The blog.

8
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 8, 2018

2LifelineJan8

In honor of the University of Georgia Bulldogs playing in the National Championship tonight, LifeLine is offering reduced price dog adoptions at their Fulton and DeKalb County animal shelters. Just wear a red shirt to get a discounted adoption fee of $25.

Miss Mississippi

Miss Mississippi is a senior female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from Fulton County Animal Services in Atlanta, GA. This sweet senior would love a comfy spot to relax with ample amounts of soft treats.

Jackson DeKalb

Jackson is a young male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from DeKalb County Animal Services in Atlanta, GA. This stylish guy can’t wait to impress you with his wonderful manners! He loves meeting new friends, enjoys going for easy strolls around the neighborhood, and will do anything to make you smile.

LuckyDeKalb

Lucky is a young male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from DeKalb County Animal Services in Atlanta, GA. This sweet boy has discovered that blankets are a must-have when napping in his foster home and they have quickly become his favorite thing (next to you, of course!). Lucky is great with other dogs, bonds with humans quickly, and can’t wait to find his forever home!

8
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 8, 2018

Lyman Hall, one of three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence, was elected Governor on January 8, 1783.

On January 8, 2007, R.E.M. was announced as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s REM at their induction into the Rock Hall.

On January 8, 2014, Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were announced as incoming members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Columbus, Georgia native Frank Thomas, a long-time Chicago White Sox outfielder.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal, who previously announced that state government would close early today, has closed non-essential state offices today.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are closing non-essential agencies to ensure our employees’ safety as well as ensure the Georgia Department of Transportation’s ability to maintain and treat our roads,” said Deal. “This closure will run from Columbus across to Augusta and northward. The Capitol will remain open, however, so that the Legislature may gavel into the 2018 session as constitutionally required.”

The Georgia General Assembly gavels in the 2018 session today, with the House convening at 10 AM. I would expect a very short session today, and adoption of an adjournment resolution setting at least the next legislative day.

The Senate’s Georgia Health Care Reform Task Force is scheduled to meet at 1 PM in Room 450 of the State Capitol. Click here to watch the livestream of the committee meeting.

The House Appropriations Committee (Full) meeting scheduled for Tuesday is currently listed as cancelled, but I’d check back later today and in the morning to see if it stays cancelled.

The next state budget is expected to top $26 billion dollars, once the Appropriations Committees begin meeting in earnest.

[T]he state budget — which will be about $26 billion in state revenue and around $50 billion with federal funding included — touches the lives of millions of Georgians.

Gov. Nathan Deal will present his spending plan to lawmakers this week, and then it will be up to them to decide what makes the cut and what doesn’t.

In addition, Deal’s office won’t find out until the first week of the session what impact the federal tax law Congress passed in December will have on the state budget because number-crunching wasn’t completed over the holidays.

“It is going to be one of those years that you are not going to see a lot of new and exciting things,” predicted House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn.

Many states are taking a conservative approach to spending as they see revenue — tax collections — slowing and worry about the uncertain effect of federal tax and spending policy. Also, some officials are concerned that after one of the longest expansion periods in modern history following the Great Recession, the U.S. economy is due for a downturn.

Georgia Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, is bullish on the state’s economy. He said Georgia is growing at a faster clip than much of the rest of the country.

“I am really pretty optimistic about this next year,” Hill said. “There are some unknowns. I have tried to look around the corner and see what could go wrong, but I don’t see the negative.”

Deal has traditionally been conservative in his predictions of growth, and despite optimism among his fellow Republicans in Washington about the tax plan, he can’t be sure when the business cycle of expansion and retraction will turn down. Many lawmakers were around a decade ago when the Great Recession brought widespread budget cutting and teacher furloughs.

The governor’s conservative nature on finances is why he’s unlikely to jump on the bandwagon some legislative leaders have gotten rolling to reduce the state income tax rate.

 The Federal Bureau of Investigation warns against flying drones near the National Championship game tonight.

Any aircraft, drones included, are prohibited from flying near the venues used during the championship weekend and game day, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia World Congress Center.

Violators would face prosecution under federal law for “flying drones in restricted space,” FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said Sunday. “Temporary flight restrictions” are in effect.

State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) pre-filed legislation to open public access to recordings of court sessions.

A bill prefiled in the Georgia Senate would expand public access to records and recordings of judicial proceedings, including court reporters’ recordings that the Georgia Supreme Court recently declared off-limits unless they had been entered into the court record.

Sen. Josh MccKoon, R-Columbus, who filed the bill Dec. 19, said it is in direct response to that ruling.

The opinion ”is a great concern for me from a transparency point of view,” he said. “I think it’s important that the public have access to these documents and records.”

The legislation—Senate Bill 311—would apply to the proceedings of any “tribunal in the state that is vested with powers of a judicial nature” and mandates that access to the records “shall not be exempted by order of a court of this state or by law” unless specifically exempted by the new law.

State Rep. Bubber Epps (R-Dry Branch) proposed a Constitutional Amendment to allow an an education local option sales tax (E-LOST).

Currently, only Colquitt County and nine other rural school districts have been approved for what is known as an education local option sales tax. The tax is different from the sales tax districts ask voters to approve for new high school buildings and other capital projects.

“It’s been working for those districts,” Bleckley County Schools Superintendent Steve Smith told lawmakers, speaking on behalf of several middle Georgia districts that want access to the additional one percent sales tax.

Bleckley County’s neighbor, Houston County, is one of the 10 districts with the tax. That district has been able to pay its starting teachers more than Bleckley County does, which puts his district at a disadvantage, Smith said.

“Being rural and very limited retail-based and very limited industry, it’s a real challenge for us to compete with a Houston County,” he said.

Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, is sponsoring the constitutional amendment, which would let school districts go to voters for a one percent sales tax to fund maintenance and operational expenses for up to five years. Districts would have to present a specific list of projects, just as they do now with capital projects.

“We want to help you help yourselves,” Epps said during a hearing called Thursday on the measure before the House Education Committee.

Georgia Democratic state legislators have released their priorities for the session.

Georgia Democrats lack political power to pass their state legislative agenda this year, but incoming House Minority Leader Bob Trammell says they’ll keep talking about health care, livable wages and education funding.

“We need to use the 40-day legislative session to focus on the big issues that face our state,” said Trammell, who replaces former Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who resigned to run for governor. “If we can agree to have a conversation on something like Medicaid expansion, we’ll be in a good position this legislative session.”

Many Republicans oppose expansion of Medicaid — the state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled — but they’re considering federal Medicaid waivers that could allow greater flexibility in state health care funding.

Trammell said Medicaid expansion could help insure 600,000 more Georgians.

He also wants a debate on how to increase stagnant employee pay despite low unemployment rates.

State Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) released a new list of endorsements in his campaign for Lieutenant Governor.

The list includes a few Gwinnett County names, including former representative and current county Commissioner John Heard, Sen. P.K. Martin, Reps. Joyce Chandler, Clay Cox, Brett Harrell, Scott Hilton and Chuck Efstration, former Sen. Clint Day and former Reps. Tom Phillips, Gene Callaway, Ron Crews, Scott Dix, Melvin Everson, Phyllis Miller, Emory Morsberger, Mike Muntean, Tom Rice, Donna Sheldon, Jeff Williams and Valerie Clark.

Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, and Rep. Tom Kirby, R-Loganville, whose districts reach into Gwinnett County, were also on the list.

The state legislators join a long list of officials and groups that have endorsed Shafer in the race. Other backers include U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, former Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Congressmen Bob Barr, John Linder, Ben Blackburn and Fletcher Thompson, philanthropist and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, GOPAC, the Georgia Republican Assembly and Republican Liberty Caucus.

Dawsonville and Hoschton will hold special elections to fill vacancies.

Qualifying begins Monday for a special mayoral election in Dawsonville and a city council election in Hoschton.

The Dawsonville election is being held to fill the unexpred term of James Grogan, which ends Dec. 31, 2019. Grogan was removed from office by the city council last year.

[T]he Hoschton election is to fill the post vacated by Scott Butler, who resigned in December.

Both elections will be held March 20.

Rome City Commissioners will meet tonight and elect a Mayor from among their members.

Voters returned Jamie Doss and Wendy Davis to the board in the November election, along with newcomer Randy Davis. City Clerk Joe Smith said Superior Court Chief Judge Tammi Colston is scheduled to administer the oaths.

“Then the city attorney will hold the gavel for the election of the mayor,” Smith added.

Rome’s charter calls for the nine sitting commissioners to elect a mayor each year to preside over the board. Doss has been the choice each year since 2014.

Commissioners are slated to hold their caucus at 5 p.m. and start their regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, 601 Broad St. Both sessions are public.

The agenda is light and several officials have said they want to be home before 8 p.m. to see the Georgia Bulldogs face Alabama’s Crimson Tide for the College Football National Championship.

