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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 5, 2016

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution by Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) calling for independence from Britain. The delegations of twelve colonies voted in favor, while New York’s abstained, not knowing how their constituents would wish them to vote.

On July 4, 1776, the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826.

On July 2, 1861, Georgia voters approved a new state Constitution, which had been adopted by the state’s Secession Convention.

July 2, 1863 saw day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg, with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacking Meade’s Army of the Potomac. On July 3, 1863, General George Pickett led a charge against Union lines at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

A 15,000-man strong column under General George Pickett was organized, and Lee ordered a massive bombardment of the Union positions. The 10,000 Federals answered the Confederate artillery onslaught, and for more than an hour the guns raged in the heaviest cannonade of the Civil War. At 3 p.m., Pickett led his force into no-man’s-land and found that Lee’s bombardment had failed. As Pickett’s force attempted to cross the mile distance to Cemetery Ridge, Union artillery blew great holes in their lines. Meanwhile, Yankee infantry flanked the main body of “Pickett’s charge” and began cutting down the Confederates. Only a few hundred Virginians reached the Union line, and within minutes they all were dead, dying, or captured. In less than an hour, more than 7,000 Confederate troops had been killed or wounded.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, costing the Union 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action. The Confederates suffered some 25,000 casualties.

Union cavalry under Gen. Kenner Garrard reached Roswell, Georgia on July 5, 1864, setting the town alight.

On July 4, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly convened for the first time after passage of the Constitution of 1868 with a legislature comprising 186 members, of whom 36 were African-American.

On July 6, 1885, Louis Pasteur successfully tested a rabies vaccine on a human subject.

On July 3, 1889, the Georgia General Assembly held its last session at the Kimball Opera House, located at the corner of Marietta and Forsyth Streets in downtown Atlanta before moving into a new Georgia State Capitol. On July 4, 1889, the Georgia State Capitol was dedicated, then housing all three branches of the state government.

Happy birthday to Idaho, which became a state on July 3, 1890.

On July 2, 1898, the first pot of delicious Brunswick Stew was made in Brunswick, Georgia. I think I’ll celebrate with a bowl for lunch today.

On July 3, 1913, the Georgia state Senate tabled a motion to allow the Georgia Women’s Suffrage Association to address the chamber.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1964. Major provisions included outlawing discriminatory application of voting laws, prohibiting racial discrimination in public accomodations, allowing the Attorney General to join lawsuits against states operating segregated public schools, and prohibiting discrimination by state and local governments or agencies receiving federal funds.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a witness to Johnson’s signature, standing behind the President in the Oval Office. Johnson presented King with one of the 72 pens used in signing the legislation.

Occasionally, pens from the Civil Rights Act signing come onto the collectors’ market. A collection of 50 pens used to sign legislation by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson went across the block in November 2013. This pen went unsold.

On July 3, 1970, the Atlanta Pop Festival was held in Byron, Georgia.

Among the artists playing at Byron were the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix.

The Clash played their first live show on July 4, 1976 at The Black Swan in Sheffield, England.

Back to the Future was released on July 3, 1985.

On July 3, 1986, President Ronald Reagan reopened the Statue of Liberty after a two-year restoration.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The General Election for President of the United States is underway, with President Obama campaigning with Hillary Clinton today in Charlotte, North Carolina. The President will reportedly stress Clinton’s “trustworthiness.”

The FBI is probing her use of a private email server. Husband Bill Clinton met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a session both say was innocent but they regret. And the Democratic Party is poised to nominate Clinton for president.

On Sunday’s news shows, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez explicitly talked about Clinton and trust. And the candidate herself acknowledged that she has “work to do” to earn the trust of voters in her likely general election matchup against Republican Donald Trump….

This week, President Barack Obama will personalize the “I trust Hillary” theme during his first appearance with his former secretary of state in battleground North Carolina. And Vice President Joe Biden will reinforce the message Friday in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, with Clinton at his side.

It’s all evidence of a remarkable vulnerability that persists both despite and because of Clinton’s decades of public life. But the timing of the trust campaign is no accident.

Bill Clinton, the former president, met last Monday with the FBI’s boss, Lynch, on the tarmac in Phoenix in a session the drew widespread criticism. The FBI interviewed Clinton for more than three hours on Saturday about whether she exposed government secrets by blending personal and official business on a home email server. Clinton immediately gave a television interview in which she denied wrongdoing and repeated an acknowledgment she had slipped into a speech last week on the same day Sen. Elizabeth Warren vouched for her.

Clinton said she will do “everything I can to earn the trust of the voters of our country,” remarks aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”I know that’s something that I’m going to keep working on, and I think that’s, you know, a clear priority for me.”

Trust, indeed.

Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett and UGA Political Scientist Charles Bullock both expect little drama at the upcoming Republican National Convention.Continue Reading..


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for July 1, 2016

Keep your dogs safe on July 4th and all year.

Every July 4th, large numbers of dogs are scared by fireworks and run away. Local shelters will receive many of them, and others might get injured or never return home. The American Kennel Club has a list of precautions you should take before the fireworks begin. And I’ll add a few more tips.

1. The Lost Dogs Georgia Facebook page gets flyers for many lost animals and I’ve seen a number of dogs find their way home through posting there.

2. for your local neighborhood seems to be where a lot of found dogs get posted in my area.

3. Go ahead and check to make sure that your dog’s microchip registration is up-to-date. You’d be surprised how many microchipped dogs end up in shelters with a notation that the owner’s information from the microchip is not up-to-date.

4. Make sure your dog’s tags are secure, up-to-date, and still legible. We’ve had to replace our dog’s tag when it became illegible.

5. Take a couple pictures of your dog with your smartphone today. That way if something happens, you can post photos online and make flyers without having to search for a good photo.

