The blog.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 19, 2019

Feet Washington Wilkes

Feet is a 4-month old male Plott Hound puppy who is available for adoption at the Washington Wilkes Humane Animal Shelter in Washington, GA.

Helga Washington Wilkes

Helga is a 4-month old female Plott Hound puppy who is available for adoption at the Washington Wilkes Humane Animal Shelter in Washington, GA. I like how the person holding Helga’s leash has shoes to match Helga’s beautiful brindle coat.

Shelby Washington Wilkes

Shelby is a majestic adult female Black and Tan Coonhound who is available for adoption at the Washington Wilkes Humane Animal Shelter in Washington, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clinton’s performance was widely panned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Qualifying continues today in the House District 71 Special Election, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Thursday was the second day of candidate qualifying, and Republicans Nina Blackwelder and Marcy Sakrison, along with Democrat Jill Prouty, qualified Thursday. Republican Philip Singleton qualified Wednesday. Sam Anders, who had been running for the seat, decided to withdraw and support Sakrison, according to a press release sent Wednesday by Sakrison’s campaign.

Qualifying ends today at 1 p.m.

The seat will be filled in a special election Sept. 3. If a runoff is needed, it will be held Oct. 1. Early voting in the race will likely begin Aug. 12.

The United States Election Assistance Commission ranked Georgia #1 in automated voter registration in its Election Administration and Voting Survey Report for the 2018 elections, according to the Albany Herald.

he United States Election Assistance Commission recently released its Election Administration and Voting Survey Report for the 2018 elections, which named Georgia as the No. 1 state for automated voter registration and showed significantly higher percentages of accepted absentee and provisional ballots compared to previous elections — delivering a blow to claims of voter suppression and inadequate ballot access.

The EAVS report is the comprehensive, biennial national survey required by federal law that collects election data from all 50 states.

“Liberal activists have been desperately trying to advance a false narrative of pervasive voter suppression which, as the EAVS report confirms, has no basis in reality,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. “While these activists peddle falsehoods — apparently as a springboard for higher office or to dupe donors into supporting their nonprofit — my office will continue to aggressively pursue initiatives like automated voter registration, which make Georgia a top state in the nation for voter registration and voter turnout.”

The EAVS data supports the conclusion of a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice that showed that Georgia had a 93.7% increase in registrations because of automated voter registration, more than any other state in the nation.

“The liberal activists who are disparaging our elections in Georgia are really attacking county election officials, but the truth is that these hard-working professionals are dedicated and dependable,” Raffensperger said in a news release. “They handled this increased workload from automated voter registration in stride, and I commend them.”

Since Governor Kemp has been derided for years by the Democratic-Liberal Axis of American Politics, note that the 2018 elections and the systems put in place for them were overseen by then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

A Gwinnett County Democratic Party Vice Chair said someone put a Trump sticker on her already-bestickered car without her permission, according to the AJC.

Sharon Wood walked out of the Publix on Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville on Monday afternoon and found someone had put an “I (heart) Trump” sticker on her car, covering other stickers supporting former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Wood, the first vice-chair of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, has had her car plastered in political bumper stickers for years and had mostly heard positive comments about them. But after she peeled the Trump stickers off her trunk, she heard something different.

“I heard this person yelling from across the parking lot ‘You (expletive) traitor,’ over and over again …,” Wood said.

The Gwinnett County Solicitor General and the Lawrenceville Police Department are both investigating the incident independently and have identified a suspect based on Wood’s description of the van, which carried a Lawrenceville business name. The suspect will be interviewed by police Monday, and the suspect has hired an attorney, said Lt. Jake Parker, a Lawrenceville Police Department spokesman.

After Keaton posted on Facebook about the incident, Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside saw it and got in touch with both women. Based on Wood’s description of the man’s actions, Whiteside said it could result in criminal charges. The solicitor’s office prosecutes misdemeanors.

Lauren Holcomb will become the new Executive Director of the Georgia’s State Charter Schools Commission, according to the AJC.

Holcomb, who was the agency’s communications chief, was selected in a competitive search process, according to a statement from the SCSC Thursday. She was an adviser to Gov. Sonny Perdue and the founding director of the Innovation Fund in the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.

The SCSC was established in 2013 by a constitutional amendment in 2012. It has approved and monitored dozens of schools, including some that closed. The agency has a $4 million administrative budget but distributes tens of millions of other dollars to the 35 schools, serving 33,000 students, currently in its portfolio. It’s been undergoing changes lately, with two new commissioners appointed. Former senator and gubernatorial candidate Hunter Hill was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp and former state Rep. Buzz Brockway was appointed by House Speaker David Ralston.

Savannah City Council needs more time and information on a prospective SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah aldermen decided at their Thursday morning workshop they need another workshop before making a decision on how to spend a potential $156 million in one cent sales tax funds, known as SPLOST.

The council had been expected to vote at its regular meeting Thursday afternoon on an intergovernmental agreement with Chatham County regarding SPLOST.

The agreement is needed for a six-year SPLOST collection.

The SPLOST issue will be on ballots for voters Nov. 5. If approved, collections would begin on Oct. 1, 2020.

Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education members will take more training to comply with the accreditation agency, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The board received a monitoring report in early July from AdvancED, an accreditation and school improvement agency that has been conducting a review of Savannah-Chatham County Public School System since 2017. AdvancED said the board met its expectations for a standard on policies for effectiveness but still “needs improvement” for a standard related to adhering to a code of ethics and functioning within defined roles and responsibilities.

Board member Shawn Kachmar said board training will focus on leadership building and “the core issues facing the board,” he said.

But the board has “made more progress than they’ve given us credit for in the report,” Kachmar said. “I think they misstated some level of progress,” he said, “but I also understand they’re being cautiously optimistic about our forward movement.”

The AdvancED report provided three improvement priorities for the board to address by January 2020, such as a communication protocol, a comprehensive board professional development plan to enhance board performance and organizational effectiveness, and training to build trust and demonstrate respectful behavior.

“We’re now implementing a comprehensive board professional development plan, aimed at individuals and the group of the board as a whole,” he said.

Savannah Council heard the second reading of a proposed comprehensive zoning rewrite, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Bridget Lidy, head of planning and urban design for the city, has said the current complex ordinance does not address 21st century development patterns, or planning best practices, including expansion areas south and west of the city.

The new ordinance is the result of the city and the Metropolitan Planning Commission working together and with the community over the last several years on updating zoning.

NewZO is also the tool used to implement the Chatham County-Savannah Comprehensive Plan, city officials noted.

The updated ordinance is expected to reduce incompatible zoning, reduce the need for variance requests and provide a framework for improving neglected neighborhoods, city officials said.

The Glynn County Commission approved rezonings to the parcels that compose the St Simons Island Airport, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County commissioners voted Thursday to allow additional commercial uses at the McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport.

The county’s Islands Planning Commission voted 4-1 last month to recommend the county commission approve an amendment to the planned development text of all three tracts that comprise the airport property to mirror the general commercial zone, with restrictions.

Uses allowed in general commercial zones include “businesses involving the rendering of a personal service”; retail and wholesale businesses; private or semi-private clubs; places of worship; off-street commercial parking; hotels and motels; commercial trade, vocational or private schools; restaurants; radio or television stations or transmission towers; public utility installations or other essential services; office buildings; some repair garages; newspaper publishing facilities; educational facilities directly related to a hospital or the Glynn County Board of Health; and telecom facilities.

Macon-Bibb County is opening a new recreation center in south Macon, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The center and park will have its share of recreational options: a new weight room, renovated gymnasium, spin cycle classes, sports fields and more, Macon-Bibb County Recreation Director Robert Walker said.

It’ll also be home to a library branch and offer after-school programs on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, or STEAM. A total of $2.8 million from two special purpose

local option sales taxes have been used to get the 1931 Rocky Creek Road facility ready.

The plan is to open next month if some last-minute work is completed by then.

A bridge entering Rome will be closed this weekend, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Drivers coming into Rome from the south on U.S. 411 usually must stay in the left lane to exit onto Turner McCall Boulevard — but a temporary detour will be in place this weekend.

The bridge approaching the Ledbetter Interchange will be closed for construction from Saturday until Monday. Drivers will be directed toward the right, to exit onto Dean Avenue. The road funnels into Turner McCall at East 11th Street.

District GDOT spokesman Mohamed Arafa said the detour will stay in place from 8 a.m. on Saturday, July 20, until 5 a.m. on Monday, July 22.

“This operation is part of a combined project to rehabilitate the bridge in Floyd County and one in Haralson County,” Arafa said.

Hall County Parks & Leisure will open some facilities for free admission this weekend, according to AccessWDUN.

Guests can get in free of charge to use the community centers at North Hall Park, East Hall Park, and Mulberry Creek Park, along with the Splash Pad at Laurel Park and the beach area of River Forks Park.

“We understand what a vital role parks can play in the health and well-being of a community, and we’re excited to show the residents of Hall County what wonderful resources they have at their disposal, right in their own backyards,” said Becky Ruffner, Hall County Parks & Leisure Public Relations Specialist.

Troy University in Brunswick hosted an agritourism workshop yesterday, according to The Brunswick News.

Troy University’s Brunswick site hosted an agritourism workshop on Thursday for socially disadvantaged and minority farmers. The workshop came together in partnership a USDA- funded group called Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education along with the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, Inc., a nonprofit based in Albany.

Patrick Holladay, an associate professor for Troy’s School of Hospitality, Sport and Tourism Management, facilitated the workshop. Nearly 30 farmers traveled from Albany to participate.

Agritourism is a way for farmers to diversify their revenue by bringing visitors to their farm for a variety of kinds of programs, including on-site farmer’s markets, cafés, bed and breakfast homes and more.

