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

Button Gwinnett, one of Georgia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence, was born on April 10, 1735 in Gloucester, England, though some authorities say it was his baptism that was recorded that day. Gwinnett also served in the Georgia legislature, where he wrote the first draft of the state Constitution and served as Speaker.

General Robert E. Lee gave his last address to the Army of Northern Virginia on April 10, 1865.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded on April 10, 1866.

On April 10, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American professional major league baseball player when the Brooklyn Dodgers bought his contract.

Winners of the Masters Tournament on April 10 include Sam Snead (1949), Gary Player (1961), Tom Watson (1977) and Tiger Woods (4th – 2005).

Byron, Georgia once hosted nuclear missiles.

Q: Not everyone’s aware there were nuclear missiles in Byron. Was it a secret?

A: It wasn’t secret we were there but the site was classified as to how the missiles and radars worked. My clearance was top secret. But the site wasn’t common knowledge. When I came in 1962, I stopped at a barber shop on Main Street to ask directions to the missile base and they told me, “There aren’t any missiles around here.” I said, “Yes sir, there are, that’s where I’m going.” So he said, “We’ll you must mean that place up the road — there’s a lot of soldiers around there.” So I guess they did a good job of being there but keeping what was going on low key.

Q: Where was “up the road?”

A: Just north of Byron on Boy Scout Road. The site was there from 1960 to 1966.

Q: What missiles would you have launched if needed? And why were missiles located in Byron?

A: We were in Byron for general defense but our big role was to protect Robins Air Force Base and the Strategic Air Command wing stationed there in those days. It was mostly to protect them from Soviet bombers. With its strategic planes and big bombs, SAC was instrumental and the most powerful defense we had in the Cold War. We were in Byron and had a sister site on the other side of Robins over in Twiggs County. They were Battery A and we were Battery B. We had the base well covered.

Q: And the missiles?

A: Nike-Hercules nuclear warhead missiles. They were really, really fast, accurate and powerful missiles.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Sixth District race appears to be drawing more out-of-town media to Georgia than anything since the 2016 Presidential Primary. From the Chicago Tribune:

In the first 10 days of early voting, 17,871 ballots have been cast and self-identified Democrats have outnumbered Republicans by a 19-point margin. On Friday, however, the Democratic margin was just five points.

Meanwhile, Ossoff’s rivals had their arms full defending the Republican record in the Trump era. Karen Handel, a near-miss candidate in two statewide races – currently polling highest to make the runoff’s second spot – repeatedly rejected the House GOP’s health-care proposal and the negotiations to strip “essential health benefits” from the current system.

“That’s not Tom Price’s plan,” said Handel. “Not every single time do we have a mandate that is horrible.” Moments later, longtime tea party activist and candidate Amy Kremer said that she, too, opposed the bill; Ossoff deflected one of her attacks by praising her “bipartisanship” for criticizing both parties.

Republicans hope that in a runoff, with Ossoff facing just one Republican, he won’t be able to zoom around the partisan differences.

From the New York Times:

The shifting conservative fault lines are on display in the affluent and mall-dotted northern suburbs of Atlanta, which were at the front end of the South’s political realignment in the 1970s when they turned away from their Democratic roots and elected a loquacious young college professor named Newt Gingrich to Congress.

The special election on April 18 has drawn substantial attention because one of the Democrats running, Jon Ossoff, has raised a remarkable $8 million, and his success in a Republican-leaning district could presage a midterm backlash against Mr. Trump. (Voters will pick from candidates of both parties on a single ballot; if no one clears 50 percent, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff election.)

One of the leading Republican candidates, Karen Handel, even wore her practicality as a badge of honor, citing not just Reagan but also Margaret Thatcher’s “relentless incrementalism” credo.

“Republican voters are expecting that we get down to business and deliver and do the job,” said Ms. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, failed Senate candidate and failed candidate for governor. This time around, she said, the expectations from the party base have shifted.

Bob Gray, who calls himself an outsider and is a businessman supported by the conservative Club for Growth, played to type at the forum as he twice criticized Speaker Paul D. Ryan for having “failed” on the health care legislation. But in an interview, Mr. Gray allowed that he would have backed the House-drafted bill (which the Club for Growth opposed), shied away from the Tea Party label and sounded more like a furrowed-brow centrist than a fire-breathing conservative.

“This is the problem with D.C.,” he said. “Everybody has retreated to their political corners with a jersey on. We need people like President Trump who want to go to D.C. and change the way they do business. The American people are tired of the bickering.”

“For eight years, the heroes in this movement were the Freedom Caucus members, and now they’re suddenly in the bad camp?” asked the Republican strategist Chip Lake, a touch of wonder in his voice. “It’s really confusing right now as a Republican to figure out who’s on first.”

That’s at least the second time I’ve seen a reference to Newt Gingrich being elected from Atlanta’s northern suburbs in the 1970s, but it isn’t correct.

Gingrich was elected from the 6th for the first time in 1978, but at that time, it stretched from Haralson, Carrol, and Heard counties along the Alabama border, through Douglas, Heard, Coweta, south Fulton, Fayette, Clayton, Henry, Spalding, Pike, Butts, Lamar, and Jasper Counties, mostly south of Atlanta. It wasn’t until 1992 that Gingrich’s district moved to where it currently lies, in the northern suburbs. At that time, then-Speaker Tom Murphy renumbered that northern suburban district with the number of Gingrich’s district, and Gingrich ran there, nearly losing the Republican Primary to challenger Herman Clark.

State Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell) stars in radio ads designed to boost GOP turnout in her husband’s former district.

The ads are the latest salvo from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to House leadership that has spent $2.2 million on ads – and $3 million overall – trying to rev up GOP voters and deflate Democrat Jon Ossoff’s candidacy.

Betty Price, who like her husband is a physician, has not endorsed any of the 11 Republicans in the 18-candidate contest but urged conservatives to elect a “proven Republican.” She also considered joining the field, before announcing about an hour before qualifying ended that she would not mount a campaign.

The Marietta Daily Journal looks at the 8 candidates running in a Special Election in Senate District 32.

Cobb County Democrats have their eyes on flipping the seat, said Michael Owens, chairman of the Cobb Democratic Party.

“District 32 sits firmly within the 6th District, and while they have not been getting as much publicity — the congressional candidates have been getting all the media attention — some of the candidates that we have for the 32nd District have been working just as hard as well,” Owens said. “They’re doing the same things, they’re trying to reach out to voters, but there’s no doubt that as Democrats, we have to energize, to turn out the vote and canvas.”

Sue Everhart, former chair of the Georgia Republican Party, said hanging onto the seat is a big deal for the Georgia GOP.

“The 32nd District is very important,” Everhart said. “Of course, all the districts are, but I think the 32nd has shown a lot of leadership through the years… We’ve had good representation with Judson Hill, and I hope that continues.”

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-2d District) writes that President Trump’s proposed federal budget is bad for residents of his district.

[W]hen analyzing President Trump’s 2018 Budget Blueprint with this metric, I am led to the inescapable conclusion that the President’s budget would be a recipe for disaster for our country and for the people of the Second Congressional District of Georgia.

Budgets reflect values. They reflect a prioritization of scarce resources. Although a president’s proposed budget is just the beginning of a lengthy negotiating process with Congress, it is nonetheless a signal of what that administration does and does not care about.

Unfortunately, this administration’s 2018 Budget Blueprint speaks loud and clear that it does not value rural communities nor their contributions to the United States. This budget seeks to eliminate vital programs and reduce resources for our workers, our farmers, our students and teachers, and our seniors. This budget would inhibit our nation’s ability to innovate in an increasingly competitive world, and would drastically curtail vital safety nets for our most vulnerable populations.