6. If you have neighbors who are likely to have their own private fireworks, talk to them and make sure you know when they’ll be shooting them off.

Liberty Griffin

Liberty is a female Shepherd & Labrador Retriever mix puppy who will be available for adoption beginning July 7, 2016 from Pregnant Dog Rescue, Inc. in Griffin, GA.


Firecracker is a female Corgi and Labrador Retriever puppy who will be available for adoption beginning July 7, 2016 from Pregnant Dog Rescue, Inc. in Griffin, GA.

Prince Freedom

Prince Freedom is a male Pit Bull Terrier puppy who is available for adoption from Friends of the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue, Inc. in Dallas, GA.

Prince loves playing with other dogs, cuddling up to sleep and snore, playing with toys, chewing bones, and swimming in his foster familys pool! Prince does great with all dogs and would probably do best with a dog his size that he can play with. He rides well in the car and is good for baths. He is fully crate-trained, about 75 percent housebroken, and he uses a doggie door. Prince sleeps well in a crate at night and also enjoys sleeping in bed with his foster mom. He was DNA tested and Prince came back as 75 percent American Staffordshire Terrier and 25 percent Mixed Breed Groups. This includes Guard, Asian, and Sporting Groups.

Prince is a great puppy with a fantastic personality. He needs a family that can continue to socialize him, work with him on training, and keeping him active and engaged. Prince will be neutered on June 24th and he will be ready to go into his forever home shortly after that! Get your applications in on this adorable little guy!

Liberty McD

Liberty is a female Labrador Retriever & Collie Mix puppy who is available for adoption from Street Paws, Inc. in McDonough, GA.

Liberty is not your typical 4 1/2 month old puppy. Liberty likes a quiet and calm surrounding.

She is crate trained and working on her potty training. She likes other dogs and cats. No children, please! She knows how to sit and walks well on a leash.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 1, 2016

The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on July 1, 1776 to debate a resolution by Richard Henry Lee that the colonies declare their independence of Britain.

The first U.S. Postage stamps were issued on July 1, 1847 in New York City.

The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1, 1863.

Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders charged San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War on July 1, 1898.

Coca-Cola marketed its current formula for the first time on July 1, 1916.

On July 1, 1956, a new Georgia flag bearing the state seal and a version of the Confederate Battle Flag became effective after being adopted by the Georgia General Assembly in the 1956 Session.

The current Georgia Constitution became effective on July 1, 1983 after its approval in a referendum during the November 1982 General Election.

Georgia native Clarence Thomas was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush on July 1, 1991.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Washington Post reports that the Trump campaign has begun vetting former Georgia Congressman and House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a VP candidate.

Donald Trump’s campaign has begun formally vetting possible running mates, with former House speaker Newt Gingrich emerging as the leading candidate, followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But there are more than a half dozen others being discussed as possibilities, according to several people with knowledge of the process.

Given Trump’s unpredictability, campaign associates caution that the presumptive Republican nominee could still shake up his shortlist. But with little more than two weeks before the start of the Republican National Convention, Gingrich and Christie have been asked to submit documents and are being cast as favorites for the post inside the campaign. Gingrich in particular is the beneficiary of a drumbeat of support from Trump confidants such as Ben Carson.

With Gingrich, 73, or Christie, 53, the 70-year-old mogul would be joined by a well-connected Republican who shares his combative style and his ease at being a ubiquitous media presence. Both men have won Trump’s favor by actively supporting him — Gingrich primarily through television appearances and Christie through behind-the-scenes talks with party leaders and leading GOP donors.

Mid-year campaign contribution reports are coming due for the period ending June 30th, with the grace period ending July 8th.

Thursday marked the end of the filing period for the June 2016 campaign contribution disclosure reports for local and state office candidates. Now, candidates have a grace period of five business days to file the report outlining their campaign’s contributions and expenditures.

The grace period ends July 8.

If the report isn’t filed by July 8, it is considered late and fines will start to accrue on July 9, according to Janine Eveler, director of Cobb Elections.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp shuffled the heads of the Georgia Board of Nursing and the Board of Cosmetology, drawing the ire of nursing board members.

The board members themselves learned just two weeks ago that Cleghorn, whom many on the board give much credit for the recent improvements, was taking his talents to regulate the state’s barbers and beauticians.

Chairwoman Brenda Rowe said the move and lack of consultation by Kemp with the board left her “very, very concerned.”

“It was made unilaterally,” Rowe said at a hastily convened board teleconference Monday. “The board didn’t provide any input into it.”

Board member Dellarie Shilling put her distress in even more stark terms: Kemp is being reckless. Changing directors will hamper the board’s progress, meaning it will take even longer to deal with dangerous nurses.

“I just find it very difficult to say why you would knowingly put patients at risk,” she said to a member of Kemp’s staff.

The proposed staffing moves come as the nursing board also is losing its nursing education consultant, another key staff member it took years to find and hire. That person submitted her resignation and is leaving at the beginning of July, meaning the new director won’t have her help as he learns the ropes.

Leaning on a state law that gives them specific power to approve its executive director, the board voted unanimously to reject Kemp’s choice.

Kemp’s answer? Too bad. Kemp writes the checks.

“This is not a proposal,” Lisa Durden, director of the professional licensing division of Kemp’s office. “This is a directive from Secretary Kemp. This is what’s best for our agency.”

The nursing board licenses twice as many Georgians and the next largest professional board, and the nurses are exerting pressure on Kemp to rethink.

That last part is the politically-important part. After teachers, the nurses are probably second on the list of professionals I wouldn’t want to get into a political fight with.

