Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 3, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 3, 2016

16th Amendment

On August 3, 1910, Georgia became the ninth state to ratify the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allows Congress to levy a tax without apportioning it among the states.

Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President on August 3, 1923 after Warren Harding died in office.

On August 3, 1982, Michael Hardwick was arrested, setting in motion the prosecution that would eventually lead to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick.

The World of Coca-Cola opened on August 3, 1990 between Underground Atlanta and the Georgia State Capitol.

Over the summer, a legislative committee will consider how to preserve Georgia’s historic sites.

When the recession hit Georgia, historic sites were among the first to feel it.

Hours were scaled back, and even now, the state focuses its resources where it sees the most demand.

Some sites draw more than enough people to cover their costs. For example, the Little White House in Warm Springs, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought treatment for his polio and later died, generates 124 percent profit.

The Dahlonega Gold Museum is also a popular site that more than covers its costs.

But operating hours at Fort Morris, which once protected Savannah from the British, are limited. Money raised from visitors generates about 18 percent of what is needed to run it.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Mark Dehler is resigning from his job as Executive Director of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, according to the Fulton Daily Report.

Hiwassee attorney Mark Dehler will leave his post as executive director of the judicial watchdog group on Aug. 16, Brenda Weaver, the commission’s chairwoman and chief judge of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, said Monday in an email to the panel’s members.

Weaver’s four-sentence note did not give a reason for the resignation. She responded to a request for comment with another brief email.

“I am sorry to announce that Mark is resigning,” said Weaver. “All members of the Commission certainly appreciate his leadership and guidance during the last year. We all wish him the very best, both personally and professionally.”

The Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) has authority over sitting judges and candidates for judicial office to ensure that they adhere to standards of practice and behavior. The JQC has authority to discipline judges (and candidates for judicial office) or remove them from office.

The Judicial Nominations Commission (JNC) accepts nominations for judicial offices to be appointed by the Governor, collects applications from interested lawyers for these positions, and makes recommendations of those candidates the Commission considers the most qualified for the position.

The JNC is currently accepting nominations for two new seats on the Georgia Supreme Court. In January 2017, Chief Justice Hugh Thompson will retire, opening a third seat to be filled by Governor Deal. Currently, the JNC has received at least 79 nominations for the two seats currently being filled. Not surprisingly, those nominees include a number of judges currently on the Georgia Court of Appeals and lower courts.

Governor Deal has shown a pattern of elevating a sitting judge to appellate court openings, thus opening an additional appointment on the lower court bench being vacated. My best guess is that at least one of the three current or impending seats on the Supreme Court will be filled by a sitting Judge on the Court of Appeals. That would then lead to gubernatorial appointment of a Court of Appeals Judge, and could knock two further dominoes if a Superior Court or State Court judge is then elevated to the Court of Appeals.

So, if you’re a lawyer who meets the qualifications to hold judicial office and are interested in pursuing an appointment, it would be worthwhile to begin preparing your application materials.

The Pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA will be keeping an eye on Georgia for signs of a blue or purple wave in November.

As of June 30, Priorities USA had raised over $100 million—halfway to its anticipated budget for the year.

[Priorities USA Co-Chair and Chief Strategist Guy] Cecil, 42, was Clinton’s political and field director during the 2008 campaign, and afterward spend two election cycles heading the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. This is his first time on the super-PAC side of the equation.

You’ve been airing ads in nine states. That’s not as broad a map as some thought would be possible against Trump.

We have every intention of expanding the map at least to the 2012 list.

How does that ambition inform your campaign plan?

One of the differences between previous super-PAC efforts and ours is we are not just talking to undecided, persuadable voters. We’re not just talking to white suburban women. We see it as one of our core missions to communicate with African-Americans, Hispanics, under-35s in paid communication in a way that most independent efforts haven’t done on a broad scale.

So you’re targeting them for get-out-the-vote?

Yep. About what’s at stake in the election.

Is Georgia not worth it for you?

I think Georgia and Indiana are the next two states that we poll in pretty regularly and are taking a look at. Part of this is just having resources, and if we have the opportunity to raise more than we expect then we’ll look at additional states. But right now our focus is in making sure we’re doing everything we can in the nine states we’re advertising in—which are essentially the nine closest Obama states.

The United States Senate campaigns of Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson and Democratic hopeful Jim Barksdale are considering debates across the state.

Democratic challenger Jim Barksdale is asking U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Atlanta, to meet him in a series of debates throughout the state, including one that would be conducted in Albany.

Isakson’s campaign said it is open to debating.

“We look forward to debating as we have always done in the general election,” Trey Kilpatrick, campaign manager for Georgians for Isakson, said. “Johnny has asked our campaign leadership to reach out and begin negotiations with the Barksdale campaign.”

According to the Barksdale campaign’s proposal, the debates would focus on economic issues.

“I believe voters across Georgia need to hear directly from both major party candidates in Georgia’s only statewide office on the ballot in November,” Barksdale said in a statement from his campaign Tuesday. “While we may disagree on the issues, I hope that we can agree voters across Georgia stand to benefit by getting the best information they can heading into the voting booth to choose their next U.S. senator.”

In addition to Albany, Barksdale proposed debates in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Macon and Savannah, which would be conducted in the 14 weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 general election.

Governor Nathan Deal issued a press release saying that the film industry has delivered a $7 billion dollar impact in Georgia.

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia-lensed feature film and television productions generated an economic impact of more than $7 billion during fiscal year 2016. The 245 feature film and television productions shot in Georgia represent $2.02 billion in direct spending in the state.

“Georgia’s film industry provides a significant impact on our state’s economy, employing thousands of Georgians while developing infrastructure and boosting small businesses,” said Deal “The film industry has created a home in Georgia, and I am committed to retaining this relationship by constructing a strong, film-ready workforce that will continue to help the industry thrive.”