A first reading is scheduled for a proposed amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance, with a public hearing and vote slated for the board’s Jan. 22 session.

The change would allow venues that serve liquor to meet the 50/50 food-to-drink sales ratio with food sold from an onsite food truck.

Three members of the Effingham County Commission traveled to Washington last month.

Vera Jones, Phil Kieffer and Reggie Loper were among 100 county leaders from Georgia who took part in the trip sponsored by the National Association of Counties and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.

In addition to Pence, they met with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter. They heard from federal departments and agencies, including the Small Business Administration, Energy, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Housing and Urban Development.

They discussed how federal policies impact Georgia counties and residents. Topics included the opioid epidemic, workforce housing, infrastructure, natural disaster preparations and health care reform, along with the latest developments at Plant Vogtle and the Georgia Ports expansion.

5
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 5, 2018

Bulldogs are the most popular breed in Georgia this weekend, and many are surprised to learn that some are available for adoption through rescue groups. If you have your heart set on adopting an English Bulldog, please educate yourself on the breed’s unique needs and frequent medical issues. Georgia English Bulldog Rescue is the state’s premier organization for unwanted or abandoned bulldogs, and they’ll help you decide if you’re prepared to care for an English Bulldog.

Drake

Drake is a three-year old male English Bulldog who is available for adoption from Georgia English Bulldog Rescue.

Tubs

Tubs is a male English Bulldog mix who is available for adoption from Angels Among Us Rescue in Alpharetta, GA.

My names is Tubs, but I’m not Tubby. I am a rather svelte Bulldog, made of pure muscle and face wrinkles.

I am three years old and I am a fun guy that likes to play. Because I’m a bulldog I play kind of rough, and so I am not a dog for kids. I’m more of a dog for dudes (or dude-ettes).

I get along great with other dogs. My current best friend is a golden retriever.

I have good house manners. I like my crate and will put myself to bed there when I am tired. I’m not a barker, but I do snort and snore like a champ. I like to have a dog bed in the living room to watch TV. I’m not allowed on the sofa in our house – but if you wanted I could be an excellent sofa dog.

I am a good car rider and leash walker. I’d like a forever friend who takes me places.

I need a forever person who understands Bulldogs. I am sweet but stubborn. I need my forever person to be more stubborn than me. If my person is a strong leader, then I am an excellent follower.

For inquiries, email [email protected]

Persia

Persia is a seven-year old female English Bulldog who is available for adoption from Angels Among Us Rescue in Alpharetta, GA.

Persia is looking for more than a Football Buddy- she is looking to score a touchdown with a new forever home. She is a good girl; just needs the right playing field. Persia is a 7-year-old, 50 pound English Bulldog. Persia responds to the name Nola. She is working on house training. She likes submissive dogs with a very slow introduction; Persia has an alpha dog personality. She loves belly rubs, treats, and cuddles. Persia needs to be in a home with no small children. She does have skin and eye issues that will need care. Needs eye drops twice a day for the rest of her life. She does best on a grain free diet with weekly baths. Persia does get some irritation in her skin folds on her face- these need to be kept dry and clean. Persia wants to know if you are up for the draft for her Fantasy Football- she wants to be on your team!

Make a donation in this dog’s name at http://www.angelsrescue.org/donate.
For inquiries, email [email protected]

Back in 2014, Georgia English Bulldog Rescue brought two of their dogs to the Georgia State Capitol to lobby on behalf of the “Official State Dog” legislation.

Meaty Zeus Capitol inside

5
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Election for January 5, 2018

Georgia and American History

On January 5, 1734, the Trustees of Georgia ordered the return of 42 Jewish settlers who had come in 1733, primarily from Portugal, without the knowledge or approval of the Trustees. The Brits who sponsored the Jewish settlers refused and Georgia is home to the oldest Jewish settlement in the United States.

On January 5, 1781, traitor Benedict Arnold and 1600 British troops captured Richmond, Virginia.

Samuel Elbert was elected Governor of Georgia for a one-year term on January 6, 1785. Elbert was an early participant in Patriot meetings at Tondee’s Tavern, a Lt. Colonel in the first group of troops raised in Georgia, and a prisoner of war, exchanged for a British General, and eventually promoted to Brigadier General reporting to Gen. George Washington. As Governor, Elbert oversaw the charter of the University of Georgia and afterward, he served briefly as Sheriff of Chatham County.

Georgia voted for George Washington for President on January 7, 1789. Technically, they elected Presidential Electors who would later meet in Augusta and cast their ballots for Washington.

On January 7, 1795, Georgia Governor George Matthews signed the Yazoo Act, passed after four land companies bribed members of the General Assembly to vote for legislation selling more than 35 million acres of land for less than 2 cents per acre.

On January 6, 1961, United States District Court Judge William Bootle ordered the University of Georgia to enroll Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, ending the segregation of UGA.

On January 5, 1978, the British band the Sex Pistols started their American tour at the Great Southeast Music Hall in Atlanta, GA. The AJC has a photo gallery from the show, including the young promoter, Alex Cooley, who would become legendary.

On January 6, 1988, the United States Postal Service released a stamp commemorating the bicentennial of Georgia’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich (R) was re-elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 7, 1997. In the election for a second term, nine Republicans voted against the incumbent Speaker.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced that the City of Atlanta and State of Georgia governments will close early on Monday, January 8, 2018.

In light of several factors, Gov. Nathan Deal, along with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Fulton County government officials, announced early closures for state and local government in metro Atlanta on Monday, January 8. The City of Atlanta will close at 2:30 p.m. Fulton County and state government will close at 3 p.m.

Agencies are also encouraged to allow employees with the ability to telecommute to do so. Employees and visitors are also encouraged to use MARTA to travel on Monday.

Finally, state and local governments will continue monitoring weather and will send additional guidance to employees as necessary.

Governor Deal also proclaimed January 5, 2018 as “UGA Football Day.”

Gov Deal Jan 5 2018

And the Capitol groundskeepers got into the act as well.

Liberty Plaza G

Then the groundskeepers got back to addressing the rodent problem.

SmCaddyshack

Greg Bluestein of the AJC got a copy of Governor Deal’s proclamation.

On Monday, January 8, our Georgia Bulldogs will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide for the College Football National Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta; and

Following this historic season under the leadership of former All-SEC Georgia defensive back and current coach Kirby Smart, I hope to join UGA alumni, students, and fans across the nation to celebrate UGA’s first National Championship since the 1981 Sugar Bowl. This season has been most memorable, with UGA punching a ticket home after a win in double overtime against Oklahoma, perhaps the most exciting football game ever played; and

This season, UGA fans have travelled far and wide to “see the Dawgs play” as they filled up Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana, took over EverBank Field in Jacksonville, overwhelmed Auburn at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the SEC Championship, and turned the City of Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Stadium red; and

Led by 31 seniors, including Nick Chubb and Sony Michel – the most prolific running back duo in FBS history, Lorenzo Carter – who forever earned a place in UGA lore by blocking a field goal attempt in the second overtime of the Rose Bowl, Davin Bellamy – who forced turnovers at some of the season’s most pivotal moments, as well as Dominick Sanders – UGA’s co-record holder for interceptions, the Dawgs are ready to make history for the university and the State of Georgia; and

With the nation’s best linebacker – Roquan Smith – anchoring this tough SEC defense, Jake Fromm – a Warner Robins native who has impressed us all – leading a potent offense, and Rodrigo Blankenship – who now holds the record for the longest field goal in Rose Bowl history, the Dawgs will be called to, in the timeless words of Larry Munson, “Hunker it down one more time;” and

There is just a little more wood to chop in this special season. I, therefore, call upon UGA fans in every corner of the state and those living across our nation and around the world to join me in cheering on the Dawgs as they once again take the field to kick off the 2018 College Football National Championship; now

I, NATHAN DEAL, Governor of the State of Georgia, do hereby proclaim January 5, 2018, as UGA FOOTBALL FRIDAY in Georgia and encourage all 103,706 state employees and UGA fans across our state to dress accordingly in red and black attire.

Senator Johnny Isakson committed to the G on the floor of the United States Senate.

The Georgia State House will convene the first day of the 2018 Session on Monday, January 8th at 10 AM. The House Appropriations Committee will hold its first public hearing on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 11 AM, though I guess weather may change that.

Gov. Deal signed a Writ of Election to fill the vacancy in House District 175 created when State Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) resigned. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Carter resigned Nov. 15, 2017 to take on the position of executive director of advancement for the Technical College System of Georgia.

According to an announcement from the Lowndes County Board of Elections, qualifying dates are as follows: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 10-11 and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12 at the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, 214 State Capitol in Atlanta.

The qualifying fee is $400.

Republican John LaHood, president and CEO of Fellowship Senior Living, is running for the Georgia State House District 175 seat, as confirmed in November 2017.

