The blog.

15
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 15, 2019

Marcel Macon

Marcel is a young male Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.

Peppy Macon

Peppy is a young male Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.

Penelope Macon

Penelope is a funny-looking dog pig who is available for adoption from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare in Macon, GA.

15
Feb

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE Life & Health Subcommittee 506 CLOB

9:30 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 16) House Chamber

11:00 AM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 132 CAP

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT – CANCELLED 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- Ad Valorem Subcommittee 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee 406 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

United States Senators Johnny Isakson (R) and David Perdue (R) signed a letter asking for quicker action on disaster relief, according to the Albany Herald.

Supplemental disaster funding was supported by 98 U.S. senators, including Isakson and Perdue, in funding proposals voted on earlier this year, but this week’s initial agreement to fund the government after Friday does not include this funding.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Isakson and Perdue joined with a bipartisan group of senators representing states recovering from recent hurricane and wildfire damage to urge an immediate vote on disaster recovery funding for states working to rebuild, writing, “We insist you bring a disaster supplemental bill to the floor for consideration at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the federal government fulfills its responsibility.”

As part of an effort to ensure Georgia farmers and others recovering in the wake of Hurricane Michael receive federal aid, Isakson and Perdue have twice introduced a $3 billion agriculture disaster relief amendment to bills under consideration before the Senate in the 116th Congress.

Tamar Hallerman of the AJC writes about Georgia legislators’ reactions to the border security funding deal.

The spending deal, which would set aside nearly $1.4 billion for President Donald Trump’s border wall and stave off another government shutdown through September, prompted “yes” votes from four Georgia Republicans.

One of the more notable votes in favor came from Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, an immigration hawk who has often sought to pull his White House ally to the right.

All five of the state’s Democrats opted to support the plan, bucking some House progressives who rejected the compromise.

Seven Georgia Republicans voted against the compromise. Most said it did not include enough money for the wall, and others griped about the lack of money for Hurricane Michael cleanup.

Governor Brian Kemp helped unveil a free app to connect users in crisis with mental health resources, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Downloadable to Apple and Android smartphones, the My GCAL app connects via text and chat with the confidential Georgia Crisis and Access Line. The hotline is now staffed 24 hours a day with counselors and clinical professionals.

“It’s good for all ages, adults too, but young people in particular are reluctant to talk about behavioral health issues,” said Rep. Katie Dempsey. “This is a way to explore resources through text with people trained to listen, assess and help someone decide what services they need.”

Dempsey and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, were among the lawmakers who stood with Gov. Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp as they unveiled the app. The two helped push for funding in the state budget to modernize the 13-year-old GCAL system.

“Our youth prefer to text instead of calling. They also may be in a crisis situation where they can’t call,” Hufstetler said. “This just makes our crisis hotline more accessible, particularly to our younger population.”

Kemp called the My GCAL app an “innovative tool” to address what parents, students and educators have convinced him is a growing mental health crisis in schools. His budget this year includes increased funding for intervention and school security measures.

Anyone in Georgia can contact GCAL for help for themselves or on behalf of someone else at 800-715-4225 or via the app. Callers in crisis can speak with live clinicians trained in de-escalation and, when needed, mobile crisis response teams can be dispatched. Information specialists also can provide referrals for treatment in a caller’s area.

A joint meeting of the Senate and House Natural Resources Committees heard about coal ash, according to The Brunswick News.

Senate committee Chairman Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla, let it be known this joint meeting was just on the basics, and anything further — including likely testimony from a number of interested parties — would occur as the committees handle bills in their regular course of business.

“I think it’s important to note this is an oversight hearing this morning — that’s the purpose of the meeting,” Harper said. “We’ve asked the Environmental Protection Division and the director to come, and others, to get us up to date on what’s going on, and that’s what this hearing is about. Obviously, today we will not be taking any testimony.

“Under both the state and federal rules, all 30 ash ponds in Georgia must cease accepting waste and close,” [EPD Director Rick] Dunn said. “Most impoundments in Georgia must cease accepting waste in April of this year. … And, they must complete closure of these surface impoundments or ash ponds within five years, although extensions of that requirement are available.”

[Georgia Power General Manager of Environmental Affairs Aaron] Mitchell said Georgia Power is looking at taking their coal ash reuse project from its active sites and use it with ash from closed sites — the utility filed a notice with the state Public Service Commission to begin an ash beneficial reuse research center at a Georgia Power facility, partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute. Staff at the center would study the beneficial reuse of coal ash and experiment with technology to condition the coal ash for best reuse.

From WABE:

Georgia Power is continuing to clean up coal ash, a byproduct from burning coal for electricity that can contain toxic materials. The utility presented its progress to state lawmakers at a hearing Thursday.

The utility is closing all 29 of its coal ash ponds, big, open ponds of water mixed with ash that run the risk of leaching toxics into groundwater, or having it flood over the top of the pond into neighboring waterways.

“In a short couple of months, we will cease to place ash in ash ponds forever,” Aaron Mitchell, general manager of environmental affairs at Georgia Power, told legislators from the Georgia House and Senate.

“From a water quality standpoint this is very good,” said Jac Capp, chief of the water branch of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Dalton Utilities is seeking the ability to borrow money without public approval, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Mark Woodall with the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club argued that the real driving force for the bill was the ongoing expansion of Plant Vogtle, which is a nuclear power plant near Augusta. That work is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

“Taking away the right of the people of Dalton to vote — that’s not going to solve our issues with Vogtle,” Woodall told lawmakers.

Sen. Chuck Payne, a Republican from Dalton, claimed that the utility’s push to end the public vote requirement is unrelated to its small stake in the project.

“Dalton Utilities has 1.6 percent interest in Vogtle. So Vogtle is not the reason that they’re doing this,” Payne said.

A Senate committee unanimously approved the measure on Thursday after a brief discussion. If it clears the Senate, the proposal will face opposition in the House, where some lawmakers remain unconvinced.

Rep. Jason Ridley, a Republican who represents a portion of Whitfield County, said he is against giving Dalton Utilities what he said amounts to an open checkbook for Plant Vogtle.

The State House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care heard House Bill 198 by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin), which would repeal the state Certificate of Need program, according to Georgia Health News.

State Rep. Matt Hatchett, a Dublin Republican and sponsor of the bill, said Wednesday that the legislation seeks to stabilize rural hospitals, promote transparency among nonprofit hospitals, and drive down health care costs and insurance rates.

Rep. Terry England, an Auburn Republican and also a sponsor, added, “We’re trying to do what’s best for the patient.’’ It aims to promote access, affordability and quality of care, he said.

Hospital opponents of the bill told committee members that it would hurt health care, especially in rural areas.

“We’ve been hit over the head on this,’’ Ethan James, a Georgia Hospital Association vice president, said of the legislation. It would do “tremendous damage to our rural health care system,” he said.

James said 60 rural hospitals in Georgia are against the bill.