By proposing a cut of over 20 percent to the USDA, it is clear that the current administration does not appreciate the role our agriculture sector plays in sustaining our quality of life, nor the vital role USDA plays in supporting both rural communities and the nation more broadly.

The president’s budget seeks to eliminate funding for rural infrastructure, cut staffing at USDA Service Centers, and reduce rural business assistance. Instead of creating efficiencies, such cuts would simply make it harder for everyone, and ultimately more difficult for our country to continue to produce the highest quality, safest, most abundant, and most economical food and fiber in the industrialized world.

Savannah is looking to become a yachting center after passage of a sales tax break for major repairs.

The president and CEO of Colonial Group is so sure of that potential that he is putting up some $50 million to convert the former Intermarine shipbuilding yard on Lathrop Avenue into a world-class yacht repair and refit facility capable of competing with Florida and possibly even Europe.

The only potential stumbling block – the need for legislation giving yacht owners the same tax incentives they now get in Florida — was eliminated when the Georgia General Assembly passed such legislation on the last day of its 2017 session.

With that regulatory framework in place, Colonial is ready to begin work on the facility, acquired in a bankruptcy sale in 2010, in the hopes that Savannah Yacht Center will be ready to serve its first customers either late this year or early next year.

SYC is ready to begin letting construction contracts as soon as the bill is signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

The Bryan County News looks at the priorities of the Georgia School Board Association.

“We think the GSBA’s work really played a major part in helping bring out the vote against the Opportunity School District,” [Bryan County School Board Chair Eddie] Warren said. “And I know the Georgia School Board Association did a lot of work at the capitol pointing out OSD’s weaknesses and that woke up a couple of legislators, I believe.”

According to an email from GSBA Executive Director Valerie Wilson, the committee considers “legislative positions submitted by local boards of education for recommendation to the delegate assembly. The committee will also review annually all standing legislative positions. Any revisions or deletions will also be submitted to the Delegate Assembly.”

A look at some of the GSBA’s 2016 legislative positions included such things as protecting the sovereign immunity of local school systems, opposition to a voucher system and “a tax system that yields adequate funding, is fair, is stable and is transparent,” according to a 2016 GSBA handbook.

Another likely legislative priority for GSBA members will be [to]  “maintain the integrity of the teacher retirement system,” Warren said. “That one has been targeted the last few years as the state tries to figure out how to save money. It’s always a topic.”

Getting the legislature to come up with the money for such things as school nurses and counselors is also frequently listed by GSBA members as a priority when it comes to dealing with lawmakers.

“Those types of things seem to get nixed by legislators at times,” Warren said. “They tend to want to put the burden for nurses or counselors back on the local school system to fund it if they want it.”

Grantville City Council Member Mark King will not yet face an ethics board meeting over a complaint against him because of vacancies on the board.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners will consider a revised ordinance designed to lessen the impact of film production on local residents.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the city’s rainy day fund is up to $175 million.

Augusta is home to a commercial drone company seeking to bring the technology to agriculture.

“I can say that I worked on drone systems in the military,” he said, but could not be more specific. Over the past couple of years, as federal regulations on UAV and drones have become better defined, he has been looking into practical applications for the technology he loves and discovered there is huge growth potential for drone use in agriculture.

Information was recently released by the University of Georgia Extension Service about a team of crop scientists and engineers from the school who are developing all-terrain rovers and aerial drones to collect data on crop health.

Scheiner said these devices can be outfitted with multi-spectral and thermal cameras, as well as other technologies, to help researchers and farmers measure stress tolerance, growth patterns, soil temperature, water distribution in fields and even nitrogen levels in individual plants.

“What that means is we can look at crops and see that there’s not enough water here,” he said. “There’s too much water there. Soil temperature is too hot or too cold. You have possible pests, possible disease. These plants seem to be stunted. This way we can help farmers react to these threats. They can go out and say, we need to add more fertilizer or we need to add more pesticide, that sort of thing.”

Forty million dollars from the recently-passed SPLOST will fund a new Bibb County courthouse annex and parking deck.

With many proposed projects and the county expecting to collect about $30 million in sales tax funds annually, commissioners created a priority list for projects at their planning retreat in January. Using that list and the shovel-ready status of some projects as a starting point, Macon-Bibb’s sales tax project manager consulted with county departments and created a prospective timeline, Floore said.

Commissioners are set to discuss — and may vote on — the timeline and budget for the projects Tuesday.

Camden County is considering a rezoning more than 1000 privately-owned acres on Cumberland Island.

In December, Camden County officials approved a variance to allow Lumar LLC, made up of Coca-Cola heirs including the Rev. Sam Candler, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, to divide an 88-acre tract near the park’s Sea Camp into 10 lots. The request and decision set off a storm of protest from legions of campers and day visitors across the country who argue that development will ruin the wilderness experience on Georgia’s largest barrier island.

Two appeals were filed, but before the scheduled April 4 hearing both Lumar and the appellants requested time to negotiate a compromise solution.

Savannah-Chatham County School Board has received about 700 applications for the next school superintendent.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 7, 2017


Heidi is a young female Hound mix who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

Heidi is a young Hound mix and will probably top out at about 50lbs. She is about 8 months old now and currently weighs 42 lbs. Heidi is good with other dogs and cats, she is mostly housebroken and she is crate trained! In fact, she loves her crate so much that if she ever needs a moment to unwind and relax, that is the first place she goes.

Click here to see videos of Heidi.


Daphne is a young female Boxer mix, about 50 pounds, who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

Daphne is a cute little goober who can spend hours entertaining herself. Give her a new toy or rawhide out back and she’ll toss it around, zoomie in circles, spin and dance all over the place as if it’s playing back with her! If you’re looking for a self-entertained pup, look no further! She can seriously find the fun in anything. Daphne absolutely loves food and will do almost anything for it. She is working hard on her commands and is getting awfully good at sitting when being greeted by new people. Yes, she can be a bit of a spaz, but she also likes to snooze, since the spaz in her doesn’t last more than 10 minutes.

Click here to see videos of Daphne.


BoJack is a young male Labrador Retriever and Terrier mix who weighs about 40 pounds and is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

BoJack loves children and is a very tolerant fellow. Being poked and prodded at is no problem at all; he just enjoys the attention! If you’re looking to get some of your kids’ energy out, he is a great release as he’ll run around and play with kids all day if he could! He seems to alternate between ‘on’ and ‘off.’ It’s either running around and getting a good play session in, or sleeping on the couch!

Click here to watch a video of BoJack.



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

On April 7, 1776, the United States warship Lexington captured a British warship, HMS Edward, for the first time.


On April 7, 1798, President John Adams signed legislation authorizing negotiations between three representatives of Georgia and three Presidential appointees over Georgia’s claim to land west of what is now the Georgia-Alabama state lines. Georgia would continue to claim most of what is currently Alabama and Mississippi until 1802.

Map by Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA

Map by Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA.

Georgia Map 1795

Above: a 1795 map showing Georgia extending west to Louisiana. “These Parts are little known.”

After two days of exchanging letters with his Union counterpart, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee agreed to meet and make arrangements for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. At 2 PM on April 9, 1865, Lee and Grant met in a private home owned by Wilmer McLean at Appomattox Court House, Virginia and Lee agreed to the surrender of his army.

Lee was resplendent in his dress uniform and a fine sword at his side. Grant arrived wearing a simple soldier’s coat that was muddy from his long ride. The great generals spoke of their service in the Mexican War, and then set about the business at hand. Grant offered generous terms. Officers could keep their side arms, and all men would be immediately released to return home. Any officers and enlisted men who owned horses could take them home, Grant said, to help put crops in the field and carry their families through the next winter. These terms, said Lee, would have “the best possible effect upon the men,” and “will do much toward conciliating our people.” The papers were signed and Lee prepared to return to his men.

