The blog.

21
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 21, 2019

Lex Lyons

Lex is a male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the City of Lyons Animal Shelter in Lyons, GA. The shelter says, “Lex is a good boy-he loves people – he is affectionate and playful.” and “loving calm playful.”

Dakota Lyons

Dakota is a young male Hound mix who is available for adoption from the City of Lyons Animal Shelter in Lyons, GA. The shelter says he is less than one year old, and “Gentle and handsome.”

Maggie Lyons

Maggie is a young female Labrador Retriever and American Bulldog mix who is available for adoption from the City of Lyons Animal Shelter in Lyons, GA. Maggie is loving and calm, according to the shelter.

21
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 21, 2019

Lyman Hall was elected to the Continental Congress on March 21, 1775 from St. John’s Parish; the next year he would sign the Declaration of Independence as a representative from Georgia.

On March 21, 1941, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation establishing the Eastern Standard Time Zone as the only Time Zone in Georgia. Prior to that, Georgia observed two different time zones.

On March 21, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 3000 protesters in a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.

On March 21, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

Former Georgia Governor and United States Senator Herman Talmadge died on March 21, 2002.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Vice President Mike Pence will visit Atlanta today, according to Fox5Atlanta.

According to the Office of the Vice President, Pence will be visiting the Atlanta ICE Field Office to hear about the work of the local agency and talk about border security issues.

The AJC reports that Pence will also attend a fundraiser for Senator David Perdue.

United States Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will visit Augusta on Friday to speak at Plant Vogtle, according to the Department of Energy.

On Friday March 22, 2019, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will join Southern Company Chairman, President and CEO Tom Fanning; Georgia Power Chairman, President and CEO Paul Bowers; and North America’s Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey to deliver remarks at Vogtle Nuclear Plant. Following the ceremony, Secretary Perry, Tom Fanning, Paul Bowers and Sean McGarvey will participate in a media availability.

Media interested in attending must RSVP no later than Thursday at noon []. Please note that long pants are required, as well as steel-toed boots. If you do not own them, please pass along your shoe size when you RSVP.

So, does that mean that someone will loan steel-toed boots to journalists who don’t have them?

Secretary Perry is expected to announce the finalization of $3.7 billion in loan guarantees by the federal government for construction of the two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. From Bloomberg:

The guarantees, expected to be announced Friday when U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry visits Plant Vogtle alongside Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Southern Chief Executive Officer Tom Fanning, represents a critical lifeline for the project, which is more than five years behind schedule and has doubled in cost to $28 billion.

The additional help also puts taxpayers on the hook for more money if the project were to collapse. Southern and its partners in Plant Vogtle were already recipients of record $8.3 billion in federally-backed loan guarantees from the Obama administration, but asked the Trump administration to come to their aid amid ballooning costs and setbacks caused in part by the bankruptcy of a contractor, Westinghouse Electric Co.

President Donald Trump has made the revival of the coal and nuclear industry a priority. His administration in 2017 announced it would provide a conditional loan guarantee for the Plant Vogtle project.

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP
8:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP
8:00 AM HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT 606 CLOB
9:30 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 34) House Chamber
1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT 125 CAP
1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP
1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB
1:00 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP
2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1
2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY 132 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries Alcohol & Tobacco Subcommittee 415 CLOB
3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP
3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY MEZZ 1
3:00 PM HOUSE Insurance – Life & Health Subcommittee 415 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 606 CLOB
4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB
4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR – LEGISLATIVE DAY 34

HB 225 – Motor vehicles; reference date to federal regulations regarding the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles and carriers; update (PUB SAF-7th) Rich-97th

HB 246 – Evidence; revise manner by which depositions taken at the instance of state are paid (JUDY-18th) Silcox-52nd

HB 325 – Law enforcement officers and agencies; records of investigation of an officer by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council shall be retained for 30 years; provide (PUB SAF-7th) Clark-147th

HB 387 – Property; liens in favor of private, nonprofit, volunteer fire departments for instances of fire services that are requested by property owners; provide (JUDY-53rd) Lumsden-12th

HB 226 – Courts; additional penalty for violation of traffic laws or ordinances under Joshua’s Law; extend sunset (PUB SAF-17th) LaRiccia-169th

HB 279 – Revenue and taxation; certain law enforcement officers may use department vehicles relative to certain approved off-duty jobs; provide (Substitute)(PUB SAF-29th) Lumsden-12th

HB 300 – Health; redesignate continuing care retirement communities as life plan communities (H&HS-46th)Smith-133rd

HB 471 – Motor vehicles; implied consent notices; revise (PUB SAF-29th) Sainz-180th

HB 514 – Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission; create (Substitute)(H&HS-13th) Tanner-9th

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR – LEGISLATIVE DAY 34

Modified Open Rule

HR 368 – Interstate 14; construction; urge (Trans-Smith-134th)

SB 97 – Self-Service Storage Facilities; limit fees charged and collected by self-service storage facilities for the late payment of rent; provide (Judy-Newton-123rd) Stone-23rd

SB 132 – Insurance; modernization and updates; provide; Commission on the Georgia Health Insurance Risk Pool; repeal Article 2 of Chapter 29A (Substitute)(Ins-Smith-134th) Harbin-16th

SB 133 – Insurance; modernization and updates; provide (Substitute)(Ins-Smith-134th) Harbin-16th

Modified Structured Rule

SB 17 – Public Utilities and Public Transportation; authorize telephone cooperatives and their broadband affiliates; provide broadband services (EU&T-Harrell-106th) Gooch-51st

SB 55 – Retirement; method and manner by which a member of the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia may purchase an annuity; revise (Ret-Lumsden-12th) Hufstetler-52nd

SB 121 – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Data Base; length of time prescription information is retained from two years to five years; increase (JudyNC-Newton-123rd) Walker III-20th

Senate Bill 106 by State Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) passed out of the House Special Committee on Access to Health Care, according to AccessWDUN.

Legislation authorizing Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to pursue a Medicaid waiver was approved by a state House panel Wednesday, potentially giving Georgia more flexibility to use federal funding but also capping who’s covered by an expansion.

The bill allows Kemp to pursue waiver options and gives his office latitude in what the waiver ultimately asks. It caps eligibility for any Medicaid expansion to those at or below the federal poverty level, limiting the number of Georgians who could be covered.

Any waiver plan would need to be approved by the federal government.

Republican Sen. Blake Tillery, who is carrying the legislation for Kemp, said it was a “very simple bill … that could have far reaching effects for health care in Georgia.”

The bill passed the Senate in February, and could soon move to the House floor for a vote.

The Senate Finance Committee yesterday passed legislation reforming the Certificate of Need program for health care facilities, according to Georgia Health News.

The CON overhaul effort was revived in a hearing Wednesday, when some provisions of the unsuccessful bill were attached to different House legislation, and the new bill was adopted by the Senate Finance Committee.

However, the provisions in the new CON bill are considered weaker than those in the original House measure.

The newly reworked House Bill 186 contains some proposals from the original House Bill 198. It would limit the rival health care entities that can object to a CON application to those within a 35-mile radius of the proposed project. Currently there are no geographic restrictions on who can object.

But the amended bill does not contain any provision allowing a sports medicine and training center in Alpharetta, a project that has many high-profile backers in the sports world. And the bill would not let hospital organizations establish standalone ERs, or allow for cardiology ambulatory surgery centers.

State Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin), the lead sponsor of the stronger House bill that was defeated, said Wednesday that ‘we’re trending in the right direction.’’

House Bill 545 addressing lawsuits alleging nuisances, passed out of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, according to The Brunswick News.

