The blog.

11
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 11, 2017

On July 11, 1782, British colonists including British Royal Governor Sir James Wright, fled Georgia.

Wright had been the only colonial governor and Georgia the only colony to successfully implement the Stamp Act in 1765. As revolutionary fervor grew elsewhere in the colonies, Georgia remained the most loyal colony, declining to send delegates to the Continental Congress in 1774.

Congress ordered the creation of the United States Marine Corps on July 11, 1798, after the Corps was inactive for a period following the Revolutionary War. From 1799 to 1921, Marine Corps Day was observed on July 11, but is now celebrated on November 10, the date of it’s Revolutionary War establishment.

On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. Burr was the sitting Vice President of the United States and Hamilton a former Secretary of the Treasury.

After he shot Hamilton, Aaron Burr quickly fled the nation’s capitol, making his way to St. Simons Island, Georgia, spending a month as a guest of Pierce Butler at Hampton Plantation.

Burr was a fugitive, but his killing Hamilton in a duel held a certain justifiable reasoning since dueling was not illegal, though morally questionable, to be sure. According to H. S. Parmet and M. B. Hecht in their Aaron Burr: Portrait of an Ambitious Man, after the duel, he immediately completed, by mid-August, plans which he had already initiated, to go to St. Simons, “an island off the coast of Georgia, one mile below the town of Darien.”

Jonathan Daniels’ “Ordeal of Ambition” handles the situation this way: “With Samuel Swartwout and a slave named Peter (‘the most intelligent and best disposed black I have ever known’), Burr secretly embarked for Georgia. There on St. Simons Island at the Hampton Plantation of his friend, rich former Senator Pierce Butler, he found refuge…” As Georgia Historian Bernice McCullar, author of “Georgia” puts it, Burr was “fleeing the ghost of Alexander Hamilton” when he arrived on the Georgia island.

“Major Pierce Butler,” she relates, “had fought in the British army and remained in America after the war.” He had married a South Carolina heiress, Miss Polly Middleton, and acquired two Georgia Coastal plantations, which he ran like a general storming after the troops. In fact, he was so strict that none of his slaves could associate with any of the others. He also required anyone who visited his plantations to give his or her name at the gate. With this tight security, Burr should have felt safe..

Actually, Butler’s invitation to visit the island fitted the escapee’s plans nicely. Not only was the Hamilton affair a bother, but also Burr needed to get away from a lady by the name of Celeste; however, the real reason, aside from being near his daughter, who was also in the South, was the nearness of the Floridas. No real purpose is given why the Vice-President wanted to spend “five or six weeks on this hazardous and arduous undertaking.”

Daniels underscores that from this St. Simons point Burr could “make any forays into Florida he wished to make. He traveled under the name ‘Roswell King.” After his Florida odyssey, he planned to meet his South Carolina son-in-law “at any healthy point.”

Parts of the Hampton Plantation survive in the form of tabby ruins on St Simons.

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0549 copy

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0524 copy

A house in St. Marys, Georgia bears a plaque stating that Aaron Burr visited there in 1804.

Clark lived in the home from 1804 until his death in 1848. He was appointed in 1807 by then-President Thomas Jefferson as customs collector for the Port of St. Marys, a position he held until his death. The year Clark bought the house, he is said to have provided a temporary hideout to Aaron Burr, who was traveling in the South to evade federal authorities holding a warrant for his arrest after he killed Alexander Hamilton in their infamous duel in July 1804.

Verification of Burr’s stay in St. Marys is hard to come by. But it is confirmed that he stayed on St. Simons Island and Cumberland Island late in the summer after he killed Hamilton. That Burr knew Clark is not disputed. The two attended law school together in Litchfield, Conn., but there is no mention in either man’s records that Burr stayed in the home.

St Marys Aaron Burr Plaque TMR_1465

Aaron Burr House St Marys GA Front Side TMR_1470

Aaron Burr House St Marys GA Front

On July 11, 1877, a Constitutional Convention convened in the Kimball Opera House in Atlanta to replace the 1868 Reconstruction Constitution.

On July 11, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act, establishing a federal program of paying for highway development.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the Democratic nomination for a fourth term on July 11, 1944.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was nominated for President by the Republican National Convention on July 11, 1952.

July 11, 1969 was an epic day in rock and roll history, with David Bowie releasing “Space Oddity” and the Rolling Stones releasing “Honky Tonk Women.”

On July 11, 1985, Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan became the first major league player to strike out 4000 batters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today’s “Oops!” moment comes from the Patrick Morrisey campaign for United States Senate from West Virginia. Look for it starting at :57.

The news of the day is campaign contribution disclosures, which were due yesterday.

Governor Raised Cash on hand
Hunter Hill (R) 1,148,529.59 928,444.92
Brian Kemp (R) 1,710,592.00 1,523,900.80
Casey Cagle (R) 2,659,044.40 2,515,178.04
Michael Williams (R) 1,051,831.12 944,024.47 includes $1 million loan
Stacey Abrams (D) 541,758.45 222,468.01
Stacey Evans (D) 415,319.93 365,825.43
Rod Mack (D) DNF DNF
Lieutenant Governor Raised Cash on hand
David Shafer (R) 900,121.36 895,681.82
Geoff Duncan (R) 329,570.00 304,949.18  includes $100k loan
Rick Jeffares (R) 355,575.00 349,061.59
Secretary of State Raised Cash on hand
Buzz Brockway (R) 60,522.80 54,976.10
Brad Raffensperfer (R) 93,610.00 81,921.38 includes $75k loan
David Belle Isle (R) 291,625.00 279,667.07
Rakeim J. “RJ” Hadley (D) 4,050.00 200.00

 

Michael Williams loaned his campaign $1 million, LG candidate Geoff Duncan loaned his campaign $100k, while Brad Reffensperger loaned his $75k.

State Senator Josh McKoon is not included in the above tables because he filed paperwork to raise money after the cut-off date, and thus had no disclosure due. No one else is excluded unless they aren’t taking the steps necessary to actually run for office.

The AJC Political Insider writes that the gubernatorial contest could shape up to be the most expensive in Georgia history, with more than $7.4 million raised or loaned so far.

From the Gainesville Times:

Both Cagle and Kemp broke the previous fundraising record for the first reporting period, already showing the high stakes of the race among Republicans to replace Gov. Nathan Deal. Monday is the first reporting deadline for gubernatorial candidates.

“The level of financial support we have received is immensely humbling and encouraging,” Cagle said in his Monday announcement.

Cagle, who has been lieutenant governor since 2007, has struck a more moderate conservative tone within the GOP primary and has courted metropolitan voters in Atlanta in addition to mainstream conservatives.

State Senator David Shafer, the front-runner in the race for Lieutenant Governor, gave away a million dollars previously raised for his senate campaign.

On Monday, a Republican political action committee reported it had gotten $1.025 million in leftover campaign money from Shafer’s state Senate account.

Under Georgia law, candidates can’t raise money for one office and then use it to run for another. So Shafer couldn’t directly spend his leftover state Senate money in his lieutenant governor’s race.

The Republican Leadership Fund PAC, headed by longtime party activist and statehouse lobbyist Don Bolia, can use what it raises to help support GOP candidates in next year’s election, including Shafer.

It has raised $8,000 so far this year from sources other than Shafer.

Before Shafer’s Senate campaign contribution to the PAC, it had $188,000 in the bank. It now has $1.2 million.

The money quote on Shafer’s fundraising haul comes from John Isakson, Jr, his campaign chair.

“Other than my father, I haven’t seen anyone work this hard or be this focused in a campaign,” said Isakson.

Shafer, the Senate’s pro tem, has racked up endorsements from GOP mega-donor Bernie Marcus, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens and all five members of the Public Service Commission in an effort to establish himself as the front-runner.

Congratulations to Ashley Jenkins, who will serve as District Director for Congresswoman Karen Handel.

Governor Nathan Deal announced that the film and video industry has added $9.5 billion to Georgia’s economy.

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia-lensed feature film and television productions generated an economic impact of $9.5 billion during FY 2017. The 320 feature film and television productions shot in Georgia represent $2.7 billion in direct spending in the state.

“Georgia’s film industry supports thousands of jobs, boosts small business growth and expands offerings for tourists,” said Deal. “As one of the top places in the world for film, Georgia hosted a remarkable 320 film and television productions during the last fiscal year. These productions mean new economic opportunities and real investments in local communities. We are committed to further establishing Georgia as a top film destination and introducing film companies to the Camera Ready backdrops available across Georgia.”

In addition to the increase in production expenditures, Georgia has experienced significant infrastructure growth with multiple announcements in FY 2017, including the announcement of Three Ring Studios in Covington. With this additional infrastructure, Georgia can accommodate larger tentpole productions with more capacity for multiple film projects.

“Literally hundreds of new businesses have relocated or expanded in Georgia to support this burgeoning industry – creating jobs for Georgians as well as economic opportunities for communities and small businesses,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Although these support services companies cannot claim the tax credits, they directly benefit from the increased amount of work in the state, and the fact that the savings from the Film Tax Credit are typically re-invested in the project, creating additional economic impact and activity for these Georgia-based businesses.”

The economic impact of the film industry can be felt across multiple sectors. In addition to camera, lighting and audio equipment, film companies use a wide range of support services during production including catering, construction, transportation, accounting and payroll and post-production.

“Georgia’s growth in the film industry – from $67.7 million in direct spending in FY 2007 to $2.7 billion in FY 2017 – is unprecedented, not only in production spend, but also in the amount of investment that has been made in infrastructure,” said Lee Thomas, GDEcD deputy commissioner for the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office. “The unwavering commitment to this industry by Governor Deal and the Georgia legislature has ensured Georgia’s place as a top destination for film and television.”

In 2017, the GDEcD Film and Tourism divisions partnered to celebrate the “Year of Georgia Film” to highlight Georgia’s film tourism sites, including local communities that have served as backdrops for movies and television productions since the 1970s.