An excellent account of the laying down of their arms on April 12, 1865, by the Army of Northern Virginia was written by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

On April 9, 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta held the funeral for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More than 100,000 mourners reportedly showed up for the funeral, which could accomodate only 800; 200,000 mourners followed the mule-drawn hearse to Morehouse College.

Hank Aaron hit home run number 715 on April 8, 1974 to become the all-time home run champion, a title he holds to this day.

On April 7, 1995, Governor Zell Miller signed legislation recognizing the peach as the official state fruit of Georgia.

Governor Zell Miller signed legislation proclaiming Gainesville, Georgia the Poultry Capital of the World on April 8, 1995.

The Square Dance became the official state folk dance on April 8, 1996, when Gov. Zell Miller signed legislation recognizing it.

On April 8, 2005, Eric Rudolph agreed to plead guilty to the fatal 1996 bombing at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.

The Masters Tournament was won on this date by Gene Sarazen (1935), Jack Burke, Jr. (1956), Nick Faldo (2nd win – 1990), Tiger Woods (2nd win – 2001), and former University of Georgia player Bubba Watson in 2012.

The Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville will host a doll wedding on Saturday.

From 2 to 4 p.m. the mansion is holding its fourth annual doll wedding modeled after a actual life event held on the property as a callback to the time when Milledgeville was the capital city of Georgia.

“In 1859 Gov. [Joseph] Brown’s daughter, Mary Virginia Brown, married her two dolls on the mansion lawn,” said Molly Randolph, curator of the mansion. “They hired the local Baptist minister to officiate the marriage, they invited everyone in town, and it was basically hailed as the event of the year. So we decided a few years ago to bring back this event.”

The reenactment features replicas of dolls Jack Jones and Sue paired together by young Mary Brown and an ordained minister, curator of education at Georgia College Kierstin Veldkamp, who received her license online. The nuptials will be held in the rose garden adjacent to the mansion, and at the conclusion of the ceremony attendees may bring their dolls forward to also be joined in matrimony.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Flags at state buildings were at half-staff yesterday in honor of the memory of John Glenn, astronaut and United States Senator.

Senator David Perdue released a statement on US airstrikes against Syria.

“Assad is a tyrant and his chemical weapon attack against innocent civilians this week was beyond inhumane. This will not be tolerated. After six years of inaction by the Obama Administration, I am glad to see that President Trump is willing to stand up for these innocent victims and stop those responsible for this violence. I commend our brave servicewomen and men who are carrying out this vital mission.”

Senator Johnny Isakson also released a statement on missile strikes against Syria.

“I salute the brave men and women of the U.S. military who conducted these operations tonight. President Trump’s decision to strike the Assad regime’s air base where chemical weapons were deployed against the innocent people of Syria earlier this week sends a clear signal to the world that war crimes such as these will not be tolerated. I support the president’s swift and decisive action to punish this dictatorship for the atrocities committed.”

Two earthquakes near Sparta, Georgia, and at least five tornadoes, possibly as many as 21, hit middle Georgia this week.

The Best Ranger Competition is underway at Fort Benning.

Long before sunrise early Friday, the boots of 53 Ranger teams hit the road at Camp Rogers to start the 34th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning to determine the best team in the U.S. Army.

“Of those 53 teams, we have representatives from the Ranger Regiment, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade and from every unit across the Army,” [Lt. Col. Jim] Hathaway said Thursday. “This is the best of the best. These are some incredible soldiers.”

Over the next three days, soldiers cover more than 60 miles with a series of events that include running, shooting, 20-mile road march, maneuvering through a 4-mile obstacle course, swimming and other events. The contest has been compared to the Ironman and Eco-Challenge because Rangers get very little sleep or food during a competition that’s physically and mentally challenging.

 In Attapulgus, GA, south of Bainbridge, an 800-acre elephant sanctuary is being developed.

Elephant Refuge North America, Buckley’s site in Attapulgus, is the second site that Buckley’s organization, Elephant Aid International, has opened. The first site is located in Tennessee.

The site will be the new home for elephants from zoo and circus situations, according to Buckley. Only one elephant from the Tennessee location will be moving to the new site in Georgia.

“This 850 acre piece of land, this one right here, will be heaven for 7-10 elephants,” said Buckley. “You could have more, but the reason you wouldn’t is that the herd dynamics are affected when you bring in more elephants. Our goal is to create a healthy environment for elephants, and what’s healthy is when they act like a family.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield is reportedly considering dropping ACA/Obamacare coverage in some markets.

Blue Cross is the largest insurer in Georgia. It is also currently the only exchange health insurer in 96 of the state’s 159 counties. Those counties cover the rural southern reaches of the state as well as Augusta. Even a partial pullout by Anthem, would create a vacuum in those areas.

Competition in the metro Atlanta exchange is fairly strong, but a Blue Cross pullout in other areas “would have a profound effect on the market,” Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University, said Tuesday.

At Emory yesterday, former President Jimmy Carter said he hopes the Trump administration reinvigorates the women’s movement.

Legislation & Local Issues

The Georgia General Assembly failed to pass legislation that would have flattened state income tax rates, but its sponsor, Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) will try again.

Georgia has had a graduated income tax structure, which means a lower rate for the poor and a higher rate for the rich.

Powell thought he had that balance in House Bill 329, a plan that stripped the state tax code of its various levels and replaced it with a single 5.4 percent rate. That’s a nice cut for top earners but it represents a huge increase for people at the bottom.

Powell’s plan would have everybody pay 5.4 percent starting at the first dollar. So that’s a large increase for someone making a little bit of money, but it’s a healthy cut for someone who makes a lot.

To balance it out, the bill created an earned income tax credit that would allow lower-income Georgians to roll back much of the increase. Estimates of the cost of the plan ranged from $78 million to $154 million, with most of the savings going to the wealthy.

Part of Powell’s interest in flattening the income tax is to make it easier to reduce the rates later. Right now, the income tax is complicated, but a single rate would fix that. At the risk of oversimplifying a complex idea, the state would have a single lever to pull to lower or even raise the rate as needs may occur.

The bill passed the Republican-dominated House easily, but bogged down in the also Republican-dominated Senate. A Senate version of the bill gave across-the-board tax breaks but did not eliminate the graduated system. That more costly version of tax relief likely would have earned a veto from Gov. Nathan Deal, who worried about the bill’s effect on state revenue.

“I don’t know until after the elections are over next year if there is any point in trying to make that effort,” [Powell] said. “What I saw this year was more politics than rational study.”

We heard complaints about the General Assembly being a “do-nothing” legislature this year, but I’d say that it’s performing as it was designed to.

When talking about the bicameral Congress, and by extension, the 49 state legislatures whose two chambers are modeled on the federal House and Senate structure, many historians focus on the need to balance the idea of each state having equal voting strength in the Senate, with a House that gives more weight to population.

But that’s not the only reason for the bicameral legislature.

The Federalist number 51 makes clear that this structure was also intended to limit the legislature’s ability to “get things done” as a check on the legislative power.

In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further precautions.

Federalist 62 make clear that the two-chambers are partly designed as an impediment to legislation.

Another advantage accruing from this ingredient in the constitution of the Senate is, the additional impediment it must prove against improper acts of legislation….

It is a misfortune incident to republican government, though in a less degree than to other governments, that those who administer it may forget their obligations to their constituents, and prove unfaithful to their important trust. In this point of view, a senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly, distinct from, and dividing the power with, a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government. It doubles the security to the people, by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy, where the ambition or corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient.

This is a precaution founded on such clear principles, and now so well understood in the United States, that it would be more than superfluous to enlarge on it. I will barely remark, that as the improbability of sinister combinations will be in proportion to the dissimilarity in the genius of the two bodies, it must be politic to distinguish them from each other by every circumstance which will consist with a due harmony in all proper measures, and with the genuine principles of republican government.

The necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions.

Looking at the historic reasons for a bicameral legislature, it is clear that when the House and Senate disagree, Georgia’s General Assembly is functioning as designed.

New legislation sent to Governor Deal would require private health insurance plans to cover hearing aids for children.

Under the bill, which is still awaiting the governor’s signature, insurers would have to cover up to $3,000 in hearing aid-related costs every four years for those 18 years and younger.

Proponents argued that the change would only cost a few cents per insured person every month, because that’s what it cost the state health benefit plan after Gov. Nathan Deal increased hearing aid coverage in 2015.

“You can’t find a Georgian who wouldn’t reach into their pocket and give this little bit of money to a child,” said Rep. Penny Houston, R-Nashville, who carried the bill in the House. “It just gives them a chance.”

Houston urged her colleagues to compare that small cost to the state’s expense when children do not receive early intervention, fall behind in their development and wind up in special education throughout school. That can cost the state $420,000, she said.

The bill only applies to those covered by private insurers, which accounts for about 17 percent of policies. Jenkins noted that about 280 babies every year are identified as having hearing loss in Georgia.

Legislation to expand the use of dental hygienists passed this session and may result in more poor and elderly Georgians receiving dental care.

Lawmakers approved House Bill 154, a pet project of Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta and Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, in the final hours of the 2017 session. It is now on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for his consideration.

Under the legislation, dental hygienists would be allowed to do basic cleaning and preventive care at so-called “safety-net settings, ” qualified health centers, school-based health clinics and dental offices without a dentist present.

The work would have to be authorized by a dentist. Currently, Georgia law requires that a dentist actually be present in the facility for a hygienist to do such work.

The Albany Herald asks whether Governor Deal is likely to sign this year’s campus carry legislation.

The House passed a similar bill last year (HB 859), but it was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

The bill that is on Deal’s desk now (HB 280) is essentially the same as 859, but with an added exemption for on-campus child care centers.

The final bill passed the House 96-70 with the four Albany-area members of the House split with one “no” vote from Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, a “yes” vote from Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert and two “did not votes” from Darrel Ealum, D-Albany, and Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg.

Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, voted “no” in the Senate.

“Governor Deal issued a fervent and detailed explanation with his veto of the campus carry bill last year. In my opinion, this year’s revised bill (HB 280) addressed some but not all issues raised from last year’s bill,” Ealum said. “HB 280 was one of the most contentious bills passed in this 2017 House Session. Even if the governor chooses to sign HB 280 with its added restrictions, many areas on college campuses will still be off limits.”

“All areas where high school students may possibly attend will still be restricted; therefore, my prediction is that, with the huge influx of high school students on college campuses attending college and career academies, dual enrollment classes, move-on-when-ready classes, etc., the bill will not be near as far sweeping as originally believed.”

Former Ambassador John Bolton sent out a press release trashing Democrat Jon Ossoff.

“In these critical times, America needs serious, national security-minded Members of Congress who have the experience and expertise to enact policies that will protect our country,” said Ambassador John Bolton. “Despite his many claims to the contrary, Jon Ossoff is not serious. He has wrongfully inflated his resume, touting five years of national security experience and top-secret national security clearance — before backtracking and saying his clearance only lasted 5 months — deceiving many Georgians in the process.”

Ambassador Bolton continued, “experience aside, Georgians in the 6th Congressional District deserve a representative who will be honest and open at all times.”

Ambassador Bolton has not endorsed a candidate in Georgia’s 6th Congressional Special Election, but he is closely monitoring the race and may give a contribution from the Bolton PAC as the election draws near.

Sandy Springs City Council member Gabriel Sterling announced he will run for Chairman of the Fulton County Commission.

Sandy Springs City Councilman Gabriel Sterling announced today that he will be running for Chairman of the Fulton County Commission. The current Chairman, John Eaves, has announced he will resign the seat to run for Mayor of Atlanta. This will require a special election, likely to be held on November 7th.

“I’ve spent most of my life working to bring conservative, effective government to all parts of Georgia,” said Sterling. “There’s a real opportunity to build on the effective reforms that have been led by the three Republican Commissioners, Ellis, Morris, and Hausmann – this chance to make meaningful change for all of the people Fulton is too important to ignore.”

“With nearly all of Fulton County incorporated into cities, now is the time to rightsize our Fulton government, reduce spending, cut taxes, and focus on the core responsibilities of the county,” continued Sterling who played a role in creating many of Fulton’s new cities. “We can enhance the quality of life for everyone who lives, works, prays, and plays here.”

“Sandy Springs is run efficiently, providing quality, responsive service, and I want to see that kind of smart government and competition brought to bear in Fulton County,” Sterling stated. “We can’t afford to go back to the dysfunction and divisiveness that defined Fulton for so long. We need fresh ideas like we’ve implemented in Sandy Springs and a steady hand in the Chairmanship. I think my record shows that I can help lead this large and diverse county successfully.”

Early voting in City of South Fulton and Roswell special runoff elections will be held next week.

Steve Shaw resigned his seat on the Eton, Georgia City Council and it will be filled in November’s election.

The remaining three council members and Mayor Billy Cantrell accepted Shaw’s resignation at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, according to Kim Hall, city clerk. Shaw notified the mayor’s office of his resignation last Friday, a week after being arrested by the Murray County Sheriff’s Office on two felony counts related to an arranged illegal prescription drug buy. He is charged with conspiracy to violate Georgia’s Controlled Substances Act and use of a communication facility in a drug transaction.

The seat he held is up for election on the Nov. 7 general election ballot. Rather than call for a special election to fill out the term, Hall said the council members decided to leave the seat vacant until the next election cycle.

According to the Secretary of State’s website, qualifying for the election will be open Aug. 21-25.

Andrew Niquette will run against State Rep. Winfred Dukes (D-Albany) in the 2018 Democratic Primary.

Five Georgia companies are bidding on projects related to building a wall on the southern U.S. border with Mexico.

The City of College Park is holding public sessions to discuss the FY2017-18 budget.

The Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce will host a pancake breakfast with local legislators next week.

Coweta delegation members – Sen. Matt Brass, Rep. Lynn Smith, Rep. Josh Bonner, Rep. David Stover, and Rep. Bob Trammell – will discuss what happened during the legislative session, which began in January and ended late March.

The Coweta delegation will participate in a moderated panel. Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, will provide legislative insights from the session as well as moderate the panel.

The event will be held from 7:30-9 a.m. Reservations are due by Monday. The cost is $20 for chamber members and their guests and $50 for general admission.

Qualifying for a special election to Clarkesville City Council will be held April 24-26, 2017.

The at-large election will determine the person who will serve the balance of a four-year term, beginning on or about June 21, 2017, and continuing through Dec. 31, 2019.

The Clarkesville Special Election will be held Tuesday, June 20, at the Ruby Fulbright Aquatic Center, 120 Paul Franklin Road, Clarkesville. Deadline to register to vote in the Special Election is May 22, Ellison said.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 6, 2017

These four dogs at Barrow County Animal Control were scheduled to be euthanized this morning, but have been given a reprieve to noon on Friday because of yesterday’s weather.

Code Red Barrow


Petunia is a female Boxer and Whippet mix puppy who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

She was born around September of 2016 and is quite the unique combination – Boxer/Whippet mix! Basically, at only 22 lbs, we’re going to call her a mini boxer with some stilts for legs. Because she is still a puppy, our best guess is that she’ll top out in the high 30’s or low 40’s.

April Athenspets

April is a young female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Athenspets in Athens, GA.

