Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2016

Representatives of three cities in Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders,” the first written Constitution in an American colony and one of the first founding document to cite the authority of “the free consent of the people.”

On January 14, 1733, James Oglethorpe and the rest of the first colonists departed Charles Town harbor for what would become Savannah, and the State of Georgia.

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784. The Treaty was negotiated by John Adams, who would later serve as President, and the delegates voting to ratify it included future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

On January 14, 1835, James M. Wayne took the oath of office as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A Savannah native, Wayne had previously served in the Georgia House of Represestatives, as Mayor of Savannah, on the Supreme Court of Georgia, and in Congress. His sister was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and his home is now known as the Juliette Gordon Low house. When Georgia seceded from the Union, Wayne remained on the Supreme Court.

On January 14, 1860, the Committee of Thirty-Three introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow slavery in the areas it then existed.

Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of eleven African-American Georgians elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. After his election, on January 10, 1966, the State House voted 184-12 not to seat him because of his publicly-stated opposition to the Vietnam War. After his federal lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ordered Bond seated.

True story: Julian Bond was the first Georgia State Senator I ever met, when I was in ninth grade and visited the state Capitol.

On January 14, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring Japanese-Americans, including American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as Italians and Germans to register with the federal Department of Justice. The next month, Roosevelt would have Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

House Committee Meetings
8:00 AM NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 606 CLOB
8:30 AM Public Finance and Policy Subcommittee 133 CAP
1:00 PM Ad Valorem Tax Subcommittee 133 CAP
2:00 PM TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB
3:00 PM Reg Ind-Boards-Commissions Subcommittee 515 CLOB

State of the State

Here is the full text of Governor Nathan Deal’s State of the State Address.

Gov Deal SOTS 2016 8

And a couple excerpts from the speech.

On the State Economy:

Simply put, the Economic Winds were blowing in the wrong direction with an intensity and duration not experienced since the Great Depression. As leaders of our state, we could have been pessimistic and simply railed against the bitter wind and made excuses for our situation. Or, we could have been optimists and told our citizens just to be patient because it wouldn’t last much longer. We watched some of our sister states take both approaches and conclude that until the Economic Winds shifted, their state governments could not operate on less revenue and therefore their citizens must pay more taxes.

Fortunately, with your support, we did not follow that pattern. Instead, we began the difficult, and sometimes painful, process of adjusting our sails. As a result, we grew our way out of hard times. By passing conservative budgets, coupled with the economic growth that was spurred by our reforms, our Rainy Day Fund that was almost gone five years ago has now grown to over $1.43 billion.

By cutting taxes and removing regulatory burdens on businesses, our unemployment rate has been cut almost in half and now stands at 5.6 percent. And, the construction industry that was hit so hard by the waves of the Great Recession now has the third lowest unemployment rate in the country at just 4 percent. By removing sales tax on energy for manufacturing, there have been over 22,000 new manufacturing jobs, a 6.4 percent increase that is more than double the growth rate of the United States. These jobs represent over $900 million in added wages.

On Criminal Justice Reform:

Addressing workforce development needs extends into another area we’ve made a priority: criminal justice reform. In order to curb the growth in our prison population, we created the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which has been chaired by Judge Michael Boggs and Thomas Worthy. I want to express publically my thanks to these two gentlemen and the other dedicated members of that Council. Please join me in expressing our appreciation for their work.

As a result of your passing legislation to implement the recommendations of the Council in prior years, we have seen a substantial drop in our prison population as thousands of non-violent offenders are being diverted into accountability courts where they are given a second chance to receive treatments for their addictions. By converting inmates into taxpayers, and by educating and giving paroled inmates marketable skills, we will begin to reduce our rates of recidivism, which will in turn make our state safer.

The same diversion is occurring in the juvenile justice system. In short, Georgia is recognized as the leading state for meaningful criminal justice reform.

There will be more recommendations from the Council this year which I ask you to consider and approve.

On Education:

In addition to directing more resources into post-secondary education programs that lead to employability, we have also moved our focus further down the education line. Our Move On When Ready legislation from last year, coupled with additional funding for Dual Enrollment, has greatly accelerated the pace of many students’ educational journeys. This allows high school students to attend postsecondary institutions at no cost to them or their parents. Currently, there are approximately 22,059 students participating in this program. My FY2017 budget contains over $58.3 million dollars to cover the cost of Move On When Ready, a 654 percent increase over FY2011.

In order to further modernize our K-12 education system, I asked the State Board of Education and the University System of Georgia to allow certain high school computer science courses to count as core courses in high school and for purposes of college admission. Both entities have agreed, and there are currently nine computer science courses that count towards a science or foreign language requirement. This will give us more early learners in a field that is and will continue to be in high demand by employers.

