The blog.

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On March 18, 1766, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, which required American colonists to purchase a stamp for every legal or printed document they obtained.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.

14
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 14, 2019

Grendel DeKalb

Grendel is a 1-year old, female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from LifeLine at DeKalb County Animal Services in Chamblee, GA.

Coco Crispy DeKalb

Coco Crispy is a 59-pound female mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from LifeLine at DeKalb County Animal Services in Chamblee, GA.

Dougie DeKalb

Dougie is an 85-pound male mixed breed dog who is available for adoption from LifeLine at DeKalb County Animal Services in Chamblee, GA.

14
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 14, 2019

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879.

S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, was born on March 14, 1921.

Elvis Presley played the Fox Theater in Atlanta on March 21, 1956.

The largest traffic accident in Georgia history occurred on March 14, 2001 on I-75 in Catoosa County, involving 125 cars, injuring 39 people and killing 5.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

TBD RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

8:00 AM SENATE FINANCE- TAX EXPENDITURE SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

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

8:00 AM HOUSE Insurance Life & Health Subcommittee 415 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 32) House Chamber

12:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- AD VALOREM SUBCOMMITTEE- UPON ADJOURNMENT 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB

2:00 PM – Senate Mystery Committee/Wildcard

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Occupational/Professional Licensing Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 307 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION – CANCELLED 310 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY MEZZ 1

Georgia Exports exceeded $40.5 billion dollars in 2018, according to the Albany Herald.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Wednesday that Georgia’s 2018 international trade numbers set a new record with exports surpassing $40.5 billion. This reflects a 9 percent increase over 2017.

Kemp said total trade between Georgia and the world spanned 223 countries and territories, reaching a new high at $139.3 billion.

“Trade is a vital part of our state’s economy, and it is exciting to see Georgia products in such high demand across the globe,” Kemp said. “I thank Gov. (Sonny) Perdue and Gov. (Nathan) Deal for prioritizing Georgia’s success on the international stage and their commitment to expanding our state’s trade industry. With nearly 90 percent of exporters classified as small businesses, the 2018 trade numbers showcase the strength and diversity of Georgia’s economy.”

Georgia reclaimed its rank last year as the 11th-largest exporting state in the United States, and in the past decade Georgia exports have grown by 71 percent. Companies in Georgia exported to 212 unique countries and territories. The top five markets for Georgia products were Canada, Mexico, China, Germany and Singapore.

The United States Department of Defense included $86 million in its new budget for new hangars near Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“The hangars at Hunter Army Airfield are more than 50 years old and are not in suitable condition to meet the needs of the Army’s aviation units,” said Carter. “In fact, the Army has even rated the hangars at Hunter as a ‘failing facility.’ This is completely unacceptable and it has been a top priority of mine to ensure our military has what it needs to be the most well equipped and well prepared force on the planet.”

The proposed DOD budget also includes $24 million for new hangars at the Air National Guard’s Air Dominance Center off Robert B. Miller Jr. Road.

“A new hangar will help facilitate more training exercises and more units at the Air Dominance Center,” said Carter. “A new hangar is especially necessary to accommodate the fifth-generation fighters that utilize the facility for exercises. The Air Dominance Center is an elite training center and I will continue looking for ways to support their important work.”

The South Carolina State House is considering legislation aiming to stop the lowering of the Savannah River, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

South Carolina legislators are trying to use an amendment to a bill to block lowering the pool of water in the Savannah River through a proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan by keeping a key state agency from issuing a permit to the Corps.

The state’s governor and attorney general are also vowing to fight to keep the pool from being lowered, said Rep. William “Bill” Hixon, R-North Augusta.

The South Carolina House of Representatives passed what is called a proviso to a bill that would essentially prevent S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control from issuing a permit to the Corps if it plans to carry through on a recommended plan to replace New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam with a rock weir fish passage that would leave the pool nearly two feet lower on average at the Fifth Street Bridge by downtown Augusta. Hixon said he is confident the Senate will also pass it and Gov. Henry McMaster will sign it because he has already approved the language in the bill.

House Bill 316 by State Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) passed the State Senate, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The state Senate on Wednesday approved a House plan calling for the statewide purchase of new electronic touchscreen voting machines that print a paper ballot.

The vote, along party lines, comes just months after a highly contentious race for Georgia governor, and amid several lawsuits challenging the state’s handling of elections and a probe by U.S. House Democrats.

A conference committee will be appointed to iron out the differences between the two versions and Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign it into law.

But Robert Brady, Floyd County’s chief elections clerk, said he’s not convinced the new system will be ready to use in the 2020 elections. Brady, a member of the Georgia Elections Officials Association who’s been involved in the testing and discussions, said there’s a lot to get done in a year.

“First they have to pick a system,” he told the county’s board of elections members Tuesday. “There are nine official — seven real — contenders and they haven’t decided which one to buy.”

“The state will pay for the bulk of this,” Brady told his board. “They have about $180 million allocated … But it appears the counties will get stuck with the training for deputies. This is some of the turmoil.”

From The Brunswick News:

The bill is favored by the governor and legislative Republican leadership, though generally opposed by Democrats and even some Republicans — notably the conservative group FreedomWorks — because of a number of factors that include possible corruption, undefined cost to the state and localities, problems with auditing and unreliability of the machines themselves. Opponents frequently point to hand-marked paper ballots as the preferred alternative.

