Category: Georgia Politics

29
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 29, 2017

On June 29, 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sailed from Cadiz, Spain to invade Florida.

Johan De Kalb was born on June 29, 1721 in Germany. In 1777, De Kalb joined the Marquis de Lafayette in supporting the Americans against British forces, dying in Camden, South Carolina in 1780. In 1822, the Georgia General Assembly created DeKalb County.

On June 29, 1767, the British Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, levying a tax on glass, paint, oil, lead, paper, and tea in order to raise funds from the colonies.

The United States Supreme Court released its 5-4 opinion in Furman v. Georgia on June 29, 1972, holding that the death penalty violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

On June 29, 1993, Governor Zell Miller bought the first ticket in the Georgia Lottery.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner ruled against County Commissioner Tommy Hunter’s argument that the county ethics board is unconstitutional because of its appointment process.

Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner’s ruling was a blow to the Hunter camp’s assertion that the ethics complaint filed against him by Atlanta resident Nancie Turner and, indeed, the county’s entire ethics process was unconstitutional. That process resulted in a recommendation that the Board of Commissioners publicly reprimand Hunter, which it did last week.

“Since the Board of Ethics serves merely as an investigatory function in making a recommendation to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, a public body comprised of elected members, rather than acting as the final arbiter, the ethics board and the ordinance creating it are not constitutionally infirm,” Conner wrote in her decision on Wednesday.

“We are pleased that the judge has deemed our Ethics Committee and Ethics Policy to be constitutional,” commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in a statement. “While we certainly believed this was the case, it is good to have confirmation through the Court’s decision.”

But, while Conner’s decision may look like a defeat for Hunter, his spokesman, Seth Weathers, said he is not giving up.

“They call them activist judges for a reason,” Weathers said. “We were prepared for this and will be moving forward with additional legal measures. If they think they can deter us or make this go away, they are badly mistaken.”

Weathers continued his rant on Facebook.

My God, the other commissioners continue to publicly comment on a matter that is going to be resolved by the courts. I cannot believe they actually think this case is settled – if so, that’s sad. It’s going to be a rude awakening.

For clarification Charlotte, this one ruling is not proof that the unconstitutional actions you have taken are actually constitutional. It’s time to stop being so prideful and admit you were wrong.

Tybee Island City Council set the FY2018 property tax rate at the same level as the previous year.

Lowndes County Commissioners approved a FY 2017-18 without a millage rate increase.

The Greater Lowndes Planning Commission will consider alleged zoning violations abetted by Airbnb.

Airbnb residences in Valdosta are technically in violation of current zoning ordinances, said Matt Martin, Valdosta city planning and zoning administrator.

“I went online and found five of them (in Valdosta),” Martin said.

CyberQuest 2017 at Fort Gordon’s U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence ends this week.

During Cyber Quest, the Army assesses its cyberwarfare needs and shares them with industry and academic partners. Those partners then share their knowledge and technology with soldiers who train with it. The Army then examines if or how those new cyberwarfare approaches improve its capabilities.

Twenty-seven vendors participated this year, offering expertise in 40 “capabilities,” Morrison said. The many areas addressed included signal detection, geolocation, network operations, malware analysis, data processing and tactical systems.

This year — the fort’s second Cyber Quest event — also marked the first time the fort has assessed its electronic warfare capabilities.

“That is absolutely critical, because I would submit to you that the United States Army is behind many of our near-peer or even peer competitors in that critical field,” Morrison said.

Electronic warfare differs from cyberspace operations. Electronic warfare encompasses how electromagnetic signals are manipulated in areas such as radio, radar, sonar and infrared technology.

Columbus-based Synovus was named the Most Reputable Bank in America.

Manatees are being tracked off the Georgia coast.

Staff from wildlife agencies and organizations in Georgia and Florida netted eight manatees in Cumberland Sound in late May and early June. With a helicopter helping spot the animals, a custom manatee capture boat was used to encircle them with a net. They were then pulled onto the boat or a bank to tag and examine. Biologists and veterinary staff examined the six male and two female manatees, took samples, fitted each animal with a GPS transmitter and released all unharmed.

The project, led by Sea to Shore Alliance, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia Aquarium, is expected to help document migratory paths and habitat use in the region, collect baseline data to help assess manatee health and map the protected species’ movements near Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
The GPS data have shown that manatees regularly venture into the submarine base, they’re able to find artificial freshwater sources to drink from, and a few have traveled into the open Atlantic venturing as far as five miles offshore. Biologists are also confirming things they long suspected but had no way to prove, such as the importance of the Intracoastal Waterway, or ICW — a narrow passage of natural and dredged rivers between the mainland and barrier islands – for manatees moving along the Georgia coast.

“The Intracoastal Waterway is like a manatee highway,” DNR wildlife biologist Clay George said. “But the ICW is also a primary passageway for boats moving up and down the coast, so this behavior may place manatees at added risk of boat strikes.”

Goodwill of North Georgia will receive a $1.2 million grant from the US Department of Labor to work on helping ex-offenders find work.

DeKalb County is discontinuing its glass recycling program.

Opiate Epidemic

Hazmat crews were called in to the Duluth Police Department after a load of synthetic opiate Fentanyl was spilled.

Duluth PD Officer Ted Sadowski said two officers were driving a load of Fentanyl back to the department from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab.

Fentanyl is one of the strongest opiate drugs on the market and is often used for short-term, break-through pain after surgery, according to narconon.org. It’s also a frequently abused drug.

Sadowski said either Duluth PD or the Gwinnett Metro Task Force likely arrested somebody with Fentanyl recently and transported the drug to the GBI lab to be tested. The two officers were bringing the drug supply back from the lab to house as evidence on Wednesday afternoon.

When they got back to the department at about 1 p.m., the officers checked the back of their cars and realized the Fentanyl had spilled.

The Russell County, Alabama Sheriff’s Office found some counterfeit Percocet containing fentanyl, similar to those in a recent cluster of Middle Georgia overdoses.

An update on overdose rates comes from Newsweek.com:

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death rate from synthetic opioid overdose has increased by nearly 75 percent from 2014 to 2015. That data includes all synthetics, such astramadol and fentanyl. Last year, LiveScience reported that deaths from fentanyl have doubled in a single year. In 2014, 4,200 people in the U.S. died from overdoses involving fentanyl, compared with 1,905 people in 2013. In short, the rate of fentanyl deaths increased from 6 deaths per 1 million people to 13 deaths per 1 million people during that one-year period.

Healthcare

Two professors write about what the American Health Care Act would do to rural healthcare.

Both the House and Senate bills to repeal and replace Obamacare would drastically reduce rural Americans’ insurance coverage and significantly threaten the ability of many rural hospitals and clinics to keep their doors open. Analysts show that the bill would provide insufficient tax credits to pay for rural premium costs, drastically increase the price of rural premiums and increase uncompensated care in rural hospitals.

The particular economic factors affecting rural health care institutions make rural areas particularly vulnerable to political shifts that disrupt services for existing patients and for those newly insured, creating immense challenges for rural providers. Steps that fail to account for the impact of financial hardship on these institutions not only hurt their bottom line but contribute to poor morale and workforce turnover and larger-scale decisions to reduce services, which decrease their ability to address patient needs.

At the same time, commitment to improving the health of rural Americans requires attention to the so-called upstream factors shaping rural health. That means preserving the safety net programs so vital in rural areas with underemployment and low-paying jobs, strengthening rural economies and investing in high-quality education.

If our leaders are serious about reform that will lessen the rural-urban mortality gap, they should recognize the unique needs of rural America and ensure health care policy reflects how vital access to quality care is to their financial success — not to mention their well-being.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson spoke on GPB’s “Political Rewind” about healthcare in southwest Georgia.

Tomlinson said the Columbus area would be greatly affected by what happens with the [Republican] healthcare bill.

“In southwest Georgia, particularly, as you know, we have some of the poorest counties in Clay and Calhoun and Stewart and Webster County,” she said. “And so, you’re talking about a region of Georgia that relies heavily on things such as Medicaid and has seen … the closing of these rural hospitals.”

“It’s in real crisis,” she said. “And at the same time that puts an incredible load on our medical center, which is, of course, our public hospital, which our citizens pay ($15 million) a year to subsidize. And, you know, it’s serious business down there.”

She said some hospitals that closed might have had a shot if Gov. Nathan Deal had expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“This affects people’s lives,” she said. “Not only does it reduce the number of good, medical industry jobs in our area. It reduces these rural hospitals that people rely on incredibly. And you can’t talk about economic development and have poverty levels like we do in some of these areas outside the Metro Atlanta area and not realize that healthcare is major component.”

Floyd County state legislators discussed the federal healthcare legislation.

State Rep. Eddie Lums­den, R-Armuchee, said Wednesday that Georgia General Assembly members want to be prepared for any federal funding changes.

“Whatever happens in D.C. will affect us in the states, of course, but until they take some action we’re still in limbo,” he said.

He also serves on the House Rural Development Council, which is holding hearings around the state. Access to healthcare is the focus of the next two sessions, set for July 19 in Thomasville and July 20 in Bainbridge.

“When you’re looking for ways to keep the population there and help attract business and industry to rural areas, the plight of rural hospitals is one of the things that play into it,” Lumsden said.

State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said she’s hearing from a wide variety of constituents — including some who mistakenly think she’s in Washington, with a vote on the bill. Across the board, she said, is a desire to see the end of the mandate to buy insurance. But there are also a wide variety of fears.

“Particularly for those struggling with mental health, there’s real concern they may lose their benefits,” she said.

At a Medical Association of Georgia meeting where she was a panelist last week, she said providers such as physicians and hospitals were talking about the need for reimbursements to reflect the cost of care.

She said she told both groups, and others, to take time now to contact their federal lawmakers about their concerns.

The New Yorker writes about Clay County, Georgia, where a single physician provides healthcare for all residents.

Fort Gaines is in Clay County, which is consistently ranked among the poorest of the hundred and fifty-nine counties in the state. It currently ranks third-to-last in “health outcomes,” according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, up from dead last. Clay County’s only hospital closed its doors in 1983, long before [Dr. Karen] Kinsell, who is now in her sixties, arrived and became its only doctor.

Kinsell runs Clay County Medical Center, a facility with four exam rooms built out of a former Tastee-Freez. It’s a private practice, but she is a full-time volunteer. There is a receptionist and two other full-time staff members; they see “around thirty to thirty-five patients a day,” Kinsell said. Monty Veazey, the president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, told me that “Kinsellcare” is the only health care that’s had a meaningful and positive effect here. “She’s going bankrupt treating everyone that comes in,” he said. “Most have no money, no Internet access, no other basic care. Many don’t have insurance. How much longer can she do that? I don’t know. But she’s their only hope.”

“My patients are sixty per cent black and forty per cent white. Forty per cent are completely uninsured, and we just ask them for ten dollars to cover the visit. If they can’t pay, then it’s free. We do that because this is one of the poorest places in Georgia, with some of the sickest people, and we’re adjoined by counties that are just as bad.
“We’ve had two rural hospitals in the wider area close in the last seven years. And the quality of the remaining really rural hospitals is pretty awful. You have to go in one of five directions to find health care from here: there’s a physician’s assistant in a waiting room twenty miles away. But the closest real hospital is thirty miles. A real regional hospital is sixty miles away if you stay in Georgia, forty miles away in Alabama.”

“I’m the only provider in the county, so it’s partly chronic care and partly urgent care that I do. There’s very high rates of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease. That sort of thing. We just did an S.T.D. check. I have leg pain reported in this next patient this morning. We have a very high rate of elderly and disabled people here, because of multi-generational poverty. People who can leave have left.”

“In all fairness, Obamacare, as much as I was for it—and I’m on it myself—didn’t affect us much at all. The first year it came out, southwest Georgia had the second-highest premium costs in the nation, after Vail, Colorado. And because not many people make enough to be allowed to buy into it, very few people around here signed up for it. We also were not allowed to be a provider, because people were allowed to pick and choose providers. Then, of course, Georgia did not expand Medicaid. That’s why about forty per cent of our patients are uninsured.”

“We didn’t see a whole lot of businesses here starting to offer insurance under Obamacare. Partly because the big companies—the chicken plant—already have insurance. And we don’t have many companies that are that fifty-to-one-hundred-employee size that would have been affected.”

2018 Elections

State Senator Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) says he took in a million dollars for his 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

Republican Hunter Hill said Thursday he’s raised more than $1 million in the race for Georgia governor, a day ahead of a reporting deadline that will be an early test for gubernatorial candidates.

The state senator said in a statement that his fundraising shows that “Georgia Republicans are ready for a conservative outsider to change the way state government works.”

Hill’s campaign hopes his seven-figure take proves he’s a top-tier candidate. A U.S. Army veteran, Hill has tried to position himself as the “true conservative” in the race since announcing his run in April. He has staked out a staunchly conservative platform, railing against “sanctuary cities” and vowing to eliminate the state income tax.

Welcome to the top tier, Sen. Hill.

28
Jun

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

On June 28, 1742, Spanish forces based in Florida invaded Georgia.

On June 28, 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s second draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On June 28, 1887, John Pemberton patented Coca-Cola Syrup and Extract.

Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia on June 28, 1914, sparking the First World War.

The first production Corvette was assembled on June 28, 1953 in Flint, Michigan.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The latest video from the “Real Teachers Real Voices” campaign was released by Gov. Nathan Deal’s office yesterday and features Jennifer Ulbrich, an educator at Charles R. Drew Charter School in Atlanta.

“Today’s pace of change is unprecedented. Our students will graduate into a global and dynamic world filled with emojis, robotic arms and the internet,” said Ulbrich. “It is my job to prepare them for that diverse future. Every day, I share my passion for social studies with young people, as I encourage them to think critically about the society around them. I am a teacher for the 21st century.”

Gov. Deal announced that SILON will invest $20 million in Forsyth County and bring 20 new jobs.

“Georgia’s top-ranked business environment continues to attract international firms like SILON to our state,” said Deal. “In choosing Fayette County for this facility, SILON will find the logistics infrastructure and well-trained workforce necessary to support customers in a range of industries. I’m pleased to welcome SILON to the growing number of international companies creating jobs for Georgians and investing in our communities.”

The facility will be used for manufacturing, warehousing and storage purposes. The newly created jobs include positions in engineering, management and production.

If you say “SILON,” I assume you’re talking about these guys.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced it has identified two new Fentanyl analogues that can be absorbed through the skin and are considered highly dangerous.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab in Cleveland, GA has identified two new fentanyl analogues, acrylfentanyl and tetrahydrofuran fentanyl.

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office submitted forensic drug evidence containing these two drugs to the crime lab in March of this year.  Acrylfentanyl had been on the GBI’s watchlist for the past few months. Multiple reports in other states indicated that the opioid reversal drug, naloxone, may not be effective if someone overdosed after ingesting acrylfentanyl.

Legislation was introduced this year to outlaw acrylfentanyl in Georgia.  The law banning the substance went into effect after passage by the Georgia General Assembly and the Governor’s signature on April 17, 2017.  At this time, tetrahydrofuran fentanyl is not covered under GA law.

It is unknown how the human body will react to both drugs since they are not intended for human or veterinary use.

WSB-TV reports that some of the new Fentanyl variants appear to be resistant to Naloxone (aka Narcan), the widely used countermeasure for drug overdoses.

Channel 2’s Tom Regan was at Northside Hospital Forsyth where he’s told they been overwhelmed by drug overdose involving heroin and fentanyl.

In one weekend in April, there were four overdoses in the county, two fatal, and Channel 2 Action News is working to learn if they’re link to this new drug strain

“There are multiple reports showing that this drug is resistant to Naloxone,” Nelly Miles with the GBI said.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader sent a letter to U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, a Republican from Buford, sent a letter to the office of U.S. senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue telling them that cuts to Medicaid funding would impact county and private EMS, emergency rooms and opioid treatment programs.

