Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 4, 2014

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 4, 2014

Georgia delegates Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.

On August 3, 1910, Georgia became the ninth state to ratify the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allows Congress to levy a tax without apportioning it among the states.

On August 4, 1958, a wagon train left Dahlonega, headed to Atlanta to pay tribute to the mighty General Assembly deliver 43 ounces of gold to be used to coat the dome of the State Capitol.

On August 3, 1982, Michael Hardwick was arrested, setting in motion the prosecution that would eventually lead to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick.

Skip Caray died on August 3, 2008 and Pete Van Wieren died Saturday, August 2, 2014.

Brian Donegan, a friend of mine, wrote on Facebook about the two great Braves broadcasters and their collegue, Ernie Johnson:

There is no closer relationship than someone who is blind and sports broadcasters. They might not know each other personally but it is an important relationship. Ernie, Skip, and Pete helped me visualize a game I can’t see very well. They were voices of my childhood and I consider them Hall of Fame worthy broadcasters.

They brought our national pastime into the homes of millions of Americans on TBS and what was and still is the largest radio network in Baseball. All three of them deserve to be enshrined in Cooperstown for broadcasting Baseball and all together as a team.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Be careful around school buses that have stopped to let passengers off – many now carry cameras in order to prevent folks from just zipping past when state law requires a full stop while the warning arm is out.

The Libertarians have joined state lawmakers in calling for the legalization of some marijuana-derived medications and have gone a step further, actually calling for legalization of not just medical preparations, but all forms including for recreational use.

“Georgia voters should be allowed to vote on the issue,” said Doug Craig, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Georgia. “If the voters were allowed to vote, we believe they would vote to legalize.”

While the Libertarian Party isn’t always a factor in statewide elections, it does have candidates running for governor and the U.S. Senate this year, in nanotechnologist Andrew Hunt and former Flowery Branch City Councilwoman Amanda Swafford, respectively.

The Bainbridge City Council voted to impose a 2-mill property tax increase and local residents are not amused.

The Bainbridge City Council gave taxpayers a chance to voice these concerns and objections against raising the millage rate Wednesday with two public hearings, both seeing considerable turnout.

“To face another increase, with me being a retired person on a single income, this is devastating to me,” Bainbridge resident Donna Hart said to the council. “I do not understand why it has to be such a large increase at one time.”

Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said the reason for the increase was to stabilize the cash flow the city receives. With $1.5 million in reserves and no end in sight to the decreasing sales tax revenue and other fees, Hobby would like to see a more solid amount of money.

Bainbridge resident Robert Tyson said when taxes are raised, there has to be something given in return to taxpayers.

“If we are not getting better service, why should you go up on the city taxes?” Tyson asked. “What more are we getting in return?”

Meanwhile, Fulton County residents also face a property tax increase, but few have attended meetings to voice opposition.

[W]ith the Fulton Board of Commissioners poised to approve a 17 percent property tax increase Wednesday in defiance of the cap, some of the passion seems to have drained out of county residents. Fewer than 30 people spoke at four recent public hearings on the issue, and some of them supported the tax increase.

By comparison, scores – sometimes hundreds – of people have attended commission meetings this year to support arts funding, senior services and other programs. Most commissioners seem to have concluded it’s better to protect those programs than to implement the deep spending cuts that would be necessary if the first countywide tax hike in 23 years isn’t passed.

“The reality is, from people who say `cut, cut, cut,’ it’s almost an abstract concept,” said commission Chairman John Eaves, who has been pushing for a tax increase for more than a year. “On the other side, I hear people say, `Don’t cut our specific services.’”

Opponents of the tax increase haven’t given up. They’re still urging commissioners to reject the hike and instead cut spending to balance the budget. And they’re threatening to take Fulton to court if commissioners violate the tax cap.

Commissioners “will lose, but only after who knows how long and how many dollars” spent on litigation,” said state Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell.

The Clayton County Commission deadlocked 2-2 in a vote to increase the millage rate to fund improvements to fire services in the county.

Only four board members attended the July 22 hearing and the rate’s approval failed to pass after it received a 2-2 vote. Rooks and Turner voted for the 2 percent millage rate increase to fund the fire department. Commissioners Sonna Singleton Gregory and Gail Hambrick voted against it. Michael Edmondson was absent.

The increase would mean the owner of a $150,000 home in incorporated Clayton County could expect to see about a $10.40 increase in property taxes.

Since that increase didn’t pass, the board now faces two options — either it can come to a majority agreement at the next public meeting or make cuts to the budget that would make it possible not to raise the millage rate.

