Category: Georgia Politics

15
Aug

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

On August 15, 1903, Georgia Governor Joseph Terrell signed legislation requiring that Georgia schools teach elementary agriculture and civics. Two days later, on August 17, 1903, the General Assembly condemned the practice of whipping female inmates.

The Panama Canal opened on August 15, 1914. On September 7, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty promising to give the Canal to Panama.

Georgia Governor Thomas Hardwick signed legislation creating the Georgia State Board of Forestry on August 15, 1921.

On August 15, 1969, the Woodstock Festival began in upstate New York.

Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppolla was released on August 15, 1979.

Paul Anderson, known for years as the “Strongest Man in the World” for his weightlifting feats, died on August 15, 1994 in Vidalia, Georgia. Anderson was born in 1932 in Toccoa, Georgia. He won an Olympic gold medal in the sport of weightlifting in 1956.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal issued an Executive Order suspending Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman from office for thirty days for thirty days.

From CBS46:

Gov. Nathan Deal has suspended Walton County Sheriff Joseph Chapman for 30 days following an investigation into his May 2016 arrest in Florida.

Surveillance video shows Chapman and Major Kipling Mercer get into a scuffle last May.  Both men were arrested.

Our investigation found they never reported the incident to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council within 15 days as required.

Attorney General Chris Carr investigated the incident and according to a letter he sent to the governor, “Sheriff Chapman indicated to the committee that he regretted not having reported this matter to P.O.S.T. at an earlier time, but stated he was unaware of the 15-day reporting requirement.”

The Sheriff’s suspension will take effect on Wednesday, August 16. CBS46 asked the governor’s office if the suspension will be with or without pay and a spokesperson said it’s a county decision.

In addition, P.O.S.T. is investigating the incident and could take up the issue in October.

Senator Johnny Isakson held a Town Hall at Kennesaw State University last night.

Isakson’s first remarks were a stern rebuke of the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend and received a standing ovation for doing so. The senator singled out the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other racist groups as having no place in American discourse.“We can have differences over a lot of things, but there’s never going to be a difference over human dignity, the right to life and the right to live in the freest, greatest country on Earth without fear of intimidation because of your race, your religion, your sex, your national origin or any other factor,” Isakson said.

One of the hottest topics of the night was health care. An advocate for people with developmental disabilities from Temple asked Isakson why he voted for the failed Senate health care plan that would have stripped insurance from millions of Americans, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Isakson said he did not like the bills, but voted for them with the belief that the plan would be improved in a conference committee.

“I couldn’t get to where I wanted to go unless I followed the road that led me there,” Isakson said. “If I was going to downtown Atlanta and didn’t get on 75, I probably couldn’t get there. But getting on 75 and fighting traffic would eventually get me where I wanted to go. And where you are is where I wanted to go.”

Many of the questioners said they wanted Congressional leaders not to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to expand Medicaid in Georgia.

Isakson did not commit to either of those actions, but said he will work to ensure Americans have access to health care.

“I know how lucky I’ve been all my life, how fortunate to live in America,” he said, adding that he does not intend for the government to cut services for people with disabilities.

Isakson said he wants to replace the individual mandate with “something better,” and gave the example of how requiring drivers to have auto insurance to get their license increased the number of people with auto insurance in Georgia.

The Fulton County Board of Elections voted against a proposal to change some voting precinct locations.

The Fulton County Board of Elections met on Monday to discuss proposed changes to several polling locations in predominately black neighborhoods in Fulton County.

The board voted to reject those changes for now.

After many voters said the changes would affect mainly African-Americans, the American Civil Liberties Union fired back with a lawsuit, claiming voters weren’t given proper notice of the changes. That lawsuit was filed on July 18.

Georgia law requires election officials to publish proposed polling place changes for at least 14 consecutive days before approving them. The Board had published the proposed changes just 6 days in advance.

State Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell) now says she’s unlikely to run for Mayor of Roswell.

Dr. Price, the former City Council member and wife of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price, said she is considering the run “like anything else,” but the likelihood of her running is not a great one.

“I’m very happy where I am in the legislature, and our issues there are in line with my experience,” she said, adding it would not be “wise” to abandon the State House District 48 seat to run for mayor. “I can’t imagine running, but a lot of people are encouraging me.”

The man who filed the lawsuit against Wood, Michael Litten, has already declared his candidacy several months ahead of next week’s qualifying period.

When asked if she planned to endorse anyone, Price said she will most likely sit on the sidelines, as it will be a “good sport to watch” candidates battle for the hearts and minds of Roswell voters.

 

The Muscogee County School District will ask Board of Education members to approve a loan to address a delay in property tax collections.

The Muscogee County School District administration plans to ask the school board next week to approve a resolution authorizing a short-term loan that would plug the expected gap in delayed local revenue as the Columbus Consolidated Government deals with thousands of appeals from property owners upset about their assessments soaring by as much as tenfold.

The delay is a bigger issue for the school board than the Columbus Council because MCSD receives a larger percentage of the Columbus property tax revenue than the Columbus Consolidated Government, approximately a 60-40 split, and 41 percent of MCSD’s fiscal year 2018 revenue is expected to come from local property taxes while the figure is 31 percent for CCG.

Although the school district previously announced it postponed nonessential expenditures while CCG deals with the property tax controversy, MCSD chief financial officer Theresa Thornton told the Muscogee County School Board during its monthly work session Monday evening the administration now recommends securing a Tax Anticipation Note.

If the board approves the resolution during its Aug. 21 meeting, Thornton said, the administration must decide by the September meeting whether to seek the loan through a request for proposals or an invitation to bid for the funds to be available by October and for MCSD to pay back the loan by the end of December.

The University of Georgia New Faculty Tour stopped in Tifton and Griffin, where Georgia Agriculture was highlighted.

The tour, which introduces new UGA faculty members to economic mainstays throughout the state during a five-day trip, visited the Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center (FoodPIC) at UGA-Griffin Wednesday. Thursday, the tour stopped at UGA-Tifton, where faculty visited the energy-efficient Future Farmstead home and learned about peanut breeding and dairy research, according to a UGA press release.

“We are very happy the New Faculty Tour made a stop at the Griffin campus this year,” said Lew Hunnicutt, assistant provost and UGA-Griffin director. “They had a great tour and a great meal and I think they left impressed with what we offer at the Griffin campus.”

n terms of Georgia agricultural production, which totaled $13.8 billion in farm gate value in 2015, UGA-Tifton is an important stop on the tour every year, said Joe West, assistant dean for UGA-Tifton.

“What makes Georgia agriculture unique is its diversity,” West said. “Multiple commodities dominate the agricultural landscape and I’m glad we are able to showcase a few of those.”

“It is important for these new faculty members to learn about the importance of agriculture to the state and the many ways the University of Georgia is helping Georgia farmers sustain their operations,” said Laura Meadows, UGA interim vice president for public service and outreach. “Most of the faculty members on the tour are new to Georgia, many are new to the South, and they need to understand the major drivers of the economy here.”

Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart is on the defense for allegedly partying at a strip club.

While partying at Rumors strip club on a Friday night, several customers recognized him and called a local Forest Park councilwoman.

“They said he was a mess, dancing on stage, twirling his shirt around, walking around, and falling over on people. People holding him up,” said Latresa Wells.

We caught up with Mayor Lockhart at the ribbon cutting for a new restaurant in the city.  He explained before he was Mayor, he was a lead singer in a band and he likes to entertain people.

Then, we showed him a picture sent to us of him, apparently wearing a bra in the middle of the barroom.

“That’s just outrageous, isn’t it? It looks outrageous to me,” admitted Lockhart. “Not sure if that’s a tank or what. In any case, would I advertise that? No, absolutely not. I wouldn’t advertise that, but it’s ok to act silly from time to time, in the right circumstances.”

City Councilwoman Sandra Bagley defends her Mayor and believes all the attention is due to the fact that David Lockhart is up for reelection.

“I don’t think it’s fair. I think its trial in media.  Exactly what I feel, trial in media during an election year,” said Bagley.

But councilwoman Wells, an admitted political adversary sees it differently.

“You represent everyone who voted for you to be Mayor of our city. It’s not only embarrassing to your family and council members; it’s embarrassing to the entire city.”

The Hall County Board of Education voted to fund a program called “We Celebrate All That Unites Us” in response to Charlottesville.

Augusta National Golf Club is suing to prevent the sale of a green jacket.

Augusta National Inc. filed the federal lawsuit against Florida-based Green Jacket Auctions Inc. seeking to stop the company from selling a champion’s green jacket and two member green jackets, as well as silverware and a belt buckle bearing Augusta National’s map and flag logo.

The jacket may not be removed from the Augusta National grounds except during the first year after it is presented, according to the lawsuit. After that first year, the jacket must be stored on Augusta National premises and can only be used on the grounds and during the annual tournament. Augusta National said it owns the jackets, and the champions have “possessory rights” when they’re on Augusta National grounds.

The same rules apply to the member green jackets, except they may never leave Augusta National grounds, the lawsuit says. Each jacket is marked for identification and authenticity.

“It appears that Augusta National Golf Club is attempting to assert ownership claims to every green jacket ever produced, regardless of who currently owns or possesses the jackets,” Green Jacket Auctions co-owner Ryan Carey said in an email. “Obviously we at Green Jacket Auctions dispute such claims, and will litigate the matter, if necessary.”

The jacket was where it was supposed to be, in storage at Augusta National, during a physical inventory in 2009. But a recent check determined that it is now missing, the lawsuit says. It is unclear how the jacket and other items ended up on the auction block.

By mid-afternoon Monday, the online bidding on the jacket, which closes at 8 p.m. Saturday, had reached $114,874.

Former Bibb County Superintendent Romain Dallemand pled guilty to taking a $100,000 bribe.

Grand jurors indicted Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority Chairman Cliffard Whitby, 54, of Forsyth on charges of conspiracy to pay a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, conspiracy to launder the proceeds of unlawful activity, and five counts of paying a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In a move related to the indictment, former school Superintendent Romain Dallemand, 49, pleaded guilty in Florida Wednesday to filing a false tax return for 2012, under-reporting his income and over-reporting his itemized deductions, according to a statement from federal prosecutors.

The indictment, unsealed Friday morning, said Whitby approached Dallemand sometime between August 2011 and June 2012 “to ensure Dallemand would support” the Promise Neighborhood plan. That was an ambitious project designed to help transform the impoverished Unionville and Tindall Heights neighborhoods so students there — and their families — would have better lives.

Later, Whitby “offered Dallemand $100,000 for his support.” Dallemand, the indictment said, “accepted this offer and agreed to support” the program.

Later, Whitby offered Dallemand 10 percent of the $1 million the school district would contribute to the Promise Neighborhood program each year, the indictment said. “Thus, Whitby indicated that Dallemand would be paid $100,000 every year for 10 years for his continued support” of the program.

Dallemand accepted this offer and “understood that he needed to ensure the (Bibb County school district) continued to financially support” the Promise Neighborhood plan.

Dallemand received a $100,000 check from Whitby on Nov. 19, 2012, “with assistance from” Harold Knowles, part owner of Pinnacle/CSG, a Florida-based construction company that was contracted to provide software to the Bibb school system in 2012, according to Dallemand’s plea agreement.

2018 Elections

State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), a candidate for Governor in 2018, called for the removal of the Stone Mountain carving.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called for the removal of the giant carving that depicts three Confederate war leaders on the face of state-owned Stone Mountain, saying it “remains a blight on our state and should be removed.”

“We must never celebrate those who defended slavery and tried to destroy the union,” Abrams said in a series of tweets posted early Tuesday, a response to the deadly violence sparked by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Va.

The Georgia code has a clear mandate for the memorial, saying it should be “preserved and protected for all time as a tribute to the bravery and heroism of the citizens of this state who suffered and died in their cause.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville) held a rally in Buford last night.

Atlanta resident Angelic Moore considers herself a “huge supporter” of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and his wife, Nina — so much so that she hopped in her car and drove to Buford on Monday night to show it.

Moore was among the supporters who attended the Women for Cagle Rally at the Buford Community Center. The event was a launch of sorts for the Cagle campaign’s effort to reach out to women voters, although there were a few men and several children in the crowd as well.

More than 60 people attended the rally, including local officials, grassroots Republican activists and families. The event was first of several campaign events Cagle will attend around north Georgia throughout the week.

It was sort of a hybrid between a political rally and an end of summer party, with the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office showing off its Jail Dogs program in the parking lot and a balloon artist making balloon animals and play toys for kids.

Cagle also laid out his vision for the state as he addressed the crowd. He said he wanted to address Medicaid issues to make sure groups such as senior citizens, the blind and people with disabilities can get medical care while still being fiscally responsible.

Cagle also pledged to cut taxes by $100 million for a family of four, to create 500,000 new jobs, to invest infrastructure, such as building out the road system, and to focus on workforce development.

“When you look at Georgia, there is so much opportunity, so much chance, to be first in class in every category, and we’re going to do that,” he said.

Buford-based Sen. Renee Unterman, who is the Women for Cagle chairwoman, said the idea behind the group is to highlight women-related topics, such as health issues, medical care and issues facing the elderly.

“Women for Cagle is focusing on those types of issues, and we have Nurses for Cagle and different groups to get women out to vote,” Unterman said. “We’re excited about it.”

14
Aug

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

On August 14, 1784, Russians invaded settled Alaska, founding the first permanent Russian settlement at Three Saints Bay.

Dentist, gambler, and gunfighter Doc Holliday was born on August 14, 1851 in Griffin, Georgia.

On August 14, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln hosted a group of African-American men at the White House to discuss emancipation of American slaves outside the United States as colonists.

The Second Battle of Dalton was joined on August 14, 1864.

The County Unit System of elections was created on August 14, 1917 when Governor Hugh Dorsey signed legislation by the General Assembly.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935. The road to perdition is paved with good intentions.

On August 14, 1945, the Japanese surrender to the Allies was made public in Japan.

In the afternoon of August 14, Japanese radio announced that an Imperial Proclamation was soon to be made, accepting the terms of unconditional surrender drawn up at the Potsdam Conference. That proclamation had already been recorded by the emperor.

A Special Session called by Governor Miller to address legislative redistricting after the United States Supreme Court threw out Georgia’s Congressional redistricting map was convened on August 14, 1995.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Netroots Nation attendees this past weekend shouted down Democratic State Representative Stacey Evans.

Democrat Stacey Evans’ speech to a conference of progressive activists descended into chaos on Saturday, as protesters interrupted her repeatedly and she struggled to make herself heard over chants of “support black women.”

