The blog.

27
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 27, 2017

On February 27, 1922, the United States Supreme Court released an unanimous decision holding that the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is constitutional. The case, Leser v. Garnett, arose because of a challenge seeking to strike women’s names from the voter rolls in Maryland and asserting:

  • The power to amend the Constitution did not cover this amendment, due to its character.
  • Several states that had ratified the amendment had constitutions that prohibited women from voting, rendering them unable to ratify an amendment to the contrary.
  • The ratifications of Tennessee and West Virginia were invalid, because they were adopted without following the rules of legislative procedure in place in those states.

It might as well have asserted that sleeping on the couch for the rest of the plantiffs’ lives would be cold and uncomfortable.

On February 27, 1962, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy were tried in Albany for charges stemming from a demonstration on the steps of City Hall.

On February 27, 1982, Wayne Williams was convicted in Fulton County Superior Court of murdering two adult males. Atlanta Police later said he was guilty of at least 23 of 29 child murders between 1979 and 1981. Williams was never indicted or tried on the allegations of child murder and maintains his innocence.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day 25

COMMITTEE MEETINGS

8:00 AM SENATE RETIREMENT 310 CLOB

8:00 AM SENATE HEALTH & HS 450 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

9:30 AM House Transportation Sub State Hwys 515 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE SESSION (LD 25) CHAMBER

12:30 PM SENATE RULES – UPON ADJ’T 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE STATE & LOCAL GOV’TAL OPS 123 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE SPECIAL JUD’Y 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTIL 307 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER ED 310 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMELAND SEC’Y 606 CLOB

1:00 PM House Resource Management 403 CAP

1:30 PM HOUSE HUMAN RELATIONS AND AGING 515 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE JUD’Y NON CIVIL 406 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 415 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 125 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

2:00 PM House Kelley Sub JUD’Y Civil 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE FULL APPROP 341 CAP

2:30 PM HOUSE INTRAGOV’TAL COORD 403 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE GOV’T OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE INTERSTATE COOP 123 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE APPROP – Transportation Sub 341 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS & MEANS 606 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES, AND TELECOM 403 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUD’Y 310 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE NAT’L RES & ENV’T 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE REAPPORTIONMENT & REDISTRICTING 307 CLOB

5:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HS 450 CAP


SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 201 – Labor and Industrial Relations; employees to use sick leave for the care of immediate family members; allow (Substitute) (I&L-49th)

SB 133 – Corporate Net Worth Tax; less than a certain amount; make such tax inapplicable to corporations (FIN-20th)

SB 121 – “Jeffrey Dallas Gay, Jr., Act” (H&HS-49th)

SB 156 – Sales and Use Taxes; equalized homestead option sales and use taxes; provide certain restrictions (Committee amend AM 28 1546) (FIN-40th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Structured Rule

HB 116 – Juvenile Code; provide superior court with exclusive original jurisdiction for cases involving aggravated assault; provisions (Substitute) (JudyNC-Reeves-34th)

HB 124 – Public assistance; fraud; revisions (Substitute)(JudyNC-Clark-98th)

HB 213 – Crimes and offenses; sale, manufacture, delivery, or possession of fentanyl within the prohibition of trafficking certain drugs; include (Substitute)(JudyNC-Golick-40th)

HB 279 – Domestic relations; name change requested by victim of family violence; provide separate process (Judy-Ballinger-23rd)

HB 293 – Evidence; procedure relating to child’s testimony of sexual contact or physical abuse; provide effective date (JudyNC-Silcox-52nd)

HB 308 – Domestic relations; child support; enact provisions recommended by Georgia Child Support Commission (Substitute)(Judy-Beskin-54th)

HB 343 – Criminal procedure; certain outdated terminology; replace (Substitute)(JudyNC-Hilton-95th)

HB 360 – Prescription drugs; expedited partner therapy for patients with venereal diseases; provisions (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd)

HB 405 – Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency; establish state-wide system to facilitate the transport and distribution of essentials in commerce during a state of emergency; require (Substitute)(PS&HS-Hitchens-161st)

HB 427 – Physicians and Health Care Practitioners for Rural Areas Assistance Act; enact (Substitute)(H&HS-Newton-123rd)

Structured Rule

HB 264 – Georgia World Congress Center Authority; revenue bond capacity; increase (W&M-Efstration-104th)

HB 265 – Income tax; credit for establishing or relocating quality jobs; revise provisions (Substitute)(W&M-Efstration-104th)

HB 301 – Income tax; certain physicians; delete deduction to create new credit; provisions (Substitute)(W&M-Lott- 122nd)


Advance voting begins today in Cobb County, where all voters can cast ballots in the March 21, 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (E-SPLOST) Election and Marietta Ward 6 voters will cast ballots for City Council.

Absentee and Advance Voting For Poll Workers

Eight candidates qualified for the April 18, 2017 Special Election to succeed Sen Judson Hill in Senate District 32.

Five Republican candidates – Hamilton Beck, Matt Campbell, Roy Daniels, Kay Kirkpatrick, and Gus Makris – qualified for the race. Three Democratic candidates – Christine Triebsch, Exton Howard, and Bob Wiskind – also qualified for the race.

March 20, 2017 is the last day to register to vote for all persons who are not currently registered to vote and who desire to vote in the special election. Advance in-person voting will begin on Monday, March 27, 2017. On Election Day, the polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. A run-off election, if needed, will be held on May 16, 2017.

The Marietta Daily Journal notes that doctors in the race outnumber lawyers.

District 32 residents are about 20 percent more likely to be “health diagnosing and treating practitioners” than other Georgians, according to data from statisticalatlas.com and the U.S. census.

That might help explain why three of the eight candidates hoping to take the district’s state senate seat from former State Sen. Judson Hill on the April 18 special election are physicians.

Democrat Bob Wiskind is a pediatrician who practices at Peachtree Parks Pediatrics in Atlanta. Republican Kay Kirkpatrick is an orthopedic surgeon from east Cobb and former president of Resurgens Orthopedics, and Republican Royden “Roy” Daniels is a physician specializing in neuroradiology, imaging of the head, neck and spine.

The race will also include two attorneys, Democrat Christine Triebsch and Republican Gus Makris, both of east Cobb.

The bunch is rounded out by a television director, Democrat Exton Howard; a consultant, Republican Hamilton Matthew Beck and a railroad conductor, Republican Matt Campbell.

Here’s a great story about that time President Trump went to a restaurant without the press.

8:17 PM: Without any announcement or indication, President Trump enters the hotel lobby which bears his name, flanked on all sides by the Secret Service. Shock and astonishment fill the guests in the room. The woman next to me screams “Is it him? It’s really him! Oh my God! This is like a dream!” Trump is rushed by fans in the lobby as he makes his way to the steakhouse. Secret Service makes a barrier for him, and the President waves and shakes hands on his way. The young crew are the first in line. Also waiting in line as the President arrives is Nigel Farage.

The entire restaurant is now on its feet, cheering and applauding. Trump makes his way upstairs, waving and stopping for a few selfies.

One woman shouts at him “Donald, it’s my birthday!” Trump stops and says “Happy birthday,” as he hugs the elated woman. “How about a birthday present? Let’s take a photo,” he says to her, afterward telling the woman she looks very young and has great skin.

8:25 PM: The President gets up and walks across the restaurant to his Secretary of State’s table. The President kisses Tillerson’s wife Renda, and he and Tillerson make small talk. They laugh and speak jovially for a few minutes as dinner guests who had been sitting next to Tillerson look on in stunned amazement. Another woman tells Trump it’s her birthday and gets a selfie. The woman tells me emotionally afterward that she had no idea Trump would be here. She booked the birthday dinner a month ago and said meeting Trump here was, “like meeting Walt Disney in Disneyland.”

Indiana and Idaho have joined Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in complaining about unauthorized scans of their database systems by the Department of Homeland Security.

Over 10,000 individual hits on Indiana’s systems originated from a handful of DHS IP addresses, according to the Indiana Information Sharing and Analysis Center. According to a January IN-ISAC report, those same IP addresses were associated with of the scan of Georgia’s election systems in the fall of 2016 and early 2017. The report was provided to FCW, GCN’s sister site, on Feb. 23 by the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.

The IN-ISAC report said its assessment of traffic to and from its systems between Nov. 15, 2016, and Jan. 24, 2017, found “with a high degree of certainty” that the unauthorized scans originated at DHS IP addresses. It said it confirmed the IP addresses were owned by DHS through a “WhoIS” search.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston says a panel will look at issues related to rural Georgia.

This past week Ralston unveiled a new initiative to address the geographic gap. It’ll be chaired by Reps. Jay Powell and Terry England — the House’s point men on taxes and spending, respectively — and tasked with making recommendations this year and next.

“I want them to go to these communities … to ask people, what can we do?” Ralston said. Some possibilities: new or tweaked tax incentives, maybe to attract doctors and other professionals to rural towns, and better access to technical colleges, a big part of Georgia’s job-creation efforts.

As for rural health care, Ralston, who hails from north Georgia, cited an example from his district. “In Ellijay, we had the hospital closure there late last spring,” he said. “But it’s coming back now, as what I have called a micro-hospital. Because you know, every small town doesn’t need a 30-, 40-, 50-bed hospital if you can have eight or 10 beds, and an emergency room. But I think health care, and having access to that, is vital to jobs.”

Here, he offered a clarification: “I’m not looking for government to create one job here. This is not about government creating jobs … but it can create an environment for the private sector to grow jobs, and let’s let that mean something for the entire state.”

Sand dunes could lose some protections under legislation in the Georgia legislature.

House Bill 271, cosponsored by State Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, seeks to better define the area at the beach where the state can regulate development under the Shore Protection Act. Petrea introduced the amendment that redefines a sand dune before the bill was passed out of the House Natural Resources & Environment Committee Thursday.

“Sand dunes means mounds of sand deposited along a coastline by wind, tidal or wave action or by a beach nourishment or dune construction project permitted under this part, which mounds are often covered with sparse, pioneer vegetation such as sea oats and beach morning glory. Mounds of sand covered with a planted and maintained lawn or landscaping shall not be considered sand dunes. Mounds of sand that are stabilized by indigenous vegetative cover shall also not be considered sand dunes,” the definition states.