Just in time for our annual celebration of the regulatory nanny state freedom, new Georgia laws are going into effect today. Here is a complete summary of all statues passed by the 2016 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

The Buzz Brockway “Don’t Tase Me, Bro!” bill means that stun guns are now allowed on college campuses. Note this applies to public colleges and universities, not to private institutions.

“Michael’s Law” requires bouncers and patrons at bars to be at least 21 years old, although younger folks may enter with a parent, guardian, or 21-year old spouse, or for a concert.

House Bill 941 by State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) revises grand jury procedures when law enforcement officers are involved in a use of deadly force.

House Bill 727 gives local governments more power to regulate the use of fireworks.

The laws state fireworks cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18, and anyone buying fireworks must provide identification. Fireworks cannot be used indoors or within the right-of-way of a road, railroad, or other transportation infrastructure.

Under the new law, fireworks may be used between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m., but on July 3-4, the time limit extends to 11:59 p.m. Additionally, fireworks are prohibited within 100 yards of a jail, power, electric, or water plant, historic site, hospital, park, or other public facility. Permits to use fireworks in locations such as parks may be issued by the proper authorities upon request.

Also, use of fireworks is illegal if the individual is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Unexpected fireworks noise can cause some veterans increased anxiety, so websites such as offer veterans free yard signs asking neighbors to “please be courteous with fireworks.”

Under House Bill 767, drivers are required to move over for utility workers the same way as previously required for law enforcement vehicles.

House Bill 767 requires any motorist approaching utility linemen at an active work site, as indicated by traffic cones or flashing yellow, amber, white or red lights, to change lanes or reduce their speed to a reasonable and proper speed below the posted speed limit.

Any motorist who does not change lanes or drop their speed to avoid the utility workers can be fined up to $250 per incident.  The new bill, effective July 1, applies to all types of utility workers, including electric, natural gas, cable and telecommunications workers, right-of-way crews or utility contractors.

“The Honorable Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Access Act” affords patients with advanced stage four metatastic cancer greater access to more aggressive treatment options under their health insurance plans.

The DeKalb County Commission voted to approve a proposal by Commissioner Nancy Jester (R-Dunwoody) to hold three meetings a year at 5:30 p.m. at various locations across the county with public comment time at 6:30 p.m. Jester would like to expand that to eventually require at least one evening meeting per month.

Andy Miller of reports that UnitedHealthcare and Piedmont Healthcare failed to renew their agreement, which could affect some consumers.

The dispute is largely over reimbursement rates. Minnesota-based UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest health insurer, said in early June that “Piedmont Healthcare wants to raise the cost of care at its hospital by nearly 30 percent over the next three years.” Local businesses can’t absorb such big cost increases, United said.

Piedmont’s chief operating officer, Greg Hurst, told GHN that United’s assertion about rates was not accurate. He said Piedmont was asking for single-digit rate increases annually.

He added that United appears to have a pattern nationally of letting hospital systems go out of network. Piedmont said in a press release this week that it urges United “to engage in good-faith negotiations with us to reach a fair and equitable agreement that allows members of our community in-network access to Piedmont facilities and the Piedmont Clinic physicians that they know and trust.”

The Newnan Times-Herald looks at how this might affect families.

“I’m especially distraught about possibly having to end the relationship my four children have developed with the pediatrician that has cared for them their whole lives,” Preston said.

Negotiations between hospital company Piedmont Healthcare and insurer UnitedHealthcare regarding in-network services continue to both plague and disappoint Piedmont patients and, according to a representative of the nearby Piedmont Newnan Hospital, officials are expecting a less-than-ideal outcome.

As if choosing health insurance wasn’t tricky enough, now patients may be forced to either keep the doctor they like and pay out-of-pocket expenses or giving up their doctor to save money.

“As a result [of the contract ending], Piedmont facilities and Piedmont Clinic physicians will be out-of-network for United commercial healthcare plans members,” the Piedmont official added.

“Our patients with a United commercial health plan can continue receiving care with their Piedmont Clinic physicians,” the Piedmont Newnan spokesperson explained. “However, United’s unwillingness to negotiate a new agreement means patients may be forced to pay higher out-of-pocket costs for care.”

LaGrange Interim City Manager Meg Kelsey is the finalist for the permanent City Manager position. Meanwhile, the City Council and Mayor finalized a $106 million dollar budget for FY 2017.

Third Congressional District

The Fayette County News reports that Mike Crane, who was the only candidate to show up, met an enthusiastic audience of supporters at what was advertised as a forum hosted by the Fayette County Republican Party.

The Fayette County Republican Party hosted an enthusiastic candidate forum Monday night in advance of the July 26 Primary Election Runoff, for which early voting starts Tuesday, July 5, but one could have almost heard “America the Beautiful” playing in the background as Third District congressional candidate Mike Crane took the stage in the absence of his opponent Drew Ferguson.

The forum’s format included asking both candidates in each contest the same questions and giving them a certain time in which to respond. As Ferguson, former mayor of West Point, did not attend Monday’s event, Crane, a sitting State Senator from Coweta County, had the floor to himself, and he used the opportunity to talk about his priorities should he win the Third District seat.

It was Crane’s closing comments that closed the forum Monday night, but he was preceded by incumbent 73rd District State Representative John Yates (R-Griffin) and his challenger Karen Mathiak (R-Griffin). The winner of that Republican runoff will face Rahim Talley (D-Hampton) in the fall.

The first forum panelists Monday were Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney candidates Ben Coker from Thomaston, an 11-year assistant district attorney in the circuit, and Tyrone resident Rudjard Hayes, a former assistant district attorney who is now a criminal defense attorney.

During that first portion of the forum, Hayes several times said he was more suited to be district attorney because of his “maturity,” saying he would rather call it maturity than age. Coker refuted the notion, saying 11 years as an assistant district attorney has matured him.

