Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 25, 2014

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 25, 2014

On November 25, 1864, Sherman’s 14th and 20th Corps moved toward Sandersville while the 17th Corps fought briefly against a mix of Kentucky Militia, Georgia Military Institute cadets, and Georgia convicts.

On November 25, 1867, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel filed a patent for dynamite. On November 25, 1895, Nobel wrote his will, leaving the equivalent of roughly $186 million (2008 dollars) to endow the Nobel prizes.

On November 25, 1920, the first play-by-play broadcast of a college football game took place at College Station as Texas A&M (then Mechanical College of Texas) took the field against Texas University.

President John F. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on November 25, 1963.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience played its first show at the Bag O’Nails Club in London on November 25, 1966.

Ferguson

A rally will be held at Five Points in Downtown Atlanta today from 5 to 9 PM to address concerns about the Ferguson decision. Will reporters outnumber protesters?

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Michelle Nunn told the AJC that she’s not quite Dunn with politics and might be up for a future Runn for office.

“I feel we ran a good campaign. I feel proud of it. We had a great team – volunteers and staff,” she began. “You spend the first few days being disappointed. Then you spend the next few days feeling a lot of gratitude for the experience. And then you start to get into the analysis of it. I think that will go on for some time.”

When asked if she had another statewide race in her, Nunn’s reply was again studied.

“I will stay involved in service. That’s been the trajectory of my whole career,” she said. But politics?

“I’m certainly invested in continuing to build the kind of Georgia electorate that I think would be most healthy for our state – a two-party dialogue, one that engages more and more people,” Nunn said. “I’ll just leave open the possibility of electoral office.”

Jason Carter told the Albany Herald he was swept in a Republican wave.

Democratic State House Leader Stacey Abrams spoke with Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Jeanne Bonner about what the 2014 elections meant for female candidates.

“I’m concerned by the absence of women in not only the positions themselves but as candidates. I think we have to do a better job on both sides of the aisle to recruit and actively support candidates who not only reflect our partisanship values but reflect our people values. And having women reflected in the composition of our leadership in the state is critical.”

Abrams also says the election results don’t necessarily mean Georgia is averse to electing women to statewide offices.

“I think we have to separate out the candidate and the party,” she said. “This year was a Republican wave year. Republicans won. Republicans did not have women in Georgia as their candidates. The winning party did not elect any women. If the party carried the day, the challenge is their mantel was not held up by a single woman, and that should be very challenging to the Republican Party.”

While Republicans nominated and elected women to the state legislature, none of their nominees for Constitutional offices or Congress were women.

State Senator Curt Thompson (D-Gwinnett) introduced two bills on marijuana legalization. From a press release:

Thompson’s SB 7 would allow doctors to proscribe marijuana of up to two ounces for specific debilitating medical conditions, including: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis-C, ALS, Chrone’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and chronic or debilitating condition that cause Cachexia (wasting syndrome), severe and chronic pain, severe nausea and seizures/muscle spasms from epilepsy or MS. SB 7 also includes a number of common sense limitations and guardrails for dispensing the drug. Marijuana, like any other prescription drug, would be regulated.

“During the 2015 legislative session, we will have the opportunity to provide our doctors with an additional tool by legalizing marijuana for medical use. This past summer, a joint study committee examined the options for legalizing marijuana and, already, three bi-partisan bills have been filed,” said Thompson. “Our discussions of marijuana in Georgia – in its many forms – have been largely limited to children’s health. While I adamantly support cannabis oil treatments for children with severe medical problems, I believe physicians should have the ability to care for all of their patients, regardless of age. SB 7 would provide doctors another tool for care and treatment.”

In addition, Thompson has filed SR 6 to advance the conversation of marijuana use. This constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would legalize, regulate and tax the sale of retail marijuana through licensed establishments. The tax collections would be constitutionally earmarked for education and transportation infrastructure. Many other states have passed similar measures.

Thompson said the retail marijuana would co-exist with, not replace, medical marijuana. SB 7 includes lengthy requirements about licensing facilities, excise taxes and fees, the creation of a state authority to regulate the sales. SR 6, while separate from medical marijuana treatment, puts the discussion of retail marijuana regulation and taxation on the table.

Thompson said SR 6 provides an opportunity to regulate sales and to make available another revenue stream without raising existing taxes.

Preparing for his second term, Governor Nathan Deal made some staff changes:

Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth will become the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) effective in January. Butterworth will replace Charley English, who will assume the position of deputy director of GEMA. The governor has also tapped Brig. Gen. Joe Jarrard, current assistant adjutant general of the Georgia Department of Defense, to serve as the adjutant general of Georgia effective in January.

Camila Knowles, current chief of staff for U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, has been nominated, pending board approval, to be the commissioner for the Department of Community Affairs effective in January. Knowles is replacing Gretchen Corbin, who has been nominated by Deal, pending board approval, as the commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) effective upon Commissioner Ron Jackson’s retirement in January. Matt Arthur, current director for education reform for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, will serve as deputy commissioner of TCSG. Dr. Susan Andrews, current deputy superintendent of Race to the Top at the Georgia Department of Education, has been tapped to replace Arthur.