Hospital groups, though, have voiced deep concern about the lifting of restrictions on ambulatory surgery and imaging centers, saying they would siphon off privately insured patients. Lewis of HomeTown Health said his hospital members are united against easing the surgery center rules.

The Medical College of Georgia is working on plans to increase the number of rural doctors in Georgia, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Expanding Medical College of Georgia by 50 students and shortening medical school to three years while offering loan remission for those who serve in rural areas could put dozens of new doctors in areas of need across the state.

It is “the biggest thing we’ve done since 1828,” when the Medical College of Georgia was founded, Dean David Hess said. An expansion and radical change to the education of medical students also could provide dozens of new doctors to rural areas of Georgia in need of them.

Hess and Augusta University President Brooks Keel have approached state leaders about expanding the medical school by 50 students and shortening medical school from four years to three, while also pitching the idea of the state paying the tuition of those students who agree to spend at least six years in underserved areas of the state, which is almost every county outside of the metro areas. Those students who complete the three-year program would then go into a three-year primary care residency in the state, Hess said.

The looming physician shortage breathed new life in adding those additional 50 students and ensuring they were looking at primary care, he said. Georgia ranks near the bottom in physicians per capita.

Homeowners on the Savannah River are not amused by the lowering of the water level, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

About 30 people showed up Thursday on Riverwalk Augusta to form an unsmiling half circle around a spokesman of the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as he explained to reporters why the river had been deliberately shrunk in the past several days and the agency’s plan to keep it that way after New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam is removed and replaced by a rock weir allowing migratory fish to get through.

The weir and fish passage are part of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project and serve as mitigation for damage that project is causing to spawning grounds in the river near Savannah from the harbor deepening, which is allowing saltwater to creep further up the river, spokesman Russell Wicke said. The passage near Augusta would allow endangered fish such as the shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon to access historic spawning grounds in the Augusta shoals currently blocked by the 80-year-old lock and dam, he said.

The lowered river pool now is part of a simulation to show what the river would look like once the weir is built and corps engineers and experts showed up in the Augusta area Thursday to begin making their own observations and readings. The corps was using two boats going up and down the river, one flying a drone to take aerial photos, taking measurements and depths at various points, Wicke said. So far, there have been no surprises, he said.

Eleven Georgians were elected to leadership in the National Cotton Council, according to the Albany Herald.

Trees Columbus will add 1000 trees to their area to restore part of the canopy, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms said City Council will likely appoint Larry Curtis Jr. to the District 6 seat vacated by the death of Council member Mike Davis, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert delivered the State of the Community address, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The mayor briefly highlighted some of the challenges still facing Macon-Bibb County, but primarily focused on why he says many residents are optimistic about the direction in which the county is headed. Reichert also challenged those in attendance and other residents to express why they love Macon.

“There are concerns about crime, poverty and economic security, but nearly 70 percent felt our community is changing for the better,” Reichert said during the event at the Edgar H. Wilson Convention Center.

Reichert also discussed the county’s financial situation after four consecutive years of deficits.

Last year’s budget of $154.7 million was still considerably lower than the $165.6 million in the combined city and county budgets from the year prior consolidation, Reichert noted.

Former unincorporated residents are now paying more taxes than before 2014. but those who lived in the former Macon city limits are paying less, Reichert said.

Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez gave his State of the City speech, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The speech was the first State of the City report given by Martinez since he took office last year and made history as the first Hispanic mayor of a Georgia city. He reflected on the changes that occurred in the city’s leadership. Not only did Martinez become mayor, but the City Council also welcomed two new members.

But while Martinez reflected on what he had learned after his first city in the city’s top official, he also unveiled a motto of “Keep Loganville rolling, Keep Loganville growing and Keep Loganville clean” that shaped the theme of his speech.

The motto that Martinez uttered at the beginning of his speech referred to three main focus areas that he said the city will work on this year: traffic, downtown economic redevelopment and beautification efforts around Loganville. The majority of the city is located in Walton County, but part of it is located on the other side of the county line in Gwinnett County.

Whitfield County Magistrate Judge Shana Vinyard is resigning effective April 1, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Whitfield County Magistrate Judge Shana Vinyard, who has been on “voluntary paid leave” from the judge position since Oct. 3, 2018, on Wednesday submitted her resignation effective April 1, fellow Magistrate Judge Chris Griffin said.

Griffin confirmed Vinyard, who has been drawing her yearly salary of $52,492, has been under investigation by the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC).

“The Judicial Qualifications Commission investigator did inform us yesterday that she submitted her resignation to Gov. (Brian) Kemp and it was accepted,” Griffin said.

14
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 14, 2019

Dandre PAWS

D’Andre is a young male Australian Cattle Dog/Blue Heeler mix who is available for adoption from PAWS Atlanta in Decatur, GA.

D’Andre makes being an excellent good boy seem so easy. The staff love him. He’s a breeze to take care off. We found him at a metro county animal shelter and were drawn to his gentle demeanor. He’s very attentive to his human friends and smart and playful without ever being too much. If you want to play, wonderful. If you want to just chill on the couch, that’s fine, too. He follows your lead. D’Andre seems comfortable with other dogs, but we’ve not had time to evaluate his play skills one-on-one with another dog. He’s not leash-reactive and walks nicely and politely beside you, grateful to be out in the fresh air.

D’Andre seems crate-trained, which is a big plus right out of the gate. His one challenge is that, like many shelter dogs, D’Andre hasn’t always known where his next meal was coming from, or if he’d even have a meal. So, he sometimes be protective of his food, fearing you will take it away from him. This is a behavior that is quite common and can typically be worked out with a good feeding routine. But, because he’s still learning to be comfortable about sharing food, we would like D’Andre to go to an adopter who doesn’t have young children in the home, so there will be no feeding time misunderstandings. This dog is a dream. He’s so good.

Judd PAWS

Judd is a male Boxer who is available for adoption from PAWS Atlanta in Decatur, GA.

Is it a Boxer? Is it a teddy bear? It’s both – it’s Judd! This 4 yr old gentleman is an all-rounder. You like road trips? Judd will make himself comfortable on your backseat and chill. You like hiking? He does it all, rivers, mountain and forests. He’ll use every opportunity to show off his perfect smellvestigation skills and demonstrate his mellow and laid back personality. You’re eating right in front of him? He’ll leave you your personal space and relies on his Jedi-Boxer mind tricks to conjure the food he so longingly gazes at. He gets along with everyone, walks nicely on the leash and is just the bestest boy. Grab your family, pets, friends and meet this cool, calm and collected hunk at the shelter.

Electrolyte PAWS

Electrolyte is a young male Rhodesian Ridgeback mix who is available for adoption from PAWS Atlanta in Decatur, GA.