April is a classic lab mix puppy – full of kisses and fun. When you kneel down and call her she runs right into your arms and flips over for a bellyrub. She seems to have a great temperament – wants to be friends with everybody, human and canine, and is submissive without being at all fearful. She hasn’t had much training yet so she jumps up, but she isn’t wild or hyper about it. She wants to please, so training her shouldn’t be hard.


Hershel is a young male Terrier and Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from Circle of Friends Animal Society Inc. in Athens, GA.

Hershel and his siblings, Rosita, Rick, Daryl, Maggie and Michonne were abandoned on the side of a busy road. They were starving and in bad shape. They were the real life Walking Dead puppies.

Hershel is a 8 month old Terrier/Shepherd/Hound(?) mix. He is a very sweet and sensitive boy. He loves attention and wants to sit in your lap. He loves his toys and lots of play time. Hershel is very good with other dogs, cats and children. Hershel is crate and house trained.

Hershel can be a little timid of some men due to previous harsh treatment but he does warm up with a little patience. Then he will be your buddy. :)

He will be about 40 to 50lbs full grown.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 6, 2017

On April 6, 1776, the Continental Congress announced that all ports in America would be open to trade with other countries not ruled by the British. The action was taken several months after Britain passed the American Prohibitory Act which forbade trade with the colonies and was intended to punish colonists for the growing rebellion.

John Tyler was sworn in as the tenth President of the United States on April 6, 1841.

Tyler was elected as William Harrison’s vice president earlier in 1841 and was suddenly thrust into the role of president when Harrison died one month into office. He was the first vice president to immediately assume the role of president after a sitting president’s untimely exit and set the precedent for succession thereafter.

The first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens, Greece on April 6, 1896.

The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, when the US House of Representatives voted 373-50 on a declaration of war that passed the Senate two days earlier.

2001: A Space Odyssey was released on April 6, 1968.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Deal signed an Executive Order creating a Court Reform Council on March 30, 2017.

Whereas: A trusted an modernized judiciary is a vital component of society; and

Whereas: Proposals to amend the judicial process and the administrative law hearing process in Georgia require a thorough analysis; and

Whereas: A study of best practices would be a required aspect of the analysis,

Now, therefore, pursuant to the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Georgia, it is hereby

Ordered: That the Court Reform Council is hereby created to review current practices and procedures within the judicial court system and the administrative law hearing system and make recommendations to improve efficiencies and achieve best practices for the administration of justice.

It is further

Ordered: The following individuals are hereby appointed to serve on the Court Reform Council:

The Honorable Chris Carr – Attorney General of Georgia

The Honorable Bill Cowsert – Majority Leader, Georgia State Senate

The Honorable Christian Commer – Majority Whip, Georgia House of Representatives

The Honorable Stacey Abrams – Minority Leader, Georgia House of Representatives

The Honorable Nels Peterson – Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia

The Honorable Charlie Bethel – Judge, Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia

The Honorable Trent Brown – Judge, Superior Court of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit

The Honorable Michael Malihi – Chief Judge, Office of State Administrative Hearings

David Werner – Executive Counsel, Office of the Governor

Dennis T. Cathey – member, Cathey & Strain, LLC

Chris Cummiskey – Executive Vice President of External Affairs, Georgia Power

Ordered: That Attorney General Chris Carr shall serve as Chairman of the Court Reform Council

It is further

Ordered: That the Court Reform Council shall submit a final report of their findings and recommendations to me on or before December 1, 2017.

Continue Reading..


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 5, 2017

Barrow County Animal Shelter is overcrowded and will start euthanizing dogs to free up space on Thursday, April 6th.


Scooby (above and below) is a 3-4 year old male mixed breed dog who weighs 52 pounds is available for adoption from the Barrow County Animal Shelter in Winder, GA. There is no charge to adopt Scooby.

Scooby is very friendly, described as a sweetheart by those who have met him.

Email [email protected] for more information.



Lidia is a 7-year old female, maybe a Doberman and Hound mix, who weighs 59 pounds and is available for adoption from the Barrow County Animal Shelter in Winder, GA.


Minnie is a sweet female Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Barrow County Animal Shelter in Winder, GA.

Minnie went to a recent adoption even and was very friendly to all of the new people she met, including children and got along pretty well with the other dogs too.

Minnie is scheduled to be euthanized on Thursday.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 5, 2017

President George Washington exercised the veto power for the first time on April 5, 1792.

The bill introduced a new plan for dividing seats in the House of Representatives that would have increased the amount of seats for northern states. After consulting with his politically divided and contentious cabinet, Washington, who came from the southern state of Virginia, ultimately decided that the plan was unconstitutional because, in providing for additional representatives for some states, it would have introduced a number of representatives higher than that proscribed by the Constitution.

The Brown Thrasher was first recognized as the official state bird of Georgia on April 5, 1935 through an Executive Order signed by Governor Eugene Talmadge. Later the designation of official state symbols through executive fiat was challenged and the General Assembly would recognize the Brown Thrasher again as official state bird in 1970.

On April 5, 1962, Governor Ernest Vandiver called a Special Session of the Georgia General Assembly to revise the state’s election code following a decision by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Baker v. Carr.

On April 5, 1968, amid racial tension following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., musician James Brown helped keep the peace in Boston.

On April 5, 1977, Wyche Fowler won a runoff election over John Lewis for the Fifth Congressional District, following the appointment of Andrew Young as Ambassador to the United Nations. Fowler would win election to the United States Senate in 1986, and ironically, lose his seat in a 1992 runoff election to the late Paul Coverdell.

On April 5, 1980, the band that would come to be known as R.E.M. played their first show as Twisted Kites in Athens, Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Department of Transportation said yesterday that the collapsed section of I-85 will reopen by mid-June.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) said the Interstate 85 overpass will be rebuilt by June 15th, about 10 weeks from now.

GDOT said it has hired contractor CW Matthews to handle the reconstruction. The company helped rebuild a portion of I-285 in 2001, when a gasoline tanker truck collided with two small cars and shut down four lanes of the elevated bypass. Because the company helped with that project years ago, GDOT said they have confidence CW Matthews will be helpful with this project as well.

They’ll pay bonuses to the contractor to finish construction quickly, according to GDOT’s Director of Construction Mark Mastronardi.

The transportation agency could also penalize the contractor for not finishing the work on time. Though details on how they’ll do that have not been released, they have assembled a 30-person team to monitor demolition and construction around the clock to make sure shortcuts aren’t taken that could compromise the safety of the repairs.

Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue released a joint statement on the I-85 repairs.

“We appreciate the swift action taken by Governor Deal and our state officials, local first responders and community volunteers during this very difficult disruption,” Isakson said in the statement. “In addition, President Trump and his administration stepped in immediately to offer assistance to Georgia and help make sure initial recovery efforts were able to get underway as quickly as possible.

“As federal partners, Senator Perdue and I continue to stand ready to help expedite efforts to ensure a quick and successful long term recovery.”

Perdue added, “Georgians stepped up to the plate and immediately responded to the devastating bridge collapse we witnessed last week. From Governor Deal to our brave first responders and local leaders, there is no doubt our state’s swift action saved lives in this situation.

“President Trump and his team also took action to make federal support available to Georgia immediately. We are all hands on deck to expedite any regulatory requirements and we stand shoulder to shoulder to make sure we get Georgians traveling safely again as fast as humanly possible.”

State Representative Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) is running for Secretary of State in 2018.

Georgia Republican State Representative Brad Raffensperger of Johns Creek announced Monday that he is a candidate for the Office of Georgia Secretary of State. The incumbent, Brian Kemp, is not running for reelection and instead is running for governor.

“As an engineer, a general contractor and as the owner of a manufacturing business, I’ve worked and built projects in more than 30 states across the country. I have seen first-hand just how easy some states make it to do business, while other states make it hard,” said Raffensperger. “As Secretary of State, I will work to ensure Georgia is a friendly place to bring new business.”