Agritourism, Holladay said, is a growing niche in the state’s tourism market, which is the second largest industry in Georgia, bringing in about $63 billion annually. The large industry is agriculture, which brings in about $73.7 billion annually.

“Marrying your two biggest industries together makes a whole lot of sense,” Holladay said.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 18, 2019

Lucy Newnan Coweta

Lucy is a female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Newnan Coweta Humane Society in Newnan, GA.

Lucille Newnan Coweta

Lucille is a female German Shepherd and Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Newnan Coweta Humane Society in Newnan, GA.

I love to play fetch and will even bring the ball back to you…I always wonder if you are going to throw the ball again. Will you be my fetch partner for the rest of my life. I just want someone to love me. Do you have time for playing fetch and endless love?

Sky Newnan Coweta

Sky is a young female Labrador Retriever & Pit Bull Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Newnan Coweta Humane Society in Newnan, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp signed an Executive Order suspending Bacon County Sheriff Mark Cothren for twenty days.

Senator Johnny Isakson was hospitalized after falling and breaking several ribs, according to the AJC.

Isakson’s communications director, Amanda Maddox, released details of the hospitalization Wednesday night. She said he was admitted to George Washington University Hospital after the fall.

He has four fractured ribs.

“He is in pain, but resting and doing well,” Maddox said. “Senator Isakson looks forward to fully recovering and getting back to work for Georgians.”

“The Kemp family asks Georgians across our great state to join them in praying for Senator Johnny Isakson’s swift recovery,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement of Facebook after news broke about Isakson’s hospitalization.

Avery Niles was fired as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, according to the Gainesville Times.

“Commissioner Avery Niles submitted his resignation to the Board of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice effective Sept. 1,” reads a statement from the DJJ. “Following an executive session, the board voted not to accept the resignation and voted to remove him from the position of commissioner, effective immediately. Gov. Brian P. Kemp has approved the board’s decision.”

In published reports, Niles recently came under fire when it was revealed that he lied under oath in a deposition related to a lawsuit against the DJJ. Niles claimed he had earned an associate degree in criminal justice that he later admitted he did not possess. It is unclear whether this was the reason his employment with the agency was terminated.

State House District 71 qualifying runs through Friday, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Candidates wishing to run for the house seat, which was vacated by David Stover, qualify at the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office Elections Division, at 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Suite 802, Atlanta.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. The qualifying fee is $400.

The special election will be held Sept. 3. Because it is a special election, all candidates run together, regardless of party, and there is no primary. If a runoff is needed, it will be Oct. 1, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

There were five declared candidates for the seat, but one, Sam Anders, has withdrawn from the race.

The other declared candidates are Republicans Nina Blackwelder, Marcy Sakrison and Philip Singleton and Democrat Jill Prouty.

District 71 encompasses most of the eastern half of Coweta County, except for the Senoia and Haralson areas, as well as a section west of U.S. 29 between Palmetto and Madras. It also includes a sliver of Fayette County in the Kedron area of Peachtree City.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs declined a grant application by Statesboro, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs has denied, at the pre-application stage, the city of Statesboro’s request for $2 million in Community Development Block Grant funding for the Creek on the Blue Mile project.

Statesboro still has the promise of a $5.5 million state direct investment and an up to $15.5 million line of credit for the project, both through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. The $5.5 million would not have to be repaid, but it is meant for engineering and construction of the flood control lagoon. The $15.5 million would have to be repaid in 30 years, although at a very low annual interest rate of 2.25 percent.

“After a review of the pre-application, we do not find that the city’s proposal addresses eligible CDBG activities to directly benefit low- and moderate-income persons; therefore, the city is not being invited to submit a full application,” Georgia DCA Deputy Commissioner Rusty Haygood stated in a June 20 letter to Mayor Jonathan McCollar.

Savannah City Council will consider approval of an Intergovernmental Agreement governing a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) with Chatham County, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The agreement is needed for a new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum that will be on November ballots for voters to approve or deny.

The sales tax, if approved, would begin collections on Oct. 1, 2020.

The city originally asked the county for $225 million from the SPLOST 7 collection.

The county has determined Savannah will receive $156.07 million, according to Pat Monahan, Savannah’s interim city manager.

In May the other municipalities also presented their requests that included, $8.2 million for Bloomingdale; $13.15 million for Garden City; $64.2 million for Pooler; $11 million for Port Wentworth; $5 million for Thunderbolt; $20 million for Tybee Island, and $200,000 for Vernonburg.

The County Commission is expected to call for the election on July 26, which will then set the deadline for finalizing the intergovernmental agreements.

The Athens-Clarke County Commission will meet Thursday to approve a final project list for the upcoming SPLOST 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

Public comment is allowed and expected at the 6 p.m. meeting in Athens City Hall on the “SPLOST 2020” package, pegged at about $330 million. The special purpose local option sales tax is a 1 percent tax governments with voter approval can use to fund construction of buildings, parks and other public projects.

Under Georgia law, a governing body such as the commission can choose to ask voters to approve the tax for a set time such as five or six years, or until it reaches a certain amount. In this case, $330 million, which would extend the tax for about an additional 11 years.

Voters will get the final say in a November referendum.

[Commissioner Melissa] Link said she’s heard opposition from some of her constituents that they might vote against continuing the SPLOST if the arena is on it.

Glynn County is paying more attention to who claims homestead exemptions, according to The Brunswick News.

“I think probably what has brought this to the fore more than anything is the county’s lawsuit … The Coleman class action and the school board. They have over 6,000 people, I think now, eligible for the school board exemption,” said Glynn County Tax Commissioner Jeff Chapman.

In the class-action lawsuit Chapman referred to — originally files as three separate lawsuits in 2012, 2013 and 2014 — county residents alleged the tax commissioner had overcharged on property taxes going back to 2001.

The plaintiffs claimed the county had selected the wrong year on which to base their Scarlett Williams homestead exemptions. In a Scarlett Williams exemption, a full-time resident’s property value is “frozen” for tax purposes at the year in which their exemption was approved.

The tax commissioner’s office should have frozen values at the year prior to approval, the Georgia Court of Appeals found. As such, the county had overcharged residents on property taxes going back at least to 2001, according to court filings.

“The county commission and school board both realize how much money is at stake with an incorrect exemption, or someone who’s not eligible and getting it,” Chapman said. “I think they see how much money it is. I think that’s being discussed. It’s thousands of dollars (per incorrect exemption).”

As such, he was encouraged to begin cracking down on all homestead exemptions, an easy target given that, until now, they’ve been policed via “honor system.” In its most recent budget, the county commission increased the staffing in his office to facilitate the effort.

The point at which a short-term rental becomes a lodging business is identified differently by different tax commissioners, but Chapman sees it as a clear, black and white distinction. The bottom line: anyone who rents out their home isn’t eligible for a homestead exemption.

“You can’t have a boarding house or a weekend rental and get the discounts from taxations like a homestead can get,” Chapman said.

Anyone who rents out a portion of their home as an apartment or efficiency could lose their exempt status unless the portion of the property being rented is on a separate tax parcel from the owner’s residence.

The same rule stands for short-term rentals, he said. The amount of time one spends at home or away doesn’t matter. Once rented, it’s no longer a homestead and is therefore not exempt, no matter how long the rental period is.

Floyd County Board of Education set the millage rate for FY 2020, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The board heard the proposed millage rate of 18.25 mills for a third time at 7:30 a.m. Monday. The rate saw no changes from the last two hearings. The millage rate is a combination of a proposed 9.480 mills for county government services and 18.25 mills for the school system.

“Even when times are tight we have been trying to give the taxpayers a break,” Superintendent Jeff Wilson said.

Some Henry County residents spoke against a proposed property tax millage rate hike, according to the Henry Herald.

The county has proposed an increased millage rate of 12.995, which, according to officials, would generate tax revenue of $94,672,038.

If the county declined to increase its millage rate and instead maintain its millage rate of 12.733, the county would generate $92,709,424.

In May, the county passed a $163,045,000 general fund budget, which includes funding for around 20 new law enforcement officers, extra constituent aides for the Board of Commissioners and the county absorbing 100% of health insurance rate increases.

Around $295,000 in the county’s fund balance was used to help balance the general fund budget, which was something county leaders had discouraged commissioners from doing in budget hearings held earlier this year.

The Cherokee County Commission approved the property tax millage rate for 2020, according to the Tribune-Ledger News.

[C]ommissioners unanimously approved a motion to set the tax millage rate at what had been recommended, with a full rollback in millage for both the general fund and the park bond debt service and no rollback on the rates for the fire fund. It was recommended not to roll back the tax mills on the fire fund so that the county could continue pushing toward its goal of having three firefighters per apparatus, which would also help lower the county’s ISO rating to help with insurance rates.

Along with approving the tax millage rates for the county’s general fund, fire fund and park bond debt service, the commissioners approved the 19.45 mills set by the Cherokee County School District for the upcoming year as a formality.

The Augusta Commission approved a new EMS agreement with Gold Cross EMS, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The commission approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Gold Cross by a vote of 6-4, with Commissioners Bill Fennoy, Dennis Williams, Sammie Sias and Ben Hasan voting against it. The terms of the agreement were approved by the commission a month earlier after months of negotiations with Gold Cross, which is the state-designated emergency ambulance provider for Augusta but has been without a contract with the city since the end of 2016.

The agreement pays Gold Cross a $400,000 subsidy for the remainder of the year, a $600,000 subsidy in 2020 and $650,000 in 2021 and 2022. The city will set the billing rates for Gold Cross subject to an annual review of market conditions. Gold Cross will provide eight ambulances around the clock staffed by at least an advanced EMT while Augusta Fire Department will provide three with similar staffing.

Both Sias and Fennoy contended that the agreement ran afoul of the city’s procurement policies.