Another forum July 7 at the Callaway Conference Center, 220 Fort Drive in LaGrange is expected to feature Crane and his opponent, Drew Ferguson, as well as Troup County school board candidates John Asbell and Cathy Hunt.

Developer the Integral Group is considering a Plan B for the Doraville site formerly home to a GM automotive plant, as the DeKalb County School System continues to resist participating in a Tax Allocation District (TAD).

The more than 160-acre property has been called by state and local leaders one of the most promising redevelopment sites in the Southeast, but its future has been in limbo for months after the DeKalb County school board decided not to take part in a tax allocation district or TAD.

Doraville and DeKalb County signed on to the TAD, but the school board declined to take a vote on the matter. Backers of the project, known as Assembly, say a TAD with all three jurisdictions on board would be sufficient to fund about $180 million in new infrastructure, including a street grid and a covered road to the MARTA station for a project aiming to create a new downtown for Doraville.

It’s possible a different arrangement, such as a tax abatement from a local development authority, could reduce or eliminate property tax revenue generated for the local governments and schools. And in that case the schools might not have a say in the matter. Those tax breaks could then be used by the developer to seek financing for site improvements.


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for June 30, 2016


Sadie is a 2-month old female Dachshund and Chihuahua mix puppy who is available for adoption from Rescue Me Ga, Inc. in Dunwoody, GA.


Spike is a 2-month old male Dachshund and Chihuahua mix puppy who is available for adoption from Rescue Me Ga, Inc. in Dunwoody, GA.


Sydney is a 2-month old female Dachshund and Chihuahua mix puppy who is available for adoption from Rescue Me Ga Inc in Dunwoody, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 30, 2016

On June 30, 1665, England’s King Charles signed a royal charter for Carolina, defining its southern border and also claiming all land in what is now Georgia.

On June 30, 1775, the Continental Congress passed the Articles of War, laying out complaints against Britain’s Parliament.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

Today could well be called Intermodal Transportation History Day in Georgia. The first four-lane highway in Georgia was announced on June 30, 1937 from Atlanta to Marietta. The first C5 air flight took place from Dobbins in Marietta on June 30, 1968 and MARTA rail service began on June 30, 1979.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell first went on sale on June 30, 1936; on June 30, 1986, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating Margaret Mitchell.

Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics #1 on June 30, 1938.

Ohio became the 39th state to ratify the 26th Amendment on June 30, 1971, lowering the voting age to 18.

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was released on June 30, 1989. Lee was born in Atlanta and graduated from Morehouse College.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

In a sweet piece of judicial jiu-jitsu, a federal judge held that Georgia can continue requiring proof of citizenship for people applying to vote. Here’s the best quote:

Judge Richard J. Leon said that while it may be an inconvenience to require proof of citizenship, and voter registration drives may have to do more work to get folks signed up, it’s not an insurmountable burden — and certainly less so than trying to explain Obamacare.

“The organizational plaintiffs and their members will undoubtedly have to expend some additional time and effort to help individuals,” Judge Leon wrote. “But let’s be candid: doing so pales in comparison to explaining to the average citizen how the [Affordable Care Act] or tax code works!”

Latino voter registration is rising in Hall County, according to the Gainesville Times,

Nearly 800 Latinos in Hall joined the voter rolls between October and April, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Of 81,535 active voters in Hall in 2014, just 3,822 were Latinos.

This year, however, there are already 4,552 active Latinos among 81,204 total voters in the county, according to Hall Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee.

“There is a big increase of the Latino vote happening statewide and locally, which is outpacing other demographic groups,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. “As we get closer to the voter registration deadline, we will see an unprecedented spike in Latino voter registration and engagement.”

Across Georgia, more than 16,000 Latinos registered to vote since October, marking a 20 percent increase statewide. Hall trails only Gwinnett, Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties in the number of new Latino voters registered. Forsyth County, meanwhile, reports having 360 new Latino voters on its rolls this election cycle.

Latinos make up 2.1 percent of the Georgia’s 4.9 million voters, while whites account for 58.2 percent and African-Americans 29.3 percent.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle writes about the upcoming fight over the Constitutional Amendment to create the Opportunity School District.

Gov. Nathan Deal appealed to Atlanta’s business community Monday to help build support for a referendum this fall on a proposal to let the state take over chronically failing schools.

The National Education Association is preparing to spend $1.5 million on an ad campaign opposing a constitutional amendment passed by the General Assembly last year, Deal told members of the Atlanta Rotary Club.

“I don’t understand why people are satisfied with a status quo of chronically under-performing schools,” the governor said. “It is not a power grab by me, as they will argue. … It is a critical step for us to change the dynamics of our education system.”

If voters ratify the constitutional change in November, the state would be permitted to intervene in schools that score below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) for three straight years. Such persistent failure would put those schools under the supervision of a statewide “opportunity” school district that would operate them through the governor’s office.

A bipartisan group of state legislators met to lay the groundwork for a Convention of the States to amend the United States Constitution. From the Gainesville Times,

Article V of the U.S. Constitution authorizes 34 states to call a convention for proposing amendments to the Constitution.

Once the convention is called, delegates — or commissioners, as they would be called — from each state would propose, discuss and vote on constitutional amendments. Approved amendments would go back to the states for ratification.

For an amendment to become part of the Constitution, it must be ratified by 38 states.

“I believe the founders of our great republic gave direct responsibility to the state legislatures in our Constitution because they knew there would come a time when the federal government would need to be reined in,” Rep. Tim Barr, R-Lawrenceville, said.

However, no such convention has ever been held in the history of the country, and the Constitution provides no specifics for how the convention should be conducted.