“The audit language itself in this bill is extremely weak,” state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said. “It doesn’t require any risk-limiting audits, except for the pilot program, which is in one county. It doesn’t require them after that. So, all this talk about audits — not only can you not even do them with these machines, the bill doesn’t even say we’re going to have them anyway. What a joke. The pre-certification audit isn’t even a risk-limiting audit in this bill — it’s a tabulation audit, and there is a difference. Shame on any of you who have not bothered to ask that question.”

From the AJC:

The partisan divide over how to best safeguard democracy in Georgia comes after November’s heated race for governor. Democrat Stacey Abrams, who opposes electronic voting, alleged that widespread problems with voting machines caused inaccurate counts, while Kemp said the state’s voting system conclusively showed he won.

Members of both political parties agreed on one thing: Georgia should switch to a voting system that includes a paper ballot to check electronic vote counts. Georgia is one of just four states that relies entirely on electronic voting machines without a verifiable paper trail, along with Delaware, Louisiana and South Carolina.

Georgia would become the first state in the country to rely entirely on ballot-marking devices for every voter on Election Day. Some jurisdictions in 24 states use similar voting systems, often to assist voters with disabilities.

Republican Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis said he fears paper ballots completed with a pen could be used to manipulate election results. He suspected fraud occurred during his campaign for office in 1998, when initial results showed he had won by 23 votes but an additional 151 paper ballots appeared during a recount, handing the election to his opponent.

“Paper ballots are a way to fraud an election. I for one will not stand for that,” said Mullis, who represents the Chickamauga area. “The ballot process should be the most secure place in our voting structure in America.”

House Bill 525 to restructure the Georgia International Maritime Trade Center Authority passed out of the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The bill, which was sponsored by Ron Stephens (R-District 164) and passed the house last Thursday, establishes the Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority. It replaces the local authority with a state authority that provides bonding capacity, as well as a tax-exempt status for the operation of the facility, bringing the Savannah Convention Center’s operation and governance in line with other convention facilities in Georgia.

Stephens previously told the Savannah Morning News that while there is still no guarantee that the project will be funded, the move would at least put the budget request into consideration. Smith echoed those comments on Wednesday.

“We know we’re not going to get any money if we don’t have the proper structure, and the bill creates the proper structure in the governor’s mind, so whether we’ll get money because we have the proper structure is still unknown, but we know we won’t get any if we don’t have the proper structure in place,” Smith said.

The bill still has to pass the senate before the governor can sign it into law. It passed the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Wednesday afternoon and now heads to the Senate Rules Committee next week.

Senate Bill 77 by State Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Upper Left Hand Corner) would add protections to public monuments, and passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee, according to The Brunswick News.

Most talk in the House about the legislation occurred in subcommittee Tuesday, which was held in a room that so often has livestreamed meetings that the General Assembly homepage has a link to it — Room 341 in the Capitol, which is also referred to as the Appropriations Room. However, while a lot of work occurs in subcommittees, they’re rarely broadcast. Out of eight meetings held Tuesday in Room 341, to see six of them, you had to actually be physically present.

State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, livestreamed the meeting on Facebook, which may well be the only audio and visual record available to the public as to what occurred. Much of the testimony centered around Confederate monuments, though Mullis made a point of saying the legislation protects all monuments. A leader of the state Sons of Confederate Veterans testified, as did people educated in the contemporary history of when these monuments were erected.

The lead sponsor of Senate Bill 77 — state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga — was in the Senate for the debate on House Bill 316 and was unavailable for the committee meeting, so state Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, presented it. The representatives, in their questions, deftly talked around the the elephant in the room.

Gwinnett County leaders are worried about the early voting demographics in the MARTA referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Depending on who you ask in the group, which spoke at an Atlanta Press Club panel discussion in Atlanta on Monday, the March 19 referendum could — in their opinion — pass by a margin as narrow as 51.5 percent or as wide as 54 percent.

But even as Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, MARTA CEO Jeff Parker, ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker and State Road and Tollway Authority Executive Director Chris Tomlinson made those predictions, there was an undercurrent of concern.

A chief concern was that not enough young people are showing up during early voting to cast their ballots on the issue. People under 50 are believed to make up less than one-quarter of the voter turnout so far during early voting.

“It’s about the turnout,” said Nash, who predicted a 52.75 percent vote in favor of passage. “Right now, we need very much to see younger folks wake up to the fact that there is a referendum and get to the polls. I’m surprised that the younger folks are not recognizing that it’s really their future that we’re talking about with this referendum.”

Opponents of the Camden County Spaceport are speaking up at public hearings, according to The Brunswick News.

David Kyler, director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, was among those who opposed the creation of the authority and spaceport itself, saying the arguments in support of the proposal don’t add up.

“If ever licensed by the Federal Aviation Authority, so-called Spaceport Camden would be the only such facility ever approved that features inhabited areas in the flight path hazard zones where dangerous debris from launches falls to the earth,” he said in an email after the meeting.

Kevin Lang, a lawyer and Little Cumberland Island resident, said county commissioners are intent to create a spaceport, even though it’s unlikely commercial rockets will ever be launched at the site.

In the three public hearings held to discuss the creation of an authority, Lang said 47 people spoke against the spaceport and the creation of an authority, and three spoke in favor of the proposal.

Despite the public opposition expressed at the meetings, Lang predicted the General Assembly will approve the local legislation to allow the county to establish the authority.

“They’re going to approve it,” he said. “If it wasn’t a local bill, I don’t think it could pass. There’s a lot of deference to local legislation.”

