The blog.

24
Jul

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

The United States Postal Service was established by Congress on July 26, 1775. I mailed them a birthday card on Friday; they’ll probably receive it next week.

On July 24, 1778, Georgia ratified the Articles of Confederation.

Georgia’s John Walton was present on July 9, 1778, and signed the document then. Georgia’s other two delegates – Edward Telfair and Edward Langworthy – did not sign until July 24, 1778, which is the date most often used for Georgia’s ratification of the Articles.

An interesting sidenote is that John Walton‘s brother, George Walton, signed the Declaration of Independence on Georgia’s behalf.

On July 24, 1919, the Georgia General Assembly rejected ratification of the 19th Amendment, which extends the right of voting to women.

At 12:51 EDT, we mark the safe return from the moon of Apollo 11.

On July 25, 1974, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Nixon that executive privilege did not allow the White House to refuse to turn over audio recordings that had been subpoenaed by a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

The number one song in America on July 24, 1982 was “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, from the Rocky III soundtrack.

On July 24, 2000, former Georgia Governor Zell Miller was appointed to the United States Senate to serve in the seat vacated on the death of Senator Paul Coverdell.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal is among the nation’s most popular governors, according to a series of polls by Morning Consult.

Deal ranked No. 10 in a new ranking of the nation’s 50 governors. The Morning Consult Governor Approval rankings polled more than 85,000 registered voters across America to evaluate the job performance of their governors.

The polling ran from from January through March.

According to the rankings, 63 percent of Georgians approved of the job Deal is doing, while 25 percent disapproved.

First Lady Sandra Deal traveled to Columbus for a meeting of the Georgia Literacy Commission.Continue Reading..

21
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 21, 2017

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway is a male Beagle and Labrador Retriever puppy who is available for adoption from the Fayette Humane Society in Fayetteville, GA.

Bernie

Bernie is a young male Boxer and Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Pregnant Dog Rescue, Inc. in Griffin, GA.

Rolo

Rolo is a young female Hound & Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Pregnant Dog Rescue, Inc. in Griffin, GA.

21
Jul

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

Union General Irvin McDowell’s forces engaged Confederates under General Pierre G.T. Beauregard and General Joseph Johnston at the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run on July 21, 1861.

General William Tecumseh Sherman gained the upper hand in the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864. Estimated casualties were 12,140 (3,641 Union, 8,499 Confederate).

On July 23, 1864, Union and Confederate forces in and around Atlanta gathered the dead and worked to save the wounded. Union artillery began bombarding Atlanta. On July 23, 2014, Republicans did the same in the aftermath of the Primary Runoff Elections the previous day. Democratic artillery advertising would soon fill the air.

On July 21, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution as a condition for readmission.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois.

On July 22, 1975, the United States House of Representatives voted to restore U.S. Citizenship to General Robert E. Lee posthumously.

Though President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation of amnesty and pardon to the Southern rebels in 1865, it required Lee to apply separately. On Oct. 2, 1865, the same day that Lee was inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Va., he signed the required amnesty oath and filed an application through Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

Nonetheless, neither was Lee pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. After receiving it, Secretary of State William Seward gave Lee’s application to a friend as a souvenir. Meanwhile, State Department officials, apparently with Seward’s approval, pigeonholed the oath.

In 1970, an archivist, examining State Department records at the National Archives, found Lee’s lost oath. That discovery helped set in motion a five-year congressional effort to restore citizenship to the general, who had died stateless in 1870.

President Gerald Ford signed the congressional resolution on July 24, 1975, correcting what he said was a 110-year oversight. The signing ceremony took place at Arlington House in Virginia, the former Lee family home. Several Lee descendants, including Robert E. Lee V, his great-great-grandson, attended.

On July 21, 1988, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis accepted the Democratic nomination for President at the National Convention in Atlanta.

John Smoltz started his first game as a major league pitcher on July 23, 1988, as the Braves took a win over the New York Mets.

On July 22, 1977, Elvis Costello released his first album, My Aim is True.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Fulton County property owners will receive a new round of assessment notices beginning in August.

The county’s Board of Assessors approved the new values Thursday, clearing the way for assessment notices to be sent. County commissioners last month decided to keep residential assessments at 2016 values after an outcry from residents who saw their property values increase much more than they expected.

Additionally, preliminary estimates for the county’s tax digest put it at $52.4 billion — that’s a 4.2 percent increase from 2016, largely on the strength of higher commercial assessments.

But it’s still almost 7 percent lower than early estimates. Before the 2017 values were returned to last year’s levels, the county expected a $56.3 billion tax digest. It was $50.3 billion in 2016.

Dwight Robinson, Fulton County’s chief appraiser, said the numbers are preliminary until signed off by the tax commissioner. They do not include the results of any appeals, since a new appeal window will open when assessments go in the mail Aug. 4. They will appear online the same day.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a $3.3 million dollar contract for case management software for the county court system.

Sandy Springs City Council member Chris Burnett announced he will run for reelection.

“It is a privilege to represent the citizens of District 3, and Karen and I are truly thankful for the support of our friends and neighbors,” he said. “Sandy Springs is a wonderful community with a very bright future and I will continue to work diligently to represent the interests of the residents of District 3 and all across our city.”

“Residents are concerned about over-development and I have pushed to slow the pace of multi-family construction so the market can absorb the units already being built and we can fully evaluate their impact on our roads and infrastructure,” Burnett added. “Since taking office last year, no new apartment zonings have been approved by council, due in part to my focus on these issues and the ordinances that I have supported.”

“We were well-prepared for the new stadium and Braves traffic has had limited impact on Sandy Springs, but much more work on transportation is needed,” he added.

Georgia legislators declined to hold a sales tax holiday this year, but Alabama’s is this weekend.

Alabama will begin its sales tax holiday spree at 12:01 a.m. CST Friday, with it lasting until midnight Sunday, according to the Alabama Department of Revenue. That means Columbus-area shoppers who wish to take part in it will need to visit Phenix City or the nearest metro area in Alabama, with that being Auburn and Opelika, Ala., about a half-hour drive from downtown Columbus.

Honorably-discharged veterans will be able to shop online tax-free and with discounts through the Army & Air Force Exchange later this year.

Savannah’s Feiler Park Neighborhood Association is asking for a moratorium on new alcohol licenses.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs says Hall County and its municipalities are ineligible for state funding and permits until they agree on a Service Delivery Strategy.

For the past 20 years, Georgia’s Service Delivery Act has required that all counties and their municipalities file with the state a plan for the delivery of local government services to minimize duplication and prevent taxpayers from paying to receive the same services from multiple government providers.

Hall County and its cities, with the exception of Lula, signed and submitted the SDS agreement on June 29. However, DCA rejected the document and has requested it be revised.

Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller called the matter “much ado about nothing.” Although he’s not seen the revision requests made by DCA, Miller said he’s been told it’s just a matter of making minor tweaks to the document.

“I understand one box was not checked,” Miller said. “It’s a matter of the state wanting to have every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed,” Miller said.

Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey said he expects the matter to be resolved quickly. Lackey added that he’s unaware of the state withholding funding from Gainesville.

“I have no reason to believe that DCA will not receive satisfactory clarification to their comments they have requested from our community, resulting in a resolution to this matter by the end of July,” Lackey said.

Three Varnell City Council members say they’ll vote to put a non-binding referendum on this November’s ballot regarding closing the police department.

Last week, council members voted 3-1 to abolish the police department. That vote was later vetoed by Mayor Anthony Hulsey. Mayor Pro Tem David Owens and council members Andrea Gordy and Jan Pourquoi, who voted to abolish the police department, had indicated they would vote to override that veto when the council meets on Tuesday.