Environmental groups are pushing back against the new definition, saying it creates a loophole any property owner could garden themselves right through.

“With this language, almost any type of vegetation would remove a dune from the sand sharing system and make it developable,” said Megan Desrosiers, executive director of One Hundred Miles.

“Noncitizen” driver’s licenses proposed in the General Assembly are causing concerns.

Georgia driver’s licenses for immigrants with permission to be in the U.S. would be stamped with the word “noncitizen” under legislation introduced this year that’s being watched closely by immigration advocates.

Rep. Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell, is sponsoring a bill that is facing opposition from critics who say it is unnecessary. Enactment would make Georgia one of the first – if not the first – state to use a “noncitizen” label on licenses.

Powell recently told members of a subcommittee considering the bill that the state’s existing “limited-term” label on certain licenses is vague.

“If you are authorized to have a driver’s license, then it needs to state that this is for driving purposes only and it doesn’t signify that you’re a citizen,” Powell said. “I’m going to stick to my beliefs here because I think it’s a public safety matter.”

Spaceport legislation has drawn kudos from a company in the industry.

The chief executive officer at Vector Space Systems has sent a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal congratulating him on the General Assembly’s recent votes in support of the Georgia Space Flight Act.

“We recognize that this is a major milestone in Camden County’s efforts to establish a commercial spaceport in Georgia,” James Cantrell wrote in his letter to the governor.

“Vector fully appreciates the opportunities and benefits that such a non-federal range can offer to launch providers like us whose long term goal is to provide dedicated delivery services tailored to the needs of the emerging small satellite market,” he said.

Senate Bill 206 by Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville) will be heard in the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee today.

A bill backed by state Sen. P.K. Martin to help children have access to hearing aids will get a hearing on Monday and Martin’s office said residents who want to testify are welcome to attend.

Martin, R-Lawrenceville, worked with the organization, Let Georgia Hear, to craft Senate Bill 206. If passed by both chambers of the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal, the bill would make mandate health care plans cover hearing aids for deaf and hearing impaired children.

“I am proud to partner with ‘Let Georgia Hear’ and sponsor this legislation that will directly benefit children across Georgia with hearing impairments to ensure they have the coverage needed to obtain hearing aids,” Martin said in a statement. “I want to ensure every child in this state has every opportunity to grow and thrive. This legislation will go along way in that goal for many children.”

There are 20 states that have passed similar legislation, according to a joint statement by Martin and Let Georgia Hear co-founder Kelly Jenkins. The pair said getting hearing aids is expensive — it can cost $6,000 for a pair that will only last up to five years — but they also said the devices are important in a child’s early years to ensure they develop properly.

Senate Bill 221 revising Optometrists’ scope of practice passed out of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.

The latest furor about medical practice has erupted over legislation to allow optometrists — who examine the eye, test vision and prescribe corrective treatment but are not physicians — to administer drug injections into patients’ eyelids. Ophthalmologists, who are physicians specializing in the eye, are furiously opposed to this, as is the Medical Association of Georgia, a leading physician organization.

Senate Bill 221, though, was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday.

John Whitlow, a LaGrange optometrist, told the Senate panel that 15 other states allow optometrists to do these injections.

“We would like to be able to treat patients to the best of our ability,’’ Whitlow said. The injection, he said, “is not going into the globe of the eye.’’

But Dr. Brian Kim, a Dalton ophthalmologist, said complications from an injection can lead to problems that require surgery.

Under the Senate bill that was approved, optometrists must train for 30 hours on the technique under the supervision of an ophthalmologist.

Senator Hunter Hill spoke about his Senate Bill 68 in the Senate Education & Youth Committee.

“SB 68 serves the purpose of opening up the opportunity for students, regardless of income level, to earn a robust, quality education,” said Sen. Hill. “For too long, parents have been left with no choice as to what school their child could attend simply because of financial limitations. SB 68 opens up the door for real choice and would be a much needed change to our state’s education system.”

Senate Bill 68, also known as the “Individual Student Education Account Act” would establish an individual student education savings account meant to improve access to quality education by providing parents a financial mechanism to choose the school that is right for their child.

Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) toured the Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon.

“Every time I am out here I just say, ‘Wow!’ I don’t mind telling you, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. We have a lot going on out here,” said the Republican from Augusta.

He called cyber battlefields the new frontier in warfare and said the mission at Fort Gordon and in Augusta is very important. Allen spent about three hours with cyber warfare experts learning detailed information about their missions. He said briefings about the current operations, future operations, and connections to the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center were intensive and largely classified.

“We can be the Silicon Valley of the East Coast. We have that opportunity and we have that on an education level. We can set the stage for this part of the country as far as education,” Allen said.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed sent a nastygram to the consulting firm that employs Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter.

Reed sent a letter to Hunter’s bosses at United Consulting that contained a veiled threat to stop doing business with the company if it didn’t do something about Hunter. In addition to his remark about Lewis, Hunter called Democrats “Demonrats” and “Libtards” and ridiculed U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, among other things, on social media.

“As you may also know, the City of Atlanta is a client of United consulting,” Reed wrote in the letter. “As mayor, I am writing personally to let you know that the City of Atlanta finds Mr. Hunter’s toxic remark to be insulting, reprehensible and unacceptable to this administration.

“Please let me know by close of business Monday, February 27 how you plan to resolve this matter.”

Hall County Commission will address some side effects of increased activity in the film industry.

[W]hile most residents have been accommodating, a handful of complaints have come in, according to assistant county manager Marty Nix. In response, he is writing an ordinance that would curb liberties film crews have in Hall.

“This ordinance will be a reflection … that (complaints) haven’t fallen on deaf ears,” said Katie Crumley, county public information officer.

The ordinance would restrict production companies from “unreasonably disturbing the peace,” Nix said.
It would allow residents and the county to oversee what impact film crews have and ensure safety.

24
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 24, 2017

Lucy Dalton

Lucy is a young female Beagle & English Pointer Mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of NWGA in Dalton, GA.

Vivian

Vivian is a young female Beagle & English Pointer Mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of NWGA in Dalton, GA.

Ricardo

Ricardo is a Beagle & English Pointer Mix male puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of NWGA in Dalton, GA.

24
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 24, 2017

On February 24, 1803, the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall decided the case of Marbury v. Madison, enunciating the principle of judicial review under which the Court has authority to review Congressional action and hold them unconstitutional.

In writing the decision, John Marshall argued that acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution are not law and therefore are non-binding to the courts, and that the judiciary’s first responsibility is always to uphold the Constitution. If two laws conflict, Marshall wrote, the court bears responsibility for deciding which law applies in any given case.

Union troops under General George Thomas attacked Confederates led by General Joseph Johnston near Dalton, Georgia on February 24, 1864.

Casualties were light. Thomas suffered fewer than 300 men killed, wounded, or captured, while Johnston lost around 140 troops. The Union generals did learn a valuable lesson, however; a direct attack against Rocky Face Ridge was foolish. Three months later, Sherman, in command after Grant was promoted to commander of all forces, sent part of his army further south to another gap that was undefended by the Confederates. The intelligence garnered from the Battle of Dalton helped pave the way for a Union victory that summer.

The first prisoners of war were moved to Andersonville on February 24, 1864.

On February 26, 1868, the Atlanta City Council offered use of the combined City Hall and Fulton County Courthouse as a temporary capitol if the Constitutional Convention meeting in the city would designate it the capital city.

On February 25, 1870, Hiram Rhoades Revels (R-Missippi) was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman in history.

In 1867, the first Reconstruction Act was passed by a Republican-dominated U.S. Congress, dividing the South into five military districts and granting suffrage to all male citizens, regardless of race. A politically mobilized African American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican party to power, which in turn brought about radical changes across the South. By 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks in large part to the support of African American voters.

On January 20, 1870, Hiram R. Revels was elected by the Mississippi legislature to fill the Senate seat once held by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy. On February 25, two days after Mississippi was granted representation in Congress for the first time since it seceded in 1861, Revels was sworn in.

On February 25, 1876, the first Georgia state law against abortion was passed.

On February 26, 1877, Governor Alfred Colquitt signed legislation calling a June 1877 election of delegates to a state Constitutional Convention to be held in July of that year.

The Atlanta Journal was first published on February 24, 1883.

Johnny Cash was born on February 26, 1932.

On February 24, 1988, the United States Supreme Court held in the case of Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, that the First Amendment protects publishers against claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress where the plaintiff is a public figure being parodied by the publication.

The World Trade Center in New York City was bombed on February 26, 1993, killing six and causing half-a-billion dollars in damage.