“This to me is a back door method to get around our Procurement code,” Sias said, an objection that had been made a month earlier when the commission approved the terms. General Counsel Wayne Brown said the agreement did not subvert the code because there was no way the contract could have been competitively bid because Gold Cross is the sole state-designated provider.

McDonough City Council voted to accept a proposed 75/25 split of SPLOST funds with Henry County and its other municipalities, according to the Henry Herald.

The McDonough City Council voted to support the IGA following an executive session at Monday’s meeting, but didn’t explicitly say what the intergovernmental agreement contained.

However, according to agreement documents supplied to the Herald by McDonough City Clerk Janis Price, the IGA explicitly states that 25 percent of SPLOST revenue would be distributed to the four cities for the funding of their own SPLOST projects.

This is a departure from a late-stage proposal brought out by several cities, but most notably the city of Hampton. That proposal would have called for 30 percent of SPLOST revenues distributed between Henry County’s four cities, while the remaining 70 percent would be used by the county for its projects.

Supporters of the 70/30 revenue split argue that the cities would get more of a fair share of the sales tax proceeds since the four cities make up around 30 percent of the county’s population.

The Henry County Commission voted to put a “Brunch Bill” referendum on the November 2019 ballot, according to the Henry Herald.

The board agreed, 5-1, with Johnny Wilson voting against, to put language on the November ballot that would allow restaurants in unincorporated Henry County to sell alcohol by the glass at 11 a.m. on Sundays rather than at 12:30 p.m. as has been custom.

Last year, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 17, which allows for local referendums on the “brunch bill.” The language of the bill states that between 10 and 60 days after a local government approves a resolution allowing a vote to take place, an election superintendent must call an election for the “brunch bill,” which would then take place between 30 and 60 days after it is called.

Valdosta will use most of its receipts from a new SPLOST for infrastructure, if voters approve, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

If the eighth special purpose local option sales tax is approved by Lowndes County voters, about $40 million of the city’s expected $65 million will be used to improve aging infrastructure such as sewer pipes.

City Manager Mark Barber said utility infrastructure impacts every resident in the city, which is why it is taking such a significant part of the SPLOST project list.

At a special called meeting this week, Valdosta City Council and staff broke down the city SPLOST project list for review and approval. The list included how much of the expected SPLOST money would go to which departments and for what purpose.

Voters will decide on the November ballot whether the one-cent tax on items bought inside the county should be approved. Residents are currently paying a similar tax as part of SPLOST VII which is coming to an end.

If the vote comes out against SPLOST, the sales tax will drop from eight to seven cents per dollar, meaning the city would not be able to make up the revenue necessary for utility and other infrastructure improvements, according to city officials.

Elections for Braselton City Council are set for November 5, 2019, according to the Gainesville Times.

Qualifying has been set for Aug. 19-21 to fill the District 1 and District 3 seats on the council, and will take place at Braselton Town Hall, 4982 Highway 53. Fees are $180.

District 1 is currently held by Becky Richardson and District 3, Tony Funari.

Under apparent cyberattack, Henry County took down online systems, according to the Henry Herald.

“At this time there is no access to public records including court documents, building permits, zoning permits, property tax information or business licenses,” the county said in a Facebook post. “At this time county e-mail, internet access and county servers have been taken down by Henry County Technical services in a proactive measure to safeguard county government information and networks.”

The Henry County Technology Services Department, Georgia Technology Authority and FBI are working on the issue, and backup server testing is underway.

Dunwoody Municipal Court is offering an amnesty program for some unpaid fines and warrants, according to the AJC.

For the month of August, the Dunwoody Municipal Court is implementing an “amnesty program” for people with overdue traffic citations or warrants for failing to appear in court, the city said in a statement Wednesday.

Those offenses can sometimes lead to an arrest. But contempt fees or warrants will be cleared for people who visit the court and settle up with city officials next month.

“Some people think this is a trick. It’s definitely not,” Dunwoody Municipal Court Clerk Norlaundra Huntington said in a statement. “We simply want to encourage people to come back to court by easing the financial burden.”

For overdue fines paid in full, the court will waive any extra contempt fees. If an offense requires a court appearance, “the individual will be granted a future court date to appear before a judge, and all warrants will be cleared and warrant fees forgiven,” the city said.

The amnesty program is designed to settle violations and ultimately reduce arrests.

Sandy Springs says its false alarm ordinance is reducing false alarms, according to the AJC.

The Sandy Springs City Council on Tuesday got its first sense from the police department of how the alarm ordinance is doing since the law started June 19: Capt. Dan Nable said false alarms were down 77% from the previous 30 days, when almost every call was false.

“The alarm ordinance is having a desired effect,” Nable said.

After eight years of tweaking the ordinance and traveling to research cities with similar laws, the city says it is now the first in Georgia whose police will not respond to home and business burglary alarms without video, audio or in-person verification that a crime is occurring. The law also includes steep fines on alarm companies for repeated false alarms.

Of the 8,000 alarm calls last year in Sandy Springs, 99% were false alarms, police previously said. That accounted for 17% of all calls to the 911 dispatch center. City leaders said they approved the law in part because false alarms distract police and dispatchers from actual emergencies.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 17, 2019

Darling Brunswick

Darling is a young female Jack Russell Terrier and Catahoula Leopard Dog mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA.

Michael Brunswick

Michael is a young male Jack Russell Terrier and Catahoula Leopard Dog mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA.

Chyna Brunswick

Chyna is a young female Miniature Pinscher and Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, GA.

This precious pup was surrendered when her owner was unable to care for her any longer. At only 8 months, she is very much a puppy with energy and playfulness, loving everyone she has met here. The change in her living arrangements has not changed her outlook at all. We would very much like to change her living arrangements one more time, giving her a family to love, a couch to share with them, and of course yummy treats as well. Come and meet Chyna and see if she is your cup of tea. She is spayed, microchipped, current on core vaccines and has tested negative for heartworms.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 17, 2019

On July 17, 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman set up headquarters in Fulton County on Powers Ferry Road near the Chattahoochee River. Late that night, Confederate General Joseph Johnston was replaced by newly-commissioned Gen. John Bell Hood.

For nearly three months, Johnston and Sherman had maneuvered around the rugged corridor from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Although there was constant skirmishing, there were few major battles; Sherman kept trying to outflank Johnston, but his advances were blocked. Though this kept losses to a minimum, there was also a limit to how long Johnston could maintain this strategy as each move brought the armies closer to Atlanta. By July 17, 1864, Johnston was backed into the outskirts of Atlanta. Johnston felt his strategy was the only way to preserve the Army of Tennessee, but Davis felt that he had given up too much territory.

Georgia-born Ty Cobb died on July 17, 1961.

The Beatles premiered The Yellow Submarine on July 17, 1968 in London.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed by Congress on July 17, 1984. From the New York Times:

President Reagan, appealing for cooperation in ending the “’crazy quilt of different states’ drinking laws,” today signed legislation that would deny some Federal highway funds to states that keep their drinking age under 21.

“We know that drinking, plus driving, spell death and disaster,” Mr. Reagan told visitors on a sweltering afternoon. “We know that people in the 18-to-20 age group are more likely to be in alcohol-related accidents than those in any other age group.”

“’It’s a grave national problem, and it touches all our lives,” he added. “With the problem so clear-cut and the proven solution at hand, we have no misgiving about this judicious use of Federal power.”

Under the law Mr. Reagan signed today, the Secretary of Transportation is required to withhold 5 percent of Federal highway construction funds from those states that do not enact a minimum drinking age of 21 by Oct. 1, 1986. The Secretary is required to withhold 10 percent of the funds for states that do not act by Oct. 1, 1987.

The President said he was “convinced” that the legislation would “help persuade state legislators to act in the national interest to save our children’s lives, by raising the drinking age to 21 across the country.”

A senior White House official said after the ceremony that it was not clear that the new law would compel states to raise their drinking ages, even with its incentives and penalties.

He said some states, such as Florida, were proving resistant to the changes because people considered it unfair to allow residents to vote and serve in the armed services at the age of 18 but not to drink in public.

The University of North Georgia Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Dahlonega Science Council will discuss the Apollo 11 moon landing, according to AccessWDUN.

The keynote speaker is NASA aerospace engineer Sabrina Thompson, who works at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Thompson will speak about the historic mission at 7:30 p.m. July 20 in the Health and Natural Sciences (HNS) building at University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega Campus. Thompson said she will share the history of the space program, but she also plans to discuss what’s in the future for space exploration.

Before and after the speech, activities include hands-on projects for children, planetarium shows and solar observations. If the weather is clear, telescopes for observing will be set up at HNS, the observatory, or both.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Drive safely, and remember that the Georgia State Patrol and local authorities will be teaming up for additional traffic enforcement. From the Ledger-Enquirer:

The third annual Operation Southern Shield launched Monday, and is an effort by agencies in [Georgia and Alabama,] plus Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee to enforce speed limits and promote safe driving through midnight July 21.

“The goal of Southern Shield is not to write a lot of tickets, but to show drivers how speeding drastically increases their chances of being in a crash,” said Allen Poole, director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

In 2018, 268 people were killed in speed-related crashes in Georgia, according to preliminary numbers from the Georgia Department of Transportation. That’s an 8% increase from the previous year.

Belinda Jackson, regional program manager with the NHTSA, said there are several groups of drivers who are more likely to be involved in speed-related crashes: young males aged 15-24, people who don’t wear their seatbelts, motorcyclists and impaired drivers.

“During this week’s enforcement blitz, the blue lights will be out there in full force,” Jackson said. “Officers will be vigilant regarding enforcing speed limits but also seat belt, distracted driving and impaired driving violations as well. Our goal with the Southern Shield campaign is simply this: it’s to save lives.”