Infuse your life with Electrolyte and discover the missing ingredient in your family! This medium sized ridgeback mix is slightly bashful in the beginning but warms up quickly to new faces. Inquisitive and curious, he loves smelling all the smells and does so with adorable grunting noises. Electrolyte is playful and dynamic, and his full-body wiggles aka tail wags and funny bunny hops will win you over in no time. At 1.5 years old, he is enthusiastic but very polite about it and will look for your approval every time you make eye-contact. If you’re looking for a faithful companion and energetic workout buddy, you’ve found your perfect match. He seems to get along well with other dogs, so bring your own pups to see if they’ll like him as much as we do.

14
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 14, 2018

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

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.

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 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

8:15 AM SENATE FINANCE- Sales Tax Subcommittee 318 CLOB

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – CANCELED MEZZ 1

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION – CANCELED 310 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HEALTH 506 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE JOINT HOUSE AND SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT 341 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HUMAN RESOURCES 415 CLOB

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 EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB

2:00 PM< HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HIGHER EDUCATION 403 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Insurance – Property & Casualty Subcommittee 514 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS PUBLIC SAFETY 406 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS & MEANS 606 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Tags & Title Subcommittee 515 CLOB

3:30 PM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Driver Safety & Service Subcommittee 515 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR LEGISLATIVE DAY 15

SB 6 – Correctional Institutions of the State and Counties; use of unmanned aircraft systems to deliver or attempt to deliver contraband to a place of incarceration; prohibit (Substitute)(PUB SAF-32nd)

SB 8 – Specialty License Plate; benefit the Atlanta United Foundation; establish (PUB SAF-9th)

SB 52 – Code Revision Commission; statutory portion of said Code; revise, modernize, correct errors or omissions in and reenact (JUDY-3rd)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR LEGISLATIVE DAY 15

Modified Open Rule

HR 51 – Joint Georgia-North Carolina and Georgia-Tennessee Boundary Line Commission; create (IntC-Morris-26th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 184 – Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act; enact (Substitute)(ED&T-Harrell-106th)

Governor Brian Kemp‘s Senate floor leader introduced Senate Bill 106, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Legislation unveiled Wednesday by state Sen. Blake Tillery would let Gov. Brian Kemp seek federal waivers for programs that would increase the number of people covered by Medicaid.

Kemp called a press conference to announce he is committed to working with lawmakers to “craft a Georgia-centric healthcare system that ensures a bright and healthy future for all Georgians — no matter their zip code.”

His Patients First Act, SB 106, would restore the governor’s authority to negotiate with federal officials on how to serve more low-income residents. The measure has more than a dozen Republican co-signers, including Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome.

“The goal is to help improve the health of Georgians,” he said. “The idea is that preventative care would be a lower cost so there will be an effort to move healthcare upstream.”

Hufstetler said a quasi-governmental test project at Grady Memorial Hospital and several rural hospitals showed a healthcare management-type program reduced costs by 43 percent.

From a press release by the Governor’s office:

“Georgians deserve a health care system that is accessible, affordable, and second to none – and the Patients First Act will allow us the flexibility to craft such a system,” said Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. “I look forward to working with Governor Kemp and Speaker Ralston to find innovative solutions and advance substantive policies that will dramatically improve health care for hundreds of thousands of Georgians. I sincerely believe our solutions are going to mirror advances we’ve seen from the private sector.”

“I appreciate Governor Kemp working with the legislature to find a conservative way to ensure access to healthcare for more Georgians,” said Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). “We are committed to moving forward in a fiscally-responsible way that avoids the perils associated with Medicaid expansion.”

From the AJC:

Several Democratic leaders said they would support nothing short of full-scale Medicaid expansion and worried that the measure gives Kemp too much power over the process.

The governor pushed back on those concerns, telling reporters he wants to find a way “that’s focused on Georgia.” He added that he’s mindful of the broad leeway the legislation gives him, including the final signoff on any agreement proposed to the federal government.

“It is giving me the authority to do this, and I take great responsibility with that,” he said. “But I’m not trying to be the Lone Ranger on this — we’re all in this together, we’re all working to together to tackle all the issues we have.”

“Look, everybody keeps talking about Medicaid expansion. We are working on a couple of things here. We want to lower private-sector health care costs — that’s what’s killing hardworking Georgians out there,” he said. “And we want to innovate a health care system that’s not working.”

House Bill 189 by State Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain) would exempt railroad fuel from state sales tax, according to the AJC.

A subcommittee Wednesday held a hearing on legislation that would exempt fuel used by railroads from the state’s 4 percent sales tax.

It’s similar to the deal legislators have given airlines on jet fuel off and on for more than a decade.

Legislation by State Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Paulding) would set up a marijuana distribution system in Georgia, according to the AJC.

The proposal calls for up to 10 medical marijuana dispensaries to serve the state’s rising number of registered patients — 8,400 so far. The drug would be legally grown, manufactured, tested, tracked and distributed for the first time if the legislation passes.

The bill is the next step for Georgia’s medical marijuana program, which since 2015 has permitted patients to possess and use marijuana with less than 5 percent THC, the main psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

“The problem is that there’s nowhere to purchase the oil here in the state of Georgia,” said Gravley, a Republican from Douglasville. “We know it’s beneficial. We’ve seen seizures reduced, we’ve seen the easing of the effects of Parkinson’s, cancer, MS, Crohn’s, sickle cell anemia and autism.”

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has left open the possibility for in-state cultivation of medical marijuana.

“I sympathize and empathize with them on that issue, and I support research-based expansion,” Kemp said in an interview on Georgia Public Broadcasting last month. “Thankfully, there is some research that’s going on in this field that will give us some good data that will kind of tell us how to move forward.”

Federal legislation passed by the United States Senate would give Macon a path to creating a national park, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Supporters of making Ocmulgee National Monument a national park scored a major new victory when the U.S. Senate for the first time approved the designation.

Bills that would create the park have twice passed the House only to fall in the Senate, but this time a bill went through the Senate first and passed by a 92-8 vote on Tuesday. It was part of a larger bill, called the Natural Resources Management Act, that protects 2 million acres of land nationwide. Ocmulgee is one of two new national parks in the bill.

The bill still needs to pass the House and get signed by President Donald Trump to become law, but supporters are optimistic that the long-time goal is now within reach.

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) will serve as the senior Republican on the bipartisan Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The Northwest Georgia congressman is one of 12 House members appointed to study, investigate and recommend operational efficiencies.

“As technology rapidly evolves, it’s important to give every member of the House access to new resources that will help them better serve their constituents,” Graves said in a Tuesday announcement.

“It’s my goal to ensure this team is able to identify ways to serve the American people more effectively and efficiently while ensuring we also have the tools to recruit and retain top talent,” Graves said.

Abit Massey, longtime lobbyist for the poultry industry, was inducted into the Poultry Industry Hall of Fame, according to the Gainesville Times.

Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation, was inducted in to the Poultry Industry Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Massey retired as the Gainesville-based organization’s president in 2009 after serving in that role since 1960. He advocated for the poultry industry and worked to expand research in the field. The Georgia Poultry Lab sits on Abit Massey Way off of Ga. 365.