Almost as soon as she took the stage, a ring of demonstrators – some holding stark signs criticizing her – fanned out in front of Evans. The chanting soon followed. Pleading repeatedly for the room to speaks – “let’s talk through it,” she implored – the demonstrators at times drowned her out.

One of the demonstrators, Monica Simpson, said she made her stand because she wanted to show she was “true to progressive values.”

Asked why Evans hasn’t met that standard, Simpson couldn’t point to any votes or policy stances. But she said she wants “a candidate that truly speaks to my community.”

“This is our opportunity, especially as black women, to make it known or clear that this is standing on true progressive values,” said Simpson, who lives in Atlanta. “And if you’re not, we’re going to make that clear.”

Abrams said in a statement that she would not “condemn peaceful protest” and that the demonstrators were voicing their concern with Evans’ support for a Republican-led effort to give the state new powers over struggling schools.

“From what I observed from Savannah, activists in Atlanta peacefully protested this morning on the critical issue of preserving public education for every family in our state,” she said. “The mantra of ‘trust black women’ is an historic endorsement of the value of bringing marginalized voices to the forefront, not a rebuke to my opponent’s race.”

Georgia Republicans spent Saturday coming together in Rome.

Georgia GOP Chairman John Watson called [Rome City Council candidate Randy] Quick up to the front of a crowd of over 350 at the Tillman Hangar and said even though the commission seats are nonpartisan his presence at the rally meant something. Quick, the general manager of Rome Radio Partners LLC, with a 42-year career in radio, will aim to grab one of the three Ward 2 commission spots up for grabs in November’s municipal election. He would be up against incumbents Jamie Doss, Sue Lee and Wendy Davis — who have said they intend to seek re-election — and Monica Sheppard, a freelance graphic designer and beekeeper, is campaigning as well.

The four announced GOP gubernatorial candidates — Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and State Sens. Hunter Hill, of Atlanta, and Michael Williams, of Cumming — attended the rally put on by the Floyd County Republican Party. Of the four, Cagle spoke first, following up an address from U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, of Ranger.

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11
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 11, 2017

On August 12, 1492 by the current calendar, Christopher Columbus set sail from the port of Palos de la Frontera in southern Spain with the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Other accounts date his arrival at the Canary Islands off the coast of northwestern Africa on August 12, 1492.

Juan Ponce de Leon invaded Puerto Rico on August 12, 1508 and declared himself Governor.

On August 11, 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg declared martial law in Atlanta.

On August 12, 1864, Confederate General John B. Hood prohibited Confederate soldiers from seizing civilian property.

The first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line on August 12, 1904.

On August 12, 1908, Ford’s first “Model T” rolled off a Detroit, Michigan, factory floor. Within six years, the car, company and man were propelled to unprecedented success, thanks to the new Highland Park plant’s first-of-its-kind assembly line, which created the intricate product quickly and in large numbers.

“If it hadn’t been for Henry Ford’s drive to create a mass market for cars, America wouldn’t have a middle class today,” wrote [Lee] Iacocca.

Increased travel spurred appeals for better and more roads, the development of suburbs, the oil industry’s rise and a boom in gas stations, strip malls and motels.

But the assembly line itself had the biggest impact on American society, Hyde contended, in making possible the swift, mass production of everything from computers to “fast food.”

On August 12, 1910, Georgia Governor Joseph M. Brown signed legislation prohibiting the carrying of a pistol or revolver without a license.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the summer commencement address at the University of Georgia on August 11, 1938. Later that day, Roosevelt endorsed Lawrence Camp over incumbent Governor Walter F. George, saying George had not been sufficiently supportive of the New Deal.

East Germany began building the Berlin Wall on August 12, 1961.

[T]he government of East Germany, on the night of August 12, 1961, began to seal off all points of entrance into West Berlin from East Berlin by stringing barbed wire and posting sentries. In the days and weeks to come, construction of a concrete block wall began, complete with sentry towers and minefields around it. The Berlin Wall succeeded in completely sealing off the two sections of Berlin.

Three churches in Albany, Georgia first allowed African-Americans to attend their services on August 12, 1962.

The Atlanta Braves signed legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige on August 11, 1968.

On August 12, 1968, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played together for the first time.

The first Space Shuttle, Enterprise, made its first flight in the earth’s atmosphere on August 12, 1977.

President Jimmy Carter was nominated for reelection as President by the Democratic National Convention in New York City on August 13, 1980.

President Ronald Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act on August 13, 1981.

The ERTA included a 25 percent reduction in marginal tax rates for individuals, phased in over three years, and indexed for inflation from that point on. The marginal tax rate, or the tax rate on the last dollar earned, was considered more important to economic activity than the average tax rate (total tax paid as a percentage of income earned), as it affected income earned through “extra” activities such as education, entrepreneurship or investment. Reducing marginal tax rates, the theory went, would help the economy grow faster through such extra efforts by individuals and businesses. The 1981 act, combined with another major tax reform act in 1986, cut marginal tax rates on high-income taxpayers from 70 percent to around 30 percent, and would be the defining economic legacy of Reagan’s presidency.

Reagan’s tax cuts were designed to put maximum emphasis on encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship and creating incentives for the development of venture capital and greater investment in human capital through training and education. The cuts particularly benefited “idea” industries such as software or financial services; fittingly, Reagan’s first term saw the advent of the information revolution, including IBM’s introduction of its first personal computer (PC) and the rise or launch of such tech companies as Intel, Microsoft, Dell, Sun Microsystems, Compaq and Cisco Systems.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High was released on August 13, 1982.

On August 11, 1984, Ronald Reagan jokingly announced that he had “signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever…we begin bombing in five minutes,” without knowing he was speaking into a live microphone.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Composite Medical Board voted yesterday to require doctors to take 3 Continuing Education credits on proper administration of opioids.

Starting next year every medical doctor in Georgia will be required to undergo opioid training.

Dan DeLoach, Chairman of the Georgia Medical Board, says, “Georgia is experiencing an opioid epidemic.”

He says the new training requirement was needed. “We’re seeing the number of people addicted to opioids increase on an annual basis. We’re seeing the number of people dying from an opioid overdose increase on an annual basis.”

The new training required for Georgia doctors will cover instruction on the guidelines for properly prescribing the powerful painkiller, as well as recognizing signs of abuse.

From Carrie Teegardin at the AJC:

DeLoach said the board hopes that doctors may cut back opioid prescribing as a result of the training, something he said many Georgia doctors have already done as the problems associated with the medications have become widespread.

“I’ve decreased the number of opioids that I write probably by 70 or 80 percent,” DeLoach said. “There are other agents that are available. You can also better tailor the number of tablets that you are prescribing so that there are not a lot of medication that is left over that could fall into the wrong hands.”

The Medical Association of Georgia, the state’s lobby arm for physicians, opposed the requirement. The group said it is concerned that mandating continuing education on a single issue could lead to requirements for specific training on other issues as well. MAG said it supported voluntary training on opioids.

Georgia elected officials lauded President Trump’s declaration that the opioid crisis constitutes an emergency.

Advocated by a White House commission on opioids, the emergency declaration is expected to send more federal dollars to states to address the crisis, including improving access to medications that reverse overdoses.

“This is something that (Trump) can be applauded for,” said Bibb County Sheriff David Davis, who has seen the effects of the opioid crisis firsthand.

In his middle Georgia community, five people died and more than two dozen others overdosed on opioids within a matter of days earlier this summer.

“Those of us in law enforcement and public health have realized that this is on the way to becoming a national crisis,” Davis said.

Each county has different needs, but each county is still facing an epidemic where people die,” said Renee Unterman, a Republican state senator from Buford who has sponsored legislation combating the opioid crisis.

Unterman said her office received many calls in the last few days from residents disappointed that Trump hadn’t yet declared a national emergency. Thursday’s announcement, during which Trump said he is drafting paperwork to formally declare a national emergency, is “really exciting,” Unterman said.

More than 170 people in Georgia have died of an opioid overdose so far this year, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In 2016, more than 534 died from opioids.

State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) wants to consider expanding the rural hospital tax credit program to include small rural for-profit hospitals in addition to non-profits.

There are nine for-profit hospitals in Georgia that are in counties with less than 50,000 people, which is the population cutoff for the program. One of them, Chestatee Regional Hospital, is in Gooch’s district.

That hospital, he said, has struggled just as much as the state’s nonprofit facilities.

“I just feel like if we’re going to really do something for rural health care, we really can’t let the IRS designation stand in the way,” Gooch said at a recent meeting of the Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee.

“If we’re going to try to help communities in rural Georgia, we’ve got to figure out a way around that for-profit versus not-for-profit status,” he added.

The state Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee discussed expanding Universal Service Fund fees in order to pay for expansion of broadband access.

Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, who is chairing the Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee, which met Tuesday in Dahlonega, said the additional revenue is needed to quickly spur results in areas of the state that are being left behind.

Lucas said he has no reservations about asking city dwellers to help pay for services they will not use because of the advantages they enjoy in an urban area.

“The state has to make a commitment,” Lucas said. “There is no way to get around it.”

Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, who sits on the committee, has already proposed legislation that would expand the fee to all phone lines, including cellphones, and allow the proceeds to be used on broadband.

Under Gooch’s proposal, expanding the program would mean a significant influx of cash for rural broadband. Gooch said he expects a more broadly applied fee to bring in about $200 million annually, which he said could be divvied up among service providers through a grant program.

“I personally believe that the consumer will justify that dollar a month if they know the money’s being spent to upgrade their level of service,” Gooch said.

Gooch said he doesn’t consider it to be a new fee, since some people are already paying it. For example, he said he’s paying it now even though his local provider, Windstream, is not eligible to receive the funds.

Everyone should have to pay it, he said, including Atlanta residents who often enjoy much faster speeds and more reliable connections at more affordable rates.

“Not everybody can move to Atlanta,” Gooch said.

Major General John Morrison, Jr., commander of the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, says the TechNet trade show will expand as Augusta becomes the center of Army cyber security.

“These kinds of forums are absolutely critical,” said Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., Fort Gordon’s commanding general. “It brings together industry with military in an open forum where we can collaborate and share ideas, because we all have the same problem when it comes to cybersecurity. And the reality of it is, we want to leverage industry innovation to increase our capabilities. And we want to learn from each other.”

Morrison said he is seeing and feeling how the Augusta area is becoming the bustling center of Army cyber operations.

“In just three short years, Army Cyber Command will be down here in total,” he said. “They’re already here with a forward presence, and it is just an exciting time. And it’s going to mean a lot not only to Fort Gordon, but it’s going to mean a lot to the entire community.”

Morrison said the trade show attracted about 20 percent more attendees and about 15 percent more exhibitors than last year’s event, and he sees that trend continuing.

“For all those in the local Augusta area, you can start seeing that it really is becoming the center of the universe for Army cyber,” Morrison said.

Savannah will issue $8.6 million in bonds to fund street improvements.

The Judicial Council of Georgia voted to recommend adding a new judge to the Cobb County Superior Court.

The council is the state judiciary’s chief policy-making body and is made up of 27 members who represent various levels of courts in Georgia, including its chair, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harris Hines.

“Every year, every circuit has to submit their caseload numbers to the Administrative Office of Courts and the state Judicial Council as to what their caseload (and) case count is,” explained Cobb Superior Court Administrator Tom Charron. “This year, our numbers suggested that our judges had one of the highest caseload per judge throughout the state. And so we submitted our statistics along with a request that we be considered for an additional Superior Court judgeship.”

In addition to presenting the Judicial Council with caseload data, officials also provided letters of support from Cobb Commission Chair Mike Boyce, Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren, Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds and former Gov. Roy Barnes, who practices law out of his Marietta office.

Warren, who supervises the Cobb jail, wrote in his letter that a new judge would help control the population at the jail, which houses those accused of crimes before and during their trials.

“Considering our growing population, the number of cases being handled each year and the population of our detention facility, this expansion is clearly needed,” Warren wrote. “Having an additional judge will enable cases to be heard sooner and provide relief to our courts as well as law enforcement when addressing the responsibilities of housing pre-trial inmates.”

Georgia Power appeared before the Georgia Public Service Commission to discuss the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

A lawyer for Georgia Power on Thursday said that if the company recommends completing the project, and the Public Service Commission agrees, the utility will also need a definite decision from the PSC approving additional delays and costs.

He said state law dictates that the PSC must make a decision or Georgia Power’s recommendation will take effect 180 days after being filed.

But some PSC staff members told the five-member commission that Georgia Power has agreed to delay Vogtle-related cost decisions in the past, and that the commission has to tread carefully.

PSC attorney Jeffrey Stair said PSC approval of higher costs could short-circuit a settlement between the commission and Georgia Power late last year on the plant.

The settlement cuts Georgia Power’s profit margin on the project if it isn’t finished by the end of 2020. It also puts the burden on Georgia Power to prove that additional cost overruns are reasonable and deserve eventual reimbursement through customers’ monthly bills.

“Once you approve a higher cost … you have forever foreclosed” arguing that the higher costs are unreasonable, said Stair.

Oglethorpe Power, a co-owner of the nuclear project, suggests a financial wrinkle may be upcoming.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Oglethorpe Power Corporation said it has doubts “about Toshiba’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Toshiba is supposed to make its first payment to Oglethorpe and the other owners of Plant Vogtle in October. Without the payment, Georgia regulator Stan Wise said the project might not be completed.

“If Toshiba’s not going to make that payment, then clearly that affects everyone’s decision adversely,” said Wise, the chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission. “That’s a milestone that we can’t go forward without.”

Toshiba released its earnings results on Thursday, with a loss of more than $8 billion.

10
Aug

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

On August 10, 1774, a group calling itself the “Sons of Liberty” met at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah, the first move in Georgia toward what would become the Revolutionary War. The Sons of Liberty adopted eight resolutions, among those one that reads,

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That we apprehend the Parliament of Great Britain hath not, nor ever had, any right to tax his Majesty’s American subjects; for it is evident beyond contradiction, the constitution admits of no taxation without representation; that they are coeval and inseparable; and every demand for the support of government should be by requisition made to the several houses of representatives.

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That we concur with our sister colonies in every constitutional measure to obtain redress of American grievances, and will by every lawful means in our power, maintain those inestimable blessings for which we are indebted to God and the Constitution of our country–a Constitution founded upon reason and justice, and the indelible rights of mankind.

The first copy in Georgia of the Declaration of Independence was read publicly in Savannah on August 10, 1776.

On August 10, 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completed “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”

Missouri was admitted as the 24th State, and the first entirely west of the Mississippi River, on August 10, 1821.

