Category: Georgia Politics

4
Jan

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

Georgia and American History

Utah was admitted as the 45th state on January 4, 1896. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959.

On January 4, 1965, shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson delivered the State of the Union and outlined his plan for a “Great Society.”

“He requested ‘doubling the war against poverty this year’ and called for new emphasis on area redevelopment, further efforts at retraining unskilled workers, an improvement in the unemployment compensation system and an extension of the minimum wage floor to two million workers now unprotected by it. … He called for new, improved or bigger programs in attacking physical and mental disease, urban blight, water and air pollution, and crime and delinquency.”

The Great Society legislation included “War on Poverty” programs, many created under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which established jobs and youth volunteer programs as well as Head Start, which provided pre-school education for poor children. Johnson’s social welfare legislation also consisted of the formation of Medicare and Medicaid, which offered health care services for citizens over 65 and low-income citizens, respectively. In addition, the Great Society included the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Voting Rights Act of 1968.

On Jnuary 4, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon refused to turn over tapes recorded in the Oval Office to the Senate Watergate Committee.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House on January 4, 1995, the third Georgian to wield the gavel. This marked the first time in more than forty years that Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.

On January 4, 1999, in DeKalb County, State Court Judge Al Wong became the first Asian-American judge in Georgia and the Southeast.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting continues in Senate District 54 in the upper left-hand corner of Georgia in a Special Runoff Election.

Early votes cast in December 2016

mail in person
52 1070

Early votes cast as of yesterday:

mail in person
159 941

Today, legislative committees will meet at the state capitol.

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS PUBLIC SAFETY 506 CLOB
8:30 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 406 CLOB
9:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HEALTH 341 CAP
9:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS GENERAL GOVRNMENT 606 CLOB
9:30 AM Senate Emergency Cardiac Care Centers 450 CAP
9:45 AM Opiod Abuse Senate Study Committee 450 CAP
11:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HIGHER EDUCATION 341 CAP
1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS EDUCATION 341 CAP

Governor Nathan Deal appointed three replacement members to the Dooly County Board of Education. Deal previously suspended all five members of the Dooly BOE.

Rev. F. Thomas (Tommy) Mason Jr.
Mason is a retired United Methodist minister. He is serving the Methodist church in Leslie at the request of his district superintendent. While an active minister, Mason served a number of large congregations, was Macon District Superintendent and held positions in the South Georgia Conference that required financial management and oversight of conference assets and benefit programs. Prior to entering the ministry, he operated an insurance agency in Vienna and Cordele. Mason is a graduate of the Dooly County school system, Georgia Tech and Emory University. He resides in Vienna.

Dr. Wanda Parker-Jackson
Parker-Jackson is a retired educator with 34 years of experience. She previously served as director of elementary education and professional learning in Sumter County and managed the district preschool program. Parker-Jackson has also worked as a school principal, assistant principal and speech-language pathologist. She also has experience as a faculty member as several institutes of higher education. Parker-Jackson is a graduate of Florida A&M Developmental Research High School, Florida A&M University, Valdosta State University, Troy State University and Walden University. She lives in Vienna.

Michael Bowens
Bowens is the city manager for the City of Vienna. He previously worked with Georgia Pacific. Bowens previously served on the Dooly County Board of Education (1991-2002) and the board of the directors for the Dooly County Chamber of Commerce. He sits on the boards of directors for the Southwest Georgia United Empowerment Zone and the Certified Literate Community. Bowens is a member of the Dooly County Industrial Development Authority and the Upper Flint Regional Water Planning Council. He is a graduate of Georgia Southwestern State University and resides in Vienna.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle appointed former Forsyth County Commissioner Brian Tam to the reconstituted Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Under legislation passed last year that took effect Jan. 1, the lieutenant governor—for the first time in the JQC’s history—was given two appointees to the seven-member commission, which investigates the state’s judges for ethics infractions and recommends disciplinary action when warranted. His second appointment must be a member of the State Bar of Georgia and can be drawn from a list of recommendations proposed by the bar. Cagle spokesman Adam Sweat said the lieutenant governor, who is also president of the state Senate, has not yet made that appointment.

The new law also for the first time gives the House speaker two appointments and allows the governor to appoint the JQC chairman, who must be a lawyer and a member of the Georgia bar.

Cagle in a news release called Tam “one of Forsyth County’s most successful small business owners” and “a dedicated public servant committed to advancing the interests of his state” who will be “a great asset for Georgia as we work to ensure our judicial system upholds the highest ethical and moral standards.”

Tam’s appointment must be approved by the state Senate under the new constitutional amendment.

The Georgia Ports Authority is investing in a $128 million project to enhance rail connectivity with the Norfolk Southern and CSX railroad.

The arc project will double rail capacity in Savannah and improve its link to Atlanta and cities in the Midwest.

The Mid-American Arc project will improve connections at the Port of Savannah and allow for the construction of 10,000-foot long trains, about 50 percent longer than your average freight train.

The project is funded in part by a $44 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Georgia Ports Authority executive director Griff Lynch says this will mean it can move goods from ships that arrive in Savannah to places like Atlanta even faster.

Fulton Superior Court Chief Judge Gail Tusan ruled that the Georgia Board of Regents must use federal standards in determining a student’s eligibility for in-state tuition.

Georgia residents who have received a special reprieve from deportation from the Obama administration may begin paying in-state tuition here under a state court ruling released Tuesday. At issue is the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which grants work permits and temporary deportation deferrals to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children without authorization.

University System of Georgia officials, [Judge Tusan] wrote, are “hereby compelled to perform their duty in applying the federal definition of lawful presence as it relates to students who are DACA recipients and to grant them in-state tuition status.”

“Defendants have refused to accept the federally established lawful presence of plaintiffs and many other similarly situated students — students who are Georgia taxpayers, workers, and graduates of

Georgia public high schools pursuing an affordable option for higher education,” Tusan wrote in her decision, which was issued Friday. “Such refusal of a faithful performance of their duties is unreasonable and creates a defect of legal justice that has already negatively impacted thousands of Georgia students.”

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) intends to move forward and introduce a Constitutional Amendment to allow some form of cannabis production in Georgia, subject to a statewide vote.

State Rep. Allen Peake said he is going to ask fellow lawmakers for a 2018 referendum that would allow growing cannabis for medicinal purposes. He said he plans to file legislation at the state Capitol on the proposed referendum as early as next week.

“We would let the citizens of the state decide whether to go down this path or not,” Peake said.

Peake has championed the in-state growth of cannabis plants and the manufacture of some products for sale to Georgia patients. He said the liquid has worked for people who need it.

But opposition to in-state growth has been strong, notably from Gov. Nathan Deal, a fellow Republican, and from law enforcement agencies.

Peake said he’s optimistic that he can get the votes of the two-thirds of legislators that the idea needs before the question can appear on Georgia’s ballots.

Peake said he is working on another piece of legislation, one that would expand the list of diagnoses for which a patient could possess medical cannabis. He’s looking at opening the medical cannabis registry to people who have autism, AIDS, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder or Tourette’s syndrome.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a $1.56 billion dollar FY 2017 budget for county government.

Houston County voters will go to the polls on March 21, 2017 to vote on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

The tax referendum, which is up for a vote March 21, includes $10 million for a new State Court building. That would also give some much-needed new space to the sheriff’s department, the tax commissioner’s office and other departments, officials say.

The new State Court would be built on the north end of the main Houston County courthouse in Perry. It would give the court about twice the size of its current 10,216 square feet, including room for the clerk of court, solicitors office and probation office. It would also mean that prisoners would no longer have to be transported from the county jail, which is in the rear of the Perry courthouse.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis voted to break a 5-5 tie between City Commissioners.

Augusta ambulance provider Gold Cross lost another round Tuesday when Mayor Hardie Davis broke a tie against restoring $520,000 cut from the firm’s city subsidy in the 2017 budget.

His motion to restore the funds tied 5-5 with Mayor Pro Tem Mary Davis and commissioners Sean Frantom, Grady Smith and Marion Williams joining him in voting yes.

The mayor didn’t comment before or after his vote but earlier distributed notebooks to each commissioner detailing the city’s history with Gold Cross, dating to its bid award and $1.3 million subsidy in 2005 and steps Gold Cross took to win the zone. It also noted the overlap of certain personnel between the city, Gold Cross and the Region 6 EMS Council, which made the zone decision.

Warner Robins City Council voted to extend the wait period before new employees can be promoted.

Chatham County Commissioners were sworn in for new terms this week. Two new judges were also sworn in.

Chatham County Probate Judge Harris Lewis and Superior Court Clerk Dan Masseystepped aside as attorney Tom Bordeaux Jr. and Tammie Mosley took their oaths of office before being quickly followed by Sheriff John Wilcher, District Attorney Meg Heap and Tax Commissioner Danny Powers.

Incumbent Superior Court judges James F. Bass Jr., Penny Haas Freesemann and John E. Morse Jr. also took new oaths of office.

