Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 8, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 8, 2016

The first Porsche automobile was completed on June 8, 1948.

On June 8, 2004, Georgia hosted the G-8 summit meeting of the world’s major industrial democracies, which included representatives from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom, plus a representative from the European Union. The 30th meeting of the G-8 was held at Sea Island at the Cloister.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Donald Trump will be in Georgia next week for a fundraiser hosted by Senator David Perdue and Governor Nathan Deal.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-GA), who chairs the State Senate Health and Human Services Committee said that Georgia should consider expanding Medicare under a waiver in order to address the financial instability of rural health care.

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) didn’t endorse the idea of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Rather, she thinks the state should look at negotiating a federal waiver, as other Republican-majority states have done, to tailor how any potential Medicaid expansion would work.

“We have to open that box and look just a little bit and see what’s available,” Unterman said. “Hopefully, if you draw down federal dollars, you can free up some of those state dollars. Right now, we’re just pumping out state dollars to stay in the midst of the crisis.”

The “crisis” Unterman is referring to is the struggle many Georgia hospitals are facing to keep their doors open. At least four rural hospitals have closed in Georgia since 2013.

“At some point you have to look at sustainability. As one of those budget writers, you have to say ‘How many years in a row can we pump in hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals that are closing, to physicians that are going to out of business?’” Unterman said. “We have to re-examine where we are.”

Litigation between Georgia and Florida over waterflow from the Chattahoochee River may go to trial in October or November, according to the Gainesville Times.

Georgia is likewise optimistic, saying in a Friday brief that “the parties continue to evaluate and discuss potential ways to resolve the case.”

The trial would involve the latest litigation in a decadeslong tri-state battle over water sharing in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which includes Lake Lanier.

Florida is basically accusing Georgia of “overconsumption” of water in the basin, leading to economic troubles for Florida’s oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

Georgia has denied the allegations.

In the past, Alabama has been part of litigation over water, but is keeping hands off in the latest squabble in the “water wars.

As for the case moving to trial, “it is original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to adjudicate disputes between the states, so that’s why this is a trial as opposed to just appellate hearings,” said Clyde Morris, lawyer for Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association.>

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston has appointed members to three more House Study Committees.

Joint Alternative Fuels Infrastructure and Vehicles Study Committee:
Bubber Epps – Co-Chair (R-Dry Branch)
Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton)
Valerie Clark (R-Lawrenceville)
Dominic LaRiccia (R-Douglas)
Brian Strickland (R-McDonough)

Joint High-Speed Broadband Communications Access for All Georgians Study Committee:
Don Parsons – Co-Chair (R-Marietta)
Robert Dickey (R-Musella)
Susan Holmes (R-Monticello)
Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville)
Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville)

Joint Music Economic Development Study Committee:
Matt Dollar – Co-Chair (R-Marietta)
Spencer Frye (D-Athens)
Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville)

I’m not saying it’s premature, but it certainly is among the earliest set of announcements I can recall, coming before the Primary Runoff in the prior year’s election cycle. Following the announcement by Wendell Willard that he will not run for reelection in 2018, two candidates have announced for the 2018 election.

City Council member Gabriel Sterling kicked off the early announcement trend June 6. Attorney Alex Kaufman said also will run, though he was planning a formal announcement farther in the future.

The announcement nearly two years before the campaign sets some political dominoes falling, as it also means Sterling will not seek re-election next year to his District 4 City Council seat.

“I don’t see any reason to be coy about it,” Sterling said, adding he has talked with Willard. Sterling said he wants to “take my conservative solutions to the state level” and bring “more privatization and competition to bring costs down.”

As for the council seat he has held since 2011, Sterling said, “It means I won’t be running in 2017,” the next council election. Qualifying for Willard’s House District 51 seat will begin in early 2018, so “the timing is right. It makes good sense.”

Kaufman is a business lawyer who works at Kaufman & Forman in Sandy Springs and was born and raised in the city. He also chairs the House District 51 Republican committee, he said. “I want to work on small- and medium-sized business issues,” Kaufman said. “I think we need more Republican lawyers in the legislature.” He also cited traffic and education as major issues.

House District 51 includes Sandy Springs’ panhandle area and parts of Johns Creek and Roswell.

Whether or not the Religious Liberty debate is settled by that time, it will be interesting to see how a move by Sandy Springs City Council to expand protection of LGBT employment rights plays in the Republican Primary.