On August 10, 1864, the bombardment of Atlanta by Union force continued, with Sherman writing, ““Let us destroy Atlanta and make it a desolation.”

Sherman-and-Cannon Atlanta

The first Georgia state Motor Fuel Tax was enacted on August 10, 1921, when Governor Thomas Hardwick signed legislation imposing a one-cent per gallon tax.

Japan accepted unconditional surrender on August 10, 1945, one day after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

Red Dawn, the first movie rated PG-13 was released on August 10, 1984.

Wolverines!

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The State of Georgia’s lawsuit against Florida over water flow in the Chattahoochee River gained stream as several county governments filed an amicus brief.

A deluge of counties and cities on Monday joined in the war for water among Georgia and Florida that centers on Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River basin.

Gainesville joined with the Atlanta Regional Commission, Forsyth, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Fulton counties and the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority in filing an amicus brief on Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court. It argues that Florida had not proved that tighter water-use restrictions on Georgians would benefit Florida residents.

Florida is aiming for a cap on water consumption in Georgia, arguing that the resource is overused in the Peach State on its way to Florida and that the state’s environment and oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico are being damaged.

The brief filed on Monday by Gainesville and other municipalities and organizations in Georgia supports Lancaster’s decision.

“Florida challenged two basic water uses in this case: municipal and industrial water use in Metropolitan Atlanta and agricultural water use in Southwest Georgia,” the brief states. “In neither region would the damage inflicted on Georgia be remotely justified by the benefits of a consumption cap.”

It’s estimated such a consumption cap would cost Georgia’s economy billions of dollars.

Superior Court Judge H. Patrick Haggard was elected Chief Judge of the Western Judicial Circuit, which comprises Oconee and Clarke Counties.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) held a Town Hall in Gainesville that was disrupted by angry Democrats.

Right out of the gate, Democratic protesters jeered and debated Collins on congressional Republicans’ failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. President Donald Trump was none too popular with the group, either.

The Public Safety Center on Queen City Parkway, where the town hall was held, was overflowing and late attendees were turned away at the door.

The climax of the protests came close to the end of the town hall, which lasted about 80 minutes. Protester Marisa Pyle, who at various points argued health care points with Collins, stood and unfurled a sign proclaiming “Collins voted to kill me.” The sign was seized by local law enforcement and Pyle was escorted out of the courtroom.

At this point, the rest of the protest group walked out of the town hall in solidarity with Pyle, who was present at the May protest in Gainesville. She has met with Collins and his staff to talk about health care in the past.

Collins left on a positive note.

“I’m just glad that they were here, and I’m glad that you were here,” he said, noting to loud applause that America’s best days are ahead of it and that disagreements along the way will happen. “But I do not believe evil on anyone who was here who disagrees with me and I would pray they would not believe evil on me because I disagree with them.”

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) continues his tour of Town Hall meetings.

Some residents of Georgia’s First Congressional District were surprised to find out late Monday that their tickets to town halls with U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, this week had been canceled.

Carter, a second-term Republican, scheduled nine town halls throughout the First District this week. By the time online registration ended Monday, four of the town halls – Savannah, Richmond Hill, Rincon and Darien – were listed on Carter’s site as “sold out.” In a statement sent Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Carter said that “less than 1 percent” of tickets for at-capacity venues were canceled for people who requested tickets to multiple town halls.

“The only instance where this happened was if a constituent was still guaranteed an opportunity to attend another meeting they requested,” Mary Frances Carpenter, Carter’s deputy chief of staff, said in an email.

In her statement, Carpenter said the decision to switch to ticket-based registration was made to “ensure that constituents in the First District are able to attend town hall meetings in an orderly and efficient fashion.” Carter exited his last town hall meeting in Savannah through a back door, avoiding a lobby full of chanting protesters.

Senator Johnny Isakson (R) will hold a Town Hall meeting at Kennesaw State University on Monday, August 14, 2017.

The doors for the town hall open at 6 p.m. and the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting will be held in the Dr. Bobbie Bailey & Family Performance Center located on Prillaman Way. Space is limited and available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Isakson has held three telephone town hall events in 2017, two in March and one in July, according to Marie Gordon, spokesperson for Isakson.

Liberal agitators are expected to make an appearance at Isakson’s event.

A local chapter of the progressive group Indivisible indicated it’s planning to make its presence known when the Republican takes the stage at Kennesaw State University on Monday evening.

“THIS IS WHAT WE’VE BEEN TRAINING FOR!!!” read the description of the Facebook event inviting members of Indivisible Sea Change, the 6th Congressional District chapter of the Trump resistance group, to the town hall.

Georgia is the second-most strict state in punishing DUI convitction, according to WalletHub.

Columbus City Council adopted a resolution urging the Muscogee County Board of Tax Assessors to refrain from changing assessments from last year’s values.

The impetus for this resolution, of course, is an unprecedented spate of tax increases, some of them as high as tenfold, that recently hit local property owners. The resolution presented by Councilor Glenn Davis rightly notes that some of these increases “are a burden on the citizens … and are, in many cases, far in excess of that which is appropriate.”

With a Monday deadline for filing appeals, a Sept. 1 deadline for the Muscogee Tax Commissioner to submit the tax digest to the state and a Dec. 1 deadline for people with unresolved appeals to pay either their 2016 taxes or 85 percent of this year’s while they wait for a decision, this process is nothing short of frantic.

After state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, confirmed with the Georgia Department of Revenue that the Board of Tax Assessors is indeed empowered to roll back the assessments to 2016 levels, it became likely that the city governing body would propose a “freeze” of another kind, in this case a short-term rather than a permanent one.

Augusta Commissioners will not have offices in the Augusta Municipal Building.

2018 Elections

Former President Jimmy Carter says “hopefully,” Stacey Abrams will win the 2018 elelction for Governor.

The Georgia Democrat was introducing former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams at a July 25 fundraising dinner in Americus for the Boys and Girls Club when he went off script.

“I shouldn’t say it, but she’s going to be – possibly, and hopefully for me – our next governor of Georgia,” he said to applause. The Plains native goes on to call her a “remarkable” politician who “knows how to reach out to both sides.”

Clay Tippins, nephew of State Senator Lindsey Tippins and a former Navy SEAL, is considering a bid for Governor, according to the AJC Political Insider.

He joined the elite Navy SEALs shortly after graduating and later moved to Silicon Valley to work for several startups. In the mid-2000s, he re-enlisted in the Navy Reserves and was recently dispatched to Iraq for a counter-terrorism tour of duty.

He’s now an executive vice president of Capgemini, the global consulting firm, and lives with his wife and two kids in Atlanta.

Should he run, Tippins would face significant hurdles. He would have to build non-existent name recognition up quickly in a field that includes Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams.

But there are also decided advantages to coming to the race as a blank slate – namely, he has no voting record, little history of public statements to scour. He could fill a lane as an outsider in a Republican race replete with candidates trying to position themselves the same way despite elected experience.

Democrat Lindy Miller will take on John Noel in the 2018 Democratic Primary for Public Service Commission.

Read more here: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/opinion/article166341802.html#storylink=cpy
9
Aug

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

Herman E. Talmadge was born on August 9, 1913, son of Eugene Talmadge, who later served as Governor. Herman Talmadge himself served as Governor and United States Senator from Georgia.

On August 9, 1988, President Ronald Reagan announced his nomination of Dr. Lauro Cavazos as Secretary of Education, succeeding William Bennett. Cavazos was the first Hispanic to serve in a Presidential Cabinet position. Interestingly, he was born on the King Ranch.

On August 9, 1990, voters in the City of Athens and Clarke County chose to unify the two governments into Athens-Clarke County government.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former Georgia State Senator Tim Golden will join Valdosta State University Professor Dixie Haggard to teach a course on recent Georgia political history.

The class, Political History of Modern Georgia, covers what’s happened in the state since 1980, and that’s where Tim Golden has the experience.

Golden is now a state board member for the Georgia Department of Transportation but he has decades of experience in politics, including eight years in the Statehouse and 16 years in the state Senate.

Him being in the classroom (means) you’re going to get an experience I can’t give you any other way. I can show videos, I can show recordings, (but) he was there,” Haggard said of Golden, who graduated from Valdosta State with a history and political science degree in 1977.

“A student (who) takes this class is going to have the opportunity to really see how history is done.”

To give some context to Georgia’s modern political scene, Haggard and Golden will reach back to post-World War II times and sometimes even as far back as the Civil War, specifically when it comes to the fight over the state flag.

“How do you explain the flag and the lottery and all the things we did from the ’80s on if you don’t go back and learn?” Golden said.

Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth) addressed students at the Georgia Gwinnett College summer graduation.

In the theme of the day that was noted by GGC President Stas Preczewski, Durham and Shafer, the politician said that many of the graduates completed their coursework while carrying “significant family responsibilities” such as caring or providing for a relative, and working 20 hours a week.

“Your days of being nurtured were over,” Shafer said. “… You have been paying taxes and discharging adult responsibilities for years. … What made you stronger here at Georgia Gwinnett College was not the nurture, but the struggle. The challenge of completing your academic studies while leading a real adult life.”

Shafer, a veteran of Georgia politics, encouraged the graduates to treat everyone they meet like a friend, or a future friend, because in politics, for example, he said your enemy one day could be your friend the next.

The value of the institution, Shafer said, is in the improvement it made to each graduate. The liberal arts education teaches students how to think, how to learn and how to collaborate with others.

Lieutenant General Paul M. Nakasone, commander of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, spoke of Augusta’s role in cyber security.

Nakasone was in Augusta last November to help break ground at Fort Gordon for the new U.S. Cyber Command headquarters, which is now at Fort Belvoir, Va. It will relocate to Fort Gordon by 2020.

Before that, Nakasone last was in Augusta in 2004.

“Thirteen years ago when I left, it was interesting to see that everyone was talking about Boston or Austin as critical components to the high-tech revolution,” he said. “And so my thoughts this morning were, ‘What happens 13 years from now? Is Augusta going to be in that same league?’ I certainly think it will be because we have the opportunity, we have the momentum, we have the capabilities and we have the talent as convergent in the next couple years here in Augusta.”

“I would offer that Army Cyber’s move to Fort Gordon will increase Army readiness and technological superiority not only today, but well into the future,” he said. “The synergy created when we enhance operational effectiveness by establishing a single center here at Fort Gordon can’t be underestimated.”

The general said the headquarters’ move would bring Army Cyber into a “regional hub of innovation in cyber development,” alongside private-industry and academic partners.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) held the first of nine Town Hall meetings he’s hosting during the August congressional break.

Tuesday morning in Jesup he held the first of nine town halls.

“Washington sometimes is described as a bubble and it is,” said Rep. Carter. “You get up there and you don’t see outside that bubble. That’s why it’s very important for us to stay grounded and come here and to interact with the people, this is my home, this where i was born and raised and i need to hear from them.”

And those in attendance are grateful for the opportunity to have their voice be heard.

“I think it’s a wise move,” said Gabe Madray, Jesup Resident. “It’s very positive to have the local availability option to be able to talk directly with your federal congressman.”

“My voting card has my picture on it,” explained Rep. Carter. “But it’s really for the First Congressional District of Georgia, that’s who it represents and I need to hear from them and I want to hear from them. I appreciate everyone coming out and giving me the opportunity to hear from them.”

Congressman Carter will hold five more town halls in our area over the next two days.

One will be in McIntosh County Wednesday at Darien City Hall from 10-11 AM.

On Thursday August 10, it’ll be held in Effingham County at the Rincon First Baptist Church from 10-11 AM.

From there, it’s onto Bryan County and the Bryan County Administrative Complex in Richmond Hill from 2-3 PM.

And it all wraps up in Savannah at Bible Baptist Church from 6-7 PM.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods helped deliver backpacks to students at Jenkins-White Elementary in Augusta.

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods and Deputy Superintendent for School and District Effectiveness Stephanie Johnson visited the school, delivering 30 backpacks filled with school supplies. Faith Outreach Ministries supplied an additional 100 backpacks.

“It’s one less thing they have to think and worry about,” Woods said about the school supplies. “Providing these supplies gives them the assurance that they have all the school supplies they need to come into a classroom, sit down with a teacher and focus purely on the academics.”

The donations were made possible through the Georgia Foundation for Public Education. Monetary donations were made on the foundation’s website, while some people chose to donate backpacks and supplies.

“We do struggle with poverty throughout [the state],” Woods said. “One thing I have found out is that Georgia is a very generous state and when there is a need…they have risen to the occassion.”

Woods and his team made previous stops in Tifton and East Sylvania to deliver backpacks and will conclude the tour in Columbus on Thursday.

Muscogee County Sheriff Donna Tompkins ran over her department’s budget by about $400,000, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Tompkins said most of the money was spent on bailiffs and reserve deputies used for security at the City Services Center, Government Center and local courts. She said the expense was budgeted at $311,000, when historically it has cost about $700,000.

Two of the cost-savings initiatives that she planned for the year just went into affect, she explained, and it’s too early to see results.

“First off, I’d like to say, this is not really shocking to us,” she said. “When I took over, we estimated that this particular budget would probably be around $400,000 over, and there really wasn’t a lot that we could do about that.”

In the end, councilors approved the additional funding with a unanimous vote. They also approved more funding for Probate Court Judge Marc D’Antonio, who exceeded his fiscal year 2017 budget by $3,800.

Tompkins replaced John Darr as sheriff in January, after defeating him in a 2016 run-off election. Before leaving office, Darr sued the city over budgeting issues, arguing that the budget set by elected officials had hindered his ability to fulfill his constitutional duties. Tompkins dismissed the lawsuit after being elected to office.

Morris Communications announced the sale of the Savannah Morning News, ten other daily newspapers, and associated assets to GateHouse Media.

“With the announcement of a transition in ownership of the Savannah Morning News from the Morris family to Gatehouse Media, our mission to provide credible, accurate and timely local information remains the same,” said Michael Traynor, publisher of the Savannah Morning News. “In the more than 57 years since the Morris family purchased the Savannah newspaper, we have evolved into a diversified, multi-platform media company that includes print, digital, events and ticketing solutions. We are excited about the next chapter in our future with GateHouse Media and look forward to the many available opportunities to serve our readers and advertisers in new and compelling ways.”

“Since my father took a job as bookkeeper at The Chronicle in 1929, our family has been dedicated to journalism, and to the readers and advertisers in the communities we serve,” said William S. “Billy” Morris III, chairman of Morris Communications. “Although this has been a difficult decision for me, we have found a wonderful buyer for the newspapers in GateHouse, as they are strongly committed to providing good community coverage for readers and effective solutions for advertisers.”

