Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 18, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 18, 2016

New Jersey became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights on November 20, 1789.
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Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 18, 1863; he delivered an 87-word speech at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

On November 19, 1864, as Sherman marched toward Savannah, the Georgia delegation to the Confederate Congress in Richmond, Virginia, sent a message to the state,

“Let every man fly to arms! Remove your negroes, horses, cattle, and provisions from Sherman’s army, and burn what you cannot carry. Burn all bridges and block up the roads in his route. Assail the invader in front, flank, and rear, by night and by day. Let him have no rest.”

Carl Vinson was born on November 18, 1883 in Baldwin County, Georgia. At noon on that day, U.S. and Canadian railroads implemented four time zones for the first time.

Efficient rail transportation demanded a more uniform time-keeping system. Rather than turning to the federal governments of the United States and Canada to create a North American system of time zones, the powerful railroad companies took it upon themselves to create a new time code system. The companies agreed to divide the continent into four time zones; the dividing lines adopted were very close to the ones we still use today.

Most Americans and Canadians quickly embraced their new time zones, since railroads were often their lifeblood and main link with the rest of the world. However, it was not until 1918 that Congress officially adopted the railroad time zones and put them under the supervision of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Mickey Mouse debuted in a black-and-white film called “Steamboat Willie” on November 18, 1928.

On November 18, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled from Washington, DC to Savannah, Georgia by train for Georgia’s Bicentennial and delivered a speech at Municipal Stadium.

Duane Allman was born in Nashville, Tennessee on November 20, 1946.

The first issue of National Review magazine was published on November 19, 1955.

President John F. Kennedy lifted the naval blockade of Cuba on November 20, 1962, ending the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Carl Vinson was honored on his 81st birthday in Milledgeville, Georgia on November 18, 1964; Vinson did not run for reelection in 1964 and retired after 50 years in office.

President Richard M. Nixon flew into Robins Air Force Base for Carl Vinson’s 90th birthday on November 18, 1973; on the trip he announced the next American nuclear supercarrier would be named USS Carl Vinson.

On November 20, 1975, Ronald Reagan announced he would run for President of the United States against incumbent Republican Gerald Ford. On May 4, 1976, Reagan won Georgia’s Presidential Primary with 68% over Ford.

President Ronald Reagan met for the first time with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev on November 19, 1985.

On November 18, 1989, Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey signed the Abortion Control Act, the first abortion restrictions enacted after Roe v. Wade.

Newt Gingrich was reelected Speaker of the House on November 20, 1996.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is asking liberals people upset about the Presidential election results to leave Georgia’s electors alone.

On December 19, 2016, Georgia’s 16 Republican Presidential Electors will convene under the Gold Dome to cast votes for the next President and Vice-President of the United States. In light of recent reports, Secretary of State Brian Kemp strongly urges Georgians and others to refrain from using threatening or disparaging language to manipulate electors.

“The Presidential election is over but, unfortunately, the vitriol remains,” stated Secretary of State Brian Kemp. “Our office has received numerous reports of individuals hurling insults and threats at Georgia’s electors because they are unsettled with America’s choice for President of the United States. This is absolutely unacceptable and those participating in or encouraging these efforts should stop. The electoral process in America has worked, and everyone – Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and others – should respect the will of Georgia’s voters and the Electors who represent them.”

Kemp also issued a press release noting that five candidates – four Republicans and an Independent – qualified for the Senate District 54 Special Election to succeed Charlie Bethel, who was appointed to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

“As shown through his work in the General Assembly, I am confident my friend and colleague, Charlie Bethel, will serve Georgians well on the bench,” stated Secretary Kemp. “This appointment by Governor Deal is a testament to Bethel’s integrity and dedication to public service.”

Qualifying closed at 2 p.m. [Thursday]. Four Republican candidates – Conda Goodson, Charles “Chuck” Payne, Michelle “Shell” Underwood, and William Vinyard – qualified for the seat. Debby Peppers also qualified as a nonpartisan candidate. Senate District 54 covers Gordon, Murray, Pickens, and Whitfield counties.

To take part in this contest, eligible Georgia citizens must have registered or already be registered to vote on or before Tuesday, November 15, 2016. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 13, 2016. A run-off election, if needed, will be held on January 10, 2017.

The Dalton Daily Citizen has more details on the election.

The 54th District includes all of Whitfield and Murray counties and parts of Gordon and Pickens counties.

Early voting begins on Nov. 28. Eligible Georgians must have registered or already be registered to vote on or before Nov. 15 to vote in the special election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13. A runoff election, if needed, will be on Jan. 10, 2017.