Raffensperger is CEO of Tendon Systems, LLC. The firm is a specialty contracting and engineering firm with 200,000 square feet of office space and manufacturing facilities in Columbus, GA and Forsyth County. Tendon employs more than 100 Georgians.

“I’m running for Georgia Secretary of State because I’m a conservative who wants to keep streamlining government in Georgia to prevent it from getting in the way of job creation and opportunity.”

“As our Georgia Secretary of State, I will work with our Governor to limit the size of government, cut wasteful regulations that impede growth, and will work to keep Georgia moving forward to bring new businesses here,” said Raffensperger. “I’m a strong believer in putting taxpayers first.”

Raffensperger represents House District 50 in the legislature. He is a registered professional engineer in over 25 states. He and his wife, Tricia, have been married for 40 years and have three adult sons and two grandchildren. Brad and Tricia worship at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta.

The general election for Secretary of State will be held in November 2018. The date of the Republican primary is yet to be announced.

Raffensperger joins fellow Republican State Rep. Buzz Brockway (Lawrenceville) in the field for Secretary of State.

Governor Nathan Deal endorsed Republican Gus Makris in the Special Election for Senate District 32.

“Gus Makris is the Republican Leader and Conservative Reformer that Senate District 32 deserves. His desire to use conservative principles in order to reduce poverty, improve our schools, reduce traffic, and improve pay for our state public safety employees is exactly what we need. His thoughtfulness in the State Senate will be appreciated,” said Governor Deal.

“Governor Deal’s endorsement is an honor, and I think a recognition of how our ideas will help this district and the State of Georgia,” Makris said. “Under Governor Deal’s leadership, we became the #1 State in which to do business, we reformed our criminal justice system, and created a thriving film industry that adds billions to our State economy.”

Makris added that his campaign has been focused on issues that the other Republican campaigns have failed to address. This includes being the only Republican to offer plans on reducing class sizes and reforming the State funding formula for education to put more money in classrooms. Additionally, he is the only candidate thus far to address our crippling traffic and reform our budget to prioritize core services.

“I have knocked on thousands of doors across this district, and the message is largely the same. Voters want a conservative and capable State Senator who will actually listen and represent them. I am proud to have Governor Deal’s endorsement, just like I am proud to have the personal endorsement of thousands of voters across State Senate District 32.”

Fifteen of the Sixth District candidates met in a forum hosted by the Cobb County League of Women Voters.

State Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners) joined Gov. Deal and several other legislators to celebrate Georgia Down Syndrome Day on March 21st.

The governor’s proclamation highlights the fact that about 6,000 babies in the U.S. are born with Down syndrome annually, and more than 400,000 Americans have it.

“I am a father of a child with Down syndrome, and I am grateful to Governor Deal for bringing recognition to our community,” Hilton said in a statement. “As a state representative, it is an honor to serve as a champion and voice for families across the state with special needs.”

Columbus Memory Center is working on a project to screen all local senior citizens for Alzhemier’s disease.

[Dr. Jonathan] Liss and Mayor Teresa Tomlinson will hold a news conference 4 p.m., Tuesday, in the mayor’s office. Columbus Council is expected to issue a proclamation in support of the effort during a meeting at the Citizens Services Center, which starts at 5:30 p.m.

As part of the initiative, called the “Columbus Memory Project,” every resident 65 or older will be offered a free test designed to give them a “memory number” as a baseline understanding of his/her memory health. Additionally, individuals 55-75 years of age will be able to submit a confidential DNA sample, via free cheek swab kits, through GeneMatch, a program of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry.

Lawsuits against Columbus over the city budget are nearing an end as the judge overseeing the action granted the city’s motion for summary judgment.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Al Tillman rescinded an earlier resignation and intends to remain on the Commission.

Days after Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Al Tillman said he would resign, he reversed course and says he will remain on the commission.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Tillman said he posted a message on Facebook this weekend that he would step down because of frustration, including criticism leveled at his family. Tillman, who is several months into his second term on the commission, cited in the Facebook message a lack of satisfaction he said he receives from some people in the community.

Savannah-Chatham County’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) has raised $23 million more than expected, and city officials are trying to decide how to spend it.

Hall County Board of Elections voted to start offering election materials in Spanish and English.

In a 2-1 vote, the board approved the motion Tuesday afternoon. Democrats Gala Sheats and Kim Copeland voted in favor of the measure, while Republican Ken Cochran cast the only dissenting vote.

Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), said in a statement that it is an “important step forward to ensure all voters in Hall County would be able to exercise their right to vote, regardless of language barriers that existed before.”


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

On April 4, 1776, General George Washington began marching his troops from Cambridge, Massachusetts to New York, in anticipation of an invasion by the British.

President William Henry Harrison died in office on April 4, 1841, a month after his inauguration.

At the inauguration of America’s first Whig president, on March 4, 1841, a bitterly cold day, Harrison declined to wear a jacket or hat, made a two-hour speech, and attended three inauguration balls. Soon afterward, he developed pneumonia. On April 4, President Harrison died in Washington, and Vice President John Tyler ascended to the presidency, becoming the first individual in U.S. history to reach the office through the death of a president.

On April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln toured Richmond, Virginia the day after the Confederate Capitol fell to Union forces.

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in Memphis. James Earl Ray would later be arrested and plead guilty to the assassination.

On April 4, 1974, Hank Aaron hit home run 714, tying Babe Ruth’s record.

On April 4, 1988, the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly was recognized as the official state butterfly of Georgia.

The Atlanta Braves played their first game in Turner Field on April 4, 1997, defeating the Chicago Cubs 5-4. Denny Neagle started on the mound for the Braves and Mark Wohlers earned a save. Atlanta’s Michael Tucker hit the first homerun in the new stadium.

Presidential Cars

Love him or not, Donald Trump does have great taste in sports cars. After the 2015 offering of a 1997 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster formerly owned by now-President Trump, the latest ex-Trumpmobile to hit the auction circuit is a 2007 Ferrari F430 F1 coupe. From the auction listing:Continue Reading..


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 3, 2017


Jake is a young male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Coweta County Animal Control in Newnan, GA.

More than just absolutely adorable, this amazingly sweet boy knows how to shake/hold hands, loves hugs, and is just a darling. He’s the perfect companion pet & would make a precious family member. After sitting in animal control for just over a month now, Jake is ready to relocate. Make his new home with you today!


Bernadette Newnan

Bernadetta is an adult female Rat Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Newnan Coweta Humane Society in Newnan, GA. This little girl loves your lap! She is always happy and gets along great with other dogs.

Bentley Newnan2

Bentley is a young male Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Newnan Coweta Humane Society in Newnan, GA. Sweet Bentley just wants to play. He is a very happy boy with plenty of energy and love. He is learning to come when called and sit for treats.

Bentley Newnan1


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

On April 2, 1513, Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, claiming it for the Spanish crown. Today he is best-known in Georgia for giving his name to be mispronounced daily on a sketchy street in Atlanta. It is not known if he was wearing jean shorts, or if those were developed later.

Georgia began its love affair with the regulation of what can and cannot be sold on this date in 1735, when James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony, helped gain passage of “An Act to prevent the Importation and Use of Rum and Brandies in the Province of Georgia.” The act provided that after June 24, 1735, “no Rum, Brandies, Spirits or Strong Waters” shall be imported into Georgia.” Permission was also required to sell beer, wine, and ale.

On April 3, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized “privateers” holding a letter of marque and reprisal to attack British ships. This essentially legalizes what would otherwise be considered piracy. Issuing letters of marque and reprisal is among the enumerated powers of Congress under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, though they have seldom been used. Thus, I hope to someday see the Jolly Roger flying at Tea Party rallies alongside the Gadsden flag.

