Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 15, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 15, 2015

Friday, October 15, 1582 marked the beginning of the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar – the previous day was Thursday, October 4th.

George Washington left New York, the nation’s capitol, on October 15, 1789, embarking upon the first Presidential tour to New England.

The world’s first combat submarine, CSS Hunley, sunk during testing in Charleston Harbor on October 15, 1863.

The 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution too effect October 15, 1933, changing the Presidential term of office to begin and end on January 20th following each quadrennial election and Senate and Congress to January 3d following biennial elections, both from March 4th.

Billy Graham launched his national ministry on October 15, 1949 in Los Angeles, California.

On October 15, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation creating the United States Department of Transportation. May God have mercy upon his soul.

Interstate 285 around Atlanta was completed on October 15, 1969.

The Omni opened in Atlanta on  October 15, 1972, as the Hawks beat the New York Knicks by a score of 109-101.

Former Secretary General of the Communist Party of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize on October 15, 1990

Georgia-born Clarence Thomas was confirmed as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court on October 15, 1991.

John Cleese and Eric Idle of Monty Python fame are currently touring the Southeast and stopped over in Savannah, where they’ll perform October 20th. The Savannah Morning News interviewed Cleese.

Cleese is up front about his own reason for touring.

“I suppose it’s because I still need money,” he says. “I haven’t much money, when I have to pay $20 million in alimony to an ex-wife. There’s a dent in my finances.”

The settlement was incurred after Cleese’s divorce from his third wife, American psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger.

“The present system in the U.K. and the U.S. benefits the passenger and disadvantages the breadwinner, who has worked very, very hard,” he says. “I find that completely despicable.

“Now I’m married to an absolutely lovely girl and I want to be able to provide one or two of the luxuries in life for her, like holidays in the sun during dreary English winters.

“To do that, I need money,” he says. “What nicer way to do that than performing?”

But don’t ask him to take a selfie.

“It’s a question of if it happens four times a day or 40. It’s one thing if people I’ve never met before are asking, ‘Can I have a photograph?’

“I often say ‘No, I’m not doing them today, but why don’t you ask that man over there?’” Cleese says. “I always try to be as polite as possible and if the interruptions and people come up out of the blue, that’s fine, but if it happens 40 times a day, you just want to get on with your business.”

The duo will be in Atlanta later this month, performing at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. If you’ve got spare tickets to the Atlanta show, Mrs. GaPundit and I would be happy to take them off your hands for you.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Hillary Clinton will hold a public event in Atlanta on October 30th, according to the AJC Political Insider.

Donald Trump’s 757 receives its regular servicing from Stambaugh Aviation in Brunswick, Georgia.

The Red & Black writes that Georgia has fewer women in office than most other states.

Martha Zoller, a former Georgia House of Representatives candidate, said qualified women do not win elections because of a general lack of financial backing for female candidates.

She said the biggest challenge during her candidacy was raising money.

Financial backing can really be a factor in a candidate’s success on the ballot, she said. And on many occasions, while women are taking time off to start families, they sometimes can suffer setbacks in their careers, resulting in a disadvantage against men.

“Women make up more than 50 percent of the electorate, and you want to see them involved in the decisions,” Zoller said.

Georgia uses a single-member district system, meaning that only one person per district can be elected. More women tend to be elected in states that elect more than one person [per district] to the state legislature.

I wonder what would happen in the analysis if you looked at the number of women running for office – perhaps part of the reason for fewer women in office is that fewer run, but I don’t have a knowledge base to make that comparison. I’ve also done polling in an election in which a well-funded female candidate received a smaller percentage of women’s votes than the male candidates. Perhaps that was anomalous, again, I don’t know.

The other day I mentioned a unique voting system in Rome, GA in which four candidates for a City Council post will run for three open seats with the top three vote-earners taking office. Now, I learn that Kingsland, Georgia voters will decide whether future elections will require only a plurality of the vote to win, as is now the case, or whether a majority will be needed, ushering in the possibility of runoff elections in the city’s future elections. Additionally, Kingsland voters will see a referendum to move municipal elections to even-numbered years in order to save money by holding them in conjunction with state and federal races.

I’m not saying it’s a Clown Car Election, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see red noses and long red shoes break out in Senate District 20. Two new candidates have entered the fray, which now numbers five.

Jon Martin, a Laurens County Commissioner and businessman will run as a Republican.

“I am not running to be a show horse in the state Senate, but to be a workhorse in Atlanta for our families and communities,” Martin said in a written statement.

Martin was first elected to the Laurens County Commission in 2012. Martin said leaders in Middle Georgia have done a good job making the area attractive for investors, and he wants to create that kind of business environment statewide.

Martin is a director at a Dublin pharmacy that works with long-term care facilities, and he has been a teacher and coach.

He is the fifth Republican to declare candidacy for the state Senate District 20 seat.

