seeking a higher office, and Shafer is not the only person who has already made moves to try and become only the second Republican in Georgia history to be elected as lieutenant governor. State Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, has filed also paperwork to run for the seat.

If Shafer wins the seat, it will represent a promotion in state government, but also within the Senate since the lieutenant governor serves as the president of that chamber. Meanwhile, the president pro tem serves as second-in-command of the Senate, filling in whenever the lieutenant governor is unavailable.

Gwinnett County attorney Matt Reeves announced at Saturday’s Gwinnett County Republican Party breakfast that he will run for Shafer’s seat in the state Senate.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 8, 2017

Georgia and American History

Congress passed the second part of the Militia Act on May 8, 1792, requiring all able-bodied white male citizens to be enrolled in the militia.

A Constitutional Convention convened on May 8, 1798 in Louisville, Georgia to rewrite the state Constitution after the Yazoo Land Fraud.

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in Augusta, Georgia on May 8, 1845.

On May 8, 1864, Union forces under Sherman continued to engage Confederates at the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge four miles west of Dalton, Georgia, seizing Blue Mountain.

Elsewhere on the same day, the Army of the Potomac under Grant reached Spotsylvania Court House in Virginia and found that Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had beaten them there from the Battle of the Wilderness.

Grant’s Army of the Potomac remained engaged against Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House through May 21, 1864.

Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation designating the current state flag on May 8, 2003.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign Senate Bill 206 by Sen. P.K. Martin, IV, today at the State Capitol.

Gov. Nathan Deal will sign legislation designed to help families like the Knights into law Monday. It will require insurance companies cover the costs of buying hearing aids for children who suffer from hearing impairments.

The bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, guarantees up to $6,000 coverage for a pair of hearing aids for kids, until they turn 18. Martin worked with the advocacy group Let Georgia Hear on it.

“The difference for a family who’s on a plan that is affected by this is immediate,” Martin said. “They’re gonna go from either they just can’t afford the hearing aids or they’re struggling to provide the hearing aids to now having coverage for that.”

[Kimmone] Knight said, “It’s definitely a step in the right direction in terms of minimizing out of pocket costs, especially for those families that may have young children like ourselves. There’s so many expenses to begin with, with having a child, and adding something like that on top of it — it’s good to know the insurance companies will be working with families to ensure they have what they need at the time when it’s most crucial.”

Several bills remain on Governor Deal’s desk ahead of tomorrow’s deadline to sign or veto.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Backers of Georgia’s small program allowing the use of medical cannabis oil hope Deal will sign off on an expansion of the program.

Lawmakers approved a compromise bill that would add six new diagnoses to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis oil, including autism, AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease. Many of the additions restrict use to patients who are in severe or end-stage condition.

SELF-DRIVING CARS: Another measure allows self-driving vehicles in Georgia. Supporters said car and technology companies, insurance providers and injury attorneys signed off on the proposal and warned that Georgia would be left behind as other states pass similar legislation.

The proposal requires drivers of the vehicles to have a higher amount of insurance coverage than what is required for traditional vehicles until the end of 2019.

BEER SALES: Deal’s also still mulling a change to Georgia law on beer sales at breweries. Lawmakers compromised after several years of fights between craft brewers and wholesalers that act as a middleman for brewers and retailers.

The Sixth Congressional District Special Election has become the most-expensive election for Congress ever.

Candidates and outside groups have aired or reserved more than $29.7 million worth of TV ads in the race to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Congress, which will break a five-year-old record for House spending — highlighting the outsize importance a sliver of the Atlanta suburbs has taken on in national politics.

Cash is flowing in at such saturation levels that Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign had the money for everything from Korean radio ads to free Lyft rides for voters on primary day. The Atlanta NBC station has even bumped reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” from their regular slot in order to extend its local newscasts and make more room for political ads.

The cost of the race between Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel is going to shatter the previous recorded high of $29.6 million — set in Palm Beach County, Florida, in 2012 by former GOP Rep. Allen West, former Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy and outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The $29.7 million total in Georgia, compiled by a source tracking media spending in the district, includes only money spent on TV ads.

“It’s entirely possible that by the time the books are closed on this race, there will be over $40 million spent in the special and in the runoff,” said Chip Lake, a Republican strategist who works in Georgia. “I’m at a loss for words.”

“It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which 2018 will not be the election that shatters midterm spending record as well because we still have Donald Trump as president,” said Lake, the Georgia Republican consultant. “And he’s proven to be an activating force for both Democrats and Republicans.”

For TV stations, it’s like drinking from a fire hose.

The tidal wave of spending led a local television broadcaster, WXIA, to temporarily add a 7 p.m. newscast on its sister station. Fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” repeats will have to look elsewhere for the next few weeks.

It helps explain why reporters at WXIA showed up at a meeting last week and were informed about a temporary 7 p.m. newscast on its sister station, WATL, that will end after the June 20 runoff is over. They were told the current newscast commercial inventory was too tight.

“I have to give (WXIA) credit — they’re being honest about it,” said Bobby Kahn, a former Democratic operative whose media-buying firm works with Ossoff’s campaign. “I’m never surprised at a television station’s efforts to maximize their political revenue.”