“Opioid abuse and confronting the epidemic is an issue that crosses state lines, cultures, ages and social classes,” Unterman said. “We must work together with our colleagues on the federal level to ensure this health care crisis is addressed and necessary funding is not eliminated.

“Our goal is to mobilize state leaders in raising awareness, improving our existing therapeutic infrastructure, changing Georgia state law and appropriating matching state and federal dollars to lead the way in fighting the opioid epidemic.”

Unterman, who chairs the Senate’s Health and Human Services committee, has played an active role in efforts to mobilize metro Atlanta’s northern arc counties — Gwinnett, Cobb, Hall, Forsyth and Cherokee — to combat opioid addiction in the area.

She will be hosting a press conference, along with Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, on Friday to further bring awareness to the opioid epidemic and discuss next steps in combating it.

In Albany, Phoebe Putney Hospital is partnering with local agencies to form a new task force to fight opioid abuse.

“I think we’re kind of being on the proactive side, because we’re combating something before it gradually attacks our community,” Albany Dougherty County Drug Unit Major, Prurince Dice said.

During their first meeting on Tuesday, Dice talked about just how deadly some opioids could be especially fentanyl. In fact, he said just a very small amount of fentanyl, like the size of this ball point pen, is enough to kill someone.

Phoebe Hospital has partnered with Albany law enforcement to tackle the drug epidemic and want to really start with prevention. Leaders want to halt all drugs, not just opioids.

“Enforcing the law or focusing more on the crime reduction part may not necessarily be 100 percent the best solution for this type of epidemic,” Dice said.

Hospital Manager of Security, Emergency and Preparedness Gary Rice wants the police and hospital to collaborate on issues like drug use.

“A lot of things that go on inside of our hospital we have to work with our law enforcement partners on the outside and the same thing. They’re seeing things on the outside that may influence the way we have to treat people on the inside,” Rice said.

Local law enforcement officers are taking precautions when dealing with potential drug caches.

“With fentanyl popping up around here, you have to vigilant,” [Senoia Police Officer Christopher Black] said. “When you get this far along into your career, sometimes you have a tendency to be less cautious around drugs because you’ve been around them for so long. But now it’s to the point where you’re always on edge and taking every precaution to protect yourself.”

[Senoia Lt. Jason] Ercole sent an internal memo to all officers at the Senoia Police Department, requiring gloves when dealing with all narcotics.

Anything suspicious is immediately sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab….

In an attempt to stay ahead of the curve with the current opioid crisis, Ercole also purchased 16 Narcan kits for $1,200 and hopes he can make room in the budget for more next year. Each officer will have two doses of the spray.

GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said the rise of synthetic drugs is one of the greatest dangers first responders are currently facing.

“So many situations involve fire departments and police departments, where every day they are doing opioid reversals thanks to Naloxone,” she said. “But they have to call in the fire department to decontaminate the area in the same fashion what would be required in a hazmat situation.”

“When it comes to these kinds of drugs, there’s no consistency how it can come or what it looks like,” the GBI’s Miles said. “Every case needs to be treated like it could be fentanyl.”

Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-10) lauded the EPA’s move to reverse its Waters of the United States rule.

The Obama Administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule attempted to replace the judgment of Forsyth and Gwinnett County government with a federal bureaucracy’s, and that misguided notion was always the problem,” [Woodall] said. “The issue is not whether we should protect our resources and be good stewards of the environment — we all agree we should — the issue is where that authority resides: Washington or here at home.

“No one cares more about water quality in our community than those of us who call it home, and the Administration’s decision today gives us the tools that we need here at home to protect it.”

Hice said on Facebook, “Ambiguous rules that regulate virtually every puddle and pool subject farmers and ranchers to undue burden. I applaud today’s action by the Trump Administration and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to rescind the #WOTUS rule.”

Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) also issued a statement on the so-called “WOTUS Rule.”

“The WOTUS rule was flawed from the beginning, and I applaud EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s action to rescind this regulation. WOTUS was yet another attempt by the previous administration to undermine the rights of states, local governments and landowners by allowing the federal government to regulate backyard streams and puddles.

“Our farmers work each and every day to care for our land and preserve it for generations to come. I am happy to see the Trump Administration empowering America’s farmers and taking another step towards removing the overreaching hand of government from their everyday lives. In February, I introduced H.R. 1105, legislation to repeal the WOTUS rule and now that the EPA has rescinded the rule, Congress must codify this language to ensure WOTUS can never become a reality under any future administrations.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr also joined the press release party.

Attorney General Chris Carr today applauded the action of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in beginning to withdraw its 2015 rule defining “waters of the United States” (the WOTUS Rule).

“This is a significant step in addressing the WOTUS Rule’s sweeping assertion of authority, which unlawfully impinges on the State’s traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “We look forward to EPA’s final action to withdraw the 2015 WOTUS Rule, providing relief for Georgia homeowners, farmers and other entities.”

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is working to increase funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

Led by U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, the entire bipartisan delegation urged the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water to give a special priority to the Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program, making additional funds available to keep the project on budget.

“The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that without annual funding of $80 million to $100 million, the project cannot be completed on time, with the resulting delays costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,” Carter said.

The letter, signed by every member of the delegation, noted that the budget request, both for SHEP and the overall Army Corps Construction Account, “is well below the minimum required to facilitate the international trade and domestic job growth that is key to restoring fiscal and economic health to the nation.”

The Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission released short list of nominees for vacancies on the States Court of Bibb County and Clayton County.

Emory University has filed a petition to have its Druid Hills campus annexed into the City of Atlanta.

The university, including its health care facilities on the Druid Hills campus, will remain in DeKalb County, and upon approval of the petition, will also be part of the City of Atlanta.

According to Emory President Claire E. Sterk, annexation into Atlanta will complement the university’s commitment to local, and thereby global, engagement, while continuing to contribute to both jurisdictions.

“We are enriched by our relationships with the county and the city as well as the larger region and the state and look forward to building upon our commitment to community involvement, academic excellence, innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Sterk.

Next steps in the process include the city’s regular public meeting process for annexations. It is expected that the annexation will be effective in the fall of this year.

From the AJC:

The news comes as city and MARTA officials prepare discussions on the millions in transportation spending expected to be come as a result of last year’s approval of an almost penny sales tax increase for roads, sidewalks and public transportation improvements.

Light rail connectivity from MARTA’s Lindbergh Station to Emory’s Clifton Road corridor and nearby Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been discussed as a top spending priority.

“As an Emory graduate, I would be delighted if the annexation process is completed and they are a part of Atlanta,” said City Councilwoman Mary Norwood. “That is good news for them and good news for Atlanta.”

DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader expressed concern that others could follow Emory’s lead and potentially “destabilize” the region. He wants Atlanta to agree not to allow piecemeal annexations of neighborhoods or shopping centers, and worries that Emory’s decision could impact future transportation agreements.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has been recognized in the U.S. News ranking of the best pediatric hospitals in the nation.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties. The facility ranked highest, No. 6 in nephrology, along with No. 11 in gastroenteroloy, No. 13 in cancer treatment, and No. 15 in neonatology.

Glynn County beachgoers are being warned to stay out of the water in some areas.

The Glynn County Board of Education adopted a FY 2018 budget that includes raises for teachers.

The Glynn County Health Department issued advisories for East Beach at the old Coast Guard station (from Tenth Street to Driftwood Drive) and Massengale Park Beach (from Driftwood Drive to Cedar Street) on St. Simons Island.

The advisories do not impact any other beaches on the island and do not mean the beaches are closed.

Officials said there is no way of knowing if going into water that is under an advisory will result in illness; but, the beach water advisory is issued to alert the public of a possible risk of illness associated with water contact.

The Glynn County Health Department recommends beachgoers not swim or wade in the water in the areas under advisory.

Fish and other seafood caught from the areaa should be thoroughly washed with fresh water and thoroughly cooked before eating, as should fish or seafood caught from any waters.

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge swamp fire was extinguished by heavy rain.

A wildfire that consumed more than 152,000 acres in and around the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has been extinguished thanks to more than 10 inches of rain the past two weeks.

At its peak, more than 1,000 wildfire firefighters from across the country battled to contain the flames within the boundaries of the wildlife refuge and adjoining forests in North Florida.

Scott Cordero, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, said anywhere from 12 to 17 inches of rain have fallen on the swamp the past 30 days.

Clermont and Lula will not levy property taxes in the coming year.

With expenditures of $434,600 in its recently approved fiscal 2017-18 budget, Clermont balanced its budget through sales and use taxes or fees — without a property tax.

Clermont Mayor James Nix said the town levied a property tax soon after it was established in 1913, but has done without it for many years.

“They had a property tax at one time in the early days, I know that,” Nix said. “They haven’t had one in the past 30-40 years. I haven’t looked at the records to see when it was they had one.”

Instead of property taxes, Nix said Clermont — with a population of less than 1,000 residents — gets it revenues from a local option sales tax ($137,500), franchise fees, insurance premium taxes and “odds ’n ends.”

Lula Mayor Milton Turner is proud that during his 16-year tenure in office the city has kept its tradition of doing without property taxes to balance the budget.

“That’s the great thing about being here (in Lula) where we’re able to do this and roll back our taxes to zero,” Turner said recently, after the city approved a budget that slightly went over $1 million.

Lula Mayor Pro Tem Marvin Moore said property taxes may be inevitable in the future as the city continues to offer more services.

“We’re going to hold to (no taxes) as long as we can,” Moore told The Times. “We’re hoping our growth will sustain us.”

Revenues from Lula’s local option sales tax (more than $400,000) anchor its general fund budget, which also pulls in from an assortment of selective sales, use taxes or fees.

Floyd County will receive $1.9 from the state for transportation infrastructure next year.

Columbus City Council is considering spending $1 million to provide larger employee bonuses.

Houston County Commissioners approved their FY 2018 budget, but has not yet set the property tax rate.

Local Electeds (Allegedly) Behaving Badly

Former DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson has been indicted for allegedly pocketing $3000 in advances from the county government.

A grand jury indicted former DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson with theft Tuesday after he receiving about $3,000 in advances for government trips that he never took.

Watson withdrew advance checks in January 2016 for conferences in Chicago and Savannah, but then he resigned from office in March 2016 to run for DeKalb Tax Commissioner.

“The state alleges the expense money w as then converted to personal use and not repaid until approximately one year later, well after Watson’s resignation,” according to a press release from [DeKalb County Solicitor General Sherry] Boston’s office. “County policy requires any funds advanced for travel but not actually used for said travel be returned to the county immediately.”

Varnell City Council member Sheldon Fowler was booked on charges of simple assault, simple battery against a law enforcement officer and disorderly conduct and has been released.

Fowler cursed Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant and another city officer and poked them in the chest with his finger when they responded to a domestic incident at Fowler’s house on June 13, according to an incident report filed by Grant. In that report, Grant wrote that “officers were tolerant of his behavior because of his position on the Varnell City Council.”

Fowler was not arrested at the time.

From the Valdosta Daily-Times,

During the initial call to the Whitfield County 911 center, Sheldon Fowler’s wife described the scene Varnell Police Department officers would find when they arrived at the couple’s home around 12:45 a.m.

“My husband is drunk and half naked, will not leave my daughters alone, won’t go into his room and go to bed,” Stephanie Fowler said in the call. “I need someone to come assist.”

After giving her home address, she told the 911 operator her husband was on the Varnell City Council.

“He doesn’t deserve to be on the City Council,” she said. “It is ridiculous. But he shouldn’t be threatening people.”

“He is drunk, he has been half naked, he is falling in the floor, he’s knocked over chairs,” she said. “He won’t get out of my daughter’s room — either one of them. He won’t leave them alone so they can get a shower. He’s been calling her a fat retard, which she is special needs. He is calling names, and he just won’t go to bed. He is slurring his words, he won’t go to bed. And I can’t do anything with him.”

Henry County Commissioner Bruce Holmes allegedly flashed a badge during a confrontation over parking.

Forsyth County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills is accused in an ethics complaint of failing to preserve text messages sent to her personal phone.

Forsyth County resident Rene Guidry filed the complaint against Mills claiming the commissioner “violated the Georgia [Open] Records Act on multiple occasions by deleting text messages between her, developers with pending zoning issues, other county commissioners and zoning attorneys.”

According to the county policy, messages documenting the formulation and adoption of policies and procedures and the management of agency programs or functions — for example case file management, constituent correspondence, periodic reports or budget documents — must be retained long term.

[Mills's lawyer E. Logan Butler] maintained that Mills denies violating the Forsyth County Ethics Ordinance and the Georgia Open Records Act.

Mills spoke as a witness and said while she deleted every text message prior to the initial complaint filed in March, it was due to a limited amount of storage on her cell phone. She went on to say due to issues with her county-issued cellphone including spotty service, it was easier for her to give out her personal number to communicate with constituents.

She acknowledged that while she should have kept any substantial messages, she said she believes there weren’t any worth keeping.

Butler said that Guidry was unable to provide evidence that a violation occurred and the complaint was mostly speculative.

Ethics in Government

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission upheld a decision finding that a conservative activist in Cherokee County violated campaign disclosure rules.

The five-member state ethics commission has upheld a decision by an administrative law judge ruling local tea party activist Carolyn Cosby committed multiple ethics violations as the head of several Cherokee County-based conservative political groups and ordering her to pay $30,000 in civil penalties.

However, Cosby said the commission’s decision not to change the judge’s decision “declares her guilty for election violations without ever having a final hearing,” leading her to file an appeal on Monday.

Cosby’s attorney Stephen Humphreys told the Tribune Tuesday that the ethics commission had 30 days from the judge’s ruling to hear the case and make the final decision, but on June 14 they ruled that 30 days had already passed and by law the judge’s decision would be upheld without further consideration.

Humphreys said the next step is appealing the commission’s decision to Fulton County Superior Court, which Cosby’s attorneys did on Monday.

The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled against former Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who sought dismissal of campaign finance charges dating from the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

A Superior Court judge last year rejected Oxendine’s bid seeking dismissal of the state ethics commission complaint and ruled that the ethics panel should decide the case.

The Georgia Court of Appeals has concurred with the court’s ruling that the ethics commission should get a shot at finally completing the case.

Oxendine’s attorney, Douglas Chalmers, said his client has filed notice that he will appeal the case to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Oxendine, a lawyer, has argued that delays in his case — which began in 2009 — have harmed his professional and personal reputation, and the courts, rather than the commission, should decide the case.

27
Jun

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

On June 27, 1864, Sherman’s Union forces attacked General Johnston’s Confederates at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

One year later, the Military Department of Georgia was created to oversee Reconstruction in the state.

The Gone with the Wind scene that includes the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was filmed on June 27, 1939, along with an alternate that used the line, “Frankly, my dear, I just don’t care.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Karen Handel was sworn-in to the 115th Congress last night.

Reps. Karen Handel (R-Ga.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), the newest lawmakers in the House of Representatives, were sworn into office on Monday evening.

“I’m not sure you’ve heard enough about this particular race,” Handel quipped, prompting chuckles from the crowd.”

“This is an extraordinary honor and the greatest privilege that I think I have ever had,” Handel said. “I look forward to serving the people of the 6th District, to serving the people of Georgia and to being a good coworker and friend to each and every one of you.”

Handel was introduced by the longest-serving Republican and Democrat in the delegation, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, and U.S. Rep. John Lewis. The Atlanta Democrat teased his newest colleague about hailing from the D.C. area.

“So you’re returning home…” Lewis said, before offering Handel help learning the ropes in Washington.

