Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 15, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 15, 2016

Georgia and American History

On December 15, 1791, Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights, giving the first ten Amendments a three-quarter majority required to become law.

On December 15, 1859, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing public execution of criminals. The previous day he signed legislation prohibiting slave owners from freeing their slaves on the owner’s death.

President Jimmy Carter announced on December 15, 1978 that U.S. diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China would begin on January 1, 1979.

The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee released a report on December 15, 1998 that recommended impeachment against President Bill Clinton and introduced H.Res. 611.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal took steps yesterday to make Naloxone, which is used to treat opioid overdoses, available over-the-counter in Georgia.

In a request to the Georgia Pharmacy Board, Deal asked that naloxone, an emergency drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, be removed from the dangerous drug list and rescheduled as a Schedule V exempt drug. The Georgia Board of Pharmacy approved the emergency rule to remove naloxone. At the same time, Deal directed the Department of Public Health (DPH) to issue a standing order to allow naloxone to be dispensed over-the-counter by pharmacists across the state.

“The state of Georgia and the country as a whole are currently experiencing an opioid abuse epidemic. In the fight against this trend, naloxone has come to be considered an important and life-saving tool in treating opioid overdoses. We are now building upon our previous efforts to expand access to naloxone for first responders and others who regularly encounter overdoses as they are occurring by placing this tool in the hands of Georgians, especially parents, who are both firsthand witnesses and victims of opioid overdose. We will continue working to implement similar efforts to save lives across the state.

“Yesterday, The 21st Century Cures Act, bipartisan health care legislation that includes additional federal funding for states to fight the opioid crisis, was signed into law. Funding from this legislation will expand access to naloxone and help lower its price. I commend the Georgia Board of Pharmacy for acting quickly on this matter and DPH for issuing a standing order, basically a statewide prescription, to ensure that this life-saving drug is available to those who may need it.”

Naloxone does not produce a high and adverse effects are rare in therapeutic doses. Deal signed the Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law in 2014, making Georgia the 19th state to extend legal protections to those who administer naloxone to someone experiencing an overdose. Deal intends to introduce additional legislation in the upcoming session to continue fighting the opioid epidemic plaguing Georgia.

“Naloxone is a powerful weapon in the fight against the increasing epidemic of opioid abuse that poses a threat to public health in Georgia,” said DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “The governor’s decisive action to make this drug accessible to anyone in a position to assist persons at risk of overdose will save countless lives.”

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) says she’ll work on boosting state funds for treating opioid abuse.

More than a third of the nearly 13,000 children in Georgia’s ballooning foster care system are there because of substance abuse in their homes.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said the scourge of opioid abuse threatens to reach a level in Georgia comparable to that of some Appalachian states.

“If we don’t get control of it and get those addiction services ramped up, we’re going to be like Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia,” she said.

Unterman said in an interview that she hopes to see funding for addiction services restored in Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed budget, which will be released early next month.

Money for services such as housing programs for those coming off heroin and other opioids was slashed during the recession. Unterman said the state’s addiction programs now are essentially “nonexistent” because of wait times for people hoping to access them.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is asking President-elect Donald Trump for help in investigating alleged cyber attacks against Georgia state government databases.

In a letter sent to Trump on Dec. 13, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said DHS has made multiple attempts to “infiltrate our network,” including a “large attack” on Nov. 15 — which DHS disputes — that prompted him to send a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

Kemp, who oversees Georgia’s elections, said several of the alleged DHS attempts came at “very concerning” times that suggest they may have been political retaliation.

“These scans correspond to key election dates and times when I was speaking out against DHS’ plans,” Kemp wrote.

Johnson wrote to Kemp, a DHS contractor in Georgia had simply visited Kemp’s website to learn about a professional license offered by his office.

But Kemp isn’t yet buying the explanation.

“There are more questions than answers here still,” he told POLITICO in an interview Wednesday.

“I mean, we have that happen all the time, every single day in our office, and we never had the red flags that were raised in this incident,” he said.

“We’re going to need to see … it recreated,” he added. “They have yet to do that.”

Secretary Kemp has invited Macon-Bibb County and Monroe County to a prayer meeting discussion of settling a border dispute between the counties.

In a years-long fight between Macon-Bibb and Monroe counties about their border, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is inviting both sides to come to an agreement.

If they don’t, it’ll be up to Kemp to weigh evidence that goes back to the 19th century and decide where to draw the line.

At issue is a wedge of land that includes part of the Bass Pro Shops property that Macon-Bibb has long counted as its own. Monroe thinks the true border there is a little farther southeast, and it has pursued Macon-Bibb through numerous courts to try and claim the area. The area includes nearby houses on both sides of Interstate 75.

Monroe County Commission Chairman Mike Bilderback said he doesn’t see much hope of a settlement.

“We’ve tried that two times before and failed,” Bilderback said. He estimated the county has already spent more than $2 million on the case.

Virgil Adams, the attorney representing Macon-Bibb, said, “We’ve been ordered to attend the conference. We’ve not had any discussion with Monroe County.”