The tight timing of a nightly newscast also adds another wrinkle. Michael Castengera, a TV consultant who teaches at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism, said stations try to space out ads to avoid airing them back-to-back. That means a typical 30-minute newscast can fit 16 to 18 30-second ads, he said.

And they have to strike a balancing act between serving longtime advertisers who provide a steady stream of revenue and the spike in political ads from campaigns who can generally buy their airtime at cheaper rates.

Atlanta mayoral candidates would normally be the main campaign story at this point in an election year, but they’re still in the bullpen getting warmed up.

The race for Atlanta mayor has been overshadowed lately by the news of the day — including a massive fire that destroyed the I-85 bridge — but candidates haven’t stopped campaigning.

With seven months to go to election day in November, the nine serious candidates hoping to succeed Mayor Kasim Reed are walking in parades, speaking at forums and using social media to engage voters.

Nine Georgia Congressman signed a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on poultry regulations by the Department of Agriculture.

Representatives Doug Collins (Ga-9), Austin Scott (Ga-8), Rick Allen (GA-12), Buddy Carter (GA-1), Tom Graves (GA-14), Jody Hice (GA-10), David Scott (GA-13), Rob Woodall (GA-7), Drew Ferguson (GA-3), and Barry Loudermilk (GA-11) all signed a letter Friday, with the requests to rescind or withdraw three poultry regulations.

The regulations were published in the Federal Register on December 20, 2016, “in spite of repeated signals from Congress that they exceeded the scope of the 2008 Farm Bill and strayed wildly from Congressional intent,” the letter said. They also commended the USDA for taking preliminary action on February 6 and extending public comment on the interim final rule.

Also in the letter, a study by FarmEcon LLC indicated the regulations would cost the chicken industry $1.03 billion dollars over five years in reduced efficiency, high costs for feeding and housing and increased administrative expenses.

In the letter the lawmakers request that after the public comment period is complete, the two proposed rules will be withdrawn and the interim final rule will be rescinded.

Macon-Bibb Commissioner Joe Allen has suggested local elected officials and appointees take voluntary drug tests.

Commissioner Joe Allen plans to introduce a resolution asking for elected and public officials to submit to voluntary drug tests and release the results to residents. The veteran politician said it would be a way to hold those in leadership positions accountable.

But several commissioners said they have concerns about some of the people who would be asked to volunteer for the tests, especially those whom commissioners appoint to various unpaid boards.

The resolution would cover Macon-Bibb County commissioners, other elected officials and appointed positions such as county and assistant county managers, and other department heads. People appointed to various boards, such as the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission, would also be asked to participate.

The resolution says it would cover illegal controlled substances. The measure is expected to be on the agenda for Tuesday’s commission committee meetings.

Cobb County Commissioners are considering a plan to offer valet parking on the Marietta Square.

Coweta County Third District Commissioner Bob Blackburn  and First District Commissioner Paul Poole both hosted Town Hall meetings for constituents last week.

The next town hall meeting will be Monday, May 22 with 4th District Commissioner Rodney Brooks. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and will be held at the Central Community Center, 65 Literary Lane, Newnan.

Gainesville High School students heard from the founder of Generation Inspiration at this year’s first session.

One highlight this year is a diplomacy program simulating a refugee crisis, said Ashley Bell, a GHS alumnus who has risen through government and politics to become a special assistant to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“You’ll be split into groups and educated on the roles in each situation, and you’ll be given a simulated program on how to end the crisis,” said Bell.

“What I hope you get out of this is an understanding that the world and these programs are difficult. There’s never really a right answer, but … you’ll get to understand how to advocate a position, a chance to fight for your argument and how the world works together to solve problems.”

Bell, who founded Generation Inspiration 12 years ago, said the experience might motivate some students to serve the country in some way.

“When you can convince your peers that you know what has to happen next for you to get to where you want to go, and this is a request for resources to do it, then we’ll help you do it,” Bell said. “We’ll help you get there.”

Whitfield County Commission Chair Lynn Laughter hopes to end surprise billing by the local ambulance service.

Basically, someone calls for an ambulance and is transported to Hamilton Medical Center. They later find that what their insurance has reimbursed Hamilton Emergency Medical Services only covered part of the bill and Hamilton has billed them for the balance.

She says that is one topic she has been pressing Hamilton on as the two sides have been renegotiating Hamilton’s contract to provide emergency medical services for Whitfield County.

“I’m happy to say that Hamilton has agreed to start negotiations with insurance companies to try to reach and agreement so that ambulance services would be an in-network service where insurance would cover the ride and the patient would not have to pay any balance,” she said.

Hamilton EMS Director Scott Radeker says there’s a reason for that.

“The insurance company pays only for what it thinks the service to that patient is worth,” he said. “It doesn’t take into account the equipment and manpower we have to maintain to respond to a call in minutes 24 hours a day. It doesn’t take into account the cost to us of patients we transport who don’t have insurance or lie to us about their names. What people are paying for is the cost of picking up that phone and within nine minutes in the city or 15 minutes in the county you have a paramedic there.”


Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal said he might run for Sheriff in 2020, but didn’t say where.

“Mayor no, I would never run for mayor,” he told 11Alive News on Friday.

Photojournalist Bruce Mason was apologetic about the question his Director of Digital Content (that’s me) insisted he ask.

But then, the bombshell: “In 2020, I plan on running for Sheriff.”

He could run for Sheriff in Henry County, where he is a resident. The incumbent there is up for reelection in 2020. He could run in Florida where he also has residency. He also could move somewhere between now and 2020, and establish new residency.

“This is not about politics. This is about bringing people closer together,” Shaq said. “You know, when I was coming up, people love and respected the police, the deputies. And, I want to be the one to bring that back, especially in the community I serve.”

Shaq says he’s perfect for the job, because he can relate to everyone. “I can put on a suit and have a conversation with Bill Gates. I can go in the hood and talk to the homies, and talk to the children.”

DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann made news of his own for completely different reasons.

The DeKalb County sheriff was arrested overnight by the Atlanta Police Department on misdemeanor obstruction and public indecency charges, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Sheriff Jeffrey Mann was arrested after he was stopped in Piedmont Park for allegedly breaking the law, police say.

Mann, an attorney who has worked in the Sheriff’s Office since 2001, was originally elected in a July 2014 special election against Vernon Jones. Mann was chief deputy under former Sheriff Thomas Brown and took over as sheriff earlier in 2014 after Brown resigned to run for Congress.

Mann overcame four Democratic opponents in the May primary election before facing Dennis in the general election.

Prior to Brown, every sheriff elected to a full term in DeKalb since 1965 had faced criminal charges.

GAGOP Chairman’s Race

Cobb County Republican Party hosted a debate among the candidates for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.

Over 100 Republicans packed into Cobb GOP Headquarters on Roswell Street on Saturday for the party’s monthly breakfast, but they weren’t there for the scrambled eggs or grits.

DeKalb attorney Alex Johnson, Republican activist John Watson of west Cobb, current Georgia GOP vice-chair Michael McNeely and Mike Welsh, chair of the Augusta-based 12th District GOP, all want to become the state GOP’s next chairman.

Whoever is elected to lead the state party June 3 will have to deal with the party’s financial problems. The state GOP is in debt, the candidates said, and they each presented their plans to get out of it.

Welsh told the crowd he has a fundraising plan that will reach out to conservatives across the state rather than just those in the metro area.

Johnson agreed it is important to expand the tent, but said the party needs to undergo fundamental changes to earn the trust of potential donors.

McNeely, who lives in Villa Rica and hopes to be the first leader of the Georgia GOP who is a minority, said the solution will involve better budgeting and better messaging.

Watson touted his experience as fundraiser and finance director for Republican candidates going back to Bob Barr in 1994.

“Georgia Republican party chairman is the fundraiser-in-chief, period,” he said. “The reality is I uniquely stand before you as the only person who has been a professional fundraiser throughout my career, raising resources for men and women across this state to the tune of $25 million. To do so, we will have an integrated finance plan and make certain we are looking at men and women that can contribute from $5 up to $250,000, creating a regimented business plan, marketing plan and having the dedication, on a daily basis… to make certain we are raising the resources.”

Gwinnett Republican Women will host a debate with the four candidates for State Chairman tonight at 7 PM at the Gwinnett GOP Headquarters in Gwinnett Place Mall.

“It may be your last chance to see the candidates locally before the convention … Be there by 7 p.m. to get a good seat,” Gwinnett Republican Women President Linda Williams said of this week’s forum in an announcement on Facebook.

The candidates for the state chairman’s position are Alex Johnson, Michael McNeely, John Watson and Michael Welsh.

The Hall County Republican Party will also host a debate.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 5, 2017

Georgia and American History

On May 6, 1789, the Constitutional Convention in Augusta, Georgia adopted a new Georgia Constitution.

George Washington attended the first inaugural ball on May 7, 1789 on Broadway near Wall Street in New York.

Washington arrived at the ball in the company of other American statesmen and their wives. That evening he danced with many of New York’s society ladies. Vice President John Adams, members of Congress and visiting French and Spanish dignitaries, as well their wives and daughters, joined in the festivities. Eliza Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton, recorded her impressions of the ball in her memoirs, noting that the president liked to dance the minuet, a dance she thought was suited to his dignity and gravity.

The Battle of the Wilderness began on May 5, 1864, between the Army of the Potomac, led by General Ulysses S. Grant, and the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee.

May 7, 1864 saw some of the first fighting in the Atlanta campaign, northwest of Dalton, Georgia.

Jefferson Davis spoke in Savannah, Georgia on May 6, 1866.

Davis … defend[ed] the South’s cause in the Civil War, stating, “In 1776 the colonies acquired State sovereignty. They revolted from the mother country in a desperate struggle. That was the cause for which they fought. Is it a lost cause now? Never. Has Georgia lost the State sovereignty which … she won in 1776? No, a thousand times no.” Davis’s fiery remarks were captured by reporters for the New York Times and other northern newspapers.