Sandy Springs on June 7 adopted a new non-discrimination policy that tightens protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and that applies to all aspects of city business for the first time.

City Council member Andy Bauman called for the policy tightening earlier this year in the wake of debate over a state “religious liberty” law widely criticized as permitting discrimination against LGBT people. Gov. Nathan Deal later vetoed the bill.

The city’s previous policy applied only to its own employment practices, not other city business. Among its categories was “sexual preference,” an old term referring to gay people that is now considered incorrect and offensive.

McDonough recommended an updated policy that includes “sexual orientation” and “gender” as protected categories, as well as “any other status or condition” protected under any federal, state or local law. The policy would continue to include other specific categories such as race and religion.

The update immediately applies only to the city’s employment policy. But, McDonough said, it will be the basis to “update all other documents,” including outside contracts and agreements covering use of city parks and recreational facilities.

The policy change was done as quietly and quickly as possible. McDonough discussed it during a staff report period near the meeting’s end, where discussion items are not listed on the meeting agenda. There was no council discussion and the policy change was made without a vote, as Mayor Rusty Paul simply said, “Without objection, so ordered.”

Gwinnett County and its cities are discussing how to structure a 2017 SPLOST, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Although county and municipal leaders only met for the first time on Tuesday to discuss the 2017 SPLOST, they already share some common ground on how to spend the money.

Connectivity, transportation, public safety and recreation projects were repeatedly put forward by officials as wish list projects during their meeting at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

“I think it’s helpful for the messaging of the program overall that there is that much commonality,” county commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. “The fact that the use of the proceeds sound like they’re going to cluster in a handful of categories, the majority of it anyway, makes the messaging easier and more simple to do.”

Tuesday’s meeting was the beginning of the process involved in putting together a SPLOST package that will go before voters in November. An intergovernmental agreement is expected to go before county commissioners and city councils this month and next month.

The commissioners are also expected to call for the referendum at their July 19 meeting.

The Gwinnett County Commission also named Magistrate Judges Michelle Knight and James Argo Jr. as senior judges in Gwinnett Magistrate Court, with no changes in their duties.

Macon-Bibb County is considering changing the firm that manages the Macon Coliseum.

In Rincon, voters will decide in November whether to approve package sales of beer and wine on Sundays.

In Hall County, Commissioners are hoping to work with municipalities to set uniform hours during which fireworks may be set off.

It all began when commissioners scheduled a “first-reading” on a measure governing fireworks on September 10th of last year.  That “first-reading” was tabled when commissioners decided to wait until the state legislature could address the issue during the recent General Assembly.

Legislators did so via House Bill 727, introduced by State Representative Paul Battles of Cartersville and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal on April 26th.   That legislation provides a measure of local control over the sale and use of fireworks that the initial law did not provide.

“Since we have so many municipalities I think it would be good if we work with all the municipalities and came up with…a consensus so that we all have the same time cut-offs,” Stowe suggested.

Commissioners asked staff to contact each city in the county and work out an agreement that could become an ordinance in those cities as well as in the county.

On Saturday, June 11th, State Representatives Timothy Barr, Emory Dunahoo and Carl Rogers will speak to the Hall County Republican Party at 9:30 AM. Democratic nominee for United States Senate Jim Barksdale will speak to the Hall County Democratic Party in Gainesville on June 13th at their 6:30 PM meeting.

Georgia Power officials told the Public Service Commission that the pace of construction on the two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle should quicken and the current revised budget met, according to Walter Jones with the Augusta Chronicle.

Though most of the construction is still to be done, the most expensive part is nearly complete, according to David McKinney, the vice president of nuclear development at Southern Nuclear Operating Co., the Georgia Power sister company that runs the plant.

Engineering is 94 percent complete, and procurement is more than 80 percent finished, according to testimony. McKinney said the huge components that were bought to be built into the plant are arriving well ahead of schedule, avoiding a problem that Chinese nuclear builders ran into when they used the same design.

In addition, the components are arriving in better quality than when construction began, he said.
“We’re seeing improved productivity at the site,” McKin­ney said.

The builder, Westing­house, affirmed in a Decem­ber agreement that it would stay on time and on budget.

“The company has not (been) doing anything to tell us anything about rescheduling. We certainly acknowledge that it’s a great challenge,” McKinney said.

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