As we contemplate modernizing our education system, it is important to acknowledge the progress we have made over the past five years. Our graduation rate from high school has increased by over 11 percent to 78.8 percent, an average change of 2.83 percent each year. As significant as that increase is, during that same five years, our dropout rate has remained unyieldingly stagnant at an average of 3.66 percent. To put it more bluntly, 96,660 students dropped out of school between 2011 and this school year. That is over 4,000 more than are currently enrolled in our entire Technical College system. That is a wind that is blowing in the wrong direction, and we must continue to trim our sails to bring that dropout number down.

Over the past five years, members of this General Assembly and I have shown our appreciation for our teachers by making public education a priority, and we will do so again this year by appropriating an additional $300 million for k-12 education, which is more than is required to give teachers a three percent pay raise.

We will distribute this money to your local school system under the existing QBE formula, but it is our intention that your local school system pass the three percent pay raise along to you. If that does not happen, it will make it more difficult next year for the state to grant local systems more flexibility in the expenditure of state education dollars, as recommended by the Education Reform Commission.

We have given local school systems large increases in funding for the past three years and given them the flexibility to decide how to spend it. Based on a survey by the State Department of Education, 94 percent of school systems used those funds to reduce or eliminate furlough days. With the additional funding this year, furloughs should be a thing of the past and teachers should receive that three percent pay raise.

Kathleen Foody of the Associated Press notes that Deal slowed the discussion of changing the state education funding formula.

Gov. Nathan Deal urged state lawmakers to spend this year’s legislative session studying sweeping changes to Georgia’s public education system, temporarily backing away from contentious proposals to tie teacher pay to student performance and overhaul the state’s method for funding schools.

Both efforts are at the core of a report released by Deal’s appointed commission studying all aspects of Georgia’s education system. The report drew opposition from teachers’ organizations and top lawmakers.

Deal said he will delay legislation until the 2017 session, meaning the changes wouldn’t go into effect until July of that year if approved by lawmakers. Instead, he promised a $300 million boost to education spending, money he wants school districts to use for a 3 percent teacher pay raise. He also plans to appoint an advisory panel of teachers to discuss future changes to education.

The Macon Telegraph has reactions from local legislators to the State of the State.

State Rep. Patty James Bentley, D-Butler, said telling local boards to spend the money on teachers was the most important part of Deal’s speech.

“Money has been put in the budget previously for education, K-12 education,” Bentley said, “but oftentimes it’s being used for other things, and teachers are not really seeing it in their paychecks.”

State Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, is skeptical of the state moving in that direction [toward merit pay for teachers]. He, like other critics, said teacher performance is hard to measure.

“If you’re a teacher working in a impoverished area, you have certain challenges” that a teacher in a wealthy district might not have, he said. “So how do you determine what merit is about?”

But the governor has his supporters.

“I think the things he touched on today are another step forward,” said state Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella. “Education is (Deal’s) passion. … From the very beginning he’s been focused on trying to improve education.”

Dickey praised the idea of teacher raises and pointed out that the governor has consistently added to the education budget.

The AJC has more reactions, from inside and outside of the chamber.

“HOPE is critical, and I agree with the governor that we need to deal with that now and not next year or years from now. There is a lot on the plate.”

– Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody

“A lot of the Republicans who opposed HOPE are now the ones talking about saving it. We in the Legislature do not own that program.”

– Sen. Robert Brown, D-Macon, who heads the state Senate Democrats

“The majority of the new jobs in Georgia will come from small businesses — LLCs and small businesses that will not qualify for the corporate tax breaks. We will not be distracted by publicity stunts that do nothing to create new jobs.”

– House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta

The Gainesville Times spoke to local legislators about the education funding issues addressed in the SOTS.

“I think (Deal’s) legacy … a lot of it will have to do with criminal justice reform and k-12 education,” state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said.

Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said Deal made it clear that education reform is his No. 1 priority for 2016, and he supports the governor’s plan to increase pay for teachers.

“It was probably the best speech I’ve heard Gov. Deal give in terms of state of the state,” Rogers said. “I think he did a good job. I could tell he wrote a lot of that.”

Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said he was happy to see Deal continue his commitment to improving Georgia’s technical college system.

Lanier Tech is likely to get funding this year for its planned relocation to a site off Ga. 365 at Howard Road in North Hall.

“I’ve always been a big supporter of (technical schools),” Hawkins said. “Not every kid is bound for (liberal arts) college.

For Rep. Emory Dunahoo, the success of the state economy in the last year or two has changed his focus on the budget.

“There’s two sides to all of this,” he said. “To me, an increase is an increase. That’s the only negative part of it. I believe it’s time to start cutting stuff again.”