On the face of it, House Bill 545 would appear to exist for the purpose of limiting grounds for lawsuits against agricultural operations, though the bill’s lead sponsor, state Rep. Tom McCall, R-Elberton, says that’s not exactly correct.

“If any of y’all are worried about this preventing lawsuits, the trial lawyers (association) are fine with this,” McCall said at the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee hearing. “I have worked with more lawyers on this than anything I can think of, but when the trial lawyers association says that they are fine with this bill, then that ought to say to you that they are not worried about being able to sue somebody for a nuisance.”

This issue comes down to which property owners can sue over an agricultural nuisance — noise, odor, light pollution, for example — and when can those people do it? McCall said the legislation is about protecting farms, farmers and their legacy. He said that if someone’s not going about their business in the right way, they can still be sued for actions that are negligent, illegal and improper.

State Sen. Larry Walker III, R-Perry, said that his feelings about the bill make the situation difficult for him, because of his respect for McCall and friendship with proponents of the legislation.

“Our current statute, the way it’s written now, protects the existing land, existing farm, against changes coming in and on the surrounding property,” Walker said. “In other words, the farm’s there first, a subdivision moves in next door, it provides protection for the existing farm against nuisance lawsuits from changes on the surrounding property.”

Walker said the bill changes all that significantly, changes the whole philosophy of what they’re doing, in allowing the existing farm, if it’s been around a year or more, to significantly change their operation in terms of new technology or the like, and remain immune from a nuisance lawsuit. He said the fear is that some operations could put in a large hydroponic greenhouse with growlights that cause problems for neighboring properties.

The Augusta Chronicle looks at voter turnout in two Augusta-area elections this week.

“Overall, the turnout was typical for an ‘off-year’ special election,” said Nancy Gay, executive director for Columbia County Board of Elections. “While our early voting numbers were impressive, overall we finished with 6.27 turnout, which is just a little higher than four years ago for the same election.”

In 2015, 5.6 percent of the county’s then-77,676 voters turned out to vote in a referendum on whether to reimpose the school system’s one percent special purpose local option sales tax for education. In the Tuesday election, 6,213 of what are now 99,084 registered voters cast ballots, with 83.7 percent in approval of the E-SPLOST. Almost 3,000 voted early, either in person or by mail.

In Augusta, Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said low turnout of 5.9 percent was not unusual for a special election.

In the contest, retired educator Varden “Bobby” Williams avoided a runoff with one of three opponents by capturing 50.87 percent of the 976 ballots cast in the election.

Bailey, who predicted a runoff, said for a single candidate to win outright with more than 50 percent of votes was unusual.

Duluth City Council member Kirkland Carden announced he will run for the County Commission District 1 seat held by Republican Jace Brooks, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Carden revealed on Facebook over the weekend he will run as a Democrat for the county commission District 1 seat currently held by Commissioner Jace Brooks in 2020. A new cover photo revealing his bid for a commission seat was posted on his old city council campaign Facebook page Saturday and a formal announcement was posted the following day.

“I have decided to run for the Board of Commissioners because I care about the future of our community,” Carden said in the statement. “We live in a time of great cha”nge both socially and in terms of technology and politics. In order for Gwinnett to continue to flourish in the future we have to change and adapt with the time.”

Although qualifying for the 2020 county elections is a year away, Democrats have been positioning themselves to run for commission seats. Former state Sen. Curt Thompson is running for commission chairman while Jasper Watkins III and Derrick Wilson have announced candidacies for the District 3 seat currently held by Commissioner Tommy Hunter.

Commission District 1 includes parts of Duluth, Suwanee and Sugar Hill.

Stacey Abrams

The Emory Wheel reports that a student organization chose Democrat Stacey Abrams to speak on campus on May 9th.

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has been selected to speak at Emory’s Class Day on May 9, according to a March 18 University press release. The student-organized event for graduating seniors will include a presentation of the Boisfeuillet Jones Medals and other senior awards.

Abrams spoke at an Emory Law School Democrats meeting in April 2018 where she expressed disapproval over the University’s annexation into Atlanta, citing problems with school district zoning, the Wheel previously reported.

Abrams’s group Fair Fight Action has come into question for its spending, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

It’s a dramatic rise often fueled by the promotional spending of Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit she founded to advance voting rights. The organization has paid for advertisements featuring Abrams and some of her travel and organized national watch parties when she delivered the Democratic rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union.

But spending by Fair Fight Action, which is staffed by former Abrams campaign aides, could prompt questions about whether the nonprofit is inappropriately supporting her political ambitions. Although there is no proof of any illegal activity, some of the organization’s expenditures could pose a problem if Abrams follows through with her pledge to run for office again.

“There is nothing wrong with a nonprofit promoting its charismatic founder,” said Adav Noti, a former Federal Election Commission attorney who now works for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. But, he added, that “if we later learn that the spending was to lay the groundwork for a campaign, retrospectively that could be a violation.”

On Wednesday, a GOP-affiliated group called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT, filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service. The group points to roughly $100,000 worth of Facebook ads featuring Abrams, an advertisement for a “Stacey Abrams Fundraiser” that featured Fair Fight Action’s logo, travel for Abrams’ post-election “thank you” tour of Georgia and a professionally produced “highlight reel” of Abrams footage on the group’s website.

The complaint argues Fair Fight Action is supporting Abrams’ political ambitions, not advocating for voting rights. That’s a violation of tax law that forbids political 501(c)(4) nonprofits from providing a “private benefit” to a particular person or group, according to a copy of the complaint provided to The Associated Press. The group typically files ethics complaints against Democrats but has also targeted some Republicans, including North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

20
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 20, 2019

Juno Clayton

Juno is a young female Shepherd mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Clayton County Humane Society in Jonesboro, GA.

Chance Clayton

Chance is a young male Labrador Retriever and Great Dane mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Clayton County Humane Society in Jonesboro, GA.

Hocus Clayton

Hocus is a young male Terrier and Chihuahua mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Clayton County Humane Society in Jonesboro, GA.

20
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 20, 2019

March 20, 1854 saw a meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin that is generally considered the founding of the Republican Party.

[F]ormer members of the Whig Party meet to establish a new party to oppose the spread of slavery into the western territories. The Whig Party, which was formed in 1834 to oppose the “tyranny” of President Andrew Jackson, had shown itself incapable of coping with the national crisis over slavery.

The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the party of the victorious North, and after the war the Republican-dominated Congress forced a “Radical Reconstruction” policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution and the granting of equal rights to all Southern citizens. By 1876, the Republican Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

The Georgia State Capitol was completed on March 20, 1889. Ron Daniels, the Poet Laureate of GaPundit, has written an ode to the Gold Dome:

Well I guess it was back in eighteen eighty nine,
When a couple of boys in Dahlonega went down in a mine,
And found it was slap full of gold.
Then these folks in Atlanta wanted to keep growing,
So they told the legislature the Capitol had to be going,
And so those politicos said “Good Bye Milledgeville! Our attorneys will be in touch.”
Now the Capitol had been moved before,
Savannah, Louisville, and more,
They’d even moved it down to Macon on an overloaded poultry wagon.
Atlanta sure wanted to lend the State a hand,
Giving the legislature plenty of land,
Hammers started swingin’ and, boy howdy, they sure were buildin’.
The architect of this here building was feeling bold,
Covering the building’s dome all in beautiful gold,
Leaving the gold mine empty, and leaving someone with the shaft.
Well, Governor Gordon was slap full of delight,
When his eyes did recognize that impressive sight,
On March 20, 1889, a completed Capitol building.
He grabbed the keys and a few words he spoke,
The words he uttered were no joke,
“Boys when you’re hot, you’re hot! Now thanks a lot.”