Gregory and Hambrick said they don’t intend to change their mind about the 2 percent millage rate increase. The two didn’t vote for the Fiscal Year 2015 budget when it passed by a 3-2 vote July 1 and neither wanted to vote for the tax increase that came with it, either.

“I did not support the chairman’s budget because of the use of nearly $14 million of reserves and an additional proposed tax increase,” she wrote. “The CFO has said that this budget is not sustainable. Last night I did not vote in favor of the proposed millage rate hike to raise the taxes of the tax payers of Clayton County.”

The City of Ringgold has advertised a proposed millage rate increase of approximately 3%, from 2.683 last year to 2.763 mills.

While mayor Joe Barger and council members agree that no one likes a tax increase, the board discussed the lack of increase over the past 20 years or so, while also noting reduced city income and higher cost of living as grounds for an increase.

“We’ve had our (the city’s) income reduced roughly $100,000 over the past five years,” explained council member Randall Franks. “If we increase gradually, say three percent, or the rate of inflation, we can start to recoup some of that income.”

Such an increase at that rate would bring in roughly $16,000 more a year.

“If you create say a three-year plan, and at the first year it’s $16,000, then $32,000, and then $48,000, by the third year, we’ve brought back about half of what we’ve lost over the past five years,” Franks said.

“It’s better to do a small yearly increase rather than hitting it all at once,” council member Terry Crawford added.

Rick Unruh and Bryan Upshaw will be sworn in as members of the Houston County Board of Education this week.

State Court Judges have written a brief in thirteen lawsuits against Sentinel Offender Service, a private probation company.

Superior Court Judge Dan­iel J. Craig ruled in Sep­tem­ber that the state statute governing probation services excludes certain powers from private companies hired by courts to manage people sentenced to probation for misdemeanors.

Specifically, he ruled that Sentinel is not empowered to charge a probationer for electronic monitoring or seek an arrest warrant for a probationer after the original sentence has expired.

Although the order only addresses Richmond and Columbia counties, according to the briefs filed on behalf of the 122 State Court judges, its impact will spread to every county in Georgia. The briefs say the order undermines and impedes the ability of State Court judges to impose and enforce probation sentences.

That a judicial council would file such briefs is unprecedented in Georgia, said Augusta attorney John “Jack” Long, who filed the civil rights lawsuits.

“The fact that the private probation industry has sought such assistance shows how weak their legal position before the Supreme Court is,” Long wrote in an e-mail. “This issue is all about money, money and more money that is being extracted from thousands of Georgians as part of a system of justice that is making Georgia the show piece for ‘cash register justice.’ This broken system is making Georgia a state that encourages ‘debtors prisons.’ ”

This weekend’s Georgia Republican Party Victory Tour previewed some of the issues that will be raised during the fall campaigns, including “they ain’t from around here.”

“We both are in the posture of having to combat extensive money coming into our opponents’ fundraising camps, much of it from out of the state, and much of it from organizations that, in my opinion, are not totally compatible with the opinions of most Georgians,” Deal said. “Now my opponent, he’s getting a lot of money from his hometown; Chicago is a wealthy place. I’ve reminded my folks in my hometown of Sandersville, Ga., that they’ve got to keep up. And they’re doing their part. David and I are Georgians. Others would make you think they’re Georgians.”

Deal spoke of the humble beginnings both he and Perdue came from and how both were the sons of school teachers.

Labor unions, he warned, are providing substantial financial assistance to their opponents.

“We are a right-to-work state, folks,” Deal said. “Why do you think we are seeing industrialists and businesses that manufacture things and have large labor forces, what do you think one of the ingredients is that makes Georgia attractive? It is the fact we are a right-to-work state.”

Growth in Georgia would wither, Deal said, if the state loses its right-to-work distinction.

 

He also accused Carter of using the governor’s race as a springboard for higher office.

“I’ve been to Washington, and Barry (Loudermilk) and the rest of you, congratulations. I don’t care to go back,” Deal said. “I wish David and Barry and all of our others who are going there, I wish them well. But I don’t think you can say that on my opponent’s side of the agenda that he will make that kind of promise. He looks to this office as a springboard for something else. Georgia does not need a governor who is always going to weigh in the political scales of balance whether or not he should do this or do that. My scales of balance are what is good for the citizens of Georgia.”

Another line of attack is the assertion that by missing 130 votes during two terms in the State Senate, Jason Carter makes clear that either he’s prioritizing his political career over his senate responsibilities, or that he’s avoiding tough votes.