On February 25, 1999, Johnny Isakson was sworn into Congress from the Sixth District, a seat vacated by the resignation of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day 24

7:30 AM HOUSE MILITARY AFFAIRS WORK GRP-CANCELLED 406 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

8:30 AM HOUSE SPECIAL RULES 515 CLOB

8:30 AM HOUSE ECON DEV & TOURISM 341 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

9:30 AM HOUSE SESSION (LD 24) CHAMBER

11:30 AM SENATE HEALTH & HS – Sub 125 CAP

11:30 AM HOUSE HEALTH & HS 606 CLOB

11:30 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

12:00 PM Reeves Sub Jud’y Non-Civil 403 CAP

12:00 PM Fleming Jud’y Civil 132 CAP

12:00 PM SENATE RULES- Upon Adj’t 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE GOV’T OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

1:00 PM House Education Innovation and Workforce Dev Sub 506 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT – CANCELED 310 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 160 – “Back the Badge Act of 2017” (Substitute) (PUB SAF-7th)
SB 154 – Assault and Battery; public safety officer while engaged in his or her official duties; provide for the offenses of aggravated assault and aggravated battery (Substitute) (PUB SAF-13th)
SB 155 – Local Law Enforcement Officer Compensation Commission; create (Substitute) (PUB SAF-13th)
SB 169 – Specialty License Plate; honoring law enforcement; establish (Substitute) (PUB SAF-13th)
SB 109 – “Recognition of Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact” (“REPLICA”); provide for the enactment (PUB SAF-27th)
SB 8 – “Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act”; health insurance; provide consumer protections; definitions (Substitute) (H&HS-45th)
SB 96 – Health; pronouncement of death by registered professional nurses; nursing homes and hospice care; authorize; county medical examiner’s duties after notice of suspicious death; make a conforming change (H&HS-1st)

 

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 148 – Educating Children of Military Families Act; enact (Ed-Glanton-75th)
HB 157 – Medical advertising; certain certifying organizations; revise certain criteria (Substitute)(H&HS-Kelley-16th)
HB 203 – Breach of restrictive covenants; provide accrual periods of rights of action; provisions (Substitute)(Judy-Strickland-111th)
HB 241 – Cove’s Law; enact (H&HS-Hawkins-27th)
HB 312 – Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia; Board of Trustees; include a qualified Roth contribution program in compensation plans (Ret-Maxwell-17th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 136 – Drivers’ licenses; demarcation of a valid driver’s license, permit, or identification card; provide (Substitute)(MotV-Carter-175th)
HB 159 – Domestic relations; adoption; substantially revise general provisions (Substitute)(Judy-Reeves-34th)

Structured Rule
HB 199 – Income tax credit; interactive entertainment companies; change certain provisions (Substitute)(W&M-Rhodes-120th)
HB 237 – Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation; receive private donations for grants to public schools; provisions (Substitute)(W&M-Coleman-97th)
HB 283 – Revenue and taxation; Internal Revenue Code and Internal Revenue Code of 1986; revise definitions (Substitute)(W&M-Knight-130th)

Governor Nathan Deal signaled opposition to renewed efforts to pass religious liberty legislation in the Georgia legislature.

Gov. Nathan Deal was unequivocal in his opposition to a revived “religious liberty” measure on Thursday, signaling he would veto the bill if it made it to his desk.

“I didn’t want there to be any confusion about where I stand on the RFRA bill: I have no desire or appetite to entertain that legislation,” Deal said.

“Our state is doing exceptionally well and we’ve seen rather disastrous consequences from other states who have made a departure on that issue,” he said. “I see no reason or justification for us to do anything further.”

State Sen. Josh McKoon, one of the most outspoken advocates for the legislation, said Republican lawmakers owe it to their constituents to vote on the measure.

“Almost every Republican legislator I know of with a contested election last year campaigned on religious freedom legislation,” McKoon said. “Can anyone credibly say if a Democratic governor was threatening a veto of SB 233 that there would be any hesitation among Republican legislators moving forward? Of course not.”

House Bill 329 by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) would lower the state’s highest income tax rate.

A new report said the first step, House Bill 329, would save Georgians about $154 million a year, with three-quarters of that savings going to those earning more than $97,000 a year.

The state’s calculations put the savings at a much more modest $78 million over four years.

The House Ways and Means Committee Thursday approved House Bill 329, which would replace the current graduated state income tax structure with a flat rate of 5.4 percent.

The top rate is currently 6 percent, while the lowest is 1 percent.

Wesley Tharpe, the Georgia [Budget and Policy] institute’s research director, said under the bill, some single low-income Georgians would wind up paying higher income taxes, while low-income families would wind up paying less.

But Ways and Means Chairman Jay Powell, R-Camilla, the bill’s sponsor, said if approved, it would not mean a huge windfall or tax increase for many Georgians.

“Pretty much for most taxpayers, it doesn’t make a big difference,” Powell said. “Some people may gain $30, some people pay $20.”

House Bill 155 by Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) attempts to do for the Georgia music industry what tax credits did for the film industry.

If the bill is signed into law, it will provide Georgia’s music industry with tax cuts and incentives similar to the ones the film industry receives, a movement that has turned the state into the “Hollywood of the South.” The proposed incentives, according to music industry estimates, would bring $9 million in net revenue and spur $2.2 billion of economic activity in the state within five years.

“The music industry is losing its market share in Georgia, and you look at Nashville’s numbers and they keep going up and up,” said Mala Sharma, the legislative affairs chairwoman for Georgia Music Partners, a local advocacy group of musicians, educators and industry professionals seeking to expand Georgia’s music industry footprint. “They have the infrastructure and support and we’re having to play catchup. It’s almost the reverse of what we’re doing with film, taking it from California; Nashville is taking music from us.”

There are three primary components to the Georgia Music Investment Act:

  • A 20 percent tax credit for live tour origination (musical or theatrical tours that would rehearse and/or audition in Georgia).
  • A 20 percent tax credit for recording music that will be released for public consumption.
  • A 20 percent tax credit for recording of music that will be synchronized into a film, TV show or video game (projects that already received a tax credit from the film industry would not be eligible).

Each type of tax credit under the legislation would require a minimum spending level to be eligible.

Senate Resolution 293 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) would recognize “Kumbaya” as a Georgia song of national cultural significance.

Robert Winslow Gordon, who would eventually work for the Library of Congress, had traveled in the 1920’s to the islands, living for awhile in the coastal town of Darien. While he was there, local residents gave him permission to record their singing of spiritual folk songs including one called “Come By Here.”

House Bill 163 by Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell) would require Georgia drivers to use hands-free technology if using cell phones.

Its sponsor, state Rep. Betty Price, R-Roswell, told the committee distracted driving is a serious problem in the United States.

“We are talkers and texters in this country, and it’s getting us into some large trouble,” Price told the committee.

The bill passed [the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee] unanimously. But similar bills have fail in the General Assembly in the past.

Noteworthy in the bill: if you remove your seat belt to reach for your cell phone, you’re in violation. Also, if you’re lawfully parked, you can yak it up to your heart’s content.

Senate Bill 88 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) passed the State Senate on a 50-2 vote yesterday.

It will be harder to open a methadone clinic in Georgia if lawmakers approve a measure seeking to beef up the state’s applications process.

“You just can’t show up and sign the dotted line and build your facility,” Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who sponsored the bill, said in an interview Thursday. “You’ve got to prove there’s a need for it in that community.”

Mullis’ proposal limits the number of clinics in an area, allowing only four in a region. The state would be carved up into 49 regions. Existing clinics would be grandfathered in.

Some legislators, though, have expressed concern that the measure might limit access to treatment for those who need it. Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, for one, previously questioned why the state would want to do that.

“We believe we have some who are not here for the right reasons,” Mullis replied at the time.

“This eliminates the bad guys and makes sure the good guys are permitted to put facilities where it’s needed in this state. So it gets rid of the riffraff,” he said.

Fulton County Commissioners will partially fund a transit study, with federal funds to pay the rest.

Columbus City Council is considering an ordinance that would eliminate smoking in more public venues.

“Our primary mission is to work with our community as we move toward a smoke-free environment — particularly at work sites and public places,” said Perry Alexander, co-chair of the organization.

Columbus Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson and downtown business owner Buddy Nelms were among those who spoke in favor of such an ordinance. In a video, featuring The Loft, one of Nelms’ businesses, employees talked about how a smoke-free workplace created a healthier environment and better quality of life for the people who work there.

Nelms told council that he decided to make his business smoke-free after a customer told him he would never come back because of the smoke. He said sales slumped when he first started the ban, but soon turned around.

“What we found is we had a resurgence and it grew bigger and better,” Nelms said of his business. “… The smoker is not the enemy. They’re really good human beings and a lot are my good friends. It’s the smoke that’s the problem.”

Houston County Commissioners voted to join a lawsuit against phone companies over 911 fees.

The commissioners on Tuesday agreed to engage with The Barnes Law Group, which is suing 55 phone companies on behalf of 40 counties in the state, including Macon-Bibb. The law firm, led by former Gov. Roy Barnes, alleges that the phone companies are underbilling fees that are supposed to be charged to phone customers to fund 911 services.

“We have felt like for a long time in this county that we have been shorted on the 911 fees from the various providers,” [Commission Chairman Tommy] Stalnaker said. “We are not unlike many other counties throughout the state that feel the same way.”

Hancock County Board of Education members are on the hot seat.

The Georgia Board of Education has called a hearing that could lead to the removal of the Hancock County school board members.

Mike Royal, the chairman of the state board, said the state has been working with Hancock County schools to resolve governance issues that officials reviewers have raised.

But the state board has now drawn a line: a May 4 hearing on whether they will recommend that Gov. Nathan Deal dismiss all five members of the Hancock County school board for cause.

“We feel like we need to have a public hearing on the state of the governance of the district,” Royal said Thursday, just after his board made the decision.

The hearing was triggered by poor reviews for Hancock County school governance from AdvancED, a school accreditation agency. It has put the system on probationary status, the last step before losing accreditation.


Georgia Ports Authority
notched another record with the highest performance ever for the month of January.

In a month that’s usually slower than most, the Georgia Ports Authority continued to move forward on all cylinders in January, recording double-digit growth across all business sectors, including a 26-percent increase in total tonnage.

Calling port unrivaled in both customer service and its connectivity into the country’s heartland, GPA executive director Griff Lynch credited supply chain efficiencies for the record 3 million tons of cargo moved in January, up 623,504 tons compared to the same month a year ago.

“With on-terminal efficiencies bolstered by interstates within minutes of the port and the fastest westward rail transit in the South Atlantic region, Garden City Terminal provides more reliable, more cost-effective freight movement,” he said.

Campaigns & Elections

In advance of the Democratic National Committee meeting in Atlanta tomorrow, word filtered out the Democrats’ Central Committee will invest significantly in the Special Election for the 6th Congressional District.

Mitt Romney won Price’s House district, which spans the affluent and highly educated suburbs north of Atlanta, with 61 percent in 2012. Donald Trump pulled just 48 percent in November, running neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton. That was one of the biggest swings of any congressional district in the country.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying to put nine staffers on the ground and transferring money to the Georgia Democratic Party. In a lower-turnout contest, this field program will identify and register voters who have never been targeted in previous elections.

Price never won reelection with less than 62 percent of the vote, but this is the kind of district that Democrats will need to find a way to flip if they are going to seize the House majority in November 2018.

Democrat Jon Ossoff is the leading leftist candidate in the race to replace Republican Tom Price.