Cobb County residents turned out for a hearing on a proposed property tax hike.

ix community members addressed Boyce and county commissioners during Monday’s hearing, the first of three scheduled in front of the entire board before commissioners vote on the property tax rate. Boyce is proposing an increase of 0.13 mills, which would amount to an additional $13 in tax on a home valued at $250,000. It comes after the county announced a 6.5 percent jump in Cobb’s tax digest, or the measure of the taxable value of property in the county.

The increase is equivalent to the 0.13-mill cost commissioners were told earlier this year would be needed to fund a portion of the $40 million parks bond approved in 2008. Boyce addressed the need to fund the bond in an 18-minute video shown to the meeting’s estimated three dozen attendees before public comment began.

“If I were you, I’d be ashamed that you showed us boxes of all of those ‘highly important’ things that you say we can’t fund, but right now, you want to put more parks in,” said Loretta Davis, an east Cobb real estate agent. “We can certainly wait a little bit longer for parks, but we already have parks.”

Lance Lamberton, who serves as the chairman of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, said he had hoped to see the county commission follow the lead of Cherokee County, which is considering a full rollback of its millage.

“Even if we were to concede the need for more revenue to fill ‘holes’ in the budget arising from the great recession, a $2.06-billion increase in the tax digest, without even increasing the millage rate, should be more than enough, especially considering that these increases will be realized year after year,” Lamberton said. “To add a millage rate increase on top of that is adding insult to injury.”

Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott said he opposes the proposed tax hike.

Commissioner Bob Ott said he does not believe the commission’s support of the parks bond justifies the millage increase, and says that he would vote against the millage proposal as it currently stands.

“I understand that we committed to the park bond — I just believe there are ways to get to where we need to be without increasing the millage,” Ott said. “I know it’s only 0.13 (mills), but I think the board needs to exercise discipline in spending versus just raising the millage. I don’t believe the board has truly established the spending priorities that the community has and the board has, and I think the board needs to spend this next year after this millage is set determining what these priorities are.”

Gwinnett County Commissioners also heard from taxpayers against a proposed tax increase.

Gwinnett County residents who addressed their Board of Commissioners about a proposed millage rate increase sang a common tune on Monday night.

They were afraid the increase, on top of growth in the county’s property value-based tax digest, would make it hard for them to pay their taxes this fall. The general operations millage rate is increasing from 6.826 to 7.4 mills.

That 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.

“I don’t understand why you have an increased value and now we’re going to get a double whammy with the millage rate going up,” Lilburn resident Lana Berry said. “I just think it is unfair. I think when you sit in your offices, you think — I’m assuming you think — everybody gets an increase every day, that every year we get an increase and can afford it.

“People in Gwinnett are getting older. We can’t afford a millage rate (increase) and an increase in values in the same year.”

In all, five people addressed the board about the proposed increase between the two hearings. One of those people spoke at an early morning hearing while the rest attended an early evening hearing.

Lilburn City Council voted to keep the same property tax millage rate as the previous year.

10
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 10, 2017

Mocha Sylvester

Mocha is a female Weimaraner and Hound mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends Humane Society in Worth County Sylvester, GA.

DionysusSylvester

Dionysus is a male American Bulldog mix puppy who is available for adoption from Best Friends Humane Society in Worth County Sylvester, GA.

GlenSylvester

Glen is a small male Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends Humane Society in Worth County Sylvester, GA.

ChampSylvester

Champ is a male Beagle mix who is available for adoption from Best Friends Humane Society in Worth County Sylvester, GA.

10
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 10, 2017

Millard Fillmore was sworn in as the 13th President of the United States on July 10, 1850, following the death of President Zachary Taylor.

On July 10, 1864, Conferderate forces retreated south across the Chattahoochee and burned the bridge behind them. General Sherman wrote later of the day,

General Garrard Moved rapidly on Roswell, and destroyed the factories which had supplied the rebel armies with cloth for years.

Over General Garrard was then ordered to secure the shallow ford at Roswell and hold it until he could be relieved by infantry, and as I contemplated transferring the Army of the Tennessee from the extreme right to the left, I ordered General Thomas to send a division of his infantry that was nearest up to Roswell to hold the ford until General McPherson could send up a corps from the neighborhood of Nickajack.

General Newton’s division was sent and held the ford until the arrival of General Dodge’s corps, which was soon followed by General McPherson’s whole army.

The Scopes “Monkey Trial” began on July 10, 1925, in which a Tennessee public school teacher was tried for teaching evolution, against state law. Three-time Democratic candidate for President William Jennings Bryan volunteered to help the prosecution, and famed lawyer Clarence Darrow defended John Thomas Scopes.

On July 10, 1985, “Classic“ Coke returned, joining the new formula on store shelves.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games broke ground for Atlanta Olympic Stadium on July 10, 1993; after the Olympics, the stadium was modified for baseball and became Turner Field.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal congratulated Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald on her appointment by President Trump as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and appointed J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., as interim commissioner at the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“I’m proud of my friend and colleague Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, and I am grateful for tireless efforts in promoting the health and well-being of Georgians,” said Deal. “As commissioner, she’s been an asset to our state and an advocate for our citizens. I’m certain she will bring those same qualities to the CDC and lead the federal agency skillfully. I’m confident that Dr. O’Neal’s extensive experience, vast medical knowledge and strong leadership capabilities will allow for a seamless transition. As interim commissioner, Dr. O’Neal will continue promoting the critical work performed by DPH employees, advancing programs throughout the state and collaborating with Georgia’s 159 county health departments and 18 public health districts. I wish Drs. Fitzgerald and O’Neal great success in their new roles and endeavors.”

“I am humbled by the challenges that lie ahead, yet I am confident that the successes we’ve had in Georgia will provide me with a foundation for guiding the work of the CDC,” said Fitzgerald. “The progress we’ve made in Georgia around early brain development, childhood obesity and creating a model for addressing life-threatening epidemics would not have been possible without the full support of Governor Deal and a dedicated public health staff. I look forward to the continued good work of DPH under Dr. O’Neal’s leadership.”

Senator Johnny Isakson spoke to the AJC’s Jim Galloway about efforts to reform federal healthcare laws.

“You have do away with the individual mandate, and then define what the new individual mandate is,” Georgia’s senior senator said.

Put another way: With or without Obamacare, somebody will be telling you and me that we need to purchase health insurance, and that somebody must have the ability to punish us — in the wallet — if we do not.

That’s the price of preserving the ability of those with pre-existing conditions to sign up for health insurance. And that’s a feature of the ACA that Senate Republicans aren’t going ditch. “Getting rid of it ain’t going to happen,” Isakson said.

“We’ve got to make sure we have everybody in the system and paying. That’s the biggest hitch,” Isakson said. “We would have had a deal two weeks ago if [Senate leadership], the insurance industry and the administration could figure out that one problem.”

Isakson can’t accurately be described as a Republican swing vote, but he has his requirements – which I asked him to name.

He wants health insurance policies sold across state lines. He wants the number of essential benefits now mandated by Obamacare reduced, in order to promote diversity in policies offered by insurance companies. A competitive health insurance environment is necessary to make a Republican overhaul work, he maintains.

Isakson knows there’s a balance to be struck here. The greatest sin of Obamacare, the senator said, was the “bronze policy” that offered low premiums, but had such a high deductible that it has been nearly useless. A policy-holder might be protected from the catastrophic costs of cancer, only to be bankrupted by a broken leg.

Hospitals are Isakson’s focus. The Senate Republican drafts so far would curtail the expansion of Medicaid, to the point that Congressional Budget Office scoring says 22 million Americans would lose coverage over the next decade. Gov. Nathan Deal never accepted the federal cash that would have allowed expansion in Georgia, so many state hospitals remain in a precarious financial position – especially in rural portions of the state.

When Obamcare was passed, federal payments to hospitals tasked with heavy loads of charity work – such as Grady Memorial in Atlanta and Memorial Health in Savannah — were to be phased out. Medicaid expansion was to have solved the problem. Those extra payments disappear in four-and-a-half years.

Isakson wants those payments restored — permanently. “America’s not going to be a country that leaves its poor on the doorsteps of hospitals, dying because they can’t get treatment. We’re smart enough to figure something out.

“There’ll be some contribution for hospitals that take on the charity payments, and I think a lot of it will come from not-for-profits,” Isakson said.

The senator was speaking of those hospitals that are public and non-profit in name, but are operated by private management companies that do very well, thank you. We have them here in Georgia, but it’s a national phenomenon.

For the last several years, the Legislature has approved a “bed tax” paid by all Georgia hospitals in order to build a pool of cash that can be used by the state to draw down matching federal Medicaid dollars.

It sounds like Isakson’s thinking of a nationalized version of this.

The Georgia Senate Health Care Reform Task Force, convened by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, meets at Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton today.

Gwinnett County will study transit needs as part of its ongoing Comprehensive Transit Development Plan.

Coweta County Chief Deputy Sheriff James Yarbrough finished a stint with the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchanges (GILEE) peer-to-peer training program in Israel.

The Acworth Board of Alderman approved a local church’s plan to set up small cottages to house freed human trafficking victims.

Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins held a service to send former Governor Sonny Perdue and First Lady Mary Perdue to Washington to preach to the heathens.

When a church sends members out on a mission, it often holds a commissioning ceremony to ask God’s blessings for the trip, but a Warner Robins church on Sunday held a ceremony in recognition of a different kind of mission.

Hundreds of people came to Second Baptist Church for a commissioning service honoring Sonny and Mary Perdue. Sonny Perdue, who served as Georgia governor for eight years, is the new U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

He is a member of the church and his son, Jim Perdue, is pastor. Jim Perdue said the ceremony was held to recognize his parents for the “mission” in which they are embarking to serve the nation.

“A missionary is someone who, while he has everything rolling like it’s supposed to right where he is with his business and family and kids and his grandkids, will pick up and move to Washington to D.C., which we all know needs more missionaries, and be faithful and obedient to God,” Jim Perdue said.