3
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 3, 2016

Georgia & American History

On January 1, 1751, the law prohibiting slavery in Georgia was repealed after an act passed by the Georgia Trustees the previous year.

On January 2, 1766, some Sons of Liberty marched on the Royal Governor’s Mansion in Savannah to “discuss” the Stamp Act, which required the use of stamped paper for all printing as a means of taxing the colonies. They were met by a pistol-toting Governor Wright. The next day, January 3, 1766, the Royal Stamp Master arrived at Tybee Island and was taken to the Governor’s Mansion. On that day, Georgia became the first and only colony in which the stamp tax was actually collected.

Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution on January 2, 1788.

Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts became the first United States Senator to be censured by the body on January 2, 1811.

Delaware, technically at the time a slave state, rejected a proposal to secede from the United States on January 3, 1861.

The Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect in eleven Southern states on January 1, 1863, though parts of Virginia and Louisiana were exempt.

On January 3, 1973, Andrew Young was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman from Georgia since 1871.

Remains of a ship believed to date to the 1800s were found on a beach at Cumberland Island.

A wooden ship from the mid-1800s, possibly a Civil War blockade runner, recently has been discovered along the beach at Cumberland Island — a previously unreported find that locals, archaeologists and parks officials believe could be a major historical discovery.

The unknown vessel lay in the shallow waters of Cumberland, a barrier island off Georgia’s southeastern coast. Officials surmise a December storm shifted enough sand to make visible the ship’s bones — its wooden gunnel, or midsection, lying exposed like the ribs of a dead cow.

[National Park Service archaeologist Michael] Seibert estimated the ship had lain untouched and covered by sand for at least 50 years. Sheltered from the sun and the wind, the vessel’s remains — one timber measures 80 feet in length, suggesting the ship was at least 100 feet long — are in relatively fine condition.

“There was an awful lot of Civil War military traffic along the coast (with) many smaller vessels that were all about stealth and speed,” said Chris McCabe, the deputy archaeologist for the state of Georgia. “We can’t say definitively that it’s a blockade runner, and we may never be able to say definitively, but it’s an absolute possibility.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former Governor Sonny Perdue appears to be the leading candidate for Secretary of Agriculture in the Trump Administration.

Drew Ferguson (R-LaGrange) will be sworn in as the Congressman from the Third District today in Washington, DC.

“I’m excited for the work ahead and honored to be going to Washington, D.C. to serve the people,” Ferguson said Saturday. “I’m optimistic for the district, for Georgia and for the nation. America has a lot of work to do. People expect Congress to start getting it right. I believe we will.”

It’s been a time of big changes for Ferguson prior to today’s event. He sold his dental practice, per House ethics rules. He and his wife Buffy sold their house and moved closer to West Point’s reenergized downtown, where just about any restaurant of your choosing is within walking distance.

He knows who he’ll represent when he begins his term today. He knows transportation issues around here mean finding ways for people to get to work and improving routes from West Georgia to the coast. Uber is not a pressing issue. Neither are driverless cars, unless someone invents an automatic pulpwood truck.

“I’d like to work myself into a position where I can do something about poverty and the entitlement programs and bring in some real-world ideas,” he said. “We can’t get rid of entitlement programs, but we do have to make them more effective. This government has kept people in poverty.”

In the meantime, he’s hoping to land a spot on the House transportation committee or the energy and commerce committee in his first term. Transportation issues are vital to Georgia and the district, he said.

“We’ve got the interstate. We’ve got the automotive manufacturing industry. We’ve got something as forward-thinking as the Ray,” he said. The Ray is the stretch of interstate near West Point called the Ray C. Anderson Memorial Highway with a series of initiatives planned to improve safety and environmental standards in transportation.

State Senator Elect Matt Brass (R-Coweta) spoke to the Newnan Times-Herald about his priorities for the legislative session.

“There are so many different areas where we have been able to help people. That is probably the most rewarding part of public service for me,” Brass said.

Work to get a law passed may not show results for years. But the evidence of constituent service is immediate.

“When you help a veteran get the benefits that he deserves, that’s instant gratification for him and for yourself,” he said.

Legislators typically get assigned to four committees. Freshman apply for eight that they would like to serve on.

Two large electrical plants, Yates and Wansley, are in the district, so Brass has asked for Regulated Industries and Utilities. He’d like to serve on Health and Human Services because Coweta is becoming a health care destination.

He’s asked for Natural Resources and Environment, and Education and Youth, as well as Veteran’s Affairs. Working with Westmoreland’s office, Brass had a lot of interaction with the U.S. Veteran’s Administration and local veterans.

“For me, as a conservative, pro-life Republican, if I’m going to fight to keep children alive, I want to make sure they’re living well while they are here,” he said.

State Representative Elect Josh Bonner (R) joins Brass as a freshman in the state legislature.

Though he won’t know which committees he’s will be assigned to until probably the end of the first week of the session, he is hoping for the Veteran’s Affairs, Economic Development and Tourism and Utilities and Telecommunications committees. He’s also put education and small business committees on his wish list.

Bonner said he thinks the area of government where he can make the biggest impact is workforce development. He and his brother run Southeast Properties, a commercial real estate and property management company started by their father and a partner.

“In every industry I have spoken with there has been this shortfall in a viable workforce,” Bonner said. “There are a lot of good things going on in Georgia with technical schools and internships and job training programs, including Coweta’s German-style apprenticeship and the Central Educational Center. There’s the Georgia Film Academy program at Pinewood Studios in Fayette and Piedmont-Fayette has a program for high school students,” he said.

“We need to try to get a little more attention to those and really look at what jobs can be filled by people in Georgia,” Bonner continued.

The AJC characterizes the 2017 Session of the Georgia General Assembly as one of uncertainty.

[L]awmakers face more uncertainty than at any time in recent years when they head into the 2017 session on Jan. 9. The election of the entirely unconventional Donald Trump as president, and a GOP Congress itching to make major changes in how government programs operate and are funded, have seen to that.

Nowhere might the impact show up more quickly than in the state’s budget, which is heavily padded with federal funding and is the financial lifeblood for millions of Georgians who rely on public money for education, health care, transportation and policing.

Will the new Congress quickly pass a stimulus plan that sends a torrent of money to the state for road and bridge projects? Will it change the formula for funding programs by sending “block grants,” chunks of money with fewer strings attached? Will tax laws be changed, making an impact on the state’s bottom line, and will complicated, big-money health care programs such as Medicaid for the poor and elderly be rewritten?

None of that may occur anytime soon. Or all of it could affect the General Assembly enough over the next few months that lawmakers call a temporary halt to the session or hold a special session later in the year to deal with any changes Congress makes.

I think that last paragraph hits something I’ve been talking about a lot lately – will the Session be extended to end later in the year or is a special session a real possibility?

I believe that the 2017 legislative session is likely to adjourn sine die before the end of March, but I can’t for the life of me think of how the state writes a budget consisting of roughly half federal dollars without knowing how the Trump administration will change Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and infrastructure funding.

Back to that AJC story:

“Budget writers are always nervous about uncertainty,” said Carolyn Bourdeaux, the director of Georgia State University’s Center for State and Local Finance and a former Georgia Senate budget director.

As House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, said, “We really have no clue.

“I personally think we go in and we see whether or not Trump’s 100-day agenda looks like it’s on the rails and is actually going to happen,” he said. “Then we have to consider what to do if it is.”

I think the only way for the legislature to “consider what to do” after the first 100 days of the Trump administration is in a special session devoted to budgetary changes and any substantive changes that accompany a budget update.

Georgia’s Republican National Committeeman Randy Evans, apparently channeling President-elect Trump’s social media voice, thinks it’s the AJC that’s gone off the rails, posting on Facebook:

The clueless AJC – actually the single most dominant dynamic for the next Ga. session is the beginning of the 2018 election cycle as legislators in both parties start positioning for their spot as the musical chairs begin with term limited Gov. Deal’s departure.

The only thing missing is a closing exclamation. Sad!

State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) told the AJC that religious liberty is likely to be an issue in the session.

“I’m coordinating with the House members and Senate members to see who’s going to introduce legislation and see where everyone is on it,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, who has become the most public face of the effort over the past three years. “You’ll see religious freedom bills introduced in both chambers.”

McKoon might find some of his colleagues are less interested in reliving the battles of the past few years. McKoon himself is expected to lose his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee (a direct result of his outspoken support for religious liberty bills), and Republican leaders in the Senate, who have publicly supported past years’ efforts, have indicated that “religious liberty” is not among their top priorities for 2017.

“The Metro Atlanta Chamber wants to work with the General Assembly and Governor Deal to advocate for policies that will strengthen Georgia’s reputation as the No. 1 state in the nation for business,” said Katie Kirkpatrick, the chamber’s chief policy officer. “That means a great education for the workforce of tomorrow, continuing to support additional transportation options and working to ensure that Georgia remains a welcoming place for all people.”

Late in November, the outgoing chairman of the chamber’s board, SunTrust Banks Executive Vice President Jenner Wood, said the group would fight “religious liberty” bills again. The conversation alone over the legislation, which critics deride as discriminatory toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, is damaging to the state’s reputation of tolerance and inclusion, Wood said.

