Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 30, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 30, 2015

July 30th could be celebrated as the birthday of democracy in America, as the Virginia House of Burgesses became the first legislative body in the New World on July 30, 1619.

 Its first law, which, like all of its laws, would have to be approved by the London Company, required tobacco to be sold for at least three shillings per pound. Other laws passed during its first six-day session included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness, and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath observance mandatory.

On July 30, 1931, Georgia Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. signed legislation merging Milton and Fulton Counties if voters in each county approved a referendum. Fulton had earlier merged with Campbell County, to the south.

Actor Laurence Fishburn was born in Augusta, Georgia on July 30, 1961.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare, for seniors, and Medicaid for some low-income people on July 30, 1965.

Georgia Politics

Ammon Williams, the 17-year old son of Republican State Senator Michael Williams (R-Cumming) is hospitalized in an induced coma after a skateboarding accident. We’re praying for the Williams family.

As you’ll no doubt be reminded dozens of times over the next couple days, Georgia’s Sales Tax Holiday runs July 31 through August 1. Click here for a flyer from the Georgia Department of Revenue on which items are not subject to sales tax this weekend.

Yesterday, Gov. Deal announced the formation of the State Steering Committee for the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), including juvenile court judges and individuals from relevant state organizations, who will work to expand this juvenile reform to counties.

“Georgia leads the nation in meaningful justice reforms,” said Deal. “We rely on evidence while embracing innovations, and this latest move continues that pattern.”

A national initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, JDAI works on a county-by-county basis to encourage appropriate community support for low-risk juvenile offenders to enhance public safety, help misguided youth and conserve taxpayer dollars. According to the foundation, communities participating in JDAI have lowered the number of youth in detention by 44 percent.

Clayton County adopted the initiative in 2003, ultimately resulting in an 80 percent decrease in its average daily detention population: less than 1 percent of the county’s youth felony offenders that benefit from detention alternatives are re-arrested for a felony charge. The initial Georgia expansion will take place in multiple counties, which will be determined through a collaboration with the Casey Foundation.

“As Clayton County proves, Georgia communities can use JDAI to keep our youth out of detention and in the running for a better life,” said Deal.

Governor Deal’s press spokesman Brian Robinson will be leaving his office on the first floor of the Georgia State Capitol to seek treasure in the private sector. Greg Bluestein of the AJC has a compendium of quotes, which leads us to wonder what the auditions will be like for a successor.

Hall County legislators spoke to the Gainesville Times about their expectations for the 2016 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, is part of a group of lawmakers reviewing how cannabis oil might be manufactured, sold and purchased in the state.

While it is legal to possess the oil to treat eight medical conditions, including seizure disorders and cancer, access to medical cannabis remains an obstacle for most patients.

Made up of physicians, attorneys, state legislators and law enforcement representatives, the Commission on Medical Cannabis will help set Georgia’s policies on medical marijuana and will make recommendations regarding access and availability to cannabis oil to the governor and General Assembly later this year.

Miller has also said he expects to see legislation addressing the flag, one way or another.

[State Rep. Emory] Dunahoo also said he also hopes the state will address the Supreme Court’s decision in June to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, ending a ban here in Georgia approved by voters in 2004.

“I still have a problem when the Supreme Court, who does not write law, states that by law we have to have gay marriage,” Dunahoo said. “It’ll be interesting to see where we go with that.”

Valdosta City Council elections in November look to be competitive, as a number of candidates throw their hats in the ring, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

A number of candidates have thrown their hats in the ring early for city council seats, including five running for the at-large district seat.

“It is unusual to have that many candidates looking at it,” [elections official Tiffany] Linkswiler said.

Four candidates in the at-large race have filed Declaration of Intent papers with the Board of Elections. As an incumbent, Norton is not required to file these papers.

In addition, two candidates have filed DOI papers with the Board of Elections for the District 1 seat, currently held by Councilman James Wright.

Wright has not indicated if he will run in the 2015 election.

The qualifying period for the city council election is the first week of September. The city election is Nov. 3.

Former Republican State Senator Seth Harp was among those speaking against the “property tax freeze thaw” proposed by Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.