Deal also nominated Tricia Chastain, current associate vice-president for government relations for the University of Georgia, pending board approval, as president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC). Chastain will replace Tracy Ireland, who has taken a position with the University System of Georgia as vice-chancellor of student enrollment services effective in January. Toby Carr, current planning director of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), will replace Chastain with the University System of Georgia as the associate vice-president for government relations and director of state government relations.

State Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) is working on legislation to move local schools toward digital learning. From the Associated Press:

State Sen. John Albers, a Roswell Republican, said the details of his bill are still in the works but pledged not to force local school districts to cover all costs of moving to digital materials.

Educators across the country are moving toward classrooms based around technology, and the Obama administration this week committed more funding to expand high-speed Internet access and pledged to connect 99 percent of students through their school or library.

That could help solve one of the biggest problems for districts adopting digital materials — access. Students need the material both at school and at home. If a community doesn’t have reliable Internet access, making the switch doesn’t benefit students equally, said Doug Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Director Association.

Albers wants school districts to decide the best way for kids to use those materials. Other states have opted for a variety of laptops or tablets. Albers said he hopes to introduce the bill early in 2015.

“We need to have a goal,” he said. “Technology can prepare out students for the business world, but it’s also the great equalizer whether you live in a suburban, urban or rural environment.”

Rep. Terry England, chair of the Georgia House’s appropriations committee, said he hasn’t heard any discussion of how much Albers’ proposal would cost or what the state could afford. England said many lawmakers agree digital materials have advantages but district officials will need time to phase out textbooks and upgrade their building technology.

Five candidates have qualified for the Special Election for State House District 50, which will be held January 6, 2014.

Christine A. Austin
Party: Libertarian
Email: christine.austin@comcast.net
Age: 44
Occupation: Homemaker

Bradford Jay Raffensperger
Party: Republican
Email: brad@bradforgeorgia.com
Age: 59
Johns Creek, GA 30022
Occupation: Licensed Professional Engineer
Website: www.bradforgeorgia.com

Royce M. Reinecke
Party: Republican
Email: Roycereinecke@gmail.com
Age: 62
Johns Creek, GA 30022
Occupation: Engineer/Retired

Kelly Leigh Stewart
Party: Republican
Email: kelly@electkellystewart.com
Age: 48
Johns Creek, GA 30097
Occupation: Self Employed
Website: www.electkellystewart.com

Paul Troop
Email: PMTROOP@gmail.com
Age: 72
Johns Creek, GA 30022
Occupation: Retired Journalist/PR Executive

Cobb County Commissioners are considering a tax abatement district to spur new development along Austell-Powder Springs Road.

Gwinnett County Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Blum and Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchum received an award from the Georgia Institute of Continuing Judicial Education (ICJE) for their work teaching magistrate continuing education courses.

Youth at Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center, working with the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia, have trained two dogs as certified “Canine Good Citizens” to make the dogs more adoptable and help the kids learn life skills for when they’re released.

It encourages good behavior, and it does teach life skills like compassion and patience,” [Chrissy Kaczynski, an animal program coordinator for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice] said. “It is a way for students to learn, even if they aren’t realizing it.”

Kelly Lewis, also an animal program coordinator, said, “It also helps to alleviate depression and those kinds of issues that we sometimes see. We have kids, a lot of times, that are able to satisfy a need to connect thanks to the dogs.”

Dalton Mayor Dennis Mock was among a number of individuals who spoke Monday, praising both the program and the efforts of the youth.

“Through this program and the positive collaboration, we are doing something special,” he said. “This program provides enrichment not only for the children but for the animals involved. The lessons learned here will increase the students’ ability to care for others, be more in-tune with their emotions, boost self-confidence, and let them know that they can achieve their goals. I don’t think we can ask for anything more than that.”

Georgia Power has launched an incentive program for electric vehicle charging stations.

It’s a two-year program that provides businesses with a $500 rebate for installing 240-volt Level 2 chargers. The utility wants to promote the increased use of electric vehicles.

“We believe that consumer reluctance to use EVs is largely tied to a lack of awareness and uncertainty as to the availability of charging options,” said Amy Fink, a spokesman for Georgia Power.

The pilot program, Fink said, is designed to address both of these barriers through public education, supporting community charging stations for public use, enhancing charging options at select Georgia Power facilities and offering rebates for residential customers who install EV chargers at their homes.

Georgia Power calls the state exceptionally friendly for electric vehicles and said that Atlanta is the No. 2 market in the nation for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Officials in Muscogee County went to court seeking the restoration of their taxpayer-funded debit cards.

Lawyers for Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Bishop did not get the temporary restraining order they sought Monday in Superior Court that would have restored their city-issued credit cards.

Stone Mountain Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller ruled that there was no emergency that would impel him to force the city to restore their cards. But their cards could be restored at some point, should he rule in favor of that.

Fuller was appointed to hear the cases of four elected officials against the city because of conflicts of interest with Muscogee Superior Court judges, Countryman’s and Bishop’s credit card privileges were suspended when the city learned that they had used them to retain attorneys to sue the city.