Early voting for this special election will be held 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 22-26  and Jan. 29-Feb. 2, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 3 and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 5-9.

The election date for the special election is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 13.

State Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas) will retire from the legislature after this year’s session.

Maxwell said that after 30 years of public service to the county and state, he will depart the General Assembly at the conclusion of his current term in December.

He has represented parts of Paulding County since his election to the House in 2002.

“I’ve been blessed to serve my neighbors, my community and this state as a member of the House,” Maxwell said in a prepared release. “It has been the honor of a lifetime, and I am tremendously grateful to the residents of Paulding County who trusted me to represent them.”

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said Maxwell “is as good a man as you can find.”

“While I’m sad to see him leave the General Assembly, he has certainly earned the pleasure of spending more time with his friends and family. He is a trusted member of our House leadership team, and he will leave some big shoes to fill,” Ralston said.

Martin Momtahan has become the first candidate to throw his hat into the ring for the house seat being vacated by Rep. Maxwell. From a campaign press release:

Paulding County businessman Martin Momtahan formally announced his intention to run for House District 17 in the Georgia House of Representatives. Momtahan’s announcement comes on the news that Rep. Howard Maxwell will not seek re-election to a ninth term.

“I have operated successful businesses in Paulding County for over a decade, and I know the burden that over-regulating bureaucrats add to how we work, where we live and how we provide for our families” Momtahan said. “The American dream doesn’t require a bureaucrat making sure you check every box, but it does require our elected officials to fight to protect our rights, our values, and our moral convictions.”

Momtahan said he intends to campaign on the issues of regulatory and tax reform, infrastructure investment, and defending the core conservative values that make Paulding County our home. He specifically wants to see a scale back to the growing number burdensome regulations that affect small businesses in the state, a gradual transition away from an income tax to a consumption based tax, and investment in roads, bridges and 21st century infrastructure that help move people, goods and data through Georgia. In the area of critical infrastructure investment from the state, he believes that Paulding County has been ignored for long enough.

“People who live in Paulding County want to have little to do with the bureaucrats working in downtown Atlanta. They want to be able to have a good job, provide for their family and raise their children with as little interference as possible from their government. It’s not in the American spirit to ask for permission to innovate or to become an entrepreneur, but the expanding bureaucracy is set on taking every opportunity away from the great, taxpaying citizens of Paulding.”

“I’m ready to run, and fight, for the hard-working people of District 17 who want to have their piece of the American dream,” Momtahan said.

Martin Momtahan is a successful businessman in Paulding County with over 30 employees at West Metro Driving School, which he has operated for the last 11 years. A graduate of Paulding County High School and Kennesaw State University, he has grown his business and family locally.

Martin has been married to his wife Stephanie for 9 years, and has two children. His parents have also lived in District 17 for the last 18 years.

Martin has been active in the community throughout his business and personal life, participating and donating annually in events that benefit local schools, the Paulding Education Foundation, Paulding Public Safety Appreciation Foundation and the Dallas Christmas Parade that supports local community initiatives and food banks.

Qualifying for a seat on the Colquitt County Commission opens next week to fill the seat vacated by the late Luke Strong, Jr.

Strong’s seat, which he had held since 1987, has been unfilled since his death in September. The election in March will determine who will serve for the remaining year.

After Strong’s death in late September, the March 20 date was the first date on the calendar for which the state allows elections to be held that realistically could be met.

“This will get our year started early,” said Colquitt County Probate Judge Wes Lewis, whose office oversees elections. “I know the voters in District 1 will have a lot of interest.”

Qualifying for the special election will run from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday and 9 a.m.-noon on Wednesday at the Colquitt County Courthouse. The qualifying fee is $126, which represents 3 percent of the annual salary for the office.

Early voting begins three weeks prior to the March 20 election and will be held at Colquitt County Courthouse Annex. Only voters in District 1, which includes Moultrie and Shaw voter precincts, will participate.

With that out of the way, the election year will move on to May 22 primary elections in which candidates can vie for a full four-year term in District 1 that will begin on Jan. 1, 2019.

“In reality, you will have two qualifying terms” for that seat, Lewis said, “one for the unexpired term and then another one for the full term later in the year.”

Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-West Point) has endorsed Republican Randy Robertson in the election for State House District 29, which is being vacated by Sen. Josh McKoon, who is running for Secretary of State in the GOP Primary.

“Randy is the right choice to be the next Senator from Georgia’s 29th District,” Ferguson said in the post to Robertson’s Facebook page. “He will work to reform our criminal justice system, maintain our high standard of education and continue to keep Georgia as the number one State for business. Having him at the State Capitol is great for the 29th District and I am honored to support his candidacy.”

Robertson, a Republican, announced his intention to seek the office in March of last year, a full year before qualifying, which will be held March 5-9 of this year. The Republican Primary is on May 22, 2018 and the General Election is in November.

Virginia Republican David Yancey won reelection to the House of Delegates yesterday when his name was drawn from a bowl.

A Virginia elections official reached into an artsy bowl, pulled out a name and named Republican David E. Yan­cey the winner of a House of Delegates race that could determine which political party controls the chamber.

With that race in limbo and Democrats suing over another disputed Republican win, the GOP’s hold on a chamber it has dominated since 2000 remains tenuous. In a hearing Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Democrats will ask a judge to order a new election for a Fredericksburg-area House seat because nearly 150 voters were given the wrong ballots.

Thursday’s dramatic and rare election lottery, carried live on CNN, drew national attention as an odd way to decide a highly consequential contest. Simonds and a crowd of about 100 state officials, journalists and politicos crowded into the West Reading Room of the Patrick Henry Building for the event. Yancey was not present, although he sent a representative.

Yancey will not be seated if a recount is pending, said House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who is in line to become speaker if Republicans control the chamber.

But even without Yancey, the GOP would enjoy a 50-49 majority on the first day, when delegates pick a speaker for the next two years.

Talking to reporters outside the House chamber just 90 minutes after the lottery, Cox was direct: “We will be in the majority on the first day.”

Republicans boasted a seemingly insurmountable 66-34 majority heading into November elections. But as Democrats swept statewide offices for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, they also picked up at least 15 House seats in a blue wave widely viewed as a rebuke to President Trump.

Paul Bennecke, the Georgian who serves as Executive Director of the Republican Governors Association noted on Facebook that Yancey is a Georgia Bulldog, having graduated from UGA in 1995. Yancey’s Democratic opponent, Shelly Simonds, has a daughter named Georgia.

2018 Session [still under construction]

Here are the issues I’ll be watching in the 2018 General Assembly.

Budget & Taxes – The state budget – actually two budgets, the “little budget” that trues up the current year spending and the “big budget” for the next fiscal year – is the only legislation the General Assembly is required to pass. I suspect that this will be a little more complicated this year than has recently been the case. Federal tax reform passed in December will have two main effects on Georgia’s budget process. First is that to the extent that it determines federal spending going forward, and federal spending makes up roughly 50% of state revenues, federal tax reform and (crossing my fingers) a federal budget will have ramifications for the state. Second, because state income tax calculations rely on federal provisions, changes in federal tax law will have effects on Georgia taxpayers that can be estimated, but when taxpayers change their behavior based on federal tax rules, it can be difficult to estimate state tax proceeds. Because income taxes are the largest single source of state revenue, estimating the effects of federal reforms becomes complex. We may not know yet how much of a change this represents for the state budget process, but if it’s dramatic, that may cause the budget process to be more drawn out than usual.

Healthcare and Opioids – An article in today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution summarizes some of the challenges facing the legislature on healthcare and opioid abuse.

Slices of Georgia are in a full-on health care crisis: Premiums higher than a mortgage payment. Insurance networks for 2018 that suddenly exclude all of a family’s doctors. An opioid epidemic; rural hospitals going bankrupt; the uninsured poor; their unpaid emergency room bills.

Legislators from both the House and the Senate spent much of the past year running committees devoted to issues surrounding health care, including the rural-urban divide. Their findings include the need for broadband access in underserved areas to facilitate “telehealth” service.

One issue that may cross chamber and election lines is money to deal with the opioid crisis.

The chairwomen of the Legislature’s two health committees, Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, and Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, have suggested a need to support funding for behavioral health programs to deal with the addiction epidemic ravaging the state.

“I don’t do the budget,” Cooper said, “but I think anything we can do to help with finding more options would be a plus.”

The state’s health care problems and gaps usually have an impact on each other, like a collection of dominoes that knock each other down. Addicts who can’t afford treatment may burden the emergency and hospital systems with unpaid health scares. Then hospitals wind up deeper in debt.

Washington hasn’t helped the provision of health care here: No one knows whether hundreds of millions of dollars in delayed funding for Georgia’s poor kids, their hospitals and clinics is actually going to come, or when, or whether it might fall victim to federal infighting.

