Last night, following a fire below an elevated section of I-85 north of downtown Atlanta, a section of roadway collapsed.
Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency shortly thereafter.
Gov. Nathan Deal [Thursday] evening declared a state of emergency for Fulton County following a major fire and subsequent bridge collapse on Interstate 85. State government agencies in Metro Atlanta will delay opening until 10 a.m. Friday and employees able to telecommute are encouraged to do so.
“The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety and minimize disruption of traffic as we continue emergency response efforts,” said Deal. “The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is coordinating response efforts with the Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency and other state and local officials. As this safety investigation and bridge assessment continues, we encourage the public to avoid the affected area, remain patient and allow first responders to perform their jobs. We will continue updating the public on alternative traffic routes and other information as it becomes available.”
GDOT and other state and local transit agencies are working to quickly identify all possible options for commuters, including utilizing the Xpress Bus Service and Peach Pass express lanes. As GDOT continues its assessment, DPS is working closely with local law enforcement to safeguard motorists and ensure safe operation of alternate routes and detours.
Today, Governor Deal is receiving a briefing from federal officials on the highway.
Gov. Nathan Deal today met with the Acting Deputy Director of the Federal Highway Administration Butch Waidelich, senior adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation James Ray, Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Commissioner Russell McMurry, Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner Mark McDonough and other officials to receive a full briefing and updates regarding the Interstate 85 fire and bridge collapse.
“As we continue to assess the damage and begin repairs, I ask for the public’s patience and understanding. The fact that no lives were lost is a blessing, and I’m grateful for the courage, hard work and tireless efforts by our state and local first responders. I’m also thankful for the timely response from the federal government. Their expedited assistance will allow GDOT, city officials and private contractors to begin work immediately. The state of Georgia, City of Atlanta and federal government are committed to an expedited and safe resolution of this disaster.”
“Despite our coordinated efforts, this will be a long process. This is due, in part, to the fact that bridge beams must be cast, poured, tested, transported and individually installed. During this time, public safety is our chief priority and primary concern. With your help, we will be better able to ensure the safety of motorists, travelers, first responders and construction crews.”
Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Congressman Jody Hice honored Jon Richards of Gwinnett County on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I rise today with a heavy heart to celebrate the life of Jon Richards, a Georgia treasure, brilliant political journalist and selfless mentor,” Hice said. “I pray and grieve for the family and friends of Jon during this incredibly difficult time.”
Richards’ death has brought an outpouring of grief from a wide range of politicians, from local officials and legislators to Gov. Nathan Deal, congressmen and U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. In his brief remarks, Hice highlighted the work Richards did with GeorgiaPol.com and his mentoring high school and college students who are interested in politics.
The political writer’s involvement in the Gwinnett County Republican Party, the Gwinnett Chamber, the Gwinnett Transit Advisory Council among other community groups and organizations was also highlighted in the congressman’s remarks.
“Jon Richards was known by the Gwinnett community as someone who lived life to its fullest and made the most of every day. His leadership was unmatched and cannot be overstated,” Hice said. “I’m grateful to know that, through Christ, we will be able to meet again.”
The Georgia General Assembly continued legislating well past midnight last night, finally adjourning Sine Die near 1 AM. We’ll have much more on Monday, but today, we’re resting after getting home at 2 AM last night.
Former Governor Sonny Perdue’s nomination for Secretary of Agriculture in the Trump Administration moves forward after an affirmative vote by the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Perdue’s nomination now heads to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote. It was not immediately clear when that vote would be held. Perdue, a former two-term GOP governor of Georgia, was supported by every lawmaker present for the vote, except for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who logged her disapproval over Perdue’s record on food stamps, and Sen. David Perdue, Sonny Perdue’s cousin, who abstained.
The timing of a full Senate vote on Perdue’s nomination is tricky. Next week the upper chamber will be dominated by intense partisan debate over the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch. After it wraps up its business next Friday — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that Gorsuch will be confirmed by then — the chamber will break for a two-week recess.
This morning, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced he is running for Governor in 2018.
From the email sent by his campaign:
Conservative small businessman and Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced today that he is running to serve as Georgia’s next governor.
“I’m a conservative small business owner who knows how to put government in its place,” said Kemp. “In the State Senate, I fought to cut taxes and fees on job creators and hardworking Georgia families. As Secretary of State, I’ve used my decades of experience in the private sector to turn bureaucracy into business-friendly government.
“I’m running for Governor because I’m not finished fighting for Georgia. As your Governor, I will fight to make Georgia #1 for small business, treat all parts of our state – including rural Georgia – the same, work to fundamentally reform government, and always put the needs of Georgians – not special interests – first.
“Now is not the time to compromise our conservative values, make empty promises, or play political games in the State Capitol. It’s time to fight for Georgia and I am prepared to lead the charge.”
Kemp’s first stop on the campaign trail is the Cobb County Republican Party Breakfast on Saturday, April 1.
Tax breaks were a hot topic in the last hours of the General Assembly yesterday.
If Gov. Nathan Deal signs on to what the General Assembly has done, Georgia musical artists and music producers would for the first time receive income tax credits for musical and theatrical performances and musical recordings that take place in the Peach State.
In a nod to a growing number of lawmakers critical of special interest tax breaks, the legislature on Thursday reduced the proposed tax credits from 20 percent in earlier versions of the bill to 15 percent. To qualify for the credit, a performer or producer would have to spend at least seven days in Georgia.
The film industry, which already has benefited greatly from the tax credits the General Assembly enacted in 2008, would for the first time receive tax credits for money spent in Georgia on post-production work.
The legislature also approved a bill expanding the rural hospital tax credit program lawmakers created last year by increasing the credit from 70 percent of the amount donors contribute toward rural hospitals to 90 percent.
The AJC reports that yacht repairs and vehicle leases also will get tax cuts.
The General Assembly approved legislation to lower taxes on Georgians who lease vehicles on the last night of the 2017 session, but only after stripping a controversial provision that would have raised taxes on many used-car buyers.
Owners of giant yachts willing to get their boats repaired in Savannah also got a tax break from legislators.
But lawmakers couldn’t reach a deal on a bill to lower the state’s top income tax rate.
Senators said the Georgia House sent them $588 million worth of tax-credit and tax-cut bills to consider this year. Some got through, some didn’t.
Kathleen Foody and Ezra Kaplan of the Associated Press wrap-up the legislative session:
Georgia lawmakers approved legislation permitting concealed handguns on college campuses but failed to pass an update to state law on adoption before the gavel fell on the legislative session.
Attention now turns to Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican in his final term. Georgia law gives Deal 40 days to decide whether to sign, veto or allow measures to become law without his name.
Changes to Georgia adoption law that proponents call long overdue stalled in the Senate despite a last-minute effort to force a vote.
Senators brought that measure up for a vote past 12:30 a.m. and after a testy debate, sent it to a committee for further debate. The move killed the bill for the year.
An expansion of Georgia’s program allowing patients with certain conditions to possess oil derived from marijuana is headed to the governor’s desk
After House and Senate leaders announced a compromise, the bill adds new diagnoses to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis oil, including autism, AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Atlanta City Council will consider lowering fines and eliminating jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Tybee Island will ban public consumption of alcohol for four days expected to coincide with some Spring Break festivities.