“Karen, the Georgia delegation … we are a family,” he said. “We are trying to do our very best to serve the people in our district and our state and to work on behalf of the people of this great nation. I welcome you and your husband Steve.”

Jessica Brooks, Democratic appointee to the Cobb Elections Board, abstained from the vote certifying Karen Handel’s election to Congress.

Board member Jessica Brooks, who was appointed by the Democratic Party, said she abstained because there were multiple documents provided to the board by citizens during the public comment portion and she did not feel she had enough time to absorb those documents, according to Janine Eveler, director of the Cobb Board of Elections.

The results were still confirmed with three other members voting yes and another absent.

“This is an extraordinary honor and the greatest privilege that I think I have ever had,” Handel said in brief remarks after receiving the oath of office from Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. She vowed to be “a good co-worker and friend to each of you.”

Jon Ossoff, or more likely a ghost-writer, penned an Op-Ed for the Washington Post titled Lessons for Democrats from the Georgia election.

Grass-roots politics, linking small-dollar fundraising to massive local volunteer organization, showed that it can rival the power of a right-wing machine comprising super PACs backed by entrenched interests and mega-donors. These outside groups were forced to spend nearly $20 million defending a seat gerrymandered never to be competitive.

The intraparty disputes that dominate national commentary on Democratic politics were nowhere to be found in the 6th District. On the ground, Democrats were committed to strike the first blow of this new era on behalf of decency and progress.

We ran an economy-first campaign centered on local prosperity and opportunity. I focused on the development of metro Atlanta into a world-class commercial capital, on affordable higher education and technical training, on research and development to drive innovation in Georgia’s tech sector, on renewal of our transportation infrastructure and a commitment to fiscal responsibility, on pointing out that taxpayers are rightfully upset that the federal government wastes hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

We lost, but I am proud of the campaign we ran, and I am proud of my community for standing up against the odds. I launched this campaign believing that America can become stronger, more prosperous and more secure only if we stay true to the values that unite us. I still believe that, and I’m not done fighting.

It’s telling that he published this in the Washington Post instead of the AJC, MDJ, The Dunwoody Crier, or Brookhaven Post. Allow me to suggest a shorter version of what he should have written: Lesson one is to live in the District. The Congressional District, not the District of Columbia.

Dusty Nix of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer writes about gerrymandering.

At the state legislative level, most [elections] aren’t [competitive]. As the Associated Press reported last week, almost half (42 percent) of all state legislative candidates in 2016 elections faced no major party opponent.

Much of that statistic, of course, is the result of gerrymandering — the majority party sculpting districts that serve its interests by slicing off areas that don’t. It’s perhaps not as flagrant (or unabashedly racist) as Alabama carving out majority-black Tuskegee to create a white “majority” Macon County decades ago. But Georgia’s Republican majority has continued what Democrats did for decades, resulting finally in elections that are less a democratic exercise than a costly formality of political balkanization.

Not only does that leave too many voters with too little (or no) choice; it’s a disincentive to political involvement at all: “With an increasing number of districts being drawn to deliberately favor one party over another,” College of William & Mary government professor John McGlennon told AP, “lots of potential candidates will look at those previous results and come to a conclusion that it’s too difficult to mount an election campaign in a district where their party is the minority.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 680,000 Georgians will lose health care insurance under the GOP Senate proposal.

The nonpartisan office estimated that 22 million more Americans would be without health insurance at the end of 10 years if the plan becomes law. Georgia’s share of that figure is 680,000 or so, according to a health care analyst who has been following the debate, Bill Custer of Georgia State University.

Georgia advocates for rural hospitals, patients and others likely to feel the cuts howled.

“This legislation represents a giant leap backward from what Americans have come to expect and demand from their healthcare delivery system,” Earl Rogers, president of the Georgia Hospital Association, said in a statement.

“Cuts to Medicaid take resources away from the entire healthcare delivery system, so tough decisions will have to be made regarding which services to scale back or eliminate entirely,” he added, cutbacks “that will affect all patients.”

Following the CBO announcement Monday, the White House released a statement lambasting the CBO’s track record. Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a close ally on the health care law repeal effort, echoed, “It’s clear the CBO cannot predict the purchasing patterns for millions of Americans.”

In Georgia, Kelly McCutchen, the president of the libertarian-leaning Georgia Public Policy Foundation, was more measured, though he did note some numeric assumptions in the report that he said didn’t bear out. He also cautioned that the Senate had already released at least one revision to the draft that the CBO couldn’t take into account, and it was likely to sway the numbers.

“They generally do a good job,” McCutchen said of the CBO. He said, however, that once that revision is taken into account, “I think you’ll see the uninsured rate will go down.”

Governor Nathan Deal helped break ground for a new Georgia Bureau of Investigation lab in Pooler.

Gov. Nathan Deal, GBI Director Vernon Keenan, state legislators and representatives of the city of Pooler were among those to break ceremonial ground at the site of the new lab — a 5-acre plot on Isaac G. LaRoche Drive, situated between a city fire station and the West Chatham YMCA.

“It is a good day for our state,” Deal said at the ceremony.

GBI representatives have said construction of the new lab will begin in earnest later this summer and is expected to take about 18 months to complete. The new facility will stand three stories tall and will be able to house up to 60 employees. It is being built to last at least 40 years.

“(The new regional lab) is much-needed,” said Dr. George Herrin, director of the GBI Crime Lab in an interview earlier this year. “The facility we’re in is 30 years old. It’s not flexible enough to meet the changing demands of forensic science in the 21st century. … I and all of the staff in the Savannah laboratory are extremely excited about having this new laboratory.”

The Federal Government decided that the Federal Government didn’t try to interfere with Georgia’s elections systems.

The Department of Homeland Security did not knowingly try to breach the Georgia Secretary of State’s website before and after last November’s presidential election, an investigation by the Office of Inspector General concluded on Monday.

Kemp announced the conclusion of the investigation Monday.

“DHS did not knowingly attempt to breach Georgia’s firewall or hack our systems,” he said. “While I am disappointed that it took a new administration to investigate this highly important incident, I am pleased to learn this information and relieved that our federal government is not trying to interfere with elections in our state or others involved in this situation.”

The Georgia Supreme Court upheld legislation granting state tax credits for donations to private school scholarship funds.

The unanimous decision Monday ends uncertainty that has surrounded the program, which gives private schools money that otherwise would have gone into the public treasury and possibly to public school budgets.

“Lawmakers can move forward in confidence to expand the program,” said Lisa Kelly, spokeswoman for Georgia GOAL, which hands out more tax credit scholarships than any other Georgia group.

Raymond Gaddy and other taxpayers alleged that Georgia’s program violated the constitutional ban against state support of religion because some schools that receive the money are religious institutions. They sued the Georgia Department of Revenue, and appealed after a Fulton judge sided against them on most counts.

The high court’s opinion basically says this isn’t public money. It says the taxpayers had no standing to sue because tax credits do not equate to an expenditure of public funds. “Plaintiffs’ complaint fails to show that they, or any taxpayers for that matter, are harmed by this program,” the opinion says.

Covfefe is on the list of words that can’t be used on vanity car tags in Georgia.

The Internet may still be abuzz about the meaning of “covfefe,” but whatever it means, Georgia drivers apparently can’t get it on a vanity license plate.

Seven variations of the nonsensical word tweeted by President Donald Trump appear on a list that the state provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this month, following the AJC’s request for a copy of the state’s list of banned license plates.

So, along with “H0TBODY,” “2SXC4U,” “BUTT,” “KKK” and “PERVERT” on the list of 8,000-plus banned plate combinations are “C0VFEFE,” “C0VFEF3,” “C0VFEVE,” “C0VF3FE,” “C0VF3F3,” “C0VVEFE” and “C0VVEFE.”

State law instructs the Department of Revenue to reject vanity plate combinations that are “obscene according to current community standards.”

“Given the word ‘covfefe’ has a political meaning, the state can’t ban it because there are no provisions for rejecting political speech in their statute, and I’d say it is unconstitutional because rejecting ‘covfefe’ without rejecting all political speech means their decision is not viewpoint-neutral,” said Bruce Brown, an Atlanta-based trial lawyer with experience in First Amendment law.

NO COVFEFE CAR TAG 2

Seriously, is there a state job for figuring out combinations of letters and words that can’t be on license plates? Because I love Scrabble Words with Friends and would apply for that job.

In the Peoples’ Republic of Athens, some folks took to the streets to protest the GOP health care plan.

nearly 100 protesters gathered in Athens on Monday to add their voices to the opposition of the GOP health care plan.

“By doing things like this, like cutting medicare for people who need it most, Congress is putting people’s lives in danger,” said Gretchen Elsner of Athens as she protested the legislation with others outside the Arch at the University of Georgia.

Elsner added that she’s already spent her life savings on medical bills once and fears it could happen again under the GOP plan.

Pam Walley of Madison County was one voice at the protest who would be directly effected by a plan that cut programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Her daughter, 22-year-old Callie Moore, suffers from cerebral palsy and requires home care while her mother is at work.

Walley is worried that the cuts to Medicaid will affect the home-care programs that provide a caretaker for Callie.

“We’re not looking for a handout, but without the Medicaid support, Callie doesn’t have a future,” she said.

Marietta might spend $12,000 on a video to promote tourism.

Valdosta store owners say lower sales figures resulted from having no state sales tax holiday this year.

Tim Nolan, Valdosta Mall general manager, and other business owners voiced concerns about the loss of the sales tax holiday to the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development and Taxation Committee at the Valdosta City Hall Annex building.

Nolan said the tax holiday is important to all Lowndes County businesses, not only in the mall. The holiday is more important to counties bordering other states that have a tax holiday. Without the holiday, he said shoppers will go running south to Florida, where there is a tax holiday.

Valdosta was the originator for a sales tax holiday for the State of Georgia back when it was first initiated in 2002. The holiday must be reintroduced every year for re-approval and was successfully approved every year except 2010 and now 2017.

But the state legislative session came and went with no new introduction of the holiday.

State Rep. Jason Shaw attended the chamber meeting. He gave a broader perspective of why the sales tax holiday wasn’t approved.

Since the recession, he said they have had to basically sneak the holiday into being approved, but this year, they just didn’t have the votes. Shaw said the two main groups people look to for these types of budget items both reached the same conclusion that tax holidays don’t work.

“When you see those two groups agreeing, it usually carries a little weight, ‘cause usually they’re on opposite ends,” Shaw said. “They came back and said it’s a terrible return on investment. It’s terrible for the taxpayers. So that’s what we have been up against.”

He asked for the business owners in the audience to tell other lawmakers what they told him. He said they should write letters and meet with the budget and policy makers to explain how it is impacting Valdosta-Lowndes retailers and residents.

“This is the kind of information we need to kind of sell it to our other border counties,” Shaw said. “We need your help for that.”

Hall County Board of Education members trimmed their proposed millage rate and approved a FY2018 budget.

A general fund budget of $265.15 million and a total budget of $371.4 million, which includes all funds for all programs coming into the district

The budget also drops the tax rate from 18.8 mills to 18.5 mills, but would still be a increase for some taxpayers who saw their property reassessment go up in 2017. The value of property subject to Hall County school taxes increased by 5.61 percent, according to Jonathan Boykin, finance officer for the school district.

School officials have said the school district will collect 2.33 percent more taxes than it would under the rollback rate.

Habersham County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve their FY2018 budget and property tax millage rate.

In addition to the 11.176 mills, the county will levy 0.998 for hospital bonds, and 0.39 for hospital services (ambulance service).

That will equate to about $27.50 on a home valued at $125,000, according to Habersham County Finance Director Heidi Hook.

Several residents said ultimately the commission must decide what’s best for the most residents in Habersham County, what commissioners consider to be essential services, and how much it will cost to provide those services. A couple of residents advocated the proposed tax increase, saying the commission must keep the county moving forward.

Commission Chairman Victor Anderson said the decision was not one any commissioner takes lightly.

“Anytime you’re looking at increasing taxes or increasing the millage rate, that is a hard decision – and it should be a hard decision, because it is an additional burden on all of our citizens and taxpayers,” Anderson said. “We have debated and thought and fought long and hard over this budget for this year. It’s the toughest one I’ve been involved with, and I think anyone on the board has been involved with.”

Gwinnett County Public Schools held a public meeting on the 2018 property tax millage rate and nobody from the public showed up.

Fulton County School Board members are discussing rising property values.

During the June 13 school board meeting, board member Katie Reeves of Alpharetta gave an impassioned plea to her fellow board members to consider a 3 percent cap on the amount of money it uses from higher property assessments on homeowners.

For example, if revenues rise 7 percent from one year to the next based on higher home values, the school board would only consider the revenue generated by a 3 percent increase; potentially returning the remainder to homeowners in the form of a millage rollback.

“I have been asked numerous times over the past few weeks if this board is willing to put such a limit on ourselves as Fulton County government,” said Reeves. “I can tell you right now if we don’t seriously figure out guard rails as a board, the Legislature will set them for us.”

The tentative school budget goes into effect on July 1 and factors in a 6 percent increase in local revenues to support the $1.6 billion budget. The 6 percent increase was provided to the school system by the Fulton Tax Commissioner as an estimate, absent an approved tax digest, and those early numbers appear to be way off.

Property owners were shocked by tax assessments received last month, with many properties showing double-digit gains in value from last year. Tax officials are now saying the 6 percent increase estimate is too low, placing the number closer to 13 percent. Tax bills will be sent to homeowners in October.

2018 Elections

Leo Smith is considering a Republican bid for the state Senate seat being vacated by Hunter Hill, according to the Marietta Daily Journal’s About Town.

Smith is known as a grassroots leader in the Cobb GOP and former GOP State Committeeman.

“I intend to run this race to represent citizens invested in bridging divides for all families and businesses throughout the district. My voice will be a place at the table for a broad, pro-jobs coalition,” he said.

Smith would face Democrat Dr. Jaha Howard who has previously announced his campaign for the state Senate District 6 seat.

That last line might not be correct, as Jen Jordan has also announced her campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Democratic State Rep. Stacey Abrams brushed off former Governor Roy Barnes’s endorsement of Stacey Evans in the 2018 Democratic race for Governor.

“We’ve spent the last month traveling the state, going from Albany to Dalton, from Macon to Savannah. And we have found in every one of those communities people who are excited about our candidacy, and who are excited about the coalition we’re building. In every single community, we’ve had multi-racial coalitions – multi-economic coalitions coming together. They’re excited about our message of success – that survival is not enough.”

“There are two theories of this case. One is that we attempt to recreate a coalition that has not really existed since the late ‘90s. And the other is we build a coalition based on the Georgia we have today – a Georgia that is racially diverse, that is economically, uniformly interested in how we move forward….”

“The previous coalition for Democrats was premised on a demographic that had a majority white population, and had a smaller coalition of people of color. Between 2000 and 2010, 1.5 million new people moved into Georgia, 80 percent of whom were people of color.”

“As of today, our actual population is roughly 52 percent white, 48 percent people of color. That’s not how are voting shakes out, but what I would say is that any winning coalition this next election has to be reflective of the broadest set of conversations.”

26
Jun

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

On June 26, 1918, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the Eighteenth Amendment, which outlawed the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol. Governor Hugh Dorsey did not sign it for nearly a week, but the United States Secretary of State considers an Amendment ratified when the state legislature has voted on final passage.

On June 26, 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco.

The Berlin Airlift began on June 26, 1948 after the Soviet Union had blockaded West Berlin, which was occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France.

The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in the UK on June 26, 1997.

Gone with the Wind was re-released on June 26, 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced that the state will invest $10.5 million in the Environmental Protection Division’s oversight of the water metering program.

