Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 28, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 28, 2015

On January 28, 1733, Georgia’s first colonists celebrated a day of thanksgiving for their safe arrival in Savannah and Chief Tomochichi’s granting them permission to settle on the Yamacraw Bluff.

On January 28, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed a joint resolution of the Georgia House and Senate amending the Georgia Constitution to make the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia a constitutional board and reduce the power of the Governor over the Regents.

The movement to a constitutional board came after the loss of accreditation of all Georgia state higher education institutions for white people. The previous Governor, Eugene Talmadge, had engineered the firing of UGA’s Dean of the College of Education; after the Board of Regents initially refused to fire the Dean, Talmadge dismissed three members, and replaced them with new appointees who voted for the firing. Talmadge lost the 1942 election to Arnall.

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff as many Americans watched on live television. President Ronald Reagan addressed the loss of seven astronauts.

Reagan had originally been scheduled to give his State of the Union that evening, but cancelled the speech. His address on the Challenger disaster was written by Peggy Noonan. The speech written by Noonan and delivered by Reagan is ranked as one of the top ten political speeches of the 20th Century.

Happy birthday today to Northwestern University (1851), Yale Daily News (1878), the first daily college newspaper in the country, the United States Coast Guard (1915), and the Lego brick, which was patented on January 28, 1958. Elvis Presley made his first appearance on television on January 28, 1956 on the Stage Show on CBS.

General Assembly Schedule Today

8:00am – 9:00am
House Appropriations – 341 State Capitol
9:00am – 10:00am
House Rules – 341 Cap
9:00am – 10:00am
House Intragovernmental Cooperation – 403 Capitol
10:00am – 12:00pm
House Convenes LD7
12:00pm – 1:00pm
Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 Capitol
1:00pm – 2:00pm
Senate Education and Youth – 307 Coverdell LOB
1:30pm – 2:30pm
House Judiciary Non-Civil – 132 State Capitol
2:00pm – 3:00pm
Joint Retirement Committee Meeting – Canceled – 403 Georgia State Capitol
3:00pm – 4:00pm
House Education – 606 Coverdell LOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm
Joint Health & Human Svcs Committee – 341 State Capitol
3:00pm – 4:00pm
House Defense & Veterans Affairs – 515 Coverdell LOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm
House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee – 403 Georgia State Capitol
3:00pm – 4:00pm
Senate Judiciary Non-Civil – 307 Coverdell LOB

Of particular note is that the House Appropriations Committee, meeting at 8 AM has the FY2015 Supplemental Budget on its agenda this morning. Passage by the committee means the bill doesn’t even have to leave Room 341 of the Capitol for a Rules Committee meeting that could send it to the floor for a vote on final passage.

Special delivery may take on a new meaning if State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) gets his way. From Maggie Lee at the Macon Telegraph,

“We are within a couple of weeks of making an announcement with a manufacturer in another state who will be able to ship” to Georgia, said Peake, a proponent of medical marijuana.

That’s depending on two things, though.

First, passage of his House Bill 1, which would decriminalize Georgia possession of a type of liquid medical marijuana that’s low in THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

It would also depend on medical cannabis companies in other states pushing into legal gray area around the definition of “hemp.”

Congress allows oils and seeds of hemp grown in other countries to find their way into U.S. groceries such as granola bars and cereal. They have also authorized limited hemp cultivation and defunded some federal marijuana enforcement programs.

Peake said companies are looking to use those same federal laws to legally ship medicinal cannabis oil that is low in THC.

The AJC Political Insider blog notes a statement that suggests healthcare for non-certificated employees of school systems may not be facing loss of healthcare coverage after all.

While rewriting the mid-year budget, House leaders inserted language in a section on a State Health Benefits Plan cost study saying, “The General Assembly also finds that non-certificated school employees are an essential part of the education delivery system and directs that any such report include an examination of options to provide health benefits to these workers.”

In many rural communities, the local school system may be the largest single employer and threatening the healthcare coverage of these non-certificated workers can be a major political headache for local legislators.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods has written federal education czar commisar secretary Arne Duncan seeking a better balance of testing and teaching.

“Instead of a ‘measure, pressure, and punish’ model that sets our students, teachers, and schools up for failure, we need a diagnostic, remediate/accelerate model that personalizes instruction, empowers students, involves parents, and provides real feedback to our teachers,” Woods wrote.

Click here to see the full letter.

BetterGeorgia

The radical lefties at Better Georgia took out full page ads to blast State Rep. Sam Teasley and Sen. Josh McKoon over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but really their agenda is fundraising off the fears of Georgians. Shameful.

The Feds may allow offshore drilling along the coast of Georgia.