In perhaps the most fitting historical tidbit ever, the United States House of Representatives first met on April 1, 1789 in New York City. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania was elected the first Speaker of the House. Georgia’s first Members of Congress were James Jackson, Abraham Baldwin, and George Mathews.

On April 3, 1865, Richmond fell.

On April 1, 1870, Robert E. Lee, President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, arrived in Savannah, Georgia. Lee’s career in the United States Army began with his first assignment at Cockspur Island near Savannah. While in Savannah for the 1870 trip, Lee was photographed with former General Joseph E. Johnston, who was in the insurance business there.

On April 3, 1898, President William McKinley called on Georgians to contribute 3000 volunteers for the Spanish-American War.

On April 2, 1917, Jeanette Rankin took office as the first woman elected to Congress, representing Montana.

Born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana Territory, in 1880, Rankin was a social worker in the states of Montana and Washington before joining the women’s suffrage movement in 1910. Working with various suffrage groups, she campaigned for the women’s vote on a national level and in 1914 was instrumental in the passage of suffrage legislation in Montana. Two years later, she successfully ran for Congress in Montana on a progressive Republican platform calling for total women’s suffrage, legislation protecting children, and U.S. neutrality in the European war. Following her election as a representative, Rankin’s entrance into Congress was delayed for a month as congressmen discussed whether a woman should be admitted into the House of Representatives.

Finally, on April 2, 1917, she was introduced in Congress as its first female member. The same day, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and urged a declaration of war against Germany.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., accompanied by Georgians Hosea Williams and Ralph D. Abernathy, was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting a strike by sanitation workers on April 3, 1968. He delivered what is known as the “Mountaintop Speech.”

“[L]ike anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

On April 2, 1985, Governor Joe Frank Harris signed legislation recognizing the Right Whale as the official state marine mammal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Deal’s office is busy reviewing legislation sent by the General Assembly for his signature. Here’s the running list of bills signed by the Governor.

The AJC Political Insider reviews legislation sent to Deal’s desk and what he has said publicly about the measures.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp made his first appearance on the campaign trail for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018.

The keynote appearance of Georgia’s first gubernatorial candidate for the 2018 race was one of several reasons Cobb County Republican Party Chairman Jason Shepherd believed led to a standing room-only turnout at the party’s monthly breakfast Saturday.

Many of the 211 in attendance had to stand at the party’s Roswell Street headquarters as Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp spoke. The breakfast came a day after the Republican announced his entry into the statewide race, becoming the first from either major party to do so.

“We’re honored he chose Cobb County to kick off his campaign. It shows the importance of Cobb County in general — where Cobb goes usually goes the Georgia Republican primary,” Shepherd said. “I’m expecting Secretary Kemp to have a strong presence here in Cobb as his campaign gets underway.”

“It was never my plan to run or serve in public office,” Kemp said. “I literally ran for the state Senate because I was fed up and I’d had enough — all the rules, regulations, taxes and mandates that were crushing small businesses, as well as working Georgians.”

“We absolutely must take a dadgum chainsaw to burn some job-killing regulations, destroy mandates that penalize progress, stand firm against any health care overhaul plan that punishes growth,” he said.

“No playing favorites. Rural Georgia must be a priority, not an occasional talking point — better paying jobs, stronger economy, high-speed internet and quality, accessible health care,” he said. “What’s good for rural Georgia is good for all Georgia.”

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes that Kemp’s campaign includes “Trump-ian” language.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp opened his campaign for governor Saturday by borrowing themes from Donald Trump, pledging a “Georgia first” strategy that would crack down on illegal immigration, as he took aim at establishment forces and the media.

And Kemp, a veteran of state GOP politics, drew applause from hundreds at a Cobb GOP breakfast with broadsides against “fake news” and the well-connected political status quo.

He promised his administration would “treat rural Georgia the same way we treat metro Atlanta” and emphasized his background as the owner of stone and construction firms – jobs he continues to hold while working in his $130,000-a-year state post.

“It helped that unlike many, I never, ever became a full-time politician,” said Kemp, a former state senator who was first appointed to the Secretary of State’s job by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2010.

His speech Saturday highlighted Trump-ian themes throughout, including tough talk about crackdowns on illegal immigrants and the need to boost rural Georgia’s economy. It was a reflection of rural Georgia’s importance in the Trump era: The president lost Cobb and the rest of core metro Atlanta, but still won the state thanks to huge margins in rural Georgia.

“This is Georgia,” he said, echoing another Trump mantra. “We will be putting Georgia first.”

State Representative Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville) announced he is running for Secretary of State, following Kemp’s announcement.

“I’m running for Secretary of State because I’m committed to making Georgia the easiest place to do business, not just the best,” Brockway said in a statement. “I will work tirelessly to help every Georgian who dreams of owning their own business or obtaining an occupational license fulfill that dream.

“One of our most sacred rights as Americans is the right to vote. As secretary of state, every citizen in Georgia who wants to vote will know that their vote will count and their private, personal information will be fiercely protected.”

Brockway’s decision to run for secretary of state next year means there will now be an open seat in the Gwinnett legislative delegation that will be up for grabs. Brockway was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, and won re-election to his district 102 seats over a Democratic challenger in November with nearly 56 percent of the votes cast.

Bob Gray’s campaign for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District took a turn for the goofy on April Fool’s Day, releasing a stupid “joke” claiming Karen Handel was endorsing him.

The former Johns Creek councilman sent out an official campaign release declaring Karen Handel, the leading Republican in the nationally-watched race, had dropped out of the April 18 contest and endorsed him. He echoed it with a tweet from his official account.

It was a hoax, of course.

“The only people who think this dirty trick was funny are Jon Ossoff and the Democrats who stand to gain by a confused and divided Republican electorate,” said Sue Everhart, a former Georgia GOP chair backing Handel. “The Democrats are serious about flipping this seat and these games only help their cause.”

Judson Hill’s fundraising is no joke, with the campaign announcing nearly $500k in contributions.

The former state senator reported raising $473,000 and had $113,000 in his campaign coffers in the final stretch of the April 18 special election to succeed Rep. Tom Price.

Democrat Jon Ossoff now says his goal is to win the Sixth District Special Election outright.

“The campaign’s goal is not to get into a runoff, though we’ll be ready to fight a runoff if necessary,” Ossoff said as he announced endorsements from a handful of state legislators. “The campaign’s goal is to win this election outright on April 18.”

So far, Democrats have a slight advantage in early voting. According to The New York Times, as of Wednesday, 55 percent of voters have participated in a recent Democratic primary, compared to 31 percent who have voted in a Republican primary. And among voters who have requested — but not yet returned — absentee ballots, Democrats also have an early lead.

“That was a very big sign for Jon Ossoff,” said Georgia Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson. “We saw that the enthusiasm in this race right now is definitely amongst the Democrats.”

The Georgia Republican Party is gearing up for an expected runoff and plan to get fully behind whoever emerges as the nominee with full confidence that they’ll hold the seat.

“Once we know who our candidate is after the 18th, we will be ready with money and resources and a grassroots army to support our nominee and push them across the finish line,” said Ryan Mahoney, Georgia GOP spokesman.

“We’re working around the clock to make sure [Democrats] don’t get that win in Georgia. They are desperately trying to flip the script here, and it’s just not going to happen in Georgia.”

Early voting turnout appears to favor Democrats in the district, which is normally at least 60% Republican in General Elections.

Of the more than 8,100 people who have voted so far in the suburban Atlanta district, 44 percent were Democrats and 23 percent were Republicans, according to an analysis by Michael McDonald, a political science professor and election specialist at the University of Florida.