Former state Sen. Seth Harp and former state Rep. Gary Cason both spoke in opposition to the mayor’s proposal during Wednesday evening’s forum at the Columbus Public Library.

Under the freeze the property taxes of homes under a homestead exemption are based on the value of the home at the time it is purchased. That value is fixed until the property is substantially altered or sold, at which time the value of the home is reassessed and then frozen again at the new value.

Harp, who said he was “instrumental” in the passage of the freeze in 1982, said he “respectfully disagrees” with Tomlinson’s proposal.

“The property tax freeze is fine because it protects homeowners,” Harp said. “I know you and I disagree on that. But if I buy a home today, I know what my property taxes are going to be next year, and 20 years from now.”

Harp said the freeze was a protection from the hyper-inflation occuring in the early ‘80s, which he said could return under current economic circumstances.

If you work as a Probate Clerk and end up assaulting a lawyer in court, while we sympathize, you may be doing your job wrong. But that allegedly happened in Effingham County, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Francys Johnson, who is president of the Georgia NAACP, said he asked for a copy of the tape recording that was made during a five-hour hearing on Monday and that Probate Court Clerk Susan Dobson grabbed his arm and snatched the recorder from his hands.

He said she scratched him but did not leave a mark.

An Effingham sheriff’s deputy working in the courtroom took a report about the alleged assault and told Johnson he could pursue charges in Magistrate Court.

The report quoted Dobson as saying her thumb touched the side of Johnson’s hand when she took the recorder. She said the recorder had other, sensitive proceedings on it and that Johnson could not have a copy of everything on the device.

Johnson said he wanted a copy of what was on the tape recorder because he was concerned that the information on it could be altered. He asked that the recorder be put under lock and key until a transcript could be made of the proceedings and said Court Clerk Elizabeth Hursey granted his request.

Dalton, Georgia will participate in the the national Communities that Work Partnership.

“The Communities that Work Partnership (CTW Partnership) is an effort to strengthen regional economies by equipping American workers with the skills needed for 21st century jobs and accelerating industry-led workforce development and training efforts,” according to a press release from the Commerce Department.

Louis Fordham, corporate vice president for resources and facilities at J+J, says Dalton’s selection is testament to both its manufacturing heritage and its focus on the future.

“The objective is to bring together communities and regions that are working on workforce development and allow them to network and to share and learn from one another,” he said. “The concept is to bring leadership together and people together to talk about these issues  and to benchmark and establish best practices. We will meet in September (with representatives from the other areas) in Baltimore. We will have a second meeting that I don’t have the details on, and the rest of the communication will be Internet-based.”

Decatur County Commissioners voted to hire Alan Thomas as the new County Administrator.

The Decatur County Board of Education rolled back the millage rate and will collect less tax revenues this year.

An injured Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was taken to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for veterinary care and is resting up.

Congratulations to James Lyles of Ringgold, named 2015 Farmer of the Year, who advances the the SEC Primary Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards.

Political Football

The FC United major league soccer franchise is considering locating offices and practice fields in DeKalb County.

Kim Shreckengost, spokesperson for Atlanta United FC, said team officials are in negotiations with DeKalb County to reach a potential agreement.

“Our discussions with DeKalb leaders to date have been positive and cooperative, and we are encouraged by their interest and excited to potentially become part of the future of ‘Downtown DeKalb’ and the revitalization of Memorial Drive,” she said. “We look forward to continuing these discussions; no definitive agreement is in place at this time.”

The team will play in the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium when it begins its first season in 2017. Both teams are owned by [billionaire Arthur] Blank.

The cost to DeKalb taxpayers would be significant, according to the AJC.

DeKalb County would spend roughly $12 million and hand over 41 acres of government land as part of a proposed deal for Atlanta United FC to build a $30 million soccer complex near Interstate 285, according to details revealed Wednesday.

The team, owned by Arthur Blank, would build a 3,500-seat stadium, three outdoor practice fields and a two-story corporate headquarters on land behind the DeKalb jail near Memorial Drive, according to a pending memorandum of understanding with the county. Four additional fields and an indoor training facility could be built later. Ownership of the land and facilities would revert to the county after 30 years.

The DeKalb Commission is scheduled to vote on the incentive package Tuesday.

