Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 24, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 24, 2016

On June 24, 1497, John Cabot first sighted North America, claiming it for the British Crown.

On June 24, 1795, the United States Senate voted to ratify Jay’s Treaty between the UK and United States. The terms of the treaty required an appropriation from the U.S. House of Representatives to implement it, and Congressional opponents tried to defeat the appropriation, which was approved by a 51-48 margin on April 30, 1796. Click here for more background on the treaty and controversy.

On June 24, 1853, President Franklin Pierce signed the Gadsden Purchase, acquiring what it now southern Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico.

General Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River toward Pennsylvania on June 24, 1863.

John R. Lynch was the first African-American elected Chairman of the Republican National Convention on June 24, 1884; Lynch was nominated by Theodore Roosevelt.

Woodrow Wilson married Ellen Louise Axson of Rome, Georgia in Savannah on June 24, 1885.

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin from all road, rail, and barge traffic.

Following World War II, Germany was divided into occupation zones. The United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and, eventually, France, were given specific zones to occupy in which they were to accept the surrender of Nazi forces and restore order. The Soviet Union occupied most of eastern Germany, while the other Allied nations occupied western Germany. The German capital of Berlin was similarly divided into four zones of occupation.

The United States response came just two days after the Soviets began their blockade. A massive airlift of supplies into West Berlin was undertaken in what was to become one of the greatest logistical efforts in history. For the Soviets, the escapade quickly became a diplomatic embarrassment. Russia looked like an international bully that was trying to starve men, women, and children into submission. And the successful American airlift merely served to accentuate the technological superiority of the United States over the Soviet Union. On May 12, 1949, the Soviets officially ended the blockade.

General Lucius D. Clay of Marietta, Georgia was military Governor of occupied Germany at that time.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in West Germany on June 24, 1977. It’s astounding.

Rickey Henderson made his major league debut with the Oakland A’s on June 24, 1979, stealing his first base.

On June 24, 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution was defeated, having garnered the ratification of thirty-five states, three shy of the requisite Constitutional Majority.

Hopes for ratification before the deadline next Wednesday were dashed this week when the amendment was rejected by the Illinois House and the Florida Senate, two states in which supporters felt they had a fighting chance.

Had Illinois and Florida ratified the amendment, there was at least some chance that either Oklahoma or North Carolina would have provided the final needed vote.

Prospects were far slimmer in the other nonratifying states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Phyllis Schlafly, a leader of a group called Stop-ERA, hailed the defeat of the amendment tonight, saying: ”They realized E.R.A. is dead and I think that that is an admission they have lost the battle. My feeling is that E.R.A. will take its place with the prohibition and the child labor amendments as ones which did not have enough support of the American people to be in the Constitution.”

Dr. Ralph Stanley died yesterday at 89 years of age.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Representative Joe Wilkinson (R-Sandy Springs) will be honored by the Georgia Pet Coalition for his work on Senate Bill 168, the Adoptable Dog bill, which made the adoptable dog the official state dog. An award ceremony will be held at the Georgia State Capitol on the South Wing Steps on Monday, June 27, 2016 at 3 PM.

Senator Judson Hill (R-Cobb) Chairs a Senate Finance Sub-Committee on Tax Reform, meeting today at 10 AM.

“We need to do all we can to reduce the tax burden on Georgia’s hardworking families and businesses,” said Sen. Hill. “Our goal is, in the most fiscally responsible way, to enable Georgians to keep more dollars in their pockets and make their own decisions on whether those dollars should be saved, invested or spent.”

The committee will hold several meetings before the 2017 legislative session to engage constituents, legislators and policy experts to discuss the best potential reforms to the tax code in Georgia.

Two Georgians have been named to a board to advise presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump on the Evangelical community.

The make-up of the board includes Jentezen Franklin, Senior Pastor of Free Chapel in Gainesville.  Another member with Georgia ties is Ralph Reed, founder of the Christian Coalition, who ran an unsuccessful race for Lt. Governor in 2006.

According to a news release from the Trump camp, the leaders on the executive board were not asked to endorse Trump as a prerequisite for participating on the board.

“Rather,” the release states, “the formation of the board represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of those diverse issues important to Evangelicals and other Christians, and his desire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders as needed.”

“I have such tremendous respect and admiration for this group and I look forward to continuing to talk about the issues important to Evangelicals, and all Americans, and the common sense solutions I will implement when I am President,” Trump said.

Take note, campaign treasurers and candidates: spending on private clubs might be curtailed under the most recent ruling of the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

State officials have put Georgia politicians on notice: You can’t spend campaign funds at business clubs and similar organizations unless it’s for legitimate election expenses.

The notice came in a civil case against former Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards, who admitted misspending $13,836 at the Commerce Club in Atlanta. Under a settlement approved by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission Thursday, Edwards agreed to repay his campaign that amount or donate it to a charity.

Commission attorney Robert Lane told the board the ruling would come as a surprise to many politicians, who he said routinely spend campaign cash on memberships and expenses at business clubs, chambers of commerce and similar organizations.

“This will cause a lot of consternation among elected officials,” Lane said. “A lot of them do it.”

But the ruling on the Commerce Club spending may have a bigger impact on Peach State politicians.

Lane said state law requires money raised for political campaigns to be spent on “ordinary and necessary campaign expenses.” He said the commission gives candidates plenty of leeway – any expenditure calculated to improve a candidate’s chances of winning an election would qualify.

But in Edwards’ case, “there was absolutely no evidence” the Commerce Club expenses were for campaign purposes, Lane said.

Under state law – which mirrors federal law – candidates cannot use campaign cash for social club memberships, he said.