Because of the national attention generated over his visit to Alabama and Georgia, Davis took a more conciliatory tone in a speech that evening, noting, “There are some who take it for granted that when I allude to State sovereignty I want to bring on another war. I am too old to fight again, and God knows I don’t want you to have the necessity of fighting again… . The celebration today is a link in the long chain of affection that binds you and the North together. Long may it be true.”

On May 5, 1886, Jefferson Davis attended a public reception at Savannah, Georgia’s City Hall.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Cy Young threw a perfect game against the Detroit Tigers on May 5, 1904.

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person to break the four-minute barrier for running the mile.

For years, so many athletes had tried and failed to run a mile in less than four minutes that people made it out to be a physical impossibility. The world record for a mile was 4 minutes and 1.3 seconds, set by Gunder Hagg of Sweden in 1945. Despite, or perhaps because of, the psychological mystique surrounding the four-minute barrier, several runners in the early 1950s dedicated themselves to being the first to cross into the three-minute zone.

At 6 p.m., the starting gun was fired. In a carefully planned race, Bannister was aided by Chris Brasher, a former Cambridge runner who acted as a pacemaker. For the first half-mile, Brasher led the field, with Bannister close behind, and then another runner took up the lead and reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 3 minutes 0.4 seconds, with Bannister at 3 minutes 0.7 seconds. Bannister took the lead with about 350 yards to go and passed an unofficial timekeeper at the 1,500-meter mark in 3 minutes 43 seconds, thus equaling the world’s record for that distance. Thereafter, Bannister threw in all his reserves and broke the tape in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. As soon as the first part of his score was announced–”three minutes…”–the crowd erupted in pandemonium.

A “sub-four” is still a notable time, but top international runners now routinely accomplish the feat. Because a mile is not a metric measurement, it is not a regular track event nor featured in the Olympics. It continues, however, to be run by many top runners as a glamour event.

Alan Shepard, Jr. became the first American in space on May 5, 1961, making a 15 minute sub-orbital flight that reached an altitude of 115 miles, during which he experienced about five minutes of ‘weightlessness.’ He was launched in the 2,000-lb. capsule Freedom 7 from Cape Canaveral, Florida… The flight traveled 302 miles at a speed relative to the ground of 4,500 mph. The mission was named Mercury-Redstone 3, or Freedom 7.

On May 4, 1965, the Rolling Stones played a show at Georgia Southern.

The British band played in Hanner Fieldhouse to an overflow crowd of more than 3,500 people, according to a retrospective by Jim Hilliard in the Statesboro Herald. The gym’s capacity was about 1,500.

Hilliard said organizers figured they could sell 1,800 tickets at $2.50 each, which would be enough to pay the band and have some money left over for expenses.

The Stones had played on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sunday, May 2, and advance ticket sales were brisk the Monday and during lunch Tuesday, the day of the concert.

Hilliard said he signed the contract booking the Stones on behalf of Sigma Epsilon Chi fraternity. The contract called for the new fraternity to pay the band $3,000 for the appearance. Hilliard said he got a $1,500 loan from First Bulloch Bank to make the deal happen.

The Stones were expected to take the stage at 8:30 p.m. and play for at least an hour, but Hilliard had lined up three front bands, and “it proved to be a fatal flaw in plans for the concert,” he said in his retrospective.

The noise was deafening as the original Stones lineup — Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts — hit the stage nearly an hour late.

Jagger and the other band members were “openly hostile” at having to wait so long to play.

Keith Richards recorded the first version of the guitar riff that would become “Satisfaction” early in the morning of May 7, 1965 before passing out.

Jimmy Carter’s Presidential campaign received a boost on May 7, 1976 when he received the personal endorsement of the President of the United Auto Workers.

On May 6, 1984, Spinal Tap played a “comeback show” at CBGB’s in New York.

On May 6, 1996, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Atlanta was the most dangerous city in America.

On May 7, 1996, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell responded to the FBI Report that ranked Atlanta the most violent city in the nation. Campbell would succed in replacing headlines about Atlanta’s violent crime by substituting headlines about official corruption.

Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio on May 6, 1997.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has issued a public safety alert:

In the first four months of this year, 17 people died in Georgia after taking two types of manufactured drugs now banned. That was the same number of deaths in all of 2016.

The Georgia General Assembly recently outlawed U-47700 and furanyl fentanyl and Gov. Nathan Deal signed the law and enacted the restrictions April 17.

“Because furanyl fentanyl and U-47700 are lethal at very low doses, law enforcement and the public should use caution when handling these drugs,” the news release stated.

After a narcotics seizure in Metro Atlanta, 8 kilograms of a mixture of the two drugs was found to be so dangerous and complex that the GBI issued a statewide officer safety alert.

Governor Nathan Deal signed 28 bills into law yesterday.

Gov. Deal signed House Bill 280 by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), the so-called “Campus Carry” bill. From the Press Release:

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed HB 280, which permits weapons carry license holders to carry firearms in specific and limited areas on college campuses.

