Category: Georgia Politics

19
Jul

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The legislation must still be approved by the Senate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guyton City Council may revisit its recently adopted budget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Flagpole in Athens,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

Tim Bryant Ralph Hudgens

And from BusinessInsurance.com:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Elections

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

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

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

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

2018 Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia education leaders visited Valdosta State University.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer School for Politicos

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

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

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

14
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six Flags Over Georgia opened on June 16, 1967.

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Navicent Health Hospital received a national award for stroke care.

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

2018 Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the AJC Political team:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from 11Alive’s Doug Richards:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

The United States Senate will delay its August recess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is time for legal in-state cultivation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Campaigns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smooth (Job) Moves

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

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

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

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

13
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 13, 2017

Pen114Roxy

Roxy is a three-year old Shepherd mix female who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Pen204 Puppy

Pen 204 is a 4-month old female Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Logan

Logan is a three-month old male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Rocky

Rocky is a 1-year old male Boxer mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

12
Jul

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

John Percival, an Irish Member of Parliament who served as a Georgia Trustee, was born on July 12, 1733.

In the British House of Commons, Percival served on the committee on jails with a young member named James Oglethorpe, who shared his idea about a new colony in North America for the deserving poor. Percival, like Oglethorpe became a Georgia Trustee, and during Georgia’s first decade, with Oglethorpe in America, Percival worked harder than anyone to champion Georgia’s cause and secure its future.

The United States Army Medal of Honor was created on July 12, 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation authorizing the award.

The first U.S. Army soldiers to receive what would become the nation’s highest military honor were six members of a Union raiding party who in 1862 penetrated deep into Confederate territory to destroy bridges and railroad tracks between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia.

Lt. Frank Reasoner of Kellogg, Idaho died in action on July 12, 1965 and was later posthumously awarded the first Medal of Honor to a United States Marines.

On July 12, 1984, Congresswoman Geradine Ferraro (R-NY) joined the Democratic ticket with Presidential nominee Walter Mondale. Ferraro was the first woman and first Italian-American woman nominated for Vice President. Mondale and Ferraro lost the General Election in the largest ever Republican landslide to Republican President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced that June state tax revenues were up 2.6 percent over June 2016.

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia’s net tax collections for June totaled nearly $1.96 billion, for an increase of $50.2 million, or 2.6 percent, over last year. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled almost $21.75 billion, for an overall increase of $930.5 million, or 4.5 percent, compared to June 2016, when net tax revenues totaled $20.81 billion.

CNBC ranked Georgia the #2 Top State for Business.

The Peach State finished with 1,616 (finishing one point above the No. 3 state, Minnesota), rising six spots this year due in part to its economy — the best in the nation, according to our study — boasting solid state finances and solid growth. The state also finishes near the top for Workforce (No. 3) and Infrastructure (No. 4).

Senator Johnny Isakson is receiving favorable coverage for his leadership of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

As the rest of Congress fights over the health care overhaul and looming budget deadlines, the committees responsible for writing legislation affecting veterans are quietly moving forward with an ambitious, long-sought and largely bipartisan agenda that has the potential to significantly reshape the way the nation cares for its 21 million veterans. It could also provide President Trump with a set of policy victories he badly wants.

“It’s a case study in Washington working as designed,” said Phillip Carter, who studies veterans issues at the Center for a New American Security and advises Democrats. “And it’s shocking because we so rarely see it these days.”

“We don’t want to have a fight for fights’ sake. We want to find solutions,” said Johnny Isakson, the courtly Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “So when we have opposition to an issue from a member, we try to bring them into the fold and sometimes maybe address the concern they have.”

Mr. Isakson, 72, a former real estate executive, is among an increasingly rare breed of deal makers in the upper chamber. Those watching the 15-person committee say he has gone a long way to set the tone for its work. He has found a willing partner in Jon Tester of Montana, the committee’s top Democrat, who along with being a political moderate is up for re-election next year in a rural state that voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump.

“With Johnny at the helm, we’ve been able to get a lot of stuff done,” Mr. Tester said. “Do Johnny and I agree on everything? No, we don’t, but we believe we can communicate and move forward.”

Muscogee County taxpayers are seeing property tax reassessments as high as 1000 percent this year.

The drastic increase has outraged many taxpayers, some of whom showed up at Columbus Council on Tuesday morning. For the most part, they sat quietly in the audience while city representatives grilled tax assessment officials during a two and a half hour discussion. But at times, the crowd broke into applause.

“I just know from my law firm alone, on the low end people have come to us asking about bills at a 100 percent increase,” said Councilor Walker Garrett. “On the high end, we’ve got people that have over a 1,000 percent increase. Why are we not flagging these before people get alarmed and they see their properties go up 10 times within a year? I mean that’s got to be obvious that there’s some sort of error in the system.”

Jeanette Brown, a Upatoi resident, said her family has owned her property since 1968. She said her property tax assessment jumped from about $400 to $1,807 this year.

“I don’t get that much a month,” she said. “They saying about they took pictures of the house years ago and then they took pictures now and overlapped it. That don’t mean nothing.”

She said the house was valued at $35,000 prior to the recent assessment, and no improvements were made. Now it’s valued at $107,000.

Councilor Glenn Davis said councilors are elected to represent their constituents, and he’s very concerned.

“My constituency is, quite frankly, mad as hell,” he said to the applause of the audience. “I don’t use that word much, and I don’t think I’ve used it before in council chambers.”

The Georgia ACLU is threatening to sue over letters sent to Fulton County residents.

The ACLU of Georgia says a letter mailed to nearly 50,000 Fulton County voters, telling them they could be declared inactive because they filed change of address forms but didn’t update their voter registration, is illegal.

The letter states that voters have 30 days to confirm their address on their registration record before being deemed inactive, meaning they could be removed in the future. ACLU of Georgia legal director Sean J. Young said the organization plans to sue if Fulton doesn’t correct the issue.

The mailers referenced by the ACLU in its Tuesday letter specifically involve voters who have moved within Fulton County.

In a letter to the Secretary of State’s office and Fulton County, Young calls the mailing a “voter purge,” something Fulton Director of Elections and Registration Richard Barron said proves the ACLU simply doesn’t understand the process to check where voters live.

The mailing, Barron said, is sent every two years to voters who have submitted a change of address to the postal service, had county mail returned as undeliverable or has not voted within the past three years.

Under state law, registered voters who do not respond to address confirmation notices within 30 days are designated as inactive — something that does not prevent them from voting and does not change their registration status.

Some legislators want to require paper receipts for voting.

Representative Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs, filed House Bill 641, which would require that any new machines the state buys would have to print out paper “receipts” for voters.

“If there is a malfunction of any type or sort, the voter’s going to be able to see right way, before their vote is actually cast that there’s been a problem and they can fix it right there,” explained Rep. Turner.

The state currently has about 27,000 direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, which it began purchasing in 2002.

“How frequently do we update our iPhones or our computers?  Are any of us using systems from back in 2002?  I don’t think so,” said State Representative Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta.  “And that’s the system that we’re using for our voting?  It’s insane.  It’s time to fix it.”

Rep. Holcomb hopes lawmakers can pass legislation and the state can secure a contract for replacement of the machines in time for the statewide elections in November 2018.