I will probably tell my clients this going forward: I would recommend not paying for dues for the Commerce Club, the Georgian Club, or wherever, out of campaign funds. But I think that reimbursement for meals and rooms used for campaign functions is okay. So if you hold your fundraiser at your club, the catering bill, room charge, etc. is probably okay to pay with campaign funds. Avoiding the possibility of an ethics complaint going forward is worth the personal expense of membership or doing away with the membership. I have no opinion on reimbursing past dues payments.

Congratulations to Attorney General Sam Olens, who was elected Vice President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

The Association’s members are the 56 state and territorial attorneys general.

The election of Olens by his fellow attorneys general occurred yesterday during the NAAG meeting in Burlington, VT. Along with being Vice President, Olens will serve on several committees including:

- Federalism/Preemption, Co-Chair
- Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Relations Working Group, Co-Chair
- Internet Safety/Cyber Privacy and Security
- Human Trafficking
- Training

“I am honored to be elected Vice President of NAAG during the coming year,” said Olens. “I want to congratulate our newly elected President, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen. I look forward to working with him and my counterparts on ways to better our individual states.”

Olens also released a statement on the Supreme Court’s deadlocked 4-4 decision on President Obama’s plan to limit deportation of illegal aliens.

“The Supreme Court’s action today leaves in place a decision affirming that President Obama cannot evade the Constitution. Our nation’s laws, the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, and the Constitution, must be followed.”

Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols (R-Athens) writes in the Atlanta Business Chronicle about the need to end human trafficking.

Cobb County’s new Braves stadium will create headaches for Sandy Springs under a traffic plan introduced to the Sandy Springs City Council.

Cobb County plans to direct game-day traffic for the new Braves stadium off I-285 and onto local streets at Northside Drive, an idea that drew shock and outrage from the Sandy Springs City Council on June 21.

“This was our nightmare,” said a visibly angry Mayor Rusty Paul, blasting the plan and saying Cobb County leaders have not returned his calls for traffic management planning. He demanded that Cobb leaders “get everybody in a room real fast…We’ve got to figure out some alternative to this.”

Two days later, Paul and Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee met to talk about the traffic plan, according to a jointly issued press release.

The news was delivered in a non-voting council work session by Jim Wilgus, Cobb’s interim transportation director. The specific topic was permission to install directional signs for the Braves’ SunTrust Park and related Battery Atlanta commercial development, which are slated to open early next year in Cobb’s Cumberland area at I-285 and I-75.

Then Wilgus dropped his bombshell: On days of games and other big events, the signs—with “dynamic” messages that change on the fly—would direct stadium-goers to get off highways one exit before Cumberland and use local streets. On 285, that exit is Sandy Springs’ Northside Drive, and traffic would route onto Powers Ferry Road and Interstate North Parkway, known locally as the “access road.” Cobb wants to put one of the signs on Powers Ferry near the Chattahoochee River.

Wilgus said the idea is to lessen congestion on highways. Mayor Paul and councilmembers noted that means increasing congestion on local streets.

“You want to take all the traffic off 285 and put it on surface streets?” asked an incredulous Councilmember Tibby DeJulio.

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee met with Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul yesterday and the two issued a joint press release.

“We have work to do, but we are committed to collaborating with Cobb County in developing viable solutions that create a win-win scenario for both communities,” said Paul in the press release.

“Cobb County and Sandy Springs have a long history of collaborating on many projects and we plan to add traffic management around SunTrust Park to our record of success,” said Lee in the press release. “I am confident that we will end up with a plan that works in the best interest of both communities.”

Paul and Lee met along with “members of their senior team,” the press release said, adding, “The group reviewed signage, game day and public safety initiatives, with agreement that cooperative efforts have produced a strong base related to operational considerations. The group also discussed systemic issues, specifically the need for significant capital projects to alleviate traffic concerns in and around the New Northside [Drive] area in Sandy Springs.”

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) is pushing back against suggestions that Georgia consider Medicaid expansion under a waiver.

Proponents of Medicaid expansion claim that it’s federal money that could supplant state spending.  Chief proponents of Medicaid expansion say, “if you draw down federal dollars, you can free up some of those state dollars,” implying that Georgians could save money at the expense of Washington. Arkansas’ “Private Option” proves that is not the case.

When a state expands Medicaid, it agrees to support these newly enrolled with the support of the federal government. Unfortunately, that financial support dwindles over time, and because it is a large line item in the Congressional budget, House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that it may become a key target for cuts. That would put Georgia on the hook for covering even more of the Medicaid costs for this new enrollment base.

Furthermore, proponents state that “at some point you have to look at sustainability.” Well, a massive expansion of the state’s welfare program will put “sustainability” in a whole new light.

Taxpayers in Georgia already foot a bill of more than $3 billion every year to cover health services through Medicaid, plus an additional $2 billion for services for the aged, developmentally disabled, addictive diseases, behavioral, mental and public health. Georgians currently pay for 60% of all births in this state through our current Medicaid program.

Our Medicaid costs have already grown by 40% over the last decade. With the increased enrollment through Medicaid expansion, those figures will only get worse.

Governor Nathan Deal spoke about the importance of educating state prisoners at the Georgia Department of Corrections 2016 Academic Education Summer Conference.

“If somebody has an education and they can read when they couldn’t read before,” said the Governor.  “When they have a skill that is marketable in the general community that they didn’t have before, it’s just common sense the likelihood that they’re coming back is significantly reduced and that’s good news for all of us.”

Over 8,000 inmates are educated as apart of programs every year, and can earn their high school diplomas, GED’s, or even learn a trade such as welding.

“It’s giving them jobs, but it’s also giving them hope,” said Buster Evans, the assistant commissioner for the Division of Inmate Services. “It’s giving them a skill, and we believe we’re equipping them to be successful.”

“More remarkable than even to that, is that the programs are working, they’re changing lives,” continued Gov. Deal.

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