Under terms of the sale, Michael Traynor will remain as publisher of the Savannah Morning News. Billy Morris will continue as publisher of The Augusta Chronicle and will oversee editorial-page policy for the three Morris newspapers in Georgia – The Chronicle, the Savannah Morning News and the Athens Banner-Herald. The Morris family will retain ownership of the Savannah Morning News building and property on Chatham Parkway where the Savannah Morning News will remain in what is now a multi-tenant facility.

GateHouse Media is a division of New Media Investment Group, a publicly traded company (NEWM) on the New York Stock Exchange. It is one of the largest newspaper companies in the country, owning more than 130 daily newspapers and more than 500 non-daily publications across the United States.

Daily papers included in the sale, in addition to the Savannah Morning News, are The Augusta Chronicle, the Athens Banner-Herald, The Florida Times-Union and The St. Augustine Record in Florida, the Amarillo Globe-News and Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in Texas, The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, Conway (Ark.) Log Cabin Democrat, and the Juneau Empire and Kenai Peninsula Clarion in Alaska.

Non-daily publications included in the sale under the Savannah Morning News portfolio include Bluffton (S.C.) Today, the Jasper County (S.C.) Sun Times, La Voz Latina, the Tell-N-Sell Shopper, BiS (Business in Savannah), Effingham (Ga.) Now, Bryan County (Ga.) Now and Beaufort (S.C.) Today.

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree asked Augusta Commissioners for pay raises for his department.

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree is pushing for across-the-board pay increases for his department that would likely require a tax hike next year, city officials said Tuesday.

Roundtree pitched his budget request at an Augusta Commission meeting as city officials begin the 2018 budgeting process. He told commissioners the need is greater in the Sheriff’s Office than other city departments because starting salaries for his deputies are among the region’s lowest while call volume is highest.

“How many other agencies have one of these hanging in their lobby,” or have to plan and train for funerals, Roundtree said, pointing commissioners to memorial images of officers killed in the line of duty. “How many agencies in this government garner this type of community support?”

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle mentioned that city officials are completing a comprehensive study of all city salaries, which would require funds to implement, but said he is “not opposed” to the sheriff’s request. Guilfoyle asked City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson for a source of funds.

“I’m not sure how you do it without a tax increase,” Jackson said.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy asked Roundtree if the Sheriff’s Ooffice would grow community support for a tax increase. Roundtree said he was “more than happy to openly ask the public for their support.”

Augusta millage rates are subject to a decades-old cap that has only about three-quarters of a mill, currently about $5 million, before it reaches the cap, officials said.

Friction with elected officials led Wayne Stradley to resign from the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Citizens Advisory Committee.

Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller told Stradley before the meeting he believed Stradley had overstepped his bounds to the extent that he should resign from the Citizens Advisory Committee, and if he didn’t, Miller would ask Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell to replace him.

Stradley is Powell’s appointee on the committee, which works to give citizen input to the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, the local area’s lead transportation planning agency.

[I]n emails, Stradley said there’s an issue of autonomy.

“Either the CAC is a ‘citizen’ committee, representing the citizens, or not,” he said.

“I think the CAC should be autonomous and able to form subcommittees as long as they know the purpose, the members and (have) a deadline.”

Lawrenceville City Council voted to adopt a $182 million dollar budget for FY 2018.

The Port of Savannah‘s record cargo hauls are driving warehouse space shortages.

While not in agreement on the exact numbers, both Colliers International and Cushman &Wakefield – two major global commercial real estate companies — concur that the Savannah area industrial vacancy rate is too low for comfort.

Both companies released their mid-2017 industrial market reports last week, with indications that the demand for space around the ports is not slowing. If anything, it’s putting increased pressure on the market.

According to Colliers, total industrial inventory for the Savannah market at the end of June was 50.9 million square feet, with 5.2 million square feet under construction and only 999,000 square feet vacant.

“The industrial vacancy rate dropped to 1.96 percent in the last quarter, reminiscent of the all-time low of 1.93 percent recent this time last year,” said David Sink, a principal in Colliers’ Savannah office.

Campaigns and Elections

Former Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck announced he will run for Insurance Commissioner next year.

Jim Beck, successful businessman, entrepreneur, and a former Deputy Commissioner, announced his candidacy for Georgia’s Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.

Georgia families deserve bold, experienced, and innovative leadership in the Insurance Commissioner’s office. Jim Beck’s incredible insight into the workings of the insurance business, gained through over 30 years of experience on the front lines, guides his vision for comprehensive change in the insurance department. As Commissioner, Jim Beck’s single focus will be advocating for and protecting Georgians. In making the announcement Beck said, “Dramatic insurance rate increases have left many Georgia families struggling to pay premiums for even the most basic protection. Simply put, the family budget has taken an unprecedented beating. While the job of Insurance Commissioner is very technical in nature and generally there is a long learning curve, I can say with absolute confidence that I will be a “Day One” Commissioner. I know how to effectively serve as the consumer’s champion, while capitalizing on untapped opportunities to improve the insurance marketplace and hold companies more accountable. I will fight for your right to be treated fairly and I would be honored to earn your vote and support to be the next Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner for our great State. “

Lawrenceville City Council member Rey Martinez will resign to run for Mayor in an open seat election this November.

Martinez’s council seat, like the mayor’s seat, was already scheduled to be on the ballot in November — since his term ends in December —before he announced his plans to run for mayor .

Martinez is in his second term on the City Council, serving on the city’s public safety, planning and development and transportation committees. He is also a retired Navy veteran, having spent 25 years in the military, including three deployments during Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom.

He has served on the City Council since 2010 and is also a member of American Legion Post 233, the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity and president of the Loganville Lyon’s Club.

He was also the chairman of Georgia Hispanics for Trump during last year’s presidential election.

Former State Senator Dan Moody has endorsed Matt Reeves for the Senate District 48 seat being vacated by David Shafer, who is running for Lieutenant Governor.

Joe Musselwhite will join the growing field of candidates for Mayor of Warner Robins.

Joe Musselwhite, a former Warner Robins public works director, formally announced his candidacy for mayor Tuesday.

Musselwhite, 64, ran for mayor in 2013 in a field of six candidates. He landed in a runoff with Randy Toms, but he lost by nearly a 2-1 margin.

I have a clear vision for our city’s government, and I have many innovative ideas to share as the election process continues,” he said.

He is the first candidate to formally announce that he is opposing Toms, who has said he plans to run for re-election.

Councilman Chuck Shaheen said during a debate Monday on whether to establish a city administrator that he also plans to run for mayor, but he declined to confirm that intention afterward.

8
Aug

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

The first printed copy of the Declaration of Independence arrived in Savannah on August 8, 1776 and was read publicly for the first time on August 10, 1776.

On August 8, 1863, General Robert E. Lee offered his resignation in a letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, following the Battle of Gettysburg.

On August 8, 1925, Georgia Governor Clifford Walker signed legislation outlawing the brazen act of dancing publicly on Sunday.

On August 8, 1929, Georgia Governor Lamartine Hardman signed legislation placing on the ballot for Fulton and Campbell County voters a merger of the two.

The old Campbell County Courthouse still stands in Fairburn, Georgia.

Campbell County Courthouse Fairburn GA 3

Historic Campbell County Courthouse in Fairburn, GA.

Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew were nominated for President and Vice President by the Republican National Convention on August 8, 1968.

On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned, effective at noon the next day.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gov. Nathan Deal announced that July tax collections increased more than seven percent.

Gov. Nathan Deal [] announced that Georgia’s net tax collections for July totaled nearly $1.72 billion, for an increase of $113.4 million, or 7.1 percent, compared to last year when net tax collections totaled roughly $1.61 billion. Gross tax revenue receipts for the month totaled $2.27 billion, for an increase of $112.5 million, or 5.2 percent, compared to July 2016.

The changes within the following tax categories contributed to the overall net tax revenue increase in July:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for the month totaled $861.5 million, up from nearly $780.7 million in July 2016, for an increase of roughly $80.9 million, or 10.4 percent.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections deposited during the month increased by $46.7 million, or 5.1 percent, compared to July 2016.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for July totaled nearly $19.4 million, for an increase of $13 million, or 205.6 percent, compared to last year when net Corporate Tax revenues totaled $6.3 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections for July decreased by nearly $0.1 million, or -0.1 percent, compared to last year when Motor Fuel Tax revenues totaled $146.1 million.

Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees: Tag and Title Fee collections for July increased by $7.4 million, or 28.4 percent, compared to July 2016. Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections for the month totaled $81.5 million, for a decrease of $10 million, or -11 percent, compared to last year.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) will hold a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 PM at the Gainesville Public Safety Building, 701 Queen City Parkway in Gainesville.

For security reasons, no bags or signs will be allowed into the courtroom where the town hall is taking place, according to the announcement.

Congressman Buddy Carter has scheduled nine Town Hall meetings in his coastal Georgia district.

The Pooler pharmacist is planning on leading nine events between Tuesday and Thursday in his coastal district, including town halls in Jesup, Brunswick and Savannah.

According to the tracking website Town Hall Project, he’s in rarefied air. Only two other Georgia House members have planned in-person town halls during the August recess: Democratic Rep. David Scott will hold an Aug. 19 event in Jonesboro and Republican Rep. Doug Collins will host a Wednesday evening town hall in Gainesville.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office has also said he plans to hold an in-person town hall meeting, while other lawmakers – including newly-elected Rep. Karen Handel of Roswell – have said they will organize telephone town halls.

Carter was the only of Georgia’s 10 Republican House members and two U.S. senators to hold a town hall meeting in February amid a wave of national protests that have rocked GOP events since Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Former Governor Roy Barnes addressed the Cartersville/Bartow County Chamber of Commerce.

“In my lifetime, we have seen the booming of this entire region,” he said. “Bartow is growing at a much faster rate than Cobb because Cobb is about developed out. Bartow has been growing by 30 to 37 percent every 10 years and will continue to do so. That is true of the entire Atlanta region.“What I want to discuss with you today is actually a question. ‘What do we need to do to continue this growth without destroying this quality of life that we all treasure?’”

He said three requirements are essential to Georgia’s continued growth.

“The first is transportation,” he said. “We must have adequate transportation to make sure this region grows and does not suffocate. When I was governor, I proposed a highway extension running from I-85 across to I-75 on what was called the ‘Northern Arc,’ which then swung further west across I-20 to south of Newnan where it would connect with the Fall Line Freeway, so truckers could entirely bypass Atlanta.”

Barnes said the second requirement is education.

“We have made great strides in education, but we have only scratched the surface,” he said. “Just like we need infrastructure and capital for infrastructure, we also need intellectual capital. There is a gap between the jobs created by industries and the skills of the workers necessary to fill those jobs. We should be panicked about that, but we seem to not be concerned.”

The third requirement, Barnes said, is leadership.

“I am disgusted with leadership to a large extent,” Barnes said. “Local level leadership is far superior to what we see on a state and national level. The local leaders have to actually solve problems —  make sure the garbage gets picked up, that the water is there when you turn on the spigot and you can flush the commode and nothing comes back — but on the state and particularly the national level, and I’m talking about both Democrats and Republicans, the purpose of elected leaders is to actually solve problems and to accomplish that you have to talk to each other.

Blue Cross Blue Shield announced it will not offer insurance plans for metro Atlanta residents on the federal exchange.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia said it will not offer insurance plans on the Obamacare exchange in any of metro Atlanta’s counties next year.

The move comes as the company is still waiting on whether the Trump administration will continue federal cost sharing subsidies that help provide coverage for low-income families.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georiga said in a statement that continued uncertainty on the federal level makes it difficult to offer plans on the marketplace exchange statewide.

The company did agree to offer plans in 85 mostly rural counties that would be left with no insurance plan.

But the company is expanding its offerings in some non-metro areas.

State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens’ office reported that BlueCross and BlueShield of Georgia agreed to offer coverage in the state insurance exchange in 2018, but only for 85 counties that would have had no other health coverage companies.

Blue Cross is the sole health plan offering exchange coverage this year in all of Georgia’s 159 counties. If Blue Cross had pulled out, the commissioner’s office said it would have devastated Georgia’s market.

“You would have had thousands of people in that 85 county area that would have either had to change jobs, or go without coverage, or move.  Really that would have been their options if they wanted health insurance,” said Florence.

 

Gainesville Board of Education members heard options for setting the property tax millage rate.

Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Williams began, “what we want to do tonight is bring these three numbers to you; then over the next couple of weeks take this document and go back and look, and if you’ve got requests…communicate that to me and we’ll be sure to get some information for you so at our next meeting we can set a tentative millage rate.”

Williams explained that leaving the current rate of 6.85-mils in place would constitute a tax increase by definition, and would require three public hearings and the prerequisite advertising in the newspaper to announce each of those hearings as set forth under Georgia law.

Only by rolling back the rate to 6.453-mils would a revenue-neutral situation occur and eliminate the need for the public hearings.  That option would, however, create a projected budget shortfall of $2.4-million.

Should board members decide to use a rate higher than 6.453-mils when they reconvene August 21st, dates for the required trio of public hearings will be set at that time.

The Fayette County Board of Education is considering adopting a property tax millage rate lower than the current rate but above the full rollback rate.

The Fayette County Board of Education plans to raise the property tax millage rate 9.16 percent above the rollback rate, which will require three public hearings before the rate is decided on Aug. 21.

The board wants a rate of 19.500 mills, a 0.250 mill decrease from last year. The rollback rate is what would produce the same amount of revenue at the current millage rate if no property reassessments had occurred, but the board’s new budget requires a higher millage than what the rollback rate would have provided. The approximately $10 million budget increase is due mostly to cost-of-living raises, higher retirement plan contributions and health insurance premiums.

Millage hearings will be held at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Aug. 14 and at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 21, all at 210 Stonewall Ave. in Fayetteville.

Suwanee City Council will maintain the property tax millage rate at last year’s level.

Suwanee has proposed a millage rate of 4.93 mills, the same rate used in the proposed FY 2018 budget and the same rate used by the city over the past four years.

Because the proposed rate is anticipated to generate a 4.96 percent increase in property tax revenue, the city will hold three public hearings to discuss the tax increase at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10 and at noon and 6:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at City Hall, 320 Town Center Avenue. The millage rate will be adopted during the city council meeting following the final public hearing Aug. 22.

Property owners will see a slight increase due to rising property values.

Dalton City Council voted to place a $50 million bond issue on the ballot.