Before working in the poultry industry, Massey was head of the Georgia Department of Commerce, now Economic Development, and oversaw the creation of the tourist division and the building of the first welcome station.

“I was surprised and I am highly honored,” Massey said Tuesday. “I have loved working for the Georgia Poultry Federation and being in the great poultry industry.”

The Georgia General Assembly passed school bus safety legislation, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Senate Bill 25, approved Wednesday, changes the law to state that only drivers on highways with roadways that are separated by a grass median, unpaved area or physical barrier are allowed to pass a stopped school bus on the other side of that barrier.

“We are very relieved that the state legislature realized that there was a serious safety issue created by last year’s version of that law,” said Doug Moore, director of operations and school safety for the Coweta County School System. “They’ve taken a tremendous step forward to establishing a more safe environment for our students.”

The bill was introduced on Jan. 16 and voted out of the Senate Public Safety Committee on Feb. 5. The Senate approved it unanimously on Feb. 17, and the House approved it Wednesday.

The Georgia Court of Appeals needs more staff, according to The Brunswick News.

Denied the chance in the amended Fiscal Year 2019 budget, Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Stephen Dillard requested from the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety at least two new central staff attorneys in the FY 2020 budget.

“There’s really a dire need for additional assistance — that’s why we asked for at least one (for FY 2019),” Dillard said. “We asked for one last year, we didn’t get it, I understand that. But this year we’re asking for the one that we asked for last year, and also another one. So, we’d be asking for two central staff positions.

“What that would do is it would bring our central staff up to 15, which would match the number of judges we now have with the expanded Court of Appeals. And we feel like that would give us a good, core unit to have handle the additional cases that have come down, that would allow us the flexibility when we have people out in chambers that are sick. That’s happened quite a bit.”

A United States Court of Appeals upheld a lower court order to open records on a 1946 lynching, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling to unseal the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings that followed a monthslong investigation into the killings.

Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey were riding in a car that was stopped by a white mob at Moore’s Ford Bridge, overlooking the Apalachee River, in July 1946. They were pulled from the car and shot multiple times along the banks of the river.

Anthony Pitch, who wrote a 2016 book on the lynching — “The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Mass Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town” — has sought access to the grand jury proceedings, hoping they may shed some light on what happened.

A federal judge in 2017 granted Pitch’s request to unseal the records, but lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice appealed, arguing grand jury proceedings are secret and should remain sealed. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled 2-1 to uphold the lower court’s order.

A casino boat previously located at Tybee Island will not seek to operate on the Island, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A Columbus forum on possible plans for the Government Center included calls for price estimates, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority is seeking state funding to expand the Savannah Convention Center on Hutchinson Island, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The GIMTCA requested $234 million for the expansion, which would be among numerous statewide projects funded through revenue public bonds underwritten by the state, which typically issues more than $1 billion in bonds each year.

President and CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council, Michael Owens, who has been working as a go-between between the board and Governor Brian Kemp’s office, told the board on Wednesday during its monthly meeting, that he believes [Governor] Kemp understands the importance of this project economically not only to Savannah and the local municipalities, but to the region and to the state.

State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Dist. 164), who serves as chairman of the Economic Development and Tourism committee, previously told the Savannah Morning News that it’s time for the state to step up and get the ball rolling on the expansion. Stephens could not be reached before press time for this story.

“The locals have put up the majority of the money through hotel/motel taxes, so it’s time for the state since it’s their convention center and on their property. It’s time for the state to ante up,” Stephens said in December.

13
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 13, 2019

Gentlemen – if you messed up and have not yet gotten flowers for your significant other for Valentine’s Day, it’s not too late. But this is your last warning.

Leo Gwinnett 0213

Leo is a senior male Labrador and Border Collie mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Twizzler Gwinnett

Twizzler is a senior female Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Devo Gwinnett

Devo is a senior male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

The Gwinnett County Animal Shelter is discounting adoption fees for Valentine’s Day through Saturday, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Those looking for a new pet will be able to take home a dog or cat for $2.14, a significant reduction from the regular $45 adoption fee for dogs and the $20 cat fee.

In addition to the discounted prices, on Saturday, the shelter will have gifts for newly-adopted animals, as well as a photo backdrop to capture “joyful Valentine moments (with) these pets as they depart to their forever homes,” the shelter said in a news release.

“Adopting is a gift for both the pet and your Valentine,” said Alan Davis, manager of the Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement Division. “Giving a home to a shelter pet is a memorable gift from the heart.”

Adopters can usually take their new pet home on the same day of adoption upon completion of paperwork and adoption counseling. All pets adopted from Gwinnett County Animal Welfare are spayed or neutered, have a microchip and are vaccinated.

13
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 13, 2019

On February 13, 1941, Gov. Eugene Talmadge signed legislation that proposed a Constitutional Amendment changing the 2-year terms for Governor and other statewide Constitutional Officers to 4-year.

On February 13, 1956, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed legislation adopting a new state flag incorporating the Confederate battle flag.

On February 13, 2007, United States Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-Augusta) died at home.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Rep. Chris Erwin (R) has appealed a court decision that removed him from office, according to AccessWDUN.

Now-former Georgia House District 28 State Rep. Chris Erwin has appealed Senior Judge David Sweat’s ruling that grants Petitioner Dan Gasaway’s petition and threw out the Dec. 4 House District 28 Special Election, removing Erwin from office.

That appeal now heads to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

“The Supreme Court, rather than the Court of Appeals, has jurisdiction to hear this appeal because this is an appeal of an election contest and the Supreme Court has ‘exclusive appellate jurisdiction’ over appeals involving ‘cases of election contest’,” the appeal filed by Erwin’s attorney, Bryan Tyson, states.

Meanwhile, Superior Court Senior Judge David Sweat‘s order under appeal also included a re-do of the election in question, according to AccessWDUN.

“The Special Election in which Respondent Chris Erwin was certified the winner is hereby declared invalid; having been sworn into office as Representative of Georgia House District 28 … Mr. Erwin hereby ceases to hold this office and ceases to exercise the powers, duties, and privileges of the office immediately,” Sweat’s ruling states.

“The third 2018 Georgia House District 28 Republican General Primary Election shall take place on April 9, 2019, with all absentee ballots, early voting ballots, and other ballots to be administered in accordance with Georgia’s Election Code,” Sweat’s order states.

Matt Barton was sworn in as the newest State Representative, according to GPB News.

“Everybody has been great,” he said. “and, that’s what other freshmen have told me. They’ve been here 12 days, so I’m looking forward to meeting everybody.”

The former school board member and city councilman won the seat in a runoff election in Calhoun last week. Barton fills the position once held by John Meadows, who died last November.

“Those are shoes I won’t be able to fill,” said Barton of Meadows. “Johnny was a special man, who lived about five houses up from me. I saw him all the time.  He was a great man.  He was in very important positions. I’m the low man on the totem pole.  To fill Johnny’s shoes would be hard to do.”