During the 2018 Southern Shield, law enforcement agencies in Georgia wrote more than 11,000 citations[.]

The Gainesville Times notes that turtles are increasingly crossing roads.

“They’re particularly prevalent during this time of year, especially after a rainstorm,” Gordon said. “People will see them crossing roads and around their homes.”

Gordon said adult eastern box turtles can live as long as 40-60 years in the wild, and exhibit a range of brown, yellow and black shell color variations.

For the past week, Hall County Parks & Leisure has been pushing turtle-related education to the community.

Becky Ruffner, the department’s marketing and public relations specialist, said the idea was inspired by the increased activity of turtles during the summer.

Like Gordon, Ruffner stresses the importance of not taking turtles home. Unbeknownst to many, Ruffner said the eastern box turtle is a protected species under Georgia law, making it illegal to remove one from its habitat.

“Humans are one of the biggest threats to the box turtle population by removing them,” she said. “And that box turtle is probably not going to survive.”

Kathy Church, program coordinator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said out of the approximately 27 species of turtles in Georgia, 13 are protected.

Those that are unprotected, including the common snapping turtle, can be caught and eaten for dinner. Church said people can legally trap up to 10 turtles per session for food purposes.

So, there is a bag limit for turtles. Who knew?

Governor Brian Kemp swore in two new members of the Board of Regents, according to the AJC.

Kemp used the openings to appoint Sam Holmes, a commercial real estate executive with CBRE; and Jose Perez, the retired head of Target Market Trends and a Gwinnett Republican. He also re-appointed Dean Alford, a veteran regents member with ties to the state’s GOP establishment.

They replace Richard Tucker and Don Leebern Jr., who have been mainstays on the board, which oversees 26 institutions including Georgia’s largest colleges and universities and is considered one of the most coveted posts in state government. The 12-month total budget for the University System of Georgia, about $9.6 billion, is about one-third the size of the entire state budget.

The appointees will serve seven-year terms.

Governor Kemp will speak at the ribbon-cutting for PCOM South Georgia, according to the Suwanee Democrat.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has confirmed that he will address attendees as the first four-year medical school in Southwest Georgia opens its doors.

PCOM South Georgia consists of a 75,000-square-foot facility on a 31-acre campus led by 30 faculty and staff members. The campus, located on Tallokas Road in Moultrie, will welcome 55 Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine students to orientation on Aug. 5 with classes starting on Aug. 12.

Jay Feldstein, DO, president and CEO of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) said, “We are very happy to be partnering in the region to bring our 120 years of experience in educating physicians and health sciences professionals to Southwest Georgia.”

Official actions to bring a campus to the Southwest Georgia region began in October of 2016 when a Memorandum of Agreement was signed that laid out a plan to begin the extensive accreditation process with the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), the college’s accrediting agency.

“The impact this medical school will have on the South Georgia region is going to be monumental. Our ability to reduce the physician shortage in rural areas and thereby meet the increasing healthcare needs of this population is going to improve,” said Colquitt Regional President and CEO Jim Matney. “I am just overwhelmingly proud of all of the stakeholders who have come together to make this possible and we are appreciative of PCOM for their willingness to step outside of the norm and place this campus in Southwest Georgia.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is asking for public comments on a proposal to mine heavy minerals near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, according to GPB News.

Twin Pines Minerals has submitted a permit application, seeking permission to mine for heavy minerals in a 2,414-acre area. That would be phase one of the mining. The total proposed area is about 12,000 acres.

The company plans to mine in phases, according to the application, to an average of 50 feet below the land surface. The application proposes to backfill mined areas within 30 days, and replant during the appropriate planting season.

The company estimates 65 acres of wetland and 4,658 linear feet of tributaries will be permanently impacted if the project goes forward.

Spokesman Billy Birdwell stressed that the Corps is seeking new information to inform the permit review process. Public comments, he said, are not a referendum that measures public sentiment.

“Their purpose is to give us information that we don’t have or that the public deems that we really need to consider before we make our decision,” said Birdwell. “And it may lead to something that requires more study. So that’s why we have these public comment periods, and we encourage people to get involved.”

The Georgia Public Service Commission approved Georgia Powers Integrated Resource Plan, according to WABE.

Public Service Commission chairman Bubba McDonald has directed Georgia Power to add more solar power in past integrated resource plans, and continued to do so with this one.

“With our partnership with Georgia Power Company, we have been able to methodically move it forward. Step-by-step, not overdoing it, not underdoing it,” he said. “By doing that, we have stayed with no upward pressure on the ratepayer, and no state subsidies at all. Totally market driven.”

The addition of biomass had not been something that Georgia Power initially proposed, but the Georgia Forestry Commission, among others, encouraged regulators to consider it in an earlier hearing on the long-range plan. Georgia Power already buys some power from biomass companies; now it will issue a request for proposals for a new 50 megawatt biomass facility in Georgia. Biomass is not as economically efficient as other sources of power, and environmental groups say it’s not good for climate change.

Public Service Commissioner Jason Shaw said that will be good for South Georgia’s economy and its tree farmers, even if it is a relatively small power plant.

“It will allow the industry to continue to grow and expand, and I do see that adding resilience to rural communities,” Shaw said.

The Gwinnett County Commission backed away from proposed property tax millage rate hikes, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett county commissioners retreated from a plan to raise the county’s millage rate that had drawn vocal opposition from property owners.

The commission voted 3-2 to keep the millage rate at its 2018 level, with the general fund rate set at 7.209 mills. Commissioners Tommy Hunter and Ben Ku voted against the rate.

Commissioner Jace Brooks, who made the motion to keep the rate the same as last year, said he had been leaning in that direction the entire time and said the public feedback opposed to the rate increase was appreciated.

Since the county’s tax digest grew this year at least partially due to an increase in property values, some residents may still end up paying more in taxes despite the millage rate staying the same. That will depend on what exemptions they have, however.

The proposed increase in the rate to 7.4 mills drew pushback from residents in recent weeks over the increased money they’d have to spend in taxes. Some residents also called on county leaders to tighten the county’s belt on spending.

Ku said he voted against keeping the rate at the same level as last year because he “didn’t think that was the best direction for the county” because the county has to dip into reserves to cover a gap between tax revenues and expenditures.

Two things I note: first, keeping the same millage rate as last year if the property digest increased means higher county revenues and some would say that is a tax increase (see also, Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights); second, does Commissioner Ku’s comment mean he would have preferred the higher property tax rates? I think that’s what he’s saying, but it’s unclear.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter (R) and State Rep. Donna McLeod, (D-Lawrenceville) had an exchange of ideas, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County commissioners usually do not respond to people who address them at commission meetings, but Commissioner Tommy Hunter broke with that tradition Tuesday and criticized a state legislator who had criticized him during her remarks to the board.

State Rep. Donna McLeod, D-Lawrenceville, stood before the board at its business meeting Tuesday and took the opportunity to address Hunter over, among other things, a $5 million federal lawsuit he has filed against his fellow commissioners over a written reprimand issued against him in 2017 for calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig.”

“You need to act like a representative, ma’am,” Hunter said.

Hunter’s response to McLeod prompted an intercession from commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who immediately told him “let’s not engage here.”

The Dalton City Council accepted an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Whitfield County Commission governing use of encrypted radios, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The Dalton City Council voted 4-0 on Monday to approve the agreement, which says the radios can only be used for public safety purposes. The county Board of Commissioners approved the agreement last week.

The agreement also says each government is responsible for paying the subscriber fee for each of the radios it is assigned to the Tennessee Valley Regional Communication System, codifying what had been the practice. The city of Dalton has 402 handheld and vehicle-mounted radios and its annual subscriber fees total $45,285.

Whitfield County adopted a new digital emergency radio system in 2017, replacing the 40-year-old analog technology the county had been using. The system, which cost some $12 million, was the top priority under the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in 2015. It serves all county first responders as well as those in the cities of Dalton, Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell.

The new agreement says the cities can’t give or sell the radios to anyone else.

The Floyd County Board of Education heard about school safety and security, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The system will be rolling out the Raptor Visitor Management Program, which will cross reference every visitor and volunteer with the U.S. National Sex Offenders Public Registry. The system will be implemented at every front office across the system, Flanigen said.

“This way we will have an electronic database of who is in that school,” he said.

Visitors and volunteers will be required to insert their driver’s license or government issued ID card into a card reader which will alert front office staff if a registered sex offender is trying to enter the building. According to Superintendent Jeff Wilson, the system will be paid for with help of federal grant money marked for security and will cost around $1,000 per school. The system will be ready to roll by the first day of school, he said.

The system will not perform a background check on the visitors, Flanigen said. Only the sex offender registry will be checked since it is public record. Other public records such as active warrants will not be checked by the system, he said.

The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center is criticized in a new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The report, based largely on anonymous complaints, [] is the latest mark against the Augusta center. It came under fire in 2013 for being part of a nationwide VA backlog of patient consults, with some veterans dying while they waited for an appointment. In 2016, Augusta VA supervisor Cathedral Henderson was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for falsely reporting that veteran requests for care had been fulfilled to address the backlog.

In the new report, investigators said they were repeatedly told hiring at the Augusta VA is inefficient and takes months. Those interviewed called it “awful,” “extremely difficult” and “exquisitely problematic.” with an average hiring action held up by one of several procedural step for nearly 58 days.

Though an early 2018 VA report found staffing levels to be adequate, in February both CCU and RN staffing was “substantially below” authorized levels, with 11 of 53 CCU nursing positions vacant and six of 36 ER nurse slots open.

“Staff absences frequently impacted the facility’s ability to maintain safe CCU staffing levels and that unit managers failed to consistently use the available administrative actions to address unexcused staff absences,” the report said.