On March 20, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation authorizing a referendum to amend the Georgia Constitution and make the Public Service Commission a Constitutional agency.

On March 20, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson notified Alabama Governor George Wallace that Alabama National Guard troops would be called up to maintain order during a third march from Selma to Montgomery. Within five months, the Voting Rights Act would be passed by Congress.

On March 20, 1970, Governor Lester Maddox signed legislation designating the Brown Thrasher the official state bird, and the Bobwhite Quail the official state game bird.

On March 20, 1982, this song was #1 on the Billboard charts:

Happy birthday to Georgia-born actress Holly Hunter (1958) and film director/actor Spike Lee (1957).

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp recognized this week as Agriculture Awareness Week.Continue Reading..

19
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 19, 2019

Finn Gwinnett

Finn is a 6-year old male Boxer who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Harry Bailey Gwinnett

Harry Bailey is a 9-year old male Terrier mix who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

Stoney Gwinnett

Stoney is a 2-3 year old female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, GA.

She reminds me of my dog Finster, who has a brindle coat, and one floppy ear and one sticky-uppy.

19
Mar

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

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. Burr spent part of his time on the lam in Georgia.

On March 19, 1916, the first American military air combat mission began in support of an incursion into Mexico under President Woodrow Wilson.

On March 19, 1947, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in Thompson v. Talmadge on the “Three Governors Affair.” The Court held that the Georgia General Assembly lacked authority to elect Herman Talmadge as Governor, and that because of the death of Eugene Talmadge before he took office, no successor to Gov. Ellis Arnall was in place until the newly-elected Lt. Governor Melvin Johnson was sworn in and became Governor, succeeding Arnall.

On March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush announced the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in order to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and eliminate the country’s ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

March 19, 2014 was “Bo Callaway Day” in Georgia and flags flew at half-staff in honor of the late Georgia Congressman and former Secretary of the Army.

“Few individuals throughout our history can match the legacy that Bo Callaway left on Georgia politics,” Deal said. “Bo blazed a trail that led to the dramatic growth of the Georgia GOP, which went from virtually nonexistent when he ran for governor to holding every statewide elected office today. Bo stood up for what he believed in even when the odds and the political system were stacked against him. Georgians are all the better for it. Sandra and I send our deepest sympathies to the Callaway family.”

March 19, 2014 was also the first time I wrote about the lack of an “Official State Dog of Georgia.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

HOUSE RESOLUTION 135 by State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) passed the House, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) sponsored House Resolution 135, which encourages Congress to eliminate the five-month waiting period for disability insurance benefits after patients are diagnosed with ALS, which is currently federal law.

ALS, which is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive and fatal neuromuscular disease. Each year, Efstration said, approximately 6,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALS, and most patients die within two to five years of receiving a diagnosis.

“I am proud of this bipartisan measure to help those suffering from ALS,” Efstration said. “After diagnosis, patients and their families often face immediate financial strain, made worse by an arbitrary five-month waiting period for disability support.”

HR 135 passed the Georgia House by a vote of 166 to 0, something conservative pundit Todd Rehm said was unique.

“I didn’t think there was such a thing as unanimous passage by the House any more, but HR 135 by Chuck Efstration…passed without opposition,” Rehm said.

Whitfield County voters go to the polls today to decide a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

A current four-year SPLOST expires on June 30 and is on track to collect $64 million. The proposed SPLOST if approved would begin collections on July 1.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A SPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax on most goods purchased in the county and can only fund certain defined projects and items, it can’t be used for general governmental operations.

Supporters say a SPLOST helps keep property taxes down while also being partly paid by individuals from out of town who stop and shop in the county or stay in the county for an extended period of time, such as for a softball tournament or other event, or to visit. The pro-SPLOST Citizens for SPLOST, spearheaded by the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, also believes the 1 percent tax is valuable because of the quality of life projects it would fund that could help lure young professionals to live here, and contends it would continue what the chamber sees as an “undeniable” momentum “with new restaurants, shops and things to do,” as chamber president and CEO Rob Bradham has written.

Opponents, which include a group called Engaged Citizens for Georgia, say many of the SPLOST projects are not needed, that the argument for out-of-town participation has been overstated and that a county that has seen its median household income decline dramatically in recent years can’t afford to have $100 million or a large part of it taken out of its citizens’ pockets through another government tax. They say a SPLOST does not necessarily mean property taxes will stay the same or decrease, as larger buildings often require additional upkeep.

Columbia County votes today on a SPLOST referendum, and some Augusta voters will go to the polls to choose a new Augusta Commissioner, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Advance voting was heavy in Columbia County, with 2,522 people casting early ballots in the referendum. Last week, Board of Elections Executive Director Nancy Gay called the advance turnout “outstanding” for a special election.

In Richmond County, 125 people voted early in the District 5 election out of 16,572 registered voters, according to Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey. She said she expects overall turnout in the single-district election to be between 8 and 12 percent.

Gwinnett County votes today on the MARTA referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, voters will go to their local polling locations to cast ballots for or against a contract between MARTA and Gwinnett County. Passage of the MARTA referendum would mean the regional transit system would take over the provision of transit in the county and the levying of a 1 percent sales tax in the county to pay for that service.

Gwinnett’s Democratic legislators, who have endorsed passage of the referendum, held a press conference in Atlanta on Monday to urge voters to show up to the polls en masse on election day.

County records show 32,182 people cast advance in person ballots at the elections office or one of seven satellite early voting sites from Feb. 25 to this past Friday.

After the release of a digital ad featuring former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Saturday, the Go Gwinnett pro-MARTA group began transitioning to a “get out the vote” mode focused on canvasing, text messaging and calling voters to encourage them to head to the polls on Tuesday.

“We left it all on the field,” Go Gwinnett spokesman Brian Robinson said.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of votes, significantly more votes on Tuesday than there has been in early voting,” Robinson said. “As I’ve always said — I don’t get too cute about this, about what the chances are — ‘Small electorate is good for the ‘Nos’, big electorate is good for the ‘Yes’ (camp).’”

According to GeorgiaVotes.com, data from the Secretary of State’s office showed 60 percent of the early voters were white and 75 percent of the voters were 50 or older. Newton said that works to the anti-MARTA coalition’s side.

Cave Springs voters will decide today whether to allow liquor sales, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Plans for a micro-distillery downtown hang in the balance.

Elections Supervisor Judy Dickinson, who’s also the clerk, said she’s expecting a relatively strong turnout at the precinct in City Hall, 10 Georgia Ave.

There are four questions on the ballot.

One asks about sales of distilled spirits by the drink. One asks about package sales. Those each cover Monday through Saturday. The other two questions ask about liquor by the drink and by the package on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon to 11:30 p.m. at night.

Only residents of Cave Spring are eligible to vote in today’s election. Dickinson said there are just over 600 on the active list.

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

9:00 AM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 310 CLOB

9:30 AM SENATE VETERANS, MILITARY & HOMELAND SECURITY 307 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE Academic Support Subcommittee of Education 506 CLOB

11:00 AM SENATE FINANCE- INCOME TAX SUBCOMMITTEE 318 CLOB

11:00 AM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary 132 CAP

12:00 PM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES – Upon Adjournment 506 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- PUBLIC POLICY SUBCOMMITTEE 122 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

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

2:00 PM HOUSE Special Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE GAME, FISH AND PARKS 403 CAP

2:30 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MEZZ 1

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

4:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

5:00 PM SENATE SPECIAL JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

Governor Brian Kemp appointed Rebecca Jackson as Solicitor General of the State Court of Carroll County.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission voted to hire David Emadi, Douglas County Chief Assistant District Attorney, as its new Executive Director, according to the AJC.