 “This investment is a crucial one for our state as we continue to enhance efforts to manage and protect Georgia’s most valuable resources,” said Deal. “Marjie has proven herself a valuable asset to my administration and our state, and I am confident her background and expertise will serve the agricultural community and its stakeholders well.”

Last December, EPD assumed oversight of the state’s agriculture irrigation metering program, which provides important data for management of the state’s water resources and supports the water conservation efforts of producers. Though several thousand irrigation systems have been successfully metered since 2003, measurement of agricultural water use in all critical areas of the state needs to be completed.

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Charlie Bethel will be elevated to sit on the Georgia Supreme Court for at least one case today at 10 AM, after Justice Britt Grant recused herself form hearing a case on Georgia’s Certificate of Need program.

Designated judges are appointed when a justice must recuse himself or herself from a particular case. The Supreme Court of Georgia maintains a list of select judges from around the state and when the need arises, the court appoints the next judge on the list.

The Supreme Court of Georgia will hear arguments in the case on Monday during its 10 a.m. session. In this case, owners of a women’s surgical center in Cartersville are appealing a Fulton County court ruling that rejects their constitutional challenges of Georgia laws that require them to obtain a “certificate of need” from the state before making an addition to their facility. In addition to hearing arguments, Bethel, of Dalton, will participate in the court’s decision.

Superior Court Judge David Cannon of the Blue Ridge Circuit pinch-hit on the Supreme Court last week.

Judge David Cannon of the Superior Court of the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit served Tuesday in place of Georgia Supreme Court Justice Nels S. D. Peterson in the appeal of City of Marietta v. Summerour.

In addition to hearing arguments, Cannon participated in the court’s decision. Designated judges are appointed when a justice must recuse himself or herself from a particular case.

“It was a considerable honor to be asked to sit on the Georgia Supreme Court for a case today,” Cannon said on social media. “I enjoyed my experience, I did my homework at the bar meeting last week and read all the motions and briefs, a notebook about 4 inches thick, and reviewed again over the weekend.”

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Louisa Abbot is upset with conditions at the courthouse.

Abbot directed her ire at two specific conditions — a malfunctioning air conditioning and heating system and a repeatedly overflowing bathroom in an office that houses judges’ staff attorneys — at the J. Tom Coleman Courthouse on Montgomery Street.

That sounds bad, but Two Peachtree is far, far worse.

Senator Johnny Isakson want NAFTA negotiations to improve market conditions for Georgia poultry exports.

Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., led a bipartisan group of senators recently in urging the administration to use the renegotiation process for the North American Free Trade Agreement to break down “unfair trade barriers” and improve market access for American poultry farmers, processors and exporters.

“With the ratification of NAFTA in 1994, the United States, Canada and Mexico committed to a shared goal of eliminating tariffs on goods exchanged between the three nations,” the senators wrote. “Unfortunately, in practice, this goal has proven difficult to achieve. This has been particularly true for American poultry, which continues to face trade barriers in North America more than 20 years after NAFTA’s enactment.”

Karen Handel will be sworn-in to Congress at 6:30 PM tonight.

“I remain humbled by this extraordinary privilege to serve the citizens of Georgia’s sixth district, and I look forward to getting right to work for them this week.” said the Congresswoman-elect.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter may still face a recall effort after his colleagues voted to publicly chastise him.

“The threshold, or the trip point, the date for the ability to start recall proceeds is about to come forward so we’ll find out whether people who have been saying they’re going to organize a recall will do something,” Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said.

Residents who want to see him removed from office have had to wait for a recall to become available to them since January. That’s because state law prevents a recall from being launched during the first or last 180 days — essentially six months — of an elected official’s term.

Hunter started a new term at the beginning of the year, meaning the 180-day waiting period won’t come to a close until the end of this week. County spokesman Joe Sorenson said the county’s elections office has not received any inquiries about conducting a recall recently.

“Right now, we’re looking at the requirements and trying to access the possible outcome before we make a decision which way to go with that,” Gwinnett County Democratic Party Chairman Gabe Okoye said. “We’ve got some lawyers look at it and on Wednesday, they’ll make a recommendation and I’ll look at it and decide which way to go.”

 The number of food stamp recipients in Georgia dropped by 300k from 1.9 million in April 2013 to 1.6 million.

The fact that food stamp use has remained relatively high, while the economy has largely rebounded from the recession, makes some believe that many food stamp recipients are taking advantage of the system.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said food stamps rightly serve vulnerable people – especially children and elderly – but that it’s time to crack down on able-bodied people milking the system.

“I think there’s a lot of fraud with food stamps,” Unterman said. “There’s a history of a lot of waste in our program.”

She’s seen it herself. She pointed to the underground market in which people illegally sell food stamps for cash, weapons and drugs. One time, when she was in a Kroger supermarket, Unterman said a woman offered to pay for her groceries with her food stamp card if she gave the woman a little cash.

Savannah City Council will likely prioritize new sidewalks and trying to lower the crime rate.

The first Diamondback Terrapins of the season hatched at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

2018 Georgia Elections

Democratic State Rep. Stacey Evans (Cobb) has been busy racking up endorsements.

On Friday, an email signed by Democratic strategist Paul Begala went out seeking donations for Evans’s campaign for Governor.

Candidates like Stacey remind me why I’m a Democrat in the first place. Hope is why I’m a Democrat.

Growing up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck, her story is familiar to many working families in Georgia. She’s seen hardship firsthand. And she never lost hope.

Thanks to the HOPE Scholarship, Stacey was the first member of her family to attend college. Stacey is exactly why the scholarship came along. Trust me, I know a little something about hope.

30 years ago, I met another north Georgian with a vision for the HOPE Scholarship. James Carville & I dropped everything to make sure that man, Zell Miller, was elected governor. Zell will always be remembered as the governor that gave Georgia HOPE. Just a few years later I had a front row seat as a certain boy from Hope, Arkansas, Bill Clinton, inspired a nation. And in 2008, I watched an Illinois Senator, Barack Obama, offer change and hope as a candidate, and deliver it as President.

Georgia knows hope and authenticity when they see it. And I tell ya, Jasper, it’s Stacey Evans. As Governor, Stacey’ll be a champion for every Georgia child because she knows that going to college can literally change your life.

Georgia is at a crossroads. Hope isn’t what it used to be. Cuts to the HOPE Scholarships and Grants have forced tens of thousands of students to drop out of school.

I won’t stand for that… and neither should you. That’s why I’m working my heart out to make sure Stacey Evans is Georgia’s next Governor. Never underestimate the power of hope. Stacey didn’t when she was young. And there’s no reason we should now.

This morning, former Governor Roy Barnes endorsed Evans.

Gov. Roy Barnes endorsed state Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary. She faces state Rep. Stacey Abrams of Atlanta, who will give up her post as House minority leader this week. Both are attorneys.

From the Evans campaign press release:

“There’s a whole lot riding on this race for governor. Georgia is a changing state. If Republicans win in November, they get to redraw the maps. Again. And just like last time, they’re going to be able to draw those maps to keep Democrats in the minority. Georgia families cannot let that happen, and with Stacey Evans as our nominee, it will not happen.”

“We can win this election and we have to win this election. I’ve never been more sure of anything. But this election is not won in Washington D.C. It is won right here, in Georgia. Georgians aren’t laying up worrying about what Washington D.C. wants or some national party divide. They’re worried about how they’re going to pay for their kids’ and grandkids’ college. They’re worried about their healthcare premiums, and if their wages are enough to cover it all.

“Stacey Evans gets that and that’s why I’m supporting her bid for governor. Stacey’s story is powerful. Her work for working Georgia families is powerful. It gives me hope. And I’ll be standing with her every step of the way through this election.”

The Washington Examiner looks at the potential dynamic in the 2018 Democratic Primary for Governor and what it may portend for the future of the Democratic Party.

Democrats have been saying forever and a day that Georgia is the next state they intend to flip in their favor. They promised to do just that during last November’s presidential election, and again in last week’s special election in the 6th Congressional District for an open House seat.

Eventually, they have to start winning elections in Georgia for Georgia to be a true battleground.

And so there will be a big question as to what’s the best way to win in Georgia. Is it merely to maximize turnout among African-Americans and transplants in the Atlanta area, or is it try to claw back the rural blue-collar voters that Democrats ancestrally had when they used to win in Georgia?

That is a serious, existential question for Democrat operatives as they look at winning back anything in the Trump Belt.

The truth is, most Democrats in Washington think that the urban Atlanta model is the one that is most likely to succeed for Democrats because where the numbers are — which makes Republicans strategists in Washington and Georgia happy.

23
Jun

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

On June 23, 903 AD, the Icelandic Parliament, the Althing or Althingi, was established and is the world’s oldest.

In honor of the Icelandic Parliament, here’s the greatest Icelandic band ever, the Sugarcubes, playing at Auburn in 1988.

On June 24, 1497, John Cabot first sighted North America, claiming it for the British Crown.

Off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, British Commodore Sir Peter Parker spent June 23, 1776 preparing to land the next day, charged with supporting loyalists to the British crown.

On June 25, 1788, the Commonwealth of Virginia became the tenth states to vote for ratification of the United States Constitution by a vote of 89 to 79. A committee was appointed to be chaired by George Wythe to draft a proposed Bill of Rights.

On June 24, 1795, the United States Senate voted to ratify Jay’s Treaty between the UK and United States. The terms of the treaty required an appropriation from the U.S. House of Representatives to implement it, and Congressional opponents tried to defeat the appropriation, which was approved by a 51-48 margin on April 30, 1796. Click here for more background on the treaty and controversy.

On June 23, 1819, Texas declared its independence from Spain.

On June 24, 1853, President Franklin Pierce signed the Gadsden Purchase, acquiring what it now southern Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico.

On June 23, 1862, General Robert E. Lee met with his commanders in preparation for what would be known as the Seven Days’ Battles.

General Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River toward Pennsylvania on June 24, 1863.

On June 23, 1865, Georgia-born Cherokee Stand Watie became the last Confederate general to surrender.

On June 25, 1868, the United States Congress provisionally readmitted Georgia to the Union following the Civil War with the requirements that they ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and never deprive any citizens of voting rights.

On June 25, 1876, Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeated the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry under Lt. Colonel George Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

John R. Lynch was the first African-American elected Chairman of the Republican National Convention on June 24, 1884; Lynch was nominated by Theodore Roosevelt.

Woodrow Wilson married Ellen Louise Axson of Rome, Georgia in Savannah on June 24, 1885.

On June 23, 1888, Frederick Douglass became the first African-American nominated for President, receiving one vote from Kentucky at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

On June 25, 1888, the Republican National Convention nominated Benjamin Harrison for President of the United States; Harrison’s grandfather was William Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States.

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin from all road, rail, and barge traffic.

Following World War II, Germany was divided into occupation zones. The United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and, eventually, France, were given specific zones to occupy in which they were to accept the surrender of Nazi forces and restore order. The Soviet Union occupied most of eastern Germany, while the other Allied nations occupied western Germany. The German capital of Berlin was similarly divided into four zones of occupation.

The United States response came just two days after the Soviets began their blockade. A massive airlift of supplies into West Berlin was undertaken in what was to become one of the greatest logistical efforts in history. For the Soviets, the escapade quickly became a diplomatic embarrassment. Russia looked like an international bully that was trying to starve men, women, and children into submission. And the successful American airlift merely served to accentuate the technological superiority of the United States over the Soviet Union. On May 12, 1949, the Soviets officially ended the blockade.

General Lucius D. Clay of Marietta, Georgia was military Governor of occupied Germany at that time.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in West Germany on June 24, 1977. It’s astounding.

Rickey Henderson made his major league debut with the Oakland A’s on June 24, 1979, stealing his first base.

On June 24, 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution was defeated, having garnered the ratification of thirty-five states, three shy of the requisite Constitutional Majority.

Hopes for ratification before the deadline next Wednesday were dashed this week when the amendment was rejected by the Illinois House and the Florida Senate, two states in which supporters felt they had a fighting chance.

Had Illinois and Florida ratified the amendment, there was at least some chance that either Oklahoma or North Carolina would have provided the final needed vote.

Prospects were far slimmer in the other nonratifying states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Phyllis Schlafly, a leader of a group called Stop-ERA, hailed the defeat of the amendment tonight, saying: ”They realized E.R.A. is dead and I think that that is an admission they have lost the battle. My feeling is that E.R.A. will take its place with the prohibition and the child labor amendments as ones which did not have enough support of the American people to be in the Constitution.”

On June 25, 1990, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in Georgia v. South Carolina, a boundary dispute. From Wikipedia:

A… 1922 Supreme Court decision, also called Georgia v. South Carolina, 257 U. S. 516, also held that all islands in the river belong to Georgia, but that the border should be in the middle of the river between the two shores, with the border half way between any island and the South Carolina shore.

Since the 1922 case, a number of new islands were created in the river between the city of Savannah and the ocean, due to the deposit of dredging spoilage or the natural deposit of sediments. In some cases, the new islands were on the South Carolina side of the previously drawn boundary, and Georgia claimed that once a new island emerged, the border should be moved to the midpoint between the new island and the South Carolina shore of the river. In some cases, the state of South Carolina had been collecting property tax from the land owners and policing the land in question for a number of years.

When an island causes the border to leave the middle of the river, it raises the question as to how the border line should return to the middle of the river at each end of the island. South Carolina advocated a right angle bend at each tip of the island, while Georgia advocated a “triequidistant” method which kept the border an equal distance between the two shores and the tip of the island (resulting in a smooth curve.

Former Atlanta mayor Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. died on June 23, 2003.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal helped open the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy at Georgia College.

A total of $5.1 million in funding was allocated to establish the Milledgeville facility, which was dedicated in honor of First Lady Deal as a surprise. The Center’s mission to improve Georgia’s literacy rate is founded in research-based practices for children from birth to age eight, providing support to educators in K-3 classrooms, child care centers and preschools through professional learning and training.

“Today marks a pivotal milestone for both Georgia’s educators and youngest learners,” said Deal. “Sandra has selflessly devoted her platform as first lady to childhood education, and the Center could not be named after a more appropriate advocate. We strongly believe that early language development and literacy are vital skills for putting our young children on the path to success, and the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy will work tirelessly to ensure our educators are equipped with the right tools and instruction to get them there. I commend the members of the General Assembly for working with me to bring the Center to life, and I look forward to working with its governing board as it works to foster a positive impact on children, families, educators and communities across our state.”

Deal first announced plans for the Center in February as part of his Amended Fiscal Year 2017 (AFY 2017) and proposed FY 2018 budgets. $2.4 million was allocated in the AFY 2017 budget for the initiative, with an additional $2.7 million proposed for the FY 2018 budget. The Center will work with universities, technical college early childhood education programs, alternative educator preparation programs and other public and private stakeholders to engage the community at large. Current staff and partners have been collaborating with many state agencies with the goal to provide access to and the ability to reach all counties in Georgia.

“As a former educator, I believe the better we prepare and strengthen the skills of our teachers, the more capable and confident they will be in diagnosing road blocks to achievement and helping children become successful,” said First Lady Sandra Deal. “The ability to read well and understand the content is the gift that keeps on giving. This priceless gift provides self-confidence and positive life choices, and it is a crucial economic tool we can give to the State of Georgia.”

For more information about the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy, visit www.galiteracycenter.org.

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Sandra Deal CenterGov. Deal also announced the appointment of Billy D. Nelson, Jr. as Solicitor General for the State Court of Long County, filling a vacancy created when he named Mark Hendrix as Solicitor General for Liberty County.

Gwinnett County Republican Party changed the location of tomorrow’s cookout to the Gwinnett GOP HQ in the lower level of Gwinnett Place Mall.

Former Governor Sonny Perdue, in his new role as Secretary of Agriculture in the Trump Administration, hosted his counterparts from Canada and Mexico in Savannah.