Congressman Austin Scott‘s office will make a road trip in March and April, according to the Albany Herald.

staff from Scott’s Tifton and Warner Robins district offices will offer constituents assistance with a number of federal issues, ranging from Medicare and Social Security to veterans’ benefits.

“We encourage those who have questions on various issues to come by during these hours and meet privately with staff,” a news release from Scott’s office said. “Call either Rep. Scott’s Tifton office at (229) 396-5175 or Warner Robins office at (478) 971-1776 for questions regarding an upcoming mobile office.”

The Muscogee County Board of Education is considering docking the pay of elected members who miss meetings, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

District 5 representative Laurie McRae, the board’s vice chairwoman, told the Ledger-Enquirer on Wednesday that her proposals still aren’t in a written draft yet, so they might not be ready in time for the March 18 meeting. Plus, like any policy change, they would have to wait for 30 days before a vote can be taken after they are formally presented. Still, they generated debate during Monday’s work session.

According to current policies, board members are paid $1,000 per month regardless of their attendance, but three consecutive absences not excused by a majority of the board “shall be held to be a resignation” from the board.

At a Georgia School Boards Association conference in December, McRae said, she heard about another school district that pays its board members per the number of meetings they attend.

“I thought that’s a good idea,” McRae said. “… Attendance is the basic responsibility of all board members to the public taxpayers as well as to the school district and other board members. It’s an essential component of a healthy, functioning board.”

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul released his department’s 2018 report, according to the Albany Herald.

The Landings Bird Cam on Skidaway Island allows viewers to watch an osprey family in its nest, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Landings Bird Cam debuted in mid-2014 with internet-connected cameras aimed at what had been an active bald eagle nest. In the next breeding season, though, great horned owls took over and raised two owlets each in 2015 and 2016. Then ospreys moved into the site in 2017, laying eggs that year and last and successfully fledging one chick in 2018.

The camera takes in the sunrise over the marsh and captures a surprising number of other species, including recent visits by a wood stork, eagles, and bluebirds. Attentive volunteer camera operators zoom in on any action.

“From the camera we see so many of them up close and personal,” Lambright said.

13
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 13, 2019

Diego Brantley

Diego is a young male Australian Cattle Dog / Blue Heeler & German Shepherd Dog mix puppy who is available for adoption from BARC Brantley Animal Rescue Coalition in Nahunta, GA.

Purdy Brantley

Purdy is a female Pit Bull Terrier & Labrador Retriever mix puppy who is available for adoption from BARC Brantley Animal Rescue Coalition in Nahunta, GA.

Pippu Brantley

Pippy is a young male Treeing Walker Coonhound mix who is available for adoption from BARC Brantley Animal Rescue Coalition in Nahunta, GA.

13
Mar

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

On March 13, 1736, the Spanish Governor of Florida complained to Georgia’s James Oglethorpe about English settlements and forts in areas claimed by Spain.

On March 13, 1868, the first impeachment trial of a United States President began in the Senate. President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House for allegations based on his Reconstruction policies that allegedly violated federal law.

Sworn in as president after Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, President Johnson enacted a lenient Reconstruction policy for the defeated South, including almost total amnesty to ex-Confederates, a program of rapid restoration of U.S.-state status for the seceded states, and the approval of new, local Southern governments, which were able to legislate “black codes” that preserved the system of slavery in all but name. The Republican-dominated Congress greatly opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction program and passed the “Radical Reconstruction” by repeatedly overriding the president’s vetoes. Under the Radical Reconstruction, local Southern governments gave way to federal military rule, and African-American men in the South were granted the constitutional right to vote.

In March 1867, in order further to weaken Johnson’s authority, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over his veto. The act prohibited the president from removing federal office holders, including Cabinet members, who had been confirmed by the Senate, without the consent of the Senate.

On March 13, 1957, Governor Marvin Griffin signed a joint resolution by the Georgia General Assembly purporting to impeach United State Chief Justice Earl Warren and associate justices Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Thomas Clark, Felix Frankfurter, and Stanley Reed, and calling on Congress to impeach the Justices.

On this date in 1992, 25 years ago, “My Cousin Vinny” was released.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Republican James Burchett appears to have won a special runoff election for House District 176, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

He beat Franklin Patten of Lakeland to fill Jason Shaw’s former Georgia House of Representative seat, according to preliminary numbers from the Georgia Secretary of State website.

Burchett will now represent District 176, which covers portions of Lowndes, Lanier, Ware and Atkinson counties.

Shaw was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to serve on the Public Service Commission this year, forcing a special election for his seat on Feb. 12.

Not including provisional ballots, a total of 4,322 ballots were counted on Election Day Tuesday for the runoff.

There are 30,340 registered voters in District 176. Less than 15 percent of voters participated in the runoff election.

Burchett of Waycross garnered the most votes with 59 percent or 2,555 votes. During the special election, he received 1,494 votes.

The race was overwhelmingly determined by Ware County’s turnout. Burchett received 1,575 votes from his home county, which is more than Patten got from every county in the special election. Patten only received 4 percent of the Ware County vote or 73 votes.

Under the  Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – HIGHER EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 31) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

12:30 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary 132 CAP

12:45 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs Election Subcommittee 406 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE INTERGOVERNMENTAL COORDINATION 506 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 341 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 415 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM 125 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL RULES

3:00 PM HOUSE Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care 341 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 415 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE INTERSTATE COOPERATION 125 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT MEZZ 1

In Congress, Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue joined Congressman Buddy Carter in seeking to name Savannah as home to a new Air National Guard Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Air Force is considering locations to establish an additional AES to meet recommendations by the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Perdue, Isakson and Carter encouraged the Air Force to select the 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Hilton Head Air National Guard Station for the new AES.

