The blog.

20
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 20, 2020

Prince Pup and Cat Co

Prince is a young male Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from Pup and Cat Co in Winder, GA.

Sweet little Prince is a 7 week old lab mix. He’s learning all the doggy rules and is ready for any adventure! Will he be your forever buddy?

Daphne Pup and Cat Co

Daphne is a young female Shepherd and Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Pup and Cat Co in Winder, GA.

Daphne is a fun loving 5 month old, currently 20 pound terrier/shepherd mix. She is a super great puppy. She knows how to use a dog door if you have one. She is 95% potty trained and learning how to ask to go out. She knows sit really well and sits for her food when asked. She is also about 99% crate trained. She’s a super cuddler and plays really well with other dogs. She is curious but friendly with cats. She has lots of puppy energy, so she would need help learning how to interact with tiny humans but we’re sure she could be taught. Are you looking for a fun little bundle of joy to add to your home?

Mercury Pup and Cat Co

Mercury is a young male Coonhound mix who is available for adoption from Pup and Cat Co in Winder, GA.

Mercury is such a sweet boy!! He was pulled from a south Georgia animal shelter. He had been shot and was having trouble walking.

He is a happy, goofy boy that needs a home to call his own. His back legs are weak and he needs some Physical Therapy to build some strength in his back legs. He has shown that he loves other dogs and LOVES to play.

20
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 20, 2020

On February 20, 1792, President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, creating the United States Postal Service.

The act allowed for newspapers to be included in mail deliveries and made it illegal for postal officials to open anyone’s mail.

On February 20, 1970, Georgia ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. The Amendment states:

Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Seriously. 1970. Luckily ratification occurred when Tennessee approved adoption of the Amendment on April 18, 1920.

Interestingly, the only case in which the United States Supreme Court has addressed the Nineteenth Amendment arose in Georgia. Breedlove v. Suttles was a suit brought in Fulton County Superior Court concerning the poll tax. Here’s an excerpt:

The tax being upon persons, women may be exempted on the basis of special considerations to which they are naturally entitled. In view of burdens necessarily borne by them for the preservation of the race, the state reasonably may exempt them from poll taxes.

The laws of Georgia declare the husband to be the head of the family and the wife to be subject to him. To subject her to the levy would be to add to his burden. Moreover, Georgia poll taxes are laid to raise money for educational purposes, and it is the father’s duty to provide for education of the children. Discrimination in favor of all women being permissible, appellant may not complain because the tax is laid only upon some or object to registration of women without payment of taxes for previous years.

Privilege of voting is not derived from the United States, but is conferred by the state and, save as restrained by the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments and other provisions of the Federal Constitution, the state may condition suffrage as it deems appropriate.

It is fanciful to suggest that the Georgia law is a mere disguise under which to deny or abridge the right of men to vote on account of their sex. The challenged enactment is not repugnant to the Nineteenth Amendment.

Bless their hearts.

On February 20, 1974, Reg Murphy, an editor for The Atlanta Constitution was kidnapped and held until managing editor G. James Minter delivered $700,000 in ransom. I’m not sure if they’d pay 700 cents to get any employee back nowadays.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 15

7:30 AM SENATE Appropriations- Insurance Subcommittee 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 506 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT 606 CLOB

9:00 AM SENATE Appropriations- Judicial Subcommittee 450 CAP

9:00 AM SENATE Appropriations- Community Health 307 CLOB

9:00 AM SENATE Appropriations- Fiscal Management 310 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 15) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

12:00 PM HOUSE Alcohol Tobacco Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 502 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE 341 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Academic Support Subcommittee of Education 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 506 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 515 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Energy Subcommittee of Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications 403 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB

2:35 PM HOUSE Ports and Local Government Subcommittee of Transportation 506 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY MEZZ 1

3:00 PM HOUSE Income Tax Subcommittee of Ways and Means 606 CLOB

3:15 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 606 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 134 – Georgia Commission on the Holocaust; commission for administrative purposes; reassign(Substitute)(UAff-32nd)

SB 268 – Notaries Public; persons for whom notaries perform notarial acts; valid Veterans Health Identification Card; provide (VM&HS-2nd)

SB 335 – Children and Youth; foster children and foster families; laws and supports; strengthen (Substitute)(Amendment)(JUDY-28th)

SB 345 – Standards, Labeling, and Adulteration of Food; nonprofit organizations to prepare in accordance with Department of Public Health requirements; provide (Substitute)(H&HS-32nd)

SB 356 – Solid Waste Management; expansion of certain municipal solid waste landfills to areas within two miles of military air space used as bombing ranges; allow (NR&E-3rd)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule

HB 777 – Community Affairs, Department of; consider amending the state minimum standard codes to allow tall mass timber construction types; direct (A&CA-Corbett-174th)

HR 1023 – Judiciary; people may petition for declaratory relief from certain acts of this state or certain local governments or officers or employees; provide -CA (Substitute)(Judy-Welch-110th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 716 – Insurance; carriers issuing a health benefit plan in this state through an agent shall file proposed commission rates with the department; provide (Ins-Blackmon-146th)

HB 786 – Superior courts; additional judge of the Flint Judicial Circuit; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Welch-110th)

Governor Brian Kemp announced that former Tift County Sheriff Gary Vowell will serve as the next Public Safety Commissioner, according to 11Alive.

It comes in the wake of last week’s resignation by Col. Mark W. McDonough, the previous public safety commissioner, over the Georgia State Patrol trooper cheating scandal.

Vowell will assume his new role on March 1, Kemp’s office said.

“Gary Vowell is a respected and trusted leader within Georgia’s law enforcement community, and he is a strong public servant who is ready to take the helm at the Department of Public Safety,” the governor said in a release. “Given his background, I know that Gary will be able to easily transition in this important role.”

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Vowell, a career law enforcement official, was approved unanimously Wednesday by the state Board of Public Safety to assume the interim commissioner role. He starts on the job March 1.

“My entire career has been devoted to keeping Georgia families safe and upholding the highest ideals of integrity in our law enforcement community, and I look forward to working in the Kemp administration,” Vowell said in a statement.

The public safety department houses the Georgia State Patrol, the Motor Carrier Compliance Division and the Capitol Police Division.

Vowell was a field training officer and peace officer instructor with the state patrol for two decades before being elected sheriff of Tift County in 1996. He kept that office until 2012 when he decided not to seek re-election.

Kemp touted Vowell’s qualifications Wednesday, calling the former sheriff “a respected and trusted leader within Georgia’s law enforcement community.”

“Given his background, I know that Gary will be able to easily transition in this important role,” Kemp said in a statement.

Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp helped open the first facility to provide services for young sex-trafficking victims, according to the AJC.

Nearly 300 people, including state leaders, attended Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting for the Receiving Hope Center, located in Paulding County. Gov. Brian Kemp, accompanied by his wife, spoke to the crowd inside the center’s gym.

“This is a historic day in our state,” Kemp said. “There is no one else nationwide that is doing as much as our first lady of Georgia Marty Kemp, the GRACE Commission, local and state partners to address the issue of human trafficking. Survivors will have a foundation of healing that will kick-start their journey to recovery.”

The facility is Georgia’s latest step in the fight against sex trafficking. The Kemps founded the GRACE Commission — or Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion, and Education — shortly after the governor took office. In January, Kemp introduced legislation to target “modern slavery” by toughening the penalties for sex traffickers. Fighting trafficking requires a collaboration among various groups, including both government leaders and community groups, Kemp said Tuesday.

The center will be run by the nonprofit Wellspring Living and will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Victims who are referred to the center will be given medical care and psychiatric evaluation, along with any needed treatment. The center has 20 private rooms with bathrooms, each individually designed to create a comforting environment. Trafficking victims ages 12 to 17 can be housed at the center, according to Wellspring Living.

The Georgia State House passed HB 792, the Supplemental budget, which trues up the current budget to adjust for actual income and expenditures. From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a mid-year budget Wednesday that would restore many of the spending cuts Gov. Brian Kemp proposed last month to help offset lower-than-expected tax collections.

The $27.3 billion fiscal 2020 mid-year budget, which passed 126-46 and now moves to the state Senate, covers state spending through the end of June. It reflects a lower revenue estimate the governor issued in January amid sluggish tax receipts going back to the middle of last year.