He then asked his parents to come down to the altar, and dozens more family and church members gathered around them as he prayed for them.

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials says that Hispanic voting is on the rise in Georgia.

About 53 percent of Georgia’s Hispanic voters came out for the 2016 presidential election, which was up from 47 percent in 2012, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. Notably, about 73 percent of registered Hispanic women cast a ballot.

Nationally, nearly 48 percent of Hispanic voters participated, which was on par with turnout in 2012.

“Here in Georgia, we saw a dramatic increase, not only adding more voters but more voters actually going to the polls,” said Jerry Gonzalez, the association’s executive director.

Georgia gained more than 60,000 Hispanic voters since 2012, which was an increase of about 25 percent. Hispanics make up nearly 4 percent of the state’s registered voters, or a little more than 244,000 voters, according to the report’s count.

Property Taxes On the Rise

Cobb County Commissioners will hear from citizens on a proposal to raise property taxes by adopting a rate higher than the full rollback rate.

Despite rising property values that have pushed the county tax digest to record levels, no elected bodies in Cobb plan to roll back millage rates, effectively increasing what the county, its six cities and two school districts collect in taxes.

In a double whammy, some taxpayers will see increased rates on top of increased property values.

At $33.66 billion, Cobb’s 2017 gross tax digest is the highest ever — up 6.5 percent from last year — but Cobb County commissioners and the city of Austell have announced they intend to raise millage rates for residents.

Cobb’s remaining five cities and two school districts intend to keep the millage rate the same, effectively increasing taxes for those whose homes and businesses have been reassessed at a higher value.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes spoke to the MDJ Wednesday about the 1999 bill he signed into law requiring governments to hold three public hearings and advertise a tax increase if they choose not to roll back millage rates.

A “rollback” is the rate that would allow a governing body to collect the same amount of revenue it did the prior year given the reassessment of property values within its boundaries.

“I put it in when I was governor because I didn’t like governments saying they’re not raising taxes when they are,” he said. “When the values go up and you keep the millage rate the same, you’re raising taxes.”

Cherokee County Commissioners are scheduled to give final approval next week to higher property tax rates.

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners has tentatively adopted a millage rate of 5.528, requiring an increase in property taxes of 0.82 percent, and has scheduled three public hearings on the tax hike in the coming weeks.

The tentative millage rate represents an increase of 0.0045 mills. Without the increase, the rate would be no more than 5.483. A home with a fair market value of $225,000 would see a tax increase of $3.82, and a non-homestead property valued at $200,000, $3.60, officials said.

Forsyth County Commissioners are expected to adopt a millage rate higher than the full rollback rate.

Officials plan to hold the maintenance and operations rate level at 4.642 mills, keep the fire rate at 1.975 and maintain the bond levy at 1.419. Those rates will fund the 2018 budget, which is in the preliminary stages of being prepared. The tax digest is projected to grow by 7.66 percent. That means taxes levied this year will be 3.85 percent over the rollback rate and that some property owners who have been reassessed may see their tax bills rise.

Forsyth County Board of Education property tax collections will likewise rise with reassessments, though the millage rate remains the same.

Commissioners announced in a news release this week the 2018 millage rate will remain the same at a total millage rate of 8.036 mills, but the county will see a 7.6 percent increase in the tax digest due to a recent value of reassessments and new construction. Taxes levied this year will see an increase of 3.85 percent over the rollback millage rate.

When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires a rollback millage rate be computed that would produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments or growth occurred.

The total millage rate is made up of: the maintenance and operations rate, which will stay at 4.642 mills; the fire rate, which will remain 1.975 mills; and the bond rate, which will remain 1.419 mills.

The millage rate is the formula that calculates property taxes. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value, which is 40 percent of the actual market value.

For the tax digest increase, about 3.67 percent came from new construction and 3.99 percent from increased values from reassessments.

Any changes to an individual tax bill will come from the value of their reassessment.

A pattern is emerging in the strongly-Republican northern arc counties this year with Gwinnett commissioners and the Gwinnett Board of Education also bumping the tax rate.

The City of Chamblee is considering retaining the same property tax rate as the previous year, resulting in an increase in revenues.

The property tax estimates in this proposed budget are based on the 2016 millage rate of 6.4 mils. Recent increases in the Tax Digest due to higher DeKalb County property assessments, will result in a tax collection increase year-over-year if the City opts to keep the millage rate at 6.4 mills. The term “tax increase” relates to the total amount of property tax proceeds the City will collect in 2017, as compared to total collections in 2016. Because property valuations are higher, at the same tax rate, the haul is comparatively higher. Chamblee says other revenue sources are being budgeted at or near 2016 actuals for 2017.

A number the City is required by law to broadcast is called the Roll-Back rate. This number is generated to illustrate where the City would have to adjust (lower) the City tax rate to keep year-over-year tax collections neutral.

The tentative millage rate of 6.40 mills will result in a collections increase equivalent to .386 mills over what the roll back rate would generate. Without this tentative tax collection increase, the millage rate will be 6.014 mills. The proposed “tax increase” effectively equates to a home with a fair market value of $237,054 being approximately $36.60 and the proposed “tax increase” for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $737,240 is approximately $113.83, for example.

Douglas County Board of Education will partially rollback its property tax millage rate, but reassessments will mean increased tax revenues.

Canton City Council is bucking the trend, and considering a property tax decrease beyond the rollback rate.

The new City of Tucker has adopted a property tax rate of zero percent.

The young city of Tucker is preparing to charge residents a stunning amount for property taxes: $0.

The non-existent tax rate is possible because Tucker, which became a city of 35,000 residents last year, provides only a few services such as code enforcement, zoning and permitting.

The $7.6 million budget for Tucker’s operations next fiscal year would instead be funded by charges for business licenses, alcohol licenses, permits and utility franchise fees.

Of course, Tucker residents will still owe property taxes for DeKalb County’s schools and government, which provide most local services.

“It’s about keeping promises,” said Tucker spokesman Matt Holmes. “A segment of people said this city is going to be more expensive, but folks elected to city leadership positions said, ‘No, it doesn’t have to be that way.’”

Some Whitfield County residents are questioning property tax assessments higher than they anticipated.

2018 Elections

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle announced his campaign raised $2.7 million and has $2.5 million cash-on-hand.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle raised more than $2.7 million in roughly two months since he entered the governor’s race, outpacing his Republican rivals in the wide-open contest to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal.

The Republican has about $2.5 million cash on hand, and he’s likely to be aided by another fat bank account: The Georgia Conservatives Fund, a fund long run by Cagle’s top allies but with no official link to his campaign, has about $2.5 million at its disposal.

Cagle is the presumptive front-runner in a crowded GOP field that also includes Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams. He’s running on a pledge to create 500,000 new jobs, cut taxes and reduce the high school dropout rate.

Cagle’s campaign said his fundraising haul was one of the largest at this stage in an open gubernatorial contest, and that he collected contributions from more than 1,200 donors. Among them is former Georgia football coach Ray Goff and more than 150 GOP elected officials.

In a statement, Cagle said the $2.7 million take was “immensely humbling and encouraging.”

Democratic opponents to Congressman Rob Woodall (R-7) now number four, with former Gwinnett Democratic Party chair Steve Reilly joining the race.

Georgia State University Andrew Young School of Policy Studies assistant director Carolyn Bourdeaux announced her candidacy this past week, on the heels of Peachtree Corners attorney Steve Reilly’s announcement that he, too, would run for the seat.

C2 Education founder David Kim and homeless assistance advocate Kathleen Allen previously announced plans to run for the Democratic nomination for the seat.

Bourdeaux, who has already been endorsed by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Andrew Young, comes into the race with a background in public policy and government budgeting and tax policy. At Georgia State, she was the founding director of the university’s Center on State and Local Finance and served as director of the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office from 2007-10.

Meanwhile, Reilly comes into the race with deep connections to the local and state Democratic parties. He was the chairman of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party from 1996 to 2002. He has also served as the Democratic Party of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District chairman, and is currently a member of the party’s state committee.

Democrat Lisa Ring will run for the First Congressional District against Republican incumbent Buddy Carter.

“I was elected as a 1st CD Delegate for (Bernie) Sanders to the DNC, and as Co-chair (with Sen. Vincent Fort) of the Georgia Sanders Delegation. I am the Chair of the Bryan County Democratic Committee (as a committee, we qualify local candidates) and the Vice Chair of the Georgia Democratic Rural Council, both are elected positions.”

“Currently, all my work is volunteer. I am a former corrections officer (Lehigh County Prison in Pennsylvania) and the former Executive Director of the Allentown Day Reporting Center — an anti-recidivism program for convicted felons out on parole — also in Pennsylvania.”

“There are so many needs facing our district. My platform focuses primarily on economic issues. If we look closely at the proposed budget cuts for 2018, the 1st Congressional District will lose a minimum of nearly $105 million. These cuts have a detrimental effect on our veterans, our seniors, our children, our environment; every person will suffer the consequences. And many have been suffering for years.”

“Healthcare is probably the most crucial issue we face. Protections for over 300,000 residents of the 1st district with pre-existing conditions are being stripped away. Medicaid is being drastically cut. A tax on senior citizens is proposed. And tax credit to pay for insurance is dramatically reduced over time for everyone but the wealthy. The people of the 1st District need a leader who will stand up and protect their access to affordable healthcare. Then we can move forward to insure that everyone has the right of healthcare regardless of income. It’s time to take healthcare out of the hands of for-profit health insurers and put it into the hands of actual healthcare providers.”

7
Jul

Adoptable “Official” Georgia Dogs for July 7, 2017

The Gwinnett County Animal Shelter is full to the rafters and needs fosters and adopters ASAP because dogs and cats are in danger of being euthanized to free up space for new intakes.