“As the Air Force continues with its strategic basing process to establish a new Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron within the Air National Guard, we respectfully request your careful consideration of the 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Hilton Head Air National Guard Station as a top candidate to fulfill basing criteria,” the letter reads.

“It would mean a couple of things for Savannah,” said Carter. “It would mean that we would have emergency personnel located right here and that would make a whole lot of difference. Secondly, this would bring over 100 jobs to our area. It would bring jobs to our citizens. And we’ve got 10 different nursing schools right in this area that they could draw from.”

House Bill 501 by State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) was heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Environment committee, according to The Brunswick News.

Tyler Harper, the state Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee chairman, may have tried to speed along the passage of the oyster mariculture bill — House Bill 501 — by noting it had the same language in Senate Bill 182, which earlier passed the committee and the full Senate.

The discussion lasted for nearly 30 minutes, and included, at times, heated testimony to the committee by Savannah Republican state Rep. Jesse Petrea, the bill’s sponsor, and state Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island. Jones spoke first, giving background as to his experience with the subject and legislation.

“In the remaining 30 seconds that I have here, let me make it clear to this committee, this bill does not have the support of the producers, of the people, this legislation is intended to help,” Jones said. “And so, I would submit to this committee, if this legislation is not supported by those people, the oystermen and the producers and the distributors and the restauranteurs, if they do not support this legislation, I just have to ask then, why are we even considering passage of this legislation?

“If this legislation does not help those that we are working to help, and in fact will work against the growth of the mariculture industry in Georgia, then I submit to you that this bill should not be passed out of committee today.”

The State Senate will consider House Bill 316, the elections bill, today, according to the AJC.

The conflict over election integrity will be a driving force in Wednesday’s state Senate vote to switch Georgia to a $150 million voting system that combines touchscreens and printed-out paper ballots. The state’s current electronic voting machines don’t produce paper ballots.

Voters would pick their candidates on touchscreens that are attached to ballot printers. Then voters could review their printed choices before inserting their ballots into scanning machines.

The Republican majority in the Georgia General Assembly is siding with election officials who want to install the new voting machinery, called ballot-marking devices, in time for next year’s presidential primary election. The measure, House Bill 316, has already passed the state House, and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp supports the voting technology.

Democratic legislators are aligned with cybersecurity experts who prefer paper ballots bubbled in with pens, a voting method that avoids the inherent risks of a computerized system.

The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed House Bill 316, which would change election procedures, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 316 would, among other things, standardize the voting equipment of all Georgia counties, open new avenues for voter registration and change the rules on voting precinct realignments and polling place closures.

The state House of Representatives approved the bill last month, and the Senate plans to take up the discussion today.

Board Chairwoman Patty Gibson asked Channell if the state plans to purchase all the new machines needed or just the touchscreen voting equipment.

“As far as additional expenses, I don’t foresee any because right now we have all those same expenses that we have currently with absentee ballots and provisional ballots,” Channell said.

Gibson responded that she wanted to be absolutely sure before the county gets too deep into the budgeting process for the fiscal year 2019-2020.

The AJC hosted a public forum on Gwinnett County’s MARTA referendum.

With only three days left in early voting, and voting day on March 19 still to come, about 35 county residents who are also subscribers to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution gathered at Gwinnett Technical College on Tuesday evening to hear key players discuss the referendum.

How they vote will be closely watched around the region. Gwinnett County’s MARTA decision could boost momentum for transit expansion in other counties across metro Atlanta. Or it could sidetrack those efforts for years to come. The referendum’s outcome is expected to provide a glimpse of a changing attitude toward MARTA and public transit — a traditionally hard sell outside Fulton and DeKalb counties where the state’s largest transit agency operates. Cobb County officials are aiming to hold a transit referendum in 2022, but no concrete plans have been approved.

If voters approve it, the transit plan between Gwinnett and MARTA would span 30 years and includes a heavy rail connection to MARTA’s Gold Line with a station in Norcross. Bus service would add rapid bus and bus rapid transit and serve riders in most parts of Gwinnett. Current bus routes reach Lawrenceville and the southwest part of the county.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is calling on Atlanta’s business community to oppose House Bill 481, the abortion bill in the state Senate, according to the AJC.

Corporate powers and business groups explode in outrage each time a “religious liberty” measure surfaces in Georgia. Stacey Abrams wants to know why a bill that would outlaw most abortions isn’t triggering the same reaction.

The Democrat on Tuesday called on the powerful coalition to rally against House Bill 481, which would ban most abortions as soon as doctors can detect a heartbeat – as early as six weeks.

“It’s very short-sighted for the business community not to be engaged right now,” said Abrams. “Because once this bill is signed into law, that becomes the reputation of Georgia.”

[B]usiness boosters have said little about the abortion bill, which has earned support from Kemp and other Republican leaders. The governor, for one, said the restrictions preserve the sanctity of life and help uphold his campaign promises.

“I campaigned on signing the toughest abortion bill in the country,” he said, “and this is the toughest one we’ve got in the Legislature now.”

Two candidates are running for a seat on the Lowndes County Board of Education for District 2, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The district, which represents the southeast part of Valdosta, has been vacant since Vanassa Flucas announced her departure during the Aug. 28, 2018, city school board meeting.