Emadi, who also worked briefly as an aide to Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, was offered a $125,000 salary by the commission, which voted 3-1 to hire him.

Commission Chairman Jake Evans said Emadi’s experience as both a prosecutor and former legislative aide helped persuade the panel to offer him the job.

“We wanted some energy, we wanted some experience both on the legislative side and the prosecutorial side,” Evans said. “David is going to come in with that youth, that energy, that inspiration.”

House Bill 481, the fetal heartbeat bill, passed out of the Senate Science & Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 481 would confer legal personhood on a fetus with a detectable heartbeat, essentially outlawing most abortions in Georgia after six weeks. The bill also provides for fetuses to count as people in population surveys and as dependents for tax purposes. Further, health records would be made available to the local district attorney where the abortion occurs or where the woman resides, among other specifications.

H.B. 481 went to the Senate Science and Technology Committee, which is one of the smallest committees in the chamber. With Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, not voting, Republican leadership used the power of the lieutenant governor to put a thumb on the scales. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan subsequently appointed state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, to the panel as an ex-officio member to game the vote, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in its Morning Jolt post Wednesday.

The vote Monday came after a marathon public comment session Thursday that lasted around four hours. Jordan tweeted, following the meeting, to expect the Senate to take up H.B. 481 before the end of the week.

Should the bill make it all the way, a court challenge is expected. Friday, a federal district judge in Kentucky halted the enforcement of that state’s six-week abortion law the day the governor signed it, writing in the temporary restraining order that the plaintiffs demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their 14th Amendment due process challenge to the law, which passed the legislature as Senate Bill 9.

From the Gainesville Times:

The Senate Science and Technology Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote of 3 to 2. The legislation, backed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, has passed the House and now could go quickly to the floor of the GOP-controlled Senate.

Republicans are moving to enact tough abortion restrictions in the state legislatures they control, even though they’re certain to be challenged in court. Similar “heartbeat” bills just passed the Ohio Senate and the Tennessee House, and are advancing in Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina.

They’re hoping the U.S. Supreme Court — with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will uphold state laws that undermine the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing the right of women to abort a fetus that can’t survive outside the womb.

The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest — but only when the woman files a police report first — and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

House Bill 501, the oyster industry bill, passed the Georgia Senate yesterday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

With a vote of 35-19 in the senate, H.B. 501, which passed the house last week, now goes to the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp.

The bill sets up a framework for a fledgling oyster farming industry, giving the state Department of Natural Resources final say in when oysters can be harvested and where oyster seed comes from. Neighboring states already farm oysters year-round but in Georgia, oysters are wild harvested only. The bill also provides for a lottery to allot leases to qualified farmers.

From The Brunswick News:

Barring an unlikely veto by the governor, Georgia will have a new coastal industry by this time next year, despite continued opposition by people who would be expected to grow that industry. The state Senate approved House Bill 501 on oyster mariculture Monday by a vote of 35-19. That comes a little more than two weeks since the chamber passed identical legislation, Senate Bill 182, by a 54-0 vote.

The growth in opposition is thanks to an alliance of those in the seafood industry and environmental advocates who argued for more specifics and less regulation, with a major sticking point being year-round harvesting.

Ligon added that it’s prudent to have some extra oversight at the beginning of an industry to make sure everything’s done right, and once oyster mariculture gets underway, legislators and regulators can revisit the issue to see what needs adjusting.

“There will be an advisory committee where members of the industry will be on that committee, they will provide input to the department on rulemaking,” Ligon said. “This has been very productive for our shrimping and crab and finfish industries in Georgia, so let’s follow that same model with this, let’s see how it goes. If we need to make adjustments, we will, but let’s err on the side of public safety.”

House Bill 217 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee yesterday, according to AccessWDUN.

Programs that give drug users clean needles in exchange for used ones would become legal in Georgia, under a proposal that cleared a Senate committee Monday.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services unanimously approved the bill, sending it to the full Senate. The measure has already cleared the state House.

Republican Rep. Houston Gaines of Athens, the bill’s author, said the proposal will “save lives and money.”

“We don’t want anyone, including those who inject drugs, to contract these infections,” Gaines said, adding that President Donald Trump has said dealing with the HIV epidemic is a priority in his State of the Union speech.

State Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta) introduced House Resolution 533, calling for the creation of a House Study Committee on Innovative Financial Options for Senior Living, according to the Albany Herald.

“Rep. John LaHood’s resolution addresses a big worry,” Vicki Vaughn Johnson, chairwoman of the Georgia Council on Aging, said. “Currently, there’s not enough affordable housing for our seniors. But what’s going to happen in the not-too-distant future, when Georgia’s 65-and-older population is expected to double?”

The resolution from LaHood, the secretary of the House Health and Human Services Committee, calls for the creation of the House Study Committee on Innovative Financial Options for Senior Living. The committee would comprise five House members selected by Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and have until December to complete its work.

LaHood’s resolution states that the problem is a lack of affordable independent living options for seniors who require services and can no longer live in their homes.

Georgia’s 65-and-over population was 1.3 million in 2016 and is expected to rise to 2.9 million by 2040, with the greatest rate of growth in the 85-and-older category, LaHood’s resolution said.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton sat for a Q&A with Georgia Trend.

GT: How do those work experiences inform your work at the state Supreme Court?

Melton: I learned to practice law in the attorney general’s office. I learned how to go into the office, close the door, get the books out and study. There’s no substitute for that. That foundation was there.
I went to the governor’s office not really knowing much about the governor personally. So there was some uncertainty, but that was too much of an opportunity to pass up. That was an opportunity to sit at the table when decisions impacting the state were being discussed, to learn and to grow and to have input in that area. Turns out it was a great move. I enjoyed working with the governor and enjoyed working with the staff he put together.

GT: Is the court political?

Melton: There is some aspect of that. Of course what we try to do is to take the politics out of what we do. We run for re-election, and there is some awareness that we have to get votes to keep our job; but we use that awareness as a calling, as a charge to make sure that even though we have to get votes to keep our jobs, we don’t want to make decisions on that basis. We work hard not to be motivated by politics or personal philosophies or anything along those lines. Just as important, we work hard to convince the bar and the public that we are really trying to call balls and strikes fairly and squarely.

The Muscogee County School District has hired its first police chief, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

In a 8-0 vote during Monday night’s monthly meeting, the nine-member board confirmed Superintendent David Lewis’ choice to lead MCSD’s new agency: Grep Arp, the chief investigator for the district attorney’s office in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit for the past six years.

The MCSD police chief’s position has been vacant for the 10 months since the board established the police agency.

In May 2018, the board upgraded Lewis’ recommendation to establish the police agency. He had recommended boosting MCSD’s current security staff from 17 part-time officers to 10 full-time officers, including one for each high school, seven part-time officers and three additional positions. The board’s majority expanded that recommendation, calling for a full-time officer at each middle school. So the board approved adding $1,692,467, including $892,467 in start-up costs, to MCSD’s current $2,133,871 budget for security.

But no officers have been hired because the department’s police chief hadn’t been hired, Tessin said.

18
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 18, 2019

Elvis Thomasville
Elvis is a young male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society in Thomasville, GA.

Stan Thomasville

Stan is a young male Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society in Thomasville, GA.

Harold Thomasville

Harold is a young male Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society in Thomasville, GA.

18
Mar

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

On March 18, 1766, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, which required American colonists to purchase a stamp for every legal or printed document they obtained.  Revenue would be used to support the British army in America.