The Gwinnett County Board of Elections named an interim director, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The county’s Board of Registrations and Elections voted Tuesday night to appoint county Voter Registration and Elections division Deputy Director Kristi Royston as the acting elections supervisor. She will replace Lynn Ledford, the longtime supervisor who began her new position in a special projects-oriented division director Tuesday.

“I just wanted to make sure we have someone who knows what they’re doing and she’s been here for a long time and she’s very good at her job,” said elections board member Beauty Baldwin, who made the motion to appoint Royston to the position.

She comes into the interim position with plenty of experience with elections. Ledford said she has been with Gwinnett’s Voter Registration and Elections Division for about a decade. She served as the division’s deputy director for that entire time.

“I think she’ll be fantastic,” Ledford said.

Prior to coming to work for Gwinnett, Royston worked for the Secretary of State’s Office when Cathy Cox held that office, then as a clerk in Athens-Clarke County’s elections office and then as elections director for Barrow County, according to Ledford.

Agricultural Education is increasingly available in Georgia public schools, according to the Associated Press, via the Statesboro Herald.

The program will begin with 20 Georgia elementary schools that will roll out the agricultural education courses.

Agricultural education is offered in middle and high schools in metro Atlanta, the newspaper reported. But this new effort makes the first time it is being offered by the state to students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“Even if you’re not a farmer, the agriculture umbrella covers so many other opportunities. We want to make sure kids understand that,” Steinkamp said.

The Georgia Legislature approved the agricultural education curriculum for elementary schools during the 2018 legislative session. Teachers across the state are now working with the Georgia Department of Education to finalize lesson plans for the 2019-2020 school year.

State Sen. John Wilkinson, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee and is co-chair of the education committee, said the lessons will prepare students for careers in agriculture and give young people a greater respect for the food they eat.

“There was a time where the majority of people were involved in farms,” said Wilkinson, R-Toccoa. “As we get farther and farther away from the farm, a lot of our young people think food comes from a grocery store. We thought it would be good for all our students to at least have an idea of where their food comes from and what it takes to produce it. A lot of times, we take our food for granted. It’s really easy to do.”

Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will offer a new four-year degree in Agricultural Technology and Systems Management, according to the Albany Herald.

ABAC President David Bridges said he believes a new ABAC major in Agricultural Technology and Systems Management will quench the thirst of those students who want the AET background but need a four-year degree for their chosen profession.

“Jobs are available for students who complete this major,” Bridges said.

“These are the type of employees that companies are looking for. These graduates have applied skills. They have been in the shops. They can solve problems in the field.

“Control systems, guidance systems, irrigation equipment. These graduates are all over that type of thing. I think farm equipment dealers such as John Deere, Caterpillar, R.W. Griffin and Kelley Manufacturing Company will be looking for these graduates.”

A deal to build a hotel at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry cratered between The Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority and a private company, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority in January approved a preliminary agreement with Bran Hospitality to build the hotel, but final terms could not be reached.

Stephen Shimp, executive director of the fairgrounds, said a key sticking point was a requirement for a performance bond. That forced the developer to put up a bond guaranteeing the hotel would get built. Shimp said it was an extra cost the developer did not anticipate.

The deal for the hotel is identical to what the state uses to build hotels on Jekyll Island, which the state owns, Shimp said. The performance bond is part of the Jekyll Island projects as well.

Shimp said a new request for proposals will be sought from developers. Bran Hospitality, based in Perry and owner of 13 hotels, made the only offer when the state sought proposals last year, but Shimp said he is optimistic a new developer will step up.

Corina Newsome, a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, will present on how climate change is affecting seaside sparrows, according to The Brunswick News.

Her talk is part of an ongoing Georgia Sea Turtle Center Seminar Series hosted at the center, which is part of the Jekyll Island Authority. David Steen, a research ecologist at the center, began the series in 2018 to provide opportunities for researchers to share their work with the center staff and JIA employees, as well as the local community.

“I think it’s really useful for the folks working at JIA and the GSTC in particular to understand that we are part of a large scientific community and see how our research projects are informed by the latest science,” Steen said. “I also think meeting new researchers and learning about how they conduct their research programs is valuable professional development for our staff and AmeriCorps members.”

Newsome’s talk will take place at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Mosaic Classroom at the center. Newsome’s presentation is titled “Climate Change and the Salty Sparrow: Understanding Seaside Sparrow Nest-Predation Threat in a Variable Landscape.”

Her research right now focuses on the conservation of the seaside sparrow, which is a species that is particularly threatened by climate change due to sea level rise.

Glynn County is considering regulating businesses operating on public beaches, according to The Brunswick News.

Existing county regulations don’t say much about selling services on the beach, [County Community Development Director] Thompson said. Businesses selling products, however, are subject to regulations. Sunset Slush, which sells frozen treats from a cart on East Beach, must contract with the county and pay upwards of $15,000 in taxes and fees.

Seven other businesses currently operating on the beach do pay taxes, but she said it isn’t a requirement. Both she and Gurganus said they believed regulating other types of business would be fair.

Also, the lack of oversight led to something of a kerfuffle earlier this month when a paraglider — which is classified as an ultralight aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration — started operating on the beach.

In particular, [Recreation and Parks Manager Lisa Gurganus] pointed the commissioners to Walton County, Fla., and Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

Both require beach-based businesses to hold permits and maintain liability insurance.

In Senoia, City Council is considering a new ordinance permitting food trucks, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Two restaurant owners expressed concerns to the Senoia City Council Monday night, as the council prepared to approve the second and final reading of a new ordinance that would allow food trucks in certain areas, under certain circumstances.

The new ordinance will allow food trucks on Mondays from 5 to 10 p.m. from May to October. Food trucks would only be allowed downtown in the area on Monday between Johnson and Seavy streets, and in the parking lot behind city hall. They could also be allowed in the Seavy Street and Marimac Lakes parks with a special permit, said Community Development Director Dina Rimi. There will be a $50 application fee.

Scott Tigchelaar is part owner of Nic and Norman’s. “We love food trucks,” Tigchelaar said. “We’ve talked about them from a landlord perspective, from a tenant restaurant perspective and from a restaurant owner perspective.”

“As a restaurant owner, I don’t know that we are ready in Senoia. We’ve got a lot of restaurants in town and they’re not as busy as they could be,” he said.

Jim White is owner of Jimmy Pomodoro’s and Bistro Hilary.

Food trucks don’t have to pay rent or have to have a full-time staff. “It’s a lot cheaper for them to operate, obviously. It’s the complete opposite of what we do downtown,” White said.

“The restaurant industry is one of the hardest around and to add something like that, as much as we love them… I think a Monday night addition could very much hurt the restaurant business downtown,” White said.

The Hall County Public Schools system is looking at $500 million dollars in school upgrades, according to the Gainesville Times.

Most of the district’s elementary schools are, on average, about 25-30 years old, officials said.

School security improvements, even at the elementary level, have become obvious needs with the growing frequency of mass shootings on campuses across the nation, but they were not primary concerns when these decades-old schools were constructed.

But in working toward developing a 10-year facilities plan to upgrade, renovate and develop new schools, [Board Chair Nath] Morris said it is critical that officials consider how to make schools more efficient and sustainable.

Matt Cox, executive director of facilities and construction, said Hall County Schools currently has about $537 million worth of project and maintenance needs identified among its 37 schools.

St Simons beachgoers saw dozens of pilot whales beach themselves, according to AccessWDUN.

State Department of Natural Resources whale biologist Clay George said the DNR planned to euthanize two incapacitated whales. The DNR says they will be autopsied.

George says the whales were likely confused as they normally stay more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) offshore. The American Cetacean Society says pilot whales are often involved in mass strandings partly due to their social nature.

From the AJC:

Glynn County EMA and Homeland Security officials reported all whales were back in the ocean as of 7:40 p.m. Tuesday.

According to the Wildlife Resources Division from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, while some animals were successfully pushed back out, two pilot whales died and were taken in for a necropsy.

“The remaining whales were last seen swimming in the sound, and it is hoped they will continue to keep moving out to sea,” officials said.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 16, 2019

Peabody Camden

Peabody is a young male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Camden County in Kingsland, GA.

I think everything is fun, interesting and meant for play, especially you. Anything you do, I’ll want to do too.  With my own brand of surprises, life with me will keep you constantly on your toes, and the fun is guaranteed. Recommend children 8 years and older.

Carter-Rea Camden

Carter-Rea is a male Catahould Leopard Dog mix who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Camden County in Kingsland, GA.

Shy yet charming canine searching for a patient owner with a relaxed lifestyle. Looking for gentle guidance to help me come out of my shell.  Treat me sweet and kind and I’ll blossom. Recommend children 8 years and older.

Clementine Camden

Clementine is a young female Pit Bull Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Camden County in Kingsland, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 16, 2019

On July 16, 1790, Congress declared Washington, DC the new capital city.

Georgia Congressman Carl Vinson set a new record for longevity in office on July 16, 1963, having served 48 years, 8 months, and 12 days since his election in 1914. Vinson’s record held until 1992 and his tenure is now sixth-longest.

On July 16, 1914, Asa Griggs Candler, retired President of Coca-Cola, wrote his brother Warren, who was a Bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, a letter offering one million dollars and 72 acres of land in Atlanta for the church to establish a new university in the East.

The United States performed the first test of an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at the Trinity site in New Mexico.

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the project, watched the mushroom cloud rise into the New Mexico sky. “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” he uttered, reciting a passage from an ancient Hindu text.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday announced Walt Davis as the State Business Court Judge, according to GPB News.

Walt Davis, a partner at Atlanta firm Jones Day, has been tapped to head up the new statewide business court. Georgia voters approved the court last November and the legislature codified it with bipartisan support.