Instead of filling it then, the board voted to wait until special elections this month.

Only District 2 residents can vote to fill the seat.

E-SPLOST, a one-cent sales tax that goes toward both city schools and Lowndes County schools, is also on the ballot. If passed, the proposed E-SPLOST would go into effect when the current education special purpose local option sales tax ends.

Early voting for the two races lasts until Friday, March 15, and Election Day is March 19.

Five candidates for Augusta Commission District 5 met voters in a forum, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

As of Tuesday, only 95 people had voted early ahead of the election next week.

Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson announced she will not run for reelection this year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Johnson said she has decided to not seek re-election when her office is up for re-election this fall, meaning nearly a decade of leadership at the top of Lawrenceville’s government will come to and end at the conclusion of 2019.

With several redevelopment projects in the city either underway or in the planning stages, Johnson said she felt it was the right time to step away from life as an elected official. Those projects that are being worked on will ensure whoever the next mayor is will have steady ground to stand on, she said.

But the former mayor — who also spent six years on the City Council from 2003 to 2008 — looked back on what has been accomplished through a partnership between herself, the city council, city staff and community partners and emitted a sense of both satisfaction and pride in her hometown.

Democrat Jasper Wilkins announced he will run again for Gwinnett County Commission District 3, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Grayson resident Jasper Watkins III, who was the Democratic party’s nominee for the seat in 2016 and narrowly missed pushing Commissioner Tommy Hunter into a recount, has confirmed he plans to run for the seat again next year. The retired Army officer said he filed his paperwork earlier this year.

“District 3 is our county’s ‘Last Frontier’ and we’ve got to make some serious changes to ensure our growth and continued prosperity,” Watkins said in a statement. “While I truly believe our county elected officials serve with the best of intentions, our existing commission can be improved upon.

So far, Watkins and Snellville insurance adjuster Derrick Wilson are the only candidates who have publicly announced candidacies for the seat. Hunter, the Republican incumbent, has not yet formally said whether he will seek re-election.

Macon is considering how to reduce pedestrian accidents, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“I found that Macon was leading the state in pedestrian deaths, and it bothered me,” said Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas.

Lucas helped start the Macon-Bibb County Pedestrian Safety Review Board four years ago. The group consists of regular citizens, traffic engineers, public health and education officials, and the Bibb sheriff’s office.

“Macon should not lead the state, and be way up there in the nation for pedestrian deaths, we just shouldn’t be,” she said. “It’s an important health issue, public health issue, public safety issue, and one that we are finding that we can address.”

It’s still a problem. Pedestrian deaths last year in Macon/Bibb County reached 14, the highest total in at least seven years. Three deaths occurred over just one weekend.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is budgeted for $130 million dollars in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga., 1st District), have all pushed to secure full capability funding to keep SHEP on track in fiscal year 2020.

Prior to the administration’s 2020 budget planning, Isakson, Perdue, Carter and the Georgia U.S. House delegation wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, noting the project is getting close to its final stages and asking for $130 million to keep the project on schedule, according to Casey Black, spokesperson for Perdue.

Isakson, Perdue and Carter also met with Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James to discuss the fiscal year 2020 budget request Feb. 14 in Isakson’s Washington office.

Carter, Perdue and Isakson all praised President Trump and his administration for the funding.

“I want to thank President Trump, OMB Director Mulvaney and Acting Director Vought and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James for the highest budget request for SHEP to date,” Carter said. “This again proves their understanding of the critical importance of this project for America and the need to keep it on time and on track. We have fought tirelessly for this federal support and we will continue this work until it becomes a reality. With a benefit to cost ratio of 7.3 to 1, there is no time to waste.”

James said the civil works budget for the Corps reflects the Trump administration’s priorities for water resources infrastructure.

From the Statesboro Herald:

Trump’s budget request for fiscal 2020 would be the federal government’s largest annual expenditure yet on the $976 million Savannah harbor expansion. The figure was contained in the Army Corps of Engineers’ detailed civil works budget Tuesday, the day after the White House released Trump’s broader $4.7 trillion proposed budget.

“That is wonderful, wonderful news,” said Rep. Buddy Carter, the Georgia Republican whose district includes Savannah. “We’re halfway through, but that does us no good. We need to be completely through before we see the benefits. I think the administration has finally caught on to that.”

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia noted in a statement he’s been fighting to deepen the Savannah harbor for his entire two decades in Congress.

“With this announcement, the finish line is finally in sight,” Isakson said.

Trump’s $130 million budget request would put the harbor expansion on target for completion in 2022, GOP Sen. David Perdue of Georgia said in a news release.

Operation Gunsmoke in Georgia and South Carolina netted 26 indictments, allegedly targeting violent gangs, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The investigations were initiated by the Regional Anti-Gang Enforcement Task Force of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Bobby L. Christine, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. According to a news release from Christine’s office, investigations began in 2017 of a member of the Bloods street gang who is alleged to have coordinated criminal activity while being held in the Aiken County Detention Center awaiting retrial for murder in a 2008 drug-related home invasion.

ATF agents in Georgia and South Carolina identified multiple targets in the investigation. Nine were named in 25 criminal charges listed in three indictments by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia, while 17 additional defendants have been indicted in the South Carolina district.

12
Mar

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for March 12, 2019

Pluto Hall

Pluto is a male German Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from the Hall County Animal Shelter in Gainesville, GA.