But in a called public meeting at City Hall Thursday night, attended by about 50 people, those three council members said they would not vote to override the veto. Instead, Owens said he will introduce a resolution to place on the Nov. 7 general election ballot a non-binding referendum asking voters if the city should abolish the police department, enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office to provide police protection in the city of Varnell and abolish the property tax.

Pourquoi said he will second the motion. All three said they will vote for it and will also abide by the results.

Varnell City Council member Andrea Gordy faces a challenge to her eligibility based on allegations she no longer lives within the city limits.

Varnell City Council member Andrea Gordy has not been a resident of the city for some time and should not have been able to vote to abolish the police department, say two Dalton attorneys who say they are representing “citizens of Varnell.”

“To be a council member of the city of Varnell, you have to be a resident inside the city limits,” said Marcus Morris on Thursday. “You have to have voted in city elections in Varnell. I can say with almost absolute certainty that she is not a resident of the city of Varnell.”

“We believe she is not a resident of Varnell,” said his law partner Jeffrey Dean. “She lives in Rocky Face.”

Dean and Morris said they could not release the identities of their clients at this time.

Civil Forfeiture

Recent policy directives by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revived the practice of cooperative civil forfeiture, using federal law to help local authorities evade the requirements of state law and force the civil forfeiture of property.

State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Cherokee) wrote a letter to the Attorney General, taking issue with his expansion of civil forfeiture.

Dear Mr. Attorney General,

On January 9th of this year, I placed my hand for the third time on The Holy Bible given to me by my sister-in-law and swore an oath to, among other things, support the Constitution of the United States. It is because of this oath that I write to you now in protest of policies that you have put in place to expand the practice of taking permanent possession of property owned by individuals that have not been charged with or convicted of a crime in a practice called Civil Asset Forfeiture.

Your intentions may be good, but individual liberty and the protections all Americans should enjoy are blatantly under attack under your policy. One of the many well established practices that have always made America great is the promise that before you can be punished for a crime, you must be found guilty of that crime. Civil Asset Forfeiture takes that concept, the concept of innocent until proven guilty, and treats it not as the law of the land, but as a mere inconvenience. This is wrong.

Because our American Justice System is one of the crown jewels that makes America so great, you should take great pride in making sure that every person accused of a crime has their day in court and an opportunity to make their case prior to being punished for any crime. By instituting the expansion of Civil Asset Forfeiture, you have signaled that prosecuting crimes the way our system is intended to work is not a concern for you. Every American should be shocked by your actions, I know I am.

As an elected official, as a citizen of the United States of America, and as a human being, I demand that you reverse your Civil Asset Forfeiture Policy Directives issues on July 19th and instead work earnestly to make sure every American can be sure that the promise of presumed innocence until proven guilty is fulfilled.

Sincerely,

Representative Scot Turner
House District 21

Rep. Turner has been concerned with civil asset forfeiture for some time,

Georgia State Rep. Scot Turner has worked doggedly to enact what he maintains should be the next step in the reform process, to mirror reforms in other states such as Ohio and California. Specifically, Turner hopes to add a statutory requirement to delay forfeiture proceedings (after law enforcement has physically seized the items) until a criminal conviction or acquittal is reached for the owner.

In the event there is no conviction, this would prevent the troublesome situation when the owner of the property is not convicted but faces an uphill battle seeking the return of the property, sometimes requiring the expensive assistance of an attorney.

Georgia’s sheriffs are the most politically-powerful group speaking against changes to asset forfeiture.

“I can tell you that the most effective tool we have in dealing with criminals who make money from criminal activity are our asset forfeiture laws,” said Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, past president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, who opposed Turner’s bill.

“It virtually is the only thing that hurts a drug dealer,” he said.

Gwinnett Sheriff Butch Conway yesterday posted the following on Facebook:

So, police stop a speeding car with 5 pounds of heroin in the back seat in an open duffel bag, 4 passengers and 1 million dollars in cash in a large suitcase. Passengers claim to know nothing about the heroin or cash.

1. Police keep the heroin.

2. Police keep the money.

3. Police keep both the heroin and the money.

4. Police let them keep both and tell them to drive safely.

2018 Elections

Former State Senator Judson Hill is considering running for Insurance Commissioner in 2018.

ObamaCare has failed. Uncertainty rules the day regarding health insurance and health care costs. As a result, health insurance companies will be forced again to either raise premiums or completely pull out of the so-called Obamacare markets. 

People need affordable and accessible health care that focuses on patients and expands choices. We need health care financing and reform. Georgians will not get access to quality and affordable health care without stability in the insurance market.

There may not be a more urgent domestic policy issue impacting taxpayers across Georgia than the ability to afford health insurance and to access quality health care.

Georgia needs a proven leader as their next Insurance Commissioner who understands the issues and has common sense solutions.  A leader is needed who will aggressively advocate with Congress to implement meaningful health care reform to re-set the insurance marketplace.

Insurance providers deserve a Commissioner who supports the free market, will eliminate burdensome government regulations, and commits to stabilize the insurance market across Georgia.

Over the next few weeks, Shelly and I will make a decision regarding the race for Georgia Insurance Commissioner. I appreciate the numerous offers of support from across Georgia.  I ask for your prayers and welcome your comments. 

It is essential Georgians have an independent Insurance Commissioner who has a history of advocating for affordable health care, who understands the needs of the insurance providers, and who will champion the needs of Georgians every day.

20
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 20, 2017

Tiger

Tiger is a young male Dachshund mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society in Thomasville, GA.

Chrissie

Chrissie is a young female Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society in Thomasville, GA.

Maxxi

Maxxi is a young female Corgi and Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society in Thomasville, GA.

20
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 20, 2017

On July 20, 1864, the Battle of Peachtree Creek took place in Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a special online section on the Battle of Atlanta.

Sir Edmund Hillary was born on July 20, 1919 in Auckland, New Zealand. He and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first to summit Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to set foot on the moon.

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.”

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton gave the speech nominating Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis for President on July 20, 1988 at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Dukakis accepted the nomination the next day.

Clinton’s performance was widely panned.

[Clinton] bombed so badly that there was speculation it might spoil his political future.

The prime-time speech would be a perfect opportunity for Clinton to regain some of the ground he’d lost to Gore and to reestablish himself as the one to watch from the party’s moderate/Southern wing.

But he blew it. The speech he delivered was long – 33 minutes, or twice the expected length – and mechanical. It only took a few minutes for convention delegates to tune him out, as the din of their conversations began drowning him out on television. Eventually, the broadcast networks began cutting away from his speech, with commentators noting the crowd’s complete lack of interest. The lowlight came when Clinton uttered the words “In closing,” prompting a spontaneous round of sarcastic cheers from the audience. His home state paper summed it up this way:

ATLANTA Gov. Bill Clinton’s big national moment his prime time speech Wednesday night in nomination of Michael Dukakis was an unmitigated disaster.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal helped cut the ribbon at the new Terry England Leadership Center at the FFA/FCCLA center in Covington.

The center is named for Barrow County state Representative Terry England, chairman of the House Appropriations committee and a longtime champion of agriculture education in Georgia.

Deal talked about the importance of the center to the state.

“We sometimes identify it as being a place where we develop agricultural leaders,” he said, “I would suggest to you more appropriately, it is a place where we develop leaders.”

“My hope is that for decades to come, this facility creates some of the memories that some of the buildings down the hill created for me,” [said Rep. England]

Addressing the FFA members in the audience he said,” I hope friendships are being made here that you will take with you for a lifetime. I hope memories are being made here that you will take with you for a lifetime.”

From the Rockdale and Newton County Citizens,

Gov. Deal, who arrived at the FFA- FCCLA Center via helicopter shortly after 11:30 a.m., recalled visiting the camp as a youngster with his father, who was an ag education teacher. As a member of FFA, Deal said he developed his public speaking skills and took part in local, state, regional and national competitions.