“We tried our best with this budget to address the needs of Georgians,” House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told reporters after the vote.

For many budget line items, the House wasn’t able to fully restore planned cuts but acted to reduce the severity of the reductions. Lawmakers put back significant portions of cuts slated for mental health and child welfare services and restored all of a $164,800 reduction to the Georgia Memory Net program.

“If you haven’t dealt with dementia or Alzheimer’s yet, you will,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, told his House colleagues. “Get ready.”

But Ralston said the economic damage Hurricane Michael wreaked on Georgia farms and forests in October 2018 is to blame for the downturn in tax collections.

“It was a crippling blow to our economy,” he said. “We’re still paying for that.”

Lawmakers will face steeper spending cuts when they tackle Kemp’s fiscal 2021 budget later in this year’s session.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

The House voted 126-46 to pass House Bill 792, which cuts $159 million from spending plans for the current budget year, running through June 30. The measure now moves to the state Senate for more debate.

Lawmakers were forced to cut the budget, with state revenues running behind projections. The shortfall happened, in part, because of a cut in state’s top income tax rate approved by lawmakers that has decreased revenue by more than $500 million. Gov. Brian Kemp ordered agencies to reduce spending by about $200 million during the summer, although he shielded most K-12, college and Medicaid spending from cuts. That means cuts fell more heavily on other agencies.

House members couldn’t alter the $27.4 billion ceiling in state revenue that the Republican Kemp set, but shifted tens of millions of dollars from the reductions he had proposed seeking to shore up their own priorities.

“We’ve tried our best on this budget to address needs of Georgians and I think the budget that left the House today is a much better budget in terms of taking care of things that Georgians need than the budget that was proposed to us,” House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, told reporters after the vote.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Appropriations Chairman Terry England presented changes to the governor’s proposed budget to lawmakers Wednesday, calling the budget “unusual.”

“Although we found maybe the method and the main messaging for executing it might have needed just a little bit of clarification,” England said. “As I said, we have gotten that through this last couple of weeks of work.”

Conversations on the fiscal year 2021 budget — up next for consideration that includes Kemp’s teacher and state employee pay raises — will start as early as Wednesday afternoon, he said.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said he is proud of the amended budget finalized by House appropriations leaders.

“I told the members before we started this session that it’s a lot easier when times are good or when you have a lot of revenue there to meet needs,” he told reporters. “When we were asked to make cuts the 4% percent in the amended budget and 6% in the big budget, you know that’s that’s more challenging than others than some of the years that we’ve had the past few years.”

“One of the great untold stories of that is this state is still recovering from a major hurricane a couple years ago,” [Speaker Ralston] said. “That was a crippling blow … to a good bit of our economy.”

England said the state had never witnessed any event that had such a big impact on the state’s economy as Hurricane Michael.

“Truly those dollars disappeared out of the state overnight,” he said.

From the AJC:

Next up for both chambers will be Kemp’s $28.1 billion proposed budget for fiscal 2021, which begins July 1. That proposal includes $300 million in spending cuts — but also pay raises for teachers and state employees earning less than $40,000 a year — and could produce a more contentious fight over state spending.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said after the vote that he remains committed to cutting the top income tax rate again this session from 5.75% to 5.5%.

“I view that as a commitment we made to the taxpayers of Georgia two years ago,” Ralston told reporters. “I think they expect that Republicans cut taxes.”

House budget writers rejected Kemp’s proposal to cut funding to accountability courts. The courts, which were greatly expanded by his predecessor, allow defendants to avoid prison time if they stay sober, get treatment, receive an education and find a job. The courts are set up for drug addicts, drunken drivers, the mentally ill and veterans who’ve been charged largely with nonviolent crimes and low-level offenses and have been highly popular with lawmakers.

The House reduced cuts the governor proposed for the Agriculture Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, two areas of vital interest to rural lawmakers.

House leaders also reduced cuts that Kemp proposed for mental health, substance abuse treatment, autism treatment and grants to county public health departments, and they eliminated reductions for local library materials.

From another story by the AJC:

Minutes after the Georgia House approved a midyear budget Wednesday that mitigated some of Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed spending cuts, Republican leaders reiterated that they are ready to reduce state income tax rates for a second time in two years.

The initial tax cut, from a top rate of 6% to 5.75%, is estimated to save taxpayers, and cost state coffers, about $500 million a year. The legislation that cut the rate set 2020 as the date to consider another reduction.

England said, “I would rather have a dollar be in my pocket, your pocket, to spend than us as a state taking it and trying to spend it differently.”

When asked about Kemp’s big priority in the upcoming fiscal 2021 budget — a $2,000 pay raise for teachers — Ralston responded, “We have a lot of competing priorities.”

The Georgia General Assembly is considering several bills that would regulate sales of vaping supplies, according to the AJC.

HB 864 … sponsored by Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, would add a 7% tax to the sale of e-cigarettes, nicotine vaporizers and associated products, as well as require retailers to buy an annual license in order to sell them. The licenses would have a one-time cost of $250 and a $10 annual fee.

Rich’s bill is one of several in the state legislature that aim to regulate vaping, a growing practice that has been touted as an alternative to smoking. Vaping has also been linked to multiple deaths in recent months. Unlike tobacco, there are no taxes on vaping besides state and local sales tax, and there is no state law restricting purchasing by age. Bills in the House and Senate have been filed to increase the purchase age for both vape products and tobacco to 21.

Vaping has far outpaced cigarettes in popularity among teenagers. According to the CDC, 28% of high school students reported using an e-cigarette or vape within 30 days of a 2019 survey. 6% of high schoolers reported smoking cigarettes in the same time frame.

Proponents of HB 864 largely focused on the dangers of vaping for teens, despite the bill not addressing purchasing age. HB 909, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, would set that age at 21. A similar age restriction bill, SB 298, has already passed a Senate committee.

Legislation designed to prevent “surprise” medical bills passed out of the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care, according to the Georgia Recorder.

The proposal seeks to target the so-called “surprise billing” issue that has dogged Georgia lawmakers for at least five years under the Gold Dome. Deep disagreement over how to fairly treat both insurers and physicians has kept out of reach a legislative solution that shields patients from unexpected costly bills.

“The out-of-network billing that they might get for an emergency room visit to any hospital – not picking on any one hospital – could quadruple anything you would ever get from a doctor and would be much more likely to put somebody into bankruptcy than an out-of-network billing bill from a doctor,” said Rep. Sharon Cooper, a Marietta Republican who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee and who didn’t vote Tuesday.

Supporters of a new attempt to address the problem said they were encouraged by Tuesday’s vote, even if House Bill 888 squeaked out of committee only because the chairman broke a tie. They argue it’s a significant step toward addressing part of a problem that can lead to financial ruin.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lee Hawkins, said later that he was not troubled by the lack of enthusiasm coming from the influential House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care – a committee formed by House Speaker David Ralston early last year. The House Rules Committee is set to consider the legislation next.

United States Representative Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) opened a new office in Brunswick, according to The Brunswick News.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter’s home in Brunswick, so to speak, is now in Suite 410 at 777 Gloucester St. He held an open house Wednesday morning to celebrate moving in to the new digs.

“We’re having a staff retreat this week, and it was an opportunity for all of our Washington staff as well as our district staff to be down here, so we just coincided with the opening of the new office, which we’re very excited about,” Carter said. “We’ve got a lot more space there, a lot nicer space, and I think it will be more accessible to the citizens. That’s the important thing, is that it’s much easier to find and much more accessible.”

The move is from the district office’s previous home in the same downtown building that houses the Brunswick-Glynn County Chamber of Commerce. He said around 200 people arrived at the open house to say hello and visit for a few minutes.

United States Representative Austin Scott (R-Tifton) announced mobile district office hours, according to the Albany Herald.

Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap announced she will run for reelection, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“First and foremost, my duty is to those who have been victims of crime and my responsibility is to the most vulnerable in our society. I continue to strive to give those victims a voice.” [said Heap]

“I realize that it is a small percentage in our community who are committing the most violent crimes. I promise to put a laser focus on those individuals and to hold them accountable for what they have done.” [said Heap]

’“Finally I will continue to search and implement innovative ways to address crime and find resources for our victims. I have worked hard over the past eight years along with an incredible staff of attorneys, investigators, secretaries and advocates who are passionate and dedicated. We have accomplished much but still have work to do.” [said Heap]

Savannah attorney Shalena Jones, a former Chatham County assistant district attorney, and attorney Zena McClain have announced their respective candidacies.

Floyd County Chief Magistrate Gene Richardson announced he will run for reelection, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Gwinnett County Board of Elections member Beauty Baldwin will retire from service on the board, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

She announced at the elections board meeting Tuesday that she will retire after more than 23 years on the board as soon as the local Democratic Party names someone to replace her, possibly by the end of this month.

Baldwin’s decision to retire from the elections board is a shock for a few reasons. One of which is her legacy in Gwinnett, both as a former Buford City Schools superintendent and in her involvement in several other areas of the community.

The longtime elections board member said she will stay on the board until the Democratic Party names someone to fill her seat. The elections board is made up of two Democratic Party appointments, two Republican Party appointments and a fifth member who is chosen by the other four members.

The Dalton Tea Party heard from a number of candidates for the Fourteenth Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger), according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Members of the Dalton Tea Party heard from three people who say they want to represent Georgia’s 14th Congressional District Tuesday night at Dalton’s historic Huff House. The 14th District includes Whitfield and Murray counties. It has been represented for the past 10 years by Tom Graves, R-Ranger, who said he will not seek reelection.

State Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, who is the associate athletic director at Shorter University and who has been a member of the legislature since 2011; John Cowan, a neurosurgeon at Rome’s Harbin Clinic; and Marjorie Greene, who co-owns a construction company that was founded by her father, spoke to about 30 people.

All three are Republicans. All three said they are pro-life, supporters of the Second Amendment and backers of President Donald Trump.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners tabled a measure to outsource some functions, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Macon-Bibb County commissioners want more time to consider privatizing business plan reviews and inspections after additional questions were raised Tuesday night.

Mayor Robert Reichert and County Manager Keith Moffett have advocated for SAFEbuilt Georgia LLC to take the reins of the Business Development Services department.

Commissioners Virgil Watkins and Valerie Wynn favor trying to find a competent person to manage the department and cross-train employees. Neither is a fan of privatizing the services.

Jones proposed tabling the matter, which was approved by a vote of 5-3. If the measure does not come off the table for a vote, the mayor will likely seek an extension of the SAFEbuilt contract to keep running the department.

An employee of the Chatham County Recorder’s Court was indicted for allegedly stealing court funds, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia ports are concerned about coronavirus, according to The Brunswick News.

Leigh Ryan, a representative from the World Trade Center Savannah, explained the concerns of port officials at Wednesday’s Southeast Georgia Joint Development Authority. Ryan said the virus has led to delays in ships being allowed into ports on both coasts.

“There’s a lot of concern about that,” she said of the virus. “They’re holding up ships.”

19
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 19, 2020

Tabitha Etowah Valley Humane Society

Tabitha is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from the Etowah Valley Humane Society in Cartersville, GA.

Emmett Etowah Valley Humane Society

Emmett is a young male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from the Etowah Valley Humane Society in Cartersville, GA.

Elton Etowah Valley Humane Society

Elton is a young male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from the Etowah Valley Humane Society in Cartersville, GA.

19
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 19, 2020

On February 19, 1807, Aaron Burr was arrested in the Mississippi Territory, in what is now Alabama. Burr had served as Vice President during the first term of President Thomas Jefferson, leaving the administration after the 1804 election; later Jefferson issued a warrant accusing Burr of treason.

On Febrary 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the military to remove from military areas any people whose exclusion was “necessary or desirable.” By June 1942, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans had been interned in concentration camps in the western United States. On the same day, the United States War Department announced that a new bomber plant would be built in Marietta, Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome  – Legislative Day 14

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 14) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE Lumsden Subcommittee of Public Safety and Homeland Security 406 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Tax Expenditure Subcommittee of Ways and Means 133 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 403 CAP

2:15 PM HOUSE Public Finance and Policy Subcommittee of Ways and Means 133 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM- CANCELED 125 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE State and Local Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs 515 CLOB

4:00 PM HOUSE Elections Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs 515 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT MEZZ 1

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

Governor Brian Kemp announced that Georgia set records for exports and international trade in 2018.

In 2019, the State of Georgia tallied $41.2 billion in exports and $143.3 billion in overall international trade.

Georgia again surpassed the previous record-setting year in 2018, with a 2.87% increase in total trade and 1.5% increase in exports, even as overall U.S. exports contracted slightly. Georgia’s total trade value has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, making the state the epicenter of global trade in the Southeast.

“This exciting news for Georgia exports affirms what we know to be true: you can truly make anything and send it anywhere in the world from right here in Georgia,” said Governor Kemp. “Our state’s top-notch logistics network and services are customized across all industry sectors and regions, and hardworking Georgians continue to create products in demand across the globe.”

Georgia businesses exported goods to 214 unique countries and territories in 2019, and the state ranks 12th among exporting states. The top five customers for Georgia products remained Canada, Mexico, Germany, China, and Singapore.

Ten percent of Georgia’s exports – more than $4.2 billion – came from Georgia’s agriculture industry. Poultry, cotton, and peanuts remain top sellers.

With more than 6,600 manufacturing firms in Georgia employing more than 400,000 Georgians, manufactured goods make up 90% of Georgia goods exports.

Georgia also saw an increase of 20% in exports to Germany, where Governor Kemp recently returned from an economic development mission. In January, the State of Georgia opened an expanded European office focused on growing investment and trade opportunities with the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD).

Exports to Germany were bolstered by growth in medical-related products and civilian aircraft. Aerospace exports from Georgia generated a record-breaking $10.8 billion, which is an 18% increase over 2018. More than 800 aerospace companies call Georgia home.

Also of note, exports from the life sciences sector saw an increase of 8%, and Georgia’s automotive industry generated $3.2 billion. Georgia is home to nearly 2,000 life sciences sector industries and more than 300 automotive facilities statewide.

“In any given year, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s International Trade Division works with more than 2,000 companies across the state to ensure their products reach the right markets for success,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Our network of 12 international offices are boots on the ground to help connect our small and large businesses with international customers, and I’m extremely proud that the hard work of our dedicated employees continues to make a difference for our state.”

Georgia maintains representation in 12 strategic markets, including Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Europe, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Peru, and the United Kingdom. These representatives play a critical role in facilitating international connections that generate economic success. Approximately two-thirds of Georgia trade involves markets where the state has representation.

“The majority of the Georgia companies our International Trade Division works with each day are small businesses, and our services are geared to assist them in entering new international markets,” said GDEcD Deputy Commissioner for International Trade Mary Waters. “This report is a great snapshot of thousands of success stories and demonstrates how our services can help more companies achieve their goals.”

To read the full 2019 international trade summary, click HERE.

Governor Kemp set a deadline of Thursday for applications for appointment as District Attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit, comprising Clarke and Oconee Counties, according to Flagpole.

Brian Patterson, currently chief assistant district attorney, has said he will apply for the appointment.

Deborah Gonzalez, former House District 117 representative, has said she will not submit her application.

Prior to the announcement two weeks ago by incumbent District Attorney Ken Mauldin that he will resign effective Feb. 29, Patterson and Gonzalez were competing for the Democratic Party nomination for district attorney in the March 19 primary. Mauldin is a Democrat.

That primary will not be held because Mauldin is not filling out his term.

If Kemp, a Republican, makes his appointment by May 3, Patterson and Gonzalez–and any other candidates–could meet in a special election on Nov. 3.

If Kemp makes the appointment after May 3, the person selected will be able to hold that office until 2022 without an election.

State House Appropriators restored some cuts to the state budget proposed by Gov. Kemp, according to CBS 46.

Three subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee made recommendations Thursday for amendments to the the current budget, which runs through June 30.

House subcommittees recommended cuts, but some were not as deep as Kemp had proposed, putting back more than $2.8 million that the governor wanted to cut. The entirety of the House’s budget math will become clear Tuesday, with the remaining subcommittees and then the full Appropriations Committee scheduled to vote on amendments to the current spending plan. Those decisions will include services that lawmakers have publicly worried over, including agricultural research, public defenders, the state crime lab, mental health assistance and substance abuse programs.