The City Council voted 3-1 (Gary Crews voted against) to place a referendum on the Nov. 7 municipal election ballot that asks:

“Shall the City of Dalton, Georgia, issue general obligation bonds in the principal amount of up to $50,650,000 for the purposes of providing funds to (i) acquire land for school purposes, acquire, construct, install and equip a new secondary school building and facilities, acquire new technology, to be used at educational and administrative facilities, including, but not limited to, classroom technology infrastructure, computers, laptops, tablets and mobile devices for students and staff, servers, wiring, wireless antennas, displays and other technology upgrades with necessary hardware, software and programs, acquire school equipment, including, but not limited to, safety and security equipment, and acquire any other property, both real and personal, necessary or desirable therefor(e), for Dalton Public Schools; (ii) capitalize interest on the bonds; and (iii) pay all expenses incident to accomplishing the foregoing?”

Jevin Jensen noted the school system could pay as much as 5.5 percent interest on the bonds. Over the 30-year life of the bonds, the principal and interest that would be paid at that rate is $103 million.

“At 3.5 percent, that would be $82 million,” he said.

Members of the League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area asked council members to delay voting on the measure. The League plans to try to circulate a petition that would place a referendum on the May 2018 general primary ballot asking Dalton voters to dissolve the school system.

University of Georgia School of Law is creating a Veterans Legal Services Clinic to provide services to military veterans.

As described on the UGA website, the clinic “will provide veterans in Georgia with legal assistance they might not otherwise have access to or be able to afford, with particular regard to denied or deferred claims before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It also includes an educational scholarship component … [it] will be staffed by law students who will work directly with veterans and their dependents to ensure access to benefits and services, especially for those with mental or physical disabilities resulting from their time in the military.”

This clinic will not only offer legal assistance and advice for veterans; it will also provide $5,000 matching scholarships each year for two veterans studying at the UGA law school.

And the benefit, Butler added, isn’t limited to veterans.

“Another attraction is the opportunity to train law students,” he said. “The University of Georgia law school’s clinical programs are among the best in the country. You take these young law students in their formative years and get them involved in helping people, it affects what they will do as lawyers.”

The Augusta Planning Commission amended its code to allow small brewers and distillers in business areas.

The amendments create new categories of “nano-“ and “pico-“ breweries and distilleries, smaller than traditional microbreweries and distilleries, which will be allowed with a special permit in business zones.

Postponed several times, the amendments appear just in time for state law changes going in effect Sept. 1 that will allow small brewers and distillers to sell packaged beer and liquor over the counter, in limited amounts.

The approval drew contrasting reviews from Augusta’s two existing microbreweries, which were required to open in an industrial zone a few blocks from downtown because the current planning code considers brewing and distilling as an industrial operation, regardless of the amount of beverage being made.

The city’s discussion had touched on creating a “brewery district” around the Fifth Street area where the two breweries are located, planning and development manager Brendon Cunningham said, although Sloan said she wasn’t “all that enthusiastic” about having more brewer neighbors in the area.

The amendments define a nanobrewery as making up to 3,000 barrels of beer per year, the equivalent of 992,000 12-ounce bottles. A picobrewery can make up to 500 barrels, or about 27,556 six-packs.

Neither definition includes a food component. Brewpubs, which are already allowed, can make up to 10,000 barrels per year but must make half their money from food sales.

Warner Robins City Council members argued over whether to hire a city administrator.

A simmering debate about whether to hire a city administrator boiled over at the Warner Robins City Council meeting Monday, including allegations of secret meetings.

The discussion began in pre-council when Councilman Keith Lauritsen suggested that the council state its plans for a city administrator so that those running for mayor will know what the job will entail. Council members Mike Davis and Clifford Holmes disagreed and the discussion soon became heated.

The discussion became especially heated when Mayor Randy Toms said he wanted all future meetings on the subject to be in the open. Shaheen and Holmes both took offense, saying they took that as an accusation.

“There was one meeting that I absolutely believe was illegal,” Toms said.

Holmes said he did go to a meeting and when he got there he saw there were three other council members, and he implied that he did not go in. He also said City Attorney Jim Elliott was there.

[City Council member Chuck] Shaheen has said he would run for mayor if the council approved a city administrator. But he said in the meeting that he is running for mayor “whether it is full or part time.”

Part of Georgia’s seashore may be designated as a place of international importance for shorebirds.

A group of public and private organizations — including two federal agencies but not the state Department of Natural Resources — submitted the nomination to the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network to have Georgia’s barrier islands and marshlands designated a “landscape of hemispheric importance for shorebirds.”

The network is a long-standing conservation strategy for celebrating and protecting shorebirds over a wide geographic range in North and South America. Currently, there are 95 sites in North America meeting its criteria, supporting shorebirds in all three stages of habitat need: nesting, migration and non-nesting. The Altamaha River Delta was dedicated as a Coastal Georgia site of regional importance by the WHSRN (pronounced whiss-ern) Council in 1999.

The network invited the Georgia Shorebird Alliance to apply to broaden the designation and encompass more of the coast. A decision on the application is expected next month.

If approved, the designation would highlight the coast’s importance, a plus for eco-tourism as well as researchers looking for grant funding.

“It really is a way to showcase the Georgia coast,” said Alice Miller Keyes, vice president for conservation at One Hundred Miles, which organized the application process. “It can be a real draw for the growing ecotourism and for Georgia as a birding destination.”

The City of South Fulton is considering designating election day as an official holiday.

A proposal last month offered Election Day as a holiday mandatory for the city and “encouraged” for other Georgia elected bodies and for South Fulton businesses.

Sponsoring it was City Councilman khalid kamau, who said in the proposed resolution that Election Day is already a holiday in Puerto Rico during presidential races, leading to high turnouts at the polls.

kamau also said the holiday can create a culture of voting and political education.

City council arguments against it included misalignment with the Fulton County School System calendar, causing parents among city employees to seek child care or take time off when students are out of school Oct. 9.

Mayor William “Bill” Edwards said there was insufficient information available to make a sound decision.

“I don’t think we went into depth enough,” he said. “We need to have a committee to study this further.”

The Board of Regents will consider a request by Georgia Tech for a campus at Lockheed in Marietta.

The state Board of Regents is scheduled Tuesday to consider a $63 million proposal by Georgia Tech to buy land to expand its research space in Cobb County and give it flexibility for future development.

Tech wants a lease revenue bond package to acquire and renovate 32 acres in Marietta owned by Lockheed Martin, according to the board’s agenda. The buildings that Tech plans to purchase are on the aerospace giant’s south campus along Atlanta Road.

“This ownership structure will allow flexibility for future development, such as opportunities for industry partnerships and investment. Over the long term, development of the entire 52-acre campus is expected to accelerate (Georgia Tech’s) research growth in national security, homeland defense, and commercial advanced technology initiatives,” an explanation on the board’s agenda read.

2017 Elections

Powder Springs will hold qualifying for three city council seats.

Powder Springs will hold a general election Nov. 7 to elect three City Council members from Wards 1, 2 and 3.

Qualifying will be held between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Aug. 23-25 (closed 1 -2 p.m. for lunch) in the second floor conference room, Powder Springs City Hall, 4484 Marietta St., Powder Springs.

The qualifying fee for each council candidate will be $360 payable by cash, check or money order made out to the City of Powder Springs.

Brookhaven will elect two City Council members in November.

The qualifying fee for Council District 2 (two) and District 4 (four) is $360.00 which is 3% of the total gross salary of the preceding year (Georgia Election Code 21-2-131 (a) (1) (A). Each candidate shall file a notice of candidacy in the office of the City Clerk of Brookhaven and must meet the qualifications of the Charter and Code of the City of Brookhaven, as well as all applicable state and constitutional laws.

The date of the Municipal Election for the Offices of Councilmember of Council Districts 2 (two) and 4 (four) is Tuesday, November 7, 2017. In the event no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, a Run Off Election shall be held Tuesday, December 5, 2017, between the candidates receiving the two highest number of votes. DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections will conduct the November 2017 Election and if any Run-Off Election.

Each candidate shall file a notice of candidacy in the office of the City Clerk of Brookhaven between Wednesday, August 23, 2017 and Friday, August 25, 2017, between the hours of 8:30 am and 12:30 pm, and 1:30 pm and 4:30pm.

Sandy Springs will host two contested city council elections.

Jody Reichel this week formally declared her candidacy for the Sandy Springs City Council District 4 seat held by Gabriel Sterling, who previously said he is running for Fulton County Commission chairman.

Reichel said Sandy Springs has been fortunate to have elected officials and other community leaders “who have worked hard to make our city an extremely desirable place to lay down roots, raise our families and be involved with our community.”

“There are, however, many important issues that need a strong advocate and much work that needs to be done in order for Sandy Springs to reach its potential,” she said, adding that’s the reason why she’s running for the City Council.

If elected, Reichel said she will focus her time and energy on issues such as traffic challenges, smart business growth and working on efforts to make Sandy Springs a more pedestrian friendly community. She also notes she’ll regularly listen to the viewpoints of others to continue the city’s reputation as a great place to live.

Another resident, Steve Soteres, on Thursday also revealed his plans to run for the District 2 seat held by Ken Dishman, who will not be seeking re-election.

Mayor Rusty Paul and Council members Andy Bauman, Chris Burnett, Tibby DeJulio and John Paulson are all seeking re-election.

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

7
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 7, 2017

General George Washington created the Purple Heart on August 7, 1782. Click here for an interesting history of the award.

On August 7, 1790, a delegation of Creeks met with the United States Secretary of War and signed the Treaty of New York, ceding all land between the Ogeechee and Oconee Rivers to Georgia.

Theodore Roosevelt, who served as President from 1901 to 1909, was nominated for President by the Progressive Party, also called the Bull Moose Party, on August 7, 1912.

On August 7, 1942, Marine forces landed at Guadalcanal.

Voters ratified a new version of the State Constitution on August 7, 1945. Among the new features was the establishment of the State Board of Corrections to ensure humane conditions.

The board was directed to be more humane in its treatment of prisoners and abolished whippings, leg irons, and chains. Until 1945, prisoners in Georgia could expect to have heavy steel shackles put on by a blacksmith upon arrival. They were then taken out to work under severe conditions.

The caravan bearing 43 ounces of Dahlonega gold to be used in covering the Georgia State Capitol dome reached the Capitol and delivered it to Governor Marvin Griffin on August 7, 1958.

On August 7, 1964, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which would be used as the legal basis for U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Cumberland Island will grace one of five designs for 2018 quarters.

The design features a snowy egret perched on the edge of a branch, ready for flight, near a saltwater marsh. The inscription on the back of the coin reads Cumberland Island, Georgia, 2018, and E Pluribus Unum.

The front of the coin will continue to be the 1932 portrait of George Washington featured in the other American the Beautiful quarter series.

The Cumberland quarter will be the 44th coin released and the only national seashore featured in the series.

Sites in the series representing other states include national parks and other national sites. Other locations in Georgia considered for the coin were Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Ocmulgee National Monument and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association is seeking state funding of higher pay for local law enforcement officers.

Gov. Nathan Deal and the state Legislature gave a raise to Georgia State Patrol officers earlier this year. It brought starting pay to over $46,422 a year. Georgia Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Terry Norris said average pay for local deputies in the state is $29,900 a year, with some barely making $20,000.

“Our officers are out there working two and three jobs, just to make a living,” Norris said.

“It takes a tremendous toll on the family, on the officer’s health. Officer suicide and divorce rates are extremely high, and this is part of it,” Norris said.

Norris believes many local communities simply can’t raise the revenue, and it will take action by state legislators.

“Let’s find a way through the General Assembly to pay the difference in what locals are paying these deputy sheriff’s now and what it would take to get them to the level of a state trooper,” he said.

Chattooga County public school students attend four days per week, with Mondays off.

Chattooga County students have every Monday off for the entire school year – and school officials say the schedule is working.

We spoke to the principal of Chattooga High School, where students are starting in a new building. He says the school still goes the full amount of hours required each school year. They just pack them into fewer days.

Principal Jeff Martin says they’ve seen more time for learning, fewer absences for students and teachers and operating costs have dropped, while test scores have gone up.

“It has decreased our discipline, our attendance is good, teacher attendance as well. We keep, and we have a data room where we keep up with all that. We improved in six of the eight end of course test as of last year,” Martin said.

The Georgia Department of Education is searching for a Chief Turnaround Officer under the “First Priority Act,” which followed the defeat of the Opportunity School District constitutional amendment.

The Georgia Department of Education is currently using a search firm to hire a Chief Turnaround Officer, who will identify which schools throughout the state need intervention. The turnaround officer will work with “turnaround coaches” who will enter the schools and work with teachers, parents and administrators to improve the institutions. All of this will be done at the expense of the school. Interviews for the turnaround officer position are expected to begin in September.

There are currently 21 underperforming schools in the Richmond County School system, according to previous Augusta Chronicle articles. The only districts with more underperforming schools were Dekalb County (26 schools) and Atlanta Public School District (23 schools). In February, Deal commented on the problem while in Augusta to sign the midyear budget amendment for the new Cyber Innovation and Training Center.

Richmond County Board of Education member Wayne Frazier said something needs to be done for schools but that he is not sure the First Priority Act is the answer.

“We could do it ourselves if we had the resources,” he said. “They should give more money and if we can’t fix it, then they can take over.”

 Smyrna City Council is expected to vote today on their property tax millage rate.

Smyrna’s Monday evening millage rate vote brings an end to a Cobb County tax season that saw each jurisdiction increase its revenue substantially.

Cobb’s six cities, two school districts and the county itself either raised or maintained tax rates this year in the wake of the county’s largest gross digest on record, meaning each governmental entity will collect more in taxes than it did last year.

While five of those cities opted to keep their millage rates the same, most who saw their assessed property values increase can expect to pay more this year in taxes. Only the city of Austell opted to increase its millage rate, citing decreased gas revenue from a milder winter as its reason for doing so.

In the county, a tax hike proposed by Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce fell through last-minute as commissioners voted 3-2 to pull $4 million from the county’s economic contingency fund to cover a portion of the fiscal 2017 budget.

Smyrna’s City Council is expected to keep its 2017 millage rate at 8.99 mills, a rate the city has maintained since 2006.

Councilwoman Teri Anulewicz said the city plans to use the additional revenue to fund new positions and give merit-based pay raises for employees over the next year.

“We have had discussions about the millage rate and the possibility of rolling it back, but we decided to keep it at 8.99,” she said. “We approved the budget a couple meetings ago, and those numbers are based upon that 8.99 rate.”

Helen City Council approved a rollback property tax rate.

The tentative real and personal property digest in Helen is up by more than $2.3 million for 2017 over 2016, figures published by the city show.