“This has been a place for great victories,” Deal said of those competitions. “It has also been a place for defeats and for learning to deal with defeats and learning to see the positive side of your own dreams and your own plans not being fulfilled, to understand that maybe somebody beyond you has a plan for your future that you don’t even comprehend.”

“Great leaders have been produced by virtue of the experiences and the training that they have received in FFA, in FCCLA, and in other related type organizations,” said Deal. “We are in the business of training young people. This facility does it about as good as any I have seen, and I think it has not only a great past behind it, but in my opinion, a very, very bright future.”

“FFA gave me the opportunity to learn how to stand in front of people and speak,” said England. “It gave me the opportunity to learn to be a better friend, showed me how to be a better husband, a better son and a better person. My hope is that for decades and generations to come that this facility here recreates the memories that some of the buildings down the hill have created for me.”

The Terry England Leadership Center is a 20,000-square-foot facility featuring a 14,000-square-foot room that will seat as many as 1,400 people or 750 for banquet dining. Todd Teasley, director of development and leadership at the FFA Center, has said the meeting space is the largest in the surrounding area.

The center was funded through a $9.5 million appropriation in the state budget in 2015.

If I’ve learned one thing in my time at the Georgia State Capitol, it’s that the FFA has probably produced more state leaders than any other organization.

Cherokee County Commissioners adopted a property tax millage rate lower than the rollback rate.

County Manager Jerry Cooper said not only did the finance team achieve a full rollback in the 2017 fiscal year millage, but a tax decrease was presented to commissioners and residents.

Commissioners voted June 6 to advertise a millage rate of 5.528, down from 5.680 last year, with the use of $500,000 in reserves to support its general fund for the upcoming year.

But Cooper said at Tuesday’s final public hearing that they were able to achieve a rate below the full rollback and the rate of 5.483 was unanimously approved by commissioners.

“About a month ago, before we were able to complete our review of revenue and based on the information the tax assessor’s office provided us as well as expenditures as we were finalizing our negotiations in the budget, we asked you at that time that we did not propose a full rollback of the general Maintenance and Operations millage rate,” he said. “We then must advertise the three public hearings and post a notice of property tax increase. The first public hearing that was presented to you that we would be recommending a full rollback of the millage rate.”

Cooper said the millage rate that was approved by commissioners is a .04 percent decrease to the full rollback millage.

“Although we’ve been blessed to have an increase in the digest due to growth, we also had increase to current properties based on the assessments,” Cooper said. “Our goal is to at least rollback the millage rate to offset the average increase in the assessments based on what the tax assessor’s office provides us.”

Earlier this week, the Cherokee County Tax Assessor’s Office laid off all Personal Property Appraisal Division staff and is privatizing that function.

Columbia County Commissioners are considering a property tax millage rate lower than last year, but not a full rollback.

Columbia County officials plan to roll back tax rates to a countywide 6.189 mills, but will still raise an extra $1.3 million from taxes on new development and reassessments in the rapidly growing county.

County Administrator Scott Johnson called the rate reduction, advertised July 9, a rarity among area governments.

The new tax rate will result in a total of $31 million in property taxes levied by Columbia County government, up from about $30 million last year. Since 2012, county taxes levied have risen 15 percent, as the population has grown 11 percent, to 147,450, according to Census Bureau estimates.

On average, the new rate will add 50 cents or so to a homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment, Deputy Administrator Matt Schlacter said.

Other Columbia County governments including Grovetown and Harlem are not lowering tax rates. Columbia County Board of Education is raising tax rates by almost half a mill to 18.3 mills, with an annual impact of $39.44 on the tax bill of a homesteaded home worth $200,000.

Richmond County Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve a tentative millage rate of 19.736 mills, a decrease of .018 mills from last year.

Lawrenceville City Council adopted a millage rate lower than the previous year’s.

Lawrenceville’s mayor and City Council voted July 12 to roll back the millage rate to 1.909 mills and decrease the city property tax rate for the 2017/18 fiscal year.

“The city has rolled back the millage rate to effectively maintain an affordable cost of living for residents in the city,” said Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson. “The Council believes that keeping a low tax structure today will create opportunity for the future. As the city moves forward to execute capital projects, low millage now would offer flexibility for citizens to invest in these projects and maintain competitive rates along the way.”

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler released new unemployment numbers for June.

For the fifth consecutive month, the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate has dropped.

According to numbers released Thursday morning by the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), the rate decreased to 4.8 percent in June, down one-tenth of a percentage point from 4.9 percent in May. The last time the state recorded a jobless rate as low as 4.8 percent was in September 2007. In June 2016, the rate was 5.3 percent.

“Georgia’s unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in almost 10 years, because our employers continue to create jobs and put record numbers of people to work,” said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “We now have record highs for the number of employed individuals, the labor force size and total number of jobs in Georgia.”

Employers added 27,400 jobs in June, a 0.6 percent growth rate, which increased the total number of jobs to 4,496,000. The growth more than doubled the average May-to-June increase of 12,100 jobs for the past three years.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr returned to familiar territory, speaking to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

“One of the things that I have found in the eight months that I have been attorney general is this,” Carr said. “Most people know there is an attorney general, and are pretty sure we have an office somewhere. But beyond that it gets a little fuzzy about what we do.”

Carr did bring some community issues, such as opioid abuse and human trafficking, to the attention of the chamber.

He pointed out that while he was involved with efforts to lure high profile events, such as the Super Bowl and the college football national championship game, to Atlanta when he was the economic development commissioner, his new role has made him aware of issues that come with those events — namely human trafficking.

“If you start looking at stings that have occurred recently in Gwinnett or Dunwoody, it’s in the northern suburbs,” Carr said. “If you talk to folks who deal with this issue downtown, it’s folks coming from the suburbs and then going back home. That has to stop. Children deserve a right to live a life where they are not victimized by adults.”

Columbus City Council is considering regulating short term rentals, like AirBNB.

As more short-term lodging rental units come online in Columbus, one city councilor has asked for the staff to bring an ordinance for consideration to govern the growing enterprise.

Councilor Skip Henderson called [for] information that could lead to an ordinance that would regulate the new lodging option.

“I want to make sure everybody is playing by same rules and its a level field,” Henderson said on Tuesday. “Others in the hospitality industry are subject to rules and regulations. It makes sense that anybody doing short-term rental like Airbnb would be subject to those same rules and regulations.”

Because there is currently no regulation, [Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau President Peter] Bowden said, there is no mechanism for those offering short-term rentals to pay taxes or fees that other hospitality providers pay. The room tax in Columbus is 16 percent, with 8 percent of that sales tax that is distributed to the state, city and school district, while the remaining 8 percent is divided between the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Columbus Civic Center, trade center and RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.

“For us, it gets back to lost revenue for the city,” Bowden said. “We want to make sure it is a level playing field. We have to be careful at the CVB because we don’t want to interfere with anyone being an entrepreneur. We need to make sure the system is working for everyone.”

The primary online booking source for short-term rental is Airbnb.com

With both Savannah and Columbus considering regulating short term rentals, I’d be suprised if we don’t see an “AirBNB bill” in the 2018 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Cobb County Board of Education members are considering a policy change that would open dual-enrollment for more high school students to take college courses.

Cobb County has the second-highest number of Latino/a voters in Georgia.

Based upon the statewide voter data file and the analysis in his report as of Dec. 2, 2016, the Latino electorate is now 244,190 voters strong, representing 3.66 percent of Georgia’s overall electorate. The Latino electorate grew by 60,224 new Latino voters since the 2012 report, representing a growth rate of 25 percent, he said.

Gwinnett County leads the pack of metro Atlanta counties with 44,567 Latino registered voters.