Davis’ bio says that he specializes in “securities litigation, shareholder disputes, and corporate governance matters and regularly counsels boards of directors and senior management in connection with governmental and internal investigations.” It goes on to tout “significant experience” handling insider trading, accounting, and corporate complaince.

Kemp said that Davis stood out from the many recommendations he received for this position.

“His name was the one that I kept hearing from people that are most trusted in this field,” Kemp said. “And with over 30 years in the private sector, I know firsthand how important a business friendly legal environment is to the prosperity of any business.”

From the AJC:

Davis said he wants to model Georgia’s initiative after Delaware and others with similar courts.

“I see this as an opportunity to be a litigants’ judge,” he said in an interview. “I know the demands of big-ticket litigation. The electronic discovery involved. All of this results in stress for the lawyers and a lot of time and money for the clients. I see this as a real opportunity to help.”

Under the law, the state court will launch in January but won’t start taking cases until August 2020. It would handle some of the state’s more serious business matters but will leave smaller disputes, such as lawsuits over landlord-tenant relations and foreclosures, to local courts.

“My job is to primarily call balls and strikes, to be fair and impartial. The outcome of a particular case can so often be tied to how a case is handled day in and day out,” he said. “We have the opportunity to help the lawyers get past some of those smaller grievances that tend to bog us down.”

The idea for a state business court was long pushed by former Gov. Nathan Deal and his advisory council to quickly resolve complicated business cases through a dedicated court. Supporters also said it could help entice more large corporations to set up shop in Georgia.

Davis said the court would help Georgia “fix a hole in our swing” by giving businesses, particularly those outside of Atlanta, a new outlet to resolve disputes. That was also a focus for Kemp, whose campaign hinged on huge support from outside metro Atlanta.

Former United States Senator Sam Nunn (D) has endorsed Carolyn Bordeaux in the Democratic Primary for the 7th Congressional District, according to 11Alive.

Bourdeaux, the 7th District Democratic nominee in 2018, came within a hair’s breadth of winning that district in the last race, losing by only 419 votes against four-term Republican incumbent Rob Woodall.

Following his victory, Woodall announced in February 2019 that he would not be seeking another term in Congress, leaving the field wide open for the 2020 race. As of this point, at least five other Democrats and nine Republicans have made announcements about running for the seat.

“I applaud your determination to bring your ideas, your energy and your values to the governance arena. Washington needs leaders with fresh ideas who reject the hyper-partisan environment – in which many campaigns – in one way or another curse the darkness rather than light a candle,” Nunn said.

Nunn’s support comes on top of other notable Georgia residents who have endorsed Bourdeaux’s bid, including current U.S. representatives John Lewis (D-5th) and Hank Johnson (D-4th), former Ambassador Andrew Young, former Gov. Roy Barnes, former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, and former Democratic Congressional nominee in the 6th District, Jon Ossoff.

Democrat Sarah Griggs Amico has formed a committee to explore a campaign for United States Senate, according to the AJC.

The logistics executive, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2018, launched her exploratory committee as she lines up strategists and makes other behind-the-scenes move to prepare for her bid.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported she’s in talks with pollster Cornell Belcher and the Perkins Coie law firm to advise her potential campaign. She is also likely to hire several former Stacey Abrams aides.

Democrats consider Georgia a must-win to flip control of the U.S. Senate, but the field has been slow to develop. Abrams and other high-profile Democrats have passed on a run, leaving only two candidates so far in the race: Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry.

While Abrams has said she’ll stay out of the race, Amico would likely use her 2018 strategy as a blueprint if she runs. That means a focus on healthcare and voting rights – and a concerted effort to appeal to minorities and first-time voters.

The Democratic Party of Georgia will aim to win municipal seats this year, according to the AJC.

The party is devoting more resources to contest municipal races this year even though those contests are nonpartisan. It plans to target elections in at least 50 counties and 100 cities across the state.

State Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the state Democratic party, announced the initiative at a town hall meeting last week.

Her reasoning: Candidates might not have a D or R by their name, she said, but locals often know “who is a Democrat and who is not.”

“And we’re not going to support Republicans,” said Williams, “because they use these as stepping stones.”

“Contest every race,” said Williams. “We’re doing a pitch to get Democrats to run for municipal races. You don’t have to have a D or an R beside your name. When I walk into a grocery store, I don’t have a D by my name, but I carry my Democratic values with me.”

State Rep. Bill Werkhiser (R-Glennville) continues working on legislation to bring transparency to the EMS selection process, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

A push to require more transparency from ambulance providers in Georgia stalled earlier this year but the measure’s last-minute collapse has drawn renewed attention to what proponents say is a broken emergency medical services system.

“In what other world can you be a provider and then sit on a board that chooses the provider?” Werkheiser said.

Werkheiser is pushing for changes that would make clear the 10 regional EMS councils and their subcommittees must abide by the Georgia Open Meetings Act and require the local panels to publish data showing how long patients had to wait for help to arrive. Vendors would also have to register as lobbyists.

Werkheiser said he hopes to address the issue of long wait times – or, in some cases, no response at all – in some communities by requiring increased transparency and accountability within the system.

He said he has tried to weigh proponents’ demands for change against the providers’ patient privacy concerns and their pursuit of efficiency, which often means having to take non-emergency calls that may leave a crew tied up when an emergency call comes in.

The Rome News Tribune looks at the campaign disclosures of local elected officials.

Financial disclosure reports were filed last week by the Floyd County delegation: Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome; and Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, and Mitchell Scoggins, R-Cartersville.

• Hufstetler reported one contribution, $2,800, from the Georgia Medical Political Action Committee. He paid out $6,229 in expenses, leaving a cash balance of $162,329 in his account.

• Dempsey reported $9,650 in contributions and $11,706 in expenditures, leaving $54,424 in her campaign account.

• Scoggins was sworn in Jan. 14 following a hotly contested special election to fill the House District 14 seat. His latest report shows he paid off the remaining $11,256 of his campaign debt.

The freshman legislator took in $2,350 in contributions and ended the reporting period with $4,662 in the bank. The next round of reports run through Dec. 31.

• Lumsden spent slightly more than he took in during what was essentially a three month period. His contributions totaled $5,202 and expenses were $4,134. He ended the reporting period with $37,297 on hand.

Democrat Jill Prouty joined the race for State House District 71 in a special election, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

The special election to fill Stover’s unexpired term will be Sept. 3. As a special election, there will be no party primary and all candidates will run together. Qualifying dates for the election will be set by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Prouty joins four Republican candidates: Sam Anders, Nina Blackwelder, Marcy Sakrison and Philip Singleton.

Prouty has spent over 20 years working at the Peachtree City Library. “Librarianship is a rewarding career. I get to serve people from all walks of life every single day,” Prouty said. “Public libraries are truly the great equalizer in our society.”

Prouty is an advocate for issues related to mental health and suicide prevention. As a survivor of suicide (her mother’s) Prouty said she understands the struggle of families whose loved ones suffer from mental illness and sees a desperate need for in-patient mental health services in the Coweta/Fayette area.

If elected, Prouty said she pledges to work for Certificate of Need reform to help bring additional mental health and addiction resources to the district.

Georgia State Transportation Board Chair Ann R. Purcell spoke in Statesboro last week, according to the Statesboro Herald.

State Transportation Board Chair Ann R. Purcell, in Statesboro last week, predicted a possible fall groundbreaking for a $260 million project that will replace the Interstate 16 interchange on I-95 and widen both sides of I-16 from there to Savannah.

“I’m hoping that maybe in September or October we will have the big groundbreaking on that,” Purcell said. “That will be a lighted interchange, the gateway to the rural area, the gateway for economic development.”

She has served since 2013 as one of the 14 members of the Transportation Board, elected from each of Georgia’s congressional districts by members of the state Legislature. The board oversees the work of the Georgia Department of Transportation, which has more than 4,000 employees, through Transportation Commissioner Russell R. McMurray, who was hired by the board in January 2015.

“When I have a groundbreaking, this fall, or the latter part of that, in wintertime, it’s going to be when I have some backhoes behind me, because I want you, the public, to see action that is going on at I-16 and I-95, when we clear those old-timey cloverleaf ramps in that interchange there, and we’re going to have a first of its kind. It’s going to be a turbine-look.”

The Dougherty County Commission has proposed higher property tax rates, according to the Albany Herald.

The Dougherty County Commission tentatively approved on Monday in a 5-1 vote a measure to increase the property taxes it will levy this year by .59% over the rollback millage rate for the countywide district.

Commissioners also announced their intention, also by a 5-1 vote, to increase the property taxes they will levy this year by .13% over the rollback millage rate for the special services district in the unincorporated part of Dougherty County.

District 5 Commissioner Gloria Gaines was the dissenter on both measures. District 6 Commissioner Anthony Jones was absent.

While the rates are unchanged, the county is still expected to advertise a tax increase.

“The valuation of the taxable real property in Dougherty County has increased due to reassessments,” officials said in a statement about the increase. “Because of the increase, the County Commission is required by state law to advertise it as a ‘tax increase,’ even when the millage rate is the same.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis will participate in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The program helps mayors advance critical priorities in their cities. Davis will join the third cohort of 40 mayors invited from around the world to participate in a three-day training session with the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School and Bloomberg Philanthropies, according to a city release.

“This program is about leadership, innovation and synergy,” Davis said in the release. “Augusta has all the elements. I’m excited to learn how to bring focus and shine a light on a path that creates better opportunities for all our residents through job creation, housing and transportation.”

The yearlong program helps guide mayors through a series of courses to foster innovation and collaboration, increase positive public engagement and use data to drive decision-making, according to the city. The experience has been beneficial for past participants to understand complex issues and implement solutions in their communities, according to the Bloomberg Harvard Program.