This legislation addressed major concerns voiced by the governor last year regarding HB 859, which permitted a weapons carry license holder to carry a concealed weapon into certain areas of a college campus that had previously been prohibited. HB 859 failed, however, to address Deal’s concerns regarding the prohibition of firearms in “sensitive places,” including campus preschools, disciplinary hearings, or faculty and administrative offices. As a result, the legislation was vetoed.This year, the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed HB 280, which maintains the same restrictions present in HB 859. It also addresses the areas of campus over which Deal previously raised concerns, along with additional areas of college campuses where weapons would not be permitted.

“It is altogether appropriate that weapons not be allowed in sensitive areas on college campuses, and I appreciate the thoughtful consideration given by the General Assembly in expanding these excluded areas within a college campus in this year’s bill,” said Deal. “While HB 280 addresses the rights and restrictions relating to weapons carry license holders on a college campus, it in effect may have greater significance for students who are going to or coming from a campus. Unfortunately, in parts of the state, the path to higher education travels through dangerous territory.

“At the present time, assailants can, and do, target these students knowing full well that their victims are not permitted to carry protection, even those who are weapons carry license holders, because they are either going to or coming from a campus where no weapons are allowed. In recent years, we’ve witnessed college students fall victim to violent attacks in or while traveling to libraries and academic buildings, and while traveling to and from their homes to class.

“As this legislation is more narrowly tailored as to exclude areas on a college campus, I’ve signed HB 280.”

The signing statement is available under “Related Files” below.

HB 280 prohibits the carrying of a concealed weapon by anyone, including weapons carry license holders, on the following areas of a college campus:

  • Buildings or property used for athletic sporting events;
  • Student housing, including but not limited to dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses;
  • Any preschool or childcare space;
  • Any room or space being used for classes related to a college and career academy or other specialized school;
  • Any room or space used for classes in which high school students are enrolled through a dual enrollment program, including, but not limited to, classes related to the “Move on When Ready Act”;
  • Any faculty, staff, or administrative offices; and,
  • Rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted.

Gov. Deal signed House Bill 146, by Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Paulding) which requires fire departments to provide insurance covering firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal visited Fire House 1 in Gilmer County Thursday to officially sign House Bill 146 known as the “Firefigher’s Cancer Insurance Bill.”

Joined by several officials including Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, author of the bill Micah Gravley, District 67 Representative, opened the ceremony by speaking about the two year effort to bring the bill to this point. Gravley related his interactions with two firefighters, Frank Martinez and Brian Scutter, who he said were the honor of the Bill as they fought for and spoke with legislators to get the bill passed, as well as the appropriateness to have the signing in Scutter’s home station in Gilmer County. Scutter was also mentioned by Speaker Ralston who said he had made a promise to Brian that he would give all that was in him to bring this day about. Turning to face Scutter, Ralston said, “I kept my promise.”

Gov. Deal also spoke at the groundbreaking of a new headquarters for Jackson Healthcare in Alpharetta.

Gov. Nathan Deal and a host of civic and business leaders broke ground this morning on a $100 million expansion of the headquarters of Jackson Healthcare, a healthcare staffing company that intends to add 1,400 employees over the next five years.

This project is portrayed as the largest expansion of corporate headquarters planned in north Fulton County. As such, Jackson Healthcare is part of a corporate footprint that makes the Perimeter submarket one of the major corporate destinations in the region.

“Jackson Healthcare is a powerhouse job creator for our region,” state Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), president and CEO of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “This project is going to continue to make North Fulton a destination to live and work.”

Deal’s office also released tax revenue numbers for April showing a 9.1 percent increase over April 2016.

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia’s net tax collections for April totaled $2.26 billion, for an increase of $187.9 million, or 9.1 percent, compared to April 2016. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $18.06 billion, for an increase of nearly $718.8 million, or 4.1 percent, over last year when net tax revenues totaled $17.34 billion.

House Bill 742, which incorporated various provisions of federal law to change the deadline for Corporate Income Tax filing, increased April tax revenue collections across multiple Corporate Tax categories. As a result, Corporate Income Tax payments had a significant impact on the overall April net tax collection increase.

United States District Court Judge Timothy Batten has ordered the re-opening of voter registration for the June 20th Special Runoff Election in the Sixth Congressional District.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten made the ruling as part of a broader lawsuit by a Washington-based advocacy group, which last month accused Georgia of violating federal law by reducing the amount of time residents have to register to vote.

Voter registration shut down March 20 ahead of the deciding runoff June 20 for the 6th District election, which is being held in the northern suburbs of metro Atlanta.

Batten, however, ordered registration immediately reopened until May 21.

A spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said the office will seek to comply with the order.

Kemp’s office, which oversees elections in Georgia, has called the suit a political effort by liberal groups to attack him as a Republican officeholder.

The office has also noted that the law has been in place since Democrat Cathy Cox was secretary of state more than a decade ago.

A Columbus commission considering replacing the government center is exploring financing it through a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools selected Ann Levett at the next Superintendent.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office dropped charges against former Brunswick Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Amanda Williams.

Williams was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury nearly two years ago on charges of making false statements during an investigation by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. The charges were related to comments the Fulton district attorney’s office claimed were made during a conversation about a drug court sentence she handed out in 2011.