On a day the Commerce Department announced the U.S. trade deficit rose to its highest level in a year during the first quarter, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue set the table for NAFTA renegotiations, hosting the agricultural ministers of Canada and Mexico in Savannah for their first trilateral talks on the issue.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday, Perdue and his North American counterparts — Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay and Jose Calzada, Mexican secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food — agreed the 23-year-old agreement has produced more positives for agriculture interests than negatives.

“We three are aligned in that NAFTA has been relatively good for the ag sectors of all three countries,” [Perdue] said. “The purpose of this meeting is not heavy negotiations on NAFTA — that will be done by our trade negotiators. Rather, it’s important for all three countries that we develop personal relationships of trust and candor with one another as we discuss the issues before us on NAFTA renegotiations.

The National Park Service is intervening in a dispute over allowing development on Cumberland Island.

Most of Cumberland Island is a national park, including 9,000 acres that are designated as wilderness. Beloved for its maritime forest and its deserted beaches covered with the enormous driftwood “bones,” the descendants of the island’s wealthy owners still own about 800 acres outright. When the heirs of Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler late last year asked to subdivide their 88-acre tract near the park’s popular Sea Camp, it set into motion a wider debate about development on the island.

The county had negotiated with property owners as well as representatives of environmental groups to come up with a compromise zoning district for the island. A recent draft of that zoning district allowed a density of one home per 15 acres of private land and offered even greater density if owners agreed to cluster homes. But before the county commission could vote on the proposal, the parties met with the National Park Service.

“During that meeting the NPS director expressed interest in taking the lead in negotiations,” Camden Planning Director Eric Landon wrote in a memo to the commissioners. “This would require the county to delay action and allow the NPS additional time to work with each party individually.”

In a letter dated June 9, Cumberland Island National Seashore Superintendant Gary Ingram encouraged the progress already made and noted “the situation involves a difficult balance between private property concerns and the preservation of the character and purposes for which Cumberland Island National Seashore was established. The complexity is increased further by the number and diversity of the interests involved.”

Augusta University announced it is opening a School of Computer and Cyber Sciences.

In light of the $60 million investment the state is making in the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, Augusta University is “upping our game” in cyber and computer sciences programs by creating a new school, President Brooks Keel announced Thursday morning.

AU will create the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences, making it the university’s 10th separate college or school, and will have a national search to find a dean, Keel said.

“It gives it more prominence, more focus and allows us to strategically think more carefully about how we move forward and puts it in a place where we can really shine a light on it,” he said.

Muscogee County Board of Education members may be deposed in a suit against the board.

The same day the Muscogee County School Board had its annual training about proper conduct for a governing body, the board’s attorney informed its members that two members had volunteered to be subpoenaed by an attorney filing suit against the school board.

Board attorney Greg Ellington on Thursday forwarded to members an email from District 8 representative Frank Myers to the attorneys for Montravious Thomas and his mother, who in March filed a $25 million lawsuit against the Muscogee County School District and other defendants. The lawsuit alleges contracted behavioral specialist Bryant Mosley body-slammed Montravious, then 13, “no less than” five times while trying to discipline him Sept. 12 in the Edgewood Student Services Center. The lawsuit also alleges the injuries Montravious suffered during the confrontation resulted in his right leg being amputated below the knee Oct. 18.

In his email to Montravious’ attorneys, Renee Tucker and Forrest Johnson of the law firm Forrest B. Johnson & Associates, Myers wrote, “I have what I believe is very relevant information regarding that case. I believe the evidence I possess would be very important to the goal of seeing that justice is served upon everyone involved in this matter.”

Myers asked Montravious’ attorneys to “put me under subpoena and take my deposition regarding these issues in the very near future.”

Myers added, “I am also authorized to share with you that John Thomas would not object to being placed under subpoena for the same purpose.”

Houston County Board of Elections member Tony Robbins was recognized for 44 years of service on the board.

“He is not retiring from the Board of Elections,” Stalnaker said. “We just felt like he needed to be acknowledged for the time that he has served.”

Robbins explained that he is the Republican appointee on the board, serving with Democratic Party appointee Kathy Shelton and three others appointed by the county commission.

“We have partisan appointments, but when it comes to the elections, for our citizens, we don’t know a party,” he said. “We make sure it’s done fairly, correctly and we do our best to get people in and out.”

Hall County Public Schools will have their own drug dog patrolling the halls.

The district announced its plans for the dog, which was part of a $50,000 budget request to keep drugs out of county schools, on Thursday.

The drug-sniffing dog would be owned by the school system, according to the announcement from district spokesman Gordon Higgins. The dog will cost an estimated $15,000, according to Higgins, including the cost of the animal, its training, equipment and food. Veterinary services are being donated.

Gwinnett County Commissioners are considering their options on property tax rates after significant growth in the value of the tax digest.

Chief Finance Officer Maria Woods and Chief Tax Appraiser Stewart Holiver told commissioners on Tuesday Gwinnett’s preliminary tax digest is expected to have grown by nearly $1.4 billion over the last year. That means growth from $27.5 billion in 2016 to $28.9 billion this year.

“What we’re seeing from the (2016) to (2017) digest is close to a five percent increase in the digest,” Woods said.

Woods presented commissioners with four possible millage rates to chose from. The options presented to commissioners on include a rollback rate of 12.718 mills, keeping the rate at 13.176 mills, or raising it to either 13.75 or 14.176 mills. Commissioners are expected to set a rate at their July 18 meeting.

Two public hearings would be held the week before that vote, while a third public hearing would be held the same week as the vote.

Grayson City Council set July 10 and 17 for public meetings on the property tax millage rate.

Cobb County Commissioners may levy a “blight tax” as part of a “Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive Program.”

A Lesson from CD-6?

Emory University Professor of Political Science Alan Abramowitz writes about “The Real Lessons of Handel-Ossoff.”

To win this race, Jon Ossoff had to get a large share of the 6th’s anti-Trump Republicans to vote for him. To do this, he ran a campaign aimed at convincing these GOP voters that he was a safe choice by playing down his liberal views and emphasizing his support for reducing the deficit and cutting wasteful government spending. The hope was that projecting a moderate image would make it easier for soft Republicans to cross party lines in the special election.

But there was a major problem with Ossoff’s strategy: Karen Handel was not Donald Trump, and the Ossoff campaign failed to effectively tie Handel to Trump. Polls in the district found that Trump was unpopular, as was the GOP’s health-care plan, which had been crafted largely by Tom Price and was strongly supported by Handel.

But the Ossoff campaign did not strongly go after Handel for her support of either Trump or the American Health Care Act.

Partisanship is a very powerful force in American politics today. Dislike of the opposing party is so strong that it is very difficult to convince voters to cross party lines for any reason.

Healthcare

Georgia’s opioid crisis may also be affecting job creation and economic development.

The state’s emerging opioid crisis may be partly to blame for the workforce shortages stymieing local efforts to attract new jobs.

This was one of the revelations from the second meeting of the state’s new House Rural Development Council, which met recently in Toccoa. The group of legislators is tasked with identifying potential policy fixes for the economic challenges facing the rural Georgia.

“We have a drug problem in Stephens County, and it’s a big one and it does impact the labor force,” Barry Roberts, director of operations for ASI Southeast, told legislators Friday during a meeting that was livestreamed.

The substance-abuse problem, which manifests itself at ASI Southeast as failed drug tests, is one issue that “needs to be on your radar,” he told state lawmakers.

It’s not a problem unique to the northeast Georgia community, though. Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is monitoring the growing statewide impact of the opioid crisis.

“I’ve talked to my peers up in the Northeast, where this epidemic started, about the impact it’s having on the economy and their workforce, and we’re starting to see that here,” Clark said.

Medicaid cuts being discussed as part of health care reform in Washington would have a greater impact on Georgia’s children’s hospitals, according to a report.

“Hospitals in Georgia stand to lose an estimated $3.4 billion of Georgia’s $4 billion in total Medicaid cuts over the next 10 years,” according to the study. “Communities in regions across the state are at risk, as opposed to just one or two large cities.”

The study projected the largest losses in Medicaid funding – $1.6 billion – would occur in metro Atlanta, followed by $265 million in Northwest Georgia.

Rural areas would also be hit hard by reductions in Medicare and Medicaid.

Since 2010, at least 79 rural hospitals have closed across the country, and nearly 700 more are at risk of closing. These hospitals serve a largely older, poorer and sicker population than most hospitals, making them particularly vulnerable to changes made to Medicaid funding.

“A lot of hospitals like [ours] could get hurt,” says Kerry Noble, CEO of Pemiscot Memorial Health Systems, the public hospital in the poorest county in Missouri.

And a rural hospital closure goes beyond people losing health care. Jobs, property values and even schools can suffer. Pemiscot County already has the state’s highest unemployment rate. Losing the hospital would mean losing the county’s largest employer.

“It would be devastating economically,” Noble says. “Our annual payrolls are around $20 million a year.”

“Medicaid cuts are always hard to rural hospitals,” Watson says. “People have less employer-sponsored coverage in rural areas and people are relying more on Medicaid and on Medicare.”

2018 Elections

Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth) has been endorsed by the conservative GOPAC.

The board of directors for GOPAC announced it is endorsing the Duluth-based senator in the campaign. It is the highest profile endorsement Shafer has gotten so far, joining a list of backers that includes philanthropist Bernie Marcus, state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens and every member of the Public Service Commission.

“Senator David Shafer’s success at leading the Georgia Senate to pass policies to increase economic and personal security leads the roster of reasons the GOPAC Election Fund will work to elect him as Georgia’s next lieutenant governor,” GOPAC Chairman Dave Avella said.

According to the organization’s website, it played a key part in the “Republican Revolution” of 1994, where the GOP took control of Congress and Gingrich became Speaker of the House.

“I am proud to accept this endorsement from an organization that has played such an important role in the history of the modern conservative movement,” Shafer said.

The news about GOPAC’s endorsement comes as Shafer prepares to hold a campaign fundraiser in Buckhead next week. The event will be held from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at War Horse, 3290 Northside Parkway, in Atlanta.

An event posting on Facebook shows supporters can either make contributions to his campaign during the event, or mail them to David Shafer for Georgia Inc., P.O. Box 880, Duluth, Ga. 30096.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 22, 2017

On June 22, 1633, Galileo Galilei recanted his published theory that stated the sun was the center of the world and the earth was not.

Georgia’s Trustees voted on June 22, 1737 to seek bids for building churches at Savannah and Frederica.

Georgia Whigs voted on June 22, 1775 to join a boycott against British goods. That same day, the Continental Congress approved the issuance of $2 million in debt-backed currency.

The donut was invented on June 22, 1847.

The Battle of Kolb’s Farm was fought near Marietta, Georgia on June 22, 1864.

The United States Department of Justice was established on June 22, 1870.

On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill.

On June 22, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed a law extending the 26th Amendment Right to Vote at age 18 to all federal, state, and local elections.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced that Georgia retained its credit rating from the three major agencies.

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced Georgia again earned a rating of AAA, with a stable outlook, from each of the three main credit rating agencies — Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s. Of the states that issue general obligation bonds, only nine currently meet this standard. This rating resulted in low interest rates during the sale of $1.39 billion in bonds, which includes $349 million of refunding bonds to refund previously issued bonds and achieve total debt service savings of $43.8 million.

“The state of Georgia works diligently to maintain the coveted AAA rating, and we are one of only nine states to earn this distinction,” said Deal. “By consistently earning top marks, we ensure our bonds remain highly sought after and provide the state flexibility to secure low interest rates for capital projects. Ultimately, this AAA bond rating reflects our fiscal responsibility and results in millions of dollars of savings for our taxpayers. Thank you to the General Assembly, Chairman Jack Hill and Chairman Terry England for their diligent work and cooperation to keep Georgia a leading state for taxpayer stewardship and economic growth.”

The credit rating agencies cited the strength of Georgia’s economy with a positive employment trend, growth of the state’s rainy day fund, a balanced approach to the state’s primary revenue sources and consistent funding of obligations as factors contributing AAA rating.

Gov. Deal and the State Road and Tollway Authority awarded $3 million for bridge widening in Gwinnett and Fulton counties and SRTA awarded $23.6 million for three projects in Cobb County.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners will meet tonight to adopt a FY2018 budget and property tax millage rate.

The City of Loganville government will move to a new City Hall in July.

Centerville City Council adopted a $10.2 million FY 2018 budget with the same millage rate as 2017.

The Savannah-Chatham Public School Board adopted a $561 million FY2018 budget, also keeping the same millage rate as before.

Polk County Sheriff Johnny Moats will reduce the sentences of six inmates who helped a work detail guard after the officer collapsed.

Columbus City Council awarded more than $700,000 in grants aimed at crime prevention.

Henry County Water Authority projects its long-term capital needs will exceed $900 million.

The Columbusc consolidated city-county government mailed property tax notices four weeks late this year due to a billing system conversion.

Normally, property owners are sent tax notices June 1 and tax bills Aug. 1, with the first installment due Oct. 1 and the final installment due Dec 1. But this year, tax notices will be issued June 30, tax bills will be mailed Oct. 1, and only one installment will be required, due on Dec. 1. Taxpayers may still make an earlier installment, which is encouraged but not mandatory, officials have said.

Northeast Georgia saw an uptick in unemployment, while Gainesville held steady from the previous month.

Savannah also saw a slight unemployment increase, while Southeast Georgia remains unchanged.

Valdosta Regional Airport is hoping to tap a new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to fund renovations.

Government leaders in the area recently decided to hold a public vote on a regional T-SPLOST. If approved, the one-penny sales tax would fund transportation projects through 18 counties, including Lowndes.

A roundtable of elected officials is in the process of deciding projects to be funded by the T-SPLOST, which is estimated to rake in $500 million during a 10-year period, [airport executive director Jim] Galloway said.

Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) lauded the House passage of a measure extending the deadline for tax credits that would benefit construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

<“The tax credits were originally approved by Congress and were set to expire,” said Rep. Rick Allen, of Augusta. “We wanted to make sure that we included the units both at Vogtle and over in South Carolina and that the plants under construction right now received these credits when they are completed, which takes it out beyond 2020.”

Homer Bryson, new director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, spoke to the Rotary Club of Athens.

District Six Post Mortem

Karen and Steve Handel

Probably the first Post Mortem on the Sixth District that I saw was by Steen Kirby. I don’t agree with everything he writes, but it’s a thoughtful analysis.

$30,000,000 dollars later, people still aren’t sure what Jon Ossoff stood for, and cared about, and the Democratic party leadership and consultant class still don’t know how to win. For the price of a dozen competitive House elections or statewide campaigns–and hundreds of local and state legislative contests–Democrats are left standing in the same place they were after November 2016 in Georgia’s 6th district, and across the country.

Ossoff’s improvement can largely be tied to the fact that spending does move the needle to an extent, but it wasn’t enough. Ossoff’s polling lead was squandered away by a poor final salvo, and most likely GOP voters being motivated by the horrific terror attack against GOP congressman on a baseball field in Virginia.

1: Ossoff Lacked a Clear Message and Had an Irrelevant Platform

If you visit Ossoff’s website, you’ll see a smorgasbord of issue positions, written in a cold, distant, unengaging tone, and without any real priority placed on any specific issue. This matches Ossoff’s advertising, mail, and messaging overall. Months later, I’m not sure anyone has a clear answer what Ossoff stands for, or what his top agenda items would have been if elected to Congress. He was neither “Anti-Trump,” nor “Progressive” or “Centrist,” or frankly anything else.