House members reduced cuts to the state Department of Agriculture from $1.81 million to $1.04 million, adding back money for five food safety inspectors and two animal industry inspectors after Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black had warned that reductions could mean unacceptably long gaps between inspections at grocery stores and other venues.

The House actions also give clues to the spending plan for the 2021 budget year beginning July 1. For example, Thursday, House members added $200,000 for the state’s hemp growing program. Black had said he needs $800,000 a year guaranteed for two years before the U.S. Department of Agriculture will approve Georgia’s hemp regulations. Since about a quarter of the current year will remain after the amended budget is passed, that could signal the full $800,000 is coming next year.

House committees also added back nearly $1.5 million for the state schools for the deaf and blind, with subcommittee Chairman Robert Dickey saying it was unfair for those schools to be cut when regular K-12 funding wasn’t touched.

Subcommittees also restored more than $300,000 to the Public Service Commission, enough to prevent employees from being furloughed without pay for five days through June. They also put money back for the state Commission on the Holocaust and gave the Forestry Commission more money than Kemp wanted for maintenance and emergency fire equipment.

From the AJC:

In general, the House pushed back on many of the proposed cuts that would impact small-town Georgia, a key constituency in a chamber largely run by lawmakers from outside metro Atlanta.

The House Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to make major changes to Kemp’s proposal to cut $200 million in this year’s budget. The full chamber will vote Wednesday, and then it will be the Senate’s turn to tweak the spending plan.

Next up for both will be Kemp’s $28.1 billion budget for fiscal 2021, which begins July 1. That proposal includes $300 million in spending cuts — but also pay raises for teachers and state employees earning less than $40,000 a year — and could produce a more contentious fight over state spending.

From 11Alive:

The GBI crime lab has become one of the touchstones in the dispute.

Kemp proposed cutting $1.6 million – reducing positions for scientists and lab techs this year, while the crime lab struggled to eliminate a sizable case backlog that included 786 untested rape kits.

Many lawmakers said it was unacceptable. The House Appropriations Committee mostly agreed, passing a revised budget onto the full House Monday.

“It shouldn’t be a backlog anymore,” said state Rep.James Beverly (D-Macon). “You cut this (crime lab) budget, I think you start running afoul of the truth when you start saying we’ll be able to do it with these budget cuts.”

The GBI director, Vic Reynolds, had told committee members the GBI could outsource DNA testing for cases excluding murder and rape, saving operating revenue.

The House committee also restored many cuts proposed in substance abuse treatment programs, mental health programs and accountability courts – which are designed to reduce the state’s cost of incarcerating criminals.

“If they went on to prison or went on through the criminal justice system, you’re looking at spending a dollar (on accountability courts), or spending seven dollars (on incarceration). That’s a pretty easy decision,” said state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), the appropriations committee chairman.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Chairs of the House Appropriations subcommittees outlined amendments made to Gov. Brian Kemp’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal — adding back dollars for state programs including mental health services, agricultural experiment stations, rural doctor training and court programs.

“Those are and have been priorities of the General Assembly in the House and the Senate,” Appropriations Chair Terry England said. “And we feel very strongly about making sure those efforts continue.”

The amended 2020 budget, he said, deals with cuts as a result of reductions in revenue. During a presentation, England highlighted ongoing impact of losses after Hurricane Michael.

The FY2021 budget is expected to accommodate Kemp’s favored budget add-ins — a $2,000 teacher pay raise and a boost for some state employees earning less than $40,000 a year. The FY2021 budget will be reviewed later in the session.

The House budget will go to a full floor vote Wednesday and is then expected to be tinkered with in the Senate.

House Bill 847 to regulate hemp farming, would allow criminal charges for possession of hemp without proper documentation,  according to the AJC.

The bill would make it a crime to transport hemp plants without paperwork showing it was produced under a farming or processing license. Violators would face up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine for possession of less than an ounce — the same penalty as misdemeanor marijuana.

The House Agriculture Committee approved the legislation on a voice vote, with two representatives opposing it. The measure, House Bill 847, could soon receive a vote in the full House and then be considered by the state Senate.

The proposal comes after the General Assembly approved hemp farming last year, allowing people to grow and manufacture the plant used to make CBD oil, a popular health product that’s currently imported to Georgia from other states. Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Prosecutors and police said they need a way to enforce marijuana offenses after several metro Atlanta cities and counties stopped making arrests for low-level marijuana offenses. Hemp and marijuana look similar, and officers would need a test to determine whether the substance is illegal.

“If you treat any leafy substance as hemp, you’re decriminalizing marijuana in this state,” said Pete Skandalakis, the executive director for the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia. “I don’t think that’s what the Legislature wants.”

A hemp crop could take off in Georgia as soon as this year if lawmakers approve the bill, hemp businesses told the committee. McCall said the bill could be amended in the Senate.

Republican Ethan Underwood announced he will run for the 9th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), according to the Gainesville Times.

Underwood previously served as chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party and second vice chair of the 9th Congressional District Republican Party. He is currently a member of the GOP State Committee.

“I am running for U.S. Congress in Georgia’s 9th District because we need a battle-ready Republican leader who can make decisions and take action day-one on the issues that are in the best interest of our district and our state,” Underwood said in a statement. “While Washington, DC is embroiled in a hostile, philosophical fight, Northeast Georgia communities care about problems and solutions in real life. I will work relentlessly to clear the path for our citizens to make a living and pursue happiness.”

Michael Boggus of Commerce also announced he will run for the 9th District seat, according to the Gainesville Times.

Georgia had one of the highest rates of solar adoption, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Jobs related to solar power increased in Georgia from 3,696 in 2018 to 4,798 last year, according to the 10th annual National Solar Jobs Census released by the Solar Foundation today.

That nearly 30% increase in jobs placed Georgia first in the rate of growth and second only to Florida in the number of jobs added last year. Nationwide nearly 250,000 are employed in the solar energy field.

Both manufacturing and installation contributed to the new jobs in Georgia. Hundreds of new workers were hired to staff the new Q CELLS manufacturing facility in Dalton, the largest solar factory in the western hemisphere. Of the 1,102 additional solar workers in Georgia last year, 641 were in the manufacturing sector.

Much of the installation work in Georgia was related to utility scale installations as the state grew its utility-scale solar footprint more than one hundred-fold from 11 megawatts to approximately 1200 megawatts from 2018 to 2019. A 55-megawatt solar installation in Hazlehurst, developed, owned and operated by Silicon Ranch Corp., required nearly 300 local workers.

Along with Florida, California and Texas, Georgia is one of four states that installed more than 1000 MW of new capacity in 2019.

Gwinnett County Commissioners will hold a public meeting to discuss ethics charges against Commissioner Marlene Fosque, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County commissioners will give the public a chance next week to weigh in on whether Commissioner Marlene Fosque should be punished for criticizing Dustin Inman society founder D.A. King’s participation in a 287(g) forum held in Lawrenceville last summer.

The Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to set a public hearing on an ethics committee’s recommendation in the Fosque case. The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Complex, which is located at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

The ethics committee that heard King’s complaint voted last month to recommend the Board of Commissioners issue a warning to Fosque.

Columbus voters will elect members of city council this year, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Two sitting Columbus Council members have declared their intention to run for another term this year, while two newcomers have also entered their names in the mix.

John House, District 10 at-large councilor, has announced his intention to run for a second term, as has Walker Garrett, District 8 councilor.

Laketha Ashe filed campaign documents to run against House, but said Monday she is still considering whether to continue to pursue the seat due to the recent death of a family member.

Elaine Gillispie has filed to run for the District 4 post, a seat long held by Evelyn Turner Pugh, who retired in October after nearly 31 years on council.

18
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 18, 2020

Layla Fulton

Layla is an adult female Rottweiler who is available for adoption from Fulton County Animal Services in Atlanta, GA.

Smuckers Macon

Smuckers is an adult female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Heart of Georgia Humane Society in Macon, GA.

101 Pups

Furever After Rescue in Macon, GA has a litter of puppies who are available for adoption.