“I have a servant’s heart. I was on the school, and I was on the city council. I just want to do good for my community. I’m a staunch conservative. I want to keep taxes low, as low as possible,” said Barton. “My mom and wife are both educators. My daughter’s going into education, so education is a big part of my life. I’m on board with Governor Kemp trying to get a raise for them, as long as we can do it without raising taxes.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS TRANSPORTATION 515 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS 403 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

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

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Community Health Subcommittee 341 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY – CANCELLED MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HIGHER EDUCATION 415 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs State & Local Government Subcommittee 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HUMAN RESOURCES 403 CAP

1:15 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Tax 133 CAP

1:30 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Fiscal Management & General Government Subcommittee 123 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE STATE INSTITUTIONS AND PROPERTY 125 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION AND YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE STATE PROPERTIES 132 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HEALTH 341 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE WORKING GROUP ON CREATIVE ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT 403 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT 125 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY- Canceled 307 CLOB

Senate Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 14

SB 38 – Courts; electronic filing requirements of superior and state courts; certain types of filings; exclude (Substitute)(JUDY-3rd)

Franklin Patten (43.13%) and James Burchett, (42.50%) both Republicans, head to a Special Runoff Election in House District 176, to succeed former State Rep. Jason Shaw.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

In a county-by-county break down, Patten overwhelmingly took Lowndes County and Lanier County with 63 percent and 76 percent, respectively.

The race was tightest in Atkinson County with Patten receiving 44 percent and Burchett getting 40 percent.

Burchett caught up with Patten in Ware County by a large margin, earning himself 75 percent of the county’s vote or more than 1,000 votes.

Governor Brian Kemp visited Meadowcreek High School in Gwinnett County to discuss mental health needs in the education system, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Kemp’s first state budget calls for an $8.4 million increase in funding for what is known as APEX mental and behavioral health services. During the governor’s visit to Meadowcreek, he and his wife participated in a discussion on the issue with Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, school officials and state behavioral health officials.

Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said the governor visited Meadowcreek for the discussion and a school tour because the school receives APEX funding from the state. Kemp also visited Dawson County High School for the same reason Monday.

Governor Kemp also announced appointments to the Georgians First Committee, according to GPB News.

Kemp named Cade Joiner and James Whitley to co-chair the commission. The two will lead the 18 member organization and report recommendations back to the governor’s office.

The Commission was established last month through an executive order and is a followup on a campaign promise to promote small business growth in the state. In the order, Kemp states that he hopes to promote growth through common-sense initiatives and by applying successful private-sector solutions to state government.

“Right now, as you know, our state is the epicenter for job growth,” Kemp said Tuesday during a press conference. “We have been the top state for business for six years, a leader in countless industries, but we cannot rest on our laurels, we have to keep chopping, as we say. And I believe together we can make Georgia the best state in the nation for small businesses as well.”

Click here for the Executive Order that includes all appointees.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and several professional baseball players served as guest judges in a fundraiser for Extra Special People in Athens, according to WGAU.

On Feb. 9, Georgia’s Lt. Governor, Geoff Duncan, and several other MLB players were guest judges for Extra Special People (ESP) Big Hearts at Bat. The line-up included Duncan, who played for the Florida Marlins early in his career before being elected as Georgia’s Lt. Governor. Kyle Farmer of the Cincinnati Reds, Gordon Beckham formerly with the Atlanta Braves and now with the Detroit Tigers, Brooks Brown formerly with the Colorado Rockies, and Trevor Holder of the San Diego Padres were also guest judges.

“One of the best parts about being lieutenant governor is having the opportunity to find out about organizations like ESP and the huge impact they have on a community and the joys they bring to people’s lives,” Duncan said.

In its 12th year, ESP’s Big Hearts pageant showcases kids of all abilities as they perform for thousands of guests in Athens, Ga. This year, money was raised to build a Miracle League baseball field and sports complex. Through generous donations at Big Hearts at Bat, ESP reached the $1.1 million mark of a $1.4 million campaign goal. The Miracle League sports complex will bring the magic of baseball to kids of all abilities in Northeast Georgia. Additionally, funds were raised at the pageant and silent auction to send hundreds of kids to summer camp.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced the first of its kind prosecution for alleged violation of the Open Records Act, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Jenna Garland, former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s then press secretary, was issued two citations for violations of the Georgia Open Records Act by Attorney General Chris Carr.

The citations state that on two separate occasions Garland told the director of communications for the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management to drag out a records request response to a news agency. This is a direct violation of the Open Records Act that states it is a misdemeanor to knowingly and willingly attempt to frustrate access to records.

Garland’s attorney has publicly denied the allegations.

Carr said in a statement that openness and transparency in government are vital to upholding the public trust.

“I am confident that this action sends a clear message that the Georgia Open Records Act will be enforced,” Carr said. “I commend the Georgia Department of Law’s Prosecution Division and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their work on this first of its kind prosecution.”

Senate Bill 56 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) will be heard by the Senate Committee on Insurance and Labor, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is sponsoring Senate Bill 56, which has provisions applying to scheduled and emergency procedures. It aims to address the financial hardship patients sometimes face when they discover later that some of the services were done by out-of network providers.

“The lieutenant governor sent it to the Insurance Committee and it will possibly get a hearing next week,” Hufstetler said Tuesday.

Lawmakers have tried for several years to rein in the charges, and the surprises. But the measure has been caught between the interests of the insurers and the providers — such as radiologists, pathologists and anesthesiologists who are hospital contractors rather than employees.

The Senate passed on Monday a measure he co-sponsored that would create a streamlined method of licensing physicians to work in Georgia when they’ve been licensed in other states.

SB 16, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Act, now moves to the House for review.

Senate Bill 72 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) passed out of the state Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, according to The Brunswick News.

“Last year, the majority of this bill passed out of the Senate about four times, if I remember correctly,” said state Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla and chairman of the committee. “We just didn’t quite get across the finish line. I’ll just leave it there.”

Included in the bill — Senate Bill 72 — is the codification of board rules for the state Department of Natural Resources and the legalization of air gun hunting. Air guns could be used “for big game only during primitive weapon hunts, primitive weapon seasons and firearm seasons.” That provision sunsets in 2024, but would be reviewed as to whether it should be renewed.

Section Four is a significant update to the game code. Harper said that basically, what they’re doing in the section is giving DNR the authority to make some decisions in regard to seasons for game to where the code will reflect bookends, and they’re giving the department the authority to make those decisions within those bookends.

“Section Five deals with feral hogs and the baiting of feral hogs,” Harper said. “Baiting of feral hogs is legal in Georgia. All this does is it kind of cleans up the code and makes it read a little bit better, and the only thing that this does is it does away with the 50-yard prohibition (on bait from a property boundary).”

The United States Senate passed legislation that would expand the boundaries of Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island, according to The Brunswick News.