““I can’t really see any legitimate opposition to what we’re trying to do,” said Rep. Holcomb.  “This is a system that we know can be accessed, we know it can be hacked and there is no way that we can ensure that each vote is counted without moving to a system that provides for lack of a better term, a receipt that the voters can look at.”

Great idea, guys. Let’s spend millions of dollars replacing a system that has never had an actual problem with something newer and shinier. Meanwhile neglecting actual problems.

Varnell City Council voted to eliminate the municipal police department and turn over local policing to the Whitfield County Sheriff.

Councilman Jan Pourquoi made a motion to eliminate the entire agency, which employs five full-time officers and four or five part-timers. Councilman David Owens seconded the motion, and Councilwoman Andrea Gordy sided with them, tipping the scales. Councilwoman Ashlee Godfrey was the lone “no” vote, though Mayor Anthony Hulsey said he opposed the decision.

Owens later said shedding the department will save the city money and boost its reputation after some controversial cases. He told residents to expect more money for playgrounds and a community center coordinator.

“It’s going to free up a lot of funds for this council to use for quality of life purposes,” he said. “… There will be a lot of good to come back to citizens.”

Godfrey, however, criticized the other council members for rushing the decision. They had not moved to eliminate the department publicly before the vote, and she believes the elected officials should have held weeks of meetings to discuss everything about what would happen next.

“You plan those things,” she said. “That’s any decision in life — at least it should be.”

[Chief Lyle] Grant said the decision to disband the department was politically motivated. He said Pourquoi, who filed the motion for Tuesday’s vote, is going to run for mayor in November, when three council seats are also up for election. Grant believes Pourquoi is trying to garner attention, though he wasn’t clear about why this would win him votes.

Rural Georgia

Trump Pence Sign

Cordele, Georgia, July 10, 2017

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle convened the Senate Health Care Reform Task Force in Tifton on Monday.

“It’s not a one size fits all and there’s not a silver bullet. We have to be committed to really helping rural Georgia meet the needs they have to give patients a quality-based health care system, obviously at a price they can afford as well,” Cagle said.

He said Georgia is going to be a leader in innovation with health care on Monday.

“We’re excited to really look to the new waivers and ways in which we can deliver a better healthcare service to all our citizens of Georgia at a much more affordable price,” Cagle said.

A few resources are patient centered medical homes and telemedicine. These services give those in more rural areas access to healthcare at their fingertips.

Microsoft announced it will invest significant funds to bring broadband internet access to rural areas.

Microsoft President Brad Smith laid out his vision on Tuesday for a new effort to bring broadband internet access to rural communities.

In a blog post, Smith said that the U.S. should aim to eliminate the urban-rural internet access gap by July 4, 2022. He emphasized that the best way to approach the issue is by taking advantage of “TV white spaces” — television broadcast waves that are unused, which “enables wireless signals to travel over hills and through buildings and trees,” Smith writes.

“It’s why people could watch television programs in rural communities long before the advent of satellite television,” he wrote. “Microsoft itself has considerable experience with this spectrum, having deployed 20 TV white spaces projects in 17 countries that have served 185,000 users.”

He called for the federal and local governments to free up spectrum for the effort, invest matching funds in private sector projects and provide updated data on rural broadband coverage.

Microsoft also plans to step up its investment into broadband expansion projects.

“We will invest in the upfront capital projects needed to expand broadband coverage, seek a revenue share from operators to recoup our investment, and then use these revenue proceeds to invest in additional projects to expand coverage further. We’re confident that this approach is good for the country and even for our business.”

Gizmodo has details on how it will work.

On the regional level, we’ll need to build special base stations, equip them with white space antennas, and supply them with electricity. (Solar power is an option for base stations that are off the electric grid.) On the local level, white space customers will need to access to special receivers that can turn the white space signal into something their computer understands, like wi-fi. All of this will cost money.

Customers will have to buy the hardware for their homes at a sobering price of $1,000 or more, but Microsoft says these costs will come down to $200 per device by next year. That’s not nothing for a lot of rural Americans, and then they’ll have to pay for access — a fee that Microsoft says will be “price competitive” with regular old cable internet (again: not cheap).

A story in Advertising Age has a tantalizing tidbit about Georgia:

Politicians have been talking about fixing the shortfall in rural access for years. Recently, much of the spending on connectivity has added capacity to areas already connected rather than hooking up new ones, Smith said. Some of the $7.2 billion spent on rural broadband in President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill was wasted, said Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. Aid went to more prosperous areas that may be more profitable for providers but did little to expand access, he said recently.

[Microsoft President [Brad] Smith, who is from Appleton, Wisconsin, and other Microsoft officials have been visiting small-town America since November. They’ve met with students who drive to library parking lots to piggyback off the Wi-Fi to turn in homework and veterans who are hours from VA clinics but could use telemedicine if only they had a decent internet connection. Microsoft’s initial projects will be in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Medicaid cuts being discussed in Washington could dramatically impact rural health care.

Republican bills to replace the federal health law would worsen rural areas’ financial straits through reductions in Medicaid funding. Patient advocates predict that would lead to fewer enrollees, more shutdowns of rural facilities, reduced payments to doctors and fewer programs for people with health needs or disabilities. In the aggregate, such changes threaten the health of thousands of state residents, especially those in rural areas.

“I’ve seen changes, and I’ve seen cuts, but I’ve never seen changes like what’s being proposed in this bill,” said Eric Jacobson, executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. “This is the first time it’s been this scary.”

“Cuts now would cripple rural Georgia,” said Dr. Ben Spitalnick, president of the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

He said that is because most primary care visits, which include OB-GYN, pediatric and adult care, in the state’s sparsely populated areas rely heavily on Medicaid reimbursements.

The federal cutbacks would have to be offset by the state. But that means taking money from other programs or raising taxes. As a result, state officials facing those shortfalls would likely scale back an already lean Medicaid coverage.

“If you cut back, [people] still go to the hospital, they’ll still need care. No matter what you do, the buck stops somewhere,” said Renee Unterman, a Republican state senator who chairs the health and human services committee. In the end, she added, the cost for that uncompensated care gets passed to taxpayers and consumers through higher health costs and insurance premiums.

Trump Heartbeat

Cordele, Georgia, July 10, 2017

How “Dirty Money” made it to GA-6

A website called Backpage is in the news over allegations that it created an online market for trafficking underage children.

For years, Backpage executives have adamantly denied claims made by members of Congress, state attorneys general, law enforcement and sex-abuse victims that the site has facilitated prostitution and child sex trafficking. Backpage argues it is a passive carrier of “third-party content” and has no control of sex-related ads posted by pimps, prostitutes and even organized trafficking rings. The company contends it removes clearly illegal ads and refers violators to the police.

Among the sex ads posted on Backpage.com are those for underage boys and girls, authorities and advocacy groups say. The National Association of Attorneys General has described Backpage as a “hub” of human trafficking, which involves children or adults who are forced or coerced into prostitution. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said that 73 percent of the 10,000 child sex trafficking reports it receives from the public each year involve ads on Backpage.

It’s a long and sordid story. Here’s where it gets interesting from a political perspective. The website’s founder donated $10k to a Democratic PAC, which then spent $700k in Georgia’s special election for the Sixth Congressional District.