Molly Ball writes for The Atlantic about the election:

They hoped to send one message to Washington; instead, they may have sent the opposite one—that the mass of American voters are in no hurry to deliver a rebuke to the chaos in Washington, and that Republican representatives still have wide leeway to pursue their policy objectives on issues like health care without losing or disheartening their base.

That is a tough pill to swallow for Democrats who have convinced themselves opposing Trump will bring them back from the brink of powerlessness. So far, they have cut into Republicans’ margins, but they have not yet figured out how to win, and moral victories get no votes in Congress.

Trump was He Who Must Not Be Named as the race wound down. “This race—it’s not about what’s going on around the rest of the country,” Handel told her supporters in the restaurant. “It’s about you and about the people of the Sixth District.” Earlier that day, the president had repeatedly tweeted in support of her.

Ossoff, too, seemed to spend most of his time deflecting questions about Trump, pivoting ceaselessly back to well-worn talking points about “fresh leadership” and “quality of life” and “bipartisanship delivering solutions.” “There are a lot of folks trying to look for national implications,” he told me, sitting in a back room of his campaign office in Chamblee, hands folded in his lap. “But that’s not what voters in the Sixth District are focused on.”

A Daily Kos writer has one very interesting data table:

A lot of attention is paid to early vote vs. election day vote, with mixed predictive success at best. Here’s how it broke down for Fulton Co. GA-6 precincts:

ossoff handel ossoff margin
mail 5,781 3,698 +21%
early in person 35,111 37,140 -2.8%
election day 17,321 24,062 -16%

Ben Shapiro, in the Daily Wire writes:

So, what happened?

1. Ossoff’s Chances Were Inflated From The Outset.

2. Democrats Nationalized The Race With Outside Money. Democrats made the crucial mistake of nationalizing the GA-6 with outside cash. This led Republicans in the district to react negatively — instead of staying home, which Democrats desperately needed them to do, they got offended and voted in large numbers. Ossoff received more money from California than Georgia. Voters took it as an insult, and acted accordingly.

5. Democrats Still Have The Albatross Of Nancy Pelosi. Republicans hammered at the relationship between Ossoff and Nancy Pelosi, who is still the most unpopular politician in America (29% favorable). Democrats may be enamored of a San Francisco nut job running the House for themselves, but voters in Georgia aren’t.

6. Ossoff Didn’t Live In The District. Combined with the outside money, the focus on Pelosi, the Hollywood involvement, and the nationalized focus on Trump, Ossoff not living in the district hurt him. He seemed like a carpetbagger emissary from San Francisco to enough voters to lose him the district.

From Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight, who sees it as a question of “reluctant” Trump Republicans:

And that brings us back to Georgia 6: It’s a reluctant Trump district. If Democrat Jon Ossoff can win in Georgia 6 over Republican Karen Handel, it could be a sign that Democrats can win over reluctant Trump voters nationwide next year.

Nationally, reluctant Trump voters differ from other Trump supporters in three important ways.

Reluctant Trump voters, on average, have more education than other Trump voters; it’s one of their defining features as a group. According to SurveyMonkey, 37 percent of reluctant Trump voters have at least a college degree compared with 25 percent of other Trump voters. That matches with the general movement away from the Republican Party by well-educated voters in 2016.

Trump voters in Georgia 6 are also probably more loyal to the Republican brand than to Trump specifically. In the Atlanta Journal Constitution survey, only 35 percent of people who voted for Trump in 2016 say their vote in the special election is meant to express support for Trump now.

Reluctant Trump voters are more likely to believe that health care is a top concern than Trump’s more enthusiastic supporters.

One takeaway from The Hill may be relevant to Georgia’s 2018 elections:

Democratic infighting ramps up

Squabbling among Democrats and liberals began before the final results were in from Georgia. The debate was conducted in raw terms.

The central issue was whether Ossoff had run too timorous and centrist a campaign to fire up the base.

Amid all the drama of the Trump presidency, the depth of divisions among Democrats — and the continuing rancor between centrists and progressives dating back to the Clinton-Sanders primary fight last year — has often been underreported.

From the PBS NewsHour:

For Democrats especially, redistricting matters

The biggest political battle of the year (so far) didn’t take place in Atlanta’s politically moderate suburbs by accident. Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District belongs to a dying breed of moderate House seats. The reality is, there aren’t many left. In the midterm elections next year, Democrats will undoubtedly target the 23 Republican House seats that Clinton carried in 2016. But even if they won every single one, that still wouldn’t be enough for them to flip the House.

Both parties have a stake in the redistricting debate. But Democrats, as the minority party in Congress, have more to lose in the short-term if the status quo doesn’t change. That’s why their hopes of flipping the House hinge in large part on redistricting reform — and why liberals should thank Obama and his ally and former attorney general Eric Holder for making redistricting their top political priority under Trump.

It won’t be easy. Republicans will fight reform efforts, and redistricting is a convoluted issue that doesn’t pull at voters’ heartstrings. Holder, the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, acknowledged as much this week, saying that “part of my job is to make redistricting sexy.” The Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday to hear a case on partisan gerrymandering will help. As the Georgia election showed, Democrats have a lot riding on the outcome.

Congresswoman Karen Handel

East Cobb gave Karen Handel her margin of victory on Tuesday, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

“The east Cobb part of the 6th District gave Handel a huge win,” Swint said. “That was the single biggest margin for her of the three counties. So there’s no question Cobb helped deliver her the win.”

In Cobb, Handel received just over 58 percent of the vote. In Fulton and DeKalb, she got 52.7 percent and 41.5 percent respectively.

Handel lost DeKalb by 9,777 votes. In her home turf of Fulton, she picked up 6,687 votes, leaving her about 3,000 votes shy of a win.

Handel’s margin of victory in Cobb was 12,792 votes, giving her a nice soft cushion on which to comfortably bounce over the 50 percent mark.

East Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott, an early Handel supporter, said he was not surprised Cobb Republicans came out in large numbers for the runoff.

“The folks in Cobb have a big concern over the schools and the community and everything else if they see that’s going to be threatened and changed,” Ott said. “I think they’re going to come out and speak their mind at elections just like they do at my town halls. I have 100, 150 people at my town halls. So it doesn’t surprise me to see such a large turnout from folks in Cobb. They’re very engaged and know what’s going on in the district.”

2018 Elections

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge John Ellington announced he will run for a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court next year.

Ellington told the Daily Report this week that he has organized a campaign for the state’s highest court and plans to announce his candidacy Thursday.

“The quality of life in any community depends on the quality of the judicial system,” Ellington said. “I have spent my entire judicial career of 25 years serving every classification of court in Georgia.”

“The Court of Appeals has been described as the salt mine of Georgia jurisprudence,” Ellington said. “Our Supreme Court provides the leadership for all levels of court. I want to take my experience now to the Supreme Court and share that experience.”

Ellington said he will run for the seat now held by Justice Carol Hunstein. She has said she will not run for reelection in 2018 because she will reach the age of 75 before her next six-year term would end. Georgia requires appellate judges to retire before their 75th birthday or forfeit their pensions.

Suburban women are the key to Democratic victory in Georgia, or so we’ve been told since at least 2014. If that’s the case, Democrat Stacey Evans is making a play for Ossoff supporters ahead of the 2018 Gubernatorial election. From a campaign email:

Last night, Jon Ossoff came SO CLOSE to winning the Georgia Special Election.

It was a long and tough election. Republicans spent MILLIONS to buy the results they wanted, and used every dirty trick in the book.

Now Republicans are counting on us to feel discouraged by the results.

But they are WRONG. We proved that Democrats are fired up and hungry for a win.

And if we came that close to flipping Georgia’s Sixth District, we can definitely WIN the race for Georgia governor.

But because of hardworking Democrats like you, he put a solid-Red district on the defensive.

We can keep up his momentum, [name]. We can still keep the hope alive that his campaign inspired in so many Georgians.

We’ve come so far, [name]. Don’t let Republicans think we’re done fighting.

-Team Evans

If it’s true that suburban women fueled the Ossoff effort, consolidating their support could be a very savvy tactic headed into 2018.

21
Jun

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

Georgia’s Royal Colony Seal was approved on June 21, 1754.

Georgia Colony Seal

The Constitution of the United States of America was ratified on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify.

On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states.

Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

A lynch mob including members of the KKK killed three young civil rights activists who were trying to register African-Americans to vote near Meridian, Mississippi on June 21, 1964.

When Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, a young black man, were coming back from a trip to Philadelphia, Mississippi, deputy sheriff Cecil Price, who was also a Klan member, pulled them over for speeding. He then held them in custody while other KKK members prepared for their murder. Eventually released, the three activists were later chased down in their car and cornered in a secluded spot in the woods where they were shot and then buried in graves that had been prepared in advance.

When news of their disappearance got out, the FBI converged on Mississippi to investigate. With the help of an informant, agents learned about the Klan’s involvement and found the bodies. Since Mississippi refused to prosecute the assailants in state court, the federal government charged 18 men with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney.

John W. Hinckley, Jr. was acquitted of attempted murder of President Ronald Reagan and others in the Presidential party by reason on insanity on June 21, 1982.

Voters in Sandy Springs approved the new city’s incorporation on June 21, 2005.

Heroes

Georgia Department of Corrections Sergeant Christopher Monica was laid to rest in yesterday.

Authorities said Sgt. Monica and Sgt. Curtis Billue were shot and killed by two inmates during a prison transport last Tuesday. The accused inmates, Donnie Roe and Ricky Dubose, were captured following a three-day massive manhunt.

Monica, 42, started with the Department of Corrections in October 2009 working as a correctional officer at Hancock State Prison. He was moved to Baldwin State Prison in February of 2011 where he quickly rose through the ranks, being promoted to sergeant.

Friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help Monica’s family. It says he had been taking on extra shifts so his wife wouldn’t have to work because she was having health issues.

On Saturday, friends, family and fellow officers gathered to honor and remember Sgt. Curtis Billue, who’d been with the DOC since July 2007 stationed at Frank Scott Correctional Facility.

Flags flew at half-staff yesterday in honor of Sgt. Monica.

United States Navy Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm, Jr. (no relation) is being lauded as a hero after his death in the aftermath of the USS Fitzgerald collision.

When the Fitzgerald collided with the merchant ship, 37-year-old Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., “leapt into action,” according to The Daily Beast.

The Fitzgerald was struck below the waterline, and Rehm Jr.’s family was told by the Navy that he went under and saved at least 20 sailors, according to WBNS-10TV in Columbus, Ohio.

But when he went back down to get the other six sailors, the ship began to take on too much water, and the hatch was closed, WBNS-10TV said.

“That was Gary to a T,” Rehm Jr.’s friend Christopher Garguilo, told NBC4i in Columbus, Ohio. “He never thought about himself.”

“He called [the sailors on the ship] his kids,” his uncle, Stanley Rehm Jr., told The Daily Beast. “He said, ‘If my kids die, I’m going to die.’”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

“Taking Out the Trash Day” refers to Friday in the news cycle, which is traditionally a good day to release unfavorable news items. I wrote that yesterday was the ultimate Take Out the Trash day in Georgia politics because all attention from everyone would be focused on the Sixth District Special Runoff Election between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat John Ossoff.

The Gwinnett County Commission took advantage of that yesterday, when they voted to publicly reprimand Commissioner Tommy Hunter. Whether intentional or not, doing so last night probably downplayed the event. While the vote made the Gwinnett Daily Post, the AJC, and WSB radio, I don’t see much TV news coverage. For instance, WSB-TV covered it, but any other night, I think it would have been more prominently featured.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

An emotional public hearing on whether Gwinnett commissioners should reprimand one of their own for making controversial comments on Facebook was capped with Chairwoman Charlotte Nash fighting back tears as she addressed residents.

The commissioners voted unanimously to publicly reprimand Commissioner Tommy Hunter for his comments, which included calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig,” and referring to Democrats as “Demonrats” and “Libtards” on his personal Facebook page.

Hunter was not present at the meeting, but his colleagues, who have remained silent on the matter for months, made their feelings known before the vote was taken.

Commissioner Jace Brooks also criticized Hunter for making the remarks on Facebook, but added he disagreed with the idea that the comments constituted an ethics violation. Nonetheless, Brooks offered the motion to accept the ethics board’s recommendation, saying he supported a public reprimand of his colleague.

Hunter’s spokesman, Seth Weathers, criticized the commission for voting to accept the ethics board’s recommendation of a public reprimand, however.

“We now know that mob rule controls the Gwinnett County Commission Board,” he said after the hearing ended. “Charlotte Nash lead her fellow board members in the public burning of the Constitution this evening. People are used to politicians caving to political correctness but tonight it reached a new level. Spineless politicians do spineless things.

“Where is the public reprimand for Charlotte Nash, John Heard, Jace Brooks, and Lynette Howard for their public disregard for the U.S. Constitution? Speaking of, where do I file the ethics complaint to get the process started?”

I am uneasy with several parts of this whole affair.

First, the idea that an elected official would be subject to an ethics process for being stupid on Facebook while on his or her own time.

Second, the idea that continued disruption of public meetings by citizens can appear to drive decisions by elected officials when legitimate issues of the role of elected officials in policing each other’s conduct are raised.

Third, that the actions of one Commissioner could lead to the continued disruption of a functioning elected board.

Fourth, that anyone would take the opportunity to take a cheap shot at Charlotte Nash, one of the finest public servants I’ve seen.

Fifth, that public discourse in our community has fallen to the point where people are so comfortable being jerks in public.

The other side of “Take Out the Trash Day” is knowing that when a major national political story is happening in your community, it will drive news coverage for days. Democrat Kathleen Allen announced she will run against Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) in the 2018 election.

Norcross resident and homeless advocate Kathleen Allen will kick off her bid to run for the Seventh Congressional District seat at 7 p.m. on Thursday at 45 South Cafe, 45 S. Peachtree St., in Norcross. She is seeking to defeat U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., who has held the seat for more than six years.

Allen made headlines earlier this year when she, along with homeless assistance groups in Gwinnett, took on Norcross’ hotel and extended stay ordinance, which she said would negatively affect homeless families. The city ultimately made changes in the ordinance to minimize the impact on homeless residents.

Allen and her campaign will canvas neighborhoods throughout the district this summer and into the fall to meet with residents and hear their concerns.

“I don’t want to tell my community what they should care about,” Allen said. “I want to know what they do care about so that I truly represent everyone in our district.”

It’s an interesting timing choice, perhaps hoping to capitalize on national attention on what just happened in the Sixth District and become the next liberal darling of the online left. Or maybe it was just amateur hour.

Democrat David Kim previously announced he will challenge Woodall.

Congratulations to Karen Handel

Last night, earlier than I and many others expected, Karen Handel was declared the winner of the Special Runoff Election for the Sixth Congressional District. Congratulations to Karen and Steve Handel, and to my fellow constituents of the Sixth District, who have chosen an experienced, effective leader.

My analysis of this will probably span several day, maybe longer, because there’s a lot to unpack.

But I want to start by recognizing two people for their contributions. These mentions are not intended to downplay anyone else’s contribution.

Jade Morey, who was in my class in Republican Leadership for Georgia, went above and beyond. Her personal energy and relentless enthusiasm were a major boon to the Handel campaign. Yesterday, at 4:25 PM I received a text from her asking me to make phone calls from my cell phone at home for Karen. I’m sure everyone else she’s known since kindergarten got a similar text, but that’s a great illustration of running the race through the tape.

Mark Rountree of Landmark Communications, though he was not engaged in the campaign to my knowledge, added significantly to my understanding of the race dynamics in the last days.

Several days ago, I tweeted that any “I think we can all agree that a poll showing GA-6 within the MOE doesn’t even qualify as news, much less justify “BREAKING.”’ My point being that the arms race for new polling among media outlets leads to a lot of breathless, cheap stories entirely devoid of news or useful content. Seriously, save your money folks. Polling is not a substitute for good reporting from the field.