Scrappy Hall

Scrappy is a male Catahoula Leopard Dog mix who is available for adoption from the Hall County Animal Shelter in Gainesville, GA.

Jameson Hall

Jameson is a male Pit Bill mix who is available for adoption from the Hall County Animal Shelter in Gainesville, GA.

The Hall County Animal Shelter announced it will require an appointment to turn in pets, according to AccessWDUN.

The shelter announced the change in intake procedure Monday. This comes as one of the recommendations of Best Friend Animal Society, an organization which was called in to make recommendations for the shelter.

Shelter staff previously dealt with unpredictable and high rates of intake, according to a press release from the county, and the appointment intake schedule is designed to combat the lost time and resources from the old way. With the new process, shelter staff have also been trained to provide animal owners with information about rescue organizations and other avenues to find the best fit for the animal – whether or not that includes the shelter.

“We expect the new system to increase the number of live outcomes at the shelter and free up the staff and volunteers’ valuable time to assist in other areas, like pet adoptions,” said Danielle Busch, Hall County Animal Shelter Coordinator.

12
Mar

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

On March 12, 1739, James Oglethorpe, recognized as the Founder of Georgia, wrote the Georgia Trustees, urging them to continue the ban on slavery in the new colony.

Juliette Gordon Low held the first meeting of the Girl Guides, which would later be renamed the Girl Scouts, in her home in Savannah, Georgia on March 12, 1912.

Gianni Agnelli was born on March 12, 1921 in Turin, Italy, and would come to be the wealthiest man in Italy, head and principal shareholder of Fiat, and recognized as an Italian Senator for Life in 1991. Among those who follow fashion, Agnelli has long been recognized as an archetype of the Italian approach to menswear.

His style was about more than clothes—it was an attitude, a philosophical response to absurdity. Watching him could tell you how to live, how to behave. In Italy, they call it sprezzatura, making the difficult look easy. Americans are gonzo, a spirit personified by Hunter S. Thompson, who defined it as a man who learns to fly by falling out of a plane. Agnelli might look gonzo—especially on nights when he showed up in boots and an ill-fitting tie—but was, in fact, sprezzatura; he knew how to fly all along. “When he was not perfectly dressed, it was contrived,” says Taki Theodoracopulos, the writer, columnist, socialite and son of a Greek shipping tycoon. Taki is one of the few surviving members of Agnelli’s social circle. “The tie askew, the unbuttoned shirt—nothing was an accident. Or, to put it another way, it was meant to be an accident, which made it even more stylish.”

Clarence Thomas, originally from Pin Point, Georgia, was sworn in to the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on March 12, 1990.

R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 12, 2007.

Happy birthday to former Atlanta Braves slugger Dale Murphy.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE Insurance -Admin/Licensing Subcommittee 514 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM 341 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE Powell Subcommittee of Public Safety & Homeland Security 515 CLOB

9:30 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS- AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

9:30 AM HOUSE Environmental Quality Subcommittee of Natural Resources and Environment 606 CLOB

10:00 AM FINANCE MEZZ 1

10:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – INSURANCE & LABOR SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE Kelley Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

11:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – CRIMINAL JUSTICE & PUBLIC SAFETY SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

11:30 AM HOUSE Governmental Affairs Elections Subcommittee 341 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs State & Local Government Subcommittee 341 CAP

1:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Finance and Policy 132 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENT – CANCELLED 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 506 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 310 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – COMMUNITY HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

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

4:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – JUDICIAL SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent the weekend in Georgia at Sea Island, according to The Brunswick News.

In addition to VP Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also attended the American Enterprise Institute’s annual World Forum on Sea Island. The conservative think tank’s yearly gathering of political and economic bigwigs is an extremely discreet affair, and some top members of the Brunswick and Glynn County police departments stepped up to ensure the event was uneventful from a security standpoint.

Members of the two law enforcement agencies provided security escorts for Pence, Pompeo and others from the local airport to Sea Island, said Brunswick Police Chief Kevin Jones. Police SWAT team members from both departments provided round-the-clock security on the private resort island as well, he said. Members of Brunswick’s K9 team also took part providing security.

Pence and Pompeo both flew into the into the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport on Friday and departed late Saturday, Jones said. The local law enforcement officers worked in conjunction with the secret service, department of state and other federal agencies, said Glynn County Police Chief John Powell.

Brunswick and Glynn County SWAT team members were stationed on the island throughout the event, which also drew former Vice President Dick Cheney, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and AOL cofounder Steve Case.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is leaving the door open to a national campaign, according to the AJC.

Stacey Abrams raised the possibility of a White House run Monday in a series of social media posts and public remarks, saying that she once thought the soonest she could campaign for president was 2028 but that a bid next year is now “definitely on the table.”

Abrams had previously refused to rule out a campaign for president, but her comments Monday made clear she’s considering joining the growing Democratic field to challenge President Donald Trump.

“She is taking a look at all options on the table in 2020 and beyond,” [former Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo] said.

“20 years ago, I never thought I’d be ready to run for POTUS before 2028,” she said in the social media post. “But life comes at you fast – as I shared in Q&A w @Yamiche at @sxsw. Now 2020 is definitely on the table…”

Abrams has little incentive to rule out any of her options – White House, Senate or governor – too early. She’s in the middle of a nationwide tour to promote her book and has lined up speaking gigs through the Harry Walker Agency, and the element of mystery adds to the intrigue.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Abrams turned heads Monday with a tweet referencing her book, “Lead from the Outside,” in which she mentioned plans for someday running for president of the United States. In the tweet she said she had mentioned that she’d told an interviewer at the SXSW conference and festivals that she might seek the nation’s highest office far sooner than she’d planned to do so.