“We are not supportive of any bill that in any way would discriminate against any person,” Wood said in a media briefing ahead of the chamber’s annual meeting in November.

Former Republican State Rep. Roger Hines writes in the Marietta Daily Journal about religious liberty legislation.

The deplorable-elite divide has another context besides the Trump-Clinton presidential race. That context is the religious freedom and transgender issue that still simmers across the heartland. The 80 percent of evangelicals who voted for Trump are sure to be emailing and ringing up their state legislators in a matter of days. They still believe it’s indecorous and dangerous for a man to enter a women’s restroom simply because he “identifies” as a woman.

The elites in the religious freedom and transgender debate are, among others, the Chamber of Commerce, corporate heads, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and The National Collegiate Athletic Association. The deplorables are ordinary citizens who believe pastors should not be punished for preaching what they believe Scripture teaches — that pastors, bakers and florists shouldn’t be required to violate their religious convictions by participating in homosexual weddings, and that parents and husbands shouldn’t have to be fearful when their daughters or wives are in a public restroom.

Time is not on the side of those who oppose the legislature’s religious freedom bills. Ordinary people are emboldened. As in America, the populist movement is upending Britain, France, Germany and, most recently, Italy. Moral, fiscal and immigration issues are all involved in the emerging populism. Joe Lunch Box, Eli the electrician, and Paul the plumber are registering to vote across America and Europe. They want common sense and freedom from the intelligentsia so long in power.

Georgia legislators know this. I predict they will stand with McKoon and Teasley and withstand the bullying corporations and sports titans. If so, then bully for them.

Gas prices will rise as part of a restructured sales tax comes online.

In 2015, with bipartisan support, state lawmakers passed HB 170 to change the way Georgia taxes gasoline.

Georgia’s increase, a fraction of a penny, will not have a huge impact on what consumers pay. The revenue, however, will greatly increase the number of roadway improvement projects.

“We’ve already begun to see orange barrels and cones all around the state,” said Seth Millican. “The state DOT has begun to do more work and you’ll continue to see more of that.”

Millican is the head of the Georgia Transportation Alliance, he says that unlike other statewide problems, transportation is an easy fix – it just needs more money.

“You are paying a little bit more at the pump when you buy gas,” Millican said, “but you’re also going to see a lot more work and a lot more progress on roads and bridges that may have gone unrepaired for quite some time.”

Healthcare

Arguably, the biggest issues in the 2017 General Assembly will involve healthcare. Medicaid and Medicare funding and any changes in eligibility are almost certainly shelved until we have a better idea what the federal programs look like under the Trump administration and incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America will seek changes to the state program that requires some new healthcare facilities receive a Certificate of Need before opening.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) Southeastern is airing radio and television commercials in an effort to spur grassroots support for change or repeal of Georgia’s law that allows state officials to decide if there is a need for a proposed medical facility. Without a certificate of need from the Georgia Department of Community Health, no hospital or clinic can open or add on.

“The campaign, known as SpeakNowGeorgia is ongoing,” explained spokesperson Roland Alonzi. “The coalition is dedicated to continuing in 2017 in an effort to educate and raise awareness of the certificate-of-need laws that we are looking to revise.”

CTCA is known, however, for big-budget advertisements, according to BenefitsPro, a website and magazine geared toward benefits and retirement professionals. A recent article indicated that the chain of health care facilities, which includes a network of five hospitals in the U.S., budgets more than $100 million annually for advertising.

Contention stems from Kent’s claim that the board’s request for reclassification is simply to “have the same rules apply,” to CTCA. According to Georgia Hospital Association Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Ethan James, the facility has another objective in mind.

“If given the opportunity, CTCA will cherry-pick patients based on those who have the ‘best’ insurance,” James said, noting that the association has long suspected the for-profit cancer facility of turning away patients with no insurance and low incomes.

“CTCA does not comply with the law to disclose data regarding indigent care,” James said. “There is no data indicating the hospital meets requirements.”

James noted that if CTCA expands and continues to discriminate against uninsured sufferers, all cancer patients will subsequently be affected. Nonprofit cancer treatment centers like those found in nearby hospitals and those located across the state, will ultimately lose money if left with only the uninsured to treat.

“Those hospitals may then be forced to cut back on various lines of services offered,” he said. “It could hinder cancer and other specialty care in local hospitals.”

Jerry Fulks, CEO of WellStar West Georgia Medical Center, writes about the need for the Certificate of Need program to stabilize existing hospitals.

In emergency medicine, the “golden hour” immediately after a traumatic event like a car accident or a heart attack is the time in which the patient’s chance of surviving can be most improved by access to skilled medical care. Today, Georgia’s healthcare system faces a “golden hour” in which legislative action is required to ensure the long-term survival of the local hospitals that protect our families, our communities, and provide high-quality healthcare and well-paying jobs.

Simply put, our statewide hospital network requires immediate stabilization to ensure that no more communities lose access to healthcare.

The first measure to stabilize our hospitals is renewal of the Medicaid provider fee, which helps fill in a financial hole left by the federal system. Some call it a “bed tax,” though no tax is levied on patients or on hospital beds. Without legislative renewal, the provider fee will expire on June 30, 2017, and Georgia will lose hundreds of millions of dollars of our own federal tax dollars.

Georgia’s certificate of need law was put into place nearly 40 years ago to ensure that all citizens would have access to care – no matter where they live, what their income level or how serious their condition. These laws require that any new medical facility or hospital expansion meet a true unfilled need.

Why is this important? Because hospitals, especially not-for-profit facilities, rely upon a delicate balance of services, patient mix and reimbursement levels to maintain their financial viability. Requiring proposed expansions or new facilities to go through the certificate of need process helps to safeguard that critical balance while expanding medical care where it is needed the most.

Proposed changes to the certificate of need law will be among many health care issues our legislators debate this coming year, but few will be more important given the potential impact on local communities throughout our state. In some cases, those decisions could mean the difference between a hospital staying open or closing; in others, difficult choices about what services to provide or eliminate. No one should ever lose a loved one or suffer more than necessary because they did not have timely access to quality care.

[Disclaimer: I am currently working with the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals as a communications consultant. The author of the above piece in the LaGrange News is Chairman of the Board for the Alliance.]

22
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 22, 2016

James Edward Oglethorpe was born in London, England, on December 22, 1696. He was elected to Parliament, where he worked on prison reform and had the idea of a new colony where “worthy poor” Brits could be sent. In 1732, Oglethorpe was granted a charter to create a colony of Georgia in the new world.

On December 22, 1775, the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony premiered on December 22, 1808 in Vienna, Austria.

Governor George Gilmer signed legislation that prohibited teaching slaves or free African-Americans to read or write on December 22, 1829.

Martha Bulloch and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. were married at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia on December 22, 1853. Their son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. would later be elected President of the United States.

On December 22, 1864, General William T. Sherman wired to President Abraham Lincoln from Savannah, Georgia,

His Excellency President LINCOLN:

I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.

W.T. Sherman,
Major General.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gov. Nathan Deal has named David Werner as his new Executive Counsel to the Governor.

Deal tapped David Werner, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), as Teague’s replacement. Werner will assume this position in January 2017.

“David Werner has served the Deal administration in a variety of capacities over the past six years, including on the 2010 and 2014 campaigns as well as in the governor’s official office. Rising from policy adviser to deputy executive counsel to Chief Operating Officer of the state, David has tackled each role with dedication, hard work and expertise,” said Chief of Staff Chris Riley. “David has the necessary skillset, institutional knowledge and executive experience to serve as counsel. He has the complete confidence of the governor and is a natural fit for the job.”

Georgia Republicans are stepping up to keep the 54th Senate District seat vacated by Sen. Charlie Bethel in GOP hands.

Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other Republican Senate leaders will host a fund raiser on Wednesday in Atlanta for Chuck Payne, the GOP candidate in Jan. 10’s special election runoff for Senate District 54.

In an email to supporters, Payne’s team notes that turnout is likely to be low.

“With Christmas coming in less than a week and the New Year’s Holiday to follow, voters will have plenty of distractions from this important election,” the email says. “The campaign needs your help now more than ever!  If you live in or have friends and family members in the district, please encourage them to get out and vote.”

Democrats, meanwhile, hope to pick off the seat as Peppers is seen as a Democrat despite the lack of party affiliation next to her name on the ballot.

Justin Tomczak, a Republican operative helping Payne, said the GOP blitz should come as no surprise.

“When you go on TV and say you are going to caucus with the Democrats if elected, don’t be surprised when the Republican party gets behind your opponent.”

Republican Chuck Payne and Democrat Nonpartisan Debby Peppers met in a forum earlier this week.

Chuck Payne wondered Tuesday evening whether his opponent tried to hide her political affiliation.

Payne, a Republican, asked Debby Peppers why she is running for the Georgia Senate as a nonpartisan candidate. Peppers said she has been a Democrat for 40 years, but she worried people wouldn’t pay attention to her opinions on issues in the region if she put a label next to her name.