Brooks Keisler of Bonaire also entered the race as a Republican.

“I’m running to represent our community with honor and integrity,” said Brooks Keisler, who lives with his family in Bonaire.

He said some of the main planks in his platform will concern education and small business. It will be his first run for elected office.

The proposal to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. atop Stone Mountain is opposed by several civil rights groups.

“We will never agree to any aspect of Dr. King going to Stone Mountain among the Confederacy,” Southern Christian Leadership Conference president and CEO Charles Steele, Jr. said after the meeting with Gov. Nathan Deal. “The Confederacy, once and for all, should be buried in a museum.”

Officials with the SCLC and two local chapters of the NAACP met with Republican governor for an hour at his office, and later said he was “receptive” to their concerns. Deal may have the influence, if not the authority, to stop the process, Steele said.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, Georgia Division previously released a statement opposing a King monument at Stone Mountain.

This decision by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association is wholly inappropriate in that it is an intentional act of disrespect toward the stated purpose of the Stone Mountain memorial from its inception as well as a possible violation of the law which established the Stone Mountain Memorial Association and charged it with promoting the mountain as a Confederate memorial.

The act of the General Assembly which created the Stone Mountain Memorial Association specifically states the park, including both the mountain and all adjacent property, is to be maintained and operated as a Confederate memorial (OCGA 12-3-191).   The erection of monuments to anyone other than Confederate heroes in Stone Mountain Park is in contradistinction to the purpose for which the park exists and would make it a memorial to something different.  The park was never intended to be a memorial to multiple causes but solely to the Confederacy.

The Savannah Morning News writes that City Council candidates discussed economic development at a forum last night.

In addition to public safety, a majority of the questions posed to candidates for mayor, the second district and both alderman at-large posts at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center sought out ideas for protecting and spurring economic growth.

All of the candidates will be on the ballot for the Savannah municipal election Nov. 3.

Mayor Edna Jackson and her challengers — Eddie DeLoach, Murray Silver Jr. and Louis Wilson — were generally in agreement that government did not have the ability to control private business by dictating wages, prices and hours.

The city can encourage developers to pay a living wage and hire locally, however, Jackson said.

“We get those who are benefitting on tax credits to sign off on that,” she said.

Silver said the mayor shouldn’t be telling businesses what to do when it comes to wages, but they can sit down with the owners who need council approval for a development and try to work out a deal for higher wages.

DeLoach said the city has no business in controlling wages.

“The fact of it is, when government gets into anything, everything goes wrong,” he said.

Savannah City Council will vote today on whether to repeal regulations that require tour guides to pass a history test and be licensed.

The Savannah City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposed repeal of tour guide regulations — in place since 1978 — that require all guides to earn a city license by passing a history test before they can take paying customers sightseeing. The repeal is expected to pass as the city faces litigation by tour guides who sued in federal court.

Attorney W. Brooks Stillwell, who represents the city, has advised council members to scrap the regulations before a federal judge decides the lawsuit.

“I’m disappointed,” said Councilman Van Johnson, who refrained from defending the regulations at a recent meeting. “But I also realize that when you come up against the U.S. Constitution, you lose.”

A small group of local tour guides sued City Hall in U.S. District Court last November, saying Savannah’s licensing ordinance violates the free-speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment by unfairly singling out tourism workers who talk for a living. To earn a license, guides must pass a 100-question test covering topics from Savannah’s 1820 yellow fever outbreak to the architects of its historic homes. The study guide for the test is a 111-page book produced by City Hall.

Mary Ann Whipple-Lue is both the Mayor of Gordon, Georgia, and the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city she was elected to lead, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Whipple-Lue hired an attorney last year to help her fight a lawsuit filed by two city councilmen and members of the Concerned Citizens of Gordon group who sought to have her removed from office.

The suit against Whipple-Lue alleged she violated the state’s Open Meetings Act and participated in other misconduct.

The Gordon City Council voted last month on whether to pay Whipple-Lue’s lawyer’s nearly $95,000 invoice. With the council members who sued the mayor sitting out the vote, the group decided not to pay the bill, according to the suit Whipple-Lue filed last week in Fulton County State Court.

The mayor contends the city is responsible for the bill and that the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency, the city’s insurer, breached its contract by not providing her with a lawyer.

A State House Committee heard about ways to prevent welfare fraud by tapping private databases to confirm eligibility information.

About one in 10 people getting state benefits aren’t legally entitled to them, according to Andrew Brown, senior fellow with the Foundation for Government Accountability based in Washington. Cutting them off could save taxpayers $175 million, he estimated.

“Not having some degree of knowledge-based authentication of benefits on the front door of benefits is not like having a lock on your front door,” said Trey Harrison, regional manager for LexisNexis.