“I think Helen No. 1, has value-added tax revenues through hotel/motel tax, through disbursements from the state with sales tax, from SPLOST, LOST, that we have benefited from with the growth in tourism in White County,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Ash. “That’s the real kicker. No. 2, we’ve been able to hold the millage rate at a flat level, no increases, because we have added capital improvements to the tax digest that have allowed the revenue streams to migrate up because of good economic growth, not through taxation. You don’t tax people.”

The millage rate approved at a called Helen City Commission meeting Thursday is 0.06564, which is the rollback rate. With growth in the digest, the city will collect just less than $14,000 in additional property taxes.

Similarly, the White County Board of Education set its 2017 millage rate at the rollback rate of 17.978 mills Thursday during a special meeting. The board used some fund balance funds to help achieve the rollback.

The City of Cleveland Thursday set the 2017 rate at 5 mills, the same as 2016 rate.

The White County Commission will set the county rate (9.998 mills) on Monday, Aug. 14, following a final public hearing in the required process. That rate is up 0.002-mill over the rollback rate of 9.996.

Whitfield County Board of Education is considering raising property taxes by setting a rate above the rollback level.

The Whitfield County Board of Education announces its intention to increase the 2017 property taxes it will levy this year by 4.64 percent over the rollback millage rate.

The Whitfield County Board of Education has proposed no change to the millage rate for 2017. The proposed millage rate remains 18.756, the same rate as set in 2016. State law requires this to be advertised as a tax increase since the state measures change not against the actual prior-year millage rate, but rather against the “rollback rate.” The rollback rate is calculated by subtracting any increase in the tax digest due to reassessment. However, if your own assessment did not change, your taxes will be the same as last year.

All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearings on this tax increase to be held at the Whitfield County Schools central office building, 1306 S. Thornton Ave., Dalton, on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., and on Thursday, Aug. 17, at 6 p.m.

The Lake Lanier Association is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Georgia EPD to keep Lake Lanier at full pool.

College students may be packing more than their books as they return to school.

Now, handguns are allowed in classrooms as long as high school students aren’t enrolled in the class and no high school programs are being held in the space, [Middle Georgia State University police chief Shawn] Douglas said.

“It is incumbent upon the gun owner to check to see if there will be any of those people registered in the class,” he said.

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) talked about changes he is proposing to his earlier Hidden Predator act.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, seeks to build on a 2015 measure that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations and allowed older victims to come forward and take their abuser to civil court.

State law gives victims until they are 23 years old to file a civil lawsuit. That age cut-off was suspended for two years, during which time 13 cases were filed all across the state, Spencer said.

But Spencer said those cases have revealed a major flaw in the 2015 bill, known as the Hidden Predator Act: These older victims could not go after the institutions that may have covered up the abuse.

“We stopped short two years ago,” Spencer said in an interview. “We have to do better because if you don’t hold the enablers accountable, we as a state are continuing to protect child sexual predators.”

The south Georgia lawmaker wants to recreate the two-year window for older victims — and this time allow them to take institutions to court.

“Enough is enough,” Spencer said. “If we don’t start hitting these people in the pocketbook, these behaviors are not going to change and real child protection is not going to happen.”

Under the proposal, victims would also permanently have until the age of 38 to take their abuser, along with any group that may have shielded that individual, to court.

Buford is considering a property tax millage rate between the current rate and the rollback rate.

The Buford Board of Commissioners is looking to set its fiscal 2017-18 tax rate Monday at 12.8 mills, down from 12.85 mills, with 1 mill equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed values.

However, because of higher reassessments, some property owners could see a bigger tax bill. To get the city revenue-neutral, the tax rate would have to be 12.478 mills.

On the other hand, property owners who didn’t see values increase will see a slight drop in taxes.

“Hall County did a good bit of re-evaluating some of the commercial values,” commission Chairman Phillip Beard said Sunday. “There’s been virtually no re-evaluation in Gwinnett County on the residential side of things.”

Buford has 7,156 property owners, with Hall County accounting for about 22 percent of Buford’s total tax digest, City Manager Bryan Kerlin said.

Casino Royale

The United Keetoowah band of the Cherokee say they want to return to Georgia and build a casino.

lawyer for the United Keetoowah band of the Cherokee said an Indian casino is easier to get done and will help a native Georgia people struggling to survive.

The Keetoowah band were driven from Georgia during the Trail of Tears in the 1830s.

The tribe wrote to Governor Nathan Deal last month and said that through federal law, they have status superior to all other efforts to build a casino.

Their attorney, Richard Lea, said two casino companies are in active discussions.

“They can partner with an Indian tribe. They can cut through the regulation and on an expedited basis, they can get approval and build an Indian casino a lot quicker,” Lea said.

The casino company would buy the land and the feds would declare it sovereign in trust for the tribe.

The state legislature would not be involved.

Georgia Republican state committee members voted in favor of a resolution opposing casino gambling.

The Georgia GOP state committee overwhelmingly passed a resolution over the weekend that opposes casinos and horse racing – as well as daily fantasy sports gambling.

The resolution cited concerns that gambling is tied to increasing crime and divorce rates, and warns it could open the door “for any Indian tribe to venue shop for property to open casinos” around the state.

“The state should not have a vested interest in predatory activities such as gambling for the sake of filling state coffers at the expense of ruined lives and broken families,” read the resolution.

 

2018 Elections

NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed Democrat Stacey Abrams in her 2018 bid for Governor of Georgia.

“As governor, Stacey [Abrams] will look out for women and defend our right to access basic healthcare, including contraception and abortion,” said Ilyse Hogue, the NARAL president.

Abrams, a former state House minority leader, faces fellow Democratic state Rep. Stacey Evans in next year’s vote. The two are already divvying up support from Democratic powerbrokers as they race to try to flip Georgia for the first time since 2002, and both have similar views on women’s rights issues. Four Republicans, all with hefty campaign coffers, are in the race.

Abrams said she would fiercely oppose any efforts to restrict abortion and vowed to back “access to reproductive health care services, paid family leave, and protections from pregnancy discrimination” if elected.

 

Senator David Shafer’s bid for Lieutenant Governor received the endorsement of George P. Bush.

The support from Bush, the Texas land commissioner and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is the latest in a string of national endorsements Shafer picked up for his campaign to succeed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

The state senator also won the backing of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, the GOPAC political advocacy and former Reps. John Linder and Bob Barr.

Bush is a de facto leader of the still-potent family network that has extensive ties in Georgia, and was the only member of his family to endorse President Donald Trump. In a statement, he called Shafer a “true conservative.”

“He has fought for conservative values,” Bush said. “And he has gotten results. I know he will continue to fight for conservative values.”

Democrat Zahra Karinshak will run for the State Senate District 48 seat being vacated by Sen. David Shafer.

Zahra Karinshak, an attorney and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy — she rose to the rank of captain as an intelligence officer — qualified for the seat this week. So far, the only Republican in the race is Matt Reeves, a Duluth attorney with a sweep of support from local GOP officials. With Shafer’s decision to run for lieutenant governor, Democrats are salivating over the chance to flip the seat. It’s one of about a dozen GOP-held state legislative districts in Georgia that Donald Trump lost in November.

Except that she didn’t actually qualify. Qualifying will be next March. She filed paperwork with the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to raise funds.

 

4
Aug

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

On August 4, 1753, George Washington became a Master Mason at the Masonic Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

On August 5, 1774, Royal Governor James Wright issued a proclamation banning assemblies to protest British policy.

On August 6, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia began debating the first draft of the Constitution of the United States.

President Abraham Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax on August 5, 1861 at the rate of 3 percent on all income over $800 per year.

On August 5, 1910, Gov. Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing betting on election outcomes.

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank, her family, and two others were found by Nazis in a sealed area in an Amsterdam warehouse. They were sent first to a concentration camp in Holland, then most were sent to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot died from Typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March of 1945.

On August 4, 1958, a wagon train left Dahlonega, headed to Atlanta to pay tribute to the mighty General Assembly deliver 43 ounces of gold to be used to coat the dome of the State Capitol.

Gold from Dahlonega on its way to Atlanta. Photo by Ed Jackson via http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu

The caravan transporting the gold from Dahlonega to the State Capitol arrived in Roswell/Sandy Springs area on August 5, 1958. At the current price of $1270.10 per ounce, that would be worth $54,614.30.

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act; Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in attendance and was given one of the pens Johnson used to sign the Act. Here is an auction for one of the pens used in the VRA signing.

President Ronald Reagan began the process of firing all striking Air Traffic Controllers on August 5, 1981.

The first public website went online on August 6, 1991.

Divers raised the turret of USS Monitor near Cape Hatteras on August 5, 2002.

John Hughes, director of every meaningful teen angst movie of the 1980s (except Say Anything) died on August 6, 2009.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Jere Wood was removed as Mayor of Roswell yesterday in a lawsuit over term limits.

A Fulton County Superior Court Judge ruling on Aug. 3 resulted in Jere Wood’s immediate removal from the office of Mayor of Roswell.

Judge Craig L. Schwall, Sr. ruled in favor of the plantiff, Michael Litten in Litten v. Wood.

“Mayor Wood’s political enemies-unable to accomplish his defeat at the ballot box-chose to continue their battle through the courts. While this Court cannot ignore the overtly political nature of this dispute, it must ground its decision solely in the law. Unfortunately, the plain reading of the text of the city charter makes Mayor Wood the victim of this political war,” said Judge Schwall.

The order states that “Because Mayor Wood was ineligible to qualify for office in 2013 under the City Charter, this Court hereby grants the requested writ of ouster, removing Mayor Wood from office effective immediately. The office of Mayor of Roswell stands vacant and shall be filled pursuant to the terms of the City Charter.”

Pursuant to terms of Roswell city charter, in the case of a vacancy of the office of Mayor, there are two courses of action, a special election or election of mayor pro-tem.

Mayor Wood announced he will appeal the ruling.

On Thursday, Wood said he will, in fact, appeal the court’s ruling.

“However, I will not be seeking reelection this coming November,” he said in a statement issued through city spokesperson Julie Brechbill. “I will continue to serve the city until my current term comes to an end or the appellate court rules on Judge Schwall’s decision.”

The charter amendment imposing term limits was done through local legislation approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

In his ruling Schwall notes the sole issue before the court was to determine if Wood was qualified to hold office during the 2013 election. Schwall states the text of the charter’s language is clear, and that any reasonable reader would “conclude that the ineligibility limit applies to an individual who has served three or more terms.”

“The text does not make any qualification or exception for when the terms were served, whether they were served consecutively, or were designed only to apply prospectively,” he writes.

Macon lawyer Jeffrey Monroe received more welcome news in the form of a call from Gov. Deal’s office.

Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed Macon attorney Jeffery Monroe to fill a judgeship vacancy on Bibb County State Court.

He said he had just returned to the office Thursday from attending the groundbreaking for the new Elaine H. Lucas Senior Center when he got word from his secretary that Deal was on the phone.

Monroe was one of four finalists for the job, created by the retirement of Judge William P. “Bill” Adams this summer.

Chief State Court Judge Jeff Hanson said Monroe will be an asset to the court.

“He is all about public service, and I know that he and I will work well together,” Hanson said. “It is a great day for the State Court.”

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network released a report suggesting Georgia should raise the tax on cigarettes.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network lobbies for public policies to fight cancer. It recommends Georgia raise its excise tax by at least $1.50 on a pack of cigarettes.

Georgia Health News editor Andy Miller believes the additional revenue could help struggling health care providers.

“You could put it into a fund to help rural hospitals in terms of if they have to expand, if they have to upgrade their equipment, recruiting doctors,” Miller says.

He believes the idea of raising the tax in Georgia could gain traction soon.

“The political arithmetic is going to be changing in the next year with the gubernatorial election, and so it may take leadership at the top to make this happen,” he says.

Georgia Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) may have a shot at serving as Chair of the House Budget Committee.

House Republicans tend to stick to seniority when it comes to selecting who will lead committees. Woodall is currently the sixth most senior member on the panel.

The current committee chairwoman, Diane Black, announced Wednesday she plans to run for Tennessee governor. Under a House Republican rule that bars lawmakers from leading committees while they’re running for another office, she’ll eventually need to step down or seek a waiver.

Likewise, the panel’s No. 2 Republican, Todd Rokita, is said to be preparing a bid for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat.

Moving down the list, the next two Republicans, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, are already chairmen of subcommittees on the Appropriations Committee. They’d have to agree to give up those powerful perches to assume the House Budget chairmanship, possible but not all that likely.

That leaves California Republican Tom McClintock and Woodall. McClintock is technically more senior, yes, but the former Freedom Caucus member has voted against his share of budget and government spending bills over the years that party leaders had been pushing. That could very well come back to hurt him as he looks to appeal to those very leaders who help control the House Steering Committee, which selects chairmen.

Vector Space Systems successfully launched a small rocket from the proposed site of the Camden Spaceport.

The rocket was launched at 12:15 p.m. and the rocket parachuted back to the ground still inside property owned by Bayer Crop Sciences that formerly manufactured pesticides there. The company said the launch would not reach 10,000 feet, but John Simpson, a spokesman for Camden County, said he could not provide the exact altitude reached.

Camden County promised two years ago, “we’d make history again. Well today, we did just that,” County Manager Steve Howard said.

The liftoff of Vector-R’s rocket was the first ever commercial launch from Georgia, Howard said, and “we anticipate many more launches at Spaceport Camden in the future.”

The State House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding approved language for an RFP seeking a consultant to study the state’s transit needs.

The chosen consultant will recommend short- and long-term investments in mass transit, as well as a governance structure to oversee the system. In metro Atlanta, an alphabet soup of agencies – MARTA, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, Gwinnett County Transit, CobbLinc – provide various mass transit services. Some lawmakers believe consolidating those agencies might yield better, more efficient service.

The House commission – a group of local and state elected officials and representatives of various transportation agencies – is expected to study such issues for the next year and a half. However, with the consultant’s help, it may identify some interim measures that could be taken up by the General Assembly next year, according to Rep. Kevin Tanner, the commission chairman.

The Atlanta Regional Commission hopes to hear from citizens about improving economic competitiveness.

ARC officials announced they will hold an open house input session from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Aug. 8 at the Gwinnett Chamber. The strategy is being renamed CATLYST — emphasis on the “ATL” — and the goal is to visualize the region’s future and sort out what will be the biggest issues facing metro Atlanta over the next five years.

“Attendees can offer their opinions and can also learn about the strategy, see the results of a regional survey and see highlights of the research to date,” ARC spokesman Jim Jaquish said in an email.