McDonald identified Democrats and Republicans based on the last primary each early voter participated in, information that can be found in state voter files. The remaining voters ― roughly one-third of the total so far ― have no record of primary voting in Georgia.

Although voters’ preferences can change from primary to primary, making that data imperfect, it is the most reliable indicator of partisanship in a state with nonpartisan voter registration.

It is important to note of course that early voting is not a rock-solid indicator of final election outcomes. Early general-election voting patterns in North Carolina and Florida, for example, appeared to favor Hillary Clinton but she ended up losing both states in November.

And early voting in Georgia’s 6th district continues until April 14. Election Day itself is April 18.

Campus Carry advocates and anti-gun advocates alike await word on whether Gov. Deal will veto or sign legislation to allow concealed carry on college campuses.

Some lawmakers involved in negotiating the final bill said they were “confident” that Deal will sign it. A spokeswoman for the governor wasn’t immediately available. Deal hasn’t taken a firm stance on this year’s measure, only suggesting that he was working with lawmakers.

This year’s version adds exemptions for on-campus preschools, disciplinary hearings and areas where high school students attend college classes. Deal said last year that he wanted lawmakers to exempt those areas.

The bill also preserves exemptions included in last year’s bill that would prevent weapons in student housing, including fraternity and sorority houses, and athletic facilities.

Deal has 40 days to decide whether to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature.

“This is an example of the legislative body and the executive branch working together,” said Sen. Frank Ginn, a Republican from Danielsville. He was a part of a small group of lawmakers from both chambers who met Thursday night to negotiate details of the bill.

From the AJC:

This year, the governor said he was willing to reopen the debate. In a late compromise between House and Senate leaders, lawmakers approved a measure that acceded to Deal’s demands to bar guns from on-campus child care facilities, faculty and administrative office space, and disciplinary meetings.

Deal has said he is “receptive” to the bill as long as it made those changes, but he declined to comment on the measure Friday. Supporters expressed confidence he would sign the legislation, even if they had to include the restrictions that many social conservatives opposed.

“It didn’t do all that many members wanted it to do, but I understand that,” House Speaker David Ralston said. “You don’t all the time score a touchdown on a play, but we got a first down on that, at least. I’m pleased that we were able to get a bill that improves and strengthens the Second Amendment.”

House Bill 221 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) rewrites the state’s Power of Attorney laws and is headed to the Governor for signature or veto.

“The Uniform Power of Attorney Act provides a much-needed update to Georgia’s power of attorney statute,” Efstration said in a statement. “The bill allows protections for individuals who grant the power of attorney while also giving clarification for responsible caregivers and financial institutions.”

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said the bill will help protect someone who has to assign power of attorney to another person. Among other things, the bill says a person cannot argue that use of their power of attorney authority absolves them from prosecution for a crime.

“The passage of House Bill 221, Uniform Power of Attorney Act, will give law enforcement and prosecutors the tools necessary to address individuals who are using the power of attorney to exploit elderly and disabled persons,” Keenan said in a statement. “A power of attorney should not be used as a license to steal.”

Campaigns for higher office next year may have impacted this year’s legislative session.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, has been there longer than anyone, and just finished his 43rd legislative session.

The dominant issue during the session was the governor and lieutenant governor races,” Smyre said. “And when politics enters the fray in that way, it is hard to get good public policy. There was a lot of gridlock.”

Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said it was a frustrating session and a frustrating final day.

“People who have been there much longer than I have said it was the strangest 40th day,” he said. “There was this lack of real action, but we were still in there. There was no frenzy. Then at the end there was very little cooperation between the two chambers.”

Rep. Debbie Buckner. D-Columbus, agreed.

“I would describe that session as tense because of the tension between the House and Senate,” Buckner said. “No matter what we sent to the other side, they would change it and tweak it.”

Though the session might be over, the political games are just starting, and McKoon finds himself in the middle of it. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp are planning runs for governor in the May 2018 primary. Several others, including McKoon, are considering it.

McKoon, who announced in the early days of the session he would not seek re-election for the District 29 Senate seat, said he plans take the next couple of weeks to weigh his options, which also could include a run for attorney general, another office or not seeking any office.

“I am going to be doing a lot of meetings the next few weeks,” McKoon said.

Twelve Chatham County public schools could be eligible for inclusion in the turnaround plan if Gov. Deal signs House Bill 338.

House Bill 338, was approved by both the Georgia House and Senate, and has been waiting for Deal to sign it into law since Wednesday. But the final version of the bill limits Deal’s control and will likely shorten the list of potential takeover schools by half.

Deal’s list of failing schools included 12 in Savannah-Chatham — Brock, Savannah Classical, East Broad, West Chatham Middle, DeRenne, Southwest Middle, Myers, Low, Haven, Hodge, Mercer and Shuman. All of them had College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, scores below 60 for three consecutive years.

HB 388 doesn’t place public schools under the governor’s direct control and it involves local school districts in reform efforts before a takeover is considered.

Once HB 388 becomes law, a “chief turnaround officer” will be hired to lead reform efforts in the state’s bottom five percent schools. This turnaround chief will report to the state board of education, which is appointed by the governor. If local turnaround efforts are unsatisfactory after three years, the state could take over, replacing staff and requiring charter school conversions.

Gwinnett County Commissioners are talking about transit a lot more than they have previously.

Gwinnett County commissioners identified about seven key priorities on the final day of their strategic planning session in Athens on Friday, but there was one issue that dominated the conversation more than the others: transit.

“Most of these important issues that we grapple with — there’s a time for each one of those to be a major focus, and we’re at that right now with transit,” commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. “We’re coming off of our transportation plan and have that as the backdrop for us to do the work that needs to be done on the transit development plan.”

“We can put the emphasis on the transit aspect of it that I think it takes to try to help the community as a whole be educated about what the potential options are.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is working with truckers to reduce cargo theft.

Cargo theft is a growing problem that’s costing businesses billions of dollars every year, especially in Georgia, which has the dubious distinction of ranking sixth in the nation for such losses.

There are a number of reasons Georgia has been a favorite of cargo thieves, Cornell said, including its arterial highway system, vibrant economy, large airport in Atlanta and world-class port in Savannah. Within the state, Chatham County ranks fourth for cargo theft, after three Atlanta-area counties.

While electronics remain the top targets for cargo theft in many states, in Georgia they rank third, after food and beverages and home and garden.

“Energy drinks, beer, frozen meats and seafood are popular items to steal, primarily because they are easy to unload and difficult to track — the evidence is virtually gone in a matter of days,” Cornell said.

Houston County Commission Chair Tommy Stalnaker says last month’s passage of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) will be a boon to the county.

Q: Back to the county SPLOST — a penny on the dollar in sales tax for county and municipal projects, what do you see as its benefit?

A: I see it as the fairest tax. It’s a consumption tax everybody pays and the money doesn’t just come from Houston County residents but visitors who come to shop, come for sports events and tournaments, visit local attractions, come in as contractors visiting Robins Air Force Base — all these and others spend money that helps us improve our community in a number of ways.

Q: Including further economic development?

A: Absolutely. These improvements are attractive, necessary really, to continue bringing people, business and industry to Houston County. And keeping them here.

Eton, Georgia City Council Member Steve Shaw was arrested on felony drug charges.

“We received information he was attempting to purchase prescription medication which obviously wasn’t his,” [Murray County Detective Shannon] Ramsey said. “During the course of the investigation, we recorded conversations arriving at a price and setting up a meeting location. Once all of that was agreed upon with the undercover officer, we went to that location and arrested him.”

Shaw, 56, was charged with criminal attempt to violate Georgia’s Controlled Substances Act and use of a communication facility in commission of a felony involving controlled substances, both felonies. He was released from the Murray County jail on Sunday on a $2,000 bond.