We are the 101 Disney pup litter – there’s ten of us all together here, and we have two other siblings who are with another foster mom. We had a rough start, but our mama (Maya) cared for us the best she could, and then our foster families took over. You see, our mama got hit by a car before we were born. But even though she ended up with two broken legs, somehow she kept us safe until the rescue folks saved us. They found mama and took care of her, and after we were born they took care of all of us too! We were bottle fed until we were ready to eat real food, and we’re doing great!

You’ll have to come to Eatonton or Milledgeville to get one of us. But believe you me, we’re all well worth the trip!!

18
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 18, 2020

Alexander Stephens, who was born in Crawfordville, Taliaferro County, Georgia, was inaugurated as Vice President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861. Stephens graduated from Franklin College, later known as the University of Georgia, and served in the Georgia legislature. Stephens opposed Georgia’s secession. One year later, Georgia’s delegation to the Confederate Congress, numbering ten members, was sworn in.

Ina Dillard was born on February 18, 1868 in Oglethorpe County Georgia. She married Richard Russell, who served on the Georgia Court of Appeals and as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Their son, Richard B. Russell, Jr., would be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, where he served as Speaker and became the youngest Governor of Georgia in the 20th Century. In 1932 he ran for United States Senate and was elected.

In 1936, Russell was elected to his first full term in the Senate over former Governor Eugene Talmadge. In 1952, Russell ran for the Democratic nomination for President and he was an early mentor for Lyndon B. Johnson, who later served as President. Russell served on the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy.

Russell served as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee for many years. Russell was an acknowledged leader within the Senate, and especially among Southern members, and he led much of the opposition to civil rights legislation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Les Paul “Goldtop” guitar played by Duane Allman on “Layla” is being sent from its home in Macon to New York for a concert, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Richard Brent, executive director of The Allman Brothers Band Museum said the guitar will travel from its home at The Big House to New York City.

“It’s played on so many great songs, and there’s tons of photos of Duane playing it,” he said. “Getting it out and letting people play it not only promotes the museum but more importantly keeps Duane Allman’s name and legacy out there and alive and well.”

The Brothers — Celebrating 50 Years of the music of The Allman Brothers Band performance will be held March 10 with the current band members: Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, who was an original member, along with Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Oteil Burbridge and Marc Quinones, according to The Brothers’ website.

Duane Allman played the guitar, named “Layla,” on the first two Allman Brothers records, self-titled “The Allman Brothers Band” and “Idlewild South.”

The new owner of the guitar made an agreement with the museum so the museum can have the guitar on display for six months out of the year, Brent said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 13

7:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP

8:00 AM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES- CANCELED 450 CAP

8:30 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS 406 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 13) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 403 CAP

1:30 PM HOUSE Sales Tax Subcommittee of Ways and Means 133 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS 310 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMELAND SECURITY 415 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee of Education 605 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Occupational/Professional Licensing Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Ad Valorem Tax Subcommittee of Ways and Means 133 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT- CANCELED 310 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS – CANCELED MEZZ 1

3:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS 403 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS – CANCELED 450 CAP

4:00 PM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 506 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION- CANCELED 310 CLOB

Governor Brian Kemp appointed Donald H. Hodges to a vacant seat on the Port Wentworth City Council representing District One, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The seat became vacant when District 1 council member Shari Dyal resigned in January.

The vacancy, along with the death of council member Debbie Johnson left the council with only four members.

Council members Thomas Barbee and Mark Stephens have refused to attend council meetings since December, leaving the council unable to conduct business. A quorum of members are needed to allow voting to take place. In Port Wentworth a quorum of four is needed and can include the mayor.

The governor became involved following requests from city officials for help.

Governor Kemp also appointed Joseph Cushner as a Bulloch County State Court Judge, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Joseph Cushner, who has served as Bulloch County’s state court solicitor general since 2017, was appointed Friday by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to fill the position of Bulloch County’s state court judge.

“I am very excited about it, and I thank Gov. Kemp for the appointment,” Cushner told the Statesboro Herald Monday. ”It has been an honor serving as state court solicitor-general and I am looking forward to serving as state court judge.”

In September 2019, former state court judge Gary Mikell retired from his position of 19 years. Since then, Senior Judge John R. Turner, retired from the Bulloch County Superior Court, has served in the capacity of state court judge and is expected to do so until Cushner is sworn into office. Cushner said the governor told him that he expects to hold the ceremony “by the end of the month.”

Legislators return to Session today after a week of budget hearings, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The governor’s proposed cuts – rounding out to $557 million through the 2021 fiscal year – inspired the General Assembly to set aside bill-wrangling for 10 days and focus almost exclusively on the budget.

Changes to the governor’s budget began Thursday, when members of the House Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee voted to restore funding for nearly half of 13 vacant food-safety inspector positions slated to remain unfilled because of the cuts.

More budget tweaks likely ahead could set up head-butting between lawmakers and Kemp, who has veto power over spending items that the legislature passes.

The House version of the amended $27.4-billion budget for the current fiscal year is headed for a floor vote Wednesday that will likely see more cuts rolled back, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn.

“You’ll probably see more restorations,” England said, declining to elaborate further Thursday. “That’s the way this process is supposed to work.”

Elsewhere in the budget, Kemp has taken especially fierce heat for proposed cuts to county health boards and physician training programs in rural areas – a key voter base for the governor and many lawmakers from both parties.

“We do not want to see a greater burden placed on our rural hospitals because of budget cuts,” said Damien Scott, CEO of Emanuel Medical Center in Swainsboro. “When you’re barely making ends meet, even $15,000 to $20,000 can be significant.”

Rep. Clay Pirkle agreed, noting many underserved health boards in rural counties might be in a serious bind without full state funding.

“If we are cutting in an area, the unintended consequence is we are cramming down to the local level,” said Pirkle, R-Ashburn. “And a lot of them can’t afford it.”

From GPB News:

Kemp is proposing more than $200 million in midyear reductions in state spending, citing a shortfall in state revenues. House subcommittees on Thursday recommended putting back more than $2.8 million of Kemp’s proposed reductions.

The full Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on amendments to the current spending plan.

House members on Thursday kept money for five food safety inspectors and two animal industry inspectors in the state Department of Agriculture.

From the AJC:

The House budget committee will vote Tuesday on Kemp’s plan to cut $200 million from this year’s budget, rewriting it to include funding for its priorities and likely reducing some of the governor’s. The full House is expected to follow with a vote the next day, sending it on to the Senate.

The House vote on the midyear budget will mark the first major legislative move to rewrite Kemp’s proposal, which cuts spending from select areas to both respond to slow tax collections last year and provide enough money for the governor’s priorities, including a $2,000 teacher pay raise and his effort to attack gangs.

Considering the tension between Kemp and the House for much of the session, some of the governor’s priorities could also be cut. He will find out Tuesday, when the House releases its budget rewrite.

Increasing tax credits for foster care could further complicate budget issues, according to The Center Square.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to increase foster care adoption tax credits could result in a state revenue loss of $12.8 million over the next five years, according to fiscal researchers.

Kemp wants the General Assembly to increase the annual tax incentive from $2,000 to $6,000 to promote more adoptions from the state’s foster care system. Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, has considered drafting a proposal of the bill, according to a fiscal note from the Department of Audits and Accounts.

Georgia State University’s Fiscal Center projected that the proposal could decrease state tax revenues by $1.4 million in 2020 and grow up to $3.6 million by 2025.

Researchers said the current foster care adoption credit already surpasses most of the tax liabilities for parents who have applied for it. Therefore, it has accumulated into millions of dollars in carryover credits.

House Bill 113 by State Rep. John Carson (R-Cobb) would increase fines for distracted driving, according to the AJC.

State troopers have issued tens of thousands of tickets since Georgia’s latest distracted driving law took effect in 2018, and traffic fatalities have inched down.

House Bill 113 would raise the maximum fine for a first offense from $50 to $100. The top fine for a second offense would double to $200, and a third offense to $300. For those caught in school or highway construction zones, the fines would double again.

Safety advocates say stiffer fines are needed to discourage a behavior that experts say contributed to a spike in traffic deaths in Georgia and across the country.