Cobb County was in second place with a total number of Latino voters of 27,150 and 59.62 percent of them turned out to vote in the 2016 election. Taken alone, Cobb County accounted for 11.11 percent of the statewide Latino electorate. According to the 2016 election summary, Cobb County had a total of 423,890 registered voters. Latinos were 6.40 percent of the electorate in Cobb County.

In the 2016 election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton beat Republican candidate Donald Trump by 7,209 votes in Cobb County. In 2012, the Romney campaign was able to succeed in Cobb County with a margin of victory of 38,598 votes, Gonzalez notes.

According to the latest U.S. Census numbers, Cobb County has a Hispanic or Latino population of 12.9 percent, compared to Gwinnett County’s 20.8 percent, DeKalb’s 8.5 percent and Cherokee County’s 10 percent.

The Savannah Downtown Business Association hosted a panel discussion on violent crime.

Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach, Savannah-Chatham police Chief Joseph Lumpkin, District Attorney Meg Heap, the Rev. George Lee from St. John’s Baptist Church, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Jim Durham and Dulany Industries President and CEO Reed Dulany took turns fielding audience questions and criticisms about the current state of crime in the city.

SDBA president Karen Guinn opened the discussion by noting that the violence in City Market after the July 4 celebration has “awoken and mobilized a group of people that want more and want better for our city.”

“Many of you are here today because you’re angry, you’re frustrated and perhaps even afraid, and you’re looking for answers,” Guinn said.

“Everyone is feeling endangered. It’s a natural response,” Lumpkin said. “The challenges that we’re facing from some people in our community are significant, and they typically do not happen at City Market. We have tried to address those issues, and I think we’ve made significant progress in building collaborations that have actually reduced the homicides, year-to-date, from last year.”

University of North Georgia and Lanier Tech report no problems since campus carry has been allowed in Georgia.

UNG Police Chief Justin Gaines said one incident was reported in which a gun “became unconcealed while the person was carrying it.” He said the person who saw the weapon “didn’t know how to address that particular situation.” Campus police helped the person understand how to respond in the future.

Lanier Tech Police Chief Jeff Strickland said no violations of the law have been reported to his office.

“We had not had any issues that have come up at this point,” Strickland said. “As I have walked around campus, I have not seen anybody that appeared to have a firearm on them.”

House Bill 280, commonly referred to as the campus carry law, became law July 1. The bill makes it legal for those with a Georgia weapons carry license to have a concealed handgun in some campus areas previously prohibited.

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) wants to revisit the “Hidden Predator Act,”

When his bill extending the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file civil claims was signed into law in 2015, State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) knew it didn’t go far enough.

The lawsuits that have been filed since the Hidden Predator Act took effect bear him out. While the law allows victims to go after the individuals they say abused them, the businesses and nonprofits that allegedly enabled or covered up predatory behavior have so far avoided any potential financial liability.

“What these cases have proven is that we stopped short,” said Spencer, who is proposing an amendment to the Hidden Predator Act that would close that loophole. “It’s our duty to balance the scales of justice for victims.”

The new law allowed victims up to 35 years to confront their abuser in court. The window to file those suits, however, closed on July 1.

At least a dozen cases have been filed since the Hidden Predator Act became law. Spencer said opponents of the bill claimed it would lead to an avalanche of frivolous lawsuits.

“None of these cases are frivolous,” Spencer said. “A judge would’ve thrown them out if they were.”

“We need to take the next step,” he continued. “We can’t allow entities to turn a blind eye to sexual abuse.”

Congressman Karen Handel (R-6) announced senior staff hires.

Serving as Handel’s chief of staff will be Muffy Day, who comes to the team from the office of U.S. Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah where she held the same position. Before Love’s election, Day was chief of staff for Rep. John Campbell from 2008 until his retirement. She has 15 years of experience on Capitol Hill where she got her start as a legislative assistant for Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Others working in the D.C. office include scheduler, Ashley Dalton, who held the same position on Handel’s campaign; legislative correspondent, Kim Waskowsky; and staff assistant, Justin Forrister.

The Roswell office will be led by District Director Ashley Jenkins, a Cobb County resident who previously served on the Sandy Springs City Council. She’s been a 6th District resident for about two decades. Serving as deputy district director will be Donovan Head, who comes home to the 6th District after working for Congressman Austin Scott in Warner Robins.

Healthcare

State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) discussed federal health care reform and how Georgia can respond.

Rep. Katie Dempsey said Georgia lawmakers are prepared to react to whatever Congress does.

“Georgia has shown it can take care of people in need,” said the Rome Republican, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s human resources subcommittee. “Children, mothers, they’re covered, and we’re not going to let that fail.”

“I’m still encouraged that, at the end of the day, states will be given the ability to draft their own plans, because it’s different in Georgia than it is in Texas or New York,” Dempsey said. “But I do think the conversation has to switch to health care. Right now we seem to be dealing with insurance care.”

Dempsey said she has faith in Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a physician and former Georgia congressman. He’s going to do his job, she said, and he’s very familiar with the needs of his home state.

“We can’t let Americans not have the resources, the opportunities, for better health and better healthcare,” she said. “I think that burden will fall on him, period, if they can’t come up with a workable plan or if they do.”

The Georgia Department of Community Health and Department of Education are seeking federal funding that would more than double the number of school nurses in the state.

In a joint effort with the Georgia Department of Education, the Department of Community Health board voted to approve a nursing services reimbursement program that would draw an estimated $48.6 million in additional federal dollars, assuming no major changes to Medicaid.

There were 1,629 nurses and 307 unlicensed health care and clinic workers in Georgia schools last spring. They are the only medical workers some students see, especially in rural areas where hospitals have closed and doctors are scarce. School nurses provide routine and preventive screenings and examinations, diagnosis of health problems and monitoring and treatment of chronic conditions.

The money is available as a subsidy to schools that provide such care to students who qualify for Medicaid services, generally those from lower-income households.

That “assuming no major changes to Medicaid,” is a pretty big assumption, however.

The State House Rural Development Council heard about mental healthcare needs at its meeting in Thomasville.

One major thing representatives from the Department of Behavioral Health talked about was getting people out of state hospitals and back into community-based services. There are still 209 patients at state hospitals in Georgia.

“You can’t just close a hospital and figure it out,” said Judy Fitzgerald, Commissioner of Department of Behavior Health and Development Disabilities.

It’s been almost five years since Southwestern State Hospital closed its doors in Thomasville, but state and local leaders said the community still feels the effects of that decision every day.

“Can we do something about it? Are more beds needed?” asked Darlene Taylor.

“How do we get the people to the right level of care? And maybe it’s a bed, but maybe we put them in one of the other resources available in region 4,” said Fitzgerald.

Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell told the representatives that a lot of the time his deputies and officers are having to deal with crisis situations out in the community

Powell said sometimes his staff even has to transport those folks to places as far as Savannah and Columbus on a weekly basis.

“Your local people are picking up the tab and are picking up the [lion's] share of the cost,” said Powell.

Rural hospital closures also affect the surrounding community’s economy.

While a closed hospital would be bad for doctors and patients, it would also do disproportionate damage to delicate rural economies where the local hospital is often one of the largest employers along with the public school system.

When Parkway Regional Medical Center in Fulton, Kentucky, closed in 2015, the city lost $200,000 in tax revenue, or about 8 percent of its annual budget. City leaders responded by raising a tax on alcoholic beverages so they could continue to fund their police department.

“It had a devastating effect on our community,” Fulton City Manager Cubb Stokes said.

Two professors of economics write that the U.S. Senate health care bill could exacerbate the opioid crisis.

This epidemic is one of the most critical public-health issues facing the United States today, but Republicans in Congress seem uninterested in truly grappling with it. Under their proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act, a situation that had been slowly improving wouldget much worse.