In addition to the increase in production expenditures, Georgia has experienced enormous infrastructure and business growth, including the opening of Atlanta Metro Studios in Union City and a significant expansion at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayetteville. More than 130 new businesses have relocated or expanded in Georgia to support this burgeoning industry, creating jobs for Georgians as well as economic opportunities for communities and small businesses.

First Lady Sandra Deal delivered a commencement address at Georgia Gwinnett College.

Speaking in her trademark homespun delivery, Deal offered practical advice to the new graduates and encouraged them to comb their hair, have a nice haircut and wear a pressed shirt,”not like you slept in it. Brush your teeth and present yourself with a smile and a pleasant look.”

Deal said she was glad to hear that student loan debt is not as much of a burden among GGC students as students at other schools.

“Look at your finances,” she said. “The best freedom, other than living in this free country, is to be free of debt. Pay off everything you can as quickly as you can to get out of debt, to give you the freedom to do the things you want to do with your money and your life. Because that is a weight around your neck.”

Deal asked for a show of hands of the soon-to-be graduates who had already landed a job, and then encouraged them to look at each job, no matter how humbling it is, as a stepping stone to learn something.

“It’s what you do with what you have learned that’s going to make the difference,” she said. “Be worthy as you go out into the world, whatever job you choose, do it to the best of your ability.”

State Representative Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon), who served 28 years with the Georgia State Patrol before being elected, was honored by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, who presented Hitchens with the Meritorious Service Award.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler-CD1) presented the House Republicans legislative plan, called “A Better Way,” to his consituents.

“Under the leadership of (House Speaker) Paul Ryan, this is what we came up with,” Carter said.

The plan addresses the Constitution, the economy, health care, national security, poverty and tax reform.
Carter, who is the only pharmacist in Congress, discussed the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act, which aims to deal with the serious problem of opioid addictions.

“Drug abuse is not a partisan issue,” Carter said. “It does not discriminate at all. It is a big, big problem in this country.”

Richmond County will receive 100 used voting machines from Adams County, Colorado.

Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said a former Columbus, Ga., elections staffer who transferred to Colorado discovered 700 unwanted units there, available to anyone willing to pay shipping and license transfer fees.

The machines “were the exact same system we used in Georgia,” Bailey said. “The only change we’ll have to make is we’ll have to update them to Georgia’s software.”

Augusta will get the machines for approximately $17,000 instead of the $140,000 it would cost to buy them new, Bailey said. “It really is a great deal for Richmond County,” she said.

Bailey told Augusta commissioners who approved the expense Tuesday that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp assured her the state will use the same voting technology through 2023.

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted against putting Sunday alcohol sales in municipalities on the November ballot.

District 4 Commissioner Michelle Morgan made the motion to include it on the ballot and District 5 Commissioner Kevin Jackson made a motion to deny, seconded by Commissioner Tommy Lee of District 3. District 2 Commissioner Vicki Anderson asked Jackson if he was making a motion to deny citizens the right to vote.

Anderson, Morgan and District 1 Commissioner Trent North voted in favor of having Sunday alcohol sales on the ballot. Jackson, Lee, Commissioner George Chambers and Chairman Marty Smith made up the majority to keep it off the ballot.

Macon-Bibb County commissioners voted to place a $280 million dollar Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the November ballot.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission approved Tuesday the special purpose local option sales tax measure that, beginning in April 2018, would be used on numerous projects. But the final decision on whether the penny-on-the-dollar sales tax is continued will likely be made by voters in November.

As a matter of formality, the Macon-Bibb County elections board is expected to hold a special called meeting this week to add the measure to the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Tuesday’s vote was 8-0 with Commissioner Bert Bivins being absent.

For Mayor Robert Reichert, Tuesday’s unanimous vote signifies how the SPLOST is representative of each of the districts that commissioners represent. The project list was developed over the past several months through a series of meetings, most of which were facilitated by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

A unanimous Gwinnett County Commission voted to roll back the property tax millage rate.

The move sets the county government’s total property tax millage rate at 13.176 mills for this year, down from last year’s cumulative rate of 13.579 mills. That figure does not include the school system’s millage rate, which is set separately by the Gwinnett county Board of Education.

By rolling back the millage rate, the commissioners are keeping it at a “revenue neutral” level, meaning tax revenues remain virtually flat from last year. One mill equates to a property owner being taxed $1 for every $1,000 of his or her property’s assessed value.

“As I work on the proposed budget for next year, I will probably regret not having that additional revenue for the general fund, but it just seems like the right thing to do in terms of the kinds of ups and downs we’ve had with the millage rate and some other issues over the last several years,” commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said.

“And, you know, our staff has done a good job of continuing to push to be able to provide the services so that we are able to reduce the millage rate.”

Rising property values in Senoia, Georgia will lead to higher property tax bills for many owners if the City Council keeps the millage rate at the same level as last year.

The Coweta County Board of Education answered questions about proposed property tax hikes.

The Newnan Times-Herald has a good explainer on how property taxes work, and the process for raising or rolling back the property tax millage rate. The Times-Herald also has a schedule of property tax hearings in local jurisdictions.

Roberta, Georgia Mayor Becky Smith won’t be charged after she rolled up on a police stop involving her daughter.

The mayor’s daughter, Susan J. Mason, was stopped on Hortman Mill Road in the neighboring town of Knoxville for allegedly failing to stay in her lane.

The mayor and her husband, Jack, drove up at the scene where the deputy was citing Mason.

A GBI probe was later launched into what transpired and whether the mayor may have abused her power and, if so, whether obstruction charges might be in order. Authorities have not divulged details of the encounter.

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