Benny Finn

Benny Finn is a 2-year old male West Highland Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Annie

Annie is an 11-month old female Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

NoahGP

Noah is a 5-year old male Great Pyrenees mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Diana

Diana is a 7-year old female German Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

7
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 7, 2017

On July 7, 1742, General James Oglethorpe was victorious over the Spanish at the Battle of Bloody Marsh and the Battle of Gully Hole Creek; a week later Gov. Montiano would call off the invasion of Georgia from Florida, leaving Georgia to develop as a British colony.

On July 8, 1776, the bell now known as the Liberty Bell rang in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall, to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together and to summon people for special announcements and events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as King George III’s 1761 ascension to the British throne and, in 1765, to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in April 1775, the bell was rung to announce the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its most famous tolling, however, was on July 8, 1776, when it summoned Philadelphia citizens for the first reading of the Declaration of Independence.

The Liberty Bell inscription includes a reference to Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

On July 9, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read aloud to General George Washington’s troops at the parade grounds in Manhattan.

President Zachary Taylor died of cholera on July 9, 1850 and  Millard Fillmore was sworn in as the 13th President of the United States on July 10, 1850.

The first of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops, under Major General Schofield, crossed the Chattahoochee River between Powers Ferry and Johnson Ferry on July 8, 1864.

On July 9, 1864, Confederate troops retreated across the Chattahoochee River from Cobb County into Fulton County. Upriver, Sherman’s troops had already crossed and moved toward Atlanta.

On July 10, 1864, Conferderate forces retreated south across the Chattahoochee and burned the bridge behind them. General Sherman wrote later of the day,

General Garrard Moved rapidly on Roswell, and destroyed the factories which had supplied the rebel armies with cloth for years.

Over General Garrard was then ordered to secure the shallow ford at Roswell and hold it until he could be relieved by infantry, and as I contemplated transferring the Army of the Tennessee from the extreme right to the left, I ordered General Thomas to send a division of his infantry that was nearest up to Roswell to hold the ford until General McPherson could send up a corps from the neighborhood of Nickajack.

General Newton’s division was sent and held the ford until the arrival of General Dodge’s corps, which was soon followed by General McPherson’s whole army.

Former United States Senator from Texas Phil Gramm (R) was born on July 8, 1942 in Columbus, Georgia, where his father was stationed at Fort Benning.

Sliced bread was invented on July 7, 1928 at the Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri.

On July 7, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act.

On July 8, 1975, President Gerald Ford announced his candidacy for President in the 1976 elections

The first female cadets enrolled at West Point on July 7, 1976.

Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan on July 7, 1981.

On July 10, 1985, “Classic“ Coke returned, joining the new formula on store shelves.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games broke ground for Atlanta Olympic Stadium on July 10, 1993; after the Olympics, the stadium was modified for baseball and became Turner Field.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Cobb County Commissioners are considering raising the property tax millage rate.

Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce has proposed a county tax hike totaling 0.13 mills, with the increase primarily due to the costs of providing $27.4 million for new county green space.

The proposed increase, which would amount to an additional $13 in tax on a home valued at $250,000, is coming days after the county announced a 6.5 percent jump in Cobb’s tax digest, or the measure of the taxable value of property in the county. But Boyce said he believes the rate increase is needed even with that growth in the digest.

“I know people aren’t going to be happy to pay more — I appreciate that, I’m one of those guys,” Boyce said Wednesday. “But we have some major programs that we didn’t fund during the recession, and now we’re having to climb out of that hole. And this is one way we’re going to start doing that: by using revenue from assessments to start paying for these services we furloughed or didn’t do during the recession. And we have some ongoing costs of government that have to be paid.”

Commissioners will consider the tax increase at their July 25 meeting, which will also see a vote on three other property taxes levied by the county. The fire service millage rate, which funds the county’s fire department and applies countywide, is proposed to remain at 2.96 mills, while the remaining two rates only apply within two special tax districts within the county.

Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) yesterday announced via Facebook that he filed paperwork with the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to raise funds for a campaign for Secretary of State in 2018.

From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

In an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, McKoon said he’s excited about the race, which currently includes at least three other candidates to replace Brian Kemp. Others already vying for the position include Reps. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, and Brad Raffensperger, R-Johns Creek, as well as David Belle Isle, the Republican mayor of Alpharetta, Ga.

McKoon, a controversial Republican legislator who has challenged party leadership occasionally, listed former Georgia Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Everhart as his campaign chairman and Atlanta businessman Robert Hennessy as his treasurer. Hennessy also is active in state Republican politics.

“I decided to run for Secretary of State for a couple of reasons,” he said. “One is I’m very concerned about the integrity of the electoral process. I actually looked at running for Secretary of State eight years ago, before Seth Harp vacated the senate seat. And the issue then, and I think the issue now, is making sure people feel that their vote is going to count, that they don’t have to worry about there being any malfeasance in the electoral process, any illegal votes cast.”

McKoon said he also believes the licensing function of the office is ripe for reform.

“There’s been a nationwide study done by Americans for Prosperity that 5.4 million new jobs could be created if we would reduce the barriers to entry for licensed professions,” he said. “So that’s something I’m very passionate about, is trying to connect people on that first rung on the ladder to economic success by making it easier for them to enter a licensed profession.”

As an attorney, McKoon said he’s also concerned about the delivery of online services at the Secretary of State Office.

“I think there are a number of ways that we can improve delivery of the corporate services,” he said.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office opined that Georgia Power is required by state law to continue collecting ratepayer funds toward construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Because of a 2009 state law enacted just after the Vogtle project was authorized, “Georgia Power cannot voluntarily agree” to suspend the surcharges, Senior Assistant Attorney General Daniel Walsh said Wednesday in a letter to state utility regulators.

Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins said state law requires the company to collect the surcharge, but he declined to answer a question about whether the law allows it to reduce the surcharge. Hawkins said the surcharge “saves customers hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing financing and borrowing costs.”

The opinion from the Attorney General’s office does not appear to address whether the surcharge can be reduced.

In his letter to the PSC, Walsh said the 2009 state law unambiguously stated that the surcharge “shall” be collected — meaning it is mandatory — based on the project’s ongoing construction costs, starting in 2011.

Liberal protestors targeted Senator Johnny Isakson’s Cobb County office, opposing GOP proposals for federal healthcare reform.

Cobb County will receive $1.2 million in state grants from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Hall County Latinos are registering to vote at progressively higher rates.

Former Warner Robins Council member Dean Cowart will seek a return to council, running for the at-large seat currently held by Council member Chuck Shaheen.

Grovetown City Council will consider a significant increase in the property tax millage rate.

Grovetown city officials have proposed a rate increase from 6.9 to 9 mills.

Grovetown’s interim city administrator John Waller said the proposed increase seems large because the city has maintained a historically low millage rate and not done incremental increases each year. He added that millage rate would still be below neighboring Harlem .

“Going back and looking at a little bit of history, we’ve grown a heck of a lot since 2009. We had a flat mill rate at 7.0 from 2009-2015, so for a six-year period, we had a flat mill rate,” Waller said. “Last year, we dropped to 6.9 over seven to eight year period, and with all the growth, we never dipped into leveraging our property tax revenue.”

Savannah City Council is moving forward with an ordinance to limit short term rentals.

In a unanimous vote, the council voted to move forward with revisions to the ordinance regulating vacation rentals by limiting the amount of vacation rentals to 20 percent of the residential properties in a ward.

The percentage was chosen as a compromise between the Savannah Downtown Neighborhood Association, which wanted 15-percent limit, and vacation rental representatives, who pushed for a 35-percent cap, said Bridget Lidy, director of Savannah’s Tourism Management &Ambassadorship Department.

Vacation rentals that are owner-occupied would be exempt from the cap, Lidy said.

Dredging to maintain the ship channel to the Port of Savannah will continue, even as questions arise over funding for continued work on the harbor deepening.

This year, with the help of a proactive maritime community, Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Savannah, has secured the funding to keep the river channel operating at its proper depths, thus assuring commerce keeps moving.

“Rep. Carter worked with the Appropriations Committee in Congress to secure $23.53 million in the FY 17 budget to perform operations and maintenance at the Savannah harbor,” Carter spokeswoman Mary Carpenter said Thursday, adding that Carter has continued to work with the US Army Corps of Engineers to get another $15.72 million in its work plan for additional dredging and repairs.

“This totals $39.27 million for operations and maintenance in Savannah,” she said.

Georgia Port director Griff Lynch agreed.

“We were pleased to hear that maintenance dredging for the Savannah River is fully funded in the President’s proposed budget. Its inclusion is a credit to the entire maritime community in Savannah, who pulled together in support of this,” he said.

If approved by Congress, these funds will cover work done during the upcoming federal fiscal year, which runs from October through September. Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, these funds will maintain the Savannah River channel at its authorized depth, including the portion recently dredged to 49 feet in the outer harbor.

New Jobs for Georgians

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, will be tapped by the Trump Administration as the next Director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health sources said the appointment is expected to be announced as early as Friday.

Fitzgerald, 70, an obstetrician-gynecologist who has headed that state’s public health department since 2011, will succeed Tom Frieden. He stepped down in January after serving for eight years, longer than any director since the 1970s. Anne Schuchat, a veteran CDC official, has been serving as acting director.

She has strong ties to Republican leaders in and from Georgia, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich. Fitzgerald, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1992 and 1994 in her state’s 7th congressional District.

Fitzgerald was in private practice for 30 years before she was picked by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) to head the state’s public health department when it became a stand-alone agency in 2011.

Fitzgerald holds a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Georgia State University and a medical degree from Emory’s School of Medicine. She trained at Emory-Grady Hospitals in Atlanta, and as an Air Force major she served at the Wurtsmith Air Force Strategic Air Command in Michigan and at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington.

Gainesville-native Ashley D. Bell will serve in the Trump Administration as associate director for external affairs at the Peace Corps.

The appointment was made by the White House, according to a Thursday announcement from the Peace Corps. Bell has been working in the State Department since February as a special assistant to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Bell, a former lawyer, made his way to Foggy Bottom after working on then-President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team. Before then he worked for the Republican National Committee as a senior strategist for communications.