Governor Brian Kemp signaled openness to medical cannabis legislation, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp sounded receptive to a measure moving through the Georgia Legislature that would allow medical marijuana oil to be grown, manufactured and sold to registered patients.

The Republican told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was impressed by the “strong vote” earlier this month in the House for the measure, which would allow 60 dispensaries to serve the state’s rising number of medical marijuana patients. House Bill 324 was approved by a 123-40 vote.

“When it passes with a constitutional majority,” quipped Kemp, referring to the two-thirds support behind the bill, “it might not matter what I think.”

“I need to learn more about the bill, see what the Senate has to say,” said Kemp. “And I’m trying to understand that we are probably putting people in violation of federal law.”

Two Georgia Democratic legislators are proposing testicular regulation in response to the fetal heartbeat bill. From the Washington Times:

Men of Georgia … state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick is coming after you with her “Testicular ‘Bill of Rights’ Legislation.”

In a memo to her staff Monday morning, which she also posted on Twitter, the Democrat representing an Atlanta-area district said she wanted a bill drafted to include provisions that she laid out in a series of bullet points:

• “Require men to obtain permission from their sexual partner before they are able to obtain a prescription for Viagra or any erectile dysfunction medication.”

• “Ban vasectomy procedures in Georgia … with the name [sic] punitive measures for performing the procedure that are listed in HB481,” a reference to an anti-abortion bill currently before the Georgia House of Representatives.

• “Make it an ‘aggravated assault’ crime for men to have sex without a condom.”

• “A 24-hour ‘waiting period’ for men to purchase any porn or sex toys in the state of Georgia.”

Ms. Kendrick labeled the importance of her Testicular “Bill of Rights” order to her staff as “high” and she said in an interview with Rolling Stone that she wants the legislation ready this week.

“I’m dead serious,” she told the magazine, though she admitted her bill would have little chance of passing.

From Q Magazine Atlanta:

State Rep. Park Cannon, a Democrat from Atlanta, is gathering co-sponsors for a bill that would require men age 55 and older to “immediately report to the county sheriff or local law enforcement agency” when he “releases sperm from his testicles,” according to the AJC.

Cannon said that a 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention argued that increasing men’s involvement in family planning helps improve women’s health, according to the AJC.

“This bill helps men who are well past reproductive age to self-report when they willfully engage in conception,” she said.

The bills are largely symbolic and have little chance of passing. They’re a reaction to the House passing House Bill 481, a measure that would ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which happens at about six weeks.

State legislators are considering new rules on beachfront development on the Georgia coast, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 445, sponsored by Don Hogan (R-St. Simons island) proposes a 25-foot regulated zone between private beachfront development and either the high tide line on beaches without dunes or the landward reach of the sand dune where dunes exist. It also carves out an exemption for highly vulnerable oceanfront lots near a rock groin on the Sea Island Spit.

Environmentalists are concerned those same exemptions could also apply elsewhere on the coast where rock groins exist, such as on Tybee.

Currently the 40-year-old law defines the state’s jurisdiction by drawing a zigzag line connecting 20-foot native trees to each other and to shorefront buildings erected in 1979 or earlier.

Despite sharp criticism from Rep. Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick) and a minority report opposed to the bill, the house approved the bill Tuesday by a vote of 113-54.

Newnan Republican Lynn Smith, chair of the House Natural Resources & Environment Committee, noted that Georgia’s coastal ecosystem must be well managed because it got a B-plus on its most recent environmental report card, which focuses on human health, fisheries and wildlife. But she didn’t note that the Surfrider Foundation’s more pointed look at states’ policies to protect beaches from coastal erosion, irresponsible beach fill, sea level rise, and poorly planned coastal development gave Georgia an F in December.

House Bill 346 by State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would give tenants more rights in dealing with poor living conditions, according to the Gainesville Times.

Renters are sometimes evicted or have their rents raised when they complain to their landlords or local code enforcement agencies seeking fixes to their residences.

It could be a leaky roof, a broken appliance, rodent or bug infestations, or simply poor construction they seek to have remedied.

But because contractual leases often have stipulations that allow a landlord to evict for most any reason with, typically, a 30- or 60-day notice, renters have little legal recourse.

Georgia does not require a “warranty of habitability” that mandates housing meets basic living and health safety standards, although the warranty is usually considered implied from a legal standpoint.

In Georgia, House Bill 346 would still need to pass the Senate and receive the governor’s signature to become law.

If that happens, it would give tenants the opportunity to prove their eviction is retaliatory and have it stopped, while also placing civil penalties on the landlord.

The Georgia Senate will vote on House Bill 316, the elections bill, on Wednesday, according to The Brunswick News.

Once H.B. 316 passed out of the state House on Feb. 26 with a vote of 101-72, it went to the Senate Ethics Committee’s subcommittee on elections and voting, which is chaired by state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak. H.B. 316 passed both subcommittee and committee last week. Ligon, who also serves as the Senate sponsor for the bill, introduced it Monday to the Senate Rules Committee.

“This is the new elections bill, and it’s going to modernize our method of elections in our state,” Ligon said. “We’ll vote on electronic voting machines that’ll actually produce paper ballots so that you can see how you voted. It’ll be more secure and much better.”