Some are hoping the Legislature will step in to fill the federal funding gaps to pay for uncompensated patient care. Many are hoping that one way or another, the Legislature this year will lay the groundwork for the governor to work with the Trump administration to get medical coverage to allow more of the state’s poorest adults to pay their bills.

Any uncertainty in what state revenues will look like after federal tax reform further complicate the question of paying for healthcare and opioid treatment.

Transit – There is widespread affirmation from many lawmakers that transit funding should be a priority for the legislature. The details of what that look like will give new meaning to the phrase, “the devil is in the details.” From Maggie Lee with the Macon Telegraph:

Another House group is looking at the possibility of state spending on the local agencies that run buses, streetcars and Atlanta’s subway. But metro Atlanta is not the only focus, said state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, who sits on the state House Transit Governance and Funding Commission. He said the state has gone without funding transit for too long.

“Our goal is to not only to look at … the regional aspect of Atlanta, but also try to provide funding, some mechanism for transit around the state to participate in funding … the Macons, the Augustas, Columbus, Savannah,” said Smyre.

The state did make a landmark transit spend of $75 million in 2016 when they awarded grants to several transit systems, including those in Atlanta, Albany and Athens-Clarke County.

However, for every new expense, legislators either have to bring in more money to pay for it, or cut spending on something else.

“I think the budget will be maybe tighter than you might think, with the money we have to put in the teacher retirement system … [and] we’ve got to put more money into the Medicaid program,” said State Sen. Larry Walker III, R-Perry.

Notably, Gwinnett County, long an anti-MARTA bastion, appears to be getting serious about transit, but the county appears to be prepared to spend some time on deciding exactly what that will look like and where county funding could come from.

Partisan Points – I expect to see legislators from both party introducing legislation designed to make a partisan political points or to score points in reelection campaigns.

AirBNB – I’ve been saying for months that I think the General Assembly will take steps to either provide a statewide regulatory framework for short-term rentals or simply pre-empt local regulations on the burgeoning markets.

Rep. Matt Dollar, R-Marietta, introduced legislation earlier this year that would keep local governments from banning the businesses.

At a recent hearing on the bill, Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association Executive Director Jim Sprouse told Dollar that it would be unfair if businesses such as Airbnb went unregulated.

“Often these companies are seeking to operate illegal hotels in Georgia and do not pay taxes or are subject to regulations while their profits surge,” Sprouse said.

Brandon Hatton, a lobbyist for Airbnb, spoke in support of Dollar’s legislation.

Hatton said officials are working with local jurisdictions to ensure that hosts pay taxes on their income from the company. Hatton rejected the idea that hosts use the website to operate pseudo-hotels

Distracted Driving – With Smyrna passing an ordinance aimed at reducing distracted driving, and other cities aggressively enforcing existing laws against distracted driving, this seems ripe for a statewide approach.

Sexual Misconduct – With all the news reports about sexual misconduct within the entertainment industry and Washington, DC, I anticipate two major phenomena under this heading. State Rep. Jan Jones, the chamber’s second-most powerful member, chairs a committee considering new rules for legislators’ conduct.

The chair of a special committee tasked with reviewing sexual harassment policies at the Georgia statehouse said Wednesday any changes should include mandatory training and new avenues for lawmakers, staff and even lobbyists to file complaints.

But Republican Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, the second-ranking member of the House, said details need to be worked out as the committee meets in the coming weeks and hears the recommendations of employment lawyer Tashwanda Pinchback Dixon, whose services it has retained.

Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent filed legislation in December that would require mandatory sexual harassment training for members and employees of the General Assembly. Democratic state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick said she plans to file similar legislation.

Jones said some training should be required, but wasn’t sure how it would be carried out.

“I haven’t drawn a conclusion yet as to how frequently that will be, and it might be different kinds of training depending on your relationship to the Capitol. Do you work here? Do you visit here?” Jones said.

Additionally, the news media nationwide seems interested in what could be considered either rooting out abusive practices by politicians, or salacious gossip. Expect rumors and innuendoes and maybe eventually cameras chasing legislators. It won’t be pretty, fun, or dignified.

Rural Georgia – The attention being lavished on rural Georgia and proposals to help beleaguered parts of the state face one major challenge – everything I’ve seen proposed, from increased broadband access, to telehealth for underserved communities, to economic incentives, to increases in Medicare and Medicaid funding, every one of those will require large amounts of tax dollars, which may or may not be available. Until we have a handle on how the state’s budget will fare, it will be hard to say whether any given measure to help rural Georgia will be feasible.

 

4
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 4, 2018

SadieCPR

Sadie is a female Dachshund mix puppy who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Sadie is a sweet puppy who enjoys stealing all of the toys and cuddle time on the sofa.

StitenCPR

Stiten is a female Norfolk Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Hi! My name is Stiten (affectionately called Foxy by my foster as I look like a fox!) I’m still a little confused about my surroundings but am slowly coming out of my shell. I get along well with other dogs (not sure about cats) and am crate trained and housebroken. I’m very quiet and don’t bark much! I would love to find a person/family to spend the rest of my life snuggling with!

Toast CPR

Toast is a female Pointer mix puppy who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Toast is very tentative but a sweet, gentle dog. Scared of loud noises, fast moves, and high energy dogs, she is submissive to people and dogs, seems to be good with cats.

When she came into her foster home she was scared of coming into the house, and had no skills such as sit. We believe she was left outside and had no training. Toast and her foster family are working on confidence, and basic manners as sit and not jumping on people.

4
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 4, 2018

Utah was admitted as the 45th state on January 4, 1896.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Coastal Georgia received as much as four inches of snow yesterday.

An early morning of light rain and bitter cold in Chatham, Bryan and Effingham counties turned into beautiful blankets of snow like many have never seen on Wednesday.

From Bloomingdale to Pooler, Rincon to Tybee and Pembroke to the heart of Forsyth Park, residents experienced a winter wonderland with only a few problems.

Total snowfall ranged from 2 to 4 inches, according to weather and emergency management officials.

Bridges and some roads closed early in the day, with police departments reporting few major incidences. Savannah Fire responded to one blaze, with one person displaced.

The Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport had to shut down, too.

Click here for the Savannah Morning News photos of the bomb cyclone.

An Amtrak passenger train derailed as it entered the Savannah station.

Georgia Power has dispatched crews to areas with power outages.

As a cold front moved through the area late Tuesday night, we began experiencing outages early Wednesday due to sleet accumulation on trees and limbs. As temperatures plummeted the remainder of Wednesday, our crews began recovery for over 23,000 customers region wide. Currently we have approximately 11,500 outages, primarily in the Brunswick area.

In addition to our local crews and contractors, we will receive support from company personnel and tree crews from across the state tomorrow.

In the Savannah area, we have approximately 27 line crews working 16 hour shifts. All will begin work again tomorrow at 5 a.m. We hope to have service in Savannah restored by Thursday afternoon.

Restoration to Brunswick, St. Simons and Kingsland will likely continue into Thursday evening.

If you’re on the roads in these areas, keep an eye out for crews working to restore power.

President Donald Trump will visit Atlanta for the National Championship game between UGA and Alabama.Continue Reading..

3
Jan

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 3, 2018

Johnny Washington

Johnny is a young male Labrador Retriever puppy who is available for adoption from Washington Wilkes Humane Animal Shelter in Washington, GA.

Hunter Washington

Hunter is a male Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Washington Wilkes Humane Animal Shelter in Washington, GA. He is good with children and other dogs.

Casey Washington

Casey is a female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Washington Wilkes Humane Animal Shelter in Washington, GA. She is good with children and other dogs.

3
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Senator David Perdue (R-Sea Island) writes that 2017 was a successful year for President Trump.

When President Donald J. Trump was elected, he outlined his top goals: confirming a conservative Justice to the Supreme Court, rolling back onerous regulations, fixing our health care system, and changing our archaic tax code.

We have begun to do that, and we are already seeing the economy start to move. Trump’s agenda is starting to work and this has been a year of significant accomplishments.

In addition to Justice Neil Gorsuch being confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, 145 federal judges will be confirmed, including 12 circuit judges, compared to only three in former President Barack Obama’s first year.

Look, I come from the business world where results matter. These results are fantastic for any president’s first year.

President Trump is an outsider and business guy who is listening to the American people. He is continuing to move at a business pace, not a bureaucratic pace, and as a result our economy is on the cusp of a turnaround.

Overall, it is estimated that these tax changes will create nearly 1 million new jobs and increase wages anywhere from $4,000-9,000.

Ultimately, these efforts will generate much-needed economic growth that is a crucial part of solving our national debt crisis, which is still my No. 1 objective in the U.S. Senate.

Georgians sent me to the Senate for the same reason they sent President Trump to the White House: To get results. I am proud of what we have accomplished in 2017, and in 2018 I am committed to doing all I can to continue changing the direction of our country.

