The blog.

14
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 14, 2017

Lucky Girl

Lucky Girl is a young female Rhodesian Ridgeback & Hound mix who is available for adoption from Faithful Hearts Animal Shelter Inc. in Eastman, GA.

Lucky Girl is spayed and up to date on vaccinations. She is full of energy and loves to run and play and gets along with other dogs. Her owner has some bad health issues and unfortunately had to give her up. Luckie Girl would love to find a new family to love her. For more information call 478-231-6942, Faithful Hearts Animal Shelter, Inc.

Rorie

Rorie is a female Siberian Husky mix who is available for adoption from Faithful Hearts Animal Shelter Inc. in Eastman, GA.

Rorie does well with other dogs and children. Unfortunately the family that had Rorie since she was a puppy had to give her up.

BossEastman

Boss is a young male Boxer and American Bulldog mix who is available for adoption from Faithful Hearts Animal Shelter Inc. in Eastman, GA.

14
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six Flags Over Georgia opened on June 16, 1967.

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Navicent Health Hospital received a national award for stroke care.

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

2018 Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the AJC Political team:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from 11Alive’s Doug Richards:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

The United States Senate will delay its August recess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is time for legal in-state cultivation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Campaigns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smooth (Job) Moves

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

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

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

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

13
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 13, 2017

Pen114Roxy

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

Pen204 Puppy

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

Logan

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

Rocky

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

12
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 12, 2017

Deacon

Deacon is a young male Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from Pawsome Southern Rescue in Warner Robins, GA.

Biscuit

Biscuit is a 3-4 month old male Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from Pawsome Southern Rescue in Warner Robins, GA.

Terek

Terek is a young male American Bulldog puppy who is available for adoption from Pawsome Southern Rescue in Warner Robins, GA.

Byron City Council is considering two animal ordinances.

The council heard the first reading of two ordinance amendments dealing with animals and pets that will likely get second readings and be voted on Aug. 14.

One pertains to dogs that are impounded and do not have, or aren’t wearing, licenses. It prescribes a description of the dog be posted at the impounding facility, the police department and at City Hall for seven days.

After that time, the dog may be adopted or disposed of in a “humane manner.”

The second amendment to animal ordinances deals with the number of dogs and cats allowed per residential lot. If approved, the amendment will limit the number of dogs to three per lot and the number of cats to three per lot.

The measure allows owners who have more than three dogs and three cats at the time of the measure’s passage may keep them but prohibits animals over that number from being replaced as they die or as otherwise leave.

It also makes allowances for litters of puppies and kittens to be kept for 12 weeks.

12
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

CNBC ranked Georgia the #2 Top State for Business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some legislators want to require paper receipts for voting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rural Georgia

Trump Pence Sign

Cordele, Georgia, July 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gizmodo has details on how it will work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Heartbeat

Cordele, Georgia, July 10, 2017

How “Dirty Money” made it to GA-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 11, 2017

Snickers

Snickers is a male Shepherd & Corgi mix puppy who is available for adoption from Forgotten Paws Pet Rescue in Acworth, GA.

Snickers loves to cuddle but is starting to get more independent. He is very curious about everything. He chases leaves that fall from the tress and he needs to know what is behind every piece of furniture in the house. He is very smart and stares you in the eye. He watches everything around him so he will need tons of mental stimulation like doggie puzzle toys and outside activities. He will be a large active dog so he needs a home who loves to go for walks, maybe hikes or runs.

Turtle

Turtle is a male Corgi & Shepherd puppy who is available for adoption from Forgotten Paws Pet Rescue in Acworth, GA.

Turtle just wants to cuddle. He loves to be in his foster moms lap and be held like a baby. When you bath him he whines like the world is ending and then he whimpers when you dry him. He is very dramatic. While his foster brother, Snickers, flies off the couch onto the floor, Turtle still requires assistance.

Turtle loves to run and play and explore the yard. He doesn’t shy away from a good wrestle with his siblings and he loves toys and cow hooves. He may grow into a more active dog but he needs a home who can just spoil him rotten.

Virginia Pibble

Virginia is a 9-week old female Pit Bull Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Forgotten Paws Pet Rescue in Acworth, GA.

Virginia  is the biggest girl of the litter so we estimate her to be close to her mother size at 50 to 55 lbs. She has always been the quiet, docile puppy of the litter. She always looks concerned about everything. She wears her emotions on her face.

Virginia likes to wrestle and roll with her siblings but is not one of the ones who runs crazy around the yard barking. When the chaos begins she usually retreats to her dog bed to chew on a toy or take a nap. She loves to cuddle and she loves to held and sit next to her person.
She is very smart and has learned to use the puppy pads. She goes potty when she is taken outside and she comes when called. Virginia just needs a nice home to love her and keep her safe. As with all puppies, the person has to have the time and patience to train a new puppy.

11
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0549 copy

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0524 copy

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

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

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

St Marys Aaron Burr Plaque TMR_1465

Aaron Burr House St Marys GA Front Side TMR_1470

Aaron Burr House St Marys GA Front

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

From the Gainesville Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 10, 2017

Mocha Sylvester

Mocha is a female Weimaraner and Hound mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends Humane Society in Worth County Sylvester, GA.

DionysusSylvester

Dionysus is a male American Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from Best Friends Humane Society in Worth County Sylvester, GA.

GlenSylvester

Glen is a small male Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends Humane Society in Worth County Sylvester, GA.

ChampSylvester

Champ is a male Beagle mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends Humane Society in Worth County Sylvester, GA.

10
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Property Taxes On the Rise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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