Statesboro will welcome new City Manager Charles Penny with a meet-and-greet this afternoon, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Sixty local residents have applied to serve on the committee overseeing the Whitfield County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners and the Dalton City Council have daunting tasks.

Together, they have received approximately 60 applications from individuals hoping to represent them on an advisory committee that will make recommendations for the projects that would be funded from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that is expected to be put before county voters in either the May 2020 general primary or the November 2020 general election. They will have to narrow that down to 13 committee members and two alternates — 10 members from the county and three from the city — before the committee’s first meeting, which is planned for August on a date that hasn’t been determined. The committee will have a total of 16 members and the two alternates.

Each of the five county commissioners will appoint two committee members. The City Council as a whole will appoint three. Each of those bodies will appoint one alternate. Each of the county’s small cities — Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell — will appoint one person each.

The Floyd County Elections Board announced changes in the voter rolls, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Floyd County has 54,794 active registered voters this month – 400 fewer than in June.

But the decrease is “statistically insignificant,” according to Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady.

“School’s out, people are moving. We expect to see an increase in September,” Brady told members of the Floyd County Board of Elections.

Brady said 3,144 “no-contact notices” went out to Floyd County voters in the latest review and 1,055 came back as undeliverable to the address on file. While state law prohibits the post office from forwarding election information, 299 of the returned cards had change-of-address stickers on them.

The Habersham County Commission voted unanimously to place a $31.7 million dollar jail bond referendum on the November 5, 2019 ballot, according to AccessWDUN.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin opened this morning, according to AccessWDUN.

“This hospital first opened in 1976 and experienced ups and downs throughout the years,” said Dr. Donna Whitfield, chief of Medical Staff at NGMC Lumpkin. “When it closed last year, however, we lost an invaluable healthcare resource. I’m overjoyed to see it open again, and so are my patients. People in Lumpkin County and the surrounding areas now have a hospital they can be proud of and trust again.”

NGMC Lumpkin offers an emergency department, inpatient care and supporting imaging, pharmacy, lab and other services, according to press information from NGMC. Complete emergency services are provided 24/7/365 by the same group of physicians that care for emergency patients at other NGMC hospitals in Gainesville, Braselton and Winder. The new hospital hosted a Community Open House last Saturday offering the public a chance to tour the facilities.

“It took close partnership between Northeast Georgia Health System, the Board of Regents, the University of North Georgia and our local elected officials to save this hospital from the fate of other rural hospitals across the nation,” said state Senator Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega resident and former executive director of Lumpkin County’s Development Authority. “I’ve supported this effort from the beginning, and I look forward to working alongside NGHS to build a better future for our community.”

“Having NGHS step in to protect our hometown hospital is a true blessing that will save lives in Lumpkin County,” said J.B. Jones, Lumpkin County’s sole commissioner from 1973 to 1996 and a driving force behind the original hospital opening in 1976. “I want to encourage people to come to the hospital for care when they need it because the more we use the hospital – the more likely it is to grow and thrive.”

Opportunity Brunswick, an economic development program, enters its second stage, according to The Brunswick News.

Travis Stegall, director of the Brunswick Economic and Community Development Department, said that a website has been created to provide valuable information for citizens and potential investors.

Stegall made the presentation at a special called planning meeting to learn about the status of Opportunity Brunswick and to discuss what city commissioners learned at the recent Georgia Municipal Association convention in Savannah.

He described the website as a “one-stop shop” for people to get data about the city and look a different locations in the city waiting for development.

Stegall said the city is working hard to get its share of a pool of money to help victims of Hurricane Irma to repair their homes. The city plans to bring in a third-party dedicated to helping residents with disaster relief once the funds have been released to the city.

The Garden City Empowerment Center opened on Monday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Empowerment Center marries efforts by state Rep. Carl Gilliard, D-Garden City, and St. Joseph’s/Candler in a partnership to help working families out of poverty and put them on a path to sustainability.

Gilliard, who founded the Feed the Hungry program in 2009, said the center and its partners were “giving poverty a pink slip.”

“We’re going to change the narrative on poverty,” he told an audience at the Augusta Road site. “Our focus is sustainability.”

“We see a lot of sick patients at St. Joseph’s and Candler hospitals,” he said, calling those folks “trailing indicators for other things that have happened in their lives… and it could happen to any of us.”

As part pf the system’s commitment, St. Joseph’s/Candler is providing and renovating space for the center located next door to the system’s Good Samaritan Clinic. Gilliard will bring a number of different local and state agencies that can help people gain skills or find resources to help with employment, education or certificates.

Chatham County Mosquito Control announced that mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus have been identified, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The announcement came after several samples of mosquitoes from a midtown location —defined as the area from Victory to DeRenne and from Interstate 516 to Wilmington Island — tested positive for the virus last week.

“Once the virus is present in our local mosquito population, we know it’s just a matter of time before the activity becomes more widespread,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, Health Director of the Coastal Health District in a press release.

Chatham County Mosquito Control Director Ture Carlson told the Chatham County Commission Friday that the 27 positive samples collected by the end of June far outstripped the 10 positives seen at the same time in 2011, which was a very active year that resulted in 10 human cases of the virus in Chatham County.

“It’s pretty widespread from north to south, east to west,” Carlson said in a subsequent phone interview. “Everybody needs to take precautions now.”


Twin Pines Minerals, an Alabama company, wants to mine for heavy metals in a 2400-acre parcel in Charlton County, near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, according to GPB News.

The proposal from Twin Pines Minerals called for mining on more than 2,414 acres of land in Charlton County. The land is home to gopher tortoises and frogs, which are endangered, but Twin Pines said it’ll move them.

The application from the company said about 522 acres of wetland could be temporarily impacted as the company would have to dig and excavate for draglines. Officials have said they would put dirt back and replant if their proposal gets approved.

Another 65 acres could be permanently destroyed as new structures would be built on the wetlands.

From the Savannah Morning News:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted a joint public notice with the state of Georgia on Friday indicating it had received a Clean Water Act permit application from Birmingham, Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals. The corps is asking for public comments on the permit.

In the application, the company indicated it plans to extract “high quality heavy mineral reserves” for “export by truck, rail and eventual barge to national and international customers.”

“Mineral sand-derived products, particularly those containing titanium dioxide and zirconium, are in high demand worldwide in the pigment, aerospace, medical, foundry, and other industrial products,” the document states. “Elemental components, chiefly titanium, are used as the white pigments. Titanium dioxide is nontoxic and has replaced lead as the predominant pigment in paints and coatings.”

Twin Pines is proposing to operate its mining facility in stages on about 19 square miles along a ridge of land bordering the refuge, digging to variable depths that will average 50 feet below the land surface on two of the three tracts and 25 feet below the surface on the third. The company is proposing to backfill and grade the mined land within about 30 days following excavation with replanting during the appropriate planting season.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 15, 2019

Wolfman BARC

Wolfman is a 2-year old male Black Mouth Cur mix who is available for adoption from BARC Humane Society in Valdosta, GA.

Sweetness covered in fur. Gets along with dogs, cats, kids. Obsessed with human affection. Timid and shy in new situations. Learns well but needs consistency and patience. Not house or crate trained.

Kreature BARC

Kreature is a young male Chihuahua and Dachshund mix (Chiweenie) who is available for adoption from BARC Humane Society in Valdosta, GA.

Kreature is looking for his forever home. This around one year old Chihuahua/Dachschund mix would make a spunky little companion for any family. He gets along well with other dogs, cats and older kids.

Kreature has a timid side and will need a family that is willing to give him time, but once he knows that he is safe….watch out because the mad licker appears! He is house and crate trained but not a big fan of car rides. He is an active fella that will brighten up any mood with the wag of his tail.

Fabiana BARC

Fabiana is a female Collie mix who is available for adoption from BARC Humane Society in Valdosta, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 15, 2019

On July 15, 1864, Sherman’s army began crossing the Chattahoochee River and would take the better part of three days to complete the crossing. Georgia Public Broadcasting has a series on Sherman’s Georgia campaign, and you can watch this week’s episode here.

Major General George Stoneman’s cavalry had come to the area south of Atlanta. On July 15, 1864, Stoneman wrote from camp near Villa Rica, Georgia.

As I indicated to you in my last note, we completed the bridge (Moore’s), and were ready to cross at daybreak yesterday morning, but before we essayed it a report came from Major Buck, in command of a battalion seven miles above, that the enemy had been crossing above him on a boat or a bridge, and that his pickets had been cut off.

Colonel Biddle, who was left with his brigade at Campbellton, reports the enemy quite strong at that point, with two guns of long range in each of the two redoubts on the opposite bluff, which are opened upon him whenever any of his men show themselves.

I was very anxious to strike the railroad from personal as well as other considerations, but I became convinced that to attempt it would incur risks inadequate to the results, and unless we could hold the bridge, as well as penetrate into the country, the risk of capture or dispersion, with loss of animals (as I could hear of no ford), was almost certain.

On July 15, 1870, Georgia was readmitted to the United States, with the signature by President Ulysses Grant of the “Georgia Bill” by the U.S. Congress.

On July 15, 1948, President Harry Truman was nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago to run for a full term as President of the United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp appointed Jeffery O. Monroe as a Judge for the Superior Court of Macon County through December 31, 2020. Gov. Kemp also appointed Jeffrey A. Watkins as a Judge for the Superior Court of the Cherokee Judicial Circuit for the same term. Kemp appointed former Democratic State Rep. Margaret Kaiser to the Board of Juvenile Justice for the Fifth Congressional District.

Governor Kemp will announce at 3 PM today at the State Capitol his first appointment to a new state business court, according to AccessWDUN.