“I am so pleased to see the Senate pass this legislation to preserve the rich, historical significance and archaeological heritage of some of Georgia’s oldest landmarks,” U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in a statement. “This legislation will give visitors a chance to experience Georgia’s history while also providing an economic boost for the tourism industry. I thank the many federal, state and community leaders who have supported these efforts and congratulate them on today’s good news.”

The legislation would mend a 1936 law to allow the maximum boundary limit to increase from 250 acres to 305 acres. That would include 21 acres owned by the St. Simons Land Trust that the trust bought for $3.5 million in 2007 for this purpose. This particular effort’s been in the works for at least nine years.

The vote was 92 in favor and eight against. U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., presided over the vote, which also included provisions for the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon and Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park in Kennesaw.

“Expanding the parks’ boundaries and preserving their history is a top priority for many Georgians and will boost tourism in our state. I’m hopeful the House will get this bill across the finish line and to President Trump’s desk soon.”

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, worked on a number of House bills in recent years to expand Fort Frederica’s boundaries, including the latest — House Resolution 114 — which was referred to a House subcommittee Feb. 5.

Four candidates for Augusta Commission District Five met in a public forum, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Savannah City Council will consider a $1 million dollar rehab of City Hall, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The planned renovations include the construction of offices for the city attorney’s office and for any aldermen who would like an office there, according to city spokesperson Ken Slats.

The city attorney’s office is being relocated as a result of the city’s decision to sell the Gamble Building, where the office is currently located. Located next to City Hall along River Street, the six-story building is expected to be converted into a condo complex after a majority of the city council voted in August to sell the historic structure for $8.5 million to Foram Development.

The Glynn County Board of Elections project to computerize voter records is taking longer than anticipated, according to The Brunswick News.

The Floyd County Board of Elections is considering how to run elections while the state government considers new voting equipment, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“If the Legislature mandates new equipment, they will mandate how they’re going to pay for it … We shouldn’t have any terrible expenses coming up,” Brady said.

This is a slow year for elections, with only six Rome City Commission seats slated for a vote. Brady said he’s working with City Clerk Joe Smith on the details “and we’re right on schedule.” Qualifying for the Ward 1 and Ward 3 contests is slated for the last week in August.

Meanwhile, Elections Board members are holding on to their equipment funding in case the General Assembly doesn’t provide enough for incidentals.

Two types of systems are under consideration. One would maintain an electronic touchscreen voting method but print out a paper ballot for scanning. The other would use paper ballots filled in by hand, which also would be counted by optical scanning machines.

Northside Hospital and the Gwinnett Health System say they have final regulatory approval to merge, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

In a statement, the systems said that late last week, the Federal Trade Commission completed its review of the merger and gave its approval to move forward. The agreement was approved by the State of Georgia Office of the Attorney General in November 2017.

“We are excited to move forward on the merging of our two health systems,” said Bob Quattrocchi, president and CEO of Northside Hospital. “Leaders from both systems are already meeting to develop a comprehensive integration plan that honors our employees and physicians. This plan ensures that our patients continue to receive quality health care with no disruption of service.”

“Through the merged entity, Gwinnett County will continue to have access to world-class medical treatment,” said Philip Wolfe, president and CEO of Gwinnett Health System. “Health care is a dynamic industry that requires complex technology, highly skilled medical professionals and exceptional leadership. I’m confident the merger will help sustain our ability to offer leading-edge, compassionate and effective health care close to home for many years to come.”

Anchored by five hospitals in Sandy Springs, Lawrenceville, Cumming, Canton and Duluth, the new nonprofit health system will also operate additional sites of care including cancer treatment, imaging, surgical, urgent care and other outpatient centers throughout the state.

Altogether, the Northside-Gwinnett combined system will have 1,604 inpatient beds, over 250 outpatient locations, 21,000 employees and more than 3,500 physicians on staff.

12
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 12, 2019

Buddy McGee BARC

Buddy McGee is a male Hound mix who is available for adoption from BARC Humane Society in Valdosta, GA.

Caesar BARC

Caesar is a male Hound mix who is available for adoption from BARC Humane Society in Valdosta, GA.

Buck BARC

Buck is a male Hound mix who is available for adoption from BARC Humane Society in Valdosta, GA.

12
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 12, 2019

Today is Georgia Day, celebrating the founding of the Thirteenth Colony on February 12, 1733.

After years of planning and two months crossing the Atlantic, James Oglethorpe and 114 colonists climbed 40 feet up the bluff from the Savannah River on this day in 1733 and founded the colony of Georgia.

George II granted the Georgia trustees a charter for the colony a year earlier. The trustees’ motto was Non Sibi Sed Allis—not for self but for others. Georgia would be a philanthropic and military enterprise that would provide the “worthy” poor a new start and serve as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the English colonies.

The trustees prohibited slavery and large landholdings….

Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law, on February 12, 1793 requiring states to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if the state in which the slave was captured did not permit slavery.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

On February 12, 1867, the editor of the Milledgeville Federal Union expressed dismay at the rapidity with which Atlanta was growing and basically everything about Atlanta.

“Atlanta is certainly a fast place in every sense of the word, and our friends in Atlanta are a fast people. They live fast and they die fast. They make money fast and they spend it fast. They build houses fast, and they burn them down fast… . They have the largest public buildings, and the most of them, and they pass the most resolutions of any people, ancient or modern. To a stranger the whole city seems to be running on wheels, and all of the inhabitants continually blowing off steam.”

On February 12, 1999, the United States Senate voted 55-45 against convicting impeached President Bill Clinton on a charge of perjury. Senator Paul Coverdell voted guilty and Senator Max Cleland voted not guilty. On the second charge of obstructing justice, Coverdell and 49 other Republicans voted guilty and Cleland joined 49 other senators in voting not guilty. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to convict a President, so Clinton was acquitted on both counts.

Five years ago, on February 12, 2014, most of Georgia state government was closed by Executive Order because of an ice storm.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has certified the results of the Special Runoff Election in House District 5.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A § 21-2-499, after receipt of certified election results from the election superintendents in Gordon and Murray Counties, the Secretary of State has tabulated, computed, canvassed, and certified the votes cast. Official results are now accessible on the Secretary of State’s website for the House District 5 Special Runoff Election.

Five Thirty Eight looks at what Stacey Abrams should run for next.

Although Abrams has yet to be included in any 2020 polls in our database, if she did enter the presidential race, she could inspire plenty of excitement around her campaign. Abrams is a progressive, 45-year-old, African-American woman who served as the Democratic leader in the Georgia House of Representatives for six years. That background means she could appeal to both the party’s left and establishment wings, not to mention those voters who believe the party should move on from nominating older white men.

The biggest benefit of running in Georgia for Abrams is that she’s unlikely to face serious primary opposition (her indecision over whether to enter the U.S. Senate race has so far kept other potential candidates on the sidelines), so she would probably only have to worry about winning the general election. Even though Georgia remains a Republican-leaning state, her odds in a statewide race are probably better than 1 in 10. In 2018, for example, FiveThirtyEight gave her a 1-in-3 chance of winning the 2018 gubernatorial election, and she ultimately lost by a very narrow margin. But which office would be easier to capture — senator or governor?