Barr was among some 60 members of the Assembly of State Legislatures, representing 30 states, who attended a recent meeting at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Berrien County Sheriff Anthony Heath has been removed from office after pleading guilty to violating the civil rights of two individuals who had been arrested.

County officials said Heath was removed from office following the guilty plea and Chief Deputy Ray Paulk was appointed as sheriff until the November election.

Prosecutors said Heath kicked [one arrestee] in the ribs, punched him in the head with a closed fist multiple times and forcefully kneed him in the ribs multiple times.

During a separate incident, on Oct. 1, 2014, prosecutors said Heath repeatedly punched and kicked an arrestee … even though the man surrendered, laid down on the ground and did not attempt to flee or threaten anyone at any point after his arrest.

State Rep. Kevin Cooke (R-Carrollton) has endorsed Mike Crane for Congress in the Third District.

“Mike Crane is a perfect example of someone who stands on principle over politics,” Cooke said in a statement released by the Crane camp. “During my time with Mike in the General Assembly I saw this man fight daily to preserve our liberties and freedoms. In order to restore our great republic we must send leaders who are proven in these areas. That’s why I’m casting my vote for Mike Crane.”

Crane is facing former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson in a July 26 Republican primary runoff election to succeed incumbent U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.

In the South Georgia Judicial Circuit – covering Baker, Calhoun, Decatur, Grady, and Mitchell counties – Heather Lanier has received endorsements from two former Dougherty County District Attorneys.

A different type of endorsement came for Amanda Jones-Holbrooks, a candidate in the runoff for Lumpkin County Coroner. A judge signed a warrant for her arrest on a forgery charge.

On June 1st, Holbrook’s ex-husband Ricky Edmondson Jr. filed a report with Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office alleging Holbrooks had filed a Quit Claim Deed for a piece of property owned by him with the Lumpkin County Clerk of Courts. Mr. Edmondson further stated his signature on the Quit Claim Deed had been forged by Ms. Holbrooks.

Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division along with Lumpkin County District Attorney’s office investigated the allegation and determined there to be sufficient probable cause to seek formal charges.

Today, Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office applied for and received an arrest warrant for Ms. Holbrooks, charging her with first degree forgery, a felony.

Legal fees in a lawsuit by Columbus elected officials over the city/county budget have reached $3.26 million dollars, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Sheriff John Darr’s attorneys in his lawsuit against the city have submitted affidavits seeking more than $326,000 in attorney fees for December through June.

The fees bring the total taxpayer bills for lawsuits filed by Darr, Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce, Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop to over $2.8 million.

The four elected officials filed lawsuits in November 2014 saying the Consolidated Government underfunds their offices and the method by which the city formulates the budget violates the city charter, if not the state constitution. Darr and Pierce filed individual lawsuits. Countryman and Bishop co-filed one suit.

The suits name the city of Columbus, members of Columbus Council, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and several of the city’s executive leadership.

Countryman-Creighton Bishop suit and Pierce’s suit are currently in Superior Court in the discovery phase, after having been to the State Court of appeals and State Supreme Court, respectively, on unsuccessful attempts by the city to have them dismissed. What remains of Darr’s case is also in Superior Court, but the majority of it was recently dismissed by Superior Court Judge Philip Raymond.

A report on results of a 2010 settlement between the State of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Justice examines how Georgia is serving people with mental illness and finds the state coming up short.

[T]he independent reviewer, Jones, says in her June 20 report, “At this time, as a result of the lack of inclusion of individuals exiting most jails, all of the state’s correctional institutions and state/private psychiatric hospitals, the [Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities] has not demonstrated that it has met the threshold requirement of identifying the need for supported housing for the target population.”

A spokeswoman for DBHDD, Angelyn Dionysatos, said in an email statement to GHN last week that “we highly value the reflections and recommendations offered by the independent reviewer and her experts. Their thoughtful work will continue to inform our planning as we embark on the next phase of our strategic transformation, which will position us to fulfill the obligations expressed in the extension agreement that was signed in May.”

Richard Dunn has been appointed Director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The Forsyth County Commission is considering a FY2017 budget that retains the current millage rate, and will result in property tax increases for owners of property that has been assessed at a higher value.

A news release from the county states that because of growth in the tax digest, leaving millage rates as is will generate property tax revenue of 1.89 percent more than a rollback, or revenue-neutral, rate would.

Three public hearings are scheduled on the rate next month.  Commissioners are scheduled to adopt a millage rate at 7:00 p.m. July 21, following the final hearing.

The Gwinnett County Commission approved a resolution supporting redevelopment at Infinite Energy Center.

The [Explore Gwinnett] tourism group has developed a master plan for the center that calls for development of what is now parking lots with parking decks and an entertainment district with restaurants and a small theater around the center. The goal is to create an atmosphere where people who visit the center for events can “come early and stay late.”

County officials peg the center’s annual economic effect at more than $175 million.

“We are excited about the master plan that’s being put forward and we wanted to do something that officially endorsed that plan,” commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said before the vote was taken.

Another part of the master plan, however, is the full-service Marriott hotel slated to be built between the conference center and the arena. Other parts of the plan include adding an outdoor green space with an amphitheater and expanding the conference space and the arena’s seating capacity.

Finally, a letter to the editor in the Valdosta Daily Times thanks Senator Johnny Isakson and his staff for helping a citizen get benefits approved through the Veterans Administration.


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for June 29, 2016


Chipper is a young male Dachshund & Yorkshire Terrier Mix who is available for adoption from Heart of Georgia Humane Society in Macon, GA.

Chipper is a happy playful young dog who gets along well with other dogs, cats and kids.


Bailey is a two-year old female Dachshund and Chihuahua mix who is available for adoption from Heart of Georgia Humane Society in Macon, GA.