The session will be conducted as a drop-in and drop-out format so residents and business owners can visit the chamber building at any time during the two-hour window to offer their input. The ARC will serve light refreshments for attendees.

A questionnaire can also be found at http://atlantaregional.org/catlyst.

3
Aug

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

16th Amendment

On August 3, 1910, Georgia became the ninth state to ratify the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allows Congress to levy a tax without apportioning it among the states.

Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President on August 3, 1923 after Warren Harding died in office.

On August 3, 1982, Michael Hardwick was arrested, setting in motion the prosecution that would eventually lead to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick.

The World of Coca-Cola opened on August 3, 1990 between Underground Atlanta and the Georgia State Capitol.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal visited Gordon Hospital in Calhoun to talk up the First Steps Georgia program.

Mrs. Deal began her visit meeting with staff of Family Resource Center of Gordon County, showing them the children’s book, “Who I’d Like To Be,” written by 90-year-old Elizabeth Brown, with illustrations by the author’s 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Alexandria Elizabeth Brown. She left several copies of the book to be handed out to new families.

“It’s a nice message,” said Mrs. Deal of the book. “I just love this book. It’s important for parents to read to their children, and this book is a good one for families to read together.”

Mrs. Deal also discussed the importance of childhood immunizations.

“I like to encourage immunizations,” said Mrs. Deal. “I was raised in a time with mumps and measles, so I know what it’s like to go through those things. It’s important to protect our babies and protect our children.”

The hospital received immunization cards from Mrs. Deal to pass on to new mothers. The cards have a section to add any immunizations received and can be conveniently carried in a wallet or purse.

First Steps Georgia is a parenting support service for all families who are expecting a child or who have children less than five years old. First Steps provides universal support services including a localized community resource guide, referrals to relevant resources and age-appropriate information in maternal health, newborn/child health, home and child safety, community and family safety, school readiness and family economic self-sufficiency.

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash attended the beginning of demolition of Olympic Tennis Stadium.

“It is a little bit sad to see a facility like this, that was part of the Olympics in ’96, at the point where it’s time to take it down and do something else, but that’s sort of the circle of life,” said Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash. “A building is just like everything else. It has a lifetime, and at points in time it’s time for it to come to an end and be recycled for another use.”

The county acquired the property from the Stone Mountain Memorial Association in a land swap last fall. Officials announced at that time that the stadium would be demolished so the site could be turned over to developers for redevelopment.

Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood vetoed a rewrite of the city’s alcohol ordinance.

More than a week after Canton City Council members voted to approve a new alcohol ordinance that would allow growler stores to pour alcohol, Mayor Gene Hobgood has vetoed the ordinance on grounds that it is “complicated, confusing and in some cases arbitrary,” according to an official veto.

However, council members will have the opportunity to overrule the mayor’s veto at a special called meeting Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall, as allowed by the city’s charter.

Council members voted to approve the ordinance to permit consumption on premises of retail package stores in historic downtown Canton 5-1 at the last business meeting July 20. Only 25 percent of the business’s profits could come from pouring; 75 percent of revenue would have to come from packaged beer and wine consumed at home, according to the proposed ordinance changes.

In the veto, Hobgood lays out several points, including that the ordinance would allow growler stores to offer craft beer and wine with 13 to 14 percent alcohol content, but no food requirement, that it only applies to the downtown district, it has been redrafted and changed four times already and the 25 percent maximum consumption limit is “arbitrary and has no real foundation for the limit” since it could be challenged in court to extend to the current 40 percent requirement for restaurants.

Hobgood wrote that this amendment would be “the first of its kind in this city which would allow for both package sales and consumption on premises at the same retail establishment.”

DeKalb County Commissioners have objected to Emory University’s attempt to annex itself into the City of Atlanta.

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday to object to Emory’s annexation, invoking a state law requiring arbitration to settle disputes over zoning, density and infrastructure.

If approved, the annexation would add 744 acres to Atlanta’s borders and could lead to city tax money being used to fund a light-rail MARTA line from Lindbergh Station to the university’s campus. The area would remain in DeKalb County, but many services would be taken over by the city.

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond said the county, city, Emory, MARTA and public school systems should negotiate before completing the annexation of the region, which is currently unincorporated.

“The objections submitted by the county should not be seen as opposition to the proposed Emory annexation,” Thurmond said in a statement. “… Our objections are designed to ensure that all the issues associated with the proposed annexation are thoroughly vetted and that citizens have the ability to be informed regarding potential impact on their neighborhoods, communities and the county as a whole.”

Two commissioners left the meeting before the vote: Nancy Jester and Larry Johnson.

Jester said she didn’t agree with protesting the annexation. She said she recused herself from the vote because her husband, Stan Jester, is a member of the DeKalb school board.

“We really need to work on being friends. That’s where we should be, and not trying to make someone stay when they don’t want to,” Jester said. “They’re still going to be in DeKalb County, and there will be services that DeKalb County renders, so how do we make the best of that relationship?”

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) wants to further extend the statute of limitations for some victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Current laws “protect child predators and deny justice to abuse survivors,” said state Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine). Spencer is sponsoring House Bill 605, which would allow victims to sue not only abusers but also institutions that sheltered them.

Spencer led the effort to pass the Hidden Predator Act of 2015, which created a two-year window for victims to sue their abusers even if the statute of limitations had passed. Normally, adults must sue over childhood abuse by age 23.

Thirteen cases were filed under the Hidden Predator Act before it expired June 30.

“I was unaware of how stiff the opposition was,” Spencer said. “The opposition worked the back channels of the legislative process. That is unacceptable with this issue.”

Phrasing.

Five Georgia legislators have been appointed as commissioners to a national conference of states meeting.

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer and House Speaker David Ralston have appointed two Romans among five Georgia commissioners to attend the first national conference of states meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, beginning Sept. 12. Rome attorney and 2016 Republican National Convention delegate David Gulden­schuh and State Senator Chuck Hufstetler-R, of Rome, will be joined by Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, Rep. Andrew Welch, R-McDonough, and Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens.

The conference of states was called for by the Arizona legislature to start the planning for a prospective balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In order to pass such an amendment, 34 states have to pass a resolution calling for the convention and 38 states would have to ratify any proposed amendment.

Columbus State University received a grant from the National Security Agency to develop a cybersecurity training tool.

“The award makes CSU one of the top universities in the nation in providing technologies for cybersecurity workforce development to universities, government and private sector across the nation,” said Shuangbao Wang, a professor in CSU’s TSYS School of Computer Science in a press release.

The tool will be internet-based, allowing it to be accessed anywhere in the world. Wang expects it will eventually be used by global Department of Defense installations and other private and public organizations.

“We are building a tool that people across the nation can use to develop cybersecurity training, which guarantees compliance with government and industry standards for cybersecurity workforce development,” said Wang.

Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez said the city is willing to match job offers for police officers as the municipal-county police merger is undone.

Richmond County Commissioners and Board of Education members approved rollback millage rates for their respective portions of property tax bills.

Fort Gordon will launch a Cyber District as the focal point of anticipated growth in the cyber security industry.

The Alliance for Fort Gordon is announcing today the launch of a partnership among military, business and civic leaders to position the Augusta area to best distribute economic benefits expected with the area’s growing boom in cybersecurity jobs and businesses.

The term “Fort Gordon Cyber District” was coined last year to broadly describe the concept of the new partnership. Now the focus is on fostering what the alliance has called “a unique, welcoming culture combined with advanced technological opportunities to create the ideal environment for technology professionals to live, work, and play.”

With the anticipated rise of cyber-related workers coming to the Augusta area, the new residents will need homes and apartments, convenient places to work and a variety of options on how to spend their leisure time. Partners in the Cyber District are committing to touting and improving those areas of demand.

The Cyber District encompasses Richmond, Columbia, Burke, McDuffie and Lincoln counties in Georgia, and Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina. That includes the Army’s Cyber Center of Excellence and Augusta University’s Cyber Institute.

The Army’s Cyber Command is expected to move to Fort Gordon by 2020 from Fort Belvoir, Va. Also, the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center – designed to promote modernization in cybersecurity through public-private partnerships – is under construction on Reynolds Street downtown.

Billions and Trillions

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) discussed federal funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

Carter, R-1, answered a question from Rotary [Club of St Simons] member Gary Schwartz by saying part of President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan will include harbor dredging, and that he is working to have the ports in Brunswick and Savannah included in that plan.

“Whether we can get it into that trillion, I don’t know. There are a lot of projects out there across this country, and they are expensive,” Carter said. “You’d think a trillion dollars is a lot of money, and it is, but it gets sucked up pretty quick.”

Jennifer Broadus asked what Carter thought about having the states individually run their own health care programs. State sovereignty is more effective than the federal government’s “cookie cutter” approach, he said. A proposal to that effect had been made, but he has not read it yet, he added.

Carter was asked in the final question if there was anything Congress could do to get doctors the resources they need to provide effective health care to all, or at least give doctors more support.

Carter said the primary issue was with Medicaid. The majority of people who were able to get insurance because of the Affordable Care Act were just added to Medicaid, he said. Many of them were able bodied, he said. Medicaid, a state-federal program to insure low-income adults, children and disabled people, was expanded in some states under the ACA. Carter said the once-proposed Republican replacement, the American Health Care Act, would have addressed this.

Southern Company released their latest estimate for a cost to complete two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The full price of expanding Plant Vogtle has swelled to more than $25 billion and the project has slipped further behind schedule in the wake of a key contractor’s bankruptcy, according to estimates disclosed Wednesday by Southern Company.

The Atlanta utility hasn’t made a decision about whether the troubled nuclear expansion should continue.

But in comments during a conference call with investors, Southern CEO Tom Fanning indicated he leans toward recommending to state regulators that it be completed.

“From a lot of scenarios, going forward with nuclear may make sense,” Fanning said.

The $25 billion pricetag is nearly double the original forecast of about $14 billion to add two reactors to the two already at Vogtle.

From BusinessInSavannah.com,

If work goes forward, the completion of Unit 3 would now go from June 2019 to sometime between February 2021 and March 2022, according to the schedule. The prospects of bringing Unit 4 online would go from June 2020 to somewhere between February 2022 and March 2023.

The cost to Georgia Power would increase anywhere from $1 billion to $1.7 billion, raising the company’s commitment for its 45 percent share of the project from $5.7 billion to anywhere from $6.7 billion to $7.4 billion. The company projected it would cost $400 million to cancel the project.

After the company makes its report to the commission, a final decision on whether to proceed is expected by the end of the year, according to commission chairman Stan Wise.

While the economics should make sense for the decision, there is also where the project fits in terms of the state’s desire to have a diversity of fuel sources in its overall energy plan, Fanning said. For Georgia, “nuclear is important,” he said.

Coweta County is considering a property tax millage rate increase to fund additional public safety positions.

Coweta County is considering a property tax increase of 8.6 percent, and three public hearings are scheduled on the proposed increase.

Hearings will be Aug. 8 at 6 p.m., Aug. 22 at 7:30 a.m. and Aug. 22 at 6 p.m. The hearings will be held in the county commission chambers, upstairs at 37 Perry St. in downtown Newnan.

The county is proposing the increase in the millage rate to fund 44 new public safety positions.

County staff are proposing 26 new positions at the Coweta County Fire Department along with two additional ambulances, and 18 new positions for the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office.

The new fire department positions will be budgeted as 12 emergency medical positions and 14 firefighter positions, said Coweta County Administrator Michael Fouts. The two new ambulances will bring the county’s total to nine.

The county has applied for a federal grant that will cover 75 percent of the personnel costs for the new fire and EMS positions for two years, and 35 percent for the third year. If the county receives the grant, the money from the millage rate increase will first go toward the county’s portion of the salaries, and the rest into a fund to pay for the future personnel costs for the positions.

Healthcare

Don McKee at the Marietta Daily Journal reviews the thinking on how Georgia can proceed on healthcare funding.

Gov. Nathan Deal says his administration will consider Medicaid waivers, which allow a state to try new ways to deliver and pay for services provided by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.Waivers from the federal government would mean the state could get federal funds with more flexibility on how to spend them — and, hopefully, do a better job of it.

Deal indicated in late June that options to be explored could include changing the “mandated minimum coverage” requirements of Medicaid.

But Georgia should follow the lead of other states, says state Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, co-chairman of the House Rural Development Council, as Georgia Health News reported. “There’s no point in reinventing the wheel,” he said at a Bainbridge meeting. As for expecting action by Congress, Powell said: “We can’t wait for them. I mean, hopefully they’ll do something that makes sense, but if we wait for them, we’re going to lose another eight hospitals. So we can’t wait for them.” That’s for sure.

A story by Elly Yu at WABE explains how Medicaid waivers work.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said the state is in a crisis, citing rural hospital closures in recent years and high healthcare costs.

“It’s a crisis and if we take one tool off, and say — ‘Well, we’re not going to look at that, we don’t like that,’ — I think that’s not a good thing. I think that everything should be on the table,” Unterman said.

Medicaid waivers allow states to “waive” certain requirements under the law and allow them flexibility with Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, elderly and people with disabilities.

“They’ve been used over many years to allow states an avenue to test new approaches in Medicaid that, of course, differ from the program rules that are part of federal law,” said Robin Rudowitz, associate director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

Unterman said she’s expecting to see the issue of waivers come up in next year’s legislative session. Two committees in the legislature are currently looking at rural health and healthcare.

“We need to move forward, and we need to be proactive and we need to be ready for the session to start in 2018,” she said.

Monroe County Commissioners and Hospital Authority members voted to approve $10 million in bonds to support their local hospital.

Chairman of the Monroe County Commission Greg Tapley said the commission is upholding the wishes of Monroe County residents to keep the hospital up and running.

“They wanted to save the hospital and that’s part of what we’re going tonight,” Tapley said.

In a March special election, residents voted for a tax increase to “support the availability of health care services at the Monroe County Hospital.”

Bond attorneys issued $6.2 million in taxable bonds to pay off the existing line of credit and hospital debt.

The other $3.9 million is tax-exempt for renovations to keep the hospital financially successful in the future. The bonds will close on Aug. 10.

2
Aug

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

Georgia delegates Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.

On August 2, 1983, the United States House of Representatives voted to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday on the third monday in January.

President Barack Obama visited Georgia on August 2, 2010 – his first trip to Atlanta and second to Georgia after his election in November 2008. The occasion of his 2010 trip, like his trip to Atlanta in 2016, was to deliver a speech to the Disabled American Veterans Conference at the Hyatt Regency. From his 2010 speech:

As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.  Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised and on schedule….