The League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area and The Daily Citizen will host a candidates forum for the District 54 seat on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 6:30 p.m. at Dalton City Hall. The public is invited. For more information, call Jackie Renfroe at (706) 278-8166 or Virgelia Meek at (706) 226-6774.

Governor Nathan Deal has upgraded the response to drought across Georgia.

Gov. Nathan Deal approved a Level 2 Drought Response designation for more than 50 counties. Faced with worsening drought conditions in about three-fourths of the state, 52 counties have been raised to Level 2 Drought Response and an additional 58 counties have been designated as Level 1.

“During this prolonged period of severe drought in Georgia, we are bolstering the state’s drought response in more than 100 counties,” Deal said. “I would like to remind Georgians that there are specific guidelines and prohibitions to follow during a Level 1 and Level 2 Drought Response. We urge these communities to act accordingly, use good judgment and avoid outdoor burning and watering while we continue to work with the EPD and pray for rain across the state.”

This week marks the 24th week of continuous severe drought in northwest Georgia, the 22nd week for the Atlanta metro area, the 21st week in northeastern parts of the state and the 15th week in central Georgia.

“Today’s declaration is driven by an extended period of little or no rain and increasing dryness in the impacted areas,” said EPD Director Richard Dunn. “What’s more, there is little hope for relief as weather forecasters expect an unusually warm, dry winter across most of the state.”

Prohibited outdoor water uses include:
·    Washing hard surfaces such as streets and sidewalks.
·    Water for ornamental purposes, such as fountains.
·    The use of fire hydrants, except for firefighting and public safety.
·    Non-commercial washing of vehicles.
·    Non-commercial pressure washing.
·    Fundraising car washes.

Those counties assigned a Level 2 Drought Response are: Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Butts, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Athens-Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dade, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fannin, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gilmer, Gordon, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Haralson, Harris, Heard, Henry, Jackson, Lamar, Lumpkin, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Murray, Newton, Oconee, Paulding, Pickens, Pike, Polk, Rockdale, Spalding, Troup, Union, Upson, Walker, Walton, White and Whitfield.

The additional counties assigned a Level 1 Drought Response are: Baker, Baldwin, Bibb, Bleckley, Calhoun, Chattahoochee, Clay, Columbia, Crawford, Crisp, Decatur, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Elbert, Franklin, Glascock, Greene, Hancock, Hart, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Jones, Laurens, Lee, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, Marion, McDuffie, Miller, Mitchell, Muscogee, Oglethorpe, Peach, Pulaski, Putnam, Quitman, Rabun, Randolph, Richmond, Schley, Seminole, Stephens, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Taliaferro, Taylor, Terrell, Towns, Twiggs, Warren, Washington, Webster, Wilkes and Wilkinson.

The Valdosta Daily Times writes that outdoor watering is restricted but not banned.

The order restricts outdoor watering to an odd-even schedule. Even-numbered addresses may water on Wednesday and Saturday between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m., while odd-numbered addresses may water on Thursday and Sunday between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.

State Senator Jesse Stone was recognized as a “Champion of Georgia’s Cities” by the Georgia Municipal Association.

State legislators who most actively support GMA’s initiatives and goals are given this award at the end of every two-year legislative term.

“It is an honor to be recognized as ‘A Champion of Georgia Cities’ by the Georgia Municipal Association,” said Sen. Stone. “I want to thank GMA for all the work they do to improve communities all across the state.”

“Sen. Stone has always been accessible; he listens and is responsive to the needs of his district and truly cares for the well-being of his constituents,” said GMA Director of Governmental Relations Tom Gehl. “His efforts have resulted in a more sustainable and economically efficient state.”

Based in Atlanta, GMA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and consulting services to its 520 member cities.

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) has withdrawn House Bill 3, which was referred to as a “burqa ban.”

“After further consideration, I have decided to not pursue HB 3 in the upcoming 2017 legislative session due to the visceral reaction it has created.

“While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created. My objective was to address radical elements that could pose a threat to public safety. However, further consideration dictates that other solutions will need to be considered.  In conclusion, anti-masking statutes have been upheld as constitutional (State v Miller, 1990), and HB 3 would withstand legal scrutiny, but not political scrutiny.”

Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth) had earlier delivered a stinging rebuke against HB 3, via the AJC Political Insider.

Shafer’s assessment of Spencer’s proposal:

“The government has no business preventing Muslim women from wearing face scarves in public.  Too many people on both sides of the religious freedom debate only want to protect freedom when it comes to their own beliefs.

“Freedom is a meaningless concept if it does not apply to all beliefs, even the ones, especially the ones, you do not share.”

Shafer is the first Republican leader in the Legislature to speak out publicly on the matter.

The AJC Insider also pitches Geoff Duncan as a potential statewide candidate.