Bailey is a sweet little girl. She’s lived life on her own for a while and is still learning what it means to be a pet. She loves to play with other dogs.


Stella is a young Brindle-coated female Dachshund mix puppy who is available for adoption from Heart of Georgia Humane Society in Macon, GA.

Stella is a goofy high energy dachshund mix puppy. She requires a fenced in yard but should be a mostly inside dog.

CPR PuppyMobileLogo

Coastal Pet Rescue in Savannah needs your help to get their Puppymobile back on the road after transmission problems sidelined it.

The Puppymobile has given countless dogs and cats their ride away from high-kill shelters in coastal and south Georgia, as well as bringing supplies on a regular basis.

Click here to make an online donation to help them get back on the road.



Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 29, 2016

On June 29, 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sailed from Cadiz, Spain to invade Florida.

Johan De Kalb was born on June 29, 1721 in Germany. In 1777, De Kalb joined the Marquis de Lafayette in supporting the Americans against British forces, dying in Camden, South Carolina in 1780. In 1822, the Georgia General Assembly created DeKalb County.

On June 29, 1767, the British Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, levying a tax on glass, paint, oil, lead, paper, and tea in order to raise funds from the colonies.

The United States Supreme Court released its 5-4 opinion in Furman v. Georgia on June 29, 1972, holding that the death penalty violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

On June 29, 1993, Governor Zell Miller bought the first ticket in the Georgia Lottery.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Among the laws going into effect on July 1, 2016 are new restrictions on fireworks. From the Savannah Morning News,

The use of fireworks are more regulated that this time last year. It’s lawful to use fireworks only between 10:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on most days of the year. The only exceptions are July 3 and July 4 and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 when the deadline is extended until 1 :00 a.m. Chinese Lantern- styled fireworks and fireworks that float on water are prohibited in Georgia.

Although its legal to purchase fireworks in Georgia, a person can only light fireworks on property that the individual owns. That prohibits people from setting off fireworks in apartment complexes, public roads, parks or recreational areas, said Savannah-Chatham Police Lt. David Owens.

Under the new law it is also illegal to use fireworks within 100 yards of any public use air facility, 100 yards of a hospital, nursing home or other health care facility, and within 100 yards of any jail or prison.

11Alive gives a different end time for fireworks on July 3 and 4 and notes that impaired individuals shouldn’t be monkeying with fireworks.

Fireworks can be set off until midnight on July 3rd and 4th. Those are special provisions for the 4th of July holiday. That deadline is 1:00 am for New Year’s Eve. Every other day of the year, the hours are restricted to allow fireworks between 10:00 am and 9:00 pm. Local governments are allowed to pass ordinances that extend those limits.

It’s illegal to use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol or if you’re under the age of 18. The law doesn’t set a specific BAC, but sets the limit at “where a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that it is unsafe for such person to use or explode fireworks”. Under the law, 16 and 17-year-old can transport fireworks is working for a licensed fireworks distributor, but only those 18 and older can ignite fireworks. And no one under the age of 16 is allowed to possess consumer fireworks.

Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner Ralph Hudgens also gave some safety tips for the use of fireworks.

Last year, when the use of such fireworks had just become legal, there were 59 fireworks-related incidents across Georgia, according to the Department of Insurance.

“The safest way to enjoy fireworks, is to attend a public fireworks display,” Hudgens said in a statement. “Each year in the U.S., around 8,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries.”

Randy Evans says that Newt Gingrich has a 1 in 3 chance of being Trump’s running mate in the VP slot, according to the AJC Political Insider.Continue Reading..


Adoptable Georgia Dogs for June 28, 2016


Batman is a young male Labrador Retriever & American Bulldog Mix puppy who is available for adoption from Animal Ark in Columbus, GA.

Bat Girl

Batgirl is a young female Labrador Retriever & American Bulldog Mix puppy who is available for adoption from Animal Ark in Columbus, GA.


Chauncey is an American Bulldog & Labrador Retriever Mix male puppy who is available for adoption from Animal Ark in Columbus, GA.


Zailey is a little female Hound mix puppy who is available for adoption from Animal Ark in Columbus, GA.

Joe Wilkinson Georgia Pet Coalition

Yesterday, State Rep. Joe Wilkinson received an award from the Georgia Pet Coalition for his work to make the Adoptable Dog the Official State Dog of Georgia.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 28, 2016

On June 28, 1742, Spanish forces based in Florida invaded Georgia.

On June 28, 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s second draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On June 28, 1887, John Pemberton patented Coca-Cola Syrup and Extract.

Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia on June 28, 1914, sparking the First World War.

The first production Corvette was assembled on June 28, 1953 in Flint, Michigan.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Columbus attorney Mike Garner has abandoned his effort to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot for Muscogee Superior Court Clerk, instead running as a write-in candidate.

The law states that candidates who want to run as independents must gather and submit petitions signed by enough voters to equal 5 percent of those registered during the last election. In this case, that would be 5,226 signatures, and they would have to be submitted by July 12.

“Mike Garner therefore has abandoned his effort to obtain signatures and will instead mount a vigorous campaign to tine the election for clerk by write-in vote,” Garner’s release states.

Hardman defeated incumbent Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce in the May 24 Democratic Party primary, 6,699 to 4,480.

Sheriff John Darr, … will face Democratic nominee Donna Tompkins and Republican nominee Mark LaJoye in the November election. Darr will run as an independent, but as an incumbent, he does not have to gather any signatures to do so.

Holly Springs City Council member Dee Phillips is facing a recall petition that seeks to remove her from office.

A group of residents aiming to have a longtime city council member recalled have received enough signatures to begin the petition process, the elections office confirmed Friday.