A political action committee formed to help elect Democrats to the House says it will no longer accept contributions from people associated with the company Backpage, an advertising business that has been under fire for allegations that it enabled prostitution and sex trafficking.

In October, Backpage founder James Larkin donated $10,000 to the House Majority PAC, and to several Democratic efforts in Arizona and Colorado, according to the elections clearinghouse website opensecrets.org.

A statement from an official with the Democratic House Majority PAC seemed to imply that they weren’t able to return the donations, but said it would no longer take money from the company.

“The contribution from James Larkin was received and spent during the 2016 election cycle,” said Charlie Kelly, Executive Director of House Majority PAC, in an email to the Washington Examiner. “The allegations against Larkin are reprehensible, and HMP will not accept any future contributions from Larkin or his associates at [Backpage].”

The House Majority PAC has been an instrument for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to try to increase the Democrats’ numbers in the lower chamber of Congress. The political action committee recently spent about $700,000 in the recent special election in Georgia, in which Democrats hoped to show they were gaining momentum against the Trump administration by plucking off a safe Republican seat. The efforts didn’t pay off however, as the GOP kept the seat.

2018 Elections

Judge John Ellington announced he raised $370k for his campaign for an open seat on the Georgia Supreme Court.

Considering we launched this campaign just a few short weeks ago, I’m encouraged by the tremendous support we’ve received from throughout the state, from Ringgold to St. Marys and all points in between,” said retired Appeals Court Judge Herbert Phipps, the campaign’s treasurer. “Our donations come from Republicans and Democrats, business leaders, law enforcement and every segment of the legal community.”

Ellington’s report will show more than 500 individual donors, which include the board chairs of the Georgia Ports Authority, the Regents and the Department of Natural Resources. The campaign is yet to incur any expenses so the total raised is also cash on hand.

“While this is a great start, it’s just a start,” said Ellington. “I’ll work hard until the election next year to raise the significant funds needed to communicate with voters in a state with 10 million people. I appreciate all those who have shown their faith in this effort. After many years serving on every level of court in Georgia, I’m running for the Supreme Court because I believe an excellent judiciary is critical to the quality of life of Georgians.”

Matt Reeves announced he raised $55k running in Senate District 48, being vacated by Sen. David Shafer.

Republican Houston Gaines raised $65k in a campaign for House District 117, which is currently held by State Rep. Regina Quick (R).

“I’m running for House District 117 because this community has been home my entire life, and I want to serve my neighbors by working for better educational opportunities for our children, good-paying jobs and new investment in transportation options to improve mobility,” said Gaines. “I believe in low taxes and smaller government, the value of free enterprise and personal responsibility – and as a lifelong Republican in this community, I always have.”

Gaines, a third-generation Northeast Georgian, is a consultant for a local company that works with nonprofits to increase mission awareness, organizational effectiveness and philanthropic support. He is a former student body president at the University of Georgia and a 2015 graduate of LEAD Athens. Gaines sits on several local nonprofit boards and has been actively engaged with local and state government.

“It’s time for a new generation, a new conservative voice at the Gold Dome for District 117 voters in Clarke, Oconee, Jackson and Barrow counties,” Gaines said. “I want to be that voice for my neighbors, and my neighbors can trust that my principles won’t change based on political calculations. That’s the choice that our campaign is providing the voters. My grandfather, Judge Joseph Gaines, served this community for more than 30 years with dignity and honor. I want to carry on that legacy by giving back like he did.”

Gaines’ 120 donors include respected members of the community such as Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson, Oconee County Commission Chairman John Daniell, Oconee County Board of Education Chairman Tom Odom, other elected officials, business owners and citizens of all walks of life. His campaign advisers include Tom Willis and Brian Robinson, who previously served as campaign manager and communications director respectively for Gov. Nathan Deal.

Former State Rep. Doug McKillip announced in April that he will run against Quick.

Nathan Foster will run for the Snellville City Council seat being vacated by Bobby Howard.

11
Jul

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

On July 11, 1782, British colonists including British Royal Governor Sir James Wright, fled Georgia.

Wright had been the only colonial governor and Georgia the only colony to successfully implement the Stamp Act in 1765. As revolutionary fervor grew elsewhere in the colonies, Georgia remained the most loyal colony, declining to send delegates to the Continental Congress in 1774.

Congress ordered the creation of the United States Marine Corps on July 11, 1798, after the Corps was inactive for a period following the Revolutionary War. From 1799 to 1921, Marine Corps Day was observed on July 11, but is now celebrated on November 10, the date of it’s Revolutionary War establishment.

On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. Burr was the sitting Vice President of the United States and Hamilton a former Secretary of the Treasury.

After he shot Hamilton, Aaron Burr quickly fled the nation’s capitol, making his way to St. Simons Island, Georgia, spending a month as a guest of Pierce Butler at Hampton Plantation.

Burr was a fugitive, but his killing Hamilton in a duel held a certain justifiable reasoning since dueling was not illegal, though morally questionable, to be sure. According to H. S. Parmet and M. B. Hecht in their Aaron Burr: Portrait of an Ambitious Man, after the duel, he immediately completed, by mid-August, plans which he had already initiated, to go to St. Simons, “an island off the coast of Georgia, one mile below the town of Darien.”

Jonathan Daniels’ “Ordeal of Ambition” handles the situation this way: “With Samuel Swartwout and a slave named Peter (‘the most intelligent and best disposed black I have ever known’), Burr secretly embarked for Georgia. There on St. Simons Island at the Hampton Plantation of his friend, rich former Senator Pierce Butler, he found refuge…” As Georgia Historian Bernice McCullar, author of “Georgia” puts it, Burr was “fleeing the ghost of Alexander Hamilton” when he arrived on the Georgia island.

“Major Pierce Butler,” she relates, “had fought in the British army and remained in America after the war.” He had married a South Carolina heiress, Miss Polly Middleton, and acquired two Georgia Coastal plantations, which he ran like a general storming after the troops. In fact, he was so strict that none of his slaves could associate with any of the others. He also required anyone who visited his plantations to give his or her name at the gate. With this tight security, Burr should have felt safe..

Actually, Butler’s invitation to visit the island fitted the escapee’s plans nicely. Not only was the Hamilton affair a bother, but also Burr needed to get away from a lady by the name of Celeste; however, the real reason, aside from being near his daughter, who was also in the South, was the nearness of the Floridas. No real purpose is given why the Vice-President wanted to spend “five or six weeks on this hazardous and arduous undertaking.”

Daniels underscores that from this St. Simons point Burr could “make any forays into Florida he wished to make. He traveled under the name ‘Roswell King.” After his Florida odyssey, he planned to meet his South Carolina son-in-law “at any healthy point.”

Parts of the Hampton Plantation survive in the form of tabby ruins on St Simons.

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0549 copy

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0524 copy

A house in St. Marys, Georgia bears a plaque stating that Aaron Burr visited there in 1804.

Clark lived in the home from 1804 until his death in 1848. He was appointed in 1807 by then-President Thomas Jefferson as customs collector for the Port of St. Marys, a position he held until his death. The year Clark bought the house, he is said to have provided a temporary hideout to Aaron Burr, who was traveling in the South to evade federal authorities holding a warrant for his arrest after he killed Alexander Hamilton in their infamous duel in July 1804.