“This is a very similar role to what I had at State,” Bell said. “It’s just a more senior role. I enjoyed my time at State — I definitely enjoyed my time working for Secretary Tillerson.”

6
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 6, 2017

On July 6, 1775, Congress issued the “Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms” addressed to King George III, stating that they preferred to “to die free men rather than live as slaves.” The document was written by John Dickinson after a draft by Thomas Jefferson.

The Republican Party was formally organized on July 6, 1854.

The party was born of hostility to slavery.

In February [1854] a gathering in Ripon, Wisconsin, resolved to form a new party and a local lawyer named Alvan E. Bovay suggested the name Republican for its echoes of Thomas Jefferson. In Michigan there were meetings in Kalamazoo, Jackson and Detroit, and after the Act had passed in May, the new party was formally founded in Jackson in July. A leading figure was Austin Blair, a Free Soiler lawyer who was prosecuting attorney of Jackson County. He helped to draft the new party’s platform, was elected to the state senate in Republican colours that year and would become governor of Michigan in 1860.

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

Happy Birthday to George W. Bush, who turns 71 today.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp yesterday announced a $1.7 million fundraising haul for the first quarter of the 2018 Gubernatorial campaign.

“I am humbled by the strong showing of support from friends and neighbors throughout our great state,” said Kemp. “With a clear, conservative 4-Point Plan, we have built our campaign from the ground up. Clearly, the people of this state are ready for a governor who will put hardworking Georgians first.

“While I am proud of our successes, we can’t rest on our laurels. It’s time to get back on the road and continue to spread our message, grow our grassroots army, and build our fundraising network. Our campaign has worked hard to get to this point but we are just getting started.”

“Brian Kemp is the hardest working man in Georgia politics,” said Barbara Dooley. “With a proven track record of fighting – and winning – for Georgia, he continues to connect with voters from all walks of life. He’s focused on doing what it takes to win. Brian Kemp will not be outworked.”

Brian Kemp raised more than $1.7 million from over 1,600 donors in 200 cities. He has over $1.5 million Cash On Hand.

To put that in perspective, Kemp has more cash-on-hand today than either of the leading candidates in the 2010 had raised by this point.

Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon is expected to announce his campaign for Secretary of State in coming days.

The Columbus Republican intends to qualify as a candidate for Secretary of State on Thursday. McKoon, 38, has represented Senate District 29 since 2010. He has been assessing his political future since the end of January when he suddenly announced he would not be seeking a fifth term next year.

This is not the first time McKoon has toyed with this post, which has historically been seen as a steppingstone for higher office. He considered running for Secretary of State even before his first senatorial campaign.

The post will be wide open in 2018. Republican Brian Kemp of Athens is vacating the seat after seven years and has announced he is candidate for governor.

The Forsyth County Republican Party July 4th event also included a straw poll:

Governor
Hunter Hill 21 16.0%
Brian Kemp 22 16.8%
Casey Cagle 64 48.9%
Michael Williams 24 18.3%

 

Lieutenant Governor
David Shafer 70 57.4%
Geoff Duncan 46 37.7%
Rick Jeffares 6 4.9%

 

Secretary of State
Buzz Brockway 53 49.1%
Brad Raffensperfer 31 28.7%
David Belle Isle 24 22.2%

 

Congressman Jody Hice (R-Bethlehem) has Democrats lining up to run against him in 2018.

Chalis Montgomery, a mother, educator and musician living in the Barrow County community of Bethlehem, has begun mounting a grass-roots campaign for the seat.

Also announcing an intention to seek the 10th District seat is Democratic candidate Kellie Lynn Collins, a resident of the McDuffie County town of Thomson. Collins’ campaign website, kelliecollinsforcongress.com, describes her as an entrepreneur whose work has included some modeling.

Finally, billing himself as an “exploratory candidate” in the 10th District race, University of Georgia philosophy professor Richard Winfield, who recently did canvassing work for Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff in what turned out to be a losing bid for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District seat, has been speaking to a number of local Democratic grouds, according to his social media.

In recent posts on Twitter, Winfield wrote, “Wake up Dems — we must stand for guaranteed jobs at $20/hr, Medicare for all, paid family leave, employee empowerment & legal care for all. And don’t forget free public day care & elder care, $500 monthly child allowances, and eviction and foreclosure protection.”

Carolyn Bourdeaux, a Georgia State University professor, will run as a Democrat against Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett).

Policy Prof. Carolyn Bourdeaux, a first time candidate, said her father’s experience with swelling health care costs and frustration with the GOP’s fledging Obamacare replacement effort drove her to run for office.

The House and Senate replacement bills “will allow insurance companies to raise rates for folks who have preexisting conditions,” Bourdeaux said in an interview Wednesday.

Bourdeaux said lawmakers should fully implement Obamacare, and Georgia fully expand Medicaid, before exploring other solutions that would expand access to health care, but she added there is “more than one way to skin a cat.”

Unlike Jon Ossoff, who rarely mentioned President Donald Trump during his last few months on the trail, Bourdeaux said the commander-in-chief has been “fairly irresponsible.”“There needs to be a Congress and a congressperson in this district who is willing to challenge him,” she said.

Bourdeaux, who once ran the state Senate’s budget office, entered the race with the endorsements of U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young. She said she plans to finance her run with fundraising, particularly from small donors.

Doug Chanco announced he will run as a Republican for House District 50, which with the earlier entry of Kelly Stewart, become the first contested GOP State House race in 2018.

Republican small businessman, concerned citizen, and community volunteer Doug Chanco announced he would run for State House District 50.

Current Representative Brad Raffensperger has announced his campaign for Secretary of State.

Chanco also reported raising over $32,000 for his campaign in a recently filed June 30th campaign contribution disclosure report.

“I am running for the Georgia House to provide this community with the strong, conservative voice it deserves at the State Capitol. I’m not a career politician. I am a family man, community volunteer, small business owner, and a concerned citizen who is frustrated by the fact that our community has not gotten relief from the issues related to traffic congestion and heavy taxationand is also committed to ensuring a bright future for our children. In the State House, I will implement serious reforms to limit government, protect taxpayers, and create a more prosperous future for all of our families,” said Chanco in his announcement.

“I will take the same tenacity that I use in the courtroom on behalf of my clients to the State House to fight for our community. I will fight hard to continue fundamentally reforming Fulton County and prevent future out-of-control property tax bills by freezing assessments and reforming the property tax system. I will support our educators and our local schools to ensure our children are receiving the education they deserve. I’ll work to tackle the traffic gridlock in our community. And I will work to cut and limit government spending and support tax cuts to keep more of your hard earned dollars in your pocket.”

“Growing up in the Boy Scouts, earning the rank of Eagle Scout, and building a business, I know the value of hard work and of honoring your word. As your Representative, I will always keep my word to you and I will not stop working until the job is done and done well. I look forward to earning your trust and support.”

Doug Chanco is a partner at the law firm Chanco Schiffer—a firm he helped found. Prior to starting his own law firm, Doug served as a prosecuting attorney for the citizens of Fulton County as an Assistant-Solicitor General. A leader in his field, he has also been a guest lecturer on topics presented at Atlanta law schools and is featured on legal radio shows to discuss his work standing up for victims, when they need it most.

As an Eagle Scout, Doug believes in the importance of giving back to your community. He is a committed community volunteer and serves as pack master for Cub Scout Pack 1491 at Dolvin Elementary. He is also a little league baseball coach at Ocee Park and worked as a volunteer mock trial team coach for the Georgia Bar Association’s High School Mock Trial Program.

Lincoln County Sheriff Bruce Beggs has died, apparently from a heart attack.

Mark your calendar for the Eighth District Georgia Republican Party Fish Fry on August 26, 2017 at the National Fairgrounds in Perry.

Two incoming anesthesiology residents at Augusta University have been delayed in entering the country.

6
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 6, 2017

Baby Queen

Baby Queen is a female Scottish Terrier and Corgi mix who is available for adoption from the Dolly Goodpuppy Society Inc in Barnesville, GA.

Baby Queen enjoys going for walks and playing with other dogs. She’s a sweet girl who could make a great family dog.

Max Scottie

Max is a young male Scottish Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Carroll County Animal Shelter in Carrollton, GA.

Max is a delightful little dog and it’s obvious he enjoys being outside and exploring.

Baylee

Baylee is a female Boxer & Scottish Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Dolly Goodpuppy Society Inc in Barnesville, GA.

Baylee is a kennel favorite; she is very loving and sweet.

5
Jul

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 5, 2017

Oreo Glynn

Oreo is a young male Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Glynn County Animal Services Brunswick, GA.

Finster

Finster is a young male German Shorthaired Pointer mix who is available for adoption from Glynn County Animal Services Brunswick, GA.

Finster was surrendered by a family no longer able to care for him. They report him to be good with children and other dogs, and apparently he loves squeaky toys, running in the yard and digging when he is bored. They also say he walks well on a leash and rides great in a car. Finster has a very happy face, and a joy for life that is apparent in his smile.

Oakley

Oakley is a sweet 19-pound male Dachshund mix who is available for adoption from Glynn County Animal Services Brunswick, GA.

Oakley is a little on the shy side, but warms up quickly.

5
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 5, 2017

On July 5, 1737, James Oglethorpe sailed from England to Georgia with a warship and troop transports carrying a regiment to be stationed at St. Simons Island.

On July 5, 1742, Spanish forces based in Florida sailed past Fort St. Simon, bypassing English forces there. That night, Oglethorpe’s troops left Fort St Simon and fell back to Fort Frederica.

Fort Frederica National National Monument on St. Simons Island

Fort Frederica National National Monument on St. Simons Island

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

Historians at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, have identified the living quarters of Sally Hemings, a slave believed to have given birth to six children by Thomas Jefferson.