Governor Brian Kemp plans to announce his nominee for the first statewide business court judgeship during a ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol Monday afternoon.

In a press release the governor’s office said the new judgeship is part of Amendment 2, passed by Georgia voters during the general election in November, 2018.

The release explained that the language for the amendment was codified during the 2019 General Assembly, where it received bi-partisan support.

Kemp’s nominee will need to be approved by both chambers of the state legislature.

Gov. Kemp spoke Sunday at the the 45th annual Georgia Association of Educational Leaders summer conference at Jekyll Island, according to The Brunswick News.

Kemp gave the opening address for the conference, which is taking place at the Jekyll Island Convention Center until Wednesday.

“Folks, we have never ever had anybody who spoke up for public eduction the way that Brian Kemp does,” said Jimmy Stokes, outgoing executive director of GAEL.

Kemp emphasized education priorities throughout his campaign for governor, and he has made good on several proposed changes since taking office. His team led legislative efforts that resulted in a $3,000 pay raise for teachers across the state, as well as $30,000 grants for every public school to put toward campus safety and security.

While campaigning, he also heard many concerns, he said, about state standards that teachers are required to use. Kemp said he plans to soon name a citizens review panel that will participate in the standards review process.

“This will help put education back in the hands of the teachers and the parents,” he said

A teacher shortage crisis is another growing concern among education leaders across the state, Kemp said.

“We’ve heard all the daunting statistics,” he said. “In Georgia, 44 percent of our educators are leaving the profession within the first five years of teaching.”

The Washington Post ranks David Perdue’s U.S. Senate seat as the 8th most likely to flip in 2020, according to the Roanoke Times.

Georgia is another traditionally Republican state where a star Democratic candidate recently reshaped strategists’ views. Even though she didn’t win, Stacey Abrams’s gubernatorial race revealed the partisan makeup of Georgia, shifting it slightly less red. In addition to winning a majority of younger and nonwhite voters, Abrams won a majority of women.

Democrats tried and failed to recruit Abrams to run for Senate. As such, Republican Sen. David Perdue has a long list of Democrats vying to challenge him for in his first Senate reelection campaign. Perdue raised nearly $2 million this spring while one top Democratic candidate, former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, raised just half a million.

The Federal Aviation Administration will decide whether to accept the Camden Spaceport’s application by December 16, 2019, according to the AJC.

“We are now at T-minus 1, a final decision by the FAA is the only outstanding item,” said Steve Howard, Spaceport Camden’s project lead and the county’s administrator. “When we submitted our application to the FAA earlier this year, we were optimistic about a licensing determination in 2019, with (this) news we anticipate achieving that goal.”

Camden County is pursuing the development of the spaceport on a 12,000-acre facility in Kingsland. Camden officials have spent the past few years trying to secure a license from the FAA to move forward with the project.

Camden officials were expecting the FAA to determine by the end of last year whether it would give the project the launch site operator license it needs to continue with the project.

Glynn County Commissioners will hear about a new tourism improvement district and additional taxes, according to The Brunswick News.

Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau President Scott McQuade said that proceeds from a tourism improvement district could go to pay for various infrastructure improvements, signage, gateways and beautification in specific areas of the county.

“In the past, we’ve considered the bed tax may be the only way to fund these improvements, but what I’m going to talk about Tuesday is the opportunity to look at the tourism improvement district as another potentially viable source for funding some infrastructure improvements, and specifically some tourism infrastructure improvements,” McQuade said.

Similar to a tax allocation district, in a tourism improvement district tax money is collected from specific types of businesses in a limited area and used for improvements only within that area.

“That district assesses itself and uses its funds to beautify main street or something along those lines,” McQuade said. “It’s very similar to that, but it works specifically for tourism improvements and would be something that’s levied upon a specific category of business. In other words, not all businesses have to join the assessment. It could be specifically hoteliers for instance.”

“The primary reason (to use the tax district over increasing the bed tax) would be because there’s a lot more resources specifically for infrastructure improvements, where the bed tax tops out at a pretty shallow funding level for improvements,” McQuade said.

The Floyd County Commission asked staff to recommend regulations for “tiny houses,” according to the Rome News Tribune.

Tiny homes are single-family residences that are usually 400 to 600 square feet in size. Some are built as recreational vehicles while others follow the building codes for homes.

“Give us the pros and cons on it. Look at it the same way you’re looking at hobby farms and wedding venues,” Commission Chair Scotty Hancock told Rome-Floyd Planning Director Artagus Newell.

None of the land-uses Hancock cited are currently allowed in residential areas, although there numerous lots of more than 20 acres outside the city of Rome.

“Some areas would like to see a tiny home on a lot than maybe a mobile home,” Commissioner Rhonda Wallace said.

Newell said interest has been growing in tiny homes over the past decade and the structures could help address the affordable housing shortage. Many elements, however, are prohibited by the Unified Land Development Code.

Cherokee County and its municipalities will enter mediation in August over a Service Delivery Strategy Agreement, according to the Tribune Ledger News.

Service Delivery Strategy, or SDS, is a set of agreements designed to make sure residents aren’t overtaxed for a duplication of county and city services. Georgia requires counties and cities to form these agreements once every 10 years.

Negotiations between the cities and county started early last year, but they missed an initial state deadline of Oct. 31 to reach agreement, and requested an extension from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The local governments received an extension through June 30, and are in non-compliance while another extension request is pending.

The cities, represented by attorney Andy Welch of Smith, Welch, Webb and White, argue that the current strategy has many city residents paying too much in county property taxes for services that primarily benefit unincorporated county residents, citing reports Cherokee County has submitted to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

A mediation, which will be a public meeting with elected officials from Cherokee County, Canton, Holly Springs, Mountain Park, Waleska and Woodstock, is scheduled for Aug. 6, though a time and location haven’t been set yet. Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher is to serve as the mediator.

City and county officials were optimistic about the mediation.

“I’m positive that at least we’re making some steps toward an agreement, whatever that means,” said Holly Springs City Manager Rob Logan.

Dr. Richard McCormick is running for the 7th District Congressional seat in the Republican Primary, according to the Forsyth County News.

McCormick, an emergency medicine physician at Gwinnett Medical Center, is one of nine Republicans who have declared their intention to run for the seat in 2020 and is promising to bring his conservative beliefs to the campaign trail.

On the issues, McCormick has said he supports the FairTax initiative, the Second Amendment and is pro-life.

McCormick served for more than 20 years in the Marine Corps and Navy as a pilot and emergency medicine physician, serving in combat zones in Africa, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan.

He is a graduate of Morehouse School of Medicine, completed his residency in emergency medicine through Emory University while training at Grady Hospital and received an MCA from National University.

McCormick will face longtime state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich, former Atlanta Falcons player Joe Profit, Air Force veteran Ben Bullock, businessman Mark Gonsalves, co-founder of the Conservative Diversity Alliance Jacqueline Tseng, former education executive Lerah Lee and former college professor Lisa Noel Babbage.

State Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta) received the Outstanding Legislator of the Year award from the Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly, according to the Albany Herald.

“Rep. LaHood has proven he’s a devoted, knowledgeable and effective advocate for Georgia seniors,” Vicki Vaughn Johnson, chairwoman of the Georgia Council on Aging, said. “We are so pleased to be able to recognize him for his efforts.”

LaHood, a senior living owner and operator, received the Legislator of the Year award before a crowd of about 120 during CO-AGE’s annual meeting in Macon.

Sea turtles continue to break nesting records on the Georgia coast, according to The Brunswick News.

Several days ago, Georgia topped its all-time nesting record, and as of late Friday afternoon, there were 3,550 nests. That’s 259 more than the 2016 record.

And hatchlings are already heading out into the ocean.

“It’s been a really hot summer so far, so we have a lot of nests that are actually emerging quite a bit quicker than that right now,” said Mark Dodd, head of the state Department of Natural Resources sea turtle program. He was speaking at one of One Hundred Miles’ Naturalist 101 presentations. “The sex of the hatchling is actually determined by the temperature of incubation. Sea turtles don’t have sex chromosomes — or, at least, we haven’t found them — and so their sex is determined by temperature.”

Different areas across the state are in the process of breaking their individual nesting records. Cumberland eclipsed its highest number Wednesday with the discovery of nest No. 868, according to the data on At press time Friday, there were 892 nests. Little Cumberland had 106 nests in 2016, and as of Thursday was as 123. Jekyll Island had 182 nests as of Friday, topping 2016’s 170. And it’s not over yet.

“They generally lay between one and eight nests a season — the average is about five and a half or six nests a season,” Dodd said. “They’re like clockwork — every 12 days, they’re on the beach, once they start nesting. They lay approximately 115 eggs per nest, but can be variable — the most I’ve seen this year is 185 a nest, and the lowest about 55.”

“They’re really one of the iconic species of the coast,” Dodd said. “They define who we are, they’re a part of who we are. If we lose them, which we were really concerned we were going to do in 2004, we lose a part of ourselves.”

From the Statesboro Herald:

So far this year, researchers and volunteers in those three states have cataloged more than 12,200 nests left by loggerheads, a threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act. That’s already far ahead of the 11,321 nests in the previous highest count three years ago.

Loggerhead nesting along Georgia’s 100-mile (161-kilometer) coast hit its low point in 2004 with fewer than 400 nests.

So far this year, more than 3,500 loggerhead nests have been recorded on Georgia’s beaches, surpassing the state’s 2016 record of 3,289. Mark Dodd, the state biologist who heads Georgia’s sea turtle recovery program, said he expects the final count to reach 4,000 nests by the end of August.

The busiest U.S. state for sea turtle nesting by far is Florida, which had a record 122,707 loggerhead nests in 2016. The numbers are so large that Florida doesn’t keep a running count during the nesting season. Final counts are typically completed in the fall.