The Cumming Republican appears likely to run for lieutenant governor if Casey Cagle makes a play for the open governor’s seat, a prospect few Capitol insiders are betting against. But he also didn’t rule out a run for any of the other statewide posts open in 2018.

“We continue to receive encouragement from around the state to consider running for a statewide office in 2018,” said Duncan. “My wife and I have begun the process of looking into a decision of that magnitude but are in no rush to make a decision.”

He adds: “One clear message we continue to hear from the voters across Georgia is they are no longer looking to just elect the next person in line for a leadership role, they expect much more.”

His proposal to require all bar bouncers to be 21 or older – dubbed Michael’s Law after the death last year of an 18-year-old bar staffer – passed last year with little opposition.

He also backed legislation that allows residents or corporations to get a state tax credit for donating money to a rural hospital, a measure pitched as a way to help struggling rural facilities. It passed despite criticism from some Democrats, although top lawmakers are worried some of the funds could be siphoned to consultants.

In the upcoming legislative session, Duncan said he is aiming to overhaul the state’s complicated title tax, which requires newcomers moving to the state to pay a one-time 7 percent sales tax on their car’s value. That measure replaced the state’s annual “birthday tax” for cars purchased after 2013.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) has pre-filed the first Senate bill of the year, Senate Bill 8, called the “Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act.”

State Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson) retained the lead in House District 105 after a recount.

Results from the recount showed the only change in the results was that Chandler, R-Grayson, received one more absentee vote that had somehow not been counted the first time. That means she received 12,411 votes while the number of votes for her Democratic opponent, Donna McLeod, remained unchanged at 12,189 votes.

Chandler’s margin of victory was 222 votes, or 50.38 percent to 49.48 percent.

“I commend the elections board for their very diligent work and hard work on this, and I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to serve all of the people in District 105,” said Chandler, who did not attend the recount.

“It’s been a long, tough election and now I’m looking forward to getting on with the business of working on some legislation that I want to get done in the General Assembly,” Chandler said.

Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph writes about the current state of politics in Georgia.

“It is essential, I think, that we unite now as a caucus,” Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said to the state House Republicans who gathered for officer elections Monday. “The other side is the enemy, it’s not our people. They, I think, have gotten a little emboldened.”

The “emboldened” other side he was talking about are Georgia Democrats.

Republican Donald Trump carried Georgia’s presidential vote, but Democrats have spent the meantime crowing about previously red places that voted blue, including Hillary Clinton’s wins in suburban Atlanta’s Cobb and Gwinnett counties. Those came with relatively little spending from her campaign.

“If you looked at the counties we flipped, it’s because we had diverse candidates running, and we were not only talking to those who normally vote in elections, but particularly in House races, we reached out to communities and candidates that were not the norm,” said House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta.

“What saved Trump in Georgia is he wrapped up rural areas,” said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia.

He said the blue votes in Cobb and Gwinnett were one of the most interesting “tea leaves” of the election.

“I doubt that it has many ramifications for Georgia,” said Bullock. For any fundamental change in Georgia politics, he’s looking toward the 2020s, when many expect the state to be bluer.

Congressman Tom Graves says Republicans have big plans for the next session of Congress.

Graves said having a Republican president for the first time since 2009 puts Congressional Republicans in position to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare; and enact a plan to reduce the tax and regulatory burdens on small business owners.

He said “right out of the gate” Americans will see “a Republican jobs plan that is going to be really incredible.”

The “heart” of the plan will be tax cuts “for the small business owners, the job creators and their employees” that will “reduce the tax and regulatory burden that is stifling our economy right now,” Graves said.

“That’s where I think our initial focus should be, and will be right out of the gate with President-Elect Trump, in addition to repealing Obamacare and addressing our national security issues,” he said.

Columbia County unveiled an economic development plan that aims to leverage investments in the Army Cyber Command facility at Fort Gordon.

The five business sectors with the most potential to “build wealth” in the county were listed as: cybersecurity/government contracting; high-value professional services; innovative manufacturing; entrepreneurial/retail development and health services.

Given the growth of Fort Gordon’s expanding cybersecurity missions, and that the industry’s average annual wage is $115,000 and boasts a 10-year growth rate exceeding 20 percent, focusing on cyber-related contractors, businesses and entrepreneurs is a no-brainer, Garner said.

“We were just wowed by the activity that has occurred there,” Garner said of Fort Gordon, which on Nov. 29 is having a ground breaking ceremony for the Army Cyber Command facility. “We’ve done a lot of work at military installations, but this is really a shining star in the various commands, and I’m not sure if everyone understands that. It’s a huge, huge asset in the community.”

Though Fort Gordon is located in Richmond County, about 70 percent of its off-post population live in Columbia County, according to installation estimates.