Democrat Jason Carter missed dozens of votes in the state Senate as he prepared to run for higher office, including key decisions on the fate of new cities in DeKalb County and a constitutional amendment to cap Georgia’s income tax.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis showed Carter missed more than 130 votes on the final outcome of bills or resolutions during two terms in the state Senate, including nearly 60 votes in the past two legislative sessions as he geared up to challenge Gov. Nathan Deal for the state’s top job.

“It’s not only about the missing of the votes, but the votes that he missed and the sequence in which he missed them,” Deal said after a recent campaign stop. “He’ll vote on one issue, and then when a controversial issue comes along, he won’t vote. It’s a pattern of just not showing up when hard judgment calls have to be made.”

Others suggested the missed votes were indicative of a squeamish candidate. Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who presides over the Senate, said in a statement that the governor “has faced tough issues head on while Jason Carter has repeatedly taken a walk on politically sensitive votes.”

He was the sole member of the Senate in 2011 to miss a vote without an excused absence on a proposal to require people to get approval from a separate evaluator before they adopt a child. He also didn’t vote on a House proposal that would give some hunters more leeway to use bait to attract deer. Each passed both chambers and was signed into law by Deal.

Among those he missed was one to permit a ballot question on a constitutional amendment that would cap Georgia’s income tax rate at 6 percent. He was the sole member of the Senate to miss that vote, which ultimately passed despite a Democratic rift, though he voted in favor of an earlier version.

Unaccompanied foreign minors who enroll in Georgia public schools are subject to the same immunization requirements as other students, according to Dalton Public Schools.

Speaking of vaccinations, the second Ebola patient will be brought to Atlanta tomorrow.

Top American public health officials continue to emphasize that treating Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly in the U.S. poses no risks to the public as West Africa grapples with its worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history.

“The plain truth is that we can stop Ebola,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week. “We know how to control it: hospital infection control and stopping it at the source in Africa.”

Liberian officials said a medical evacuation plane would transport Writebol to the United States early Tuesday. Information Minister Lewis Brown told The Associated Press that the flight was expected to leave West Africa between at 1 a.m. and 1.30 a.m. local time Tuesday.

Brantly arrived Saturday under the same protocol, flying from West Africa to Dobbins Air Reserve base outside Atlanta in a small plane equipped to contain infectious diseases. A small police escort followed his ambulance to the hospital, where he emerged dressed head to toe in white protective clothing and walked into the hospital on his own power.

In another television appearance, Frieden said on “Fox News Sunday” that Brantly “appears to be improving.”

Emory Hospital, where one Ebola patient is already being treated and the second is headed, is one of the safest places in the world to treat Ebola, according to health officials.

Emory University Hospital is one of the safest places in the world to treat someone with Ebola. There’s virtually no chance the virus can spread from the hospital’s super-secure isolation unit.

Emory’s infectious diseases’ unit was created 12 years ago to handle doctors who get sick at the CDC. It is one of about four in the country equipped with everything necessary to test, treat and contain people exposed to very dangerous viruses.

In 2005, it handled patients with SARS, which unlike Ebola can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

“Nothing comes out of this unit until it is non-infectious,” said Dr. Bruce Ribner, who will be treating the patients. “The bottom line is: We have an inordinate amount of safety associated with the care of this patient. And we do not believe that any health care worker, any other patient or any visitor to our facility is in any way at risk of acquiring this infection.”

A recent case from the Georgia Supreme Court involving automated license plate readers may have stirred up as many questions as it answered.

While the court’s decision established that Rodriguez could be questioned even though she was not the reason for the tag reader’s alert, it did not provide details on what tag reader usage could be out of bounds.

Without a ruling in his client’s favor, Crawford said law enforcement could use tag readers without restrictions or guidelines.

“I think that the ruling leaving license plate readers on the table for now can create real … violations of (citizen) rights,” he said.

Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said he agreed with the court’s decision in this situation. No matter who was observed driving the car, most officers would have stopped Rodriguez because of the tag reader’s alert regarding Sanchez, the same as they would have had an officer merely recognized a wanted tag himself.

Keenan said whether an officer would continue to question a driver after determining he or she was not the wanted individual would depend on if the fugitive was wanted for a misdemeanor or felony. It would also depend on if the officer was concerned for his safety, according to the court.

Cases against license plate readers have come up before, however, and Crawford expects them to come up again.

“It usually takes the court three to five years to catch up with any technology,” he said. “…It’s a growing process for everybody.”

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