The Stamp Act led Patrick Henry to denounce King George III, the British Monarch at the time of the passage of the Stamp Act and the ensuing Revolutionary War; Henry’s later “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech to the Virginia Assembly at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, listed by Time magazine as one of the top ten speeches of all time. Henry later opposed adoption of the Constitution, arguing it was incomplete without a Bill of Rights; after the Bill of Rights was adopted, Henry was satisfied.

On March 18, 1939, the State of Georgia ratified the Bill of Rights, which were proposed 150 years earlier in 1789. Georgia initially declined to ratify the Bill of Rights arguing that the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution were unnecessary. Governor E.D. Rivers signed the joint resolution six days later, but under federal court decisions the ratification is marked as of the date the second house of the state legislature adopts the legislation (assuming a bi-cameral state legislature).

On March 18, 1942, the United States government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, created the War Relocation Authority to “Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.” More than 120,000 Japanese Americans, many of them citizens of the United States were moved from the west coast into concentration camps in the western United States.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed entirely of Japanese Americans, many of whose families were interned at the camps, became the most-decorated unit of World War II, with members being awarded 4,667 medals, awards, and citations, including 1 Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 560 Silver Stars; eventually 21 members of the 442nd would be awarded the Medal of Honor. The late United States Senator Daniel Inouye, a member of the 442nd from 1941 to 1947, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton for actions during WWII. First elected to the United States Senate in 1962, Inouye became President Pro Tem in 2010.

On March 18, 1947, Herman Talmadge surrendered the Governor’s office, ending the “Three Governors Affair.” Earlier this year, the General Assembly honored the late Governor Melvin Thompson, who was elected the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and became Governor at the conclusion of the Three Governors Affair.

Over the weekend, I found two old certificates that are often given to political supporters of Georgia’s Governor. Between the, they bear the signatures of all three men who claimed to be Governor during the “Three Governors Affair,” and a total of four Georgia Governors. The one signed by Governor Ellis Arnall (69th Governor of Georgia) also bears the signature of M.E. Thompson, who would later become the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and then elected as the 70th Governor. The one signed by Governor Herman Talmadge (71) was also signed by Ernest Vandiver, Jr., who would later serve as Lt. Governor and then as the 73d Governor of Georgia.

4 governors

On March 18, 1955, the Georgia Educators Association endorsed “equal but separate” schools for the races.

On March 18, 1961, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Gray v. Sanders, which arose from Georgia. Three politically-important results come from the case.

First, the Court held that state regulation of the Democratic Primary made the primary election a state action, not merely that of a private organization; thus, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies.

Second, the Equal Protection Clause requires that every vote be given equal weight in electing officials, often stated as the “one person, one vote” rule. In Georgia at that time, each County had between two and six “county unit votes”. As a result,

“One unit vote in Echols County represented 938 residents, whereas one unit vote in Fulton County represented 92,721 residents. Thus, one resident in Echols County had an influence in the nomination of candidates equivalent to 99 residents of Fulton County.”

Third, because the County Unit System gave the votes of some Georgians greater weight than that of others, it violated the Equal Protection Clause. The “one person, one vote” rule is one benchmark of redistricting.

On March 18, 1976, Governor George Busbee signed legislation recognizing the following official state symbols:

Staurolite – Official Mineral of Georgia
Shark’s Tooth – Official Fossil of Georgia
Clear Quartz – Official Gem of Georgia
Purple Quartz (Amethyst) – Official Gem of Georgia

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Democrat Stacey Abrams says she won the 2018 election for Governor of Georgia, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

At an event Thursday, Abrams was asked by a tracker if she would ever concede to Kemp. She appeared to remain silent, but she said inside that she’d told the tracker “no.”

“I did win my election,” she said, according to ABC News reporter Adam Kelsey. “I just didn’t get to have the job.”

Other prominent Democrats have also claimed the race was stolen from Abrams, although she lost by nearly 55,000 votes and couldn’t get the race to a runoff. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said the evidence suggested the race was stolen by Kemp, and Hillary Clinton and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) made similar claims.

However, it was Clinton who claimed during her 2016 campaign against Donald Trump that he would potentially not accept defeat.

“One of our hallmarks has always been that we accept the outcomes of our elections,” she said.

Abrams claimed Kemp’s office put 53,000 votes “on hold,” but the allegation was deceptive, the Washington Free Beacon reported. They were not purged from voter rolls but rather placed in “pending” status because of violations of state “exact match” laws. Some of those violations appeared to be by a voter-registration group started by Abrams[.]

From the Washington Post:

She also talked about irregularities that occurred during the election. “The vote differential was 54,000 votes,” she said. “I cannot prove empirically that I would have gotten every vote that could have been counted, but I do know that the absence of an effective system robbed me and Georgians of having a fair election where we could say with certainty that what happened was right.”

Asked whether she could make a bigger statement on the issue about which she is passionate by running and winning an election in Georgia or going national, she said, “I think that is a legitimate frame, but it’s not the one I can use. These are jobs. I’m applying for a job, and I should run for office because I want to do that job at that moment. The issue of voter suppression is an existential issue, and no matter what job I have, I’m going to talk about that issue.”

Abrams said she already believes she could do a better job than Trump in the highest office in the land. She could not cite anything the president has done on his own initiative that has been good for the country, and she offered a blistering description of him.

“He is a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobe who has diminished our sense of cohesion as a nation. Regardless of where a president stood on issues, there has always been at least a veiled attempt at some sense of national unity. His intentionality to speak only to a narrow group that he calls his base, his willingness to only administer his office for that population, has diminished the credibility of his time in office.”

Abrams said she does not believe Democrats lost in 2016 because Trump was a superior candidate with superior ideas. “We lost because our organizing method in 2016 did not engage voters who had long been out of the body politic,” she said. “I do not believe in turnout targets. And one thing we demonstrated in our campaign, much to the suspicion and chagrin early on, is that you cannot run a campaign in the 21st century that believes in a base. Every voter is a persuasion target.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM SENATE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 450 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee of Education 406 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 515 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

2:00 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 341 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

HB 35 – Sales and use tax; certain poultry diagnostic and disease monitoring services; create exemption (FIN-50th) Watson-172nd

HB 168 – Sales and use tax; tangible personal property to certain non-profit health centers; extend exemption for five additional years (FIN-8th) Taylor-173rd

HB 185 – Financial institutions; change certain definitions (B&FI-18th) Williamson-115th

HB 192 – Professions and businesses; real estate management companies; change certain provisions (RI&U-51st) Powell-32nd

HB 212 – Banking and finance; retail brokers of manufactured homes or mobile homes and residential contractors from the requirement to obtain a license as a mortgage loan originator, broker, or lender under certain circumstances; exempt (B&FI-18th) Pirkle-155th

HB 223 – Conservation and natural resources; provide for an exception to notification of spills or releases; provide for definitions (NR&E-7th) Dickey-140th

HB 368 – Insurance; division of a domestic insurer into two or more resulting domestic insurers; provide (Substitute)(I&L-9th) Taylor-173rd

HB 374 – Health; administer medications to residents under hospice care pursuant to a physician’s written orders; authorize certified medication aides (H&HS-11th) LaHood-175th

HB 419 – Revenue and taxation; Internal Revenue Code and Internal Revenue Code of 1986; define terms and incorporate certain provisions of federal law into Georgia law (FIN-52nd) Knight-130th

HB 501 – Game and fish; provide for mariculture development (NR&E-3rd) Petrea-166th

Thomasville, Georgia native William Crozer serves in the Trump Administration as a special assistant to the president and deputy director in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, according to the Times-Enterprise.