Williams resigned from the bench in 2012 after she was accused of failing to remove herself from cases in which her lawyer family members were involved, showing favoritism from the bench, acting with “tyrannical partiality” and giving drug court participants unlawful indefinite sentences.

Glynn County Commissioners sent a tree ordinance that would apply only to St Simons Island back to committee.

Carol Burrell, CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System was named “Most Respected Business Leader” by Georgia Trend.

“Carol has the immense responsibility of overseeing the entirety of our growing health system, which now includes more than 8,000 employees working in three hospitals and dozens of outpatient locations across a region made up of more than one million people,” [NGHS Board of Trustees Chairman RK] Whitehead said. “And she does it with an amazing mix of intelligence, trust and grace.”

Under Burrell’s leadership, NGHS opened Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton, the first net-new hospital in 20 years, according to a press release. NGHS was also named one of Metro Atlanta’s Top Workplaces by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and one of Atlanta’s Top 25 Employers by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

2018 Elections

Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) has filed paperwork to begin raising funds for the 2018 Lieutenant Governor campaign.

Shafer Committee

Sachin Varghese, an Atlanta attorney, has raised more than $65,000 in the race to succeed State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), who is exploring a gubernatorial campaign.

“I am humbled by the outpouring of support from friends, neighbors and local leaders,” Varghese said. “I believe my service to our community as a civil rights attorney, as well as my commitment to running a strong grassroots effort, have energized our supporters.”

Varghese represented the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, and others, working with Congressman John Lewis, Rep. Abrams, and State Senator Elena Parent to challenge Republican gerrymandering in 2011.

“I was Chairman of the Black Caucus when Sachin represented us, and I witnessed firsthand his commitment to fighting injustice,” said Sen. Emanuel Jones. “He will be a passionate and able advocate for DeKalb residents at the Capitol, and that is why I wholeheartedly support him should Leader Abrams offer herself for higher office.”


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

Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth Be With You!

Georgia delegates convened in Augusta on May 4, 1789 to approve a new state Constitution and consider amendments.

One year and one day after General Sherman began the Atlanta campaign, on May 4, 1865, Atlanta surrendered. On the same day, the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River in Virginia and into the Wilderness.

One year after that, on May 4, 1865, the last meeting of the Confederate cabinet convened in the old Georgia State Bank Building, which was located at the site of the present-day Wilkes County Courthouse in Washington, Georgia.

On May 4, 1970, National Guard members shot into a crowd of protesting students, killing four and wounding nine others on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal signed 34 bills yesterday. See the full list here.

This morning, Deal signed legislation on the opioid epidemic. From the press release:

Gov. Nathan Deal, joined by members of the General Assembly, today signed legislation to address issues of opioid abuse during a ceremony at the State Capitol. Deal signed SB 121, the Jeffrey Dallas Gay, Jr., Act, SB 88, the Narcotic Treatment Programs Enforcement Act, and HB 249.

“The three bills I signed into law today will enable us to more effectively fight the ongoing opioid epidemic that impacts individuals, families and communities across Georgia,” said Deal. “I would like to thank Attorney General Chris Carr and the legislators behind these bills for their hard work, compassion and service in the fight against this illness. I am confident that this legislation will help save lives and give hope to the victims ensnared by this epidemic as well as their loved ones.”

SB 121 exempts Naloxone, the emergency drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, from the dangerous drug list when it is used for drug overdose prevention and supplied by a dispenser for various types of rescue kits. This legislation also codifies the executive orders put in place by Deal in 2016. SB 88 requires the Department of Community Health to create minimum standards and quality of services for narcotic treatment programs seeking licensure in Georgia. Provisions of HB 249 include moving the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency to the Department of Public Health.

You can watch the bill-signing here.

Fulton County has added extra early voting sites in the 6th Congressional District.

The county will have 16 days of early voting at six locations: the county’s North Fulton Service Center and the Ocee, Milton, East Roswell, Roswell and Alpharetta libraries. Early voting begins May 30 and will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Bob Ellis was also elected Vice Chair of the Fulton County Commission.

Cobb EMC added more solar to its power generation portfolio, via power purchase agreement with Green Power EMC.

Hall County and Gainesville school officials say rules changes by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will make it easier to comply.

Perdue, a former Georgia governor, signed the proclamation this week delaying an upcoming requirement to lower the amount of sodium in meals while continuing to allow waivers for regulations that all grains in school lunches must be 51 percent whole grain. It also allows school to serve 1 percent flavored milk instead of nonfat milk that was required under rules set during the Obama administration.

Cheryl Jones, Hall County School District nutrition director, called the decision “realistic.”

“We’re going to be able to have some flexibility,” she said. “We were very excited to hear his opinion on the milk — flavored milk — offering it at 1 percent instead of fat free. That was very unexpected.”

Penny Fowler, nutrition director in Gainesville City Schools, said she expects to meet the whole-grain requirements without a waiver, but officials are still working on the sodium level regulations.

“The Phase 2 sodium requirements, we were a little bit concerned with, so what (Perdue) is doing is going to allow us a little more time to get to the second limit,” she said.

First Lady Sandra Deal spoke at the dedication of a new “literacy garden” at the Hall County School District Office.