If a Democrat wins the White House in 2020, Georgia could very well be a battleground state. Over the past 10 years, voting patterns in the state have been moving closer and closer to the national average: In the 2008 presidential election, Georgia was 12.5 points redder than the nation as a whole; in 2012, it was 11.8 points redder; in 2016, it was 7.3 points redder. With a particularly strong national performance, the Democratic nominee has an outside shot at carrying the Peach State in 2020. That would bode well for Abrams if she is also on the ballot as Democrats’ U.S. Senate candidate.

On the other hand, if Trump wins re-election in 2020, he will almost certainly carry Georgia, whose 16 electoral votes are a crucial part of the Republican path to 270.3 And if Trump carries Georgia, it’s difficult to see Abrams winning a Senate election at the same time, again because of Georgia’s inelasticity. But if Trump wins a second term, it’s actually good news for an “Abrams for governor” campaign, since it would likely make 2022 a Democratic-leaning year. Just like she did in the blue-wave year of 2018, Abrams would have a decent shot at the governorship. So in the universe where Trump is re-elected, governor is clearly Abrams’s best bet.

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Insurance & Labor Subcommittee 328 CLOB

8:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Higher Education Subcommittee 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY (NON-CIVIL) – CANCELLED 132 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Tags and Title Subcommittee 515 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

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

11:30 AM HOUSE Regulated Industries Occupational/Professional Licensing Subcommittee 502 CLOB

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Criminal Justice & Public Safety 341 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY & HOMELAND SECURITY 406 CLOB

1:00 PMHOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM 506 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Admin/Licensing Subcommittee 415 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Expenditure 133 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Judicial Subcommittee 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNEMENTAL OPERATIONS – CANCELED 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES AND UTILITIES 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Finance and Property 133 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 310 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MEZZ 1

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

3:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS GENERAL GOVERNMENT 341 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

4:00 PM HOUSE Life & Health Subcommittee of Insurance 606 CLOB

Tom Baxter, writing for the Saporta Report, looks at a potential match-up in the Seventh Congressional District.

State Rep. Nikema Williams, the newly elected Georgia Democratic Party chair, called the 7th “a microcosm of the new Georgia as a whole” in a statement last week, referring to the demographic changes which have transformed the former Republican stronghold into a minority-majority district with fast-growing Hispanic and Asian communities.

But the 7th isn’t entirely Gwinnett County, where Democrats made sweeping gains last year, and Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux led Woodall by more than 23,000 votes out of about 215,000 cast. An additional 66,000 voted in neighboring Forsyth County, and there Woodall led by more than 2 to 1. While Gwinnett voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, that portion of Forsyth gave Donald Trump enough to carry the district by 6.4 percent. So the 7th can be viewed as a microcosm in other respects as well.

The last election dislodged a lot of Republicans in this area, which has swelled the list of Republicans who might be interested in succeeding Woodall. State Sen. Renee Unterman won reelection, but she was a big Casey Cagle supporter in the Republican primary for governor and lost her post as chair of the Senate Health Committee. Her unhappiness with the new Senate leadership was made clear when she was the only Republican to vote against rules changes which put more limits on the reporting of sexual harassment charges.

Unterman is the most interesting of the Republican names mentioned so far for this race because of the possibility for a debate over health care between opponents who know what they’re talking about. Unterman is a former nurse as well as having worked on health care issues as a legislator. Bourdeaux, a Georgia State professor, has had experience in making hard health care choices as director of the Georgia Senate Budget Office.

Governor Brian Kemp spoke to students at Dawson County High School yesterday, according to the Gainesville Times.

Gov. Brian Kemp traveled to Dawson County High School Monday afternoon for a round-table discussion about mental health services.

The discussion centered on how Dawson County Schools has benefited from the Apex grant program, which Kemp hopes to expand in 2019.

Kemp said he wants to allocate $8.4 million to double the reach of the Apex program. This week he is touring systems that are recipients of the grant to see how it’s utilized and how it services students.

“When we were putting together our school safety plan … we learned that mental health is a big part of it,” Kemp said. “The more we learn about the Apex program it’s like ‘why do we need to reinvent the wheel?’ Sometimes, we have big ideas but we don’t ask the people implementing them. That’s why we are here today.”

Proposed state legislation would break down data silos in government social services, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Legislation creating a centralized state database of social services is moving through the House with powerful backers, and the sponsor says a recent change to federal law makes it imperative to pass it now.

“Some federal programs under Family First are going to affect DFCS and foster care greatly,” said Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome. “There are waivers available, but we’re going to need that data to show what’s working.”

Dempsey on Friday introduced House Bill 197 establishing the Strategic Integrated Data System — the SIDS Project — which calls for all state agencies providing physical and mental health services to pool their data.

The reports, with information identifying clients removed, would be housed under the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. The database would be available to policy-makers, researchers and state universities studying ways to make programs more effective and cost-efficient.

“It will give us insight from existing data but will also be configured to do deeper dives,” Dempsey said.

The Georgia Senate Public Safety Committee recommended legislation by Senator P.K. Martin (R-Gwinnett) to create an Atlanta United car tag, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Martin dropped Senate Bill 8, which creates an Atlanta United license plate, on Jan. 28, but it cleared a big hurdle Monday when it was approved by the Senate’s Public Safety Committee. The license plate will help raise funds for the Atlanta United Foundation’s philanthropic activities, according to the legislation.

Although the legislation is still pending in the General Assembly, it is starting to generate excitement among team supporters on internet forums.

The plates would feature the team logo on top of alternating red and black bars on one side and the phrase “Unite & Conquer” will be in the space where county name decals would be located on regular license plates.

In accordance with state law, $10 from the sale of each plate would go to the Atlanta United Foundation.

The Senate Public Safety Committee also recommended legislation to create “no-fly zones” for drones, according to The Brunswick News.

The state Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously passed a bill by voice vote Monday that would create no-fly zones over any detention facility in the state, while also banning photography of those facilities without a permit.

“I first learned about the problems of criminals using drones to drop contraband such as cell phones, drugs, weapons, etc., and take photographs over our state prisons, when former (state Department of Corrections) Commissioner (Gregory) Dozier highlighted this in his appropriations request last year,” state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta. “Since that time, I’ve been talking to the (Federal Aviation Administration) about this, because they ultimately control the airspace. As you know, technology frequently gets ahead of the law, and criminals, also, can get ahead of the law sometimes, so we need our law to catch up.”

She said the bill adds a subsection to the state penal code that prohibits the use of drones to carry payload that’s already prohibited by the prison. Kirkpatrick added that it covers state prisons, probation detention facilities, jails and any similar institution operated by the federal government, state, localities or a private corporation.