“This discovery gives us a sense of how enslaved people were living. Some of Sally’s children may have been born in this room,” said Gardiner Hallock, director of restoration for Jefferson’s mountaintop plantation, standing on a red-dirt floor inside a dusty rubble-stone room built in 1809. “It’s important because it shows Sally as a human being — a mother, daughter, and sister — and brings out the relationships in her life.”

Hemings’ living quarters was adjacent to Jefferson’s bedroom but she remains something of an enigma: there are only four known descriptions of her. Enslaved blacksmith Isaac Granger Jefferson recalled that Hemings was “mighty near white . . . very handsome, long straight hair down her back.”

Her room — 14 feet, 8 inches wide and 13 feet long — went unnoticed for decades. The space was converted into a men’s bathroom in 1941, considered by some as the final insult to Hemings’ legacy.

Fraser Neiman, director of archeology at Monticello, said Hemings’ quarters revealed the original brick hearth and fireplace, the brick structure for a stove and the original floors from the early 1800s.

“This room is a real connection to the past,” Neiman said. “We are uncovering and discovering and we’re finding many, many artifacts.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue are seeking changes to the Senate’s version of healthcare reform.

As key allies to Senate GOP leaders and President Donald Trump, both are viewed as relatively reliable “yes” votes for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But that hasn’t stopped the two GOP lawmakers from looking to secure last-minute benefits for Georgia’s sickest children and some of the state’s medical providers as McConnell feverishly renegotiates portions of the Better Care Reconciliation Act to win over enough GOP holdouts.

Near the top of Isakson and Perdue’s wish lists is a change that could send more money to safety net hospitals such as Grady and South Fulton Medical Center in Atlanta. Another aims to have the government pay more to local health care providers who treat needy children.

One of the most pressing items on the to-do list for the state’s lawmakers has been ensuring that Georgia does not end up locked into a system that leads to far less federal money heading its way. The state has some of the country’s lowest health care spending per capita, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and had the nation’s second-highest uninsured rate in 2015.

The Senate plan would keep additional dollars flowing to the 31 states that chose to expand Medicaid through the end of 2023.

Isakson, with Perdue’s blessing, met recently with McConnell to ask him to tweak the way the government funds charity hospitals under the so-called Disproportionate Share Hospital program so that more funding would land in non-expansion states such as Georgia, particularly if there is an increase in uninsured patients.

A Congressional Budget Office analysis found the original Senate bill would increase payments to those safety net hospitals in Georgia and the 18 other non-expansion states by a total of $19 billion over 10 years.

Isakson’s proposed change seeks to send extra money to the charity hospitals that treat more low-income and uninsured people than their average counterparts. Those so-called safety net hospitals tend to operate on very thin financial margins because they often aren’t compensated in a timely manner — or at all — for the care they provide to the uninsured. That’s why the government often provides such hospitals additional funding.

“We want to make sure the medically complex kids that are in our children’s hospitals still have the benefits they have today and don’t get unintentionally cut or unintentionally reduced,” Isakson said, “and that the hospitals that provide those services don’t” wind up in the red.

Senator Perdue traveled to Afghanistan to visit U.S. troops stationed there.

The Georgia Senate Health Care Reform Task Force meets next Monday in Tifton.

Task force members — including state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome — are trying to craft a new foundation for the state’s health care system even as the U.S. Senate works to break a logjam on its overhaul of the federal program.

“Our intent is to have legislation ready in January for the Georgia General Assembly session,” Hufstetler said. “We will focus on what’s best for Georgia.”

When the eight-member Georgia task force under Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle meets in Tifton, they’ll first hear from Tift Medical Center about their ACO, accountable care organization, and what they’re doing with a new community grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Also on the agenda are presentations on telemedicine networks by a team from Emory University and recommendations from Dr. Keith Mueller, director of the RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis at the University of Iowa.

Hufstetler said the session on preventative primary care would be in Rome, on Aug. 28. The task force’s last regional meeting, on mental health, will be in Gwinnett County.

Kristina Torres of the AJC writes about turnout in the 6th District Congressional Runoff Election.

•  Data showed 37 percent of early voters this round had voted in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, versus 22 percent for the Democratic presidential primary.

•  In total, 38 percent of electors in the 6th District runoff had voted in the Republican presidential primary. Those who voted in the Democratic presidential primary dropped to 18 percent. 93 percent of all voters also voted in the 2016 presidential election.

•  A federal judge in early May extended voter registration in the district through May 21, part of an ongoing lawsuit over how Georgia handles voter registration ahead of federal runoff elections. Of all ballots, less than 1.4 percent — or 3,520 voters — were from those who registered in May. Among the 8,000 or so voters who were added to the rolls after the judge’s order, 44 percent turned out.

•  White, older voters continued to outperform their share of the electorate., and were the dominant force among all voters Turnout among younger voters, however, notably increased between early voting and Election Day.

Gwinnett County Commissioners are considering raising the property tax millage rate nearly 12 percent.

Officials are proposing a 7.4-mill rate, which is up from the rate of 6.826 mills that was adopted last year. Officials said the millage rate, or property tax, increase will give officials the opportunity to do two things. One is to balance the budget, and the other is to begin setting aside money that can be used in the future to address hiring and retention issues.

“All parts of the County organization made cuts that we knew were not sustainable for the long-term but which were necessary to cope with the effects of the recession,” commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. Over the last two or three years, we have restored funding to critical functions and have provided funding to address the ability of the justice system to handle increased demands.”

The public hearings will be held at 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on July 10, and at 6:30 p.m. on July 17 at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville. Public comment will also be accepted at www.gwinnettcounty.com. The Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on adopting the rate at 2 p.m. on July 18.

Sea Turtle nests appear headed for a lower number than 2016, but higher than average.

Solar power is being used increasingly for power at municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Woodbine recently approved a $192,600 bid for a solar power plant with a tracking system that will follow the sun across the sky and power the wastewater treatment plant between U.S. 17 and Interstate 95.

Jesup is getting ready to bid its own plant and has already spent $70,000 on the project, City Manager Mike Deal said.

In Southeast Georgia, Baxley was among the first cities to go to solar power spurred partly by 1.03 percent financing for “greenovation,” City Manager Jeff Baxley said.

Baxley began looking at solar power in 2013 as a way to save money at “the biggest consuming facility we have,” Baxley said. “We needed to stop the bleeding out there. It was such a large user of energy.”

Pooler City Council adopted the rollback property tax millage rate for the new fiscal year.

Officials in Pooler this week rolled back the city’s millage rate for 2017 — keeping flat the level of taxes charged to property owners in the west Chatham town.

The City Council voted unanimously at its meeting Monday to adopt this year’s rollback rate of 3.849 mills — which, because of new construction reflected in the local tax digest, will actually increase the amount of property tax revenue brought in by more than $150,000 over the 3.909 mills levied in 2016, City Finance Director Michelle Warner said.

Valdosta adopted new fine levels for more than a dozen offenses, inclding DUI, littering, and public intoxication.

New Laws in Effect

New legislation passed in the last state legislative session and signed into law went into effect July 1.

After two years of debate, the campus carry bill is the law of the land in Georgia, allowing handguns on any campus in the state’s public college or university system.

Medical marijuana is expanded under another new law in the peach state, with more conditions eligible for treatment with cannabis oil, which is derived from marijuana.

House Bill 338 gives the state the power to step in if a school is under performing. If the school continues to do poorly, the state can convert it to a charter school.

Expanded tax credits for film and video production and post-production also kicked-in over the weekend.

House Bill 199 will provide a 20 percent tax credit for post-production companies – which perform services such as editing — with at least a $250,000 payroll in Georgia. The companies must also spend at least $500,000 per tax year. While the state has offered generous tax credits to the film industry since 2008, the post-production portion of the business has been excluded until now. The new credit will be capped at $5 million next year, $10 million in 2019 and $15 million from 2020 through 2022. No single company can get more than 20 percent of the total statewide credit available in a given year.

Video gaming companies will have an easier time qualifying for tax credits as well. It reduces the total Georgia payroll requirement to qualify for a credit from $500,000 to $250,000 if the gaming company makes a base investment of at least $200,000 during a two-year period.

Marijuana – Medical and Otherwise

Washington, DC smells like marijuana smoke, and not just on April 20th.

[M]ore than two years after the District legalized marijuana possession, it seems that everywhere you go in the nation’s capital, you catch a whiff of weed. And it’s often in the places where you least expect it.

On H Street downtown, as you wind your way between officeworkers rushing back from lunch.

At 10th and E, in the shadow of the FBI headquarters.

In the hallway of your apartment building. In the foyer of your gym. In Aisle 9 of the Walmart, wafting in through the beach towels. (Wait, Walmart?)

Maybe these fumes are just what the District needs. “I like the idea of D.C. being on one big contact high,” mused Adam Goodheart, a D.C.-based writer. “Some member of Congress may be walking down the street, fuming about health care, getting themselves worked up into a partisan fury, and find themselves mysteriously mellowing.”

Well, maybe that explains a lot.

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) spoke about the availability of medical cannabis oil, which is legal in Georgia, but for which no in-state source exists.

Representative Peake says there’s a huge problem for those families because there’s really no place to purchase the oil in the state.

“There’s no ability to access the product and so we’re having folks come to us and say ‘I have a medical marijuana card. I’m registered with the state but I don’t know how to get the product’,” says Peake.

The state allows for 14 medical conditions which can be legally treated with cannabis oil but the state doesn’t allow any cultivation of cannabis or the oil and Peake says there’s a gaping hole left by lawmakers.

“I am not involved in the transportation of oil here to Georgia. I honestly have no idea how it gets here,” said Peake. “We’ve provided a vehicle for them to basically access a product that we know has been lab tested, is safe and consistent and has been proven to be successful with many Georgia families. We don’t provide a product that’s above the 5 percent THC level that’s allowed in Georgia law. We’re only providing product to those who are properly registered with the state. And we’re not selling the product, we’re giving it to folks.”