Crozer served former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and worked on 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign as Georgia political coordinator. He also worked in the Republican National Committee’s finance department during the 2008 election cycle.

Crozer said he had “a lot of good experiences” working with the late Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, while employed by the GOP national committee.

“Our office is the primary liaison between the White House and state and local elected officials,” Crozer said. “In that capacity, we are proactive in terms of building support among state and local elected officials around shared priorities, like combatting the opioid epidemic, and reactive where state and local officials reach out to us with various issues with a federal nexus, such as federal permitting and other matters pertinent to their community.”

Crozer said his position is a political, commissioned appointment. He is the primary liaison between the White House and state and local elected officials.

“We manage those relationships for the White House,” Crozer explained. “We’re that clearinghouse for state and local.

When Hurricane Michael ravaged the southwest Georgia in October 2018, Crozer traveled with the president on Air Force One to tour damaged areas in Georgia and Florida. Crozer reached out to county commission chairmen ito help direct communities to the proper source for help.

District 11 State Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) said Crozer contacted him the day of the hurricane and many times in the following weeks to be sure this area had needed resources and to ask how the White House and federal agencies could help in response efforts.

State Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock) has introduced two bills to keep Georgia from flip-flopping the time, according to WSB-TV.

Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston talked to Cantrell about why he thinks the time change is antiquated and why he’s submitted the bill to keep us on one time.

“Why do we keep doing this? Somebody needs to stand up and say, ‘Hey, this is ridiculous, and let’s do something about it,’” Cantrell told Huddleston. “I think it’s just one of those things we’ve just become accustomed to. It’s a hassle, but that’s they way it is, you know? We just live with it.”

Daylight saving time first started during World War II when President Roosevelt made it official.The goal was to save energy for the troops. Most states never made the switch back to year-round standard time, except Arizona and Hawaii.

“Let’s be a trailblazer,” Cantrell said. “Our state needs to lead, so let’s lead on this.”

Cantrell said his proposal won’t see any action this year, but he is working to get a proposed amendment with three different options on the ballot in 2020. If the majority of voters want to stay on daylight saving time, the state would have to get federal approval. If the public votes to stay on standard time, the change could be made with just voter approval, Cantrell said.

House Bill 628 would keep Georgia state government on Standard Time and does not require federal approval. House Bill 630 would keep Georgia on Daylight Savings Time permanently.

This morning at 8 AM, the Senate Science & Technology Committee will hear House Bill 481, the fetal heartbeat bill. From WSB radio:

Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban most abortions as soon as a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the womb, which is usually about six weeks into a pregnancy. The measure, House Bill 481, has sparked a fierce and emotional debate over the point life begins and the role of government in health care.

The legislation comes at a time when several states are tackling the issue of abortion, from similar measures that would limit access in states such as Kentucky and Tennessee to bills guaranteeing access in Illinois and New York.

Many of the bills that have sought to limit access have run into legal trouble. Every “heartbeat bill” that has passed across the country so far has been overturned in a state or federal court, while in other states the bills were never signed into law.

Hearings on HB 481 have attracted overflow crowds of passionate advocates from both sides. Some told deeply personal stories about their own decisions. Others debated the science.

So fraught has been the debate, that lawmakers had the committee room checked for bombs before Thursday’s Senate committee hearing.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ed Setzler, said he has wanted to push legislation that puts additional limits on access to abortion since he was elected 14 years ago. If a heartbeat is what determines the end of life, he said it should also be considered when life begins.

“It’s so important we act on this,” the Acworth Republican said. “We have to protect children that have heartbeats. We know they’re part of the human community.”

The Georgia Senate is scheduled to debate House Bill 501 by State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), which regulates oyster farming and is opposed by the industry, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“It’s just overly restrictive and there’s no guarantee they’re going to do any of it,” [Oysterman Charlie] Phillips said. “Were afraid it’s going to be so restrictive it is going to be a token oyster industry and not nearly as vibrant as what it could be.”

It’s a bill that’s flipped the script for garnering support. Its sponsor in the house, Savannah Republican state Rep. Jesse Petrea, finds himself in the unusual position of supporting more regulation from the Department of Natural Resources, which wrote the bill. And environmental groups like One Hundred Miles, which typically support regulation, are in the novel position of urging less of it.

There’s also political intrigue in the story. Brunswick state Rep. Jeff Jones, a Republican, has worked on an oyster industry bill since June.

“Prior to my involvement our regulatory agencies have been dinking around with this issue for 15 years and had not moved the ball forward,” Jones told the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

Petrea holds that this bill is better than no bill and that any problems with it can be fixed through DNR’s regulatory process or through the legislative process in the future. He said Jones was “making the perfect the enemy of the good.”

“This is creating an industry in Georgia that does not exist today,” he told the committee Tuesday.

The Rome News Tribune looks at local legislation affecting Floyd County.

House Bill 602 will create the Rome Building Authority. HB 603 will boost the pay of Floyd County Board of Education members to $600 a month from $400 a month.

Legislation that affects only local entities does not have to meet the Crossover Day deadline. Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said bills requested unanimously by the entities involved typically sail through both chambers.

The Rome Building Authority will be able to issue bonds for school construction projects backed by the education local option sales tax.

It was requested by the City Commission and city school board. Members of the authority will be the mayor, city manager and school superintendent.

HB 603 was requested by the county school board. It also includes a provision for reimbursement of their travel expenses outside the county and will be effective the month after it’s signed by the governor.

Lula City Council will consider asking the General Assembly for local legislation creating a development authority, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Lula City Council will vote Monday on whether to move forward in establishing the authority. If the Council agrees to the idea, it will be introduced in the Georgia General Assembly, which will need to approve the proposal before the authority can get to work.

The development authority would cover Lula’s water and sewer service area, reaching outside city limits. Because the authority’s coverage area would go into unincorporated Hall County, the county will appoint two of the authority’s seven members. Lula’s mayor would be an automatic member.

The city already has the Lula Downtown Development Authority, which Mayor Jim Grier chaired for seven years before getting elected.

Gwinnett County‘s decision on the transit referendum tomorrow could have ramifications for the rest of Metro Atlanta, according to CityLab.

If MARTA wins, the vote would build on growing support behind a more expansive transit future for the Atlanta area. That momentum started in 2014, when Clayton County voters approved a penny sales tax to build out bus and rail service and continued when Atlanta area voters agreed to pay the same to improve core MARTA service in 2016. The stakes are high: Success in Gwinnett could trigger Cobb County and other parts of metro Atlanta to get behind MARTA, too.

But if it fails, transit supporters may face a steeper climb in rallying future support in new areas. “Cobb’s leadership would balk at pushing for it,” said Brionte McCorkle, the executive director of Georgia Conservation Voters. “Gwinnett is the domino.”

The vote is likely be close, according to polls; it will all come down to turnout, McCorkle said. The nonprofit she leads is one of many organizations rallying voter support ahead of next week’s special election, which is being pitched as a referendum on the state’s future. The New Georgia Project—the grassroots campaign formed by Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who nearly unseated Republican Brian Kemp in last November’s gubernatorial race—has been pulling out the stops, knocking on 75,000 doors and texting 100,000 voters so far. The “Yes to MARTA” committee, spearheaded by the Georgia Sierra Club, has been doing outreach for 60,000 voters identified as environmentally conscious, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials are sending out mailers to tens of thousands of Latino households in the county.

Unsurprisingly, polling indicates that race and age play a big role in predicting support for the MARTA expansion, said Stacey Mink, a communications director for the Working Families Party. Polls show that people of color under 40 are more likely to support the referendum (they’re also more likely to ride transit), while older white voters are more inclined to less so. “We have to turn out young, diverse voters if we’re going to win on March 19,” she said in an email to CityLab.