Verification of Burr’s stay in St. Marys is hard to come by. But it is confirmed that he stayed on St. Simons Island and Cumberland Island late in the summer after he killed Hamilton. That Burr knew Clark is not disputed. The two attended law school together in Litchfield, Conn., but there is no mention in either man’s records that Burr stayed in the home.

St Marys Aaron Burr Plaque TMR_1465

Aaron Burr House St Marys GA Front Side TMR_1470

Aaron Burr House St Marys GA Front

On July 11, 1877, a Constitutional Convention convened in the Kimball Opera House in Atlanta to replace the 1868 Reconstruction Constitution.

On July 11, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act, establishing a federal program of paying for highway development.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the Democratic nomination for a fourth term on July 11, 1944.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was nominated for President by the Republican National Convention on July 11, 1952.

July 11, 1969 was an epic day in rock and roll history, with David Bowie releasing “Space Oddity” and the Rolling Stones releasing “Honky Tonk Women.”

On July 11, 1985, Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan became the first major league player to strike out 4000 batters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today’s “Oops!” moment comes from the Patrick Morrisey campaign for United States Senate from West Virginia. Look for it starting at :57.

The news of the day is campaign contribution disclosures, which were due yesterday.

Governor Raised Cash on hand
Hunter Hill (R) 1,148,529.59 928,444.92
Brian Kemp (R) 1,710,592.00 1,523,900.80
Casey Cagle (R) 2,659,044.40 2,515,178.04
Michael Williams (R) 1,051,831.12 944,024.47 includes $1 million loan
Stacey Abrams (D) 541,758.45 222,468.01
Stacey Evans (D) 415,319.93 365,825.43
Rod Mack (D) DNF DNF
Lieutenant Governor Raised Cash on hand
David Shafer (R) 900,121.36 895,681.82
Geoff Duncan (R) 329,570.00 304,949.18  includes $100k loan
Rick Jeffares (R) 355,575.00 349,061.59
Secretary of State Raised Cash on hand
Buzz Brockway (R) 60,522.80 54,976.10
Brad Raffensperfer (R) 93,610.00 81,921.38 includes $75k loan
David Belle Isle (R) 291,625.00 279,667.07
Rakeim J. “RJ” Hadley (D) 4,050.00 200.00

 

Michael Williams loaned his campaign $1 million, LG candidate Geoff Duncan loaned his campaign $100k, while Brad Reffensperger loaned his $75k.

State Senator Josh McKoon is not included in the above tables because he filed paperwork to raise money after the cut-off date, and thus had no disclosure due. No one else is excluded unless they aren’t taking the steps necessary to actually run for office.

The AJC Political Insider writes that the gubernatorial contest could shape up to be the most expensive in Georgia history, with more than $7.4 million raised or loaned so far.

From the Gainesville Times:

Both Cagle and Kemp broke the previous fundraising record for the first reporting period, already showing the high stakes of the race among Republicans to replace Gov. Nathan Deal. Monday is the first reporting deadline for gubernatorial candidates.

“The level of financial support we have received is immensely humbling and encouraging,” Cagle said in his Monday announcement.

Cagle, who has been lieutenant governor since 2007, has struck a more moderate conservative tone within the GOP primary and has courted metropolitan voters in Atlanta in addition to mainstream conservatives.

State Senator David Shafer, the front-runner in the race for Lieutenant Governor, gave away a million dollars previously raised for his senate campaign.

On Monday, a Republican political action committee reported it had gotten $1.025 million in leftover campaign money from Shafer’s state Senate account.

Under Georgia law, candidates can’t raise money for one office and then use it to run for another. So Shafer couldn’t directly spend his leftover state Senate money in his lieutenant governor’s race.

The Republican Leadership Fund PAC, headed by longtime party activist and statehouse lobbyist Don Bolia, can use what it raises to help support GOP candidates in next year’s election, including Shafer.

It has raised $8,000 so far this year from sources other than Shafer.

Before Shafer’s Senate campaign contribution to the PAC, it had $188,000 in the bank. It now has $1.2 million.

The money quote on Shafer’s fundraising haul comes from John Isakson, Jr, his campaign chair.

“Other than my father, I haven’t seen anyone work this hard or be this focused in a campaign,” said Isakson.

Shafer, the Senate’s pro tem, has racked up endorsements from GOP mega-donor Bernie Marcus, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens and all five members of the Public Service Commission in an effort to establish himself as the front-runner.

Congratulations to Ashley Jenkins, who will serve as District Director for Congresswoman Karen Handel.

Governor Nathan Deal announced that the film and video industry has added $9.5 billion to Georgia’s economy.

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia-lensed feature film and television productions generated an economic impact of $9.5 billion during FY 2017. The 320 feature film and television productions shot in Georgia represent $2.7 billion in direct spending in the state.

“Georgia’s film industry supports thousands of jobs, boosts small business growth and expands offerings for tourists,” said Deal. “As one of the top places in the world for film, Georgia hosted a remarkable 320 film and television productions during the last fiscal year. These productions mean new economic opportunities and real investments in local communities. We are committed to further establishing Georgia as a top film destination and introducing film companies to the Camera Ready backdrops available across Georgia.”

In addition to the increase in production expenditures, Georgia has experienced significant infrastructure growth with multiple announcements in FY 2017, including the announcement of Three Ring Studios in Covington. With this additional infrastructure, Georgia can accommodate larger tentpole productions with more capacity for multiple film projects.

“Literally hundreds of new businesses have relocated or expanded in Georgia to support this burgeoning industry – creating jobs for Georgians as well as economic opportunities for communities and small businesses,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Although these support services companies cannot claim the tax credits, they directly benefit from the increased amount of work in the state, and the fact that the savings from the Film Tax Credit are typically re-invested in the project, creating additional economic impact and activity for these Georgia-based businesses.”

The economic impact of the film industry can be felt across multiple sectors. In addition to camera, lighting and audio equipment, film companies use a wide range of support services during production including catering, construction, transportation, accounting and payroll and post-production.

“Georgia’s growth in the film industry – from $67.7 million in direct spending in FY 2007 to $2.7 billion in FY 2017 – is unprecedented, not only in production spend, but also in the amount of investment that has been made in infrastructure,” said Lee Thomas, GDEcD deputy commissioner for the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office. “The unwavering commitment to this industry by Governor Deal and the Georgia legislature has ensured Georgia’s place as a top destination for film and television.”

In 2017, the GDEcD Film and Tourism divisions partnered to celebrate the “Year of Georgia Film” to highlight Georgia’s film tourism sites, including local communities that have served as backdrops for movies and television productions since the 1970s.

Cobb County residents turned out for a hearing on a proposed property tax hike.

ix community members addressed Boyce and county commissioners during Monday’s hearing, the first of three scheduled in front of the entire board before commissioners vote on the property tax rate. Boyce is proposing an increase of 0.13 mills, which would amount to an additional $13 in tax on a home valued at $250,000. It comes after the county announced a 6.5 percent jump in Cobb’s tax digest, or the measure of the taxable value of property in the county.