State education legislation may come to the forefront of the 2017 legislative session after voters rejected the Governor’s gambit for the Opportunity School District.

The governor’s Education Reform Commission, chaired by former University of Georgia President Charles Knapp, submitted its recommendations a year ago, but rather than trying to develop and push through new laws in 2016, Deal elected to come back in 2017 to “provide ample time to vet the full report,” he said in January as the state legislature’s annual session began.

Legislation affecting how teachers are evaluated and paid, how school systems are funded, school choice and more are likely to be introduced this time, Angela Palm, director of policy and legislative services for the Georgia School Board Association, told a committee of the Clarke County Board of Education this week.

Much of the talk was about a proposed new funding formula to replace the 30-year-old “Quality Based Education” model when Palm met with the board’s legislative affairs committee Tuesday.

Cobb County homeowners on lots smaller than 2 acres may be able to raise chickens after the County Commission granted a couple’s request for a zoning variance.

In favor were Commissioners Lisa Cupid, Bob Ott and Bob Weatherford. Opposed were Commission Chairman Tim Lee and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell.

For one year, Michael C. and Christina Disser were granted a land use permit for their four hens on Mitchell Road – used for egg production and education for their homeschooling family.

Georgia Healthcare

Congressman Tom Price (R-6) spoke to reporters about moving forward on ObamaCare repeal.

Price, who is being floated as a possible Health and Human Services Secretary in the next administration, said that he expects Republican in the House to move on Medicare reforms “six to eight months” into the Trump administration.

Privatization of Medicare has been a central feature of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s budget proposal for years, and the House GOP has voted in favor of it multiple times. Ryan himself said last week that Medicare would be on the table in the new Congress, signaling it could be taken up early in the new year. Price’s comments suggest privatization won’t be part of the first round of legislative initiatives rolled out by the Trump administration and GOP-controlled Congress.

Price also noted that Republicans are eyeing using a tactic known as budget reconciliation to make the change. That process allows Republicans to pass bills with a simple majority in the U.S. Senate.

When asked by TPM about timing for changes to Medicare, Price said “I think that is probably in the second phase of reconciliation, which would have to be in the FY 18 budget resolution in the first 6-8 months.”

Price is scheduled to be in-studio for GPB’s “Political Rewind” this afternoon, beginning at 3 PM on your local GPB radio station or you can listen online.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center announced it will implement a residency program beginning in 2019.

Known as GME, or Graduate Medical Education, NGHS President and CEO Carol Burrell explained to members of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce at their monthly meeting exactly what GME is.

“GME starts after a person finishes medical school,” Burrell said.  “So when they come to us they will actually be in effect physicians, looking to then fulfill their residency for a period of four-plus years.”

“Residencies are essentially hands-on training in a number of specialties,” she added.

Six areas of specialty will be initially offered according to Dr. Sam Johnson, Chief Medical Officer for NGMC: internal medicine, family medicine, general surgery, OB/GYN, psychiatry and emergency medicine.

Tim Evans, Vice President of Economic Development for the GHCC said the projected fiscal impact to the area will be considerable.

“In September…we reached out to the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (at the University of Georgia) to help us quantify the economic impact of the NGMC Graduate Medical Education program.” Evans said.

“The initial year (2019) the program could see as many as 33 residents…those positions would bring with them an estimated labor income of over $10-million,” Evans said.  “That is a significant boost to our local economy.”

Evans added, “By the fifth year (2024) the GME could grow to 170 residents.”

Availability of residency programs has been identified as a weakness that could lead to a shortage of physicians in Georgia.

The U.S. could face a shortage of 95,000 physicians in the next ten years, according to a recent report from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The association also predicts Georgia could have the fewest number of doctors per capita by the year 2020 if it doesn’t expand its medical education programs.

In 2014, a Georgia House committee studied the shortage. To fix it, the committee decided the state should increase its number of residency slots and offer loan forgiveness for medical students.

The residency shortage is more acute in rural areas of Georgia, which already suffer shortages of medical professionals.

“Even if they all wanted to stay in Georgia, we didn’t have enough slots for that,” [associate dean for graduate medical education (GME) at the Medical College of Georgia Shelley] Nuss said. “If you want a return on investment with med students, you’ve got to keep them in-state and doing their residency in Georgia.”

Another problem, according to Nuss, is that two-thirds of Georgia’s residency slots are in urban areas, leaving fewer opportunities to expose residents to the state’s rural health care needs.

Creating more residency slots — which are funded largely by Medicare, the state, medical schools, and hospitals — isn’t easy. Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, is the largest public source of revenue, helping to cover the roughly $150,000 a year AAMC estimates that it costs to train each resident. However, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 caps the number of residencies Medicare can fund. That leaves hospitals and states to pick up the slack.

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