But young people of color are statistically less likely to vote than older whites, and they’re even less likely to cast ballots in special elections. “We knew that this would pass during a general election. It was a heartbreaker,” McCorkle said, when [Gwinnett County Republicans] scheduled it for this month, instead.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“I don’t think anybody is expecting a blow out on either side,” Brian Robinson, a spokesman for the pro-MARTA group Go Gwinnett, said. “It’s going to be close.”

Voters will go to their regular voting precincts between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday to decide what to do about the MARTA question. The ballot question does not specifically state the contract is with MARTA or reference how the county’s participation in the transit system would be paid for.

“The vote is for a contract that is as favorable of a deal as Gwinnett County or any other county will ever get,” [Robinson] said. “It maintains local control while also giving Gwinnett three seats on the MARTA board.”

But United Tea Party of Georgia President David Hancock disagrees with the argument that there are benefits to joining MARTA. He said there are a few issues that have to be taken into consideration, including advancing autonomous vehicle technology and data which he said shows transit ridership is declining.

Hancock also said data contradicts the argument that transit would relieve congestion.

“There’s no evidence that increasing money for public transportation reduces congestion,” he said. “Before I did the research, I sort of figured that out on my own because I realized if you’re driving to work and it takes you 30 minutes to get to work and you’re OK with that and then it goes up to 45 minutes, you may say, ‘You know what I’m tired of this. I don’t want to do this anymore.’

The AJC looks at other Metro Atlanta elections taking place tomorrow.

Voters across metro Atlanta will go to the polls Tuesday to decide on an array of ballot questions, from electing a new commissioner for the Cherokee County Commission to extending a SPLOST another five years for Clayton County Schools to a choosing an Atlanta City Council member to serve out of the term of longtime member Ivory Lee Young Jr., who died in November.

Clayton County Schools is hoping voters approve the extension of its newest SPLOST. Continuation of the penny sales tax for the district would raise $280 million over the next five years.

Incumbent city of Hapeville Alderman at Large Michael Rast will square off against candidate Rod Mack in Tuesday’s special election for the seat Rast has held since 2017.

Antonio Molina and Tod Warner are competing for a seat on the Snellville City Council.

In addition, Snellville residents will decide whether to support the Sunday Brunch bill to allow Sunday alcohol sales to begin at 11 a.m.

Whitfield County early voting for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum is up compared to four years ago, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, the last day of early voting, 1,422 people had cast their ballots, according to the Whitfield County elections office. Early voting began Feb. 25 and continued weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Whitfield County Courthouse.

By comparison, 650 people voted during the 2015 SPLOST early voting period. All together, 3,915 people voted in that election, or 10.26 percent of registered voters. By comparison, 8,781 people voted during early voting in November 2018, and 24,937 people voted overall, or 59.57 percent of registered voters. Whitfield County has about 40,000 registered voters.

Whitfield County residents go to the polls on Tuesday to vote on the proposed six-year, 1 percent SPLOST that expects to bring in $100 million. If approved, the SPLOST would begin on July 1 of this year. The current four-year SPLOST expires on June 30 and is on pace to collect $64 million. A SPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax on most goods and services bought in the county.

The Glynn County Commission will likely continue discussing restrictions on short-term rentals, according to The Brunswick News.

“We’re going to have a meeting with Host Compliance, and we may be finalizing a contract with them, but we’ll have to see how that works out,” said Commissioner Peter Murphy. “They have experience in probably 100 municipalities and counties, and they’ve established a best-practices program where they can monitor activity and ensure compliance with local laws.”

Host Compliance held a teleconference with the commission in July 2018, during which representatives of the company explained their methods for tracking rentals and making sure they adhere to local ordinances.

“We want to level the playing field for all rental properties, we want to ensure safety and occupancy issues are addressed and we want to make sure all rental properties are complying with the (bed) tax as it is written,” Murphy said.

While it would ultimately be up to the rest of the commissioners, Murphy said he hopes to take a vote on whether to enter into a contract with Host Compliance at the Tuesday meeting.

Macon-Bibb County is preparing to close a landfill, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The landfill closure is the second most expensive special purpose local option sales tax project. It falls behind the $40 million budgeted for a major Bibb County courthouse addition.

Even after the landfill shuts down, there will be on-going costs including those associated with 30 years of maintaining and environmental monitoring before it can be re-purposed into something like a park, [interim solid waste department director Pat] Raines said.

Former Bibb County Manager Dale Walker agreed to pay $10,000 fine to the SEC after being charged with fraud involving the county pension plan, according to the Macon Telegraph.

15
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 15, 2019

Lifesaving_Weekend_Header_v2

Sahara DeKalb

Sahara is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Lifeline Project’s DeKalb Animal Services in Chamblee, GA.

Coffee DeKalb

Coffee is a young male mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Lifeline Project’s DeKalb Animal Services in Chamblee, GA.

Happy DeKalb

Happy is a young female mixed breed puppy who is available for adoption from Lifeline Project’s DeKalb Animal Services in Chamblee, GA.

15
Mar

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

On March 15, 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated at a meeting of the Senate.

On March 15, 40 BC, Octavian executed 300 Senators and knights in vengeance for Caesar’s death.

On March 15, 1758, Georgia’s Royal Governor Henry Ellis signed legislation dividing the colony into eight parishes, primarily for religious administration, but with some parishes having secondary government functions.

On March 17, 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City by Irish serving in the British army; the date commemorates the death of St. Patrick in 461. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah, Georgia was held in 1813.

On March 16, 1861, delegates in Savannah unanimously ratified the Confederate Constitution and voted to have a new state constitution drafted.

On March 17, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation granting African-Americans the same rights as whites for contracts, suits, inheritance, property, and punishments for violation of the law.

On March 15, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge negotiated bank loans totalling $2 million dollars to keep the state’s public schools open.

On March 17, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed a joint resolution of the state legislature to place a plaque on the wall of the Georgia Capitol commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Georgia.

On March 15, 1943, Sea Island was officially named as Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation designating the island that had informally been given several different names.

On March 17, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation creating a commission to revise the 1877 Constitution of Georgia.

On March 15, 1980, USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. Vinson was the first Navy ship named after a living American.

On March 16, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Illinois Democratic Primary. His spiritual successor President Barack Obama, from Illinois, would visit Carter’s home state of Georgia on March 16, 2012.

Howard “Bo’ Callaway, the father of the modern Georgia Republican Party, died on March 15, 2014.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the last day of early voting for the Gwinnett County MARTA referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Today is the final day of the three week early voting period for the referendum, in which Gwinnett voters are being asked whether a contract to join MARTA should be approved. Passage of the referendum means 1 percent sales tax would be levied so the county can be a part of the regional transit system.

Voters who doesn’t cast a ballot by 7 p.m. today at the elections headquarters in Lawrenceville or at one of seven satellite voting locations will have to go to their regular assigned polling location Tuesday, which is the referendum date. County officials have previously said no votes can be cast at the elections headquarters on the day of the referendum.

As of Wednesday night, 25,616 Gwinnett voters had cast advance in person ballots during early voting.

Democrat Stacey Abrams met with former Vice President Joe Biden to divide up the spoils discuss the future, according to the Associated Press.

Biden, 76, who served as President Barack Obama’s closest adviser, is on the cusp of deciding whether he’ll make his third run for the presidency. Abrams, 45, narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race last November. She is being heavily recruited to run for the Senate in 2020, but she’s not ruled out making a presidential bid herself. She also could be considered as a vice presidential running mate.