The Holly Springs residents, led by Chris Heeter, are looking to have Dee Phillips removed from her seat on the Holly Springs City Council.

Phillips has been councilwoman for more than 16 years. She was initially elected in 1999, and took office at the beginning of 2000.

Heeter will need to obtain the signatures of 30 percent of the city’s registered voters. That means the group will need 1,438 signatures, [Elections Director Kim] Stancil said.

Another Columbus attorney, Walker Garrett, won his election on May 24th and was interviewed last week by the Ledger-Enquirer.

Q: There are other young people who have been trying to win elections here in Columbus that have not been as successful. What’s your advice to them?

A: Keep running. Mine was an open seat. I don’t think you can use that as the benchmark, because my opponent was also young, and we were both political newcomers. There’s no telling what would have happened if I had run against an incumbent.

I did work really hard. You’ve got to put in the man hours. You have to go door-to-door. It’s an unfortunate reality that raising money is integral to any campaign these days. Advertising is necessary. You’ve got to build up that network. You don’t want to be discouraged from running, but you also want to make sure you’re ready and that you have the network in place, because you’re going to have to have volunteers. Your employers have to be on board….

Q: You were in a unique situation where you actually won two elections in one night. That’s very interesting. What was that like?

A: It made counting the ballots really hard when you’re going up and counting the ticker tape and you’re on there twice, and other people are behind you. I think somebody from the Ledger was actually over there. They were trying to count. I was trying to count two different elections. … It was scary, though, because I was worried maybe people would get confused and they’ll think I shouldn’t vote for him but once.

Fortunately, in every forum, whenever I went door-to-door, and when I did my mailers, I was very clear: “I’m going to be on the ballot twice, check twice,” and I really got that out to the voters.

Muscogee County School Board adopted a $274 million dollar FY2017 budget by a 7-2 vote with Frank Myers and John Thomas voting against it.

The Cherokee County Commission is considering a FY2017 budget that would include a property tax increase.

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to advertise a millage rate of 5.825 to support its general fund for the upcoming year, which would mean the majority of Cherokee homeowners will likely see property taxes increase.

However, commissioners could end up voting on a lower rate, but all plans under consideration include some tax increase for property owners.

While an official rate has not been set, the county is required to advertise its proposed rate and will hold three public hearings before approving the hike next month.

Those meetings are scheduled for July 5, July 19 and July 21. County officials say the public is typically interested in those meetings and that they generally see large turnouts.

A study by Georgia State found that charter schools approved by the State Charter Schools Commission are performing about on par with traditionally-structured schools.

The City of Atlanta has submitted proposals for addressing 60 issues with the streetcar that were raised by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The Sugarloaf Community Improvement District has been formed in Gwinnett County.

A certificate of need has been approved for a new mental hospital in Newnan.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC writes about a potential expansion of Medicaid in the 2017 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Powerful business interests have endorsed an expansion, setting up another potential fight between the Republican base and the corporate forces that led to the downfall of “religious liberty” legislation this year. Politicians won’t have an election looming in 2017. And it will come as lawmakers prepare for a brutal debate over whether to extend a tax that plugs a gaping hole in the state Medicaid system.

“I just think lawmakers are weary of searching around and digging in the trenches for other money. We’ve got this pot of money here that’s ready to be tapped,” said state Sen. Renee Unterman, who once opposed expansion but has changed her mind. “And if we don’t, how many other issues are going by the wayside? To me, that’s the shame.”

Unterman, the chairwoman of the Senate’s health committee, is working with a handful of other Republicans to gather steam behind the initiative next year. Some are new converts to the cause, frustrated with the financial struggles of rural hospitals and trauma centers. Others bucked the party line years ago to endorse an expansion.

“I just think lawmakers are weary of searching around and digging in the trenches for other money. We’ve got this pot of money here that’s ready to be tapped,” said state Sen. Renee Unterman, who once opposed expansion but has changed her mind. “And if we don’t, how many other issues are going by the wayside? To me, that’s the shame.”

Unterman, the chairwoman of the Senate’s health committee, is working with a handful of other Republicans to gather steam behind the initiative next year. Some are new converts to the cause, frustrated with the financial struggles of rural hospitals and trauma centers. Others bucked the party line years ago to endorse an expansion.

State Rep. David Stover, R-Newnan, echoed a familiar complaint that the White House’s promise to subsidize the program can’t be depended upon in the long term. The law requires the federal government to cover 100 percent of the cost for three years and then gradually scale back its support to a permanent level of 90 percent.

“The gridlock in D.C. is the exact reason that we should not expand Medicaid in Georgia,” he said, adding: “Who will have to pick up the slack for the cuts once Medicaid has been expanded? Quite simply, the states will.”

“I still have the same concerns. And you won’t see anyone advocating a wholesale Medicaid expansion,” Deal said in an interview. “But I do think there will be variations that will be discussed, and I look forward to talking to members of the General Assembly.”

“There are major challenges any time you look to alter a joint federal and state program, and I’m always reluctant when we as a state become more dependent on the federal government with all the uncertainty in Washington,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said. “We are constantly looking at ways to improve our health care system, and Senator Unterman is very knowledgeable in this space and always willing to engage in difficult discussions.”

Heads-up: this will likely be the biggest issue of 2017 in the Georgia legislature, whether it gets the most headlines and airtime or not.

Is the Peach State becoming Gangland?

Earlier this month, Bill Torpy of the AJC did another drive-by column, about the changing appearance of gangs in DeKalb County.

Gangs had invaded DeKalb, we surmised [in spring 2014].

District Attorney Robert James agreed. Police were more skeptical. “We have not seen a big influx of people coming from out of state recruiting,” the gang crime unit commander told me. “We’re not seeing an escalation of violence with gangs.”