The state DOC and Georgia Sheriff’s Association announced their support for the legislation, Senate Bill 6. Sean Ferguson, who works in new projects technology for DOC, said a lot of people don’t understand the issues involved. For instance, some drones come equipped with software that prevent it from flying near or over sensitive locations, but that software, of course, can be hacked.

Legislation by State Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville) would allow Electric Membership Corporations to provide broadband access, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Local utility cooperatives would be authorized to provide broadband in an effort to boost internet access in rural areas, under legislation that won unanimous support Monday in the Georgia House.

Republican Rep. Penny Houston of Nashville said Monday that her proposal would remove any legal question about whether Georgia’s electric membership cooperatives, called EMCs, could offer broadband to their customers.

That authorization, she said, would increase economic development and improve education in rural parts of the state where internet access can be slow, spotty or non-existent.

“Broadband has become as important to infrastructure as roads,” Houston said.

Georgia’s EMCs say they currently provide power to 4.4 million residents and operate across 73 percent of the state’s land area, including many rural places. But current Georgia law does not address whether they can or cannot legally provide internet access.

Many supporters believe allowing EMCs to provide internet is key to expanding availability because they already serve many of the rural communities where broadband access is needed.

The Coweta County Board of Education is considering raises for some employees, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Over the past three years, the Coweta County School System has faced increasing shortages and high turnover rates in school nurse positions. To attract and retain quality applicants in a competitive healthcare field, the board is being asked to consider increasing the pay scale for the school system’s licensed practical nurses and registered nurses for the 2020 fiscal year.

As the budget planning process progresses, the board also will be asked to consider raises for teachers and teaching assistants who serve high-need emotional behavioral disorder and autistic students; substitute bus drivers; teachers who drive buses transporting students to and from extracurricular activities; maintenance and operations field employees; and bus technicians.

The board likely will set dates Tuesday for its state-mandated budget workshops, and for its tentative and formal adoption of the 2020 fiscal year budget. Those workshops and dates take place each year during a combination of regular and called meetings throughout May and June, with the new budget taking effect July 1.

The Glynn County Democratic Committee is seeking new members, according to The Brunswick News.

Qualifications to be a state committee member include being registered to vote in Glynn County and being able to provide proof of residence.

The Gainesville Rotary Club selected local businessman Dallas Gay and former First Lady Sandra Deal as Man of the Year and Woman of the Year, respectively, according to AccessWDUN.

Rome has adopted a new smoking ban, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Downtown Rome will go smoke-free April 1.

Rome City Commissioners voted 7 to 2 Monday to ban smoking and vaping on all outdoor public property along Broad Street, including in sidewalk cafes. The prohibition includes the side streets for a block deep, the Town Green, Bridgepoint Plaza and the parking decks.

“We’re not saying you can’t smoke,” Commissioner Milton Slack said. “We’re just saying that, right here, we need to create a healthy environment for everybody.”

Forsyth County Commissioners have banned sales of vaping supplies to those under 18, according to WSB-TV.

Now, county commissioners are addressing the vaping issue by targeting convenience store owners who sell the products to underage teens right at the counter.

“In our county, it’s pretty much three strikes, you’re out,” Commissioner Cindy Mills told Channel 2′s Lori Wilson.

Because of the legislation passed Thursday, a store could lose its liquor license if it’s caught selling the synthetic drugs of paraphernalia to underage buyers.

Stores would have to get caught selling the items to children three times before they would lose their licenses.

The Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce will host its Annual Transportation Forum on March 7, according to the Gainesville Times.

Savannah is the nation’s fastest-growing industrial market, according to a report by the Savannah Morning News.

The designation in the annual Emerging Industrial Markets report by Colliers International, a global real estate and investment management company, credits Savannah’s port as the catalyst for growth.

“Savannah is one of the last U.S. seaport markets that has land available to develop,” said James Breeze, National Director of Industrial Research for Colliers International. “It’s a major advantage.”

Savannah is listed as having a 6.9 percent growth rate, based on absorption of inventory as a percentage.

Savannah is one of the most western points on the eastern seaboard, allowing containers to stay on ships longer before calling at part, the report states. Trucks then have a “mere” six-mile drive to Interstate 95 and nine miles to Interstate 16.

A growing population is another boon to the market with more than 24 million people living within 240 miles of Savannah. That number is projected to increase 5.5 percent by 2023.

John Cusack will speak at a screening of “Say Anything” in Savannah on May 15, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The 1989 comedy/drama “Say Anything” brought popular culture the love story of Lloyd Dobler (actor John Cusack) and Diane Court (actress Ione Skye). Ranked by Entertainment Weekly as one of the greatest modern movie romances (and No. 11 on the list of 50 best high school movies), “Say Anything” made a star out of Cusack, who went on to success in multiple films, including “High Fidelity,” “Grosse Point Blank” and “Being John Malkovich,” among others.

At 7:30 p.m. May 15 at the Savannah Civic Center, join Cusack for a screening of “Say Anything.” The screening will be followed by a live conversation regarding his career and the making of the film, which Roger Ebert called “one of the best films of the year” when it was released. Fans will get the opportunity to experience a moderated discussion, with Cusack answering audience questions.

Cusack will also speak at a screening of “High Fidelity” in Atlanta on April 19th.

11
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 11, 2019

Lace Mutt Madness

Lace is a young female Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from Mutt Maddness in Marietta, GA.

Velcro Mutt Madness

Velcro is a young female Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from Mutt Maddness in Marietta, GA.

Button Mutt Madness

Button is a young female Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from Mutt Maddness in Marietta, GA.

State Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Cobb) has introduced “good samaritan” legislation, according to the AJC.

State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta, has proposed an amendment, Senate Bill 32, that would protect citizens from a lawsuit if they damage a vehicle to rescue an animal in danger.

She said the idea came out of the Senate committee studying whether laws were needed to regulate service or support animals. Kirkpatrick said she has a 14-year-old golden doodle therapy dog named Dobie, “so they put me on that committee.”

As she looked into the current protections for animals, “I started noticing that there was nothing in there for someone trying to rescue an animal in distress.”

Kirkpatrick said she is adding language to an existing law protecting those who rescue children from cars. It was passed in the wake of the high-profile death of 22-month-old Cooper Harris, who was killed by his father Justin Ross Harris in a hot car in Cobb County during 2015. Harris was sentenced to life without parole.

In her bill, anyone who breaks a window to rescue an animal in distress must also call 911 to be immune from civil liability.

11
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 11, 2019

On February 11, 1733, the first military formation in Georgia was held, as male colonists assembled with their muskets.

On February 11, 1776, Georgia Royal Governor Sir James Wright escaped from house arrest in Savannah to a waiting British warship HMS Scarborough.

Burt Reynolds was born on February 11, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan, though some accounts say Waycross, Georgia. Beginning with Deliverance, filmed along the Chattooga River in North Georgia in 1972, Georgia rose to number three in the nation for film production while Reynolds’s star rose to prominence. Other Reynolds movies filmed in Georgia include The Longest Yard, Gator, Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, and Sharkey’s Machine.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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