“It bothers me a little bit,” she said during a candidate forum hosted by the Dalton Daily Citizen and the area League of Women Voters. “If we’re a two-party system, why is being a Democrat such a bad thing? It helps to bring balance.”

Peppers, in turn, questioned whether Payne can challenge leaders in Atlanta, pointing out that he will have to be loyal to the GOP. Payne told the crowd at Dalton’s city hall that he has no problem standing up to authority.

Payne painted Peppers as a liberal in a bright red region.

“The Democrats are trying to take this state Senate seat,” he wrote on his public Facebook page Dec. 11. “Let’s make sure this does not happen.”

Established Republicans have backed Payne. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel endorsed him Monday. And [] U.S. Congressman Tom Graves [attended] a fundraiser for Payne.

Peppers, meanwhile, has pushed back against the liberal label. Technically, she is running as a non-partisan candidate, though she has said she would caucus with the Democrats in Atlanta if elected.

The two candidates differ on the issue of whether to allow casino gambling in Georgia.

Chuck Payne, former chairman of the Whitfield County Republican Party, says he opposes legalizing gambling for the same reason he opposed the state lottery more than 20 years ago: it hurts the poor.

“Bob Shaw doesn’t go buy $100 worth of tickets on payday,” he said. Shaw is the founder and chairman of Engineered Floors and was the co-founder and long-time CEO of Shaw Industries.

Payne said poor people, desperate to escape their condition, will gamble money to the detriment of their families and children.

Debby Peppers, a former member of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, said she doesn’t “have strong feelings” either way on gambling.

“If they put it on the ballot and people vote for it, I can live with that,” she said.

In the nonpartisan race, candidates were allowed to list a party affiliation when qualifying. Payne listed Republican, while Peppers did not list a party affiliation.

She said Tuesday she did so because she wanted voters to judge her without a label by her name. But she said she has been a Democrat all of her life and would caucus with the Democrats if elected. Peppers noted a number of tax increases and fee increases passed by the Legislature since Republicans gained control more than a decade ago and said if voters elect someone just because of an “R” beside their name they can expect more of the same. She said she would consider each issue on its merits.

Early voting begins Tuesday. Voters do not have to have voted in the special election to vote in the runoff.

Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing ranks number one in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The School of Nursing secured $7.8 million in research grants, fellowships, training grants, and other awards from NIH in FY 2016, representing the highest NIH funding total in the school’s history.

“This new No. 1 ranking is a strong reflection of the breadth and depth of the School of Nursing’s research program and of our faculty’s dedication to the advancement of nursing knowledge and science,” says Linda McCauley, PhD, RN, dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. “Our faculty’s innovative research is translating into better health and quality of life for individuals, families, and communities around the world.”

Columbus City Council is considering allowing some employees to defer their retirement.

[T]he city would have to change its Deferred Option Retirement Plan to allow participants to voluntarily suspend their participation in that program and extend their full-time employment with the Columbus Consolidated Government for up to five additional years.

Councilor Glen Davis, a strong proponent of the amendment, said DROP, as it currently stands, doesn’t provide options for participants who need to continue working more than three years for various reasons.

“It was evident that several council members wanted to try to do something for the employees, because, quite frankly, today it’s just unforeseen times,” he said. “There are unforeseen circumstances that happen. I like to use the word ‘Awakening’ circumstances, whether it’s health matters, whether it’s financial matters, whether it’s college for kids, or just the need to continue working. Or, if you’ve got voids that lead to potential crisis in organizations, where you can’t fill two spots and keep the leadership, the experience and the right people in the right place.”

Davis said city officials have had difficulty recruiting and retaining employees for public safety and other jobs, and that concerns him. He said the proposal is for a DROP extension that would allow an employee to voluntarily freeze the DROP for up to five years.

Wayne Frazier was sworn in as a new member of the Richmond County Board of Education.

Judge Stephen Kelley of the Superior Court for the Brunswick Circuit has put an end to weddings at a beachfront home on St. Simons Island.

Superior Court Judge Stephen D. Kelley’s enjoining of Jeff and Lee Burton’s business use of their house on East Beach is the latest ruling in a battle that first hit the courts in 2013.

Bothered by trolleys hauling guests, on-street parking and noise, neighbors of the house on 16th Street complained to the county which in turn notified the Burtons that using the property as an event venue violated a county zoning ordinance.

The governing ordinance said the house is a single-family dwelling where weddings and parties are permissible as an “accessory use,’’ Kelley ruled in December 2013. He found that weddings and social events had become the primary use of the property and ruled the county was right.

21
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 21, 2016

On December 21, 1829, Georgia Governor George Gilmer signed legislation outlawing the teaching of African-Americans to read or write. One year later to the day, he signed legislation claiming for the state all territory occupied by the Cherokee tribe.

On December 21, 1835, Oglethorpe University was incorporated near Macon, later moving to Atlanta.

On December 21, 1863, the Confederate government selected a site in Sumter County for construction of Camp Sumter, which would be better known by the name Andersonville Prison.

General William Tecumseh Sherman received the surrender of Savannah, Georgia on December 21, 1864.

Sixteen years ago, DeKalb County was reeling from the assassination of Sheriff-elect Derwin Brown. His predecessor, Sheriff Sidney Dorsey was convicted and is still serving time.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

One of the Republican electors who voted for someone other than Donald Trump for President is from Georgia… by way of Texas. From TheBlaze.com,

[W]hile the majority of the electoral votes in Texas went to President-elect Donald Trump, some went astray. One elector gave his vote to Ohio Governor John Kasich, and another elector who had remained anonymous gave his over to 1988 Libertarian candidate for President, and retired Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

But the identity of the elector who cast his vote for Ron Paul has been revealed, and it’s a political science professor at South Texas College by the name of Bill Greene.

Greene was first identified by The Statesmanand has since had his social media accounts suspended, and his inbox overwhelmed with emails about his decisions, and requests for explanations.

Greene is a former Georgia political activist, and the article also brings in a one-term Georgia State House member who won a special election and was retired in the very next primary.

The Georgia Public Service Commission approved a deal struck between PSC staff and Georgia Power about financing for the two new reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The commission said the agreement benefits customers because it avoids potential litigation with Georgia Power over who will cover cost overruns. It also sets stiff penalties if the Atlanta utility doesn’t complete the project by the end of 2020.

The PSC staff and Georgia Power say the Oct. 20 pact will save ratepayers about $185 million over the next four years.

“I think what we’ve done is remove the threat of litigation and front-load a lot of savings,” said Chuck Eaton, PSC chairman.

The settlement gives Georgia Power an additional 18 months to complete the first new unit and six months to complete the second one.

The deal also delays Georgia Power’s collection of another $139 million until the project is completed, over the expected 60-year life of the reactors.

Customers’ rates won’t go down as a result of the deal. They just won’t go up next year, because a surcharge on customers’ bills that finances the Vogtle project is expected to stay at this year’s level. As part of the settlement, Georgia Power withdrew a request to increase the surcharge next year.

unterman-press-conference-12202016

Renee Unterman, Chair of the Senate HHS Committee, held a press conference yesterday with her House counterpart, Rep. Sharon Cooper, and Sen. Valencia Seay about legislation regarding dental hygienists.

[A] bill pre-filed Tuesday in the Georgia General Assembly…. would let hygienists practice in safety-net clinics, nursing homes, school-based clinics and other locations without a dentist present.

On Tuesday, the two powerful chairs of the Health and Human Services committees — one in the House and one in the Senate — spoke of the need for passage of the dental hygienist bill in the 2017 General Assembly, to help people who don’t have regular access to dental care.

The proposal would help the most vulnerable – seniors, the disabled and children, said Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), head of the Senate health panel. In Georgia, she said, “118 of 159 counties are considered dental health professional shortage areas.’’

Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), who chairs the House panel, said there was “misinformation’’ that the previous proposal would allow dental hygienists to practice independently. That was never the case, she said, as a dentist would have to agree to authorize a hygienist to work in designated settings.

The legislation differs from the earlier version in that it would allow general supervision in private practice, Unterman said.

That means that dentists can be on sick leave or vacation and not have to close their practices, because hygienists could still see patients. “It’s common-sense legislation,” Unterman said.

“People can stay in place [in a nursing home] and at least get their teeth cleaned,’’ she added. “It’s a basic necessity in life.”

Elly Yu of WABE looks at the effects on a rural community of their local hospital closing.

Cindy Jones still can’t help but think about the timing of things. Stewart-Webster Hospital, the place she and her family had gone to for years, closed in March of 2013. A month later, her husband Bill suffered a heart attack.

She called an ambulance, which arrived about 15 minutes later, she said. They took him to a hospital in Cuthbert, Georgia, about 25 miles from her Lumpkin home. Her husband was pronounced dead there. He was 52 years old.

“I just feel like that not getting him there within that golden hour had a lot of bearing on his death,” Jones said.