Others say the fines are already too high and shouldn’t be raised. State Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, said compliance with the law will improve over time without steep fines that can become a burden to low-income people.

“The bill we passed a couple of years ago was overkill,” Powell said. “Now we’re coming back with another one that’s overkill.”

Traffic safety experts say the law has made a difference.

Traffic fatalities fell 2.2% to 1,515 in 2018. And though 2019 statistics are incomplete, preliminary data indicates fatalities fell again last year. Traffic accidents involving injuries and the frequency of collision insurance claims also have fallen under the law.

An ad featuring Senator Kelly Loeffler has her taking fire, according to the AJC.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler recently posted a picture of herself in a camo blouse and orange safety vest, with a shotgun over one shoulder. One of her critics quickly discovered she couldn’t have been using the weaponry to hunt.

The Republican incumbent doesn’t have a Georgia hunting license, according to an Open Records Act request obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Washington Post covers GOP infighting over the seat held by Sen. Loeffler.

The fight pitted the political lieutenants of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) against top political advisers to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

Ostensibly, the fight concerned McConnell’s explicit support for Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who was appointed to fill the vacancy left when Johnny Isakson (R) resigned in early January due to health problems. McConnell’s team has tried to suffocate any Republican opposition to Loeffler, part of his long-standing policy to blacklist any political firms that work for candidates challenging a GOP incumbent.

“With this emotional, ill-informed decision, Doug Collins has united conservatives in opposition to his candidacy, and Senator Loeffler has quickly assembled more Republican support in Georgia than Collins ever knew existed,” said NRSC spokesman Jesse Hunt, calling the four-term congressman “a swamp creature.”

McConnell does not want to risk a divided GOP field in the initial Nov. 3 ballot, which under special election rules would force the top two finishers into an unpredictable Jan. 5 runoff if no candidate clears a 50 percent majority. He wants Loeffler to win on the first ballot in the jungle primary rather than Democrats pushing one candidate toward an outright victory while the Republican vote splits. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams are united behind the candidacy of the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the Atlanta church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.

“Kelly Loeffler and her allies have spent over $8 million on ads and haven’t moved the needle. Georgia voters know that Doug is the president’s foremost defender. They are just not buying Loeffler,” said Dan McLagan, Collins’s campaign spokesman, dubbing it the “Potomac panic polka.”

From Georgia Recorder:

“I’ve always believed that elections have a purpose. You put out ideas and you do so on the basis of your experience,” Collins told the Georgia Recorder in a brief interview on Capitol Hill. As for the swamp creature snub, Collins laughed and shot back, “Are you talking about the incumbent senator? Well, she’s the incumbent senator.”

As the GOP infighting has intensified, President Donald Trump last week hinted at a potential compromise among the candidates.

Collins said Wednesday that the comments weren’t indicative of a potential compromise between the two candidates. “He’s not getting in this race,” Collins said of Trump. The president “respects the senator and her position and he knows me intimately,” from their work together, Collins added. He was one of Trump’s leading defenders throughout the House impeachment inquiry.

“I respect the fact that he’s staying out of it,” Collins said of the president.

Collins is confident about his chances.

“In November, we’re going to win our side and we’ll probably go into a runoff and next January you’ll visit me over on the Senate side,” he said.

Republican Tricia Hise is running for the Senate District 50 seat being vacated by State Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa), according to the Gainesville Times.

Hise, a Republican, serves on the board of the Habersham Chamber of Commerce and chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee. She has held state board positions on the Georgia State Property Commission and the Georgia Building Authority. She formerly served as assistant district attorney for the Mountain Judicial Circuit and is a POST-certified law enforcement officer. She also chairs Women for Trump in Habersham.

“I am a Christian conservative, dedicated to the principles of the Constitution, including our guaranteed right to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment. I believe in protecting all life and will work tirelessly to defend our Constitution, to protect the unborn, to promote businesses, including our number one business — agriculture,” Hise said in a statement. I thank my friend and statesman Sen. John Wilkinson for his tireless work for our district and I wish him the best in his run for Congress. I am known as the ‘Bulldog in the Courtroom’ and I look forward to serving you as your Bulldog in the Senate as I earn your vote.”

Another local lawyer has also declared for the seat.

The Savannah Riverkeeper is seeking to join a lawsuit over plans to replace a dam on the river near Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Savannah Riverkeeper organization filed documents Friday seeking to join the legal battle over the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

The state of South Carolina started the lawsuit Nov. 4 in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to try to stop the federal government from tearing down the nearly 90-year-old lock and dam and replacing it with a rock weir.

Residents on both sides of the river were horrified last year when the Corps drew down the level of the river to reveal how it might look after the dam is removed. The corps’ February drawdown to simulate its preferred alternative created mud, grounded docks and boats and in some instances caused property damage.

According to the motion to intervene, the modified approach would maintain water levels and ensure safe passage for fish, including endangered sturgeon.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, according to the Riverkeeper’s motion, is predicted to harm the sturgeon. That is why the National Marine Fisheries Service issued opinions that the Corps must install a fish ladder to offset some of the harm caused by the harbor expansion.

Fort Benning will not host a new headquarters, but will receive a new infantry unit, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence is reactivating the 197th Infantry Brigade to meet the Army’s increased demand for infantry soldiers, the post adjacent to Columbus announced in a news release Friday.

More than 500 personnel are expected to be added at Fort Benning when the 197th Infantry Brigade is reactivated this summer.

The Dalton City Council tabled discussion of an intergovernmental agreement with Whitfield County on fire services, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Dalton City Council voted 4-0 on Monday to table a proposed intergovernmental agreement between the city and Whitfield County that would create an automatic aid agreement between their fire departments.

Fire Chief Todd Pangle said there has been no such agreement between the fire departments but the proposed agreement would largely codify what has been common practice between the departments.

The agreement said that for single-unit responses, such as medical calls, dispatch would send the closest station only, regardless of department, unless that unit isn’t available. Then dispatch would send a unit from the department covering that area based on the regular alarm assignments. Currently, units from both departments might be sent on such calls.

Pythons are not yet established in Georgia, according to The Brunswick News.

“As far as we know there are no established populations of pythons in or near Georgia, although occasionally an individual released or escaped pet does turn up,” said Daniel Sollenberger, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources. “There is still quite some distance between us and the South Florida population of Burmese pythons so immigration into Georgia is not occurring without human assistance.

“Of course, we encourage people to photograph and report anything that looks unusual just in case.”

Over the years there have been concerns about pythons slithering into North Florida and from there into neighboring states, but such progress appears to be slow. The oft-told explanation of the python population is Hurricane Andrew. It destroyed python breeding facilities in 1992, and between those and pets set out to live in the wild, the snakes made a home for themselves in South Florida.

When Georgians see pythons moseying through the area, it’s as Sollenberger said — someone released the snake into the wild. Take, for example, a 2016 story out of Hephzibah, near Augusta. Someone — not the owner of the snakes — opened up the cages that housed 14 ball pythons and let them loose.

There are an estimated 100,000 pythons roaming South Florida, and females can lay up to 100 eggs.

The rest of the story is a horror show.

17
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 17, 2020

Ronald McD DeKalb

Ronald McDonald is a male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the DeKalb County Animal Shelter in Chamblee, GA.

This is Ronald McDonald and like his namesake he is a fun, friendly guy with the heart of a clown. Watch him catch treats in the air while sitting! Look at those ears and his smile! He’s got lots of energy and loves to play. He’s looking for an active family to teach him new tricks and is eager to learn and eager to please. And if you happened to throw a big mac his way I’m sure he’d a very happy Ronald McDonald. Meet this goofy pup today at Dekalb Animal Services, 3280 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd, Chamblee, GA.

Wilson Paulding

Wilson (20-02-0435) is a 66-pound adult male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Paulding County Animal Control in Dallas, GA.

Reagan Cedartown

Reagan is a male Rat Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Cedartown Animal Rescue, Education & Sterilization in Cedartown, GA.

Reagan is a super happy, friendly puppy who was rescued as part of a litter of 5 from a kill shelter. He is currently 13 pounds at 4 months old. This beautiful boy is trained to a litter box as well as crate trained. He gets along with and loves everyone he meets – people, dogs and cats.

