Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2016

On April 28, 1776, Colonel Lachlan McIntosh wrote from Savannah to General George Washington.

he concluded his letter with the report that because the South had limited manufacturing capability, the price of needed goods was two or three times higher than in the North, making procurement of clothing and arms for the new recruits difficult.

This last tidbit would prove prescient as lack of manufacturing proved an insuperable problem for the Confederacy. On May 16, 1777, McIntosh dueled against Button Gwinnett, scoring a fatal wound against one of Georgia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. McIntosh was acquitted at trial but forced to leave Georgia and eventually served under Washington at Valley Forge.

In 1787, McIntosh was a Commissioner representing Georgia in a series of three boudary disputes with South Carolina, two which were resolved on April 28, 1787 with the Convention of Beaufort.

In 1874, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation designating April 26th of each year as “Confederate Memorial Day,” choosing the day of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender to Union General William T. Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina. There is no longer a statutorily-recognized Confederate Memorial Day, but it has become custom for Governors to issue a proclamation yearly designating April 26th as Confederate Memorial Day or to make it the Monday or Friday closest to the 26th.

On April 28, 2014, the earliest ever Primary Elections in Georgia began, as in-person early voting started across the state.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Voters have four ways to prevent a candidate from running for office or remove them once in office – disqualification from the ballot, disqualification after the fact, challenging an election in court, or impeachment. All four of these are in play today in Georgia politics.

Elected officials can also be removed after an indictment or conviction in some cases, but that’s not a challenge that most voters are able to file, being reserved for prosecutors and grand juries.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced his decision to disqualify four candidates from the May 24 ballot.

James Frank Austin, Jr. was disqualified in House District 142

Kenneth Brown was disqualified in House District 179

Artur Bumburyak was disqualified in Senate District 5.

Jeff Sadiq a.k.a. Jaffar Sadiq was disqualified in Senate District 39

William Jeremy Salter was deemed property qualified for the election for District Attorney in the Rome Judicial Circuit

[Erratum: earlier this morning, I mistakenly wrote that Salter was disqualified – I was incorrect and apologize.]

This week, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation to lift the prohibition on felony drug offenders receiving food stamps.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, lifts the lifetime ban on felony drug offenders put into place by the federal government during the Clinton administration.

“Georgia is one of only three states that have maintained this ban in its entirety up until now,” says Deal.

The new law also ensures the records of first offenders are sealed after they complete their sentences, which Deal points out was the original intent of the First Offender Act.   And it adjusts public school disruption statutes so that students are handled through the disciplinary process rather than sent to a youth detention center.

It also prevents the state from revoking or refusing the grant licensures to those with a criminal history unless the crime directly relates to the occupation for which license they are seeking.

It’s the fifth piece of criminal justice reform legislation pushed by Deal since taking office and is based on recommendations from the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform.

Deal also signed a bill to require timely turnover of rape kits to law enforcement and processing.

In all, a backlog of 1,800 kits statewide was turned over to the GBI to process, some of them dating back years.

“Most of those rape kits were submitted by law enforcement in the metro Atlanta area as well as Grady Hospital,” says GBI Director Vernon Keenan.

The new law requires all kits, where the victim wants the case to move forward, to be turned over to law enforcement within 96 hours.  From there, the kits must be transferred to the GBI within 30 days.

Keenan says a $2million federal grant is helping address the current backlog of kits which can run up to $1,000 a piece to process.

Voters in Fulton County will see a referendum on additional funds for expansion of MARTA within the City of Atlanta and transportation projects in the rest of the county.

Gov. Nathan Deal has signed the bill that will allow Atlanta voters to decide on a half penny to expand the transit system and the remainder of the county to vote on up to three-quarters of a penny for roads and bridges.

House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones successfully resurrected the bill after a larger expansion of MARTA stalled in the state Senate when lawmakers representing north Fulton’s cities opposed it.

“The legislation recognized there are different transportation priorities in different parts of the county,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.

Jones says north Fulton residents were concerned expanding the rail line up to Windward Parkway would take too long when more immediate traffic relief could be achieved with road improvements.

Gov. Deal also signed House Bill 402 by State Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Rome) to expand work based educational opportunies.

“HB 402 was created to provide additional incentives for business and industry to partner with our K-12 Work-Based Learning Program and create more work placement opportunities for our 16 and 17 year old student apprentices,” said Rep. Lumsden. “I would like to thank the Department of Education, the Insurance Commissioner’s office and the Lieutenant Governor’s office for their assistance in the development of this important piece of legislation.”

HB 402 is modeled after Georgia’s drug-free workplace program and will offer businesses that participate in the K-12 Work-Based Learning Program a discount of up to five percent on their worker’s compensation insurance premiums as an incentive to encourage program participation. Work-based learning programs allow students age 16 and older to participate in a structured learning environment at an employer’s job site for a portion of the school day, while also receiving academic credit.

Pregnancy resource centers could be eligible for state funding under new legislation signed by Gov. Deal.

Georgia can give state money to “pregnancy resource centers” that offer medical and other services to pregnant women while discouraging them from getting abortions, under legislation signed Tuesday by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

The measure’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford, described her bill as a “positive” response to videos released this summer by abortion opponents showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing procedures for obtaining tissue from aborted fetuses for research.

Georgia now joins at least 10 other states that specifically dedicate funding to anti-abortion efforts, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports legal access to abortion. Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the organization, said the practice began some states decades ago.