On Tuesday, January 19, 2016 at 9:45, Gov. Deal will address the joint Approriations Committee meeting on the budget.

House Bill 756 will throw gasoline on the left’s firestorm over gay rights, as the legislation would allow some private businesses to refuse to sell goods or services for a “matrimonial ceremony” if it conflicts with the owner’s religious beliefs.

The AJC Political Insider heard from Gov. Deal about his objections to the Medical Marijuana expansion proposed by Rep. Allen Peake.

The governor again said he was concerned that law enforcement officials raised questions about state Rep. Allen Peake’s proposal. But he also contended that another constituency – the medical community – hasn’t embraced it enough to his liking.

“Doctors worry they will lose their license. Look at the very small number of doctors who have signed up on our registry to say that we would even approve the use of what we have already authorized,” Deal said after the State of the State speech. “If the medical community has not embraced it more thoroughly, I don’t know how the expansion of maladies that are covered would help.”

Peake and his allies aren’t backing down.

“We’re going to take up the bill that was introduced on Tuesday,” said House Speaker David Ralston. “We’re going to move forward on that bill in the House and I feel like we will be able to engage with the governor’s office and the Senate.”

If the main roadblock for Peake’s medical marijuana bill is the possibility of a veto by Gov. Deal, why not consider a Constitutional Amendment? Last year’s House Bill 1 passed with well better than a 2/3 majority in both houses, so it’s possible sufficient support would exist for Peake’s latest effort, and a Constitutional Amendment doesn’t require the Governor’s signature. It might be that Deal’s opposition would tamp down the support below the 2/3 majority, but you’ll never know until you try it.

Elections

Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign picked up a new round of Peach State endorsements.

Among Rubio’s newest supporters are state Sen. Rick Jeffares and longtime state Reps. Howard Maxwell and Gerald Greene. Also on the list were a handful of prosecutors, including Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds.

“Marco Rubio has the strength to restore our military might, destroy ISIS, protect Israel, and secure our homeland,” said Reynolds in a statement. “I’m excited to join his effort to build a New American Century.”

They join a growing core of supporters that also include Rep. Austin Scott, Rubio’s Georgia chair, and state Reps. Geoff Duncan, Michael Caldwell, Chuck Efstration, Buzz Brockway, Trey Kelley and Bert Reeves.

Three candidates have announced they will run for Fulton County Solicitor General, which is being vacated by Carmen Smith, who will not seek reelection, according to the Daily Report.

Clayton County Chief Assistant Solicitor General Keith Gammage, Senior Fulton County District Attorney Clint Rucker and Atlanta solo Teri Walker have announced their intentions to seek the post. Smith, who was first elected in 1996 and won new terms four times, declined to discuss why she’s giving up the job.

We’ve heard from two sources that Columbus, GA lawyer Bobby Smith will run for Congress against Second District Rep. Sanford Bishop.

Gainesville attorney John Breakfield will run for an open seat on the Hall County State Court, according to the Gainesville Times.

John Breakfield enters a field of two candidates for the seat on the bench held by Chief State Court Judge Charles Wynne. Wynne announced in December that he would vacate the position.

“I want to serve Hall County as State Court Judge because I believe in making our community a better place,” Breakfield said in a statement.

Michelle Hall announced her candidacy earlier this month.

You can check out Breakfield’s website here, or follow his campaign on Facebook.

Two candidates qualified for a Clermont City Council seat vacated by the death of Joe McGoogan two days after he won the seat in November.

Georgia’s Zippy Duvall was elected President of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“I am so humbled and thankful for your support and belief in my leadership for [American Farm Bureau Federation] President,’’ Duvall said after his election. “I will continue to represent all farmers and ranchers across the states.”

A longtime member of the Greene County Farm Bureau, Duvall raises broiler hens and cattle and grows hay. He is the 12th president in the American Farm Bureau’s 97-year history.

Savannah City Government

Martin Sullivan will serve as Chief of Staff to newly-elected Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach, according to the Savannah Morning News.

DeLoach has enlisted the services of Martin Sullivan, a 29-year-old Savannah native, former employee of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and one-time candidate for state representative.

As chief of staff, Sullivan will serve as a spokesman, write speeches and help develop policies, in addition to attending meetings and community functions, DeLoach said.

“I need somebody to work on my behalf on the overall scheme of things to keep programs on track,” he said.

Sullivan said he is excited to be working for DeLoach and does not have political ambitions of his own after being defeated in the Republican primary by Jesse Petrea in his 2014 run for State House District 166, which includes much of the eastside islands in Chatham County and the easternmost portions of Bryan County.

DeLoach will also be bringing interns onboard, and beginning the search for a new City Manager.

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