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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 9, 2015

March 8, 1862 saw the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, VA, take ninety-eight hits from Union warships without sinking. Virginia sank USS Cumberland after ramming it, blew up USS Congress, and ran USS Minnesota aground. It was the worst day in US Naval history at that time. On the next day, March 9, 1862, Virginia and USS Monitor, a Union ironclad, fought to a draw in the Chesapeake Bay.

On March 9, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed two pieces of legislation dealing with African-Americans, one recognized their marriages, the other legitimized children born to African-American couples prior to the act and required parents to maintain their children in the same way white were required.

Bobby Fischer, the Eleventh World Champion of Chess, was born on March 9, 1943 and is considered by many the greatest player of all time.

Governor Ellis Arnall signed two important pieces of legislation on March 9, 1945. The first created the Georgia Ports Authority, with its first project being the expansion of the Port of Savannah. The second authorized the placement of a referendum to adopt a new state Constitution (in the form of a single Amendment to the Constitution of 1877) on the ballot in a Special Election to be held August 7, 1945.

On March 8, 1946, a conference convened on Wilmington Island, near Savannah, that would lead to the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, commonly called the World Bank.

On March 8, 1946, a special train arrived at Savannah’s Union Station from Washington, holding nearly 300 delegates, government officials, technical experts and reporters from 35 nations. Thousands of Savannahians watched as a 100-car motorcade rolled along flag-bedecked streets to the General Oglethorpe Hotel on Wilmington Island.

Treasury Secretary Fred M. Vinson headed the American delegation; the British were led by John Maynard Keynes, “the father of modern macroeconomics.”

The stakes were enormous.

Two years earlier, as World War II neared its murderous end, the winning Allies pondered the nature of the postwar global economy. The United States was emerging as the leader of the free world, largely supplanting the British Empire, gravely weakened by the war.

The IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (better known as the World Bank) were born at a July 1944 conference in Bretton Woods, N.H., where 44 countries established rules for the global monetary system.

The IMF was intended to promote international economic cooperation and secure global financial stability, providing countries with short-term loans. The World Bank would offer long-term loans to assist developing countries in building dams, roads and other physical capital.

The Bretton Woods agreements were ratified internationally by December 1945. Vinson, seeking a site for the new organizations’ inaugural meetings, sent Treasury agents around the country. “They made some fine reports on Savannah,” he later told the Morning News. He had never visited the city.

On March 9, 1970, Governor Lester Maddox signed legislation setting the Georgia minimum wage at $1.25 per hour.

On March 8, 1982, President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “an evil empire” for the second time, in an address to the National Association of Evangelicals.

On Friday, March 6, 2015, former Fulton County Commissioner Tom Lowe died, having served more than 40 years in office from his election in 1974 as the first Republican member of the Commission until this past December.

Famously cantankerous, Lowe carried a pistol to meetings in the mid-1980s after he learned a fellow commissioner was also packing heat. He said at the time he would “be damned if I’m going to be overgunned.”

After earning a civil engineering degree at Auburn University, Lowe worked in heavy construction, building highways, railroads and dams. In 1957, he founded Lowe Engineers Inc., a civil engineering firm. He later developed commercial and industrial properties in metro Atlanta.

The Tom and Bettye Lowe Lobby and Grand Foyer at Auburn University’s Shelby Center for Engineering Technology was named in recognition of the Lowes’ support of the Samuel Ginn School of Engineering.

Would anyone care to join me at the Tom Lowe Shooting Grounds for a memorial round of skeet or trap in his honor?

Under the Gold Dome Today

Today is the 28th Legislative Day of the 2015 Session of the Georgia General Assembly. Day 30, called Crossover Day, will be Friday.

To maintain a chance of becoming law, bills must be approved by the chamber they originated in by midnight Friday. Yes, that’s Friday, March 13. No, legislative leaders say, that’s not symbolic.

Alan Riquelmy of the Rome News-Tribune writes of the pace as we hurtle toward Crossover Day.

Crossover Day is the 30th day of the legislative session. This year it falls on Friday. Lawmakers from across the state will push, pray and plead to get their bills to a vote by this day. Otherwise their legislation must wait until next year’s session.

“We’ll be hearing these bills all day long,” said state Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee. “It will be very intense.”

It’s the same on the other side of the Gold Dome.

“Crossover Day is always a busy time,” said state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome. “I think we’ll be there late on Friday, as everyone tries to get their bills through.”

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Power struggle prevents representation |

Don’t send county commissioners to do the voters’ job — they haven’t gotten it done.

DeKalb’s commissioners have gridlocked for seven months over filling a vacant seat on the board, leaving roughly 140,000 southeast DeKalb residents without full representation.

The impasse could come to an end this week.

Amid building public pressure to take action, the commission conducted live-streamed interviews of five candidates last week, and they’ll try to vote in a candidate when they meet Tuesday.

The stalemate arose because six quarreling commissioners are in charge of approving a seventh commissioner who would immediately become a swing vote.

Residents of southeast DeKalb have lacked a district representative for more than a year and a half. They lost their elected commissioner, Lee May, when Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him interim CEO in July 2013. May replaced CEO Burrell Ellis, who is suspended as he faces criminal charges.

via Power struggle prevents representation |


Decimated Beer Jobs Bill passes through Regulated Industries | Atlanta Food & Drink Blog | Omnivore | Creative Loafing Atlanta

After an eventful week at the Gold Dome, both sides of the Beer Jobs Bill fight convened once again in Room 310 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building Friday morning for a second hearing and voted in favor of Senate Bill 63, albeit a drastically altered version of the original bill designed to loosen the state’s three-tier beer distribution laws for Georgia brewpubs and breweries.