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, noted today is “committee day” and they have a lot of House bills to hear and good ones to pass, but Wednesday would be reserved for H.B. 316 debate.

[Democratic Leader Senator Steve] Henson added he’s glad that will be the only legislation on the Wednesday Rules calendar, so there will be a lot of time to discuss it.

Macon-Bibb County will not have a sales tax referendum this year as legislation stalled in the General Assembly, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The first step toward a referendum would be bipartisan support among at least three of five the state House members who represent Macon-Bibb in Atlanta. But the idea of OLOST referendum — a one-penny “other local option sales tax” — does not have that much support from state lawmakers.

Democratic state Rep. Miriam Paris filed a bill on Tuesday that would have set up a vote in Macon-Bibb. But her bill is not going anywhere, she says.

In line with a request from the Macon-Bibb County Commission, her bill would have set up a public referendum on that penny-on-the-dollar sales tax.

Fellow Democrat James Beverly also signed the bill, but Paris said she wasn’t able to get a third signature. Without at least one other supporter, the bill is dead.

And the Legislature on Thursday passed a deadline that makes it almost impossible to move a bill that hasn’t already passed one chamber.

The Whitfield County Commission adopted an ordinance requiring most pets to be spayed or neutered, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

[C]ommissioners voted 3-1 to require dog and cat owners to have their pets spayed or neutered if they are six months old or older or obtain a breeder’s license from the state Department of Agriculture. Animals will also be exempt from the spay/neuter requirement if the owner provides a letter from a veterinarian saying the animal has a medical condition that would not allow the surgery.

Commissioner Harold Brooker cast the dissenting vote. Commissioner Greg Jones was absent, and board Chairman Lynn Laughter, who typically votes only when there is a tie, voted with the majority on the advice of County Attorney Robert Smalley so the measure would have three votes.

“It isn’t right that people will bring in a litter of puppies to the animal shelter for us to put down and they won’t have their female fixed,” said Commissioner Roger Crossen.

Those who violate the law face a fine of up to $1,000 but the law says any citation for a first offense will be dismissed if the owner provides medical records saying the animal has been spayed or neutered.

“I think it will help,” said Samuel Shatz, executive director of the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia. “I’m sure it won’t be 100 percent effective. No law is. But it will send a message that this is what responsible pet owners should do.”

A mother of special needs children writes about what the state could do to better supports students and families, in the Macon Telegraph.

Public school was a nightmare for my kids. To provide a less stressful environment, I chose to leave my career of 14 years as a public school teacher to home-school.

This choice is a step in the right direction for our family, but we desperately need more support. Georgia lawmakers have a unique opportunity this year to extend a vital lifeline to families like mine — those who’ve not only adopted but chosen kids with special needs.

The reality is that traditional public schools are not a one-size-fits-all solution, particularly for kids with emotional and physical challenges. We need more choices. Thankfully, there are two key ways Georgia lawmakers can empower adoptive families with the help they need this year.

The most significant step comes through Educational Scholarship Accounts. These accounts would enable us to pay for adaptive technology and therapies that we simply can’t afford on our own right now.

Another way that lawmakers can assist families like mine is by updating Georgia’s existing Special Needs Scholarship Program. As it stands, the scholarship (which has an average value of $6,672.14 for each child) allows students who are enrolled in public school for at least one year to transfer to another school (public or private) to better meet their educational needs.

Glynn County is laying the foundation for a 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum next year, according to The Brunswick News.

“I think most of the commissioners are receptive to putting in on the ballot so the voters can decide if they want to keep the SPLOST going,” said Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning. “… Anybody that comes into Glynn County, they spend a dollar they pay the tax. When we have a community of some 80-some-thousand people and we have three million visitors, they spend a lot of money here, they are all paying to finance our infrastructure upgrades, and I just don’t think you get any better than that.”

Commissioners discussed a new SPLOST project at a retreat in late February, where they were presented with a list of 84 items county staff felt were deserving of SPLOST revenue.

Voters approved SPLOST 2016 in November of that year. Tax collection began on April 1, 2017, and will continue through September 30, 2020, or until the tax raises a total of $71,595,000.

“Getting a few extra dollars from who we cater to — tourists, our surrounding counties’ visitors, I-95 travelers — I don’t think there’s an argument,” said Commissioner Bob Coleman.

Commissioners talked about a transportation SPLOST, called a TSPLOST, at their retreat in February, but did not put much stock in the idea.

“At the end of the day we’ve got millions of unmet needs, deferred maintenance and implementation projects and no appetite to raise the revenue to meet those needs,” Murphy said.

Newnan City Council approved an increase in the hotel-motel tax from five percent to eight percent, according to the Newnan Time-Herald.

The current rate of 5 percent will now increase to 8 percent, taking into consideration O.C.G.A. § 48-13-51, which allows county and municipal levies on public accommodations charges for promotion of tourism, conventions, and trade shows. The current rate of 5 percent will now increase to 8 percent, taking into consideration O.C.G.A. § 48-13-51, which allows county and municipal levies on public accommodations charges for promotion of tourism, conventions, and trade shows.

The council adopted a resolution in October 2018 requesting Rep. Lynn Smith to introduce legislation in the General Assembly of the State of Georgia to provide for revisions to the current hotel/motel tax rate.

The majority of the council voted for the tax increase, with Councilmember Dustin Koritko, as the sole no vote. He publicly stated his opposition to the matter back in October as well.

Forsyth County is revising zoning standards to allow micro-breweries and distilleries in some areas, according to AccessWDUN.