“This is the first chance in the country for us to make a statement about what we stand for,” said Ossoff, speaking in a Jewish temple in Sandy Springs, Georgia, a suburb north of Atlanta. “It’s the first chance in the country we have to make a statement that America can be strong and prosperous and secure without sacrificing our core values.”

To many Democrats, Ossoff’s candidacy – which has attracted the attention of liberal activists nationwide – is the first chance to show that Republicans are paying a price for Donald Trump’s presidency.

It will be the country’s first federal election since Trump took office.

“We all saw how close, how shockingly close, the result of the presidential election was,” Ossoff said.

“Republicans should be not complacent at all, especially in the age of Trump,” said Chip Lake, a Republican strategist in Georgia and former Price aide. “We don’t know what the age of Trump looks like yet, from an electoral perspective.”

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has been under pressure from progressive activists to help Ossoff’s candidacy, said the committee has taken the open-seat race “extremely seriously.”

But she also acknowledged it’s not an easy place for Democrats to win.

“The presidential swing between 2012 and 2016 combined with very obvious grassroots energy are reason for optimism, but of course this is a tough district and hasn’t been in Democratic hands in recent history,” said Meredith Kelly, DCCC spokeswoman.

Cobb County is holding elections on March 21, 2017, with early voting beginning Monday.

A special election is being held in all Cobb precincts for a Special Local Option Sales Tax for education purposes. In Marietta Ward Six, there is a Marietta School Board race.

Advanced voting begins Feb. 27. Registered Cobb County voters can go to any advanced voting location. Please note that hours vary by location.

Any voter may apply for a vote-by-mail ballot instead of voting in-person.

Applications are available at CobbElections.org. For more information, call 770-528-2581.

Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves said he will run for Mayor of Atlanta this year.

He plans to file paperwork to begin fundraising on Friday.

Despite his relatively late entry into the race, Eaves said he had been thinking about running for some time, and was “enthusiastically putting my hat in the ring for consideration.”

“I felt the city needed someone of my caliber,” he said. “The city of Atlanta deserves transparency, and I want to set the tone.”

23
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 23, 2017

Minnie Mouse

Minnie Mouse is a young female Hound mix who is available for adoption from BARC Humane Society in Valdosta, GA.

Dex_Waffles

Dex/Waffles is a young male Dachshund/Miniature Pinscher mix who is available for adoption from BARC Humane Society in Valdosta, GA.

Luna DARE

Luna is an 11-month old female Black Mouth Cur/Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from D.A.R.E Animal Rescue in Valdosta, GA.

You won’t find a sweeter pup than Luna! She is very well behaved and responsive to commands. She has learned sit and stay and her foster family is working with her on more obedience training. She LOVES to play with her toys and she never meets a stranger. She does very well with other dogs big and small and is doing very well in her foster home with their cats. If you are looking for a big snuggle bug to add to your family Luna is your girl!

23
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 23, 2017

President elect Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington, DC on February 23, 1861.

WW2_Iwo_Jima_flag_raising

On February 23, 1945, United States Marines raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi, the highest point on the Pacific island Iwo Jima.

This first flag-raising was photographed by Marine photographer Sgt. Louis R. Lowery. On Lowery’s way down Mt. Suribachi, he ran into AP photographer Joe Rosenthal and two other Marine photographers, PFC Bob Campbell and PFC Bill Genaust, who was shooting movies, informing them that the flag-raising they were looking for had already occurred, but encouraging them to check out the view from the top of the hill. The three men continued up the volcano.

Once atop Mt. Suribachi, Rosenthal attempted but was unable to find the soldiers involved in the first flag-raising, deciding instead to photograph the second flag-raising, which featured a much bigger and more photogenic Stars and Stripes. Lowery’s film was sent back to military headquarters for processing via ordinary army post–and took a month to arrive. Rosenthal’s film was sent by seaplane to Guam, and sent from there via radio-photo to the United States. The photograph so impressed President Roosevelt that he ordered the men pictured in it to return home for a publicity tour. Rosenthal later won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo, but for years was forced to deny erroneous reports that he personally staged the second flag-raising and attempted to pass it off as the original.

Although the famous photograph has long led people to believe that the flag-raising was a turning point in the fight for Iwo Jima, vicious fighting to control the island actually continued for 31 more days.

Today, the first and second flags flown atop Mt. Suribachi are held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.

On February 23, 1954, the first children in the U.S. were inoculated against polio using a vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 23

8:00 AM APPROPRIATIONS – Criminal Justice & Public Safety Sub 450 CAP

8:00 AM SENATE APPROP – Insurance Sub 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROP HIGHER ED 403 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE NAT’L RES & ENV’T 606 CLOB

8:00 AM REAPPORTIONMENT 506 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE SMALL BUSINESS 606 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE SESSION (LD 23) CHAMBER

12:00 PM SENATE RULES- Upon Adjourment 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE REGULATED IND AND UTIL 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY 307 CLOB

1:00 PM House Reeves Sub Jud’y Non-Civil-CANCELLED 415 CLOB

1:00 PM House Transportation Special Sub 515 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE STATE PLANNING AND COMMUNITY AFF 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROP GEN’L GOV’T 341 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE INTRAGOV’TAL COORD 403 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE INTERSTATE COOP 125 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECH 310 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HS 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE J’Y CIVIL 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB

2:00 PM House Driver’s Safety and Services Sub 403 CAP

2:00 PM House Regulations Sub Regulated Ind 514 CLOB

2:30 PM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 403 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE STATE INST AND PROP 123 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 406 CLOB

3:00 PM House Resource Mgmt Sub 515 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE DEFENSE AND VETERANS AFFAIRS 415 CLOB

3:30 PM House Energy Sub 403 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE APPROPS – Education Sub 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE APPROP – Higher Ed 341 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

4:00 PM House Env’tal Quality Sub 515 CLOB

4:30 PM House Telecommunications Sub 403 CAP


SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 88 – ‘Narcotic Treatment Programs Enforcement Act’ (Substitute) (RI&U-53rd)
SB 108 – Veterans Service; maintenance of a women veterans’ office by the commissioner of veteran services; require (VM&HS-20th)
SB 128 – Drivers’ Licenses; Department of Natural Resources; limited purposes; allow for the sharing of personal data (NR&E-50th)
SB 137 – Child Support Recovery Act; federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005; require the obligor to pay the full fee (H&HS-13th)
SB 141 – Carnival Ride Safety; engineering evaluation with a carnival ride permit application; require (RI&U-14th)

 

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 162 – Income tax; transfer of setoffs by the Administrative Office of the Courts; revise procedures (Judy-Price-48th)
HB 246 – Elementary and secondary education; annual fitness assessment program; repeal sunset provision (Substitute)(Ed-Cantrell-22nd)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 153 – Council on American Indian Concerns; attach to Department of Natural Resources (NR&E-Rogers-10th)
HB 205 – Mining and drilling; regulate exploration and extraction of gas and oil; provisions (Substitute)(EU&T-Meadows-5th)
HB 222 – HOPE; members of Georgia National Guard and reservists meet residency requirement; provide (HEd-Blackmon-146th)
HB 239 – Low-voltage Contractors, Division of; require continuing education; authorize (RegI-Hawkins-27th)
HB 305 – Domestic relations; category of third parties who may be awarded custody in certain circumstances; add stepparents (JuvJ-Beskin-54th)

Structured Rule
HB 93 – Sales and use tax; no interest shall be paid on refunds; provisions (Substitute)(W&M-Corbett-174th)
HB 134 – Sales and use tax; special district mass transportation; provisions (Substitute)(W&M-Epps-144th)


The AJC Political Insider writes that the Casino Gambling Destination Resorts bill by Sen. Brandon Beach is likely to be heard in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee today. I’m betting (a) against it being on the agenda; and (b) against it passing. At the time of this writing, no agenda for the Regulated Industries Committee has been published on the legislative website.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle gives a low chance of success to Senate Bill 233 by Marty Harbin.

Supporters of this year’s bill, sponsored by Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, are hoping that simply adopting the federal law regarding “government burdens on the free exercise of region” will be a sufficiently narrow approach to get the bill through the General Assembly and back to the governor’s desk.

However, there’s no sign the opposition to religious freedom legislation in any form in Georgia is any less than last year. In fact, a coalition of Georgia businesses worried about a convention and tourism boycott of the state if lawmakers adopt a religious freedom bill is growing.

The bill faces long odds this year. For one thing, being introduced just more than halfway through the 2017 session leaves little time for supporters to steer it through the committee process successfully. Also, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has vowed not to let his chamber take up the legislation, even if it does get through the Senate.

Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) passed the Senate and would create a Georgia Regional Transit Council.

“No longer can we have people sitting in their cars two to three hours a day,” Gooch said. “That’s time they could be at work. They could be more productive. They could be at home with their families.”

Gooch pointed to a report by transportation analysis firm Inrix that ranked Atlanta as the eighth most congested city in the world.

“We’ve got to get people moving,” he said.

The council would look at road congestion relief and dependable trip times for commuters.

The council would present its findings to the general assembly by the end of next year.

House Bill 37 by Rep. Earl Ehrhart fixes the pressing problem of sanctuary campuses.

Private colleges that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities would lose state funding for scholarships and research under a bill approved by the Georgia House.

The chamber voted 115 to 55 on Wednesday, sending the bill to the Senate.

No schools in Georgia have embraced policies connected to the “sanctuary campus” label, but students at several metro Atlanta schools petitioned administrators following President Donald Trump’s election. Trump issued a series of immigration measures in January, including a crackdown on cities that don’t cooperate with authorities.

Senate Bill 98 by Sen. Elena Parent addresses unfilled pre-K slots by allowing greater flexibility in the use of some state funds.

“Part of the problem is that there aren’t the available classrooms to house the program,” said State Senator Elena Parent, D-Decatur.

Under current state law, school systems can only use capitol funds for kindergarten through 12 grade expenditures. That means, unless they already have a pre-kindergarten classroom, they cannot spend money to build or retrofit one for students.

Sen. Parent filed Senate Bill 98, which would allow school systems to voluntarily use capitol money for pre-kindergarten space if they desire.