The increase is equivalent to the 0.13-mill cost commissioners were told earlier this year would be needed to fund a portion of the $40 million parks bond approved in 2008. Boyce addressed the need to fund the bond in an 18-minute video shown to the meeting’s estimated three dozen attendees before public comment began.

“If I were you, I’d be ashamed that you showed us boxes of all of those ‘highly important’ things that you say we can’t fund, but right now, you want to put more parks in,” said Loretta Davis, an east Cobb real estate agent. “We can certainly wait a little bit longer for parks, but we already have parks.”

Lance Lamberton, who serves as the chairman of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, said he had hoped to see the county commission follow the lead of Cherokee County, which is considering a full rollback of its millage.

“Even if we were to concede the need for more revenue to fill ‘holes’ in the budget arising from the great recession, a $2.06-billion increase in the tax digest, without even increasing the millage rate, should be more than enough, especially considering that these increases will be realized year after year,” Lamberton said. “To add a millage rate increase on top of that is adding insult to injury.”

Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott said he opposes the proposed tax hike.

Commissioner Bob Ott said he does not believe the commission’s support of the parks bond justifies the millage increase, and says that he would vote against the millage proposal as it currently stands.

“I understand that we committed to the park bond — I just believe there are ways to get to where we need to be without increasing the millage,” Ott said. “I know it’s only 0.13 (mills), but I think the board needs to exercise discipline in spending versus just raising the millage. I don’t believe the board has truly established the spending priorities that the community has and the board has, and I think the board needs to spend this next year after this millage is set determining what these priorities are.”

Gwinnett County Commissioners also heard from taxpayers against a proposed tax increase.

Gwinnett County residents who addressed their Board of Commissioners about a proposed millage rate increase sang a common tune on Monday night.

They were afraid the increase, on top of growth in the county’s property value-based tax digest, would make it hard for them to pay their taxes this fall. The general operations millage rate is increasing from 6.826 to 7.4 mills.

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

“I don’t understand why you have an increased value and now we’re going to get a double whammy with the millage rate going up,” Lilburn resident Lana Berry said. “I just think it is unfair. I think when you sit in your offices, you think — I’m assuming you think — everybody gets an increase every day, that every year we get an increase and can afford it.

“People in Gwinnett are getting older. We can’t afford a millage rate (increase) and an increase in values in the same year.”

In all, five people addressed the board about the proposed increase between the two hearings. One of those people spoke at an early morning hearing while the rest attended an early evening hearing.

Lilburn City Council voted to keep the same property tax millage rate as the previous year.

10
Jul

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

Millard Fillmore was sworn in as the 13th President of the United States on July 10, 1850, following the death of President Zachary Taylor.

On July 10, 1864, Conferderate forces retreated south across the Chattahoochee and burned the bridge behind them. General Sherman wrote later of the day,

General Garrard Moved rapidly on Roswell, and destroyed the factories which had supplied the rebel armies with cloth for years.

Over General Garrard was then ordered to secure the shallow ford at Roswell and hold it until he could be relieved by infantry, and as I contemplated transferring the Army of the Tennessee from the extreme right to the left, I ordered General Thomas to send a division of his infantry that was nearest up to Roswell to hold the ford until General McPherson could send up a corps from the neighborhood of Nickajack.

General Newton’s division was sent and held the ford until the arrival of General Dodge’s corps, which was soon followed by General McPherson’s whole army.

The Scopes “Monkey Trial” began on July 10, 1925, in which a Tennessee public school teacher was tried for teaching evolution, against state law. Three-time Democratic candidate for President William Jennings Bryan volunteered to help the prosecution, and famed lawyer Clarence Darrow defended John Thomas Scopes.

On July 10, 1985, “Classic“ Coke returned, joining the new formula on store shelves.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games broke ground for Atlanta Olympic Stadium on July 10, 1993; after the Olympics, the stadium was modified for baseball and became Turner Field.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal congratulated Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald on her appointment by President Trump as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and appointed J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., as interim commissioner at the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“I’m proud of my friend and colleague Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, and I am grateful for tireless efforts in promoting the health and well-being of Georgians,” said Deal. “As commissioner, she’s been an asset to our state and an advocate for our citizens. I’m certain she will bring those same qualities to the CDC and lead the federal agency skillfully. I’m confident that Dr. O’Neal’s extensive experience, vast medical knowledge and strong leadership capabilities will allow for a seamless transition. As interim commissioner, Dr. O’Neal will continue promoting the critical work performed by DPH employees, advancing programs throughout the state and collaborating with Georgia’s 159 county health departments and 18 public health districts. I wish Drs. Fitzgerald and O’Neal great success in their new roles and endeavors.”

“I am humbled by the challenges that lie ahead, yet I am confident that the successes we’ve had in Georgia will provide me with a foundation for guiding the work of the CDC,” said Fitzgerald. “The progress we’ve made in Georgia around early brain development, childhood obesity and creating a model for addressing life-threatening epidemics would not have been possible without the full support of Governor Deal and a dedicated public health staff. I look forward to the continued good work of DPH under Dr. O’Neal’s leadership.”

Senator Johnny Isakson spoke to the AJC’s Jim Galloway about efforts to reform federal healthcare laws.

“You have do away with the individual mandate, and then define what the new individual mandate is,” Georgia’s senior senator said.

Put another way: With or without Obamacare, somebody will be telling you and me that we need to purchase health insurance, and that somebody must have the ability to punish us — in the wallet — if we do not.

That’s the price of preserving the ability of those with pre-existing conditions to sign up for health insurance. And that’s a feature of the ACA that Senate Republicans aren’t going ditch. “Getting rid of it ain’t going to happen,” Isakson said.

“We’ve got to make sure we have everybody in the system and paying. That’s the biggest hitch,” Isakson said. “We would have had a deal two weeks ago if [Senate leadership], the insurance industry and the administration could figure out that one problem.”

Isakson can’t accurately be described as a Republican swing vote, but he has his requirements – which I asked him to name.

He wants health insurance policies sold across state lines. He wants the number of essential benefits now mandated by Obamacare reduced, in order to promote diversity in policies offered by insurance companies. A competitive health insurance environment is necessary to make a Republican overhaul work, he maintains.

Isakson knows there’s a balance to be struck here. The greatest sin of Obamacare, the senator said, was the “bronze policy” that offered low premiums, but had such a high deductible that it has been nearly useless. A policy-holder might be protected from the catastrophic costs of cancer, only to be bankrupted by a broken leg.

Hospitals are Isakson’s focus. The Senate Republican drafts so far would curtail the expansion of Medicaid, to the point that Congressional Budget Office scoring says 22 million Americans would lose coverage over the next decade. Gov. Nathan Deal never accepted the federal cash that would have allowed expansion in Georgia, so many state hospitals remain in a precarious financial position – especially in rural portions of the state.

When Obamcare was passed, federal payments to hospitals tasked with heavy loads of charity work – such as Grady Memorial in Atlanta and Memorial Health in Savannah — were to be phased out. Medicaid expansion was to have solved the problem. Those extra payments disappear in four-and-a-half years.

Isakson wants those payments restored — permanently. “America’s not going to be a country that leaves its poor on the doorsteps of hospitals, dying because they can’t get treatment. We’re smart enough to figure something out.