17
Feb

GaPundit for February 17, 2020

On February 17, 1739, Thomas Jones wrote to the Georgia Trustees in London of the appalling conditions in Savannah.

“The profanation of the Lord’s Day. When at church in the time of divine service, can hear continual firing of guns by people that are shooting at some game, others carrying burdens on wheelbarrows by the church door.

“The uncommon lewdness practiced by many and gloried in.

“The negligence of officers in permitting several in this town to retail rum and strong liquors, unlicensed, who have no other visible way of livelihood, where servants resort and are encouraged to rob their masters… .

“I need not mention profane swearing and drunkenness, which are not so common here as in some other places, and few are notorious therein, besides Mr. Baliff Parker, who I have seen wallow in the mire….

The Georgia legislature, on February 17, 1783, passed legislation granting land to veterans of Georgia militia who served during the Revolutionary War.

On February 17, 1784, the Georgia legislature passed a bill to increase an earlier formula for settling the state, allotting 200 acres to each head of a family, plus 50 acres for each family member (including up to 10 slaves) up to a maximum of 1000 acres.

Thomas Jefferson was elected Third President of the United States on February 17, 1801. The election was deadlocked for three months between Jefferson and his running-mate Aaron Burr.

On November 4 [1800], the national election was held. When the electoral votes were counted, the Democratic-Federalists emerged with a decisive victory, with Jefferson and Burr each earning 73 votes to Adams’ 65 votes and Pinckney’s 64 votes. John Jay, the governor of New York, received 1 vote.

Because Jefferson and Burr had tied, the election went to the House of Representatives, which began voting on the issue on February 11, 1801. What at first seemed but an electoral technicality–handing Jefferson victory over his running mate–developed into a major constitutional crisis when Federalists in the lame-duck Congress threw their support behind Burr. Jefferson needed a majority of nine states to win, but in the first ballot had only eight states, with Burr winning six states and Maryland and Virginia. Finally, on February 17, a small group of Federalists reasoned that the peaceful transfer of power required that the majority party have its choice as president and voted in Jefferson’s favor. The 35th ballot gave Jefferson victory with 10 votes. Burr received four votes and two states voted blank.

On February 17, 1820, the United States Senate passed the Missouri Compromise to govern the admission of new states as either slave-holding or not.

On February 17, 1854, Georgia Governor Herschel Johnson signed legislation by the Georgia General Assembly placing on the ballot for the next generation the question of whether to move the state capital from Milledgeville to Atlanta.

The first portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to hang in the state capitol was unveiled on March 17, 1974 and was replaced in 2006 by the current portrait.

I’m taking a brief sabbatical day in observation of President’s Day and will return tomorrow. Probably. For the time being.

14
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 15, 2020

Fulton JJ

JJ is a senior male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the LifeLine at Fulton County Animal Services Shelter in Atlanta, GA.

Fulton Grayson

Grayson is a senior male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the LifeLine at Fulton County Animal Services Shelter in Atlanta, GA.

Grayson is a sweet, polite gentleman. He loves going for walks and does very well on a leash. Grayson also loves treats and is very gentle when taking them. He enjoys exploring the play yards and periodically walks up to people, tail wagging, to get petted. This quiet, sweet boy is waiting so patiently for his forever home and will make someone so happy! Come meet Grayson at Fulton County Animal Services!

Fulton Grape

Grape is a senior female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the LifeLine at Fulton County Animal Services Shelter in Atlanta, GA.

Grape is currently living in a foster home. If you’re interested in meeting Grape, email [email protected]

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 14, 2020

On February 14, 1779, Lt. Col. Elijah Clarke led a charge against British forces at the Battle of Kettle Creek.

On February 15, 1796, Georgia Governor Jared Irwin and legislators gathered with a crowd for the burning of the “Yazoo Act.”

On February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor, Cuba.

On February 16, 1923, Howard Carter and his archaeology party entered the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen.

The steps led to an ancient sealed doorway bearing the name Tutankhamen. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb’s interior chambers on November 26, they were thrilled to find it virtually intact, with its treasures untouched after more than 3,000 years. The men began exploring the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.

Inside lay a sarcophagus with three coffins nested inside one another. The last coffin, made of solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tut. Among the riches found in the tomb–golden shrines, jewelry, statues, a chariot, weapons, clothing–the perfectly preserved mummy was the most valuable, as it was the first one ever to be discovered. Despite rumors that a curse would befall anyone who disturbed the tomb, its treasures were carefully catalogued, removed and included in a famous traveling exhibition called the “Treasures of Tutankhamen.”

On February 16, 1948, the United States Air Force renamed Robins Air Field to Robins Air Force Base. Robins AFB and the City of Warner Robins are named for Air Force General Augustine Warner Robins.

On February 15, 1952 Gov. Herman Talmadge signed a joint resolution directing the purchase of Stone Mountain for development as a Confederate Memorial.

On February 14, 1956, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation calling for the protection, cleaning and maintenance, and display of historic Confederate flags at the State Capitol.

On February 14, 1958, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution purporting to censure President Dwight D. Eisenhower for using National Guard troops in the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Fidel Castro was sworn-in as Prime Minister of Cuba on February 16, 1959.

On February 16, 1968, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representative Rankin Fite placed the first 911 call from Haleyville City Hall to Congressman Tom Bevill at the Haleyville police station.

On February 14, 1977, the B-52s played their first gig at a Valentine’s Day party in Athens.

Later that year, the group began making regular runs in the Wilson family station wagon up to New York City for gigs at seminal New Wave clubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s. With Kate and Cindy in their mile-high beehive wigs and 60s thrift-shop best, and Fred looking like a gay, demented golf pro, the B-52s made an immediate impression on the New York scene, and their independently produced single, “Rock Lobster,” became an underground smash.

The B-52s are still in business three decades later, minus Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS in 1985. Significantly, their success is widely credited for establishing the viability of the Athens, Georgia, music scene, which would produce many minor successes and one massive one—R.E.M.—in the years immediately following the breakthrough of the B-52′s.

On February 15, 2011, Georgia Congressman John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in the civil rights movement.

On February 14, 2012, we published the first edition of the GaPundit daily political news, featuring dogs. We originally thought that the dogs would be temporary until enough people complained about them that we felt the need to go to once a week. We were surprised that the adoptable dogs have become the signature of GaPundit’s otherwise-political offerings and our greatest success.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

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Governor Brian Kemp spoke about raises for teachers in Cobb County, according to the AJC.

After getting the General Assembly to back a raise last year, Kemp is pushing for another $2,000 to complete a 2018 campaign pledge.

But fellow Republican and state House Speaker David Ralston has his own goals for the 2021 budget and has said a raise for teachers may have to wait. The state likely cannot afford both that and an income tax cut that many lawmakers want.

On Thursday, Kemp toured McEachern High School in Cobb County, which has a new nurse prep program. It was a friendly venue to tout his legislative agenda, including the raise.

Under his budget proposal, the state would, for the third year in a row, pay the maximum in the school funding formula. And Kemp is budgeting more than $350 million more “to deliver the promise of the $5,000 pay raise that I campaigned on,” he said during the school visit.

“Those in this room know we have a serious teacher retention problem that requires our immediate attention,” he said. “I believe this well-deserved pay raise will go a long way to incentivizing our best and brightest to stay in the classroom.”

It may not sound like much in a $28 billion budget, but a lot of that money is already spoken for. The overall education allocation alone consumes more than a third of the total, at nearly $11 billion. Health care and other costs consume much of the rest.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark McDonough tendered his resignation after a cheating scandal eliminated an entire class of Georgia State Troopers, according to 11Alive.

Georgia Department of Public Safety commissioner Col. Mark W. McDonough has resigned in the wake of effectively losing an entire Trooper School graduating class to a cheating scandal.

Hours later, the department’s deputy commissioner turned in his resignation, too.

Georgia State Patrol confirmed both resignations to 11Alive, saying Gov. Brian Kemp asked for each to step down from their positions. The state Board of Public Safety accepted both, Thursday.

“My family and I thank Colonel McDonough for his dedicated service, leadership, and sacrifice,” Gov. Kemp said in a statement. “We wish him the very best in the years ahead.”