Governor Nathan Deal appointed Alisha Adams Johnson as the new Solicitor General for the Rockdale Judicial Circuit, succeeding Richard Read. Read announced his resignation in October 2017 and it became effective just before the New Year.

Gov. Deal will attend a groundbreaking ceremony today at the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training in Augusta.

Deal yesterday declared a state of emergency for 28 counties in advance of winter storms.

The emergency declaration will take effect immediately and extend through Jan. 5 at midnight.

“The state has begun preparations for potential winter weather in the 28 counties, including sending all Georgia Department of Transportation brine trucks and 75 additional plows to the impacted areas,” said Deal. “The emergency declaration ensures all state resources are available if necessary. We will continue monitoring the weather and provide updates as needed. I encourage all Georgians in the potentially impacted areas to stay informed, get prepared and be safe.” The counties include: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Candler, Coffee, Charlton, Chatham, Clinch, Echols, Effingham, Evans, Glynn, Jeff Davis, Lanier, Lowndes, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Ware and Wayne.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter was hospitalized after a heart attack but attended the Commission meeting by phone.

Hunter was one of two commissioners who participated in the meeting, where the county’s 2018 budget was approved, by telephone. Commissioner Jace Brooks also called into the meeting, but he explained he was recovering from foot surgery which had taken place Friday.

Hunter said the heart attack happened Saturday and he was recovering at the Ronnie Green Heart Center at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

“I had to have a [stent] placed in a major artery, but the doctor said it did well and that recovery will be quick,” Hunter said. “Hopefully we can go home (Wednesday) so I just wanted to thank everybody for your prayers and for standing with us as we go through this and I hope to be back to see you all shortly.”

Despite being in a hospital bed, Hunter cast votes as usual on items that came up for a decision. Among his votes was one against the county’s proposed 2018 budget, the only vote cast against it.

Gwinnett Commissioners approved a 2018 budget of $1.67 billion dollars.

The budget was approved on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Tommy Hunter casting the lone vote against it. Chief Financial Officer Maria Woods told commissioners the budget was crafted around goals the board set for the county nearly a year ago.

“This proposed budget authorizes 152 new positions and supports the priorities established at your strategic planning session in March,” Woods said before the vote.

Among the budget’s many items are 65 new police officer positions, plus one civilian position in the police department, funding to staff two new ambulance units and one ladder truck unit for the fire department, bilingual staff for the Board of Elections and Registration and expanded advance voting and the addition of Sunday voting for the November general election.

The money for expanded advance voting, and Sunday voting, days will be put in reserve pending the county’s ability to recruit enough poll workers to staff that expansion.

The budget also includes a 4 percent pay for performance raise and one-time longevity pay.

Cobb County seniors face higher fees at county centers.

County commissioners in mid-November approved a slate of fee increases related to programs offered by the county’s senior services department, the library system and parks facilities. Among them were higher hourly rates for art, computer and exercise classes offered by senior services, with nonresidents paying one-and-a-half times the proposed resident rates.

Also in the approved measure was the establishment of several new fees. Though seniors had previously paid no membership fee to use county senior centers, the county starting Feb. 1 will begin charging county residents $60 a year should they wish to use those facilities, while non-residents will pay $90 annually. Included in the yearly membership are free, evidence-based health programs, access to workout facilities and free coffee.

Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce and county staff have scheduled five town hall-style meetings at senior centers across the county to discuss the fees.

“We hear you and we heard you over the last month that this was not properly advertised, and I accept that as a valid comment, which is why we’re waiting to implement the fees for the seniors,” Boyce told Clements following the comments he made at the Dec. 12 commission meeting.

Since then, “I’ve decided that I’m going to take this show on the road to tell them what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Boyce said of the meetings, the first set for 10 a.m. Jan. 12 at the East Cobb Senior Center on Sandy Plains Road in Marietta.

State Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners) was appointed a Deputy Whip.

The state House of Representatives announced House Majority Whip Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, has picked Hilton to serve as deputy whip in the chamber. Hilton was elected last year to replace the retiring Tom Rice as the House District 95 representative.

“Rep. Hilton will be a great addition to our Whip Team,” Coomer said in a statement. “I’m thankful for Rep. Hilton’s willingness to serve the House in this new leadership role, and I look forward to collaborating with him as we work to pass meaningful legislation for the citizens of Georgia.”

Deputy whips serve a key role in the House of Representatives because they are tasked with keeping an eye on legislation that is moving through both the House and the Senate. They are also tasked with making sure their fellow representatives know and understand details contained in bills and resolutions that are moving through the General Assembly.

“It is an honor to serve my Majority Caucus colleagues as a Deputy Whip,” Hilton said. “I am grateful for the trust and confidence Republican House leadership and Chairman Coomer have placed in me to support our Caucus. I look forward to facilitating public policy that will benefit families in our district and across Georgia.”

State Rep. Meagan Hanson (R-Brookhaven) will introduce hate crime legislation in the upcoming session.

The proposed law would add enhanced punishments for crimes committed against protected classes of people based on race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, mental disability and physical disability, Hanson said. Those are the same classes protected under the federal hate crimes law passed in 2010, she said. The final bill is still being tweaked, she said, and complete details are not yet available.

“It is an interesting political time right now … in the midst of what happened in Charlottesville,” Hanson said in an interview on why she decided to sponsor the bill.

Hanson said she was convinced it was time to sponsor a bill after meeting and working with local leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, a national advocacy group pushing for state hate crimes legislation. She said she has also talked to prosecutors and to Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan who support such a bill.

“It’s shocking that Georgia doesn’t have this [hate crimes legislation] on the books,” she said.

At one time, Georgia had a hate crimes law. In 2000, the General Assembly passed a bill calling for enhanced punishment for crimes committed due to “bias or prejudice.” The state Supreme Court in 2004 threw the law out, however, calling it “unconstitutionally vague” for not specifying biases, such as a crime committed against someone because of their religion or sexual orientation.

“I believe both sides of the aisle find this to be a partisan issue,” she said. “To me, it’s good policy and should be non-partisan. It saddens me a little bit that this is a partisan issue.” She said state Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) has said he will sign on to her bill.

Senate District 17 voters will elect a new state legislator on January 9, 2018.

Two of the four candidates for the Georgia Senate District 17 seat said last week that they would support legislation to create Board of Commissioners districts in Rockdale County.

The BOC districts issue is just one of the local topics that candidates Brian Strickland and Nelva Lee, both Republicans, spoke on during a forum at Emmanuel Community Church on Ga. Highway 212 in Newton County Thursday night.

District 17 includes parts of Rockdale, Newton and Henry counties. The candidates are running in a special election set for Jan. 9 to succeed Rick Jeffares, who resigned last month to focus on his bid for lieutenant governor.

Jeffares introduced legislation in last year’s session of the General Assembly that would establish four commission districts with a chairman elected at-large.

Lee said that she would “definitely support” the legislation. However, she qualified her answer, saying that she would also solicit local input.

“I would definitely choose to work with (local officials) first and ensure that that is definitely something that the local officials and the local voters are interested in,” she said. “… It sounds, in theory, like a great idea to expand the number of elected officials. I would definitely have to study that a little more.”

Strickland, who resigned as the House District 111 representative to run for the Senate seat, said he understands the issue is important to Rockdale voters.

“I’ve already heard in campaigning from a lot of citizens that complain, especially in southern Rockdale,” he said. “Right now, with the at-large system, with three people elected at-large, all the power can go to one part of the county, and those who don’t live in the middle of the county aren’t represented at the county level.”

Municipalities

Keisha Lance Bottoms has been sworn in as Mayor of Atlanta.

Bottoms stood on a stage before 2,500 people at Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel and declared that “Atlanta magic” could be just as real as the “black girl magic” that helped her beat fellow Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood in the Dec. 5 runoff.

But the city needs to unify before it can realize its true potential, she said.

“It’s no secret that we have economic disparity in Atlanta,” Bottoms said. “That’s why the theme of my campaign was ‘Keep Atlanta moving forward, leaving no one behind.’”

Craig Newton took the oath of office as the new Mayor of Norcross.

As Newton — the first black person to serve as mayor in any Gwinnett city — and new Norcross Councilmen Chuck Paul and Dan Watch took their oaths, the focus was on the city itself. Summerour Middle School students did make a presentation to mark the milestone, but the new mayor said that while the significance isn’t lost on him, he was less focused on making history.

Serving the city is more important to him.

“I do respect the historical nature of my election,” Newton said. “There are a lot of people who came before me that fought hard to ensure the rights of all Americans, and I certainly appreciate that, but my focus is not just being first; my focus is on being the best — the best mayor that Norcross, Gwinnett County and the region has seen. That’s my focus: being the best for Norcross.”