Freedom Partners, a network of conservative groups affiliated with the Koch brothers may be amassing a warchest of $899 million dollars to deploy in the 2016 Presidential elections, according to the Washington Post.

The new $889 million goal reflects the anticipated budgets of all the allied groups that the network funds. Those resources will go into field operations, new data-driven technology and policy work, among other projects, along with likely media campaigns aimed at shaping the congressional and White House elections.

The group — which is supported by hundreds of wealthy donors on the right, along with the Kochs — is still debating whether it will spend some of that money in the GOP primaries. Such a move could have a major impact in winnowing the field of contenders, but could also undercut the network’s standing if it engaged in intraparty politics and was not successful.

Yesterday, Google announced it would bring fiber-based internet to several cities in Metro Atlanta. You’re potentially in luck if you live in the cities of Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park, Decatur, East Point, Hapeville, Sandy Springs, or Smyrna.

“This is a huge day for Metro Atlanta and the City of Brookhaven,” Mayor J Max Davis said. “I have been hearing from alot of residents who were extremely excited about the possibility of Google Fiber coming to Brookhaven. City leadership and staff did what it had to do to make sure the internet of everything is at the doorsteps of all of Brookhaven residences and businesses.”

The next step in the process is to create detailed maps of where to place thousands of miles of fiber using existing infrastructure (light poles, underground conduits). Brookhaven administrators say that a joint team of surveyors and engineers will be working on the design of the network. That particular effort has a target completion date of sometime during mid-2015. After that, construction will start.

Councilman Bates Mattison said Google Fiber coming in to Brookhaven is a huge plus. He said today’s announcement brings with it a tremendous opportunity for Brookhaven’s citizens and businesses – as well as the city as a whole. “Having companies, like Google, choose to invest in our city shows the opportunity we have as a community to attract high-tech citizens and workforce,” said Mattison. “This aligns well with our Brookhaven Innovation Academy initiative, as we have intended to use Google Education and online learning modules to produce the high-tech workforce needed in the future.”

Councilman Joe Gebbia added that bringing Google Fiber to metropolitan Atlanta will have a profound effect for generations to come. “We needed to be nimble, responsive and have that real feeling of enthusiasm – all those components that come with a smaller, accessible government. And we did it. It will help with home resale values, business developments as well as being a great asset as we move forward to developing the entrepreneurial spirit via Brookhaven’s business incubator,” said Gebbia.

If pricing is like they have in Kansas City, we’ll see Gigabit internet for under a hundred bucks a month. Google is also working to develop a cell-phone service that uses excess capacity on existing networks combined with Wi-fi.

Google Inc. ’s upcoming wireless service would aim to end subscribers’ reliance on a single carrier, instead giving them the ability to pick the best signal from a variety of sources, people familiar with the plan said.

The service would feature new technology that would hunt through cellular connections provided by Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. and Wi-Fi hotspots, picking whichever offers the best signal to route calls, texts and data, the people said.

The offering could be rolled out in the first half of this year and would likely be available nationwide, although previously scheduled launches—including one in October 2014—have been delayed, so the timing could slip again, some of these people said.

Transportation News that doesn’t include the word “Tax”

Total freight tonnage through the Georgia Ports increased 7.4% in 2014 over the previous year.

“In 2014, we saw phenomenal growth in every category,” said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority. “Georgia’s ports benefited from an improving retail economy, renewed strength in manufacturers’ orders of raw goods and the expanding population of the Southeast.”

West Coast labor issues contributed to Georgia’s increasing freight volume.

A recovering U.S. economy gets credit for some of the growth Savannah and Brunswick have experienced since last summer, Foltz said. But he also credited protracted labor negotiations at ports on the West Coast, where increased congestion on the docks has caused shippers to divert more retail imports from Asia to ports on the East Coast.

West Coast woes helped make December, normally a slow month, the Georgia ports’ second-busiest month on record. Overall tonnage shot up nearly 13 percent compared to December 2013, while container traffic increased by 18 percent.

The Port of Brunswick, Ga was the top United States port for exports to Cuba.

The Port of Brunswick, which handles mostly machinery, cars and crops, also had a busy year and was revealed in news reports to be the top U.S. port for exports to Cuba, the communist Caribbean nation with which the U.S. maintains an embargo excluding agricultural, medical and telecommunications products. Cuba has been in the news of late thanks to President Obama’s surprise move to reopen diplomatic relations, relaxing certain restrictions on travel and leading to debate on the embargo, which would require congressional action to repeal.

Georgia exports to the nation of 11 million have to trans-shipped through ports in the Caribbean since there is no direct service from Savannah, the Savannah Morning News reported. Over the past three years, the state has shipped 38,000 tons of soybeans there, but the value is mostly made up of frozen chicken, the top product in the $266 million in export value to Cuba, which has slumped in recent years.