Through their attorneys, Countryman and Bishop have held that they were forced into using their city credit cards to retain legal counsel because the city refused to allow them to use funds from their budgets to do so.

Attorney Chris Balcher repeated a version of that in court Monday. He told Fuller that his clients felt that they needed outside counsel because information and advice they were getting from City Attorney Clifton Fay was inaccurate.

State Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon) has been accused of fraud and deceit in a lawsuit over a building that has been demolished.

D&D Middle GA LLC, owned by Dunkin’ Donuts entrepreneur Lou Patel, says in the lawsuit that Patel bought the Douglass House only because Beverly promised to get it moved within 60 days. Efforts to move the house crumbled even in the wake of the demolition of Tremont Temple Baptist Church, which was razed earlier this year to clear the way for the doughnut shop. The property is across from the Medical Center, Navicent Health, on Pine Street.

According to the lawsuit filed in Bibb County Superior Court, Beverly, a Macon Democrat, had a “scheme to fraudulently induce” Patel to buy the house that included him making promises on behalf of the Macon-Bibb Community Enhancement Authority and saying he had the money to move the house this past summer.

“(Beverly) well knew when he made the aforesaid representations that they were false and that (Patel) intended to purchase the Property in reliance upon said false representations,” the lawsuit said.

Beverly said Monday he had not been served a copy of the lawsuit. When The Telegraph told him about it, he searched for words, then repeated the word “wow” three times.

Former Savannah-Chatham police chief Willie Lovett was convicted of federal charges of commercial gambling and conspiring with an admitted gambler and others to obstruct enforcement of criminal laws.

The jury of nine women and three men also convicted Lovett on two extortion charges and two charges of making false statements to FBI agents.

The jurors acquitted Lovett of three extortion counts.

Lovett was on trial on charges he protected an ongoing commercial gambling operation from law enforcement for more than 10 years. He also was charged with extortion and making false statements to FBI agents during a subsequent investigation.

The indictment charged that during the time of the alleged offenses Lovett was a major and then police chief with the Savannah-Chatham police department.

Lovett pleaded not guilty.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed suspended Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran for his opinions about homosexuality.

Mayor Kasim Reed’s spokeswoman Anne Torres said the administration didn’t know about “Who Told You That You Are Naked?” until employees came forward with complaints last week. In addition to suspending Cochran, Reed’s office has now opened an investigation to determine whether the chief discriminated against employees.

Cochran has been ordered to undergo sensitivity training and barred from distributing copies of the book on city property after a number of firefighters said they received them in the workplace, Torres said.

That [Cochran] also identifies himself as Atlanta’s fire chief that city leaders say is most problematic.

District 6 Councilmember Alex Wan, who is openly gay, said he’s concerned Cochran’s book could create a hostile work environment. He and others say while Cochran is free to express his personal views, they should be left outside the office.

Transportation

Drive safely this weekend – the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety says Thanksgiving can be dangerous on the roads.

Officials from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety are urging drivers to be careful and to use seatbelts during the holiday travel period.

Officials say 20 people died during crashes during the Thanksgiving travel period in 2013, which ran from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1.

Authorities say the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that using a seatbelt can cut the risk of fatalities among front seat passengers in traffic accidents by about 45 percent and can cut the risk of moderate to serious injury by 50 percent.

Officials say law enforcement throughout the state will be watching for drivers who aren’t using seatbelts during the holiday travel period and a “Click it or Ticket” campaign will continue through Nov. 30.

A private company will redevelop an industrial site as a port at St Marys, Georgia in Camden County.

A New York-based company announced plans Thursday to acquire the former Durango-Georgia Paper Co. site from federal bankruptcy court and develop the site as a port.

Worldwide Group and Knights of the Green Shield, in a prepared statement, is calling the development the Port of St. Marys Industrial and Logistics Center.

James Coughlin, director of the Camden County Joint Development Authority, said the mill site’s trustee introduced him to an investment firm three weeks ago that was interested in seeing how the mill site, which is mostly demolished, could be developed.

The selling points for the 500-acre site are it has about 5,000 linear feet of mostly deep-water access along the North River and a railroad line that runs to the site and it is close to Interstate 95.

A former wood treatment plant near the Port of Savannah will be redeveloped for resale as a port-related facility.

A St. Louis-based redevelopment company has bought a 58-acre polluted site — known as a brownfield property — at the Port of Savannah, with plans to clean it up and market it.

Commercial Development Co. Inc., which specializes in the redevelopment of brownfield sites, announced Monday it has acquired the environmentally distressed waterfront industrial site from Atlantic Wood Industries.

Existing structures on the property will be demolished to clear the way for a new port-related redevelopment that will put this blighted site back into productive use, according to the news release.

“We are excited to expand our redevelopment efforts into the Savannah area,” said Mark Hinds, executive vice president of new business development at Environmental Liability Transfer. “Our acquisition and environmental liability assumption of this large deep-water port is the first step to repurposing this property and moving it back into productive use.

“The Savannah market is already in a growth phase, and we are eager to see the environmental and economic benefits this transaction brings to the area.”

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