The event had two focuses. One was to swear in the new city officials, who received the oath of office from Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham, the first black person appointed to the state’s high court. The other was to recognize retiring Mayor Bucky Johnson and retiring Councilman Pierre Levy.

Warner Robins also broke new ground, electing two African-American city council members.

The council had a new member as Daron Lee was sworn in. He is the first black council member elected citywide, and for the first time the council has two black members. The other is Councilman Clifford Holmes, who was sworn in for another term. He did not face opposition in the Nov. 7 election.

“This would not be possible without everyone,” Lee said. “It took more than one race, it took more than one gender, it took more than one (religious) belief to make this possible today. I will tell you, I pray that as long as you all are holding me up, I will never fall and will never let you down.”

Smyrna City Council adopted the state’s first ordinance regulating the use of handheld electronics by drivers.

The ordinance, which the city describes as “a temporary and experimental regulation” is scheduled to go into effect April 2 and last for two years, after which the city may decide to extend it. During the first 45 days of that time, police will only hand out warnings to drivers using the devices.

In a nutshell, drivers may not use a cellphone or other electronic device with their hands while operating a vehicle, but mounting the phone to the dashboard and talking on speakerphone or using voice commands to operate a GPS app is allowed.

The vote to ban the devices came down to the wire after Councilman Ron Fennel abstained from voting. He said he personally supports the plan, but would not vote on it because he works for TEAM Georgia, which advocates for road safety measures.

That put the council in a 3-3 tie, with Councilmen Derek Norton, Charles Welch and Doug Stoner in favor and Councilwomen Andrea Bluestein, Maryline Blackburn and Susan Wilkinson opposed.

State Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, created the House Study Committee on Distracted Driving, of which he is the chair, during last year’s legislative session. Last month, he released the results of a statewide survey which found 72.4 percent of Georgia Republican voters and 64.5 percent of Georgia Democrat voters say they would support a statewide hands-free driving law, but it is not yet clear whether such a law would be considered or pass in the upcoming legislative session.

In casting the tie-breaking vote, Mayor Max Bacon said he does not trust the state to do the right thing and hopes Smyrna will be an example to them and to other cities.

Sandy Springs City Council is considering further regulation of short term rentals like AirBNB.

“With our new comprehensive code, we now allow short-term rentals. We now allow them with some restrictions in some residential areas,” Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert said in a presentation regarding the city amending its code to further regulate short-term rentals at the Sandy Springs City Council’s meeting Jan. 2 at City Hall.

The city is considering hiring Host Compliance, a San Francisco-based company that would charge Sandy Springs $21,000 a year to keep track of all the city’s short-term rentals and ensure landlords would comply with its code by registering and paying its fees. In turn, the city is expected to make thousands of dollars in annual revenue.

Though no action was taken by the council, Tolbert said it could vote on the issue as early as its next meeting Jan. 16, but it likely won’t be on the agenda for a vote until the Feb. 6 meeting.

In Sandy Springs, Tolbert said, Host Compliance identified 211 addresses in the city that were short-term rentals. While these types of rentals can be positive, they can also cause problems. In metro Atlanta, there have been reports of party houses, homes advertised as places where individuals rent homes and host parties that raise the ire of neighbors.

“They can replace long-term tenants. They can raise parking, noise, safety and trash concerns if allowed to go unchecked in the community. Essentially, without proper enforcement, we may not know of one in 10 out there,” Tolbert said, referring to stats provided by Host Compliance and iCompass. “They will continue to take advantage of us if we don’t keep it in check.”

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood has left office and is running for State House District 48.

Wood made the announcement for his future intentions, to run for the Georgia House District 48 Seat, at the Hagan-Wood Christmas Party in December.

He will run against Betty Price, incumbent.

“Now that I am getting ready to run a campaign, I haven’t slowed down at all. My Christmas break has been spent working on my House 48 campaign,” said Wood.

He compared it to his time in law school, when a holiday break just meant time away from class, not a time to stop working.

“No time off for me, I am back involved [in politics] more than ever and I enjoy it,” he said.

“It’s like catching a wave, when the opportunity comes, you have to take it. You can’t sleep late or you might miss the swell,” said the avid outdoorsman.

Kennesaw City Council has three new members, making a majority of new members.

When the new council holds its first meeting next year, the city will welcome business development manager Pat Ferris, Georgia Tech senior research engineer Chris Henderson and Kennesaw State University materials management professional David Blinkhorn to the seats for Posts 3, 4 and 5 respectively.

Tybee Island City Council has two new members.

City Clerk Jan LeViner administered the oath of office to new and returning councilmen John Branigin and Monty Parks during a brief ceremony in the City Council chambers Tuesday morning. Another new councilman, Jackson Butler, was not in attendance at the ceremony, but was sworn in by the clerk later in the day.

Branigin, Butler and Parks now join Mayor Jason Buelterman and sitting council members Barry Brown, Wanda Doyle and Julie Livingston as members of Tybee Island’s newest elected administration. Parks was the only incumbent to run for another term during the 2017 municipal elections on Tybee, leaving the seats formerly occupied by former councilmen Bill Garbett and John Major up for grabs.

With the new and returning members now seated, the Tybee City Council will convene for its first meeting of the year on Jan. 11.

Columbus Government Center will be closed today because of a broken heating system.

Georgia Municipal Association Executive Director Larry Hanson was named to Georgia Trend’s “100 Most Influential Georgians.”

GMA is an Atlanta-based voluntary, non-profit organization that provides its 521 members with legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and technical consulting services, the release stated.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Georgia Trend as an influential Georgian,” Hanson said in a statement. “There are many men and women on this list whom I admire and have great respect for. To be included among them is quite an honor, and is a reflection of the work done by so many others who also share in this accomplishment.”

Hanson has also recently served as the vice chairman of the board of the Department of Community Affairs and is a current member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, the release stated.

Former State Rep. Tom Dickson takes the reins as the new Mayor of Varnell.

Following a tumultuous 2017 that saw two council members resign and the mayor and another council member not run for re-election, the new mayor, Tom Dickson, a former state legislator, wants a more orderly and less controversial council running the affairs of Varnell.

“The paper obviously knows that we have had some controversy over the last year, so we are looking forward to actually keeping our names out of the paper for awhile,” Dickson said. “I think we have an excellent group of people on the City Council, and they are of a like mind. We are here to keep the city moving forward and to do that in an honorable and orderly manner.”

New council members Bill Caylor, Bob Roche and Clyde Williams — all of whom ran unopposed — were sworn in along with Dickson by the city’s Municipal Court judge, Allen Hammontree. Council members also began the process of the 2018 budget with a first reading with $954,000 in expenditures and $954,000 in revenues.

Gone from the council that started 2017 are Sheldon Fowler, who resigned after an incident at his home that resulted in his arrest for simple assault, simple battery against a law enforcement officer and disorderly conduct, and Andrea Gordy, who resigned after questions of her residency were brought to the forefront during controversy surrounding the council’s vote last summer to disband the city’s police department. Also gone are former mayor Anthony Hulsey, who vetoed the police department vote, and former council member Jan Pourquoi. They did not qualify for re-election.

The Cities of Lula and Helen swore in some of the oldest elected officials in Georgia.

In Lula, incumbent Councilman Mordecai Wilson, 92, was sworn in to begin his fifth term of service to the residents of that city.

Roughly 30 miles away, Geneva S. Elwell, 90, took her oath to return to city government for the first time in years. Elwell joined new city commissioners Steve Fowler and Lee Landress in taking their oaths prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Elwell was elected in November and takes office a month before her 91st birthday.

The two are believed to be the oldest municipal elected officials in the state, according to the Georgia Municipal Association.

 

21
Dec

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for December 21, 2017

Donessa Coastal

Donessa is a 7-month old female Lab mix puppy who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Donessa was found wandering the streets in downtown Savannah one night, a good samaritian saved her. She shows signs of being hungry for a long time, and is missing some hair on one hip. She is a sweet girl, getting along with all foster dogs in her new home, and learning basic commands.

Dinah2 Coastal

Dinah 2 is a 9-month old female Hound mix puppy  who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Dinah is the sweetest dog and would make a wonderful family member. She loves children, playing ball and running around outside. She is housebroken and gets along with other dogs both large and small.

Chip_CPR

Chip is a 9-month old male Australian Cattle Dog and American Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah, GA.

Hi! I’m Chip!

My foster mom says I’m quite the loveable character. I keep her safe by taking the squeakers out of my toys. I’m a typical boy that loves playing in the back yard and getting dirty, and I would love a home where I had another dog to play with!

21
Dec

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

On December 25, 1776, Continental forces under General George Washington began crossing the Delaware River and the next day launched a suprise attack on Hessian soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey.

800px-Emanuel_Leutze-_Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_-_Google_Art_Project

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

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

Wesleyan College in Macon was chartered on December 23, 1836, becoming the first college chartered specifically to grant degrees to women.