She said she feels like they lost time traveling to the hospital, and would have taken him to their local hospital, which was 9 miles away, had it still been open.

It’s a very good piece, worth reading (or listening to) in its entirety.

Georgia had the seventh-largest population increase in the nation.

The state’s population grew by 110,973 between 2015 and 2016 – the seventh-largest surge in the nation, according to data collected and analyzed by the U.S. Census Bureau and released Tuesday.

By mid-2016, there were 10,310,371 people in Georgia, the bureau said.

[Since 2010,] Georgia has added 621,691 people – a 6.4 percent expansion of the population. That compares to a national increase in that time of 14.4 million people, a 4.7 percent.

In late 2010, the Georgia unemployment rate was 10.5 percent — which did not include thousands of people who had left the workforce and stopped looking for a job. The current rate is 5.3 percent — and that includes a surge of people who have recently entered the workforce.

A new elephant sanctuary is being planned for Southwest Georgia, near Bainbridge.

An 846-acre cattle ranch located 30 miles northwest of Tallahassee will soon be converted into an elephant sanctuary.

The South Georgia ranch just sold to the Founder of Elephant Aid International, Carol Buckley.

The site plans to be a refuge for elephants recovering from life in captivity and past traumas. Buckley founded America’s first elephant sanctuary in Tennessee 20 years ago.

20
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 20, 2016

On December 20, 1860, a secession convention in Charleston, South Carolina passed a Secession Ordinance, removing the Palmetto State from the United States.

south-carolina-independence-card

On December 20, 1864, Confederate forces in Savannah retreated ahead of Sherman’s army, crossing over into South Carolina, four years to the day after South Carolina’s secession.

Happy Birthday to former Governor Sonny Perdue, who was born on December 20, 1946.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal yesterday swore in three new judges to the Georgia Court of Appeals.Continue Reading..

19
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 19, 2016

washington_and_lafayette_at_valley_forge

George Washington’s Continental Army entered winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1777.

On December 20, 1864, Confederate forces in Savannah retreated ahead of Sherman’s army, crossing over into South Carolina, four years to the day after South Carolina’s secession.

On December 19, 1868, Congress opened hearings into barriers African-Americans faced to voting in Georgia, which included threats, violence, and death, on

Eugene Talmadge, who was elected four times as Governor of Georgia, in 1932, 1934, 1940, and 1946, died on December 21, 1946, leading to the Three Governors Controversy.

On December 19, 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors” for lying under oath and obstructing justice by a vote of 228-206.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia’s Presidential Electors will meet today at the Georgia State Capitol to cast their ballots for Donald Trump for President and Mike Pence for Vice President. The electors expect to cast all their ballots for the Republican nominees.

“We’ve talked to each other on the phone, e-mail, Facebook,” said Kirk Shook, an elector and secretary of the Georgia Republican Party. “All of us are in the same boat: We’re still voting for Donald Trump.”

In the meantime, electors told The Associated Press they’ve received thousands of emails a day, and a smaller number of letters at their home or work. Shook said he received nearly 50 emails during a recent 20 minute conversation with a reporter.

Electors said many of the messages were identical form letters asking electors to support Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Other messages asked electors to support a generic Republican other than Trump, said Rachel Little, an elector and chair of the Fourth Congressional District’s Republican party.

This year will mark the third time Randy Evans has served as an elector. He’s called efforts to build opposition among electors “unprecedented.”

“It’s clearly organized, designed to harass and clog peoples’ inboxes,” Evans said.

Protests are expected to start today at 9 AM at the Capitol.

One protest will be held on Sunday, starting at 4 p.m., a candlelight vigil at the Georgia State House. The organizers of the event have promised dozens will show up to protest the event.

Another, part of a more widely organized, nationwide event, is planned for Monday starting at 9 a.m. It is slated to take place at the state house as well.

Organizers of that event said they have organized the “unprecedented protests” to voice their dissatisfaction with the 2016 election. When all the votes were tallied, it was found that, while Trump did win the electoral vote — decided by representatives from voting districts, and the deciding factor in the race — his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote.

“Protesters will be urging Electoral College members to respect the will of the people and reject Trump to vote for the winner of the national popular vote,” a release about the protests says.

Georgia Elector Randy Evans spoke to the Marietta Daily Journal about his current role.

Evans said he was chosen as an elector this year by the executive committee of the state Republican Party, though he said his selection was “largely de facto” due to his position as committeeman from Georgia.

“Then there are others that are selected based on a variety of criteria, largely based on the contribution to the party and the party’s effort — contribution not meaning money, but contribution meaning work for the party, helping the party, etc.,” he said.

In the U.S., while voters cast a ballot for their preferred candidate, in actuality, they are voting for a slate of electors chosen by that nominee’s party, Evans explained.

“Each presidential candidate whose name appears on the ballot submits a name of dedicated or pledged electors. And whichever candidate wins the most votes in Georgia — a plurality of votes in Georgia — their list of electors become the electors from the state.”

Kerwin Swint, political science professor at Kennesaw State University, said because the electors are chosen by their parties, he doesn’t expect an outcome any different than the one reached in the early morning hours of Nov. 9.

“I think it’s going to go exactly the way people think it’s going to go, and (the electors) are going to vote overwhelmingly the way their state did,” Swint said.

“We’re meeting in a secure location and being bused over to the brunch, where we’ll be briefed,” he said. “Then we will be bused to the Capitol, I’m told that there will be very heavy security at all places. That’s a little unusual. Usually, meeting in the Capitol is secure enough, but they’re taking extra precautions this year.”

Once the Electoral College cast their votes, they will be opened and counted by Congress on Jan. 6, to be followed by the winner taking the oath of office on Jan. 20.

Former Augusta Mayor Bob Young writes about his experience as an Elector in 2000.

Today’s meeting of the Electoral College, in a climate of conspiracy theories and elector intimidation, is unrivaled since the college met in 2000 to give the presidency to George W. Bush by a two-vote margin.

I remember it well, because I was a Bush elector, one of 13 in Georgia.

Representing the winning candidate, on the morning of Dec. 18, 2000, we gathered in the state senate chamber to sign the Certificate of Vote to affirm the decision of the 1,419,720 Georgians who voted for Bush in the November election.

We electors had assembled the night before at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Atlanta, where we spent the night under tight security. The following morning, we boarded a bus with a police escort for the trip to the capitol building.

The similarities to this year’s election are striking. As did Donald J. Trump, Bush carried the electoral vote, while losing the popular vote. In 2000 the losing side famously pushed for recounts in Florida, as it did this year in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Weeks after the popular election, opponents continued to pillory the winners with questions about their fitness to serve as reason enough to be disqualified.

And just like this year, we electors were inundated with e-mails, letters and phone calls to change our vote from Bush to Gore. My e-mail box at City Hall became choked with the incoming messages, coming at all times of the day and night.

Nate Silver writes that instead of protesting last month’s election, Democrats should concentrate on winning future elections.

This year, narrowly denying Trump a majority in the Electoral College would still probably result in Trump’s election via the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, producing the same president but with a Constitutional crisis along the way. And in the long run, encouraging electors to deviate from the outcomes in their states would result in the House more often deciding presidential elections, which is probably not in Democrats’ interests given how their voters are clustered — and gerrymandered — into urban congressional districts.

Democrats have been decimated in elections for governor and state legislature since 2010 and need to rebuild their ranks in order to give the party a deeper roster of presidential and Senate candidates in future years and to position the party for redistricting, which will take place after the 2020 election cycle.

For Democrats to find success in 2018 will probably require them to compete in a lot of places. That’s because it’s not clear whether the shift in demographic voting patterns that took place between 2012 and 2016 will accelerate or reverse itself. In states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, there are a fair number of people who voted for Obama in 2012 but Trump in 2016, and they might be inclined to give Democrats another chance if they feel that Trump isn’t upholding his promises. It’s also possible, however, that Democrats will be competitive in wealthy suburban districts in Sun Belt states such as Texas, Georgia and Arizona that were once reliably red. Democrats were woefully unprepared for some of these opportunities last month. For instance, they didn’t even field a House candidate in Texas’s 32nd Congressional District in suburban Dallas, even though it Clinton carried the district in a major reversal from 2012.

Winning a House seat in Montana or expanded access to early voting in North Carolina might not be as sexy for Democrats as dreaming about an uprising in the Electoral College. But Trump won the election, and Democrats probably ought to be thinking about how to win some elections of their own.

Gainesville lawyer Ashley Bell is working to staff State Department appointments during the Trump presidential transition.

“I know history has its eyes on us, and every day we are given this opportunity to lead, it is a blessing and challenge we must meet,” Bell said in a recent interview by email.

More specifically, Bell is a member of the “landing team” for the State Department.

“The goal … is to give the incoming president and secretary (of state) the information necessary to ensure that there is seamless transition of power despite a possible shift in policy.”

Bell has been active in Middle Eastern policy through his involvement with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He journeyed to Israel in 2011 while serving on the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

Bell, 36, also has stayed busy with the Republican National Committee, serving as a senior strategist and national director of African-American political engagement.