Anyway, the last Landmark poll of the cycle was the only one worth reading, from any pollster, in my opinion. That one still showed a race within the margin of error, but it showed movement to Karen Handel from the last previous poll, by the same firm, using the same methodology, less than a week prior.

A facebook post on the survey put it best:

Seeing some momentum toward Handel.

One of my other polling mentors, Bruno Gianelli, spoke of campaigns and polling in relation to racing sailboats.

The importance of that last poll can also be compared to sailing, more precisely to navigation. Any single poll is a snapshot in time; it tries to tell you what is happening now, but has little predictive value on its own. It’s like knowing where you are on a map of the open sea, of limited use. To have a better idea where you’re headed, you also need to know the directions of the current and of the wind, which help you plot your speed and direction.

The second poll, by the same firm, using the same methodology, adds that vector information – it can tell you speed and direction. So “seeing some momentum toward Handel,” is the most useful information I had seen in weeks and it helped my decide over the weekend that I thought Karen Handel would win.

Senator David Perdue sent out a statement congratulating Congresswoman-elect Handel:

“Georgians again sent a loud message to Washington that we are committed to changing the direction of our country. Liberal Democrats dumped millions of dollars into this campaign to try and buy another House vote for Nancy Pelosi, and it still didn’t work. Nobody knows Georgia’s 6th District better than Karen Handel. I congratulate Karen on her victory and look forward to working with her on the issues that matter to all Georgians.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp also issued a statement:

“Despite the millions of dollars spent, thousands of paid activists shipped in from around the country, and countless lies told by her opponent and his radical supporters, conservative Karen Handel earned victory at the ballot box and sent a clear message to democrats far and wide that Georgia is a red state and it’s not for sale.”

“Karen Handel has a proven record of accomplishments and she is uniquely qualified to serve Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District in Washington. I am confident that she will stand up for our conservative, Georgia values and fight tirelessly to ensure a better, brighter future for all Americans. We have some difficult challenges ahead but I know that Karen can handle it.”

“Congratulations to Karen Handel, her campaign team and supporters, and the Georgia Republican Party on a well-deserved victory!”

Opioid Epidemic

A report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality indicates that the opioid and overdose epidemic is having a major impact on our healthcare system.

The coast-to-coast opioid epidemic is swamping hospitals, with government data published Tuesday showing 1.27 million emergency room visits or inpatient stays for opioid-related issues in a single year.

The 2014 numbers, the latest available for every state and the District of Columbia, reflect a 64 percent increase for inpatient care and a 99 percent jump for emergency room treatment compared to figures from 2005. Their trajectory likely will keep climbing if the epidemic continues unabated.

The AHRQ report does not speculate on why some states have such high rates of hospital admissions. It suggests that people in the most urban places are more likely to be treated in a hospital than those in rural areas — which would indicate that lack of access to medical care is a factor in the uptick in death rates seen in less-urban parts of the country.

The sharpest increase in hospitalization and emergency room treatment for opioids was among people ages 25 to 44, and that women are now as likely as men to be admitted to a hospital for inpatient treatment for opioid-related problems. In 2005, there was a significant gap between men and women, with men more likely to be admitted. That gap closed entirely by 2014.

Georgia has had the greatest increase in opioid-related admissions during that period.

Of the 43 states where data was available, Georgia saw the highest increase in opioid related inpatient stays between 2009 and 2014. Hospital stays increased 100% in Georgia, compared with an average rise of 24% across the country. In Kansas, Maryland, Illinois and Louisiana, inpatient stays fell across the six-year time period.

Today, an op-ed in the Atlanta Business Chronicle by Monty Veazey, President of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, gives some context to what that explosive growth in overdoses means for Georgia hospitals, many of which are already endangered.

Increasingly, overdoses come in clusters of multiple incidences within a short time. The impact on an emergency room can be paralyzing, even for a large Metro Atlanta hospital, much less a smaller facility in a rural market. The impact can also be lasting, as stabilized patients often require prolonged medical support, including intensive care and services from a number of different departments.

On top of this growing epidemic, emergency rooms are also experiencing increased visits related to behavioral or mental health, which have have skyrocketed nearly 60% over the same period. This is in addition to the heart attacks, accidents and other life threatening situations that bring patients through their doors and require a hospital’s full capabilities to treat. This week, Becker’s Hospital Review ranked the emergency rooms with the most visits per year, placing two Metro Atlanta facilities in the top ten nationwide.

As hospitals deal with the strain of increasing admissions, the existence of a strong network of neighboring hospitals helps distribute the patient load and ensure timely access to care. But today, as hospitals across Georgia struggle under the pressure of financial challenges caused by factors including changing demographics, growing numbers of underinsured and uninsured patients, and declining populations – that network is at risk.

For example, it is estimated that Georgia hospitals performed $1.7 billion dollars worth of uncompensated care in 2015 alone, which is simply unsustainable. In addition, potential cuts in Medicare and Medicaid are being discussed in Washington, DC, that would force more hospitals to close their doors, as 7 in Georgia and 80 across the nation have been forced to do since 2010.

One of the keys to the stability of Georgia’s network of care is the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) program. This critical tool helps the state manage the availability and financial survival of safety net hospitals while ensuring access to emergency departments, advanced treatment, and routine healthcare needs.

The time could not be worse for weakening protections for our hospital system, which would come at the unquestionable risk of reducing access to health-care and emergency services.

[Disclaimer: I work on communications with the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.]

A Northwest Georgia hospital accuses an insurance company of underpaying for services.

The only hospital in northwest Georgia’s Walker County has sued Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, claiming the insurer’s refusal to pay its contractually agreed-upon rates for services threatens to put Cornerstone Medical Center out of business.

The hospital, located in Fort Oglethorpe near the Tennessee state line, has already struggled though one bankruptcy, which resulted in its being bought for $4.1 million in late 2015.

Cornerstone’s is the only emergency room in Walker County, the motion said, and more than 60 percent of the patients seen there “have no means to pay nor any perceived interest in doing so.” The hospital also provides radiology, laboratory and pharmaceutical services to the county’s residents.

Nuclear News

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that should benefit Georgia electric ratepayers.

House lawmakers approved legislation that would add life to federal tax credits that could save hundreds of millions of dollars for the companies and non-profits behind the struggling Plant Vogtle nuclear project and a similar one in South Carolina.

A resolution that removes a 2021 deadline for using the tax credits passed a voice vote Tuesday afternoon on the House floor. The proposed tax change also will have to win the Senate’s approval to become law.

That extension could help preserve $800 million worth of tax credits that Georgia Power has been counting on to help lower its cost of the Vogtle project, which includes construction of two new reactors at the plant near Augusta.

20
Jun

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

On June 20, 1732, the signing of the Georgia Charter was completed by the British government.

On June 20, 1782, Congress adopted the Great Seal of the United States. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, was responsible for the final design presented to Congress. The design approved by Congress was a written description without any sketches.

On June 20, 1819, the SS Savannah entered the port at Liverpool, England, marking the first transatlantic crossing by a steam-powered ship, having sailed out of Savannah on May 20th.

General Robert E. Lee moved on Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant at Petersburg, Virginia on June 20, 1864.

Jaws was released on June 20, 1975.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Thanks, Facebook! I almost forgot!

Election Today Thanks Facebook

Today is also the day that voters in Clarkesville, Georgia will choose a new City Council member.

The office of Council Member of the City of Clarkesville, Georgia, being Post 3, will be elected at large for the remainder of a four (4) year term, being approximately two (2) year’s and six (6) months, beginning on or about June 21, 2017 through December 31, 2019, with said seat currently vacant and formerly held by Casey Ramsey.

Election Day voting will be held June 20, 2017 at the Ruby Fulbright Aquatic Center, 120 Paul Franklin Road, Clarkesville, Georgia 30523, from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Gwinnett County Commissioners today will consider a recommendation by the county ethics board that Commissioner Tommy Hunter be censured for impolitic Facebook posting.

The ethics board assembled to investigate the complaint agreed with that assessment earlier this month, recommending the stiffest penalty available to county commissioners — that Hunter be publicly reprimanded.

That reprimand would involve posting a written rebuke on the county’s website, on the wall of its courthouse and in the local newspaper.

Commission Chair Charlotte Nash said she expects her board to vote on the matter during a public hearing scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. One hour has been set aside for public comment in support of the ethics board’s recommendation and one hour for those against.

Optim Medical Center – Jenkins has been spared, as a buyer has been found to keep the local hospital open.

Optim Medical Center-Jenkins, set to close this month, announced Monday that it has been sold to GA Medical Holdings Corp.

The 25-bed “critical access’’ facility in Millen in Jenkins County was due to merge operations with another hospital in the area. It would have been the seventh Georgia rural hospital to shut down since the beginning of 2013. Two of those that closed have been revived as medical facilities, but no longer function as full-fledged hospitals.

If a last-minute buyer had not been found, Optim-Jenkins would have merged with an Optim hospital in Sylvania in neighboring Screven County.

Like other rural hospitals, Optim Medical Center-Jenkins had cited declining reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid; decreased patient census; and needed upgrades to its infrastructure, as forcing the closure.

The Georgia Supreme Court held that the state cannot be sued to prevent enforcement of an abortion statute.

But, in a 71-page opinion, Justice Keith Blackwell left the door open for challenges to state officials individually.

“Simply put, the constitutional doctrine of sovereign immunity forbids our courts to entertain a lawsuit against the State without its consent,” Blackwell said.

“We hold today that the doctrine of sovereign immunity extends generally to suits against the State, its departments and agencies, and its officers in their official capacities for injunctive and declaratory relief from official acts that are alleged to be unconstitutional. In so holding, however, we recognize the availability of other means by which aggrieved citizens may obtain relief from unconstitutional acts, including prospective relief from the threatened enforcement of unconstitutional laws.”

The suit targets a 2012 state law banning nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, known as the “fetal pain statute,” because it is tied to the fetus’ feeling rather than its viability, the latter of which is the standard used in the U.S. Supreme Court’s watershed ruling in Roe v. Wade. The constitutional challenge targets a facet of the law allowing district attorneys access to abortion patients’ medical records. In oral arguments, the attorneys never mentioned abortion; instead, they focused on whether the state’s immunity outweighs its citizens’ right to privacy under the Georgia Constitution.

“This is an astounding proposition that would make Georgia the only state in the union in which the Bill of Rights is subordinate to the Legislature,” Samuel told the high court.

Today is “take out the trash day” in Georgia politics. If you must release unfavorable information and hope it doesn’t get noticed, today is the day to do it. Anything released or announce today by any government agency in Georgia should receive extra scrutiny. Maybe next week.

19
Jun

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

The Georgia Whig Party held its first convention on June 19, 1843 in Milledgeville and elected ten delegates to the 1844 National Convention.

The first Republican National Convention, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ended on June 19, 1856.

The Republicans, who called for the abolition of slavery in all U.S. territories, rapidly gained supporters in the North, and in 1856 their first presidential candidate, John Fremont, won 11 of the 16 Northern states. By 1860, the majority of Southern states were publicly threatening secession if a Republican won the presidency.

The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the official party of the victorious North. After the war, the Republican-dominated Congress forced a radical Reconstruction policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and granting voting rights to African American men in the South. By 1876, the Republican Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency, with a few intermissions, until the ascendance of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

On June 19, 1864, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston retreated from Pine Mountain and Lost Mountain toward Marietta. Click here to watch a two-minute video by Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta History Center about this week in Georgia in 1864.

On the same day, USS Kearsarge sank CSS Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France in one of the most-celebrated naval battles of the Civil War.

Under its captain, Raphael Semmes, the Alabama prowled the world for three years, capturing U.S. commercial ships. It sailed around the globe, usually working out of the West Indies, but taking prizes and bungling Union shipping in the Caribbean, off Newfoundland, and around the coast of South America. In January 1863, Semmes sunk a Union warship, the Hatteras, after luring it out of Galveston, Texas.

During its career, the Alabama captured 66 ships and was hunted by more than 20 Federal warships.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

From the AJC Political Insider on Saturday’s GOTV Rally with Secretary of HHS Tom Price and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

“We want lower taxes. We all want a government that respects you. You all want patient-centered healthcare,” said Price. “You all want national security to be an absolute priority for the federal government. If you want any one of those items, then who you want is Karen Handel for the 6th District.”

And Perdue, who hired Handel as a deputy when he was governor, urged conservatives not to be fooled by a Democrat who sports a “few Republican buzz words.” He led voters in a chant of “no turning back.”

“This is a harbinger of national politics. The world is looking, the nation is looking – and all the money has flowed in here,” Perdue said. “Don’t be fooled by someone who doesn’t have a record. Let me tell you something, he’s a puppeteer and the strings are being pulled by Democrats and the Nancy Pelosi.”

The Saturday event was organized by John Watson, the newly-minted Georgia GOP chair, who has made boosting Handel one of his first priorities. A former aide to Perdue, Watson won this month’s vote to lead the cash-strapped party on a pledge to shore up its finances and make it more relevant.

Today, the Karen Handel campaign will rally across the Sixth District to encourage Republicans to vote in the Special Election tomorrow.

DeKalb GOTV STOP with Karen Handel and Congressman Kevin McCarthy
11:30 AM – 12:00 Noon at Old Hickory House
2202 Northlake Parkway
Tucker, GA 30084

Cobb GOTV RALLY with Surprise Guest
12:45 – 2:00 PM at Cherokee Cattle Ranch
2710 Canton Road
Marietta, GA 30066

Click here to register for Cobb GOTV Rally

Fulton and Grand Finale GOTV RALLY with Gov Deal, First Lady Sandra Deal and Banks and Shane
6 – 7:30 PM at Houck’s Grille
10930 Crabapple Road, Suite B1302
Roswell, GA 30075

Click here to register for Fulton GOTV Rally

Here are the latest numbers for early votes cast:

Cobb 25,346 19.39%
DeKalb 30554 23.37%
Fulton 74850 57.25%

The Marietta Daily Journal has a write-up on early voting.

In Cobb alone, 27,257 people cast their ballots early through mail-in ballots or advance in-person voting. Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said that represents more than 23 percent of registered voters.

In the April free-for-all primary election that pitted Ossoff and Handel against 16 other candidates, 11,860 Cobb voters voted early.

In addition to east Cobb, District 6 also includes parts of Fulton and DeKalb. All told, over 140,000 early votes have been cast in this race, including from 36,000 people who did not vote in the primary, Politico reports.

If you live in District 6 and have not voted yet, tomorrow, Election Day, is your only chance to do so. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

[Note: the difference between the Cobb figure above from the SOS database and the number in the MDJ article may be due to lag in the system by which the County reports ballots cast to the state.]

Ms. Lillian Mortimer, 100 years old, of Cobb County may be the oldest voter to cast a ballot in the Sixth District.

When 100-year-old Lillian Mortimer ran into trouble getting her Georgia identification card to ensure she could cast a ballot in the House District 6 runoff between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff, she was undeterred.

Born at home in February 1917, she didn’t have a birth certificate. Her North Carolina driver’s license, which she had before moving in with her daughter Lynn Strickland of east Cobb about three years ago, had expired, and the passport she once had was lost in that move.

It was soon thereafter that the two turned to one of their fellow parishioners at Mt. Bethel United Methodist — Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce.

“Lillian came to me, she grabbed me in the church narthex about a month ago … Lillian and her daughter grabbed me and said Lillian really wanted to get a Georgia ID card so that she could vote,” Boyce said, sharing the story at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting. “This is a lady that was born in the year that America entered World War I, and yet her primary consideration and concern is that she wanted to vote.”

Since then, Mortimer has mailed in her absentee ballot — a vote for Karen Handel.