“Our law, as it’s structured right now, is causing parents to either violate federal law by bringing it back themselves or having someone else do it and provide it to them,” said Peake. “That’s why I’m not involved in the transportation of the product across state lines. But it does show the fallacy and the gaping hole in our existing law. That we have to look at breaking federal law in order to provide relief to Georgia citizens who are properly registered in the state to possess this product.”

Also, skeptics have said that Peake is only fighting this to score political points, something he disputes. He says he’s not running for federal office or governor. He says he’s not even likely to be a state representative for much longer. He says he’s doing it simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Legislation passed this year expands the conditions eligible for Georgia’s in-state cannabis program.

Senate Bill 16 makes six more conditions eligible for treatment with a limited form of cannabis oil allowed in Georgia: AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome. It also allows patients in hospice care to possess the oil.

Some in Savannah are discussing decriminalizing possession of small amounts.

2018 Elections

Straw poll season is upon us once again.

Cobb County Republican Party Straw Poll Results:

Governor
Hunter Hill 103 40.6%
Brian Kemp 84 33.1%
Casey Cagle 37 14.6%
Michael Williams 30 11.8%

 

Lieutenant Governor
David Shafer 138 61.3%
Geoff Duncan 64 28.4%
Rick Jeffares 23 10.2%

 

Secretary of State
Buzz Brockway 96 48.0%
Brad Raffensperger 61 30.5%
David Belle Isle 23 11.5%
Rick Knox 20 10.0%

Former Johns Creek City Council member Kelly Stewart announced on Facebook that she will run for State Representative in District 50.

After the announcement of State Representative Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) to run for Georgia Secretary of State, former Johns Creek City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Stewart announced on Tuesday, July 4th that she is a Republican candidate for Georgia House District 50.

“I have been proud to serve the citizens of Johns Creek since they first elected me to the City Council in 2010,” said Stewart.” “I am excited about the opportunity to run for this seat and to continue to work for them as their conservative voice of change in Atlanta.”

Kelly is a lifelong conservative who believes in limited government and individual responsibility. She will bring strong leadership, fiscal responsibility, and her ability to build broad coalitions to work through complex issues to the Georgia House of Representatives.

Stewart ran for the seat previously in a January 2015 special election, coming in first, but lost the runoff to Raffensperger.

Gwinnett County Democrats are laying the groundwork for contesting more elections, including the 7th Congressional District.

Training seminars organized by the Gwinnett Democratic Party for first-time office seekers fill up in hours. Events are packed with new members. And Okoye, the party’s chairman, no longer has to spend months begging candidates to run for Congress; this year he expects a bumper crop.

“We will probably end up with seven to nine candidates. All these people aren’t fools. They see the handwriting on the walls. So we must be doing something right,” Okoye said. “This time they actually believe.”

“The Jon Ossoff model, to be fair, is to have absolutely no record at all and to find somebody willing to pay $30 million to help you,” Woodall said. “That is absolutely a powerful model. That is not what we’re going to have in the 7th District of Georgia.”

Shaped a bit like a backward Pac-Man, the district gobbles up much of Gwinnett from Snellville and Lilburn to the south through I-85 to the banks of Lake Lanier. It darts west to ensnare the southern half of less-populous — and deeply conservative — Forsyth County.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2017

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

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

Heading into the long Independence Day weekend, Gov. Nathan Deal announced 51 appointments to various boards, among them:

Charlotte Nash, Board of Directors of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (Reappointment)

Narender G. Reddy, Board of Directors of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (Reappointment)

Michael J. Register, Judicial Qualifications Commission – Register is the chief of police for Cobb County and has more than 25 years of experience in law enforcement.

Edward D. Tolley, Judicial Qualifications Commission – Tolley is a partner at Cook & Tolley LLP.

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told members of the House Transit Governance and Funding Committee that the legislature should consider funding for MARTA.

The speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives indicated Thursday he’d support state funding for rail and bus transit.

“I am not of the opinion that the state must wholly control or take over a transit system in order to provide funding,” he said.

Atlanta’s transit agency, MARTA, is the largest heavy rail system in the country that doesn’t receive annual state funding.

From Maggie Lee, writing for the Saporta Report.

“Your recommendations may include restructuring governance or creating agreements between governments to make transit delivery more efficient. Your recommendations may also include reasonable state funding to support our transit systems subject to appropriate controls,” said state House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) as he opened the meeting in a state Capitol hearing room.

“As our ports grow and our economy strengthens, we’ve got to be able to move more people and more goods through our state. Transit gives us a powerful opportunity to achieve both goals,” he said.

The committee will look at transit statewide, which includes everything from small rural counties where folks can arrange modest services like bus rides to the doctor to the behemoth: MARTA.

One of the state House’s key gatekeepers in transportation, Transportation Committee Chairman Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) is chairing the commission.

“When I’m talking to people about transit,” said Tanner, “there’s a lot of people that think transit should be self-sufficient at the fare box and that’s just not ever going to be the case.”

Campus Carry went into effect at Georgia Tech over the weekend.

“Our objective is to be smart and be safe as we move forward with that implementation,” Pat McKenna, Georgia Tech’s associate vice president for legal affairs and risk management, told a crowd of more than 200 people.

He was joined by Georgia Tech Police Chief Robert Connolly who read from a prepared PowerPoint from the University System of Georgia that will be presented at each of the 28 institutions.

“We want to be consistent throughout the system,” Connolly said as he listed the places where guns can and cannot be carried.

Child care centers are taboo and so are faculty and staff offices, but hallways, lobby spaces and tailgating events are open for concealed guns. Concealed guns also can be carried into classrooms, unless there’s a high school student attending.

Georgia Tech will not put up any signage with the new law. Those licensed to carry will have to meet with school officials to receive guidance as to where they can and cannot carry. Carrying a gun in a handgun-free space can result in a $25 fine.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

“I think it was already happening before,” graduate student Stephanie Anderson said while relaxing outside the library on Saturday afternoon. “I think it’s just legal now.”

“I feel a twinge of feeling unsafe just because I couldn’t predict if this would make more people more likely to carry them or if they were already carrying them, but it does make me feel a little more unsafe because there are people who feel like they have more of a reason to bring out a gun,” said Leah Sutton. “The gun isn’t the problem. It’s the people that have the guns.”

AU is taking action to ensure that students are properly educated and that security is “on point,” according to Student Government Association member Joshua Lafavor.

“I know that the faculty and the security staff here are planning different training events for people,” said Lafavor, who is on the association’s student justice committee. “I trust our police force on campus. They do a great job of taking care of the students for us.”

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

But it’s unclear how many of the tens of thousands of students who are old enough to carry a gun will actually do so once the law takes effect. Most observers expect it to be a small number.

“There’s no real way to tell,” said Luke Crawford, who is state director for Georgia Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

“The bill is allowing for concealed carry so the whole idea is that even as people are carrying on campus that nobody’s going to know because there’s really no need for anyone to know,” he added.

Failing to keep the firearm out of sight, or to steer clear of areas of campus that remain off limits, is a misdemeanor offense. It can also result in a violation of the school’s student code of conduct or personnel rules.

Cobb County Commissioners are scrambling to find $900k to pay for law enforcement operations around the new Braves stadium.

CBS46 learned that Cobb County commissioners failed to allocate $900,000 in last year’s budget to pay for police officers to direct traffic. The oversight is forcing officials to dig into other funds to cover the costs.

“Right now I’m focused on the current situation, which is to provide public safety for the stadium,” new Cobb County Chairman Mike Boyce said.

Boyce says he inherited this problem.

That leaves a shortage in other parts of the county.

“I mean to harm security in other areas just to secure this facility that’s for profit, I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” Toma said.

Cobb County’s Community Development Agency has released its 2040 Comprehensive Plan final draft.

Navicent Health won an auction to buy Oconee Regional Medical Center on eBay in a bankruptcy auction.

Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville will be sold to Macon-based Navicent Health according to a ruling issued Friday by Judge Austin E. Carter of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Navicent Health submitted a bid Tuesday and participated in an auction that was held on Thursday and Friday. During an emergency hour-long hearing with Carter at 5 p.m. Thursday, conducted by conference call, much of the discussion was regarding two bids submitted by Navicent. One of those bids included Jasper Memorial Hospital, which has a leasing arrangement with Oconee Regional.

By Friday morning’s hearing, Navicent had removed the bid with Jasper Memorial as part of the deal.

Andrew Turnbull, managing director with Houlihan Lokey, a global investment bank, said Navicent’s bid was $200,000 higher than Prime’s bid.

“I don’t believe (Oconee Regional) can continue as a going concern without the Navicent offer,” he said.

Former DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson (D) has hired former DeKalb District Attorney Robert James to represent him after being indicted for official corruption.

Henry County Commissioner Dee Clemmons responded via lawyer to allegations of ethics violations.

Clemmons’ attorney, Lawanda Hodges out of Atlanta, said Coria’s complaint against Clemmons is “riddled with false information and no evidentiary or jurisdictional basis for proceeding on the complaint” under the Commission.

“Any alleged failure by Commissioner Dee Clemmons to provide the occupations and employers of non-corporate donations is not a violation of the Act. Likewise nothing in the Act precludes contributors from living outside of Henry County,” stated Hodges in the response. “This is simply Complainant’s attempt to disparage Commissioner Clemmons to her constituents, whom Complainant circulated the complaint to.”

In response to Coria’s allegation that Clemmons does not live in Henry County, and instead at an Atlanta property with her spouse, Hodges stated that the Atlanta address is listed in Clemmons’ campaign records as her spouses’ property and that they are not “tenants-in-common.”

Opioid Crisis and Healthcare

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader held a press conference on Friday.

“My community desperately needs a transition center, a recovery center, a therapeutic center so that we don’t allow people who have gotten so wrapped up in substance abuse disorders to get in to the system and then be released before they can find appropriate care,” Schrader said.

“I believe that now it’s our duty and our burden to make sure that we have brick and mortar appropriate care in every community in this state and in every community in this country.”