Bell has had a long rise in politics, one that extends back to his youth in Gainesville City Schools. He started as a Democrat, serving as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He switched to the GOP in 2010 while serving as a Hall commissioner.

Bell’s transition work ends when Trump is sworn into office Jan. 20. His RNC work continues through the election of the next chairman, or right after the inauguration.

Republican Chuck Payne continues campaigning for State Senate District 54 in northwest Georgia, where a runoff will be held January 10, 2017.

“We are very thankful to our supporters and proud to have finished first in the Special Election as we now look forward to continuing our outreach among the voters of Gordon, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties,” said Payne. “Now that this race has narrowed to only two, and as I have committed decades of effort to help conservative candidates in North Georgia in their elections, I am truly thankful to the voters to remain as the only Republican continuing in the race.”

“It is my hope to truly serve as representative of Northwest Georgia values in the State Senate; to remain a conservative voice of reason in serving the interests of the 54th District,” said Payne.’

Peppers, who according to her personal social media page describes her political views as aligned with the Democratic Party, used nonpartisan to describe her affiliation on her qualifying paperwork in Gordon County.

Early voting for the runoff election begins on Tuesday, Dec. 27 and will end on Friday, Jan. 6, taking place from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Gordon County Board of Elections and Voter Registration office, located in the County Courthouse Annex, located at 101 Piedmont Street in downtown Calhoun.

The Gordon County Board of Elections and Voter Registration office will be closed for the New Years holiday on Jan. 2.

We’ll try to find early voting information for Murray, Pickens, and Whitfield County voters.

Roswell will hold a Special Election for City Council on March 21, 2017.

The City Council at its Monday, Dec. 12 meeting approved qualifying fees for its March 21 special election to fill the vacant Post 4 seat as well as its Nov. 7, 2017, general municipal election.

The fee to qualify for the Post 4 seat is $540. Qualifying for the post will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23 to Friday, Jan. 27 in the office of the city clerk at Roswell City Hall.

Two candidates have already announced their bids for the seat: Jay Small and Lori Henry.

The City of Ringgold is considering moving from a flat business license fee to one based on income.

For years Ringgold’s occupational tax ordinance has consisted of a $100 flat fee for businesses per year. Now, the council is looking to switch to a collection plan based on each company’s gross receipts, which is the norm for a lot of other cities like Fort Oglethorpe.

“We’re trying to be more of a progressive city,” said Councilman Larry Black. “This would be a sliding scale based on gross receipts. … It’ll still be small for small businesses, but more significant for bigger businesses.”

Based on the option the council was initially leaning toward, each business would be charged a percentage based on which tier of sales they fall into.

“We have $0 to $199,000, $200,000 to $399,000, $400-$699,000, and so on,” Black said.

For example, a business bringing in $1 million in gross receipts would pay $473 in occupational tax for the year. A $10 million business would be charged $3,604 annually, and a $20 million business would have to pay $6,464 annually for their occupational tax license versus a flat $100 fee.

State law sets the market for practitioners such as lawyers, doctors, dentists, and veterinarians at a $400 maximum. Those business can also opt for the gross receipts plan if they feel their earnings would bring them in at less than that max.

The City of Sugar Hill approved a budget for FY2017.

The general fund budget totals about $11.5-million, while the capital improvement budget totals $7.275-million, according to Paul Radford, city manager.

“The budget, overall, represents about a 6.7-percent increase. Key elements are, obviously, health care costs, and a compensation adjustment for employees,” said Radford in a phone interview.

John Breakfield was sworn in as a State Court Judge in Hall County.

Richard Mecum is retiring from the position of Chairman of the Hall County Commission.

Colquitt County Sheriff Al Whittington will be honored with a reception before the swearing-in of his successor, Rod Howell.

Whittington may be out of one job, but he will take part-time work beginning in January when he becomes the new District 4 Colquitt County Commission member.

Whittington won the Republican primary in the spring and had no Democratic opponent in the general election. Republican Chris Hunnicutt received about 85 percent of the vote on Nov. 8 and will represent District 2.

More than 300 people have been banished from Hall County since 2010.

More than 300 people with criminal cases in Hall County in the past six years have been banned from Hall County or the greater Northeastern Judicial Circuit, which also includes Dawson County, according to court records.

Such banishment from the circuit will last for the term of a person’s probation.

“The banishment condition of probation is not something that is a matter of policy, and it really depends on the facts case by case,” Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said.

“Banishment would usually be imposed where it seems like the only reason the person was here was to commit a crime, and it is in those cases where it seems most appropriate,” Darragh said.

In four cases found in Hall County’s records, defendants were barred from all counties except a single county or single circuit.

“The goal in such a case like that would be related to whether the person has, again, any significant ties to the state of Georgia,” Darragh said.

Air Force Lt. General Stayce Harris serves as Assistant Vice Chief of Staff and Director, Air Staff at the Air Force Headquarters in Washington, DC. Harris has a Georgia connection, having served at Dobbins Air Reserve Base as head of the Air Force Reserve’s 22nd Air Force. She is the first African-American woman to hold the rank of Lt. General in the Air Force.

Frank Reynolds will take the reins of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department from outgoing Sheriff Roger Garrison.

Over the course of his 24 years in office, Garrison saw the county’s population increase by more than 250 percent, from 90,000 residents to 235,000. He also expanded the sheriff’s office staff from 150 employees to more than 400. He leaves behind a legacy of training and preparedness that has made his agency one of the best in the Southeast.

“It’s bittersweet, but I’m excited about working with Frank and helping him start his career,” Garrison said. “I’ve been in law enforcement 35 years. There are a lot of people there that I’ve grown up with and they’ve grown up with me.”

Garrison said he’s accomplished what he set out to do when he won the four-way race back in 1992 and feels it’s time to turn the agency over and move on to the next chapter in his life, which will include playing tennis, riding his mountain bike and some international consulting work.

Chatham County Commissioner Priscilla Thomas is retiring from office after 26 years.

Some Cobb County elected officials will ask legislators for a raise in the coming year.

Earlier this month, county commissioners passed a resolution notifying the Cobb Legislative Delegation that the fiscal 2017 budget includes enough funding to support salary increases of up to 3 percent. Commissioners’ salaries, and those of other elected officials and county employees, are among those set by the Legislature, which has to author and pass legislation to change the salaries. The process is one undertaken by the government entities each year.

While the county has funded 3 percent raises for the elected positions as part of the current budget, those officials as individuals must request the pay increases from the Legislature, and it is up to the Legislature to approve the raises, said Sheri Kell, spokesperson for the county.

State Rep. John Carson, R-northeast Cobb, who heads the Cobb Delegation, said legislators did not receive such requests during a listening session held in the county Monday, but noted that such requests typically occur during the legislative session, the next one of which begins in January. He said the requests typically come in written form, via email or a letter.

Lt. Col. Robert Quigley, spokesman for the Cobb Sheriff’s office, said Sheriff Neil Warren intends to pursue the pay increase of up to 3 percent for himself and the three positions in his office whose salaries are legislature controlled: chief deputy sheriff, assistant chief deputy sheriff and executive assistant to the sheriff.

“His perspective on seeking the increase is that if the county Board of Commissioners has identified monies as a part of their budget and the state Legislature is willing to make it available then he will accept it,” Quigley said.

16
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 16, 2016

Georgia and American History

The British ship Mayflower landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 18, 1620.

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Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley who founded Methodism, and one of the great hymn-writers, was born on December 18, 1707. Wesley accompanied James Oglethorpe to Georgia in 1736.

On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, led by Patriot Sam Adams, boarded three British ships in Boston harbor and threw tea worth $700,000 to $1 million in today’s money into the water in what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

Boston Tea Party

France formally recognized the United States as an independent nation on December 17, 1777.

The first national day of thanksgiving was observed on December 18, 1777 commemorating the American victory over the British at Saratoga the previous month.

Congress wrote, “It is therefore recommended to the Legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES, to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for solemn THANKSGIVING and PRAISE; That at one Time and with one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor”.

On December 18, 1834, Governor William Lumpkin signed legislation chartering the Georgia Methodists Conference Manual Labor School at Oxford, Georgia, which would later become Emory College in 1836 and Emory University in 1915.

Governor George Towns signed legislation on December 16, 1847 to build a State School for the Deaf and Dumb. The institution now known as the Georgia School for the Deaf was begun with a log cabin, $5000 from the legislature and four students and is still in operation in Cave Spring, Georgia.

General Ulysses S. Grant expelled all Jews from his military district, which covered parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky on December 17, 1862. President Lincoln ordered Grant to rescind the order.

On December 16, 1897, Gov. William Atkinson signed legislation recognizing June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, as a state holiday.

On December 18, 1865, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward issued a statement verifying the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery in the United States.

The office of Superintendent of Public Education and Georgia Schools was created on December 18, 1866 when Gov. Charles Jenkins signed legislation passed by the General Assembly; on December 18, 1894, Gov. William Atkinson approved a resolution for a Constitutional Amendment to make the State School Commissioner elected statewide.