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

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

On December 22, 1864, General Sherman wrote to President Lincoln,

“I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.”

On December 23, 1864, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution specifying that the Senate chamber should be lit by electricity for the next Session. That is the last time the legislature sought enlightenment before passing laws.

President Calvin Coolidge lit the first National Christmas Tree on the White House grounds on December 24, 1923.

U.S.S. Atlanta was commissioned on December 24, 1941 at the New York Navy Yard as the lead ship of a new class of Light Cruisers. USS Atlanta (CL-51) was sponsored by Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind.

Margaret_Mitchell_1941_on_USS_Atlanta_(CL-51)

Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as President of the USSR on December 25, 1991, signalling the end of the Godless Communist regime.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Mary Norwood has conceded the election for Mayor of Atlanta and will not continue to challenge the results.

Norwood announced her decision in a statement Wednesday night. She says it is time to move on “although there were some irregularities with the election.”

Results in the runoff were certified Saturday, making the numbers official in Keisha Lance Bottoms’ victory over Norwood.

Norwood had requested a recount after the results showed Bottoms winning the Dec. 5 runoff by a margin of less than 1 percent.

In the recount, Norwood picked up five votes and Bottoms lost six in Fulton County. DeKalb results remained the same, so no new certification was necessary.

Governor Nathan Deal announced some changes in senior administration staff.

Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) Executive Director Martha Ann Todd will serve as Deputy Commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) following the appointment of Matt Arthur as TCSG Commissioner. Following Todd’s departure, Deal appointed GOSA Deputy Director of Innovation and Academic Strategy Cayanna Good, Ph.D., to fill the position of GOSA Executive Director. Both changes are effective Jan. 2, 2018.

“Education is the gateway to a better life, and we have no greater responsibility than ensuring that every student has access to a supportive learning environment,” said Deal. “Martha Ann has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to Georgia’s students and her efforts at GOSA have proven instrumental in identifying and addressing the challenges facing our education system. Under her guidance, GOSA has invested in the classrooms of today to prepare the workforce of tomorrow.”

“Just as early childhood education provides a solid foundation for academic success, TCSG strengthens the classroom-to-career pipeline by introducing students to high-demand fields later in the process. Through TCSG, we are advancing workforce development initiatives and ensuring that Georgians can develop the skills needed to secure meaningful employment. I am confident that Dr. Good will continue GOSA’s critical work and that Martha Ann will continue to be an effective leader in her new role with TCSG.”

Gov. Deal also announced several appointments to local judicial and law enforcement offices.

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced the appointments of Jennifer E. Carver as Solicitor General of Bacon County and Robert M. Thomas as Solicitor General of Miller County. Deal also appointed Alisa Adams Johnson as District Attorney of the Rockdale Judicial Circuit.​​

Deal announced the appointment of Kathryn L. Powers to the Superior Court judgeship within the Clayton Judicial Circuit and Shalonda Jones-Parker to the State Court judgeship created by the appointment of Judge Powers to the Superior Court bench. Deal also appointed John A. “Trea” Pipkin III, Clint Bearden, Howard C. Kaufold, Jr. and T. Craig Earnest to Superior Court judgeships within the Flint, Northeastern, Oconee and Pataula Judicial Circuits, respectively.

Deal also appointed five members of the Board of Regents, two being re-appointments, and three new members. From the AJC:

The new members include Erin Hames, who has worked closely with Deal, albeit with some controversy.

Hames, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, authored Deal’s Opportunity School District plan, which would have given the state the authority to take schools deemed to be “chronically failing” from the control of local school boards. Georgia voters rejected the proposal last year. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in 2015 that Hames was going to make $30,000 over the next year consulting Deal on education policy while drawing $96,000 on a no-bid consulting contract with Atlanta Public Schools. Hames is on the Southern Regional Education Board and has been involved with several education advocacy organizations.

Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber Ryan defended Hames’ appointment.

“Erin Hames is eminently qualified to serve, given her vast experience in Georgia’s education system,” she said. “As a former classroom teacher, attorney, education policy adviser and adjunct professor, Erin’s insight and perspective will be invaluable to our university system and its students.”

In addition to Hames, Deal appointed Barbara Rivera Holmes, president and chief executive officer of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, and W. Allen Gudenrath, a senior vice president of Morgan Stanley’s wealth management division. They replace Larry Walker, who recently announced he’s retiring, and Rusty Griffin Jr. and Doreen Stiles Poitevint, whose terms expire on New Year’s Day. Deal reappointed C. Thomas Hopkins and Don L. Waters.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources extended the trawling season for shrimp through January 15, 2018.

Lindsay Aubart, a marine biologist with the DNR’s Coastal Resources Division, said there are enough shrimp to extend the season.

“Our coast-wide trawl survey showed shrimp abundance in the coastal waters of Georgia to be only slightly below the long-term average,” Aubart said.

The decision to recommend the extension was based on the survey and consultation with the Shrimp Advisory Panel, Aubart said.

Such extensions beyond the Dec. 31 closing date are common. Unless there is abnormally cold weather or the number of shrimp is below normal, the season goes on. Thus far, water temperatures and other conditions in Georgia’s estuaries are within the long term averages, the DNR said.

Reuters writes about the “battle of the Staceys” – Abrams and Evans – in the  2018 Democratic Primary for Governor.

Stacey Abrams, 44, wants to become the first African American female governor in the United States by mobilizing solidly Democratic black voters, who vote sporadically in elections, to form a winning coalition with white liberals.

Stacey Evans, 39, thinks the math does not add up without also appealing to white moderates, many of them outside urban areas, who voted for President Donald Trump last November. She is highlighting her crossover appeal as a white suburban mother with country roots.

As the party prepares for the 2018 congressional elections, there is disagreement over which voters to spend more time and money on – minority voters who are a fast-growing share of the electorate but do not reliably cast ballots, or blue-collar and suburban whites who swing between parties.

At the Abrams campaign headquarters, a poster titled “How We Win” points out that Democrats in Georgia have lost recent elections by some 200,000 votes. More than 1 million black voters did not cast ballots during the last governor’s race in 2014, state data shows.

“They don’t vote because we don’t ask, and this is a campaign that is going to keep asking,” Abrams said, speaking on a recent evening to an audience of three dozen volunteers.

A State Senate Task Force is considering increasing state funding to raise pay for local law enforcement.

A task force spearheaded by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle wants local governments to rethink law-enforcement wages, but the panel did not endorse a call for the state to set a minimum pay for police officers and deputies.The panel also recommended in a report released Wednesday that the state allocate at least $7 million every year for grants to help governments and sheriff’s offices boost salaries, particularly those agencies that are financially distressed.

And the group also floated the idea of putting up to a 1 percent tax on all auto insurance policies issued in Georgia, with the revenue going to the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund.

“We will continue to work until every law-enforcement officer in the state of Georgia is appropriately compensated for the work they do – no matter which city, county or region of our state they call home,” Cagle, who is running for governor, said in a statement included with the report.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle campaigned in Valdosta this week.

“My campaign is really about greater economic prosperity for the state, where no one is left behind,” Cagle said. “I want to see greater economic growth happen particularly in South Georgia, where we are seeing many areas losing population instead of gaining population.”

For South Georgia to see these and other benefits, he said there is no silver bullet to solve all of the problems but he would work to improve education and infrastructure. Broadband is a key infrastructure need for South Georgia, he said.

“We’re no longer bound by bricks and mortar,” he said. “We can do business anywhere in the world from any corner in our state if we have the connectivity to that super highway.”

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved replacing a crashed Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

County commissioners approved a request from the police department Tuesday to buy a new MD 530F helicopter from MD Helicopters Inc. for $2.8 million and avionics installation from Rotor Resources LLC for just under $1.1 million.

Insurance from the crashed helicopter will cover nearly $2.25 million while the remaining nearly $1.7 million will come from the Police Tax Contingency Fund.

“This request is to replace the helicopter that was destroyed in the crash on Sept. 1, 2017,” Police Chief Butch Ayers told commissioners.

The crash on Sept. 1 left Cpl. Michael Duncan paralyzed from the waist down. Officer George McLain was also severely injured in the crash but was not paralyzed.

Some newly elected State Representatives have received their committee assignments for 2018.

Rep. Kim Schofield – House Health & Human Services, Interstate Cooperation and Small Business Development

Rep. Teri Anulewicz – House Code Revision, Intragovernmental Coordination and Transportation

Rep. Deborah Gonzalez – House Code Revision, Intragovernmental Coordination and Judiciary Non-Civil

Rep. Kasey Carpenter – House Industry and Labor, Information and Audits, and Transportation

The Albany Herald looks at how some Georgia Members of Congress voted on the tax reform bill.

Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators — David Perdue, R-Sea Island, and Johnny Isakson, R-Marietta — supported passage of the bill in a 51-48 vote, with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., not voting. No Democrats or independents supported the bill, and no Republicans voted against it.

In the House, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, joined Democratic lawmakers from Georgia in opposing the bill, both in the initial vote and in Wednesday’s vote to approve the Senate-amended version. U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, supported the measure in both votes with the state’s other GOP lawmakers.

No House Democrats supported the measure, which picked up opposition from a dozen Republican representatives Wednesday. Three Republicans and four Democrats did not vote.

“When you take a risk, at the end of that rainbow is a reward,” Isakson, who sits on the Senate Committee on Finance with jurisdiction over tax reform, said. “And in the case of risking lower taxes, the greater reward is more jobs, more opportunity, and a better America for our children and our grandchildren.”

“For the last eight years, America has suffered under big government bureaucrats’ vision of an America where the new norm is 2 percent economic growth,” Perdue said early Wednesday morning after the Senate vote. “Today Republicans said that’s not good enough.

“President Trump has been working tirelessly this year making it a priority to provide regulatory relief, unleash our energy potential, and change our tax code for one reason and one reason only: to get our economy growing again.”

“I have stated numerous times that I do support tax relief for Georgia families,” [Rep. Sanford] Bishop said. “However, it needs to be fair, balanced, and fiscally responsible both in the short and the long term. The benefits must be shared among Georgians of all income levels rather than just concentrated at the top. The tax legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives today fails this test.

Nuclear Fallout

The Georgia Public Service Commission today voted 5-0 to move forward with construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Thursday’s unanimous decision by the state’s Public Service Commission will shape the future of the nation’s nuclear industry, partly because the reactors at Plant Vogtle were the first new ones to be licensed and to begin construction in the U.S. since 1978.

The project, co-owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities, has been plagued by delays and spiraling costs, compounded when the main contractor filed for bankruptcy. Westinghouse Electric Co., the U.S. nuclear unit of Japan’s Toshiba Corp., filed for bankruptcy in March.

In a statement, Georgia Power chairman, president and CEO Paul Bowers said the PSC “recognized that the Vogtle expansion is key to ensuring that our state has affordable and reliable energy today that will support economic growth now and for generations to come.”

Georgia Power spokesman Craig Bell said in an email that the projected peak rate impact to the utility’s retail customers is approximately 10 percent, with 5 percent related to the project already factored in the rates – well below original projections of approximately 12 percent.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Vice Chair Tim Echols made the lengthy motion to approve the capital cost of the project at $7.3 billion, the company’s request minus a $1.7 billion payment Georgia Power received through the former contractor on the project. But the motion also reduced what the company can collect from ratepayers for the project beginning 2021 that amounts to about $1.7 billion.

Georgia Power attorney Kevin Greene said the company would accept that and other conditions imposed by Echols’ motion. That motion also assumed Congress would pass an extension of nuclear production tax credits that were stripped out of the tax reform bill, which amount to about $800 million, and the commission can revisit its decision if that does not happen. Wise said he has assurances from both of Georgia’s U.S. senators as well as congressional leadership that it will be taken up in January.

“Georgians will look back and be as grateful for (this decision) as we are for the decision to complete (the first two),” [Commissioner Tim Echols] said.

Commissioner Chuck Eaton called the first two reactors “the crown jewels” of the state’s energy production.

“I still believe nuclear needs to be part of a diversified mix,” he said.

The news was welcomed by Augusta Technical College, whose nuclear engineering technology program was created seven years ago to help supply workers to Vogtle 3 and 4 as well as the existing two units and the neighboring Savannah River Site, a nuclear-intensive Department of Energy installation.

Jim Price, the college’s dean of industrial and engineering technology, said moving forward on 3 and 4 reinforces the need for the two-year program, which enables graduates to obtain mechanical, electrical and pre-operator jobs at nuclear plants throughout the Southeast.

“It gives it better credibility,” Price said Thursday. “This is good for Georgia and good for the country.”

Rep. Rick Allen, whose 12th congressional district encompasses the Vogtle site, said in a statement Thursday he was pleased to hear the project will move forward.

“Employing nearly 6,000 people in my district and continuing our dominance in the global nuclear industry, the importance of the Plant Vogtle project cannot be overstated,” he said in prepared remarks. “I believe this project is vital to our district, our state and America’s nuclear energy future.”

He said it is still “critical” that Congress modify the Nuclear Production Tax Credit to extend the 2020 sunset date, which is expected to be discussed early next year.

Governor Nathan Deal lauded the PSC’s decision:

“I commend the Public Service Commission for its vision and foresight in approving continuation of the Plant Vogtle expansion while holding the owners accountable to ratepayers,” said Deal. “Investing in clean, sustainable energy infrastructure is a worthwhile endeavor that will have a positive economic impact as well. Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 will provide affordable energy to Georgians for more than 60 years while creating 6,000 jobs during project construction and 800 well-paying, permanent ones after. It is important that we stay the course.”

PSC Members Tim Echols and Chuck Eaton wrote about their decision in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

One thing was clear to most who know us. We wanted to finish this new nuclear plant — the only one of its kind in North America. We believe that nuclear energy makes sense in a day when baseload coal plants are disappearing due to early retirements and increased regulations.  We also know that the United States must maintain nuclear superiority in an age when Russia and China are building dozens of reactors and exporting their technology. Georgia consumers benefit from the affordable and reliable energy made available from the diverse fuel mix we have throughout our state.

Let’s be honest. It was the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, the prime Vogtle project contractor and reactor designer, that has put us in the pickle we are in. All the protections we had built into their contract were made null and void by their self-serving action to walk away from their contract with Georgia Power. However, it is important to note that Toshiba, Westinghouse’s parent company, has paid a significant penalty for Westinghouse’s failure – $3.68 billion or 40 percent of the original contract price. This payment will reduce the cost of the project and that benefits customers. That payment made a difficult vote a little better.

We have appreciated the feedback from many in the communities we represent urging us to complete this important project. Doing so will help Georgia continue to be the best place to do business in America.

From the AJC:

Commission chair Stan Wise said the decision came down to the importance of fuel diversity and the long term benefits the projecct would have on Georgians.

Georgia utility regulators on Thursday conditioned their approval of the Vogtle nuclear project on no small caveat: that Congress approves roughly $800 million worth of tax credits.

As part of its decision allowing Georgia Power and its partners to pass more project costs onto ratepayers, the Public Service Commission unanimously approved language that would allow the five-member body to reconsider if federal lawmakers do not greenlight the tax credits.

“My motion to go forward is based on the assumption that these (tax credits) will, in fact, be extended,” the PSC stated in an approved provision authored by Commission member Tim Echols. “But, if they are not, or if other conditions change and assumptions upon which the Company’s (Vogtle construction monitoring report) are based are either proven or disproven, the Commission may reconsider the decision to go forward.”

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee is considering legislation that would guarantee the $800 million tax credits in question.

The language, which Georgia’s congressional delegation has been lobbying hard for this year, would end the 2021 sunset date for the previously-promised nuclear production tax credits. Vogtle’s operators would receive the credits only after the new units go fully into operation.

The extension was needed since the project is not scheduled to be complete until 2022.

It is still unclear when both chambers of Congress will consider the legislation. Nuclear industry lobbyists have been pushing for lawmakers to consider the language as part of a must-pass government spending agreement later this week, but time on Capitol Hill is in short supply before the holiday break. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson suggested Tuesday that Congress could wait until January and then make the credits retroactive.

“I encourage my Senate colleagues to act quickly to prevent tax increases that could hamper America’s energy security,” Isakson said in a statement Wednesday.

“I remain committed to doing whatever I can to ensure that the Plant Vogtle project stays on track for completion,” he added.

Kristi Swartz reports that PSC Chairman Stan Wise emailed fellow commissioners to say that Speaker Paul Ryan gave assurances Congress will take up the tax credits for Vogtle.

PSC Chairman Stan Wise sent an email to the other utility regulators Friday, saying he received phone calls from the offices of Ryan and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). E&E News obtained the email this morning through the Georgia Open Records Act.

“I received a call from Speaker Ryan’s office a moment ago assuring me that both houses of Congress have agreed to take up the issue of PTC’s early next year (Jan.),” Wise wrote. “The call came from Senator Isakson, speaker Ryan and [Senate] Majority leader [Mitch] McConnell in agreement.”

He said, “I would caution all from getting your news from rumor mongers, reliable or not. I was asked to share with you, but not to release publicly.”

Officials from Ryan’s and Isakson’s offices did not respond to E&E News in time for publication.

The nuclear credit passed the House this summer as a stand-alone bill and was later folded into that chamber’s tax overhaul.

However, it was dropped in conference talks with the Senate, which wanted to avoid the annual skirmishing over extending energy tax breaks in the broader tax reform push.