House Resolution 158 by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) would place a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in November 2018.

This year’s proposed amendment, sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Jay Powell, R-Camilla, would let lawmakers dedicate fees to go to specific funds and causes for up to 10 years, when they would come up for renewal.

If the state faced a financial emergency, lawmakers could suspend the dedication of the fees and the money could go into the government’s general fund to be spent where it’s needed.

The measure has been a kind of pet project for the powerful Association County Commissioners of Georgia, which has been critical of not being able to get the fee money sent back to local governments to fix problems such as leaking landfills.

The resolution is co-sponsored by House Rules Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, and House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta.

“This is something we’ve been discussing at least since I have been in the Legislature,” said Powell, who joined the state House in 2009.

House Bill 116 by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) would allow youth who shoot law enforcement officers to be tried as adults, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

[Current s]tate law allows a district attorney to determine whether to try a juvenile as an adult if the juvenile is charged with one of eight offenses: murder, murder in the second degree, voluntary manslaughter, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and armed robbery if committed with a firearm.

State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, wants to add two more crimes to that list when committed against a police officer: aggravated assault with a firearm or aggravated battery.

“No matter how old you are, if you’re going to shoot a police officer or pull a gun on a police officer, you’ve sailed beyond juvenile treatment and you will potentially face charges as an adult,” Reeves said.

Reeves’ bill to make that happen, House Bill 116, has taken a step toward becoming a law, passing out of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee on Wednesday.

The Final Frontier

Senate Bill 46 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) passed, filling the hearts of science fiction nerds everywhere with the possibility of a spaceport in Camden County, Georgia.

Senate Bill 46, which passed 49-2 and now moves to the Georgia House of Representatives, would set a stricter legal standard for a plaintiff injured while riding a spacecraft to collect damages in a lawsuit.

Georgia’s fledgling commercial space industry is generating $50 million in economic impact per year, said Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, the bill’s chief sponsor.

The industry is poised for much greater expansion if Georgia matches other states that have adopted legislation requiring plaintiffs to prove “gross negligence” or “willful misconduct” in order to collect damages, a tougher standard than “ordinary negligence,” Ligon said.

The proposed Spaceport Camden could create more than 2,000 jobs in an economically stressed part of Georgia, while at the same time serving as a catalyst for companies involved in the commercial space industry in metro Atlanta.

“We have the resources in this state to attract this growing industry,” Ligon said. “[The bill would be] a signal to the industry that we’re open to them and want to encourage this activity in our state.”

This is what I envision when I hear about a “spaceport.”

Enterprise Space Port900px

Speaking of aliens, House Bill 452 by State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) would require the GBI to publicly post the names of aliens who have been arrested or convicted of crimes and subsequently released from federal custody in Georgia.

I assume the Intergalactic Chamber of Commerce will soon be wringing its hands publicly about how this discriminates against criminals from other planets.

The Democratic National Committee will meet in downtown Atlanta this weekend. Let me know if you’re interested in protesting them. I figure we’ll start with brunch and mimosas.

A tight race between front-runners Tom Perez, a former labor secretary, and Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota congressman, marks the first heavily contested battle to run the organization in recent history. The contest comes with Democrats facing a power deficit in Washington and around the country after years of losses in Congress, governor’s mansions and statehouses, while also having no unifying national leader since former President Barack Obama left the White House.

Perez, who was encouraged by Obama administration officials to run for the post, has emerged as the apparent front-runner, with independent Democratic strategists tracking him at about 205 votes. But it’s not yet clear whether Perez or Ellison – or one of six other long-shot candidates – is positioned to capture the required majority of the 447-member national party committee.

Ellison, backed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters, has the support of about 153 members, the strategists said. Ellison spokesman Brett Morrow blasted the count as “totally inaccurate” and said his camp remains “incredibly confident.”

State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) continues his quest for more transparency in state government.

He said of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers, the Georgia Senate is one of just 26 that does not broadcast its committee meetings on video and one of just 18 that does not broadcast on either video or audio.

“That means unless you are able to attend these committee hearings yourself, you don’t know what was said,” he said.

McKoon said another way in which the Senate lacks transparency is that it takes five senators to request a recorded vote on many measures. If five don’t request such a vote, senators vote by raising their hands. That leaves no official record of how they voted, and McKoon said senators will sometimes step underneath the balcony to vote so that TV cameras, which do record the Senate floor, can’t record them. Again, those who are not there can’t easily see how senators voted.

“I believe that the people who elected me have a right to know how I voted,” he said.

He said he is looking at either running for one of the “power positions” in state government or backing someone who will. He noted that he was married just a few months ago and the decision to run for higher office “is not just mine now.”

McKoon’s quest for government transparency paid off at the local level.

Coweta County has settled a lawsuit brought by four Cowetans who accused the Coweta County Board of Commissioners of violating the Georgia Open Meetings Act.

A settlement agreement in the case, which stemmed from the May 2015 approval of a retirement agreement for a former deputy fire chief, was approved at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Coweta County Board of Commissioners.

Under the agreement, the county will pay $12,500, which goes to the plaintiff’s attorney, Josh McKoon. Coweta County does not admit any wrongdoing, and the plaintiffs agree not to file new suits or make other claims related to the commission’s approval of the retirement agreement.

McKoon said, after Blackmon’s ruling, that the county could eliminate the main reason for the lawsuit by putting the retirement agreement back on a meeting agenda and allowing public comment. That happened at the Dec. 8, 2016 commission meeting, and it was approved by the same 3-2 vote.

Fayette County Sheriff Barry Babb says the county saw a 7% decrease in serious crimes in 2015.

Water War

North Florida Congressman Neal Dunn is opening a new front in the water war between Georgia and Florida.

North Florida Congressman Neal Dunn wants to throw out a federal plan that would reduce freshwater flowing into the struggling Apalachicola Bay. The move comes after a Supreme Court-appointed lawyer ruled against the state in the decades-long water war with Georgia.

“With my friend and fellow congressman Al Lawson I have introduced legislation to nullify the newest water control manual and send it back to the Corps for rewriting,” Dunn said.

Florida suffered a blow earlier this month when Supreme Court Special Master Ralph Lancaster ruled against the state’s interest. Lancaster says the state didn’t adequately prove what’s at the heart of the bay’s struggle: drought, over-harvesting, or the water use regulations set by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Florida has not met its requirement to show by clear and convincing evidence that its injury can be redressed by increased flows during non-drought conditions,” Lancaster wrote.

No word on whether the University of Georgia will attempt to nullify its last game against Florida because they didn’t like the outcome.

Florida’s U.S. Senator Bill Nelson will try a similar measure in the Senate.

Nelson, who visited Florida A&M University and the state Capitol, said he and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will support Senate legislation similar to an effort in the U.S. House led by Rep. Neal Dunn, who represents the Apalachicola Bay area. Dunn has said he will file a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to permanently block a Corps’ rule that regulates water releases in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system.

Dunn, who announced details of his legislation Tuesday in Apalachicola, has said he wants to block the Corps rule and allow Florida and Georgia officials to come “to an equitable agreement” on water use in the region.

The action by the U.S. senators and Dunn follows a decision by a U.S. Supreme Court-appointed special master who recommended last week that Florida should be denied relief in a lawsuit that alleges Georgia is taking too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint system and is damaging Apalachicola Bay. The special master said a settlement could not be reached without the Corps’ involvement.

The Lake Lanier Association has released a statement on Floridians’ interest in our water.

“Lake Lanier is under pressure from numerous directions, not the least of which is the threat that the next lawsuit or bill may result in a win for those who want to use Lanier for purposes for which it was never intended,” the Lake Lanier Association said in a statement. “It is a limited resource for growing demands.”

Lake Lanier Association officials said Nelson’s plan wouldn’t work for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint watershed though. The group said the senator’s plan would include basing a new Water control Manual on the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s study on freshwater flows, requiring peer review by the National Academy of Sciences and approval from multiple federal agencies.

The association is calling on Georgia’s representatives in the U.S. House and Senate to fight the bill, citing previous successful efforts to defeat similar legislation from members of Alabama’s congressional delegation.

Grady County Commissioners imposed a moratorium on solar panel installations.

County Administrator Carlos Tobar said the reason for the discussion was an out-of-state firm approached the county about submitting a proposal for a solar panel farm.

Tobar added a constituent would lease land to the firm for the farm. The projected scale of the solar panel farm would be between 100 to 500 acres, according to Tobar.

Commissioner Keith Moye questioned how Grady County would benefit from solar panel use.

According to Tobar, property tax value could increase, based on what a commissioner from a different county said.

The prospect of enacting a moratorium also was discussed.

“You (the board) just need to define the parameters,” Cauley said regarding a moratorium, adding if he knew the specifics, he could draw up a moratorium draft.

The board unanimously approved enacting a 60-day moratorium.

A less-generous soul might consider such a move “benighted.”

22
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 22, 2017

Apollo Bulloch

Apollo is an adult male Labrador Retriever & Great Dane mix who is available for adoption from the Bulloch County Animal Shelter in Statesboro, GA.

Missy Bulloch

Missy is a senior female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Bulloch County Animal Shelter in Statesboro, GA.

Buddy Bulloch

Buddy is an adult male tri-colored Hound mixwho is available for adoption from the Bulloch County Animal Shelter in Statesboro, GA.

Bonnie Bulloch

Bonnie is a small adult female Feist mix who is available for adoption from the Bulloch County Animal Shelter in Statesboro, GA.

22
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 22, 2017

The British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act on February 22, 1766.

Georgia’s first Governor Archibald Bulloch died mysteriously on February 22, 1777.

[Bulloch] became a leader in the state’s Liberty Party and was elected to the Commons House of Assembly in 1768, to the post of speaker of the Georgia Royal Assembly in 1772 and finally to the Continental Congress in 1775.

On June 20, 1776, Bulloch was elected the first president and commander in chief of Georgia’s temporary government, posts he held until February 5, 1777, when Georgia adopted its state constitution. Just over three weeks later, on February 22, 1777, Georgia faced a British invasion, and the state’s new government granted Bulloch executive power to head off the British forces. A few hours later, Bulloch was dead. The cause of his death remains unknown but unsubstantiated rumors of his poisoning persist.