“When you’re facing an abortion total of more than 27,000 babies being terminated each year, you’re going to look closer at what we can do to ensure women truly are making choices and not just being caught in a for-profit business scheme,” [Georgia Life Alliance Executive Director Emily] Matson said.

Deal signed two pieces of legislation sponsored by Gwinnett legislators, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

House Bill 887 was sponsored by state Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, to help children in the foster care system by putting a priority on placing them in the care of family members or kinship caregivers when it’s in their best interest. The bill also gives families another tool in caring for the children by creating a “Power of Attorney” document they can use when needed.

“This legislation prioritizes the safety and well-being of Georgia’s children,” Efstration said in a statement. “I am very proud of the work by the General Assembly to put the needs of the child first and recognize the availability of outstanding caregivers in our State.”

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 302 was backed by Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, and mandates that health insurance companies and health maintenance organizations must make up-to-date healthcare provider network directories available to customers in print and on their websites.

“Senate Bill 302 is a big win for Georgia consumers,” Martin said in a statement. “There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours trying to track down a list of in-network providers, and then finding out the information is incorrect. SB302 ensures Georgians can access important and accurate plan information online or request a printed version.”

In Coweta County, a series of forums was held featuring the candidates for County Commission Post One, and a solo forum for Probate Court Judge.

Angela Munson answered questions a forum Tuesday, but the other Coweta County Probate Court candidate, Mary Cranford, was not there to challenge her.

Munson is an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia. Cranford has been the county’s probate judge for 30 years.

“Judge Cranford cannot attend tonight and did send her regrets,” moderator Dean Jackson said as the forum began.

Cranford confirmed Jackson’s remarks on Wednesday morning. “I had made a prior commitment that I felt I needed to keep,” she said, declining to elaborate.

Republicans Matt Brass and Hayden Marlowe met in the third forum, for the State Senate seat vacated by Mike Crane.

Marlowe said it is important to focus on “what government should be involved in” and “maybe back off” of other things.

“Our economy is lackluster at best,” Marlowe said. The best way to improve the economy is “to get government out of the way.” He pointed to microbreweries not being able to sell directly to customers and Vidalia onion growers in Georgia who are hampered in selling their produce by regulations as examples of why government should not be involved in business.

“The economy obviously is getting getter. Is is moving at the pace we want? The answer to that is ‘no’,” Brass said. He said addressing the economy requires looking at Georgia’s top two industries – agriculture and the film industry.

There are “dairy farms all over this county” and in neighboring Troup and Heard, Brass said.

With regard to the movie business, he said, “Tell me that’s not important to this county. … We’ve got to maintain that.”

Marlowe questioned subsidies. “Is it really the government’s job to come in and give a private company taxpayer money?” he asked.

Brass defended the policies that apply to entire industries. “It’s not picking winners and losers,” he said.

Brass said he favors a move from income and property taxes toward a consumption tax. “We have to do it at the right time. It’s not always black and white about what to do.”

Qualifications to run for Sheriff are a concern in Muscogee County after two candidates were disqualified for failing to be fingerprinted in time, and the only remaining candidate could be bounced for allegedly failing to timely file a required affidavit.

A challenge to an election in Clinch County was denied by a superior court judge, according to the Valdosta Daily Times,

A Thomas County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that a contested Clinch County Board of Elections meeting was “adequate and lawful.”

“ … There was no error of law,” Southern Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Harry Jay Altman ruled after hearing from attorneys for the board of elections and a Clinch County citizen who challenged a board proceeding.

Ronji Edmonds challenged incumbent Homerville City Councilmember James E. Witherspoon III’s candidacy. Edmonds claimed Witherspoon was an ineligible candidate, based on homestead exemptions the council member filed on residences in Lowndes County and in Florida.

A Facebook post may have contributed to new calls for the impeachment of Meigs, Georgia Mayor Linda Harris.

Calling a Facebook post by Meigs Mayor Linda Harris “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Meigs residents Gail and Tom White wrote a letter to the Meigs city clerk requesting Harris’ impeachment.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Harris wrote, “African American citizens of Meigs who are in the MCC Club (Meigs Community Civic Club), when going to your next meeting, look at your founder’s confederate vehicle tags and then think about this picture.”

The picture was of two African Americans chained to pine trees.

The post is just the latest in a series of actions by the mayor to which the Whites have taken exception. She has also been arrested twice in the last seven months for allegedly stealing money from the City Hall, using city credit cards without authority and violation of oath of office.

Gail White launched a successful recall petition in November 2015. the election is scheduled for May 24.

The mayor’s legal cases will go before a grand jury May 3.

If you enjoy bird-watching, the Savannah area hosts a pair of reality TV stars horned owls on 24/7 webcam.

The younger of two adorable owlets raised under live-streaming cameras fledged over the weekend. It had made a few previous forays out of this converted eagle nest seven stories above a golf course green and returned home, but this exit seemed to be for good.

As they did during last year’s inaugural season, the owls provided months of entertainment and education to viewers allowed to peek into their world. As before, the mama owl was unfailingly vigilant, the dad a good provider. Even what seemed like a mishap when the older owlet fledged on a windy day had a happy ending.

Two cameras were trained on them, both equipped with infrared lighting to provide nighttime viewing. A Minnesota researcher examined the raptors’ voiceprints and determined it was the same male and female returning to raise a second brood. Amateur and professional ornithologists have provided insight into the birds’ biology and behavior.

Click here for the Skidaway bird cams.

In Rome, GA, the newest bald eagles are doing well and you can watch them on EagleCam on the web. They’re eating breakfast as I type this morning.

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