A person close to Abrams confirmed the meeting, saying it was set at Biden’s request. The person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Biden and Abrams represent starkly different identities for a Democratic Party in flux, with one an aging white man who is the consummate Washington politician and the other an up-and-coming black woman from Generation X who has become a national political celebrity even in defeat. Her star climbed higher when she delivered the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last month.

If Abrams doesn’t run or doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, she could be a vice presidential pick, especially if Biden or another white candidate won the nomination. There is wide agreement across the Democratic spectrum that the party will require a 2020 ticket with some racial and gender balance.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan will support legislation term-limiting him, according to the Gainesville Times.

State Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, will propose a constitutional amendment creating a term limit for Georgia’s lieutenant governor position.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said in a statement Thursday that he supports the idea.

“The Office of Lt. Governor is no place for academic tenure,” Duncan said. “Individuals elected to this office should focus solely on serving Georgians, and no Lt. Governor should consider this post a permanent home.”

Georgia Senate plans to take over Hartsfield-Jackson airport could run into obstacles in the Georgia House and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to 11Alive.

Just before the legislative session started in January, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told reporters he saw no need to scrap a management structure that has been running the airport “pretty well.” The Senate bill was assigned to the House Rules Committee rather than the Transportation Committee, where legislation regarding airports is typically referred to, at least initially, Atlanta Business Chronicle reported.

[T]he Federal Aviation Administration would have to approve an ownership transfer.

Under a policy the FAA adopted in 2016 during an effort by the state of North Carolina to take over Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, the federal agency will not consider a transfer application if the local parties involved don’t agree on the plan.

Doug Selby, the city’s bond counsel, told the Senate committee the current lease agreements signed by Delta Air Lines Inc. and other carriers at Hartsfield-Jackson prohibit a transfer of ownership. Delta CEO Ed Bastian has spoken out publicly against the takeover bill. Selby also cited a letter from the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission stating a change in ownership could dampen investment in the revenue bonds that finance airport operations.

House Bill 316 by State Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) passed the Georgia Senate and is headed for Governor Kemp’s desk, according to The Brunswick News.

The Senate approved the legislation by substitute Wednesday, and the House voted to concur with the Senate amendment, eliminating the need for a conference committee and allowing the bill to clear the General Assembly.

State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem and the lead sponsor of the bill, said it had five amendments requested by Democrats that were incorporated into H.B. 316, though several of these just codified what was already expected practice or specified in other rules or instructions.

From the Associated Press:

Republican lawmakers and many county election officials say the electronic ballot marking devices will be the easiest to administer and can accommodate all Georgians, including those with disabilities.

But Democrats and cybersecurity experts say the machines are hackable and that hand-marked paper ballots would be cheaper and more secure.

Systems using electronic ballot markers include touchscreen computers, where voters make their selections and then print a paper ballot. Under the legislation, voters will have a chance to review a summary of selections on their ballot printout before putting it through a scanner, where votes are tallied. Setups from different vendors vary, but many offer ballot printouts that include text summaries as well as barcodes where voter selections are encoded for tabulation.

House Bill 514 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), creating a new Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission, passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, according to Georgia Health News.

The commission would be authorized to take ‘’a very deep dive’’ into the state’s mental health system, said Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), lead sponsor of House Bill 514. He said Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) have all worked on the commission proposal.

The 23-member panel would include “unbiased’’ experts in the mental health and substance abuse fields, Tanner said. He likened it to the criminal justice reform commission launched by former Gov. Nathan Deal.

The House has already approved the bill 152-10.

The Senate panel’s vote for a behavioral health commission came on the same day a House panel canceled a hearing on high-profile legislation to let Gov. Kemp seek federal health care waivers. Such waivers, if granted, would allow Georgia to extend health coverage to more low-income people.

The chairman of the special House committee on health care access, Richard Smith (R-Columbus), told GHN that the panel wasn’t yet ready to take up Senate Bill 106, which has the potential to increase Medicaid enrollment as well as change rules in the state’s health insurance exchange.

House Bill 481 by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Cobb) was heard by the Senate Science & Technology Committee yesterday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A Georgia Senate committee listened to emotional testimony Thursday over a proposal that would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The committee did not take a vote, and it was unclear when they might.

Abortion opponents across the country are hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court — with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will either reverse Roe v. Wade, or uphold specific state laws that could undermine the court’s 1973 ruling establishing the right of women to abort a fetus that can’t survive outside the womb.

Similar “heartbeat” legislation passed the GOP-controlled Ohio Senate on Wednesday and was approved by the Tennessee House last week. Several other states including Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina are also considering similar legislation.

The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest, but only when the woman files a police report first, and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

Some changes have been made since House passage, including to allow a pregnant woman to pursue child support from the father for direct medical and pregnancy expenses.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has come out in favor of the anti-abortion proposal.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission is considering turning over management of the water system to the Macon Water Authority and imposing a new management fee, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Floyd County Superior Court will implement a family accountability court, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“These are some of the hardest cases we have to deal with,” Judge Jack Niedrach said Thursday during a presentation to Rome Rotary Club members on the state of the local judiciary.

“Drug use and mental health are often issues; there’s rarely enough money for two households; and then there are instances of abuse — spousal and child abuse,” he added.

Niedrach said Chief Judge Bryant Durham is working with Judge Kay Ann Wetherington, who was sworn into office in January, to set up a family accountability court. The goal: to find solutions other than incarceration to problems in local homes.

The family court will join the mental health court Niedrach started and the drug court over which Judge Billy Sparks presides. Niedrach said accountability courts — part of the criminal justice reforms spearheaded by former governor Nathan Deal in the past few years — are proving effective.

Lawrenceville City Council member David Still will run for Mayor after incumbent Judy Johnson announced she will not run for reelection, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The first-term councilman and Lawrenceville native has served on the City Council since 2016, but he joined the Downtown Development Authority in 2012 and currently serves on both boards. He also served various duties in the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association from 2006 to 2010.

He was also former Councilman Tony Powell’s campaign manager in 2010.

“I’ve always felt, to be on the council, you needed to be engaged and understand (the city government) in some form as a volunteer and I consider the council position a volunteer position and a servant position,” Still said. “Then, to be mayor, you need to have served some time on the council so you understand how it works.”

The first-term councilman and Lawrenceville native has served on the City Council since 2016, but he joined the Downtown Development Authority in 2012 and currently serves on both boards. He also served various duties in the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association from 2006 to 2010.

He was also former Councilman Tony Powell’s campaign manager in 2010.

“(I want) to just continue to make (the city) healthy, to find a way to create that live, work, play community so that where you work, where go to church, where you go to play, where you live, you’re building community — you have all of those relationships,” Still said.

Thomas Mahoney, III was reppointed Chairman of the Chatham County Board of Elections through 2022, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chairman job functions include acting as the board’s spokesperson and participating in Election Day by visiting polling places and being present in the elections office during the entire tabulation period. The chairman also provides oversight of the elections supervisor and assistant elections supervisor on job duties and responsibilities by spending at least two hours per week in the office. The position pays $600 a month.

The board has attracted increased scrutiny following the Nov. 6 midterm election, with about a dozen speakers at the subsequent meeting complaining about long lines and waiting times, an inadequate amount of voting machines, poorly trained poll workers, and a lack of provisional and sample ballots.

Dozens of residents had also called for the resignation of Mahoney and Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges. Mahoney and Bridges disputed some of the claims as being inaccurate, while acknowledging there were some problems that did occur that day. The complexity of the ballot, which included lengthy amendments many voters had not read ahead of time, a difficulty finding poll workers, and a turnout that rivaled a presidential election was also cited by Bridges as a cause of the long waits.