The new version of SB 63, a committee sub (basically, a last-minute substitution for the original bill) proposed by Regulated Industries Chairman/State Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), allows for no direct sales for breweries. Instead, it alters the current tour structure so that brewers can give away 36 ounces on-premises during the tour (compared to the current 32 ounces) as well as a “souvenir” malt beverage container of no more than 64 ounces to-go. In other words, what was originally a bill allowing direct sales has been reduced to a bill that expands on the current “free beer” tour structure, except that breweries would be able to charge various rates for tours (they sold glasses before, into which they poured the free beer) depending on how much beer is consumed by attendees.

via Decimated Beer Jobs Bill passes through Regulated Industries | Atlanta Food & Drink Blog | Omnivore | Creative Loafing Atlanta.


Beer bill passes committee, but with major changes |

Lawmakers gave Georgia craft brewers a political reality check Friday, although it came with committee approval for legislation giving them some ability to get more beer into the hands of customers.

A much altered version of Senate Bill 63 would allow 36 ounces of beer to be consumed “on-premise” of a brewery and up to 64 ounces of beer to be taken home. However, it mandates that the beer could only be purchased in a single container — a growler, say, or one 12-ounce bottle of beer.

It also technically still bars direct sales. Instead, breweries could charge for a tour and, depending how much someone pays, the tour could include a free souvenir of beer — up to the limits — so that the alcohol is technically free.

via Beer bill passes committee, but with major changes |


State rep introduces legislation for official state dog of Georgia

State Representative Joe Wilkinson (R-Atlanta), along with officials from the Atlanta Humane Society,,, and Georgia English Bulldog Rescue, held a press conference on Wednesday, March 4, to discuss legislation that would designate the official state dog of Georgia. Rep. Wilkinson’s legislation, House Bill 561, was officially in the House on Thursday and names “the adoptable dog” as the official state dog of Georgia.

“Georgia was founded by James Oglethorpe and became a place where people could go for a second chance at life,” said Rep. Wilkinson. “So, it is fitting that we recognize the importance of giving homeless dogs a second chance at life in this state.”

via State rep introduces legislation for official state dog of Georgia.


The Marietta Daily Journal – US Liberia start 1st formal test of ZMapp Ebola virus drug

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The U.S. and Liberian governments have just begun the first formal patient testing of an experimental Ebola virus treatment that’s only been used on an emergency basis.

The drug, ZMapp, contains three genetically engineered proteins designed to hone in on a target on the surface of the deadly virus to stop the disease’s progression. ZMapp, developed by San Diego-based Mapp Pharmaceuticals Inc., is “grown” in tobacco plants engineered to make large quantities of the virus-blocking proteins.

Adults, as well as children of any age, will be enrolled in the study if they are admitted to Ebola treatment units in Liberia or are health care workers returning to the U.S. for treatment after being infected while serving in West Africa. That’s happened to seven U.S. medical and aid workers.

In addition, adults and children who may have acquired Ebola in the United States from contact with an infected person will be enrolled. That has happened to only two people — the nurses who treated patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who had traveled from Africa and died at a Dallas hospital.

via The Marietta Daily Journal – US Liberia start 1st formal test of ZMapp Ebola virus drug.


Georgia’s unemployment rate drops to 6.4 percent |

ATLANTA — State labor officials say Georgia’s unemployment rate has dropped to 6.4 percent, its lowest level since July 2008.

via Georgia’s unemployment rate drops to 6.4 percent |


$134.5M contract awarded to begin Savannah harbor expansion |

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The federal government has awarded a $134.5 million contract to begin deepening the shipping channel to the Port of Savannah, meaning the long-sought harbor expansion can start as soon as the contractor gets its equipment in the water.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday the first dredging contract has gone to Illinois-based Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company. The Army Corps says it’s unclear how soon the company will be able to start the job.

via $134.5M contract awarded to begin Savannah harbor expansion |


Ethics cases against 2 commissioners dismissed |

The DeKalb County Board of Ethics unanimously dismissed complaints Tuesday against commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader.

The board heard the results of preliminary investigations into the charges, then found there wasn’t probable cause to move forward with the cases.

Gannon had been accused of improperly using taxpayer money to hire an attorney to appeal a zoning decision. Her office also allegedly used government funds to buy gift cards.

The board’s investigator, attorney Robert Browning, said he found that Gannon’s spending was for county business. The complaint against Gannon came from Lithonia resident Monica Parrott, who didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting and wasn’t reachable by Browning.

via Ethics cases against 2 commissioners dismissed |


DeKalb Ethics Board member resigns after argument |

A member of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics resigned Thursday after telling a county employee to “come outside” to settle their differences.

Ethics Board member Robert Blackman stepped down because of a heated argument Tuesday with Bob Lundsten, the chief of staff for ex-Commissioner Elaine Boyer, during the board’s meeting.

The spat occurred when Blackman questioned Lundsten about his allegation that Board of Ethics Chairman John Ernst had failed to be impartial.

via DeKalb Ethics Board member resigns after argument |