“There’ll be some contribution for hospitals that take on the charity payments, and I think a lot of it will come from not-for-profits,” Isakson said.

The senator was speaking of those hospitals that are public and non-profit in name, but are operated by private management companies that do very well, thank you. We have them here in Georgia, but it’s a national phenomenon.

For the last several years, the Legislature has approved a “bed tax” paid by all Georgia hospitals in order to build a pool of cash that can be used by the state to draw down matching federal Medicaid dollars.

It sounds like Isakson’s thinking of a nationalized version of this.

The Georgia Senate Health Care Reform Task Force, convened by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, meets at Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton today.

Gwinnett County will study transit needs as part of its ongoing Comprehensive Transit Development Plan.

Coweta County Chief Deputy Sheriff James Yarbrough finished a stint with the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchanges (GILEE) peer-to-peer training program in Israel.

The Acworth Board of Alderman approved a local church’s plan to set up small cottages to house freed human trafficking victims.

Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins held a service to send former Governor Sonny Perdue and First Lady Mary Perdue to Washington to preach to the heathens.

When a church sends members out on a mission, it often holds a commissioning ceremony to ask God’s blessings for the trip, but a Warner Robins church on Sunday held a ceremony in recognition of a different kind of mission.

Hundreds of people came to Second Baptist Church for a commissioning service honoring Sonny and Mary Perdue. Sonny Perdue, who served as Georgia governor for eight years, is the new U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

He is a member of the church and his son, Jim Perdue, is pastor. Jim Perdue said the ceremony was held to recognize his parents for the “mission” in which they are embarking to serve the nation.

“A missionary is someone who, while he has everything rolling like it’s supposed to right where he is with his business and family and kids and his grandkids, will pick up and move to Washington to D.C., which we all know needs more missionaries, and be faithful and obedient to God,” Jim Perdue said.

He then asked his parents to come down to the altar, and dozens more family and church members gathered around them as he prayed for them.

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials says that Hispanic voting is on the rise in Georgia.

About 53 percent of Georgia’s Hispanic voters came out for the 2016 presidential election, which was up from 47 percent in 2012, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. Notably, about 73 percent of registered Hispanic women cast a ballot.

Nationally, nearly 48 percent of Hispanic voters participated, which was on par with turnout in 2012.

“Here in Georgia, we saw a dramatic increase, not only adding more voters but more voters actually going to the polls,” said Jerry Gonzalez, the association’s executive director.

Georgia gained more than 60,000 Hispanic voters since 2012, which was an increase of about 25 percent. Hispanics make up nearly 4 percent of the state’s registered voters, or a little more than 244,000 voters, according to the report’s count.

Property Taxes On the Rise

Cobb County Commissioners will hear from citizens on a proposal to raise property taxes by adopting a rate higher than the full rollback rate.

Despite rising property values that have pushed the county tax digest to record levels, no elected bodies in Cobb plan to roll back millage rates, effectively increasing what the county, its six cities and two school districts collect in taxes.

In a double whammy, some taxpayers will see increased rates on top of increased property values.

At $33.66 billion, Cobb’s 2017 gross tax digest is the highest ever — up 6.5 percent from last year — but Cobb County commissioners and the city of Austell have announced they intend to raise millage rates for residents.

Cobb’s remaining five cities and two school districts intend to keep the millage rate the same, effectively increasing taxes for those whose homes and businesses have been reassessed at a higher value.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes spoke to the MDJ Wednesday about the 1999 bill he signed into law requiring governments to hold three public hearings and advertise a tax increase if they choose not to roll back millage rates.

A “rollback” is the rate that would allow a governing body to collect the same amount of revenue it did the prior year given the reassessment of property values within its boundaries.

“I put it in when I was governor because I didn’t like governments saying they’re not raising taxes when they are,” he said. “When the values go up and you keep the millage rate the same, you’re raising taxes.”

Cherokee County Commissioners are scheduled to give final approval next week to higher property tax rates.

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners has tentatively adopted a millage rate of 5.528, requiring an increase in property taxes of 0.82 percent, and has scheduled three public hearings on the tax hike in the coming weeks.

The tentative millage rate represents an increase of 0.0045 mills. Without the increase, the rate would be no more than 5.483. A home with a fair market value of $225,000 would see a tax increase of $3.82, and a non-homestead property valued at $200,000, $3.60, officials said.

Forsyth County Commissioners are expected to adopt a millage rate higher than the full rollback rate.

Officials plan to hold the maintenance and operations rate level at 4.642 mills, keep the fire rate at 1.975 and maintain the bond levy at 1.419. Those rates will fund the 2018 budget, which is in the preliminary stages of being prepared. The tax digest is projected to grow by 7.66 percent. That means taxes levied this year will be 3.85 percent over the rollback rate and that some property owners who have been reassessed may see their tax bills rise.

Forsyth County Board of Education property tax collections will likewise rise with reassessments, though the millage rate remains the same.

Commissioners announced in a news release this week the 2018 millage rate will remain the same at a total millage rate of 8.036 mills, but the county will see a 7.6 percent increase in the tax digest due to a recent value of reassessments and new construction. Taxes levied this year will see an increase of 3.85 percent over the rollback millage rate.

When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires a rollback millage rate be computed that would produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments or growth occurred.

The total millage rate is made up of: the maintenance and operations rate, which will stay at 4.642 mills; the fire rate, which will remain 1.975 mills; and the bond rate, which will remain 1.419 mills.

The millage rate is the formula that calculates property taxes. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value, which is 40 percent of the actual market value.

For the tax digest increase, about 3.67 percent came from new construction and 3.99 percent from increased values from reassessments.

Any changes to an individual tax bill will come from the value of their reassessment.

A pattern is emerging in the strongly-Republican northern arc counties this year with Gwinnett commissioners and the Gwinnett Board of Education also bumping the tax rate.

The City of Chamblee is considering retaining the same property tax rate as the previous year, resulting in an increase in revenues.

The property tax estimates in this proposed budget are based on the 2016 millage rate of 6.4 mils. Recent increases in the Tax Digest due to higher DeKalb County property assessments, will result in a tax collection increase year-over-year if the City opts to keep the millage rate at 6.4 mills. The term “tax increase” relates to the total amount of property tax proceeds the City will collect in 2017, as compared to total collections in 2016. Because property valuations are higher, at the same tax rate, the haul is comparatively higher. Chamblee says other revenue sources are being budgeted at or near 2016 actuals for 2017.

A number the City is required by law to broadcast is called the Roll-Back rate. This number is generated to illustrate where the City would have to adjust (lower) the City tax rate to keep year-over-year tax collections neutral.

The tentative millage rate of 6.40 mills will result in a collections increase equivalent to .386 mills over what the roll back rate would generate. Without this tentative tax collection increase, the millage rate will be 6.014 mills. The proposed “tax increase” effectively equates to a home with a fair market value of $237,054 being approximately $36.60 and the proposed “tax increase” for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $737,240 is approximately $113.83, for example.

Douglas County Board of Education will partially rollback its property tax millage rate, but reassessments will mean increased tax revenues.

Canton City Council is bucking the trend, and considering a property tax decrease beyond the rollback rate.