The company’s store of records from credit bureaus, banks, government entities and other sources allows it to flag common frauds for investigators in states where it is contracted. A pilot project ongoing in Georgia triggered 3,464 questionable applications in May, and he expects it will save $180,000 per month.

A study by Georgia State and the Carl Vinson Institute found that child care and early learning centers have an economic impact of $4.6 billion per year, provide more than 67,000 jobs and support another 17,000 jobs, paying out  $374 million in federal taxes and $161.7 million to state and local coffers.

If you want to see a real live dumpster fire, or “sanitation conflagration,” just watch this interview by the head of DeKalb County’s sanitation department. Among the lowlights highlights:

DeKalb County sanitation director Billy Malone disputed the fact that one of his former employees was re-hired by his department just four days after pleading guilty to driving under the influence in a county vehicle.

“It wasn’t four days, for one thing. It goes through the procedure and I think it was like three months or six months, or something like that,” Malone said.

Malone is also under fire for allowing 25 of his drivers to operate garbage trucks with expired medical cards associated with their commercial driver’s license. One employee was driving on expired credentials for nearly two years.

When asked what happened when he wrecked a county vehicle and how many times it occurred, Malone said, “It has happened several times…I hit a bollard at the landfill, hit a parked car and that sort of thing.”

File under: things I already knew. Politicians enjoy spending and giving away other people’s money. The AJC reports that a number of politicians give money from their political campaigns to charities, which is perfectly legal under Georgia law. I would argue that in a number of those cases, the expenditure resulted in some benefit to the candidate, such as when sponsoring a charitable event that results in the candidate’s name being on signs or programs. In these cases, the campaign could make the expenditure as an “ordinary and necessary expense,” but might get caught up in the question of whether the expenditure was a fair market values. Anyway, something we knew already.

Certificate of Need Laws

I mentioned in my first legislative preview for the 2016 campaign that Georgia’s Certificate of Need program will likely be the subject of one of the biggest legislative fights that nobody hears about or understands. So, in the spirit of educating myself my fellow citizens, I’ll be discussing what is referred to as CONs occasionally between now and the legislative session that starts in January 2016.

If you wish to understand legislation that impacts healthcare in Georgia, two of the best sources will be cited in the following paragraphs. Dave Williams of the Atlanta Business Chronicle writes more extensively about the business impacts of Georgia legislation than most of his reporter colleagues, and that alone makes the Business Chronicle a must-read in my opinion.

Dave writes about the current state of the CON fight.

Georgia health officials should remove a cap on in-state patients served by Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) so its hospital in Newnan can serve more Georgians suffering from cancer, CTCA officials said Tuesday.

But hospital CEOs from across Georgia and their lobbyists at the state Capitol said exempting the facility from the Certificate of Need law that applies to all other Georgia hospitals would let CTCA “cherry-pick” the paying patients those hospitals need to offset the costs of treating the indigent.

“For us, this rule is about a patient’s fundamental right to choose where he or she should receive care,” said David Kent, the Newnan hospital’s chief operating officer.

But representatives of umbrella groups representing Georgia hospitals and individual hospital CEOs accused CTCA of looking to achieve through a change in state agency regulations what they haven’t been able to accomplish in the General Assembly. As recently as this year, legislation aimed at the CON law fizzled under the Gold Dome.

“This is clearly an end-around to the legislature’s authority,” said Earl Rogers, president of the Georgia Hospital Association.

Rogers and others also argued that CTCA hurts other hospitals’ bottom lines by turning away cancer patients on Medicaid and accepting only those with insurance.

Andy Miller of Georgia Health News provides healthcare content to a number of outlets across the state. His website is also a must-read for folks interested in health policy. He discusses the war of words over the CON requirement.

A patient’s right to choose. Legislative authority on health care. “Cherry picking’’ the privately insured.

These themes highlighted the vehement arguments made at a state agency hearing in Atlanta on Tuesday as advocates and critics clashed over a proposal to eliminate state requirements for a Newnan cancer hospital.

At the hearing, Rod Echols of Fayetteville told a packed audience that he received good care for his colorectal cancer at the Newnan facility, and he said he wants all Georgia patients to have the right to choose the hospital.

“A law should not dictate where we should go,’’ said Echols, 42. “We want others to have that option.”

Earl Rogers, president of the Georgia Hospital Association, said CTCA has the reputation of “cherry picking’’ patients with the best insurance coverage. He called the reclassification idea “an end-around”’ the General Assembly’s authority over health care. And Rogers noted that if CTCA converts to a general hospital, would not have to offer emergency room services.

“Not one [other] hospital supports this rule change,’’ he declared.

Jerry Fulks, CEO of West Georgia Health in LaGrange, said, “CTCA has not fulfilled their commitment to indigent care.”

And Dr. Doug Patten of the Georgia Hospital Association said some patients with Medicare coverage have been turned away by CTCA.

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