Before the ACA was implemented in 2014, most impoverished adults with substance abuse issues – no matter how poor — had limited access to health coverage because Medicaid doesn’t treat substance abuse as a qualifying disability for benefits. Opioid overdose death rates rapidly escalated, but treatment rates remained flat.

The good news is that, primarily due to changes in Medicaid, the United States has more than doubled its total spending on evidence-based substance-abuse treatment for the poor. The bad news is that even with that success, we are facing a massive shortfall in addressing the needs of those with opioid addiction issues. Four out of five people with opioid use disorder do not receive treatment, which means there are nearly 2 million Americans who are addicted to opioids and do not benefit from the proven treatment that could help them.

We need a comprehensive strategy to build on the insurance expansions of the ACA to reach those millions of Americans. The original Senate health-care bill, however, proposes a rollback of the Medicaid expansions that had finally slowed the rapid growth of this devastating problem.

Lost opportunities for substance-abuse care in non-Medicaid expansion states have already cost countless lives. Repealing the ACA would take away access to treatment from hundreds of thousands more. This would be nothing less than a grave moral failing and a travesty for our country.

Former Georgia Congressman John Linder addresses federal healthcare legislation.

The U.S. Senate Republicans failed to agree on a replacement for Obamacare, so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that they will vote on the repeal-only bill that passed two years ago before being vetoed by President Obama. If they pass the repeal-only bill, they will have two years to come up with a replacement. Let us hope that they stick to healthcare and set political payoffs aside for another day.

For beginners, they should jettison the perverse provision that keeps 26 year-old children on Mommy and Daddy’s insurance policy. That was a political payoff to a group that voted overwhelmingly for President Obama in 2008. It increased the cost of Mommy and Daddy’s insurance and removed millions of healthy young people from the general pool leaving it older, sicker and costlier. Welcome to government healthcare!

When you begin reform with a political payoff you ought not be surprised to see your colleagues lining up with their political wish lists? Republican senators stepped up with their demands: more money!

The opioid crisis is real and urgent, but was not caused by our healthcare system and ought not be addressed in a reform of our healthcare system. It is being forced into the reform debate because there is a lot of money sloshing around. It should be addressed separately. Perhaps by the CDC.

Linder’s piece is long and hard to pull excerpts from, but it’s definitely worth reading in its entirety.

19
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 19, 2017

Emme

Emme (above, female) and Remington (below, male) are 12-week old Hound mix puppies who are available for adoption separately or together from Rescue Me Ga Inc in Dunwoody, GA.

Emme and Remington are siblings and best friends who love to play and snuggle together. They love playing in the backyard and fetching sticks and pine cones, and they play great with their foster friends too. They’d love to find a forever home together.

Remington

Rory

Rory is a young male American Bulldog and Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Rescue Me Ga Inc in Dunwoody, GA.

Paddy

Paddy is a young male Labrador Retriever puppy who is available for adoption from Rescue Me Ga Inc in Dunwoody, GA.

Be careful with your pets

Gwinnett County has had five bear sightings so far this year.

Suwanee resident Colleen Gardner spotted a black bear in the backyard of her Royal Oak Estates subdivision home on Sunday evening. The fuzzy creature was hanging out near — and on — her bird feeder.

“He stayed for about 15 minutes and headed toward Johnson Road,” Gardner said.

Gardner’s is the fifth known Gwinnett bear sighting this summer.

Two separate homeowners in Buford reported seeing bears days apart in late June, not long after Gwinnett police were captured on video trying to wrangle a bear in Norcross. Earlier in the summer, a resident in the Charleston Bay neighborhood in Duluth shared a video with the Daily Post and said the same bear visited the same home twice.

Coyotes are causing problems in Augusta.

“We used to notice them, but now they’re beginning to come out a little bit more than what they were in the beginning,” [Augusta Municipal Golf Course] general manager Ira Miller said. “A lot of people have said they’ve seen dogs out here, I’ve heard everything from a dog to a fox.”

Coyotes are not native to Georgia and began making a home in the Southeast as early as the 1970s, said Mark Whitney, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources assistant director of Wildlife Resources.

By the mid-’90s, the omnivorous predators had populated all 159 Georgia counties. Though widespread, Whitney doesn’t believe they pose as much of a threat as the public thinks.

“People see them as a nuisance. It’s more of a potential individual perception issue,” he said. “Obviously if they show up in someone’s backyard, they’ll have concerns.”

When they showed up at neighboring Daniel Field Airport, Augusta Aviation was more than concerned. Wildlife on the runways can create hazardous conditions for pilots when they are attempting to take off or land.

19
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2017

On July 19, 1879, Griffin, Georgia native John Henry “Doc” Holliday killed Mike Gordon after Gordon shot up Holliday’s saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The 1996 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony was held on July 19, 1996 and competition started the next day.

The Georgia State Quarter was released on July 19, 1999.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gwinnett County Commissioners voted by a 3-2 margin to set a higher property tax millage rate.

Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and Commissioners Lynette Howard and Jace Brooks voted for the millage rate increase, while Commissioners John Heard and Tommy Hunter voted against it. The overall rate was set at 13.51 mills, and that includes the higher operations rate of 7.4 mills.

The higher rate is intended to balance the county budget while also setting aside money to address employee hiring and retention issues, particularly in the county’s public safety departments.

“We need to make sure we’re not 7 percent behind our peers in compensation (and) we need to make sure we slow down the attrition rate,” Howard said. “That’s why I can’t support a rollback of the millage rate.”

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

The City of Atlanta and the United Way of Greater Atlanta are committing $51 million to fight against homelessness.

On Monday, the city council agreed to a $26 million bond commitment that will be added to $25 million promised by the United Way.

The plan – called the Homeless Opportunity Bond – comes in five different parts aimed at countering different types of homelessness. The overall goal, Reed said in a statement, is to make homelessness “rare, brief and non-recurring.”

The biggest chunk will go to buying or renovating 500 permanent homes. These will be available for the chronically homeless, who are people who have a mental or physical disability and have either been consistently homeless for over a year or had four spates of homelessness in the last three years.

Only about 13 percent of Atlanta’s homeless population are believed to be chronically homeless, according to last year’s estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The second part of the bond will go toward securing 300 units for “rapid rehousing.” This is another popular policy nationwide. It quickly puts people who are on the verge of becoming homeless into temporary housing, providing them a chance to put together a plan for a permanent home themselves.

The Georgia Lottery Corp. transferred $1.1 billion to the state treasury in FY 2017.

The record transfer surpasses last year’s, which was boosted by a world-record $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot.

Georgia Lottery players won $2.74 billion in prizes in fiscal year 2017, and retailers earned more than $268 million in commissions.

Fiscal year 2017 spanned from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.

All Georgia Lottery profits go to pay for specific educational programs, including the Hope Scholarship Program and Georgia’s Pre-K Program. More than 1.7 million students have received HOPE, and more than 1.4 million 4-year-olds have attended the statewide, voluntary pre-kindergarten program.

Fort Gordon will receive $85 million in federal funding after the House passed the defense authorization act for 2018.

The National Defense Au­thor­ization Act for fiscal year 2018, passed in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sentatives on Friday, provides funding toward the move of the U.S. Army Cyber Command to Fort Gordon and military construction projects, said Rep. Rick Allen.

The legislation must still be approved by the Senate.

“For the past nine years we’ve been flat-lined so we’re trying to catch up,” he said regarding the bill and its effort to restore appropriate funding for troops on Monday.

The Georgia Senate Special Tax Exemption Study Committee began hearings on Tuesday.

A Georgia Senate committee on Tuesday began what could be a years-long study to determine whether the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks the state gives industries and individuals each year do what they were designed to do.

State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, who heads the special panel, told colleagues there is no way they will be able to finish going through the dozens of income tax credits and sales tax breaks the General Assembly has approved by the end of the year.