The new City of Tucker has adopted a property tax rate of zero percent.

The young city of Tucker is preparing to charge residents a stunning amount for property taxes: $0.

The non-existent tax rate is possible because Tucker, which became a city of 35,000 residents last year, provides only a few services such as code enforcement, zoning and permitting.

The $7.6 million budget for Tucker’s operations next fiscal year would instead be funded by charges for business licenses, alcohol licenses, permits and utility franchise fees.

Of course, Tucker residents will still owe property taxes for DeKalb County’s schools and government, which provide most local services.

“It’s about keeping promises,” said Tucker spokesman Matt Holmes. “A segment of people said this city is going to be more expensive, but folks elected to city leadership positions said, ‘No, it doesn’t have to be that way.’”

Some Whitfield County residents are questioning property tax assessments higher than they anticipated.

2018 Elections

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle announced his campaign raised $2.7 million and has $2.5 million cash-on-hand.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle raised more than $2.7 million in roughly two months since he entered the governor’s race, outpacing his Republican rivals in the wide-open contest to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal.

The Republican has about $2.5 million cash on hand, and he’s likely to be aided by another fat bank account: The Georgia Conservatives Fund, a fund long run by Cagle’s top allies but with no official link to his campaign, has about $2.5 million at its disposal.

Cagle is the presumptive front-runner in a crowded GOP field that also includes Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams. He’s running on a pledge to create 500,000 new jobs, cut taxes and reduce the high school dropout rate.

Cagle’s campaign said his fundraising haul was one of the largest at this stage in an open gubernatorial contest, and that he collected contributions from more than 1,200 donors. Among them is former Georgia football coach Ray Goff and more than 150 GOP elected officials.

In a statement, Cagle said the $2.7 million take was “immensely humbling and encouraging.”

Democratic opponents to Congressman Rob Woodall (R-7) now number four, with former Gwinnett Democratic Party chair Steve Reilly joining the race.

Georgia State University Andrew Young School of Policy Studies assistant director Carolyn Bourdeaux announced her candidacy this past week, on the heels of Peachtree Corners attorney Steve Reilly’s announcement that he, too, would run for the seat.

C2 Education founder David Kim and homeless assistance advocate Kathleen Allen previously announced plans to run for the Democratic nomination for the seat.

Bourdeaux, who has already been endorsed by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Andrew Young, comes into the race with a background in public policy and government budgeting and tax policy. At Georgia State, she was the founding director of the university’s Center on State and Local Finance and served as director of the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office from 2007-10.

Meanwhile, Reilly comes into the race with deep connections to the local and state Democratic parties. He was the chairman of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party from 1996 to 2002. He has also served as the Democratic Party of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District chairman, and is currently a member of the party’s state committee.

Democrat Lisa Ring will run for the First Congressional District against Republican incumbent Buddy Carter.

“I was elected as a 1st CD Delegate for (Bernie) Sanders to the DNC, and as Co-chair (with Sen. Vincent Fort) of the Georgia Sanders Delegation. I am the Chair of the Bryan County Democratic Committee (as a committee, we qualify local candidates) and the Vice Chair of the Georgia Democratic Rural Council, both are elected positions.”

“Currently, all my work is volunteer. I am a former corrections officer (Lehigh County Prison in Pennsylvania) and the former Executive Director of the Allentown Day Reporting Center — an anti-recidivism program for convicted felons out on parole — also in Pennsylvania.”

“There are so many needs facing our district. My platform focuses primarily on economic issues. If we look closely at the proposed budget cuts for 2018, the 1st Congressional District will lose a minimum of nearly $105 million. These cuts have a detrimental effect on our veterans, our seniors, our children, our environment; every person will suffer the consequences. And many have been suffering for years.”

“Healthcare is probably the most crucial issue we face. Protections for over 300,000 residents of the 1st district with pre-existing conditions are being stripped away. Medicaid is being drastically cut. A tax on senior citizens is proposed. And tax credit to pay for insurance is dramatically reduced over time for everyone but the wealthy. The people of the 1st District need a leader who will stand up and protect their access to affordable healthcare. Then we can move forward to insure that everyone has the right of healthcare regardless of income. It’s time to take healthcare out of the hands of for-profit health insurers and put it into the hands of actual healthcare providers.”

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

On July 7, 1742, General James Oglethorpe was victorious over the Spanish at the Battle of Bloody Marsh and the Battle of Gully Hole Creek; a week later Gov. Montiano would call off the invasion of Georgia from Florida, leaving Georgia to develop as a British colony.

On July 8, 1776, the bell now known as the Liberty Bell rang in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall, to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together and to summon people for special announcements and events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as King George III’s 1761 ascension to the British throne and, in 1765, to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in April 1775, the bell was rung to announce the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its most famous tolling, however, was on July 8, 1776, when it summoned Philadelphia citizens for the first reading of the Declaration of Independence.

The Liberty Bell inscription includes a reference to Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

On July 9, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read aloud to General George Washington’s troops at the parade grounds in Manhattan.

President Zachary Taylor died of cholera on July 9, 1850 and  Millard Fillmore was sworn in as the 13th President of the United States on July 10, 1850.

The first of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops, under Major General Schofield, crossed the Chattahoochee River between Powers Ferry and Johnson Ferry on July 8, 1864.

On July 9, 1864, Confederate troops retreated across the Chattahoochee River from Cobb County into Fulton County. Upriver, Sherman’s troops had already crossed and moved toward Atlanta.

On July 10, 1864, Conferderate forces retreated south across the Chattahoochee and burned the bridge behind them. General Sherman wrote later of the day,

General Garrard Moved rapidly on Roswell, and destroyed the factories which had supplied the rebel armies with cloth for years.

Over General Garrard was then ordered to secure the shallow ford at Roswell and hold it until he could be relieved by infantry, and as I contemplated transferring the Army of the Tennessee from the extreme right to the left, I ordered General Thomas to send a division of his infantry that was nearest up to Roswell to hold the ford until General McPherson could send up a corps from the neighborhood of Nickajack.

General Newton’s division was sent and held the ford until the arrival of General Dodge’s corps, which was soon followed by General McPherson’s whole army.

Former United States Senator from Texas Phil Gramm (R) was born on July 8, 1942 in Columbus, Georgia, where his father was stationed at Fort Benning.

Sliced bread was invented on July 7, 1928 at the Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri.

On July 7, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act.

On July 8, 1975, President Gerald Ford announced his candidacy for President in the 1976 elections

The first female cadets enrolled at West Point on July 7, 1976.

Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan on July 7, 1981.

On July 10, 1985, “Classic“ Coke returned, joining the new formula on store shelves.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games broke ground for Atlanta Olympic Stadium on July 10, 1993; after the Olympics, the stadium was modified for baseball and became Turner Field.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Cobb County Commissioners are considering raising the property tax millage rate.

Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce has proposed a county tax hike totaling 0.13 mills, with the increase primarily due to the costs of providing $27.4 million for new county green space.

The proposed increase, which would amount to an additional $13 in tax on a home valued at $250,000, is coming days after the county announced a 6.5 percent jump in Cobb’s tax digest, or the measure of the taxable value of property in the county. But Boyce said he believes the rate increase is needed even with that growth in the digest.