Of the $12 million the county would pay, an estimated $7 million goes to Blank so the county could locate its parks department in new offices in the stadium. Under the proposal, an estimated $5 million would be used for demolition and land preparation, including irrigation, sod installation and environmental remediation.

In addition, Blank won’t have to pay property taxes, and all permitting fees for the soccer complex would be waived. The county would pursue funding for a pedestrian walkway from the complex to the Kensington MARTA station.

DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester (R-Dunwoody) raised questions about the financial impact of the proposal.

Commissioner Nancy Jester said she doesn’t oppose the deal but is not ready to vote for it either. She still has questions about the funding mechanisms and if the soccer bang is worth the taxpayer bucks.

“While I understand it will be a lovely facility, I’m concerned about what are the economic impacts,” said Jester. “What economic benefits will it actually bring to DeKalb County and to that area?”

Perhaps there’s an analogous development done earlier in DeKalb County that could shed some light on how this will help economic development? The Stone Mountain Tennis Center was built for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and has fallen on hard times. According to a new article in the Dalton Daily Citizen,

he Stone Mountain Tennis Center, where U.S. teams won three gold medals in the summer of 1996, has been closed since 2007.

The center was one of the “world-class facilities” poised to “serve the community well into the 21st century,” according to an economic impact study published the year before the Olympics.

Now, the organization responsible for the facility, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, is waiting until it has the $2.4 million needed to raze it.

While there is a proposal to revitalize the Stone Mountain Tennis Center, it’s an apt cautionary tale.

Presidential Politics

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will join the other Presidential hopefuls at the Red State Gathering in Atlanta next weekend.

Ted Cruz Georgia Tour 07302015

After three events in Georgia, Senator Ted Cruz will continue to tour the SEC Primary states with an excursion to Alabama, according to Yellowhammer News.

The Shelby County Republican Party announced Wednesday they will be hosting a “Southern Social” with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) and moon pies as part of a series of events the presidential candidate has scheduled that day in Alabama.

Cruz will be meeting voters and speaking at the Pelham Civic Complex on Sunday August 9 from 2pm-4pm. The event is casual and open to the public. Yellowhammer’s Cliff Sims will also be in attendance and will be introducing the senator at the event.

Campaign sources say Senator Cruz may also attend a service that morning at Briarwood Presbyterian Church.

Cruz is also planning to visit the Rocket City later that evening for a town hall meeting at the Jackson Center in Cummings Research Park at 7 p.m. The Republican Women of Huntsville are hosting the event and Sen. Cruz will be joined by Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5), who praised the senator on Yellowhammer Radio saying, “I believe Ted Cruz would be an excellent president. The parallels between Ted Cruz and the way he conducts himself, his belief system, and Ronald Reagan are uncanny.”

Later in August, Cruz will return to Alabama to deliver the keynote address at the Tuscaloosa Republican Party’s annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner.

2016 Presidential candidates are giving the State of Alabama more attention than ever before. In the past few months, Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Ben Carson have already visited, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will speak in Talladega on August 22.

Many believe the increased attention to Alabama has been created by the “SEC Primary.” The Yellowhammer State will join Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia to hold its presidential primary election on March 1st. Electoral heavy hitter Florida will also have its primary in March, waiting until two weeks after its neighbors for March 15th.

For the record, we will give any other Presidential candidates coming to Georgia the same kind of coverage we’re giving Cruz, but he’s the first candidate to make a serious commitment to multiple events across Georgia.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has a brief review of Presidential Primary debates and history’s lessons as we head into the GOP debate season. According to their data, Georgia has hosted five Presidential Primary debates – 3 for Democrats, 2 for Republicans, all of them in Atlanta.

Last year, the Republican National Committee made rule changes designed to limit the number of primary debates in the 2016 Presidential cycle, but the Crystal Ball says that the number of debate participants for the GOP may set a record this year.

Most striking is the fact that no debate for either party has ever had more than 10 participants. Republicans had debates in 1996 and 2008 with 10, and Democrats joined them in 2004. Given the 10-candidate limit imposed by the cable networks for the initial primetime Republican debates this cycle, the record high will not be broken, for the moment. Should any network prove brave enough, the large GOP field could fill a debate stage with more than 10 participants.

 

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