[H]e is also known as the great-great-grandfather of America’s 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt.

The first Georgia state law allowing divorce was signed on February 22, 1850 by Governor George Towns.

The Cyclorama painting of the Battle of Atlanta went on display on Edgewood Avenue on February 22, 1892. The Atlanta History Center recently began the process of moving the Cyclorama to a new building from its long-time home in Grant Park.

On February 22, 1976, a series of U.S. Postage stamps commemorating the Bicentennial was issued, featuring the state flags.

GeorgiaFlagStamp1976white

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

COMMITTEE MEETING SCHEDULE – LEGISLATIVE DAY 22

7:30 AM SENATE APPROP – Human Dev, Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities, and Public Health Sub 341 CAP

8:00 AM SENATE APPROP – Judicial Sub 307 CLOB

8:00 AM House Transporation Subc State Highways 515 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 22) HOUSE CHAMBER

12:00 PM SENATE RULES- Upon Adjourment 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE SPECIAL JUD’RY 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE NAT’L RES AND ENV’T 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE AND LABOR 310 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Education Sub Education Admin & Planning 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE INTERSTATE COOPERATION 403 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE Local Gov’t Sub Gov’tal Affairs 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Public Finance Sub 133 CAP

1:30 PM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 406 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE JUD’Y NON-CIVIL 132 CAP

1:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Income Tax Sub 133 CAP

1:30 PM HOUSE ECON DEV & TOURISM 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE 125 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION AND YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE ETHICS 506 CLOB

2:00 PM JOINT HOUSE & SENATE TRANSPORTATION 606 CLOB

2:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Tax Reform Sub 133 CAP

2:30 PM HOUSE Resource Management Sub 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE AG & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING AND FINANCIAL INST 310 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE STATE AND LOCAL GOV’T OPS MEZZ

3:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 403 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL RULES- CANCELLED 515 CLOB

3:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Sales Tax Sub 133 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 310 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUD’Y -Subcommittee B 307 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY – General Welfare Sub MEZZ

4:15 PM HOUSE APPROP – Criminal Justice and Pub Safety Sub – CANCELED 123 CAP


SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 102 – Emergency Medical Services; emergency cardiac care centers; designation; Office of Cardiac Care within Department of Public Health; establishment (Substitute) (H&HS-49th)

HB 42 – Elections; election superintendents to correct mistakes and omissions on ballots for a primary or election; authorize (Substitute) (ETHICS-52nd) Lumsden-12th

SB 73 – Recorder’s Court of Chatham County; chief judge; revise the responsibilities (SLGO(G)-1st)

SB 47 – Physicians; visiting sports teams’ physicians; provide for licensure exemption; requirements; limitations; agreements with other states (Substitute) (H&HS-52nd)

SB 6 – Georgia Regional Transit Council; definitions; membership; powers; duties; create (Substitute) (TRANS-51st)

 

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule

HB 40 – Evidence; confidentiality of certain medical information of animals within a veterinarian’s care; provide exception (A&CA-Turner-21st)

HB 41 – Architects; allow certain students to take examination; change qualifications (Substitute)(RegI-Harrell-106th)

HB 168 – Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority; abolish Upper Oconee Resource Management Commission (NR&E-Quick-117th)

HB 224 – Quality Basic Education Act; military student may attend any school in local system; provide (Ed-Belton-112th)

HB 262 – Insurance; standalone dental plans; exempt from requirement of printed directories for certain entities (Ins-Lumsden-12th)

HB 303 – State Commission on Family Violence; terms and qualifications of members; change provisions (GAff-Ballinger-23rd)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 37 – Education; private postsecondary institutions in Georgia shall not adopt sanctuary policies; provide (HEd-Ehrhart-36th)

HB 86 – Domestic relations; definition of sexual abuse; expand (JuvJ-Oliver-82nd)

HB 150 – State Road and Tollway Authority; failure to pay tolls; place hold on motor vehicle registration (Substitute)(Trans-Powell-32nd)

HB 243 – Minimum wage; require additional pay to employees based on schedule changes; preempt local government mandates (I&L-Werkheiser-157th)

HB 268 – Elections; time period for certification of election officials; provide (Substitute)(GAff-Fleming-121st)

Structured Rule

HB 238 – Ad valorem tax; use of property for solar power generation; provide exception to a breach of covenants (W&M-Hatchett-150th)

HB 247 – Sales and use tax; machinery used to mix or transport concrete; exempt (Substitute)(W&M-LaRiccia-169th)

HB 290 – Ad valorem tax; definitions related to exemption of certain agricultural equipment; revise (W&M-Watson-172nd)


 

House Bill 205 by House Rules Committee Chair John Meadows (R-Calhoun) passed out of the Energy Subcommittee of House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications, and would regulate the practice of fracking.

Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, says his bill seeks to put in place protections for the state’s water resources — before the oil and gas industry starts using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking uses a mixture of water, sand and chemicals to break up rock and free natural gas or oil underground,

“Until the price of gas goes up, there won’t be any drilling for gas,” Meadows said at a recent committee meeting.

But that day, he said, is likely to come.

“We’ve been at high gas prices before. We’ll be at them again some day,” he said.

Legislators are weighing-in on the question of tax proceeds from an area that is subject to a border dispute between two counties.

State lawmakers are getting into the border dispute between Macon-Bibb and Monroe counties.

A new bill would keep tax money from the disputed area in escrow — held by a third party — until the yearslong dispute is settled.

“I hope it brings the sides to the table to compromise and negotiate because it’s all about the money,” state Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, said just after he filed the bill.

Dickey said the bill covers both property taxes and sales taxes from a wedge of land that Macon-Bibb now counts as a piece of its territory on the northwest edge of the county. Monroe County has argued through several courts that the true county line is a little farther southeast, giving Monroe a little part of the Bass Pro Shops property as well as some houses and other properties on both sides of Interstate 75.

House Bill 324 by Rep. Alan Powell would place the phrase “noncitizen” on some driver’s licenses.

A House subcommittee discussed the bill on Tuesday but didn’t vote.

Rep. Alan Powell, a Hartwell Republican, said he’s willing to consider another phrase. But Powell said the state’s current approach is too vague.

People in the country illegally are not eligible to receive driver’s licenses in Georgia. But state officials have said Georgia must grant temporary licenses for people granted “deferred action status.”

University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley opposes changes to state law to permit campus carry.

“With respect to ‘campus carry,’ we feel strongly that current law strikes the right balance to create a safe environment on our campuses,” said Steve Wrigley, the chancellor of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, before a committee of mostly Republican lawmakers friendly to expanding gun rights.

“This position is supported by our presidents and campus public safety departments who are closest to the day-to-day realities and operations of the state’s public colleges and universities. We therefore respectfully oppose any change to current law,” he said.

The university system also opposed a “campus carry” bill passed by the state Legislature in 2016. It was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal after he requested lawmakers tweak the measure, which legislative leaders refused. Last year’s measure said guns wouldn’t be allowed in dorms, fraternities, sororities or sporting events.

Senate Bill 233 by Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) would apply the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to Georgia state government actions.

The federal law requires that governments being sued prove that a law meets a “compelling” interest and doesn’t substantially restrict someone’s ability to practice their religion. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the law didn’t apply to states, prompting a wave of state-level legislation that picked up again in recent years.

Deal, who was in the U.S. House before running for governor, voted for the federal law. Supporters of the bill hope this year’s approach will convince him to sign off, said Mike Griffin, public affairs director for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. The organization has been among the chief supporters of previous legislation and vowed to try again this session.

“The (governor’s) veto of the 2016 legislation has just caused us to work even harder at trying to pass minimum standards of religious liberty like he voted for in Congress,” Griffin said. “We feel this is the best bill we can give him.”

Officials with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Metro Atlanta Chamber issued a joint statement on Tuesday indicating opposition.

“Gov. Deal clearly stated in his veto statement last year why this type of legislation was already a constitutional right, unnecessary and would distract from our strong performance in creating new jobs in our state,” the statement said. “While there’s no new evidence to suggest this legislation is needed to strengthen a right guaranteed by our constitution, there is plentiful data other states have suffered and will continue to suffer long-term economic harm for enacting a law that many see as discriminatory.”

The Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform reported to Gov. Deal on the results of criminal justice reform and recommended further steps.

State officials are recommending changes to help reduce what they say is the highest rate of felons on probation in the country.

In a report submitted to Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday, the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform said doing so would have several positive results, including reducing heavy caseloads for probation officers and allowing the officers to focus more on higher-risk offenders.

Currently, the council’s report noted, probation is widely employed in Georgia as a sentence, either in lieu of or combined with imprisonment. Georgia also imposes relatively long felony probation sentences, the report says.

The report notes positive results of policies implemented in previous years, including a decrease in the prison population from 54,895 in July 2012 to 52,962 at the end of last year. It also highlights a change in the type of inmates who are in prison, with the most serious offenders now making up 67 percent of the state’s inmates, versus 58 percent at the start of 2009.

Accountability courts, which numbered 139 across the state at the beginning of this year, have seen a 147 percent increase in new participants from 2013 to 2016, the report says.

“In implementing these common sense reforms, we are taking steps to preserve families, address the underlying issues associated with incarceration and provide offenders with meaningful second chances,” Deal said.

Governor Deal visited Macon yesterday to recognize Navicent Health for its verification by the American College of Surgeons as Georgia’s only Level I trauma center.

The Medical Center is the only Level I trauma center in the state, and the only one of 17 hospitals in the Southeast, to achieve this national recognition. Of 185 hospitals in Georgia, 30 are trauma centers, according to the hospital.

“This is indeed a very special occasion,” Gov. Nathan Deal said to about 100 people, mostly hospital personnel, gathered near the outside of the emergency center. “You are in a unique category and the people of this part of Georgia should be extremely proud of what you’ve done to achieve this certification.”