“I am more interested in lowering everyone’s income taxes and not having credits be so prevalent in Georgia,” state Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta, a member of the committee, said Tuesday.

Whether lawmakers approve a tax break in the first place generally depends on how good lobbyists for specific businesses and industries are at selling their proposal. Lobbyists packed the meeting room Tuesday for the committee’s first hearing.

Albers said, “We are going into this with no preconceived notions.”

Gainesville Board of Education members will be given three millage rate options by the superintendent.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said he will present three options to the school board to consider before it votes on a tax rate in September to fund its 2018 fiscal year budget.

The Gainesville school board approved a $70.1 million budget for the 2017-18 year in June. That budget required more than $2 million coming out of the school system’s fund balance if the millage rate remained at the current 6.85 mills. The millage rate equals $1 of taxes on every $1,000 of taxable value.

Williams said he wants to have three options for the board to consider before voting on a tax rate and the cost to the fund balance associated with each.

“What we anticipate doing is when we bring the millage rate forward is looking at the different options, looking at the current millage rate and seeing what that will require, the full rollback rate and maybe somewhere in between,” Williams said. “We’ll look at those three options. If we need more than that, if we need to look at somewhere in between those three, we would.”

Guyton City Council may revisit its recently adopted budget.

Mayor Jeff Lariscy said at the council’s July 11 meeting that if the current 2.2 millage rate is to be maintained, cash reserves might have to be used, which could leave the city short if unforeseen issues arise.

Lariscy also said he and the council members are required to review thoroughly the last five years of tax receipts, as reported by Effingham County Tax Assessor, Linda McDaniel. Collections have been stagnant, reflecting the recent state of real estate in Guyton and the extended community.

Lariscy reported he and council members will be reviewing the budget and the millage rate over the next week. If they decide to propose a millage rate higher than the current 2.2 rate, the city will have to schedule three public hearings before Sept. 1.

Lariscy suggests residents “stay tuned” for such an announcement. He also reminded the public that residential tax receipts only account for between eight to 10 percent of city receipts.

Varnell City Council will hold a public meeting to discuss the recently-closed municipal police department.

The City Council will hold a called meeting [Thursday night] at 7 at City Hall, 1025 Tunnel Hill Varnell Road N.W.

A press release announcing the meeting says it will be “for the sole purpose of a public discussion and conversation with citizens of the city of Varnell concerning the issue of dissolving the Varnell Police Department. No action will be taken by the mayor and council other than hearing from and communicating with the citizens.”

Council members voted 3-1 on July 10 to abolish the police department with council members Andrea Gordy, Jan Pourquoi and Mayor Pro Tem David Owens voting for the measure and council member Ashlee Godfrey voting against the move. Mayor Anthony Hulsey, who only votes in the case of a tie, vetoed the measure two days later. The council will hold its regular meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Varnell gym and council members could vote then to overturn Hulsey’s veto.

Cherokee County, Woodstock, and Canton have agreed on how to split proceeds from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that will be on the November ballot.

The present one-cent SPLOST expires next year. If voters approve in November, the new tax would take effect July 2018 and raise nearly $253 million for county and city capital projects.

According to an intergovernmental agreement recently approved by the Woodstock and Canton city councils, the county would collect the tax, keep about 70 percent and divvy up the rest among its seven cities. Woodstock and Canton, the county’s two largest cities, would get roughly 12.2 percent and 10.4 percent of total revenues, respectively.

2018 Elections

Republican Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle has added fighting poverty to his pitch in the 2018 election for Governor.

In his first public event in Gainesville since launching his campaign in May, Cagle spoke to an audience of more than 200 people during a meeting at the Kiwanis Club of Gainesville at the First Baptist Church on Green Street about his campaign.

On policy, Cagle gave what was for the most part his stump speech: Build out infrastructure (including tunneling under Atlanta, building suspended roads and harnessing the port in Savannah), expand alternative education opportunities and continue workforce development programs from the state.

But new this time around was a discussion about how the state should use its accelerating economic growth to help the poor.

“I can tell you fundamentally that metro Atlanta, certainly in our area, we’re seeing great economic prosperity,” Cagle told the Kiwanis Club. “But you can go to Sen. Tyler Harper’s area or Sen. Greg Kirk’s area in Sumter County and Ocilla, and you’ll see they’re losing population.”

Close to the end of his remarks, Cagle reminded the audience from Gainesville’s business community, elected officials and government employees that “this poverty issue is real.”

He said that 25 percent of Georgia children live in poverty.

“These individual kids are going to need to have a community resource center built around them, to where if they’re coming out of a family that has no parental involvement, where we can get mentors in there to help those (children), if it’s food, if it’s clothing — all of those things,” Cagle said. “I’m talking to one of the greatest civic organizations in the world. You are part of a commitment and a desire to serve.”

“Imagine if we all, collectively, took on this challenge of solving poverty and giving kids the skills that they need and an opportunity for a better way of life.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams held an event in Columbus for her 2018 campaign for Governor.

Stacey Abrams, the House Minority Leader who is running for Georgia governor, introduced her plans for strong education, economic diversity and good government during a campaign stop Tuesday at the Frank D. Chester Recreation Center in Columbus.

“I’m running for the whole state of Georgia,” Abrams told about 70 supporters in the gym at the Benning Drive center. The Democrat, who grew up in Mississippi, is expected to face a stiff challenge from both parties in the 2018 race. Columbus was one stop on a 10-city tour after she kicked off her campaign in Albany.

Abrams said reforming education is important but it is also about expanding what people think about going from cradle to career, educating bold and ambitious children and building a thriving and diverse economy.

“The issue is not just more jobs,” she said. “It is good paying jobs and that going to be the focus. To make those things happen, government has to work for everyone. Voter suppression is an import issue. You can’t get people to trust their government if you can’t get people to participate in it.”

The state lawmaker supports expanding Medicaid, which would provide more jobs.

“Building an economy is important but also important to start helping entrepreneurs,” she said. “If you think about criminal justice reform, think how we make sure everyone who touched government that we fixed it so it works for them.”

Democrat Chalis Montgomery announced she will run against Republican Congressman Jody Hice in 2018.

[Montgomery is] centering her campaign on a call for universal healthcare. Her announcement tells of her 9-year-old daughter Gwen, who suffers from the pre-existing condition of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and thus is covered by the Affordable Care Act.

She said Hice, who voted to repeal and replace the measure this year after initial concerns that it didn’t shave costs too deeply, took a stance that is “devastating to children like her.”

She faces a tougher battle than candidates eyeing nearby suburban Atlanta districts, like the newly-competitive Sixth and Seventh Districts, where changing demographics and skepticism to Trump have buoyed Democratic hopes. Trump easily carried the 10th District and Hice, who captured two-thirds of the vote when first elected in 2014, didn’t even face an opponent in November.

From Flagpole in Athens,

One of the last speakers was Chalis Montgomery, a Barrow County Democrat who’s challenging Republican Rep. Jody Hice. She said she has a brother with Down syndrome and that Medicaid enables him to live independently. “No cuts, no caps!” she said.

Herman West, brother of former Florida Republican Congressman Allen West, will run against Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop in the Second Congressional District.

Control of Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District could come down to a longtime incumbent versus a conservative newcomer looking for change in the district.

The 2nd District covers several counties in the News 3 viewing area, including Chattahoochee, Clay, Marion, Quitman, Randolph, Schley, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Taylor, and Webster Counties.The district also covers part of Muscogee County.

West grew up on a farm in Randolph County. He believes in bringing several small businesses back to the area where he grew up. West’s brother Allen served as a Florida congressman from 2011-2013.

News 3 spoke with West’s senior advisor, who says despite not having any political experience, West’s message could resonate with thousands of voters who live in the 2nd District.