As agreed to with the Iraqi government, we will maintain a transitional force until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

At the same time, every American who has ever worn the uniform must also know this: Your country is going to take care of you when you come home. Our nation’s commitment to our veterans, to you and your families, is a sacred trust. And to me and my administration, upholding that trust is a moral obligation. It’s not just politics.

That’s why I’ve charged Secretary Shinseki with building a 21st century VA.  And that includes one of the largest percentage increases to the VA budget in the past 30 years. We are going to cut this deficit that we’ve got, and I’ve proposed a freeze on discretionary domestic spending. But what I have not frozen is the spending we need to keep our military strong, our country safe and our veterans secure. So we’re going to keep on making historic commitments to our veterans.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal visited new mothers at Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton.

“I just wanted to talk to them about how important it is that we protect our babies and what we can do to protect them,” Deal said. “We talked about putting the baby in a crib and letting it sleep on its back. They used to advise letting them sleep on their tummies, but now we know it’s safer for them to sleep on their back.”

Georgia’s Safe Sleep program says that babies should sleep alone, on their backs and in a crib, with a firm, flat mattress and no toys or other items in the crib. That reduces the risk of sleep-related deaths. Georgia’s First Steps program provides new mothers with a small crib.

“We also talked about the importance of immunizations,” Deal said.

Deal noted that many childhood illnesses such as whooping cough are seeing a resurgence. She said that those illnesses can be fatal and it’s important for children to get their scheduled immunizations and for adults who care for children to also be up-to-date on their immunizations.

“We also talked about how important it is for them (mothers) to talk to their children, to not only teach them vocabulary but also teach them how to listen,” she said.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session spoke yesterday to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE) Annual Convention.

Sessions spoke about the Justice Department’s “commitment to support law enforcement and reinforce the rule of law.”

“I’m here on behalf of President Trump and the Department of Justice to say thank you,” Sessions told attendees. “The Department of Justice is proud to stand with you.”

“We have your back, we are in this together. We cannot restore public safety in our country if we are not united,” Sessions said. “We can all agree that you are safer on your rounds when everyone respects law enforcement. The communities you serve are safer if everyone respects law enforcement.”

“It hasn’t been my best week for my relationship with the president,” Sessions told The Associated Press. “But I believe with great confidence that I understand what’s needed in the Department of Justice and what President Trump wants. I share his agenda.”

Freshman State Representative Meagan Hanson spoke about her first year in the General Assembly.

Christopher Wray was confirmed by the Senate as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Wray led the Justice Department’s criminal division during the George W. Bush administration before he transitioned to private practice at the Atlanta-based mega-firm King & Spalding, where he built ties with some of Georgia’s largest corporations.

From the New York Times:

The 92-to-5 vote to confirm Mr. Wray, a former federal prosecutor, is likely to be a relief to many agents at the F.B.I. who want a strong director to stave off any attempts by the White House to meddle in its investigations. The deteriorating relationship between Mr. Trump and the previous F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, was widely viewed as harmful to the bureau.

“Now more than ever, the bureau needs a resolute and independent leader,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Christopher Wray has assured us he can be that leader.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue embarks on a five-state Midwestern tour.

The secretary of agriculture will travel to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana on a Back to our Roots tour to gather feedback on the 2018 farm bill, according to a news release.

Perdue, Georgia’s former governor, will be meeting with farmers, ranchers, foresters and political leaders as he also looks for ways to increase rural prosperity.

Perdue is scheduled to arrive Thursday in Wisconsin, where he will appear with Gov. Scott Walker at the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair and plans to meet later with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul announced he will seek reelection in November.

I want to complete the City Springs project, making sure we stand it up successfully.

Three other goals are: 1) implementing the current transportation initiative approved by voters and push a regional mass transit solution that offers true mobility options for residents; 2) ensuring the land use protections and commitments we’ve made to our residents in The Next Ten project are followed; and 3) gaining more control over the water system serving the City. We pay water rates well above the norm, we have water leaks that go unrepaired for weeks, months and years, while our fire hydrants are often impaired or have low pressure. This is truly a life and death concern.

Joe Musselwhite will run for Mayor of Warner Robins against incumbent Randy Toms.

Musselwhite, 64, said Tuesday that he will make a formal announcement next week that he is seeking the office. Mayor Randy Toms has said he will seek re-election to another term.

Musselwhite made the runoff against Toms in the 2013 election that began with six candidates, but he lost, with Toms getting 3,159 votes to Musselwhite’s 1,662.

Representative Karen Handel spoke to the Georgia Tea Party.

“It’s unfortunate in the world of the media right now. Many outlets now, their compensation package is based on clicks to an article, and that puts intense pressure to have the most salacious things that you can cover,” Handel said. “And I don’t necessarily put that in the lap of the individual reporter as much as I do with the management at a particular media outlet.”

The Roswell Republican made her remarks during a special meeting of the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party.

On issues closer to home, the congresswoman gave a shoutout to Cobb Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Bob Ott, both of whom were present, not just for their support, but for voting down a proposed county property tax increase last week.

“They went to bat for Cobb County,” Handel said to applause.

Hall County‘s Service Delivery Strategy with its municipalities was approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Madison County Commissioners are considering whether to raise the property tax millage rate in order to boost reserves.

The state recommends that counties Madison County’s size have two to three months of operating budget in reserves for emergencies such as a natural disasters or a government shutdown, something the county had just a few years ago.

This year, new Chairman John Scarborough said reserves are virtually non-existent.

Since 2011, the county has steadily pulled money from reserves each year. In 2011, the amount pulled was $379,000; last year over $1 million was required to cover the deficit.

Finance Department Director Kathy Clark came up with “four scenarios” for how the board might proceed.
Those scenarios ranged from keeping the status quo with the mill rate remaining at 14.266, to increasing it up to two mills.

Scarborough also asked the board to continue to think about things that could be cut in 2018.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a deal to allow documentary cameras from an A&E show to follow county police detectives.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a request from producers of the A&E network show “The First 48” on Tuesday to give filming crews access to the county’s police department as its detectives investigate murders. The commission had postponed a vote on the request last month because of questions about the agreement.

“I had some reservations related to previous documentary programs that the county had been involved with,” Commissioner John Heard said. “But after discussions with (Police Chief Butch Ayers and County Administrator Glenn Stephens), those reservations are overcome by the fact that we do have a great police department (and) we do have a great homicide investigation team.”

The name of the show refers to the first 48 hours of a homicide investigation, with camera crews following investigators at various law enforcement agencies as they work to develop leads in the early stage of a homicide investigation.

Georgia Public Service Commission Chair Stan Wise wrote about the reactor construction at Plant Vogtle after SCANA in South Carolina abandoned construction of two reactors.

“It is my hope that we do not retreat from nuclear power,” Wise wrote. “It is critical that we keep our fuel mix diversified, especially considering the exodus from coal and the growing reliance on natural gas, the prices of which have fluctuated in extremes during my tenure.”

Wise said renewable energy is important, but not yet reliable enough to be practical. He said nuclear power has high initial costs, but ultimately pays off with cheaper and cleaner energy.

“Today, Vogtle units 1 and 2 are the pride of the Georgia Power fleet and time has proven the critics wrong,” Wise said. “Vogtle is producing a kilowatt hour 2.8 times cheaper than the best natural gas combined cycle, 3.3 times cheaper than the best coal unit, and 6.8 times cheaper than the best gas combustion turbine unit.”

“And yes, it is true consumers have been paying as construction work is in progress, just as we all do with most water systems and other large public infrastructure projects,” Wise wrote. “We all benefit today from the investments made by generations before us. By spreading these costs over time, borrowing costs are lower and consumers are not hit with rate shock when the plants come on line.”

Wise said the similarities between Summer and Vogtle are less significant than they may seem.

He said Georgia Power has three times as many customers as the SCANA affiliate that owns the majority of the South Carolina plant. That means the impact on customers has been lower in Georgia — 5 percent here compared to 18 percent there, he said.

In Georgia, there are four co-owners of the Vogtle plant, compared to just two in South Carolina, he said, and Vogtle is guaranteed more money from Toshiba to reduce the impact on customers than Summers, $3.7 billion compared to $2.2 billion.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Once the commission receives that report, its staff will begin working on it and Wise said he expects a decision on whether the project should move forward by early December.

One of the outstanding issues that could affect the project, whether to extend production tax credits that could aid the project past its current 2020 expiration date, has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives but is still awaiting action by the U.S. Senate. That is one of the things that will be included in the analysis, Hawkins said.

But Wise said there is generally a favorable view in Washington, D.C., of the the tax credits and encouraging new nuclear power.

“I believe Congress has continued to be supportive of the extension of the (production tax credits),” he said. “I believe the White House is appropriately supportive of that as well.”

Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry echoed that at a June news conference.

“This administration believes that nuclear energy development can be a game-changer and an important player in the development of our clean-energy portfolio globally,” he said. “One of the things we want to do at DOE is to make nuclear energy cool again.”

Buford Commissioners are considering adopting a property tax millage rate higher than the rollback rate.

The Buford Board of Commissioners is set to adopt a millage rate of 12.80 mills for 2017, an increase of .580 mills over the rollback rate, which will result in an increase in property taxes of 4.75 percent.

The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $200,000 is approximately $46.40 and the proposed tax increase for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $550,000 is approximately $127.60.

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) appeared in Rome yesterday.

He started the morning with a tour of one of the county’s large employers, Redmond Regional Medical Center, then headed to his office for a personal meeting with Kathy Melton of Rockmart and her family. He presented Melton with a set of medals earned by her deceased father, Johnnie Brooks, who served in Africa during World War II, along with a copy of his military records.

“Veterans don’t always share a lot of their stories, and sometimes this is the first time families have ever heard about their service,” he told Melton as she beamed with pride.

Lunch was at Red Lobster, with the Floyd County Republican Women and the 50 or so party stalwarts drawn by the announcement that he’d be their speaker this month.

Graves had the group help him call off the Georgians tapped for important jobs in the Trump Administration — new FBI Director Christopher Wray, Health And Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers, to name a few. Graves’ own former scheduler, Morgan Joyce, is now deputy assistant scheduler for the secretary of state.

“Rex Tillerson stole her,” he laughed.

His reference to Pence drew applause, and he spoke of the locally organized September 2016 rally that Pence headlined in Dalton. The event came up, he said, during a recent flight on Air Force Two he shared with the vice president.

“When he sees me, he thinks of Northwest Georgia,” Graves said. “The rally here was the largest single rally for him in the country. Mike has never forgotten that, so he loves Georgia.”

Healthcare

Rep. Tom Graves spoke about federal healthcare legislation at Redmond Medical Center in Rome.

After close to seven years of talk about the repeal and replacement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — Graves said the GOP majority still has not found an alternative that can pass both the U.S. House and Senate.

Graves said the solutions have to be broad-based and the system in place now is missing affordable coverage for families.

“This is where a lot of families were misled in the original debate, the deductible argument was never brought up,” Graves said. He suggested allowing individuals to deduct from taxes the cost of insurance just like businesses do would be a good starting point.

State Senator Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) spoke about rural healthcare challenges in Georgia.

Sen. Burke stressed the importance of saving the local hospital as it is a necessary tool for economic development to occur.

Speaking of economic development, there is another public area of note. A rural investment tax credit for up to $60,000,000 million dollars, that is state-wide and is for economic development, not health care is considered very controversial. He said most legislators do not like tax credits cause it takes money out of their pocket to spend, “so the less we have to spend, the less influence we have with our constituents. So it is hard to get a tax credit bill through the legislature. That one did win, last minute, by one vote. I am hoping that can be another tool for small towns to use to get businesses to locate in their communities.”

He stated that Georgia rates 49th in most studies of health outcomes. “In other words, we are sicker as a state than most other states in the country.” Most of the problem is no doubt the type of food we enjoy. But the focus is to help people practice better health.

Sen. Burke expressed his thanks to the community, and especially the political leaders who stepped up and supported our local hospital to receive $2.5 million to make necessary improvements.

He said, “We can make Bainbridge great. Atlanta can’t do it, nor can Washington, DC; but Bainbridge will make Bainbridge greater.”

Andy Miller of Georgia Health News looks at a community’s efforts to keep their hospital open.

Elbert County commissioners are holding public hearings this week and next on a proposed one-mill property tax increase for one year to raise about $500,000 to offset the Elberton hospital’s costs for indigent care.

Without the money, the 52-bed hospital will close, officials warn. That would eliminate more than 200 jobs, and residents would have to travel more than 30 miles to the nearest hospital. A closure would jolt the mostly rural county’s economy.

Elbert Memorial lost $1.5 million in its last fiscal year, CEO Jim Yarborough said Tuesday. “Our concern is that charity care and bad debt are trending upward,” he said. Yarborough calls the financial crunch facing many Georgia hospitals “a silent epidemic.”

The hospital’s predicament demonstrates how counties and hospitals depend on each other financially, and how revenue pressure on each is creating an unprecedented squeeze.

Hospitals are facing lower reimbursements from government programs and private health insurers, along with high levels of uninsured and underinsured patients.

But another key issue is Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid, hospital execs say.

Reimbursement reductions for hospitals “translate into an unfunded mandate onto the county,” Lewis added. “Rural unemployment rates are so high there’s no millage capacity to support the unfunded mandate.”

Opioid overdoses are taking a toll on Emergency Management Services, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Opioid overdoses in Whitfield County are on the rise this year, says Scott Radeker, director of Hamilton Emergency Medical Services.

So far this year, Hamilton paramedics have administered Narcan, a drug that blocks the effects of opioids, 70 times. By comparison, they used Narcan 85 times in all of 2016 and 95 times in 2015. There have been individuals who have received the drug on more than one occasion but that number is not tracked.

“We are on a pace to almost double last year,” Radeker said.

“This is a problem everywhere, and Dalton isn’t immune,” said state Rep. Bruce Broadrick, R-Dalton, himself a pharmacist.

“If we get to the scene and see powder, we do have to take precautions,” [Radeker] said. “If it become airborne and someone inhales it, it can be quite toxic. We haven’t had to deal with that yet, but I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time.”

Georgia’s 911 Medical Amnesty Law allows people to call 911 for help with overdoses without fear of arrest for drug or alcohol possession.

More than one-third of US Adults were prescribed opioid painkillers in 2015.

Researchers found that more than one third of U.S. adults were prescribed the medications in 2015 and many also misused the drugs.

“A very large proportion and large number of adults use these medications in a given year,” said study author Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland. “I was still a bit surprised that 38 percent or about 92 million people used prescription opioids in 2015.”