The Ports Authority will continue working to move more outbound freight over the rails instead of Georgia’s roadways.

Over time, over-the-road freight movement via truck will continue to become more expensive and less environmentally friendly,” Foltz said, adding that his team is constantly working with CSX and Norfolk Southern to find ways to move a higher percentage of freight by rail.

In the calendar year just completed, Georgia Ports moved 340,000 containers by rail, an increase of 5 percent over 2013, he said.

“Rail expansion has been a huge part of our capital improvement budget over the last decade or more, and we expect that to continue as we work with both CSX and Norfolk Southern to improve the efficiency of our rail connections and speed and further develop our inland connections,” he said.

“We’ve been very collaborative with both major railroads as we work to provide our customers with the tools they need to move their freight as effectively as possible.”

Craig Camuso agreed.

“We have a great partnership with Georgia Ports,” said Camuso, regional vice president at CSX Transportation. “Their growth has helped spur our growth.”

CSX moves 150,000 20-foot containers — or TEUs — through the Savannah port every year.

Here’s an idea – take the idea of the Cordele inland port – which moves containers in by rail and puts them on truck chassis to hit the road at I-75 well away from Macon or Atlanta – and look for other communities where trans-shipping centers might make sense while avoiding rail and road congestion on the existing network.

Cordele Intermodal Services offers overnight rail access, three times weekly, to the Georgia Ports Authority in Savannah, Georgia. CIS provides cost savings, traffic mitigation, reductions in CO2 output, and additional operational service offerings to benefit shippers, trucking companies, and steamship lines. CIS is situated within a market that includes the Southwest quadrant of Georgia, the southern half of Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle. The Cordele Intermodal facility sits on 40 acres in the Crisp County Industrial Park, with an option to expand on 1,200 adjacent acres. It is less than one mile from Interstate 75, Georgia Highway 300, and Georgia Highway 280. CIS is served by the Heart of Georgia RR and Georgia Central RR, with access to both Class I RR’s in the region (CSX & NS).

Cordele is located in a regional center for agriculture – including the production and export of cotton, peanuts, wood products, and other commodities. Cordele Intermodal Services makes those commodities more competitive in the global market, while reducing carbon emissions. The inland depot also reduces the shipper’s exposure to truck capacity and shortages.

Cordele’s inland port is an innovative public-private partnership that leveraged local economic development programs, to help improve both the local economy, and transportation.

A new Savannah River port in Jasper County, SC, jointly owned by the Palmetto and Peach States, appears feasible according to a report presented this week.

The Savannah River has enough room for cargo ships to accommodate Georgia and South Carolina adding a new port terminal downstream from the busy Port of Savannah, according to a study presented to officials from both states Monday.

Engineering consultants told the joint port board, meeting Monday for the first time since May, that they developed models to estimate ship traffic in the river channel in 2049. Their report concluded that delays affecting ships likely would be slightly more frequent, and just a few minutes longer, with a second port on the river.

“The river is not going to shut down with the addition of the Jasper terminal,” said Michael Rieger, the project manager for consulting firm Moffatt & Nichol. “We can still get ships in and out, and the delays are just a little bit longer than what occurs today.”

Georgia and South Carolina officials have said they expect the new port terminal could be permitted, built and operational by about 2030.

A delegation from Effingham County met with the State Transportation Commissioner this week in a trip to the Capitol.

The nearly hour-long meeting with State Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry resulted in improved understanding of Effingham traffic concerns, especially the need for more

north-south connectors to job-rich Chatham County, according to Dinah King, a member of the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce.

McMurry praised the county for scaling back plans for the proposed Effingham Parkway, which will connect with Chatham County’s planned extension of Benton Boulevard.

“Last year up here, the feedback from them was to figure out a better way to change the traffic pattern,” said King, who is also the area manager for Georgia Power Co.

The project had been conceived as part of a transportation sales tax referendum that voters defeated in 2013. Instead of a four-lane, divided highway, the new concept is two lanes at about one-third of the original budget.

McMurry also announced that construction will begin by the end of this year on upgrades to the Interstate 95 intersection with Hwy 21. It will become what traffic engineers call a diverging diamond interchange in which vehicles are channeled to the opposite side of the road to eliminate the delays caused by left turns across oncoming traffic. Construction will take about 18 months, he told the group. The reception capped the day, giving the local representatives the chance to play host after spending Monday calling on Atlanta-based officials. Booths from local businesses and nonprofit organizations lined the long event hall across from the Capitol, as legislators sipped cocktails and chatted with local residents.

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