“The 2nd District is still one of the poorest districts in the United States,” Eddie Pritchett said. “And that puts a strain on larger cities like Columbus, because people from the 2nd District come to Columbus and use our services. And unfortunately, they’re not taxpayers.”

Pritchett adds West supports President Trump’s platform “Make America Great Again.” West also wants to find another way to provide affordable health care to US citizens.

18
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 18, 2017

The greatest political journalist to ever put pen to paper, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, was born on July 18, 1929. That makes today “Gonzo Day.” You have been warned.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for a third term at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on July 18, 1940.

President Harry S. Truman signed the second Presidential Succession Act on July 18, 1947

The original succession act designated the Senate president pro tempore as the first in line to succeed the president should he and the vice president die unexpectedly while in office. If he for some reason could not take over the duties, the speaker of the house was placed next in the line of succession. In 1886, during Grover Cleveland‘s administration, Congress removed both the Senate president and the speaker of the house from the line of succession. From that time until 1947, two cabinet officials, (their order in line depended on the order in which the agencies were created) became the next in line to succeed a president should the vice president also become incapacitated or die. The decision was controversial. Many members of Congress felt that those in a position to succeed the president should be elected officials and not, as cabinet members were, political appointees, thereby giving both Republican and Democratic parties a chance at controlling the White House.

In 1945, then-Vice President Truman assumed the presidency after Franklin Roosevelt died of a stroke during his fourth term. As president, Truman advanced the view that the speaker of the house, as an elected official, should be next in line to be president after the vice president. On July 18, 1947, he signed an act that resurrected the original 1792 law, but placed the speaker ahead of the Senate president pro tempore in the hierarchy.

On July 18, 1988, the Democratic National Convention opened at the Omni in Atlanta. That night, actor Rob Lowe would shoot a videotape in a hotel with two hairdressers, one 22 and one 16. Several weeks later, the era of the celebrity sex tape began.

On July 18, 2000, United States Senator Paul Coverdell died of a cerebral hemorrhage. I remember where I was when I heard the news.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens announced yesterday that he will not run for reelection in 2018. I first heard about it from Tim Bryant on Twitter.

Tim Bryant Ralph Hudgens

And from BusinessInsurance.com:

Mr. Hudgens, a Republican who served in the Georgia House of Representatives and state Senate, said in a statement that “after much thought, prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided not to seek a third term” as Georgia’s insurance commissioner.

“I am immensely grateful for the opportunity that the people of this State have given me to serve in this capacity,” the statement continued, “but I look forward to retiring from elected office to spend more time with my wife Suzanne, my four kids, and 12 grandchildren.”

“While I am retiring from elected political office, I intend to stay involved in politics,” Mr. Hudgens said.


Likely Republican candidates
to succeed Hudgens include Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jay Florence, former Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, former State Senator Judson Hill, and Mark Shane Mobley of Macon.

On the Democratic side, Georgians for a Healthy Future Executive Director Cindy Zeldin will run, as will Tomeka Marie Kimbrough.

Gwinnett County property owners took both sides on a proposal to increase the property tax millage rate.

On top of growth in the county’s property value-based tax digest, county officials want to increase the general operations millage rate from 6.826 to 7.4 mills. The millage rate is one of the factors that determines how much a person has to pay in property taxes from year-to-year.

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

“We’ve got to tighten up on y’all’s spending on what we’re doing in the county,” Dacula resident Ralph Williams said. “We want this hometown feeling, but we’re spending it just like it’s the City of Atlanta. Now, you can’t have both because it doesn’t work.”

Meanwhile, Peachtree Corner resident Teddy Murphy said, “If this is a millage rate increase to help pay police officers more and support what they do in the community, then I think it’s 100 percent absolutely worth it.”

[Commissioners] are scheduled to take up the issue at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, as part of their business meeting at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which is located at 75 Langley Drive, in Lawrenceville.

Cobb County Commissioners also began public hearings on raising the property tax millage rate.

Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce faced a packed room of community members Monday night, but only a handful expressed open opposition to his plan to raise property taxes.

Among the few who did so was Trish Hay of south Cobb, who questioned Boyce on his reasoning for the tax increase. The county chairman has contended that the proposed rate increase of 0.13 mills is needed even amid growth in the county’s tax digest in order to pay for services that were furloughed or cut out during the recession, as well as covering ongoing costs.

Hay asked Boyce why the county was not looking at potential cuts in services in order to find areas to save money.

“Why don’t they cut instead of always raising our taxes? They’re always talking about raising — (but) when do they ever stop? They never cut,” Hay said after Monday’s meeting. “I felt this was deja vu, with the Braves all over again — we’re just going to get it rammed down our throat.”

Part of the county’s general fund millage rate goes to cover the bonds on SunTrust Park in Cumberland, but Boyce’s proposed increase of 0.13 mills in the total county-assessed millage is the result of the Board of Commissioners’ decision earlier this year to fund a portion of the 2008 parks bonds.

Grayson City Council kept the millage rate unchanged for a third year in a row.

Elected officials in Augusta are discussing whether to tear down a currently-unused jail.

Work requirements for food-stamp recipients in Georgia appear to be reducing the numbers on the rolls.

Work requirements have halved the number of single adults receiving food stamps in Hall County and in 23 other counties.

The number of able-bodied adults without dependents getting food stamps in Hall County fell from 529 people in 2016 to 264 at the start of 2017, according to the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

Single adults earning less than $1,287 a month are eligible for a maximum $194 in food assistance each month.

In January 2016, a federal waiver from work requirements that were created for federal welfare programs in the 1990s was removed from Hall, Gwinnett and Cobb counties because of their strong economies and low unemployment.

Augusta University held a forum on the new “campus carry” laws in effect.

Carrying a concealed weapon on the Augusta University campus is now generally permitted but a series of places where it is not left faculty and staff with a number of questions and concerns.

AU officials held a forum Monday afternoon for faculty and staff at its Summerville Campus and will have another on July 28 on the Health Sciences Campus, with more coming in August, said AU Chief of Police James C. Lyon. The university is operating under edicts promulgated by the University System of Georgia, which opposed the bill before it became law and went into effect July 1. It permits concealed weapon holders to carry a handgun in a concealed manner on campus but with a number of notable places where it is not permitted:

It is that last exemption [classrooms in which a high school student is enrolled] that created many of the questions. It is the responsibility of the permit holder seeking to carry a gun on campus to check with the Registrar to find out if any high school students are enrolled in the class, Lyon said. It is also the ongoing responsibility of the permit holder to find out if a high school student adds the class later, officials said.

Some of the exemptions created a kind of Catch-22 for faculty. For instance, faculty can carry a concealed weapon into a classroom that does not have a high school student but because offices are exempt, it is forbidden there.

“They cannot bring it into their own office,” said AU General Counsel Chris Melcher. “We are following the law.”

Flooring manufacturer Beaulieu Group filed bankruptcy on Monday, and say it will not likely affect its 2500 employees.

Dalton-based Beaulieu Group filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Rome. Chapter 11 is often called reorganization bankruptcy because it allows a firm to reorganize its debt, as opposed to Chapter 7 bankruptcy in which a company is typically liquidated. In most Chapter 11 cases, the court does not appoint a trustee but allows the debtor to continue to run the business.

“Beaulieu family members and our board of managers believe pursuing a restructuring through chapter 11 is the best path forward at this time,” said Michael Pollard, president of Beaulieu Group, in a press release.

It has some 2,500 employees in 12 locations, mostly in northwest Georgia, including corporate headquarters in Dalton and three plants and a distribution center in Whitfield County. As a privately owned company, it does not report revenues.

Warner Robins City Council approved a charter amendment to require at least 4 months reserve funding at all times.

The city currently requires two and half months of a reserve fund, which has been used in recent years to balance the budget.

The council approved the amendment 5-1, with Councilman Mike Davis casting the lone vote against it.