“You can develop your imagination because this is a place to love the outdoors and to have a great time learning and imagining and playing with your friends,” she told the students.

A crowd of school, city and county officials were joined by Master Gardeners and other residents to celebrate the dedication of the garden geared toward providing a place for younger children to play and have a chance to learn more about classic children’s stories. The garden is the seventh of the Gardens on Green. Among the many features are laminated children’s books for kids to read with family and friends, a Jack and Jill hill to play on, and a stage with a chair where Deal read the story about the caterpillar and spider who became friends.

Democrat John Ossoff managed to pick off some Republican votes in the first round of the 6th District Special Election, according to a GOP data firm.

The voter-file analysis of the special primary was conducted by Optimus Consulting, a Republican data-analytics firm that has been observing the Georgia race. The voter file allows Optimus and others to dig for details about who exactly turned out for the first round of the special election, and how they likely voted.

And the firm’s most conservative estimates say Ossoff captured at least 8 to 10 percent of the GOP’s votes in the primary, a critical slice given that Republicans comprised only a narrow majority of the electorate. While Ossoff’s campaign and motivated Democrats helped drive unusually high levels of voting in the primary, it’s clear that more than turnout propelled Ossoff’s campaign into his one-on-one runoff match-up with Republican Karen Handel in a longtime GOP district.

“Based on the final results of the jungle primary, most independents and a small but relatively sizable portion of Republicans voted for Jon Ossoff,” said Alex Alduncin, an analyst with Optimus.

Ossoff is working to draw more GOP votes into his column ahead of the Runoff Election.

Ossoff held a press conference at the state Capitol outlining his plan to cut $16 billion in federal spending. He campaigned with Jason Kander, a moderate Missouri Democrat who won statewide office in a red state. And House Democrats launched an ad campaign aimed at turning conservative voters in the district against Republican Karen Handel.

“I’ve been reaching out to voters across the political spectrum from the beginning of this campaign,” Ossoff said. “Voters in the 6th District are interested in leadership and representation that’s focused less on political party and more on getting things done. And cutting waste is simply not a partisan issue.”

Handel’s campaign dismisses the efforts to win over Republicans, who have long dominated the suburban Atlanta district. She has worked to consolidate the GOP base and was feted Tuesday at a fundraiser with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan — days after she appeared with President Donald Trump at a stop in Atlanta.

Ossoff has tried to expand the electorate by targeting left-leaning voters who rarely cast ballots in the special election. But his campaign has also aimed for Republicans who are uneasy with Trump.

The New York Times has a long piece on the Sixth District elections.

Today, 24 percent of people in Johns Creek are of Asian heritage. Indian-Americans shop for saris at the Medlock Crossing strip mall and flock to the latest Bollywood hits at the multiplex. Chinese-Americans and food lovers of all stripes head to the Sichuan House, near the Target and Home Depot stores, for sliced pork ears in chili sauce and “tearfully spicy” mung bean noodles.

At the same time, Republicans here reject the idea that demography is political destiny. Instead, they envision a future in which the charms of suburban life, and the conservative politics that made it possible, will rub off on everyone. Instead of the newcomers changing the suburbs, they say, the suburbs will change the newcomers.

“You move to Cobb, you’ve got a good job and cheaper property taxes, and you say, ‘Hey, maybe this is a better way,’ ” said Michael Altman, 58, a former vice chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party.

It is the kind of political reckoning that many American suburbs may soon confront, if they haven’t already. A report last year by the Urban Land Institute noted that the percentage of foreign-born Americans was at its highest in 90 years, and that millennials were now starting families and looking for good public schools. It estimated that 79 percent of the nation’s household growth would occur in the suburbs in the next decade, much of it in “affordable sunshine states” where the weather is warm, taxes are low and homes are relatively cheap.

In Johns Creek, the Asian-American residents came not for rail lines but for the schools, just as whites had before them, said Anjali Enjeti, who moved to the city 10 years ago from Pennsylvania. Many also work in the numerous tech companies stuffed in the surrounding office parks.

Gwinnett County officials joined state Senator Renee Unterman and the GBI in a press conference about a recent anti-sex trafficking operation.

Gwinnett County is ready to band together to fight child sexual exploitation.

“I have never been anywhere that I talked about this problem that people don’t want to do something about it,” said Sen. Renee Unterman. “Because they see the scourge in our society that we have reached the level that we literally are taking advantage of these small children.”

Unterman hosted a press conference at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center Wednesday to showcase a recent success story from the county’s efforts to address that scourge — Operation Spring Cleaning. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation-led operation lasted about three days and resulted in the arrest of 23 suspected child predators from all over the metro Atlanta area and beyond.

More than 15 local agencies — including the Gwinnett County Police Department and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office — worked to track and arrest each offender. The Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office was along the whole way to help with legal questions. Then, the office worked to indict each suspected offender in just two days.

Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Tracie Cason said that two-day indictment period would not have been possible without the full professional cooperation of each agency involved. She also said she believes the quickness with which the operation moved is key to preventing further predators from preying on kids in the county.