President William McKinley visited Savannah, Georgia on December 17, 1898. While there, McKinley attended church at Wesley Monumental Methodist Church and visited Georgia Agricultural and Medical College (now Savannah State University) and the Seventh Army.

On December 17, 1902, legislation changed Georgia’s state flag changed to include the coat of arms on the blue band.

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On December 16, 1944, a German counterattack in the Ardennes region of Belgium created a “bulge” in Allied lines with particularly difficult fighting near the town of Bastogne. During the Battle of the Bulge, 89,000 Americans were wounded and 19,000 killed in the bloodiest battle fought by the U.S. in World War II. National Geographic has an interesting article published for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle.

On December 17, 1944, Major General Henry C. Pratt ordered the end of the imprisonment of American citizens of Japanese descent in prison camps.

President Jimmy Carter announced on December 16, 1976, that he would name Andrew Young, then serving as Congressman from Georgia’s Fifth District, as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

WTBS began broadcasting under new call letters on December 17, 1976 and uplinked its programming to satellite to become “America’s Super Station.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

echols-deal-swearing-in

Republican Tim Echols was sworn in yesterday by Gov. Nathan Deal to a second term on the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Fifteen Republican state legislators represent districts won by Hillary Clinton last month.

Senate

SD 6 – Hunter Hill (R) – Cobb

SD 40 – Fran Millar (R) – Dekalb

SD 48 – David Shafer (R) – Gwinnett

House

HD 37 – Sam Teasley (R) – Marietta

HD 40 – Rich Golick (R) – Smyrna

HD 51 – Wendell Willard (R) Sandy Springs

HD 52 – Deborah Silcox (R) – Atlanta

HD 54 – Beth Beskin (R) – Atlanta

HD 79 – Tom Taylor (R) – Dunwoody

HD 80 –  Meagan Hanson (R) – Brookhaven

HD 105 – Joyce Chandler (R) – Lawrenceville

HD 106 – Brett Harrell (R) –  Lawrenceville

HD 107 – David Casas (R) – Lilburn

HD 108 – Clay Cox (R)- Lilburn

HD 111 – Brian Strickland (R) – McDonough

Former State Rep. Sally Harrell (D-DeKalb) will run for the Sixth Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Price.

“During these politically uncertain times, we need a Congresswoman in Washington who understands the impact of government on people’s everyday lives,” said Harrell, who positioned herself as an advocate for mandatory school recess and expanded access to mental health services in office.

“Our families need access to affordable healthcare, quality public education, and clean air and water — all supported by a living wage. It’s time that our government works for the people.”

With several Republicans eyeing a run for the district, solidly-Republican turf that stretches from east Cobb to Brookhaven, Democrats hope to consolidate behind a single candidate in hopes of landing a spot in the runoff. But two other Democrats are already in the contest: Former state Sen. Ron Slotin, who vows to bring “progressive” ideals to the contest, and Josh McLaurin, an attorney and political newcomer.

She has the support of Democratic state Rep. Scott Holcomb, a DeKalb attorney who passed on the race earlier this month.

“I’ve known Sally a long time and she’s terrific,” he said. “She’s smart, reasonable and thoughtful. We need more of that in Congress.”

State Senator Judson Hill was endorsed by Newt Gingrich, who once held the Sixth Congressional seat Hill is seeking.

The most pressing issue the new Congress will face in January is beginning the process of repealing and replacing Obamacare. With healthcare premiums increasing at alarming rates, families need immediate relief.

America should be encouraged that Congressman Tom Price will be our new Secretary of Health and Human Services, but this also means voters in the 6th District will have an important choice to make about who to send to Washington as a principled conservative reformer.

I am eager to support my long-time friend, Senator Judson Hill. I’ve seen Judson work every day to pass common sense tax cuts and healthcare legislation that helps every Georgian. That’s the kind of proven conservative leadership Georgia needs. Judson will immediately get to work and bring his effective leadership to Washington representing the people of Georgia’s 6th District.

In the State House, Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams (Atlanta) says her party will continue to push for Medicaid expansion in Georgia this year.

Liberals plan to protest at the State Capitol on Monday where Georgia’s Presidential Electors will meet.

The organizers of the Dec. 19 protests are taking aim at the Electoral College voters who are charged with formally electing presidents during post-election meetings in statehouses. They argue that Hillary Clinton’s victory in the popular vote – she leads Trump by more than 2.8 million votes – should make the Democrat president.

“The electors have both the Constitutional right and the moral responsibility to stop Trump,” said Daniel Brezenoff, whose petition urging electors to dump Trump attracted more than 5 million signatures. “He lost the popular vote and he should lose on December 19 at the Electoral College.”

The Judicial Nominating Commission has released their short lists of nominees for vacancies on the Superior Courts for the Atlanta, Augusta, and Douglas Judicial Circuits.

Atlanta Judicial Circuit
Shukura Millender – Magistrate Judge, Fulton County
Richard S. Moultrie, Jr. – Deputy Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney, United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia
Paige Reese Whitaker – Deputy District Attorney, Fulton County District Attorney’s Office

Augusta Judicial Circuit
Pamela J. Doumar – Juvenile Court Judge, Augusta Judicial Circuit
Ashley Wright – District Attorney, Augusta Judicial Circuit

Douglas Judicial Circuit
Cynthia C. Adams – Judge Pro Tempore, Douglas County Juvenile Court; solo practitioner
Ryan R. Leonard – Chief Assistant District Attorney, Douglas Judicial Circuit
Peggy H. Walker – Judge, Juvenile Court of Douglas County

We noted yesterday an article about the link between opioid abuse and increasing numbers of neglected and abused children in Georgia. Today, The Wall Street Journal takes a deeper dive into the issue.

Widespread abuse of powerful opioids has pushed U.S. overdose death rates to all-time highs. It has also traumatized tens of thousands of children. The number of youngsters in foster care in many states has soared, overwhelming social workers and courts. Hospitals that once saw few opioid-addicted newborns are now treating dozens a year.

And many of the children who remain in the care of addicted parents are growing up in mayhem. They watch their mothers and fathers overdose and die on the bathroom floor. They live without electricity, food or heat when their parents can’t pay the bills. They stop going to school, and learn to steal and forage to meet their basic needs.

Social workers say the scale of the trouble exceeds anything they saw during the crack-cocaine or methamphetamine crises of previous decades. Heroin and other opioids are so addictive they can overwhelm even the strongest parental instinct to care for a child, doctors and social workers say.

In Ohio, opioids are the main cause of a 19% increase in the number of kids removed from parental custody and placed with relatives or foster homes since 2010, according to an association of Ohio’s county-level children’s services agencies. In Vermont, that number grew by 40% between 2013 and 2016, largely due to opioids, according to the state’s Department for Children and Families.

The Bibb County Board of Education has two new members, sworn in this week.

The Bibb County Board of Education welcomed two new faces and said goodbye to two outgoing members on Thursday night. Tom Hudson and Jason Downey attended their last meeting, after serving on the board for 12 years and four years, respectively.

Sundra Woodford and Bob Easter, the newest members, and Ella Carter, Thelma Dillard, Susan Sipe and Lester Miller were sworn in by Bibb County Probate Court Judge Sarah Harris.

“Four years ago, when a group of us came on the board, the school system in a lot of people’s eyes had been left for dead,” said Downey, who represented District 6. “I think over the past four years we’ve moved the needle, changed the expectation level. We’ve brought strong leadership back to Bibb County. We’ve improved graduation rates.”

The Gainesville Times says the 2017 General Assembly could be a continuation of issues from past sessions.

State Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, the dean of the delegation from Hall County now that Carl Rogers has retired from the state House, said repealing the ACA would have a significant impact on Georgia’s own budget.

Medicaid is a big item without having expanded it under the ACA, he said, with about 1.1 million children, and 1.8 million individuals overall, covered by it in the state.

Moreover, efforts to support growth in graduate medical training residencies, such as a new program being developed at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, rely on federal health care reimbursements.

Hawkins said the top health care committee in the General Assembly would begin meeting before the legislative session formally kicks off Jan. 9.

For Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, R-Gainesville, making higher education more affordable and spurring economic development — not just through retention and recruitment of existing businesses, but through innovation, too) are critical to meet the demands of a growing population that now exceeds 10 million.

“We are not short of challenges,” Cagle said, but with those come more opportunities to “create more economic engines to fuel the chance for everyone to experience the American Dream.”

Casino gambling is among the issues likely to be recycled under the Gold Dome.

State representatives spoke with the LaGrange City Council on Tuesday regarding a variety of issues that would require collaboration on city and state levels, including an amendment expected to be voted on in 2017 regarding gaming casinos in Georgia.

“If it is like the measure that was introduced during the last session, the state is divided into five zones,” said Rep. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus. “Two casino licenses would issue for the metro Atlanta area, and then one apiece for these other regions. The discussion that I heard was the west Georgia license would likely wind up being in Columbus, but that is not required by the statute.”