“I thought it was important, and I’ve always voted,” she said. “In fact, I used to work at the poll in (my former home) Greensboro (North Carolina), and it is important. I wish people that complain so much about things would get out there and get voting. And there’s much to complain about.”

National Democrats are beginning to manage expectations in case their wunderkind Jon Ossoff falls short tomorrow.

A loss in Georgia’s special election here could leave the party demoralized, with little to show for all the furious organizing, fundraising and spending in a handful of congressional special elections in the early months of the Trump administration. As a result, Democrats are now straining to throw everything they have at Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District to push Jon Ossoff over the top against Republican Karen Handel, aiming to prove they can win the suburban districts that may pave the way to a House majority in 2018.

According to Democrats close to the contest, the high early voting turnout has rendered Tuesday’s result less predictable than expected. And that unpredictability has party leaders — stung by criticism from liberal activists for not spending enough money on earlier special elections this year in Kansas and Montana — urging activists not to be disappointed by a tight race that ends in defeat.

Their concern is that anything less than victory could dampen the party’s torrid energy and cash flow, with the next round of House races still nearly a year-and-a-half away.

“From the start, the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] understood that winning the Georgia 6th special election would be a monumental task. Simply put, virtually every structural advantage benefits Republicans in a special election in this traditionally conservative district,” wrote DCCC Executive Director Dan Sena in an expectation-setting memo circulated to a group that included donors and friendly groups last Tuesday.

He reminded them that the committee “has spent more than $6 million to fundamentally transform a traditionally Republican electorate, turn out low-propensity voters, channel the unprecedented grassroots energy, and communicate with swing voters.”

The Gwinnett County Republican Party Chairman’s Cookout on Saturday, June 24 from 11 AM to 4 PM will draw some of the 2018 Statewide candidates.

Tickets cost $10 for adults, and $5 for kids ages 6 to 16, and can be purchased at www.gwinnettrepublicans.com. Children under 6 will be admitted for free.

Among the candidates expected to be there are Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running for governor, and Reps. Buzz Brockway and Brad Raffensperger, who are running for secretary of state.

Information [on the website] about the event says gubernatorial candidates Sen. Hunter Hill and Secretary of State Brian Kemp have also been invited to attend the cookout. U.S. Reps. Rob Woodall and Jody Hice are among the invitees as well.

Cagle, Hill, Kemp and state Sen. Michael Williams, R-Cumming, make up the Republican field for governor so far, but qualifying won’t take place until next spring, so other candidates could still emerge.

Groundbreaking for the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in Augusta will be today, though preparations have already begun.

The Georgia Department of Labor reports that unemployment has hit the lowest level in nearly a decade.

The Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday that the rate dipped from 5 percent in April to 4.9 percent in May. That gives the state its lowest number since October 2007. The recession, fueled by the housing market meltdown, officially started in December 2007, with economists gauging its end in June 2009.

A year ago, the state’s jobless rate was 5.3 percent.

“Georgia saw its unemployment rate dip below 5 percent for the first time in nearly 10 years as more individuals gained jobs,” Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement. “It’s a testament to the attractiveness of Georgia’s job market when we continue to see more and more individuals enter and re-enter the job market and find employment.”

The department said the total number of Georgians with a job increased by nearly 10,000 from April to May, bringing the total to a record 4,788,627. That total is up by nearly 156,000 from May of last year.

Jack Bernard, a former Jasper County Commission Chair writes that Georgia should not get rid of Certificate of Need laws.

[E]very year or two, some state politician suggests doing away with Georgia’s Certificate of Need (CON) laws, which regulate where and how health care facilities can operate. Sometimes people in the health care field make similar suggestions.

Unfortunately, while many of these proposals invoke the principle of the free market, they are misguided.

Most of my career was spent in the private sector in for-profit health care corporations. For four years, I was with two major for-profit hospital chains, and I had the responsibility of trying to obtain CON permits for new and existing facilities.

I learned that corporate executives have a legal responsibility to put their firms’ interests first, ahead of societal concerns. There’s nothing wrong with that, since people in a free society have a right to see that their particular interests are represented. But government regulation has a broader aim. It is intended to protect the consumer rather than the corporation.

I am a fiscal conservative, and I dislike paperwork as much as the next guy. But I know that government regulations are put in place for a reason, to protect the public. At least in the case of Georgia’s CON laws, the current regulations are working well.

 

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

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

On June 17, 1759, Sir Francis Drake claimed California for England.

On June 17, 1775, British forces under General William Howe engaged American colonists at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

On June 17, some 2,200 British forces under the command of Major General William Howe (1729-1814) and Brigadier General Robert Pigot (1720-96) landed on the Charlestown Peninsula then marched to Breed’s Hill. As the British advanced in columns against the Americans, Prescott, in an effort to conserve the Americans’ limited supply of ammunition, reportedly told his men, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” When the Redcoats were within several dozen yards, the Americans let loose with a lethal barrage of musket fire, throwing the British into retreat.

After re-forming their lines, the British attacked again, with much the same result. Prescott’s men were now low on ammunition, though, and when the Redcoats went up the hill for a third time, they reached the redoubts and engaged the Americans in hand-to-hand combat. The outnumbered Americans were forced to retreat. However, by the end of the engagement, the Patriots’ gunfire had cut down some 1,000 enemy troops, with more than 200 killed and more than 800 wounded. More than 100 Americans perished, while more than 300 others were wounded.

A distant ancestor of mine, John Logue, fought with the Americans at Bunker Hill, though he was not yet an enlisted soldier.

British forces under General Sir Henry Clinton left Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 18, 1778 after occupying the former capital for nine months.

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

On June 18, 1807, commissioners from Georgia and North Carolina agreed to recognize the 35th parallel as the boundary between the two states. North Carolina conducted a survey that placed the boundary further South than the 35th parallel, though Georgia never accepted the survey and continues to argue that the 35th is the proper boundary against both North Carolina and Tennessee.

As of today, the dispute with Tennessee continues.

The War of 1812 began on June 18, 1812, as President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain passed by the House and Senate.

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

President Andrew Johnson appointed John Johnson (no relation) provisional Governor of Georgia after the Civil War on June 17, 1865; John Johnson had opposed secession.

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

On June 18, 1873, Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for illegally voting in Rochester, New York. At the conclusion of her trial, the judge read a statement that, “The Fourteenth Amendment gives no right to a woman to vote, and the voting by Miss Anthony was in violation of the law,” and directed the jury to convict her. Anthony responded,

“Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled underfoot every vital principle of our government,” Anthony said. “My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor’s verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government.”

The Southern Railway Company was organized on June 18, 1894 and through predecessor railroads traces its heritage to the nation’s first regularly-scheduled railroad service, The Best Friend of Charleston. Samuel Spencer, of Columbus, Georgia, was the first President of the Southern. In the 1980s, the Southern merged with Norfolk & Western Railway to form Norfolk Southern.

France announced its intention to surrender to Germany on June 17, 1940.

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

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

Six Flags Over Georgia opened on June 16, 1967.

Five men were arrested for burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate office and apartment complex in Washington, DC on June 17, 1972.

The affair began with the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) connected cash found on the burglars to a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, the official organization of Nixon’s campaign.

In July 1973, as evidence mounted against the president’s staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee, it was revealed that President Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and he had recorded many conversations.

After a protracted series of bitter court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the president had to hand over the tapes to government investigators; he ultimately complied.

Recordings from these tapes implicated the president, revealing he had attempted to cover up the questionable goings-on that had taken place after the break-in.

Facing near-certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and equally certain conviction by the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974. His successor, Gerald Ford, then issued a pardon to him on September 8, 1974.

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

Newton Leroy Gingrich was born on June 17, 1943 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Gingrich graduated from college at Emory University, where he founded the Emory College Republicans. Gingrich’s congressional papers are collected in the the Georgia’s Political Heritage Program at West Georgia College, where he taught before being elected to Congress. Also at West Georgia are the papers of former Congressmen Bob Barr, Mac Collins, and Pat Swindall, along with a near-perfect replica of Georgia Speaker Tom Murphy’s office.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal thanked law enforcement officers who helped capture two Georgia prison escapees who allegedly murdered two Department of Corrections officers.

“Earlier tonight, with the assistance of our law enforcement partners in Tennessee, dangerous fugitives were captured and taken into custody,” said Deal. “Rest assured, justice will be served. My sincere thanks to our local, state and federal law enforcement officers who assisted in the manhunt. Because of their tireless efforts, the public is safe. The pain endured by the families and loved ones of Sergeant Christopher Monica and Sergeant Curtis Billue endures, however. We will do everything in our power to support their loved ones, and we will not forget their sacrifice and service.”

Deal also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of the Corrections officers who lost their lives. Flags will fly at half-staff on Saturday, June 17, 2017 in honor of Sergeant Curtis Billue and on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 in honor of Sergeant Christopher Monica.

Today is the last day of early voting in the Sixth Congressional District Special Runoff Election between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. Click here for early voting locations and hours.

From the Marietta Daily Journal:

The two candidates vying to fill the seat vacated by Health Secretary Tom Price have raised nearly $30 million in the race for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. And political action committees campaigning both for and against the two have raised millions more, campaign disclosures show.

With just four days remaining until Tuesday’s runoff, members of both campaigns are ramping up their efforts to get voters from the three-county district out to the polls.

East Cobb resident Fran Cameron stood next to coolers full of bottled water and snacks as she passed out refreshments to voters waiting to cast their early ballots.

“We want to take care of our neighbors,” she said. “I’m here because this race is so important. I want everybody to vote and I don’t want anybody passing out in line.”

The Republicans and Democrats the MDJ spoke with at the government center seemed to agree on one thing: they were ready for the phone calls and advertisements to stop.

“It’s really aggressive the way that they’ve been contacting people,” said Christine Holt. “I get three or four calls a day and it’s the same people calling back time and time again.”

Early Voting Tally

Runoff Election early voting so far:

Cobb 25346 19.39%
DeKalb 30554 23.37%
Fulton 74850 57.25%

Special Election total early and election day:

Cobb 61229 31.80%
DeKalb 44299 23.00%
Fulton 87041 45.20%

Special Election total early voting:

Cobb 14169 24.93%
DeKalb 11752 20.67%
Fulton 30924 54.40%

My concern is that Cobb County appears to be underperforming proportionately compared to the Special Election, while DeKalb is overperforming. But isolating early voting from the two periods shows that Cobb County early voting is ahead of where it was in the Special Election. And Fulton County is killing it. Put me down as cautiously optimistic

Please mind your manners if you’re voting early today or on Tuesday. Apparently, it’s becoming a problem.

Local poll workers in two of the district’s three suburban counties say they have seen noticeably aggressive behavior among people coming to cast ballots in the runoff election between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Among the transgressions being reported local officials during the runoff’s early-voting period are voters wearing campaign paraphernalia and arguing when told to take it off, not getting off their mobile phones when asked to do so, and otherwise barking at poll workers when they’re approached.

The worst behavior appears to be in Fulton County, where officials decided to post retired marshals this week at five of its six early-voting locations as both a precaution and deterrent. The sixth, the county’s North Annex in Sandy Springs, is a location that regularly has sheriff’s deputies for security.

“It’s slightly disturbing that people are losing their civility over voting,” said Richard Barron, Fulton’s director of registration and elections. “The election is really getting heated. Poll workers are feeling insecure over these incidents. People are being aggressive.”

….Yet another voter, who was registered in Gwinnett County and not qualified to vote in the 6th District runoff, got so upset that he yelled at everyone in the precinct, then went outside and tore the “Vote Here” signs out of the ground and threw them back into the room.

Karen Handel and several of her neighbors received nastygrams that included an unidentified white powder.

Authorities were called to the neighborhood where Karen Handel lives in Roswell after suspicious envelopes were found in mailboxes Thursday afternoon.

At least five homes in the neighborhood received an envelope with a “white powdery substance” in it.

The FBI was called in to take the lead on the investigation.

One woman opened the envelope, found a white powdery substance inside and called police Thursday afternoon. Neighbors said the envelope also contained a threatening letter.

From the AJC:

One of Handel’s neighbors, Melissa De Feis Lentz, provided a copy of a letter that she received. It said “your neighbor Karen Handel is a dirty fascist” expletive, and to take a “whiff of the powder and join her in the hospital.”

The Coweta County Board of Education tentatively adopted a $196 million budget for FY 2018.

Hall County Commissioners heard from residents opposed to an increase in the property tax millage rate.

Flowery Branch adopted a FY 2018 budget that keeps the same millage rate as last year, but results in higher revenue due to increasing property values.

The Georgia Department of Insurance announced it will monitor Blue Cross Blue Shield after the state’s largest health insurance company said it will tighten reimbursement for emergency room visits.

Blue Cross recently told policyholders that starting in July, it will stop covering ER visits it considers to have been unnecessary. The health insurer, Georgia’s largest, said it’s pursuing the move, involving its coverage of individual policies, due to the costs of routine primary care being administered in an ER setting. Physician groups, meanwhile, have been critical of the policy.

Jay Florence, deputy state insurance commissioner, said in a statement that the agency supports insurers’ attempts to reduce “unnecessarily high premiums.”

But Florence added, “You buy health insurance to make sure you are protected when something bad happens. We are tracking our phone calls and have created a specific code for complaints related to Blue Cross Blue Shield’s new policy. . . . We will closely monitor this new policy to make sure that it is not abused to the disadvantage of Georgia policyholders.”

Blue Cross has cited the high cost of care in formulating its policy.

“We’re hoping that patients go to the most appropriate setting’’ for care, said Blue Cross spokeswoman Debbie Diamond. The company “has a 24/7 nurse line and online tools that are always available to help members find the right care option for their neighborhood,’’ she added. Urgent care and retail health clinics are other alternatives for patients, Diamond told GHN.

Former Cobb County Republican Party Chairman Joe Dendy will appear in court again, facing molestation charges.

The attorney for former Cobb County Republican Party chairman Joe Dendy, who faces charges that he molested two children, is set to argue today that most of the charges against his client be dropped. Cobb prosecutors, however, are seeking to introduce evidence that Dendy committed a number of similar acts against six other alleged victims, potentially over the span of nearly seven decades.

Dendy faces charges in Cobb that he allegedly molested two young boys in separate incidents as far back as late 2004.

Partnership Gwinnett Chief Economic Development Officer Nick Masino criticized the current owners of Gwinnett Place Mall.

Partnership Gwinnett Chief Economic Development Officer Nick Masino said Moonbeam Capital Investments has continually offered promises of big plans for the mall since the company bought it in 2013. Masino’s problem with Moonbeam, however, is that he said they have not delivered on any of those plans.

Gwinnett’s top economic development official is fed up and now wants to see someone else running the mall.

“When I talk to developers and investors about coming to Gwinnett, I intentionally try to strike up their interest in buying Gwinnett Place Mall because (Moonbeam) has done nothing with it,” Masino told the Daily Post.

Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District Executive Director Joe Allen agrees with Masino.

“We are also very frustrated that they do seem to say ‘We’re going to be doing something’ and then nothing ever occurs,” Allen said.

Upcoming Political Events

GAGOP Invite2

Former Sixth District Congressman, now Secretary of HHS, Tom Price and former Governor Sonny Perdue, currently serving as Secretary of Agriculture will rally with Karen Handel to Get Out the Vote on Saturday at 9:30 AM at Peachtree DeKalb Airport.

Gwinnett GOP Logo

Next Saturday, June 24, the Gwinnett County Republican Party will hold it’s annual Chairman’s Cookout, beginning at 11 AM at Tribble Mill Park in Lawrenceville.

Cherokee Cagles2

The Cherokee County Republican Party will hold a Candidate forum for the 2018 elections on July 27 at 6:30 PM at Cagle’s Family Farm.