From WSB-TV:

Just moments after resigning McDonough told Gray that Kemp asked for his resignation after eight and a half years at the top of GSP.

“The governor made a clear indication he is moving in the direction of new leadership. That’s what we elected him for,” McDonough said. “He’s my commander in chief, hence you take the action I took. You get out of the way.”

McDonough told the board that a complete internal audit of GSP training is now underway after the cheating scandal.

Gov. Kemp spoke about the budget process, according to GPB News.

Gov. Brian Kemp says he foresees a “great budget” when the second round of budget discussions end this week.

“Things the last couple of days have gone great. I’ve gotten really good feedback from legislators about the presentations they’ve gotten,” he told said after speaking at the Capitol earlier in the week, adding he and his team have remained “open and transparent” to working with legislators.

“Everybody has their priorities. Mine [is] paying teachers more,” Kemp said.

Georgia State House Appropriators have begun voting on specific parts of the proposed budget, according to the AJC.

The House is expected to approve a midyear spending plan next week. The proposal will then move on to the Georgia Senate.

But Thursday was the House’s opening shot at Kemp’s recommendations to cut $200 million this year and $300 million next year. Several more budget subcommittees will vote Tuesday, as will the House Appropriations Committee.

Lawmakers have expressed concerns about spending reductions in a lot of areas, including mental health and substance abuse programs, rural economic development, agricultural research and food inspections, and criminal justice and public defender programs.

After approving the midyear budget, lawmakers will take up the spending plan for 2021, which includes the pay raises for teachers.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and the NAACP held a voter registration drive in the jail, according to the AJC.

According to a statement from the sheriff’s office, 38 inmates filed applications to become registered voters. The NAACP’s voter outreach program with incarcerated individuals has become an annual initiative.

“It is important that every citizen who has the right to vote also has a chance to exercise that right,” DeKalb Sheriff Melody Maddox said in a statement. “Many incarcerated individuals don’t realize that they can still cast absentee ballots in elections while they are in custody, but they must first be registered voters.”

Georgia law states that only convicted felons who are still serving a prison sentence are not eligible to vote. That means that men and women who have been arrested and are in the county jail can cast ballots.

Eight candidates for DeKalb County Sheriff spoke to voters, according to the AJC.

More than 150 residents attended a forum at Redan High School a little over a month before voters will head to the polls for the March 24 special election for sheriff. The election is nonpartisan and will coincide with presidential preference primary.

The candidates in the crowded race, all of whom have law enforcement or military experience, made the case for why they would be best suited to serve as DeKalb’s sheriff. The sheriff’s office is responsible for the county jail, security at the courts and processing warrants.

Fulton County voters can test drive the new voting system before it goes prime time for the Presidential Prefence Primary, according to the AJC.

Fulton County residents can try out new voting machines during a mock election at several locations on Feb. 18, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Registration and elections staff will be on hand to assist voters with the new equipment.

Early voting begins March 2 in advance of the presidential primary election March 24.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan tweeted his support for Republican Jason Anavitarte in the upcoming election for State Senate District 31, which is being vacated by Sen. Bill HEath (R-Bremen).

Senate Bill 313 by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) seeks to rein in prescription drug costs, according to the AJC.

In an effort to attack high drug prices, Georgia lawmakers are focusing on powerful middlemen who negotiate on behalf of insurance companies.

State Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, has introduced a bill that aims to shed light on prices that pharmacy benefits managers negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies, and to ensure that patients are able to get the drugs when they need them. The legislation is Senate Bill 313.

“I really truly believe the state needs more transparency in drug pricing,” Burke said, noting that drugs are the country’s single biggest health expense. “That’s what I’m looking for.”

“SB 313 does absolutely nothing to reduce prescription drug costs and will only increase profits for Georgia’s independent pharmacies,” Greg Lopes, a spokesman for the managers’ industry group, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a piece of special-interest legislation that is not patient-centric.”

But in Georgia and across the U.S., some patients, doctors and pharmacists say benefits managers are now part of the problem.

From the Albany Herald:

Senate Bill 313 would require pharmacy benefits manager companies to adhere closely to national average drug prices set by the federal government when reimbursing local pharmacies. The state Department of Insurance would monitor those reimbursement amounts.

The bill would also prohibit PBMs from charging extra fees or causing delays when requests are made for lower-priced drugs. Benefits managers also would have to distribute all rebates from drug makers to patients, rather than keeping a portion for themselves.

The bill follows legislation the General Assembly passed last year that prevents benefits-manager companies from steering patients to associated pharmacies with potentially higher costs.

“When it gets to [patients], there’s been so many convolutions it’s really hard to understand the process,” said Burke, R-Bainbridge. “What we’re trying to do is shine a little light on that.”

Hospital and pharmacy groups have praised the bill, describing it as a means to peel back a layer of the already complicated prescription drug marketplace. They say scaling down the role of third-party companies also could keep smaller pharmacies in Georgia from going out of business amid increasing drug costs.

Subpoenas from the State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to Stacey Abrams-linked organizations came before a judge, according to the AJC.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick said she will rule soon on whether Abrams’ campaign and several nonprofit organizations must produce additional documents sought by the state ethics commission, which is investigating whether they illegally coordinated efforts.

The agency asked Barwick to order Abrams’ campaign to comply with a subpoena for more documents that could show whether Abrams and the groups worked together to promote her candidacy. Georgia law prohibits independent groups from coordinating with candidates.

An attorney for the ethics commission said it needs an explanation for spending by the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group founded by Abrams, and an affiliated organization, the New Georgia Project Action Fund.

Festivus comes early to Savannah as some elected officials began the airing of the grievances, according to the Savannah Morning News.

An acrimonious dispute broke out between members of Savannah’s city council at their Thursday workshop meeting, following a Wednesday night town hall that was ostensibly organized to discuss city-owned fairgrounds property, but which turned into a forum for four alderwomen to air perceived grievances.

Hosted by Alderwoman/Mayor Pro Tem Estella Shabazz on Feb. 12 at the Liberty City Community Center, the town hall was promoted as an update on the former Coastal Empire Fair site in District 5, with Alderwomen Alicia Blakely, Kesha Gibson-Carter, and Bernetta Lanier in attendance. Shabazz said that she encouraged all other aldermanic representatives to join the town hall but intentionally declined to invite Mayor Van Johnson.

“It is February 12, 2020, and it doesn’t feel good in city council,” Shabazz said, raising concern over what she termed as “an extremely disturbing item” on the agenda for city council’s Feb. 13 meeting, regarding the adoption of rules of council.

The other three alderwomen also spoke out on what they saw as efforts to diminish their influence in municipal governance.

“Since we have been in office, we have been treated as if we have a strong-mayor system,” Gibson-Carter said. “They have deceived us. They have overwhelmed us.”

“There are still four of us who are in our right minds,” Shabazz said, referring to herself and the three other alderwomen at the town hall.

Augusta government has a large appetite for SPLOST funds, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta department heads, agencies and a few non-government agencies say they need $886.6 million for capital improvements from the next special purpose, local option sales tax.

With a referendum on SPLOST 8 set to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot, some Augusta commissioners were taken aback Thursday by the size of the list, while others had projects they want to add.

Augusta’s current one-percent sales tax, an optional funding stream that must be approved by voters, is expected to reach its target of around $360 million toward the end of next year.

The commission must OK the list by early July – 90 days prior to the election — to get it on the ballot.

It is expected to take up the list again March 3.

Twin Pines Minerals released studies of their proposal to mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, according to the Albany Herald.

Twin Pines Minerals, an industry-leading minerals and mining company, has announced the results of geologic and hydrogeologic studies to determine the viability of its plan to mine titanium and zirconium from the layers of sand and soil on its Charlton County property.

In advance of the initiative, the company is spending millions of dollars to ensure its investment in the project is sound, which it can only be if the Okefenokee Swamp, adjoining streams and environs are protected and mining work complies with all federal and state regulations.

“I am elated that the study has confirmed the viability of our project,” said Steve Ingle, president of Twin Pines Minerals. “Protecting the swamp and the region’s environment is of paramount importance to us, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because failing to meet the strictest state and federal standards could result in regulatory action that would jeopardize a $300 million investment.”