“Health care is one of those great challenges,” he said. “It is a challenge at the federal level. It is also a challenge at the state level, and as we go through the delivery to new approaches to the delivery of health care which I know we’re going to be doing in the next couple of years in particular, there are going to be challenges that we all face. … Your work will go a long way toward improving the quality of life for our entire state.”

Navicent Health President and CEO Ninfa Saunders said the trauma center serves about 3,000 patients annually with about one-third of those patients being transferred from other health care facilities. Last year, the hospital’s trauma center cared for 91 of Georgia’s 159 counties, she said.

Congressman Buddy Carter held a Town Hall meeting in Savannah yesterday. From the Savannah Morning-News.

“Obamacare is collapsing,” the Savannah Republican said at Armstrong State University, prompting shouts from the crowd asking him to refer to the 2010 health care law by its formal name, the Affordable Care Act.

Many of the constituents who packed the meeting wore T-shirts bearing slogans in support of Planned Parenthood, and Carter’s answers during the hour-long meeting often drew jeers from the crowd. Occasional chanting could be heard from an overflow crowd of dozens waiting outside the at-capacity auditorium where the meeting was held. There were also people who showed support for Carter’s comments, and audience members frequently shouted at each other to sit down or wait their turn to ask questions.

When the meeting concluded, Carter left through a side exit with staff rather than meet the crowd, which at the time was chanting for him to come out — something he attributed to safety concerns and the need to get to a scheduled dinner event.

“I would have liked to have stuck around, but security was concerned about the safety,” Carter said in a phone call after the meeting. “I regret that. I was really happy about the turnout. Everyone has the right to speak, and I want to give them that right. I wish we could have been more cordial.”

Local Options

Federal investigators seized items in an Atlanta City Hall office as part of an ongoing bribery investigation.

Atlanta’s chief procurement officer was fired on Tuesday, escorted out of City Hall and had items in his office seized by federal agents.

A terse, two-sentence statement from the mayor’s office said Adam Smith had been “relieved of his duties.” A spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed later said Smith’s was a “normal termination,” that includes being led out of the building by city personnel.

The seizure of items from Smith’s office appears to be an escalation of the federal investigation into bribes paid by contractors to obtain business with the city. A law enforcement source told Channel 2 Action News that a subpoena was served and that items taken from Smith’s office included a computer and phone.

A representative of the FBI, which conducted Tuesday’s operation, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Augusta Commission will rewrite the waste management plan to include a new landfill.

The Augusta Commission voted 6-2-2 to begin the revision process, with commissioners Ben Hasan and Andrew Jefferson opposed and commissioners Sammie Sias and Marion Williams abstaining.

The proposal is opposed by Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson as a drain on revenue with a potential wide impact on how Augusta manages waste. Johnson was the chief author of the existing 2008 waste management plan, which requires all waste to go to the city landfill near Blythe.

Attorney Wright McLeod pitched the proposal to commissioners last week on behalf of Kirk Laney, who obtained the 150-acre former inert landfill on Dixon Airline Road from Jeffrey Harris in 2015.

Augusta University Medical Center’s Center for Rural Health Support and Study is working to expand its services to rural providers through the use of telemedicine.

Catherine Clary, just beginning her third week on the job, was headed to Atlanta on Monday to see about $250,000 in funding to help the center provide more services to struggling rural hospitals. The Georgia House of Representatives has already approved the money in its version of the budget, and Clary was to meet with Senate leaders to ensure it makes their version, too.

One of the programs it would support is a swing bed program with rural providers, in which patients from rural areas who are being discharged from the hospital but are too sick to send home directly can be transferred to a rural hospital to finish out their care.

“On our end, we want to free up the bed here because we are a tertiary (highly specialized care) hospital, but then that also builds revenue for the rural hospitals,” Clary said. “Studies have found that patients do much better when they are closer to family and they have the pride of being back in their home hospital. We feel like it helps our hospital, it helps the rural hospitals and it also helps the families and the patients in keeping them close together.”

The health system also has a new affiliation with Washington County Regional Medical Center to staff its Emergency Department and to provide a hospitalist for inpatient coverage. The center is working to help set up a general surgery rotation through the Sandersville hospital, too, Clary said.

Through the College of Allied Health and College of Nursing at Augusta University, the center is hoping to set up rural rotations for physician assistants and advanced practice nurse practitioners and could have something set up within the year, she said. Those providers can deliver care in rural areas that often struggle to attract physicians.

Warner Robins City Council is stewing over the question of whether to allow backyard chickens.

In 2015, the City Council voted down allowing chickens. Elijah Lewis, a leading supporter of urban chicken keeping, approached the council at Tuesday’s meeting with a different idea that seemed to have some traction.

He asked the council to consider allowing a referendum on the issue, and some who had opposed it before were agreeable to that idea. If the council approves it, the referendum would be on the ballot for the city election in November.

Seriously, folks, a chicken referendum.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources has introduced an incentive system for hunters of coyotes and opponents are howling.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources wants hunters to kill more coyotes from March to August, and it’s offering them an incentive to do so.

The “Georgia Coyote Challenge” allows trappers to turn in up to five carcasses a month for a chance to win a lifetime hunting license.

While the contest runs for the next seven months, there is no closed season for the harvest of coyotes in Georgia because they did not historically live in the state, according to the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division.

But the Atlanta Coyote Project, a group of scientists who research coyotes in the area, contends that’s an oversimplification.

“While it is true that coyotes are relatively recent immigrants into the southeastern U.S., they are here because humans eliminated native wolves,” the organization said in a Facebook statement rejecting the “killing contest as both inhumane and unwise.”

Also opposing the “Georgia Coyote Challenge”? This guy:

wile-e-coyote-help628

Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk is not prioritizing immigration enforcement.

Paulk made it clear that Lowndes County is not a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, but he said he’d rather go after active criminals as opposed to undocumented immigrants who make an honest living and don’t cause trouble.

“Do you want to concentrate on the criminals, who are doing the shooting and everything else, or go out and try to get people out in the fields picking vegetables?”

He added that rounding up illegal immigrants could lead to steep jail costs for the county while the immigrants await deportation.

“If (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) comes out with some warrants, yeah we’ll help them. But if you were to go out and make a sweep, put 50 of them in jail … it’ll cost you $2,500 a day (to hold them),” Paulk said.

“I’m not saying we’re a sanctuary, but we’ve got more important things to do as far as cleaning up this county.”

Howard French will serve as the next Chairman of the Board of Directors for Chatham Area Transit.

Chatham County Commissioners will consider adoption of a new 20-year Chatham County-Savannah Comprehensive Plan.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter remains embattled by partisan Democrats criticizing a Facebook post.

Gainesville City Council finalized the renaming of Touchdown Drive to Deshaun Watson Way.

Lou Byars will serve as the new Superintendent of Rome City Schools.

University of North Georgia students urged a boycott of some local businesses over a KKK sign.

21
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 21, 2017

Pop Tart

Pop Tart is a female Doberman Pinscher & Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends, Inc. (AARF) in Stone Mountain, GA.

Pop Tart is now happy and healthy and ready to find her forever home. The rescue group’s guess is that she is a red Doberman / pit bull mix, which means she is incredibly athletic, sweet and snuggly and very loyal. Pop Tart seems to be a little too interested in cats and other small critters, so would do best in a home without small furry friends. She needs an active family, one that up for daily playtime and some adventures! Pop Tart is completely house and crate trained and already knows ‘sit’ and ‘shake’. She loves to play, but also enjoys a good snuggle on the couch in the evening.

Chocolatte

Chocolatte is a 2.5-year old male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends, Inc. (AARF) in Stone Mountain, GA.

He, his sister Lissy and his mom Nanny Duck were found in a junk yard, starving and scared. Now, Choco is a big lovebug! He is a big guy and is very active. He loves to play and does well with most other dogs, even little dogs. After a day of playing, he loves to snuggle on the couch with his people. He has passed a basic obedience class and loved it, and would do well in continuing classes. He would prefer a home without little children, because he doesn’t know how big he is. Choco is neutered and up to date on vaccinations.

Miss Lissy

Miss Lissy is a 2.5-year old female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends, Inc. (AARF) in Stone Mountain, GA.

She and her mom and brother were found in a junk yard, starving and scared. Now, Lissy is a happy and healthy girl! She can be a little bit shy with new folks, but is very friendly when she knows her people. She does well with other dogs and has some basic obedience training. She has been spayed, has all of her vaccinations and has completed a basic obedience class.

21
Feb

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

The Washington Monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885.

Happy Birthday to Congressman John Lewis, who was born on this date in 1940 in Pike County Alabama. In 1963, Lewis became President of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, based in Atlanta. In 1981, Lewis was elected to an at-large seat on the Atlanta City Council, and in 1986, he was elected to Congress, defeating Julian Bond in the Democratic Primary.

On February 21, 1958, Governor Marvin Griffin signed legislation creating the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to oversee construction and operation of a Confederate memorial and public park at the site.