Violent crime in Savannah dipped slightly for the first six months of 2017, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In recent years, violent crime in Savannah has been as high as it’s been since the early 1990s, when the Ricky Jivens Gang terrorized the streets. In 2015, metro investigated 53 homicides. In 2016, the number dropped slightly to 50. The most ever recorded in the city was 60, back in 1991.

So far in 2017, there have been 25 homicides in the Savannah-Chatham police jurisdiction. At this point in 2016, there were 30.

Earlier this year, Savannah saw the longest stretch without a homicide in three years. From March 6 to April 24, metro tallied no killings. The last time the city went 49 days without a homicide was April 2014.

[Mayor Eddie] DeLoach said any decrease in violent crime numbers is a welcome one.

“The numbers, whether (the public) feel they’re moving fast enough or quick enough, they’re moving in the right direction from one year to the next,” DeLoach said. “They’ve headed down, and that’s what we promised we would get done.”

According to numbers from Savannah-Chatham police at the start of July, overall violent crime — which includes homicide, rape, commercial, street and residential robberies, aggravated assault with a gun and aggravated assault without a gun — is down by 6 percent compared to the same time last year. The largest dip in violent crime was in street robbery; on July 1, there had been 117 robberies in 2017, compared to the 180 in 2016.

Muscogee County School Board members appointed a committee to supervise projects funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in March 2015.

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren held the annual Corn Boilin’ fundraiser yesterday.

Among those in attendance were several gubernatorial hopefuls: state Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Smyrna, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

The charity gathering was started by former Cobb Sheriff Bill Hutson in 1990 as a campaign event, but over the years has evolved into something much greater: a community gathering where Cobb residents can mingle with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, a place where folks can catch up with each other before diving into plates of delicious food.

What began as an event for about 50 or 60 people quickly grew and now boasts crowds of closer to 2,000, organizers said. Proceeds from admission prices go toward funding the Cobb County Youth Museum, which teaches local youngsters about historical events that helped shape the world.

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, who spent all afternoon cooking in the hot sun, spoke with the MDJ after pausing to take a seat and enjoy a chocolate covered ice cream bar.

Tippins has volunteered for the event each of the last 28 years. The Corn Boilin’, he said, began with them cooking around an old wash pot they heated with burning wood.

2017 Elections

Sandy Springs City Council members Andy Bauman and John Paulson will both seek reelection in November’s municipal elections.

Andy Bauman, who represents District 6, and John Paulson of District 1 said Monday they are both running for additional four-year terms on the council. Both men made their announcements separately.

The city’s general election is slated for Nov. 7, and the office of mayor as well as the six City Council seats are up for grabs. Qualifying for the elections will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21 through Thursday, Aug. 24 and from 8:30 a.m. to noon Friday, Aug. 25. The qualifying fees for mayor is $1,000 and $540 for the city council seats.

Flowery Branch City Council member Joe Anglin announced he will run for reelection.

2018 Elections

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle announced that 58 Sheriffs from across Georgia have endorsed his 2018 campaign for Governor.

Casey Cagle, the leading conservative Republican for governor, announced today that 58 sheriffs across Georgia have endorsed him. The announcement of this statewide network of respected and trusted leaders follows Cagle’s unmatched fundraising haul of $2.7 million in just two months, and the endorsements of 64 elected officials in Northwest Georgia alone.

“You simply don’t receive such widespread support without being a proven leader,” said Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle. “Casey’s unwavering commitment to the law enforcement community is most impressive. In fact, his first stop as a candidate for governor was a visit with our law enforcement officers.”

“Casey is our go-to guy,” said Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway. “He is a proven leader that always delivers for the law enforcement community. He has also led to protect Georgians by eliminating sanctuary cities in our state, and I fully support Casey Cagle’s candidacy for governor.”

“The sheriffs are among the most respected and trusted leaders in communities all across our state,” said Cagle. “I am humbled to have the support of these selfless public servants. We are all indebted to the brave men and women that wear the badge and put their lives on the line for us. When I am governor, I will continue to fight tirelessly to support our law enforcement heroes.”

Cagle has pledged to cut taxes by $100 million in his first 100 days, deliver a comprehensive 10-year infrastructure plan, and create 500,000 new jobs in the first four years of his administration. He has also made workforce development a top priority, and will continue to lead on developing a world-class education system in Georgia.

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer spoke about his campaign for Lt. Governor in Hall County.

First elected in 2002, Shafer is now running to replace Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle as Georgia’s next lieutenant governor in the 2018 election — a step up in his leadership of the Senate. He’s raised about $900,000 in his race against Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, and Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, for the second-most powerful seat in the state.

Shafer had an introduction and endorsement from Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who introduced and praised the Duluth senator and said he’ll “make a terrific lieutenant governor.”

On policy fronts — beyond reducing the welfare state “in a very serious way” — Shafer touted his work capping the state income tax at 6 percent and moving the Georgia General Assembly to a zero-based budgeting system, in which one-eighth of the budget is rebuilt “from scratch” each year, forcing department heads to justify their spending requests.

He criticized state spending on “soft” programs and said the legislature’s recent changes on motor fuel taxes have set the state up well to pay for new roads and bridges. He noted that he does not support expanding MARTA northward and thinks Gov. Nathan Deal was right to refuse Medicaid expansion.

Shafer also noted that he supports the lieutenant governor’s current scope of power in the capital.

“If I become lieutenant governor, I don’t want to change the rules at all,” he said. “I don’t want to try to take more power for the (position). I don’t want to see any power taken away.”

18
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 18, 2017

Rumson

Rumson is a 5-year old, 50-pound Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Control in Monroe, GA. He’s about 50-pounds underweight.

Bosley

Bosley is a young male Beagle mix who is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Control in Monroe, GA.

Stinki

Stinki is a funny-looking dog pig who is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Control in Monroe, GA.

Winston

Winston is a male Coonhound and Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption beginning July 20th from Walton County Animal Control in Monroe, GA.

17
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 17, 2017

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway is a male Beagle and Labrador Retriever puppy who is available for adoption from the Fayette Humane Society in Fayetteville, GA.

Thea

Thea is a female Beagle puppy who is available for adoption from the Fayette Humane Society in Fayetteville, GA.

Macy

Macy is a female Boxer & Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Fayette Humane Society in Fayetteville, GA.

Fayette County Commissioners voted 4-1 to euthanize a proposal for animal control brought by county citizens.

tacked onto the vote to approve the new euthanasia and management policy for the animal shelter, they showed that the talk about seeking the public’s input is empty.

There were so many residents at Thursday night’s meeting that some had to be turned away as they were already skirting Fire Marshal rules. They were pet owners, animal advocates, taxpayers, and concerned citizens. They wanted their voices to be heard because the animals can’t speak for themselves. These weren’t empty words from the crowd. They practice what they preach. They open their homes and their checkbooks, they spend countless hours volunteering at the shelter or with other local groups. They are the ones in the trenches doing everything they can to save lives.

And still, my critique is not with the decision to approve the policy itself and stop the ordinance and more with how it was made. I expected that the policy would be approved. While many didn’t like the thought of putting an expiration date on the dogs at the shelter, the reality is our animal control is understaffed, underfunded, and in a woefully outdated building. Director Jerry Collins has to work with what is given to him, and what is given to animal control has traditionally been little. That much was acknowledged by countless opponents of the policy. Something has to be done to help make their job easier, and I see where the policy is coming from.

What dropped my jaw to the floor is that, in a cowardly act after the public had their say and the floor was closed for discussion, the policy passed with the added clause to kill the animal ordinance in progress that has been a labor of love (and no cost to the County) for so many. With no chance for rebuttal, they put the ordinance down. They knew they intended to do just that, whether under advisement of staff or on their own accord, and they were sure not to let the public know what they were up to.