If the measure is approved, casino companies would bid for the license to build a casino in a given region. The bidding would be expected to be competitive, but only one casino would be allowed in any given region. So, if a casino was built in Columbus, a casino would not be allowed to build in LaGrange, and if the city voted against a casino, it would have to find another location.

“If you want to see what casino gaming can do for a local economy, go to Wetumpka, Ala., and find out how many restaurants are no longer there,” said Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, who opposes the amendment. “Find out how many events that have entertainment are no longer there. It’s all going right in that one place.”

Overall, the LaGrange City Council held reservations regarding casino gaming in the area, and the city council does not have an official stance on casino gaming.

Replacing income taxes with sales taxes is unlikely any time soon due to changes in state collections.

When asked by a constituent about future income tax reductions in lieu of a higher sales tax, [State Rep. Terry] England said he would be reluctant to move too far in that direction at this time.

“When you look at our revenues following the economic recovery, sales tax has remained flat for about the last six years, which is concerning to me and others,” said England, who chairs the House appropriations committee.

“I hope that’s a result of people putting more money back into savings and paying down debt, but I suspect it’s also probably a shift over to more E-commerce.

“My inclination is for us to wait a little bit and see what’s going to happen with our sales tax revenues. Then if we do decide to do something, let’s be very cautious about it.”

DeKalb Medical System is under pressure and looking for a partner to help stabilize the hospitals.

In recent months, DeKalb Medical has suffered financial problems, job cuts and leadership changes.

Its CEO and chief operating officer submitted their resignations within the past month, and the system has laid off 60 employees. Another 80 jobs have been eliminated.

The financial difficulties, Iverson said, stem at least in part from a high number of uninsured patients. She noted that Georgia has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, unlike most other states. Expanding the number of people with coverage increases hospitals’ chances for reimbursement.

“We were really hopeful for Medicaid expansion,’’ Iverson told GHN this week.

In addition, DeKalb Medical also experienced problems in its revenue cycle, which includes billing and collections, and claims denials, she said.

Economic factors have driven many Georgia hospitals to seek alliances or mergers to help withstand sweeping changes in health care payments.

Government and private insurers are increasingly emphasizing quality of care in reimbursements, instead of just paying for the quantity of services delivered. Medicare is paying bonuses and imposing penalties under the ACA based on quality-of-care measurements.

15
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 15, 2016

Georgia and American History

On December 15, 1791, Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights, giving the first ten Amendments a three-quarter majority required to become law.

On December 15, 1859, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing public execution of criminals. The previous day he signed legislation prohibiting slave owners from freeing their slaves on the owner’s death.

President Jimmy Carter announced on December 15, 1978 that U.S. diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China would begin on January 1, 1979.

The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee released a report on December 15, 1998 that recommended impeachment against President Bill Clinton and introduced H.Res. 611.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal took steps yesterday to make Naloxone, which is used to treat opioid overdoses, available over-the-counter in Georgia.Continue Reading..

14
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 14, 2016

President George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. Here’s an article about the nation’s mourning for our first President.

The Congress, in session at the capital of Philadelphia when Washington’s death was announced, immediately adjourned. The House of Representatives assembled the next day and resolved to shroud the Speaker’s chair in black and have members wear black during the remainder of the session. On December 23, John Marshall speaking for the joint committee of both houses, presented five points that became the foundation for the United States’ first “state” funeral. Resolutions structured mourning events around public commemorations that fostered unity and a sense of national identity among grieving Americans.

President William McKinley addressed the Georgia General Assembly on December 14, 1898.

McKinley_at_Atlanta2 McKinley Atlanta SM

On December 14, 1939, a parade was held through downtown Atlanta with stars from Gone With the Wind and the Junior League held a ball that night. The next day, December 15, 1939, Gone With the Wind held its world premiere at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Republican Chuck Payne led the field in the Senate District 54 Special Election yesterday.

Conda Lowery Goodson (R) 8.44% 419
Chuck Payne (R) 36.10% 1792
Debby Peppers 27.42% 1361
Shell Underwood (R) 10.80% 536
William Vinyard (R) 17.24% 856
4964

Republican Payne and Democrat Debby Peppers will meet in a runoff election January 10, 2017, the day after the Georgia General Assembly convenes.

From Payne’s campaign manager, Justin Tomczak,

“Chuck Payne heads into the runoff in strong position v. a life-long Democrat, having bested her in all four counties in the District. Chuck has served his community for decades and supported conservative candidates at all levels. Meanwhile, his opponent was donating to Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter, and voting for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for President. NW Georgia has little in common with those liberal politicians” said Payne’s political adviser Justin Tomczak.

“Chuck’s volunteered for every Republican candidate I’ve supported and so I volunteered to run his race” added Tomczak.

Democrat Debby Peppers spoke to the Times Free Press,

“We’re in a good position,” Peppers said. “We’ll just see what happens. I didn’t want to drag [the race] out over Christmas, but it is what it is. My base is pretty loyal and pretty proactive. And I expect them to come back out again.”

Peppers was the only candidate to run as an Independent in this election, with the four other candidates all registering as Republicans. During a candidate forum Nov. 30, when the four other candidates said they wanted to increase sales tax and decrease property taxes, Peppers criticized the plan. She argued that would disproportionately affect poor people.

She is also the only candidate who does not outright oppose abortion in most cases. She said banning the procedure in Georgia would lead to a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court, costing taxpayers money.

This is in an area that is strongly conservative, where about 78 percent of voters supported Donald Trump in the presidential race last month.

Payne entered Tuesday’s race as the most deeply connected Republican. He has been a member of the local party since the early 1990s and twice served as its chairman. Most recently, he stepped down from the post to volunteer for the presidential campaign of Dr. Ben Carson.

Payne defeated Peppers in all four counties Tuesday. And with three other Republicans dropping out, he has a good shot of picking up extra support over the next month.

Houston County voters will go to the polls on March 21, 2017 to vote on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.Continue Reading..

13
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 13, 2016

On December 13, 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court organized three regiments of militia to guard against attacks by the Pequot Indians. That day is recognized as the birth of the National Guard.

Echols County, Georgia was created by the Georgia General Assembly on December 13, 1858.

Former Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall died on December 13, 1992. Arnall served in the State House, as Speaker, Attorney General, and in 1942 at the age of 35, was elected Governor.

Arnall also led the fight to outlaw the poll tax and the white primary, and is noted for making Georgia the first state to allow 18-year-olds to vote. He is further remembered for his role in obtaining a new state constitution for Georgia in 1945.

Al Gore conceded the presidential election to George W. Bush on December 13, 2000.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Voters in Northwest Georgia’s Senate District 54 go to the polls today to elect a new State Senator to succeed former Senator Charlie Bethel.

Polls for the special election are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. as five candidates try to replace Charlie Bethel, a six-year veteran whom Gov. Nathan Deal appointed to the state’s court of appeals last month. The position covers Whitfield and Murray counties and parts of Pickens and Gordon counties.

In Georgia, the seat holder has to earn more than 50 percent of the vote to win. And with a crowded list of contenders today, there’s a chance the two most popular candidates will have to face each other in a runoff on Jan. 10, a day after the Senate session begins.

The candidates for the seat are:

* Conda Lowery Goodson, an active community volunteer

* Chuck Payne, a retired juvenile court probation officer

* Debby Peppers, an attorney and former county commissioner

* Shell Underwood, an insurance counselor and former teacher

* William Vinyard, a contractor

The race is nonpartisan, but four of the candidates signed up as Republicans. Peppers registered as an Independent candidate. She and Payne were the two most politically active candidates prior to this week’s race.

Payne, a member of the local Republican Party since 1991, was the group’s chairman from 1998-2005 and again from 2013-15. He stepped down the second time to volunteer for Ben Carson’s presidential campaign.

Peppers is the most liberal candidate in a staunchly conservative region. During a candidate forum, she was the only one who argued against cutting property taxes while boosting sales tax, telling the audience the maneuver would disproportionately tax the poor. She also said she would not support legislation banning abortion in Georgia, arguing it would lead to a costly lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The candidates appeared together in a public forum on Monday.

Goodson noted that people may be familiar with her from her previous run for Senate District 54, when she unsuccessfully challenged then-incumbent Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, in the GOP primary earlier this year.

“I’ve been studying Georgia laws, and I’ve talked to tens of thousands of people. I’ve talked to hundreds of small business owners to find out what’s hurting them and what I can do to help them,” she said.

Payne said that although he was worked on numerous campaigns for others, this is the first time he has run for office.

“I’ve spent all of my adult life serving my country and my community, first in the Army and then for the Department of Juvenile Justice,” said Payne, who recently retired after 30 years with the department as a juvenile probation officer.
[Republican William] Vinyard said he is “a Christian, a conservative and a constitutionalist.”

“I’m a Marine Corps combat veteran. I’ve fought for my country, and I’ll fight for you,” he said.

Burrell Ellis is back at the helm of DeKalb County’s government after the Georgia Supreme Court overturned his convictions for official corruption.Continue Reading..