Unterman said “The most important thing is education — that’s what we’re doing here on a holiday weekend — prevention and most importantly therapeutic services.”

Unterman plans to push for more funding in the next state budget, but she said the state’s budget discussions are in their early stages so she’s not sure how much money will be asked for yet.

One area she wants to secure extra funding for, however, is toxicology testing done at the GBI’s lab so it has more resources to quickly identify which drugs caused a person’s death.

“It’s not fair to these parents to ask that question, ‘What did your son die of?’ and they have to wait maybe three months or six months and don’t know what (their loved ones) died of,” Unterman said. “It’s also good for intelligence in the law enforcement community to know exactly what’s on the street and what people are dying from.”

From Natalie Fultz with Fox 5 Atlanta:

“This isn’t going to rely solely on the government,” Gwinnett County Judge Kathryn Schrader said. “It’s going to be a long, patient, intentional battle … we are all going to have to come together.”

“I see kids come through the system who are battling substance abuse,” Schrader said. “They get out and have nowhere to go. We have to change that.”

State Senator Renee Unterman also shared her concerns.

“My goal is to have more money appropriated in the 2018 Legislative Session to go to fighting the epidemic,” Unterman said.

Heroin or fentanyl were involved in more than half of Cobb County’s 2016, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

According to the Cobb County Medical Examiner’s Office’s 2016 report, the county saw last year 141 drug- and alcohol-related deaths. More than half of those deaths, 73, involved fentanyl, heroin, or both. Fentanyl alone was attributed to 35 deaths, more than double the 16 tallied in 2015, while six deaths tested positive for both fentanyl and heroin.

Twenty-eight of 2016’s fentanyl and/or heroin-related deaths came in the last three months of the year — the highest number of such deaths in Cobb to date — while last year’s total death toll related to the two drugs was up from 57 such deaths in 2015.

“This isn’t teenagers experimenting. We still got a good spike in the 20s, the 18-29 group is a pretty substantial group, but our biggest group is in the 30s,” says Dr. Christopher Gulledge, Cobb’s medical examiner, referring to the overall drug-related deaths investigated by his office.

Of the 141 deaths tallied in 2016, 44 deaths were individuals in their 30s, the age group that saw the most deaths, compared to 34 deaths of those aged 18 to 29. Only one drug-related death occurred with someone between the ages of 12 and 17.

Of the remaining groups, 18 deaths were individuals in their 40s, 29 in their 50s, while 15 deaths were tallied by those between the ages of 60 and 79.

Richland, Georgia lost its local hospital in 2013, and CNN takes a look at how that affected the community.

Ultimately, the hospital closed that Friday, leaving the rural town without a hospital for miles. [Dr. Alluri ] Raju, who had been the hospital’s chief of staff, is now the only doctor left in the town a two-hour drive south of Atlanta.

“I was very devastated when the hospital was closed,” Raju said. “I was so attached to it. I practiced there for 33 years.”

Nearly two-thirds of the lowest performing hospitals are in states that didn’t expand Medicaid, according to a previous Chartis report. One case-in-point: the state of Georgia, which did not expand Medicaid and where over half of the state’s 73 rural hospitals are in danger of closing. Six have closed since 2010.

That leaves his patients in what is known as a “medical desert.” A long drive to the nearest hospital — 45 minutes or more — could be the difference between life and death, he said.

“Time is essential,” he said. “We’re going to lose some patients on the way because they cannot get the care in a reasonable amount of time.”

Voter Data

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) said he will comply with the Trump administration request for voter data.

Georgia plans to provide publicly available voter information to President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity, but will not share information considered private under state law such as registered voters’ driver’s license numbers or Social Security numbers.

Trump formed the commission in May to investigate alleged acts of voter fraud after he made unsubstantiated claims of “millions” of illegal votes during last year’s presidential election.

Officials from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office have repeatedly said there were no illegal votes in Georgia.

Former Georgia Republican Hans von Spakovsky will lead the federal effort.

Von Spakovsky, 58, will join the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, though it remains unclear what role he will take. The White House’s Thursday night announcement, which included several other administration posts, did not provide further details.

The appointment is the second opportunity for von Spakovsky to take part in shaping election and voting policy from the executive branch. Congressional Democrats blocked his nomination to the Federal Election Commission in 2008 following accusations of partisanship and voter rights suppression in his role at the Justice Department from 2002 to 2005, where he was counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Von Spakovsky’s nomination at the FEC stretched for two years as Democrats painted a picture of an official who steamrolled the recommendations of career Justice lawyers. He overruled colleagues to approve a Georgia law in 2005 requiring that people present photo identification to vote, which some of his colleagues said would disproportionately impact African American voters. He also led unsuccessful suits to purge voter rolls in Missouri.

He currently heads the Election Law Reform Initiative at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, where he is also a senior legal fellow.

Nuclear News

Georgia Power and sister company Southern Nuclear said they are prepared to take over construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Georgia Power announced late Wednesday that it and Southern Nuclear are prepared to take over management at the Burke County nuclear power plant in late July, under the terms of a new service agreement struck June 9.

“There are thousands of workers that remain onsite at the Vogtle nuclear expansion today – working in all areas of the site, to keep construction of the new units moving forward,” said Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins. “Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear are fully prepared, working with Westinghouse, to assume project management at the site by the end of next month.”

“The scope of the service agreement includes engineering, procurement and licensing support from Westinghouse, as well as access to Westinghouse intellectual property needed for the project,” Georgia Power said in a news release. “To allow time for all approvals, the interim assessment agreement has been extended through July 20.”

The agreement also firms up $3.68 billion in parental guarantees to Georgia Power by Toshiba. That money acts as protection for Georgia electric customers after Westinghouse’s bankruptcy.

From the AJC:

The Plant Vogtle expansion is already at least $3 billion over budget and well over three years behind schedule. Disruptions from the Westinghouse bankruptcy are expected to add more costs and delays.

The company also said it expects to receive a $300 million payment in October from Toshiba Corp, Westinghouse’s parent company, as the first installment toward making good on almost $3.7 billion in earlier financial guarantees it promised on the Vogtle project.

Construction of the two reactors is now 32 percent complete, said William Jacobs Jr., the PSC’s independent construction monitor.

He and [PSC staffer] Roetger said many of the cost overruns that pushed Westinghouse into bankruptcy probably could have been avoided if the company had updated a complete plan for managing, supplying and staffing the complex project, which involves more than 200,000 tasks to be completed in a specific order.

The monitors testified that Georgia Power wasn’t responsible for those missing plans and estimates, but should have made sure they were done and updated as the project was built.

“One hundred percent of CEOs” would have wanted to know ahead of time if a massive loss was going to strike the company five years down the road, said Roetger. Those documents would have helped detect looming problems “much earlier,” he said.

As it was, the lack of solid information on progress at Vogtle “does raise a question of reasonableness,” he said. “We simply didn’t believe their forecasts or schedule.”

2018 Elections

Philip Wilheit of Gainesville, a very prominent supporter of Gov. Deal’s elections, has endorsed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the 2018 election for Governor.

Wilheit penned an email on Friday calling Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle “the very best person” for the job. He and his wife gave more than $12,000 to Cagle, he wrote, and he urged his friends and colleagues to do the same.

“There will be no ‘learning curve’ when Casey steps into office in 2019,” wrote Wilheit.

Wilheit, who owns a packaging firm in Gainesville, chaired [Deal's] election campaign and was appointed to the Board of Regents soon after Deal took office. His son, Philip Wilheit Jr., also was chair of the Department of Natural Resources board.

Here’s a portion of the Wilheit letter:

As Governor Deal’s second term comes to an end, we need to be looking forward very carefully to see which candidate can continue Governor Deal’s legacy of job creation, criminal justice reform, education, a very business friendly climate and a myriad of other initiatives he has instituted very successfully.

I have taken a lot of time studying this and have come to the firm conclusion that Lt. Governor Casey Cagle is the very best person to continue making Georgia the number one state in the Union to live, play, work and raise a family.  Casey has stood by Governor Deal in all of the programs I mentioned above.  There will be no “learning curve” when Casey steps into office in 2019.

I have had many discussions with Casey over the last several months and I am very comfortable in my support of his candidacy.  He understands that the Governor’s office needs to continue to support the business community, education at all levels,  healthcare and will welcome our input and advice as he moves Georgia forward.

Mary Hart and I have “maxed” out to Casey.  Each individual can give $6.600.00 as well as corporate money.  I urge each of you to send Casey a check today at the level you think appropriate.

Political Events

Cobb County Republicans annually hold one of the best grassroots political events of the year on Independence Day. This year, the Celebration of Freedom: Cobb County Annual July 4th BBQ and Straw Poll takes place from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM at Jim R. Miller Park, 2245 Callaway Road SW, Marietta, GA 30008.

Lowndes County Democrats will hold a barbecue at their Thursday night meeting.

The event will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 6, at Mathis Municipal Auditorium, 2300 N. Ashley St., according to an organizational press release. Tickets are $25 each and may be purchased from any Lowndes County Democratic Party committee member or at the door.

“Thank our Teachers” signs, food provided by Miller BBQ and plans from Democratic candidates seeking office will be available, according to organizers.

“Democrats have a lot to be proud of,” said J.D. Rice, Lowndes County Democratic Party chairman. ““After all, Social Security (Franklin Delano Roosevelt), Medicare and Medicaid (Lyndon Baines Johnson) and the Affordable Care Act (Barack Obama) were all passed under Democratic presidents. The LCDP advocates for our health, especially considering South Georgia Medical Center is a mainstay of our local economy. LCDP also advocates for public transportation so our residents can get to work, to the benefit of our businesses, as both the chamber and the development authority also recommend. LCDP’s platform includes equal and impartial justice under the law and leaving the earth as safe, beautiful, and majestic as we found it, so LCDP continues to advocate against the Sabal Trail pipeline and for solar power. Help us make Lowndes County a more beautiful and better place to live for all.”