On February 21, 1998, Julian Bond was selected as Chairman of the NAACP. Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, but the House initially refused to seat him due to his opposition to the war in Vietnam. The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled against the House and Bond was sworn in on January 9, 1967, serving there until his election to the Georgia State Senate. In 1986, Bond left the Senate to run for Congress.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

COMMITTEE MEETINGS – LEGISLATIVE DAY 21

8:00 AM SENATE APPROPS – Fiscal Mgmt & Gen’l Gov’t Sub 341 CAP

8:30 AM SENATE HEALTH & HS – Scope of Practice Sub 310 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 21) CHAMBER

12:00 PM SENATE RULES- Upon Adj’t 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY 307 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE AND LABOR – CANCELED 310 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE MILITARY AFFAIRS WORKING GROUP 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE BUDGET AND FISCAL AFFAIRS OVERSIGHT 506 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE JUD’Y (NON-CIVIL) 515 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Driver’s Safety and Services Sub 403 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE Professions-Boards-Commissions Sub Regulated Ind 606 CLOB

1:00 PM Education Sub Early Learning & K-12 415 CLOB

1:20 PM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 403 CAP

1:30 PM SENATE FINANCE – Income Tax Sub 123 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE – Tax Reform Sub 125 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE ECON DEV AND TOURISM MEZZ

2:00 PM SENATE HEALTH AND HS 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUD’Y (CIVIL) 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Sub A Public Safety &HS 605 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HS 606 CLOB

2:00 PM Elections Sub Gov’tal Affairs 505 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION – CANCELED 310 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Setzler Sub Jud’y Non-Civil 506 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 406 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Env’tal Qualtity Sub Natural Res & Env’t 515 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Energy Sub Energy, Utilities, and Telecom 403 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE HUMAN RELATIONS AND AGING 415 CLOB

3:15 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES, AND TELECOM 403 CAP

3:30 PM SENATE FINANCE – Finance & Public Policy 125 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE APPROP – Community Health Sub 341 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY – Sub A 307 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 50 – “Direct Primary Care Act”; definitions; provide direct primary care agreements are not insurance (Substitute) (I&L-6th)

SB 71 – Bankruptcy; list of property that is exempt; add assets in health savings accounts and medical savings accounts (JUDY-23rd)

SB 106 – Pain Management Clinics; health care professionals who must be on-site; revise a provision (H&HS-13th)

SB 125 – Physician Assistants; authority to prescribe hydrocodone compound products; authorize a physician to delegate to a physician (H&HS-17th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule

HB 174 – Insurance; insurer’s medium of payment of policy or contractual obligations; expand (Substitute)(Ins-Lumsden-12th)

HB 206 – The Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights; certain audits conducted by the Department of Community Health; remove exception; provisions (H&HS-Kelley-16th)

HB 210 – Health; certain specimen collection stations and blood banks are not considered clinical laboratories; provide (H&HS-Lott-122nd)

HB 257 – Local government authorities; register with Department of Community Affairs; require (Substitute)(GAff-Tankersley-160th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 250 – Foster homes; employee with satisfactory fingerprint records check in past 24 months exempt from additional background check; provide (JuvJ-Ballinger-23rd)

HB 254 – Emanuel County; Board of Education; provide nonpartisan elections for members (IGC-Parrish-158th)

LEGISLATION

Competing approaches to medical cannabis will meet in the Georgia General Assembly as each chamber prepares its own legislation.

A committee in the Georgia House is set to meet this week to weed out the good, the bad, and the ugly in HB65. The bill would add PTSD, HIV, AIDS, chronic pain, and autism as qualifying conditions to access medical cannabis oil.

State Sen. Greg Kirk (R – Americus) is working on a similar bill in the senate. Kirk says the senate is taking a more conservative stance on the issue of medicinal marijuana in any form. The senate’s version would add solely autism to the list of current qualifying conditions. Another point of compromise centers around lowering the legal concentration of cannabis, or THC oil, from 5% to 3%. Kirk underscored how experimental this piece of legislation would be.

“There’s not a whole lot of scientific evidence behind this,” Sen. Kirk said. “So we’ve reached out and gotten ahead of the FDA and others. And we don’t have a lot of scientific data to back up what we’re doing. That’s what makes this bill so difficult, and that’s why we’re taking such a cautious approach on the senate side.”

House Bill 65 by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) will be heard today in the House Judiciary (Non-Civil) Committee at 1 PM.

House Bill 65 … expands the list of qualifying conditions for access to medical cannabis oil.

The proposal would add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, AIDS, HIV, chronic pain, and autism to the list of qualifying conditions.

House Bill 73 by Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville) would offer tax credits to spur redevelopment of small towns in Georgia.

“The rural bill targets downtown areas that are suffering from difficult economic times,” said state Rep. Penny Houston, R-Nashville, the author of House Bill 73.

The measure offers state tax credits for three steps of investing in a qualifying area: for buying real estate, for rehabbing it and for employing people there.

“You don’t get to take any of these tax credits until you have two full-time employees” or equivalent part-time employees, Houston said on the House floor recently.

Many Middle Georgia cities would meet the first criterion in the bill to be a “revitalization zone:” the population must be less than 15,000 people.

But the place must also have a concentration of commercial buildings that are at least 50 years old, among other rules. And the local government must also prove “economic distress.” That’s something the state will determine based on poverty rate, downtown vacancies or blight.

Casino interests roll the dice in Senate Regulated Industries this week.

The Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee is expected to decide on Thursday whether to move an “enabling” bill accompanying the constitutional amendment to the Senate Rules Committee, which then would determine whether to send it to the floor for a vote.

The enabling bill contains the details of how casino gambling would work in Georgia. The legislation would limit the initial presence of casinos to two “destination resorts,” a primary facility in metro Atlanta that would require an investment of at least $2 billion and a smaller project outside of the metro region but in an urban area with a population greater than 180,000.

To ensure a high-quality mixed-use development, the bill would require at least 60 percent of the resort’s income to be derived from non-gambling sources, including shops, restaurants, a hotel and a performance venue.

If the statewide referendum passes, any city or county interested in hosting a casino resort would have to hold a local referendum before the project could become reality.

House Bill 364 by Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger) would reduce taxes on hotels and motels in Muscogee County.

A Columbus state representative with family ties to the hospitality industry is a co-sponsor of a bill in the House that would eliminate the $5 per room hotel/motel fee charged in Georgia.

Rep. Matt Gurtler, R-Tiger, along with 15 cosponsors including Rep. John Pezold, R-Columbus, filed House Bill 364 last week that would repeal the $5 per night hotel fee that was passed with a statewide transportation bill in 2015.

Pezold, who is the son of Valley Hospitality owner Jack Pezold, said one of the reasons he signed onto the legislation is because Columbus has the highest room occupancy tax in the nation, nearly 23 percent per night.

“Georgia is the only state in the country that charges a flat dollar fee per night for a hotel room,” Pezold said on Monday. “That alone jacks the rates up.”

House Bill 434 would allow local governments to turn over properties taken through eminent domain more quickly when seeking to eradicate blight.

Right now, local governments are required to hold onto property for 20 years for public use, if it was acquired using eminent domain. House Bill 434 would allow a local government to immediately sell property it has acquired for blight eradication purposes.

There is a process the city would have to go through before acquiring and selling the property, however.

First, the government will have to petition Superior Court to determine the property is blighted and then the city would have to petition the court to condemn the property. Both court processes would require notices to interested parties and hearings. Any property acquired under the process must retain the same land use that was last applicable to the blighted property before the condemnation for a period of five years.

he Savannah City Council included the change as one of the city’s legislative priorities in December after staff said state law has made neighborhood revitalization efforts difficult since more stringent restrictions were enacted about 11 years ago.

Democratic National Committee members will convene in Atlanta this weekend to elect a new DNC Chair.

After suffering major losses in last year’s presidential and congressional elections, the party will elect a new chair on Saturday at the conclusion of its three-day winter meeting at downtown’s Westin Peachtree Plaza.

This week’s meeting begins on Thursday, Feb. 23, with council and committee meetings. On Friday, the party’s numerous caucuses will meet, with officer elections beginning at 10 am on Saturday.

Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) writes in the Gwinnett Daily Post about the future of Obamacare in a Republican Congress.

I am asking you to join me and the House of Representatives to repeal Obamacare and go back to the drawing board — together. What does going back to the drawing board mean? Greg Walden, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care, says it means, “mak(ing) sure that people with pre-existing conditions continue to get covered.” I agree. New Health and Human Services Secretary and former U.S. Rep. Tom Price says it means not “pulling the rug out from under anybody.” I agree. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it means “there will be a stable transition period, and once repeal is passed we will turn to replacement policies that cost less and work better than what we have now.” I agree.

It won’t be easy, but Congress will work to breathe life back into local health care markets, particularly in that one-third of America’s counties that have only a single insurance company remaining in the Obamacare exchange. Congress is committed to repealing the failed vision of “government knows best” and replacing it with the proven model of “family knows best.”

That means fewer federal mandates and more individual choices. Some Americans are asking for better access to Health Savings Accounts for their families. We can do that. Others are asking for the flexibility of tax credits to enable them to afford the plan of their choice that will provide the most value. We can do that. Other Americans believe state-based risk pools will be the best solution for their needs. We can do that. All of these ideas have been developed. They exist in state legislatures across the country, and they are already in Obamacare alternatives in the U.S. House like the American Health Care Reform Act, the Empowering Patients First Act, the Health Care Freedom Act and the House Better Way proposal.

With a new President, we now have a real opportunity to turn these ideas into tangible solutions for American families. It won’t happen overnight, but we can restore choice and opportunity to the marketplace. It won’t happen overnight, but we can bring back the opportunity to choose a plan based on your family’s needs rather than Uncle Sam’s. It won’t happen overnight, but we can free those American families trapped in the current “death spiral” of rising costs and shrinking choices in a government-run system, and we can put patients back in control.

Lula, Georgia adopted a liquor by the drink ordinance that will require at least 51% of sales come from food.

Coweta County Commissioners will consider outsourcing residential inspections.

Republican candidate David Abroms will ante up $250k of his own money toward his campaign for the 6th Congressional District, according to the AJC.

“I achieved financial success, and it taught me a lot about working together and what I can do when I put my heart and soul into something,” said Abroms. “It’s not always about fighting or one-upping your opponent. I think you can stick by your principles and still have a meaningful discussion.”

In a solidly-Republican district that only supported Trump by a whisker in November, Abroms said he’d be willing to defy Trump. He doesn’t back his now-sidelined immigration ban, and he said he would vote to “secure the border” while stopping short of endorsing Trump’s plan for a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

“I’m running for the people of the Sixth District. Trump is not going to be my boss and neither is Speaker Ryan,” he said. “I don’t have to be doing this. I’m 33 years old and I’ve been extremely blessed. But I’m doing this for the right reasons. I’m not worried about political backlash for standing up for my beliefs.”

20
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 20, 2017

Shamrock

Shamrock is a young female Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Okefenokee Humane Society Inc. in Waycross, GA.

Ireland

Ireland is a young male Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Okefenokee Humane Society Inc. in Waycross, GA.

Leprechaun

Leprechaun is a young male Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Okefenokee Humane Society Inc. in Waycross, GA.

March

March is a young male Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Okefenokee Humane Society Inc. in Waycross, GA.