“I know people aren’t going to be happy to pay more — I appreciate that, I’m one of those guys,” Boyce said Wednesday. “But we have some major programs that we didn’t fund during the recession, and now we’re having to climb out of that hole. And this is one way we’re going to start doing that: by using revenue from assessments to start paying for these services we furloughed or didn’t do during the recession. And we have some ongoing costs of government that have to be paid.”

Commissioners will consider the tax increase at their July 25 meeting, which will also see a vote on three other property taxes levied by the county. The fire service millage rate, which funds the county’s fire department and applies countywide, is proposed to remain at 2.96 mills, while the remaining two rates only apply within two special tax districts within the county.

Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) yesterday announced via Facebook that he filed paperwork with the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to raise funds for a campaign for Secretary of State in 2018.

From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

In an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, McKoon said he’s excited about the race, which currently includes at least three other candidates to replace Brian Kemp. Others already vying for the position include Reps. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, and Brad Raffensperger, R-Johns Creek, as well as David Belle Isle, the Republican mayor of Alpharetta, Ga.

McKoon, a controversial Republican legislator who has challenged party leadership occasionally, listed former Georgia Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Everhart as his campaign chairman and Atlanta businessman Robert Hennessy as his treasurer. Hennessy also is active in state Republican politics.

“I decided to run for Secretary of State for a couple of reasons,” he said. “One is I’m very concerned about the integrity of the electoral process. I actually looked at running for Secretary of State eight years ago, before Seth Harp vacated the senate seat. And the issue then, and I think the issue now, is making sure people feel that their vote is going to count, that they don’t have to worry about there being any malfeasance in the electoral process, any illegal votes cast.”

McKoon said he also believes the licensing function of the office is ripe for reform.

“There’s been a nationwide study done by Americans for Prosperity that 5.4 million new jobs could be created if we would reduce the barriers to entry for licensed professions,” he said. “So that’s something I’m very passionate about, is trying to connect people on that first rung on the ladder to economic success by making it easier for them to enter a licensed profession.”

As an attorney, McKoon said he’s also concerned about the delivery of online services at the Secretary of State Office.

“I think there are a number of ways that we can improve delivery of the corporate services,” he said.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office opined that Georgia Power is required by state law to continue collecting ratepayer funds toward construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Because of a 2009 state law enacted just after the Vogtle project was authorized, “Georgia Power cannot voluntarily agree” to suspend the surcharges, Senior Assistant Attorney General Daniel Walsh said Wednesday in a letter to state utility regulators.

Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins said state law requires the company to collect the surcharge, but he declined to answer a question about whether the law allows it to reduce the surcharge. Hawkins said the surcharge “saves customers hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing financing and borrowing costs.”

The opinion from the Attorney General’s office does not appear to address whether the surcharge can be reduced.

In his letter to the PSC, Walsh said the 2009 state law unambiguously stated that the surcharge “shall” be collected — meaning it is mandatory — based on the project’s ongoing construction costs, starting in 2011.

Liberal protestors targeted Senator Johnny Isakson’s Cobb County office, opposing GOP proposals for federal healthcare reform.

Cobb County will receive $1.2 million in state grants from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Hall County Latinos are registering to vote at progressively higher rates.

Former Warner Robins Council member Dean Cowart will seek a return to council, running for the at-large seat currently held by Council member Chuck Shaheen.

Grovetown City Council will consider a significant increase in the property tax millage rate.

Grovetown city officials have proposed a rate increase from 6.9 to 9 mills.

Grovetown’s interim city administrator John Waller said the proposed increase seems large because the city has maintained a historically low millage rate and not done incremental increases each year. He added that millage rate would still be below neighboring Harlem .

“Going back and looking at a little bit of history, we’ve grown a heck of a lot since 2009. We had a flat mill rate at 7.0 from 2009-2015, so for a six-year period, we had a flat mill rate,” Waller said. “Last year, we dropped to 6.9 over seven to eight year period, and with all the growth, we never dipped into leveraging our property tax revenue.”

Savannah City Council is moving forward with an ordinance to limit short term rentals.

In a unanimous vote, the council voted to move forward with revisions to the ordinance regulating vacation rentals by limiting the amount of vacation rentals to 20 percent of the residential properties in a ward.

The percentage was chosen as a compromise between the Savannah Downtown Neighborhood Association, which wanted 15-percent limit, and vacation rental representatives, who pushed for a 35-percent cap, said Bridget Lidy, director of Savannah’s Tourism Management &Ambassadorship Department.

Vacation rentals that are owner-occupied would be exempt from the cap, Lidy said.

Dredging to maintain the ship channel to the Port of Savannah will continue, even as questions arise over funding for continued work on the harbor deepening.

This year, with the help of a proactive maritime community, Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Savannah, has secured the funding to keep the river channel operating at its proper depths, thus assuring commerce keeps moving.

“Rep. Carter worked with the Appropriations Committee in Congress to secure $23.53 million in the FY 17 budget to perform operations and maintenance at the Savannah harbor,” Carter spokeswoman Mary Carpenter said Thursday, adding that Carter has continued to work with the US Army Corps of Engineers to get another $15.72 million in its work plan for additional dredging and repairs.

“This totals $39.27 million for operations and maintenance in Savannah,” she said.

Georgia Port director Griff Lynch agreed.

“We were pleased to hear that maintenance dredging for the Savannah River is fully funded in the President’s proposed budget. Its inclusion is a credit to the entire maritime community in Savannah, who pulled together in support of this,” he said.

If approved by Congress, these funds will cover work done during the upcoming federal fiscal year, which runs from October through September. Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, these funds will maintain the Savannah River channel at its authorized depth, including the portion recently dredged to 49 feet in the outer harbor.

New Jobs for Georgians

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, will be tapped by the Trump Administration as the next Director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health sources said the appointment is expected to be announced as early as Friday.

Fitzgerald, 70, an obstetrician-gynecologist who has headed that state’s public health department since 2011, will succeed Tom Frieden. He stepped down in January after serving for eight years, longer than any director since the 1970s. Anne Schuchat, a veteran CDC official, has been serving as acting director.

She has strong ties to Republican leaders in and from Georgia, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich. Fitzgerald, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1992 and 1994 in her state’s 7th congressional District.

Fitzgerald was in private practice for 30 years before she was picked by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) to head the state’s public health department when it became a stand-alone agency in 2011.

Fitzgerald holds a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Georgia State University and a medical degree from Emory’s School of Medicine. She trained at Emory-Grady Hospitals in Atlanta, and as an Air Force major she served at the Wurtsmith Air Force Strategic Air Command in Michigan and at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington.

Gainesville-native Ashley D. Bell will serve in the Trump Administration as associate director for external affairs at the Peace Corps.

The appointment was made by the White House, according to a Thursday announcement from the Peace Corps. Bell has been working in the State Department since February as a special assistant to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Bell, a former lawyer, made his way to Foggy Bottom after working on then-President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team. Before then he worked for the Republican National Committee as a senior strategist for communications.

“This is a very similar role to what I had at State,” Bell said. “It’s just a more senior role. I enjoyed my time at State — I definitely enjoyed my time working for Secretary Tillerson.”