“What we hope to do is by indicting them quickly, by bringing them to justice swiftly, we will send a strong message to the citizens of Gwinnett County that we simply will not tolerate you coming to our county, you preying on our children, you victimizing our children,” Cason said. “And you’re not going to get away with it.”

2018 Campaigns

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle continued his statewide tour yesterday with a stop at Nonami Plantation in Albany.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle brought his campaign for governor to Southwest Georgia on Wednesday, and it was only fitting that he gave his stump speech at Nonami Plantation with three grain silos and a John Deere tractor in the background.

Not surprisingly, Cagle spent much of his time talking about his plans for education, helping south Georgia farmers, bringing broadband internet access to the rural parts of the state, and economic prosperity for all Georgians.

“The School Turnaround legislation is really all about giving struggling schools the tools that they need to accurately assess the problems that exist in their school,” Cagle said. “The legislation will give them the help they need to turn around that school. We cannot tolerate failing schools. We have to lift every student and every school up so they can reach their highest potential.”

“We will have a chief Turnaround Officer in place who will hire assessment experts and also put a turnaround plan in place. All of those things are not interfering with local control but will allow local communities to be a part of the overall solution.”

One of Cagle’s biggest supporters, Sen. Greg Kirk, R-13, said he has no qualms about throwing his support behind the state’s lieutenant governor in his gubernatorial quest.

“As the leader of the Georgia Senate, Lt. Gov. Cagle has helped get my bills through the senate and into law,” Kirk said. “His help has been invaluable to me, and that is why I am supporting his bid for governor.”

Cagle also spoke to a Rotary club in Valdosta.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told Rotary Club members at a luncheon Wednesday the state’s schools must meet the needs of industry while lawmakers must address transportation, healthcare and broadband needs.

“Georgia is always best when we stretch just a little bit further than our reach,” Cagle said. “Today, commerce is no longer bound by brick and mortar. You can do business all across the world through the Internet. We need a strong sector to build out the fiber and broadband.”

An expansion of the Internet into more areas would allow students access for schoolwork and would help improve industry, as Georgia processes 70 percent of America’s credit cards, Cagle said.

“We have to align graduation with industry needs,” Cagle said. “All work is honest work — is good work. We have to get back to a society that celebrates all work. Everybody adds value. No one is more important than the other.”

State House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams is profiled for her race to become the first African-American female Governor of Georgia.

Abrams is hoping to harness some of the anti-Trump backlash that boosted her fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff in the first round of a special election for the US House of Representatives last month, though in a recent interview with the Guardian, she framed her mission differently. A former bureaucrat, district attorney and businesswoman, Abrams is hoping her diverse political background will be a selling point.

“We need good politicians who actually respect government and understand how all the different pieces work to run,” she said. “And you need former bureaucrats because we understand what these laws look like in practice.”

There isn’t a sitting African American governor in the country. And in Georgia, no African American has won statewide office in since 2006.

But that doesn’t faze Abrams, who says demography is not destiny. “I am a bullish cheerleader in the reality that demography is a roadmap but not a treasure map,” she says.

Georgia Conservatives Fund, which is not affiliated with Casey Cagle’s gubernatorial campaign, has raised a ton of money, according to the AJC.

In the six months leading up to the 2017 legislative session, a fund created by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s campaign staffers collected $2.2 million in high-dollar contributions, many coming from lobbyists, businesses and associations with a keen interest in the Georgia Senate he leads.

Georgia Conservatives Fund, long run by Cagle’s political consultant and started more than seven years ago by his then-re-election campaign manager, raised money intermittently in the past and donated to GOP Senate candidates.

Cagle announced plans to run for governor on Sunday, and his campaign said it is not affiliated with the fund.

Rick Thompson, a former state ethics commission director and expert on campaign finance laws, says that’s an important distinction.

“The question is, does the candidate control it or direct it?” Thompson said. “If the candidate is not specifically in charge of it, they can do whatever they want with the money in the state of Georgia.”
[Cagle campaign attorney Josh] Belinfante said Georgia Conservatives Fund “is not there to support one person over another.”

“The group is set up to support policy,” he said. “It is not connected to a campaign.”

Shawn Wright will run for Roswell City Council in November 2017.

Shawn Wright has announced his plans to run for one of the three Council seats up for re-election in November. Along with Mayor Jere Wood, the seats held by Jerry Orlans, Nancy Diamond and Lori Henry are up for re-election.

“It’s time for leaders to bridge the gap of our history with the future that lies before us,” Wright said. “Roswell has roots that run deep, steeped in charm and history. Honoring that history and bridging it with the future demands the willingness to push past the single issue divides resulting in gridlock to find creative and common sense solutions. As city councilman, I will seek input and collaborate with anyone and any group willing to come together and find common ground.”

Wright was one of four candidates who ran in the March 20 special election to fill the Post 4 seat vacated with the resignation of Kent Igleheart following his arrest on child sex charges. Wright did not advance to the runoff, which was subsequently won by Henry. Henry fills Igleheart’s unexpired term, which ends Dec. 31.

Wright has already garnered support from local residents. One community leader, Claire Bartlett, said she’s supporting Wright because she believes in the saying that past performance is the best predictor for future behavior.