Then last summer saw a 10-week period in DeKalb that DA James called a “reign of terror.”

About five years ago, James noticed more violent gang-related crime, something that can eat away the soul of a community.

“You saw an influx of the national gangs and everything changed,” he said. “It was like a hostile takeover” of the home-grown hoodlums. A cop as a gang member is just the cherry on the top.

The question is no longer whether big-time gangs are here.

“That’s a closed issue,” James said. “It’s not up for debate.”

The Ledger-Enquirer has written an editorial about the gang situation in Columbus.

Gang violence is becoming less organized, more diffuse, less bound by any semblance of moral limits even by the perverse standards of criminal “codes.”

In a sense, and on a more localized scale, it seems to present the same kinds of challenges as a nation fighting terror cells instead of armies or other organized and identifiable threats. The enemy is as deadly or deadlier, but harder to spot.

Of the dozen homicides recorded in Columbus as of this writing, most seem to have at least some connection to gang activity. Mayor and public safety chief Teresa Tomlinson said that while these killings aren’t officially designated as gang related, some of the people involved “self-identify themselves as being associated with a gang.”

Sgt. Roderick Graham, who heads the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Columbus PD, said the gang structure is “evolving and changing … no longer do you see 15 kids walking through the neighborhood with the same colors on like you did in the ’80s.”

The Ledger-Enquirer editorial follows a story in the same paper published last week.

As details unfold concerning recent Columbus shootings, a new picture is emerging of the city’s gang culture.

Even a former gang member says there’s a difference in the way young criminals operate these days, and he’s surprised at how cold-blooded some of the crimes have been.

“In my days of being in a gang, you were a gang, you represented your set, your beliefs and what you were about,” said Xavier McCaskey, a certified mental health therapist who ran with gangs as a youth living in the Baker Village public housing complex. “Now, it’s like people are in gangs as individuals; and you’ve got people in the same gang who’ve got beef with other people in the same gang. And ya’ll fighting and beefing. And you got your set homeboys, so it’s cliques within cliques.”

Tomlinson said gangs now operating in the city are very different to those in generations past, and the city has had to adapt to current trends while trying to address the problem.

“I think when people hear gangs, they think of Bloods and Crips and things from the ’80s and the ’90s. That’s not so much what we deal with on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “What we typically have are criminal enterprises, sort of affiliations of opportunity. Individuals who knew each other, either from middle school, high school, perhaps they’re related. Groups of cousins, for instance. People who live in the same neighborhood, and they, through their relationships and affiliations, decide their highest and best use is criminal activity. And they collude and conspire to do a great deal of smash and grabs, break-ins, largely property crimes, drug trafficking, things of that nature.”

The Savannah Morning News looks as the related topic of recidivism among criminals released from prison.

According to State Rep. Jesse Petrea, who is hosting an anti-crime forum this Thursday at 6 p.m. at Calvary Baptist Temple, 86 parolees who were released from state prisons since Jan. 29 this year have been re-arrested for committing crimes in Chatham County.

And if Chatham County has experienced such a large number, it makes you wonder what the trend looks like for other Georgia counties.

Unfortunately, the state is making it Chatham County’s problem by opening the flood gates of parole and dumping more violence-prone individuals into our community.

While two-term Republican Gov. Nathan Deal generally rates high marks for his criminal justice reform efforts, aimed at rehabilitating those who have been locked up in expensive state prisons for drug-related and non-violent offenses, the governor should worry that some of his efforts are having unintended consequences, when violent offenders are released and are committing more crimes.

[T]he state must hold off on sending so many rotten apples from the prison system to Chatham County.

Finally, the Covington News chimed in about trends in Newton County.

For the most part, there has been little evidence of gang activity in Newton County, according to local law enforcement. However, in March of 2015, eight alleged members of the Ghost-Faced Gang, a violent gang thought to be operating out of prisons, were indicted in Newton County Superior Court on three counts of the racketeering influenced corrupt organizations (RICO) act. Three of them were also charged with seven counts of aggravated assault, one count of conspiracy to commit murder and 14 counts of criminal street gang related acts.

In May of 2016, 32 members of Gangster Disciples were federally indicted on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) charges. One of those charged was Conyers resident Charles Wingate, who allegedly served as chief of security for a Covington group.

Crum said the NCSO has a Crime Suppression Unit with five deputies who do intelligence and statistical gathering to predict where gang activity may be happening. “We’ll send in patrols, see who’s hanging out on the corner, try to get in the community and parents involved,” he said.

“It’s a misnomer to say you can prevent [gang activity],” said Sgt. James Fountain of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO). “What we do is monitor gang activity. We try to track if there’s someone who’s showing signs of gang activity.”

“Gang activity is so evolving, you have to keep up,” he said. In addition to courses, officers read materials as they are published, research online and take part in an association that meets once a month to discuss gang investigation.


Candidates may be on hook for private club memberships

Last week I noted that a case before the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission might leave some candidates on the hook to reimburse their campaign for past payments to private clubs. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story I cited,

State officials have put Georgia politicians on notice: You can’t spend campaign funds at business clubs and similar organizations unless it’s for legitimate election expenses.

The notice came in a civil case against former Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards, who admitted misspending $13,836 at the Commerce Club in Atlanta. Under a settlement approved by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission Thursday, Edwards agreed to repay his campaign that amount or donate it to a charity.

Commission attorney Robert Lane told the board the ruling would come as a surprise to many politicians, who he said routinely spend campaign cash on memberships and expenses at business clubs, chambers of commerce and similar organizations.

“This will cause a lot of consternation among elected officials,” Lane said. “A lot of them do it.”

Continue Reading..