Prospective federal prosecutors and judges in Georgia will be vetted by a committee appointed to advise Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue.

The six-man committee—including three appointees each by Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue–want applications in hand by the end of December, said Josh Belinfante, a partner at Atlanta’s Robbins Ross Alloy Belinfante Littlefield and one of Perdue’s committee advisers.

The available posts include a seat on the federal bench in the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta, one in the Middle District of Georgia in Macon, and U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal slots in each of Georgia’s three federal districts. Application forms will be available online through the State Bar of Georgia, Belinfante said.

Committee members in addition to Belinfante include retired King & Spalding partner Dwight Davis; retired Houston County attorney Mike Long, a member of former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s state Judicial Nominating Commission; Ron Carlson, a University of Georgia law professor; and two former bar presidents—Statesboro lawyer Jimmy Franklin, a member of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, and Marietta attorney Robert Ingram, the JQC’s former chairman. Franklin and Davis have also served on the state Judicial Nominating Commission. Belinfante also served as Sonny Perdue’s executive counsel.

Belinfante said the advisory committee plans to interview applicants on Jan. 5 for a long-vacant judicial post in the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta. The intent, he said, is to present Isakson and Perdue with the committee’s recommendations within days, not weeks, of the interviews.

The Georgia State Elections Board voted to send a complaint about the goofy voting scheme in a Sandy Springs Special Election earlier this year to the Attorney General’s Office.

A complaint filed in May concerning the special election to fill the Sandy Springs City Council District 3 seat will now go to Georgia Attorney General’s Office for review.

The state opened an investigation after it received a complaint form dated Friday, May 20 that specified concerns over precinct notifications and locations.

Despite the challenge, the city of Sandy Springs went ahead with the special election, which was needed when former Council member Graham McDonald resigned to run for the State House of Representatives.

The City of Lula is developing an ordinance to be enacted by City Council.

City Manager Dennis Bergin and City Council spent about 40 minutes picking through fine details in the ordinance, such as penalties and violations and rules governing farm wineries.

“Let’s see what our (Hall County) sheriff’s department and (municipal) judge’s views are on (the fines),” [Bergin] said.

The city’s efforts are in response to local voters approving a Nov. 8 referendum to allow liquor to be served by the drink.

A referendum wasn’t necessary to allow beer and wine sales, but city officials have said they would develop a comprehensive alcoholic beverages ordinance if the liquor vote passed.

Byron City Council passed a $6.3 million dollar budget for FY 2017.

Allison Barnes Salter was sworn in as a new Cobb County State Court Judge, replacing Judge Melodie Clayton, who is retiring. Cobb County Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs is also retiring.

Augusta area sales tax collections are lagging, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In all three areas where Georgia voters approved the [transportation sales] tax in 2011, collections remain 15 percent or more below projections, but of the three, the CSRA region “is really in the best shape,” he said.

City of Augusta officials have similarly struggled to understand why Richmond County collections of the local-option sales tax and special purpose local option penny taxes also are down. The year marks the last of a four-year phase-in of a sales tax exemption for energy used in manufacturing expected to cost Augusta $4 million annually.

Collections of the transportation tax through October for the CSRA area were $245 million, 15.6 percent behind projected collections of $290 million. The worst-performing area, the Heart of Georgia district around Vidalia, was 20 percent below projected amounts

Georgia Democratic legislators held a press conference to announce legislation to change the process of redrawing political lines after every decennial census.

State Sen. Elena Parent and state Rep. Pat Gardner acknowledged at a press conference Tuesday it was virtually impossible to secure its passage in the GOP-held Legislature.

But they also sent two other important signals. First, they haven’t closed the door on legal action that could force changes in the way districts are drawn, such as the lawsuits in North Carolina and Virginia that could force sweeping changes.

And second, they also wanted to serve notice to their fellow Democrats that they will press for the bill if their party ever regained control of the legislative branch.

Lowell Greenbaum will step down as Chair of the Richmond County Democratic Party. The money quote comes from Jerod Gay.

“Hillary lost because the Democratic Party stopped talking to progressives and the working class,” Gay said. “If Bernie Sanders had been the nominee, he would have won.”

One million Georgians could lose insurance coverage if Obamacare is repealed, according to the liberal Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

The losses would come as a result of fewer federal subsidies — to the tune of nearly $3 billion flowing to individuals and the state with lower enrollment.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, has said he believes spending and taxes to support the health care act will be repealed, effectively gutting the law.

The mission then becomes “how do we transition to a patient-centered, doctor-centered health care (system) that takes care of pre-existing conditions, family members staying (covered) until they’re 26, those kinds of things,” he said.

According to the GBPI, the loss of federal subsidies would present unique budgeting challenges for state and local governments.

And it warns that hospitals already straining to provide uncompensated care to the uninsured will see even more patients who cannot afford to pay.

“It is important for federal lawmakers to leave the ACA in place until a replacement is implemented that maintains health coverage for 1 million Georgians and sustains adequate federal financial support for the state’s health care system,” the report states.

Former Chatham County Recorder’s Court cashier Katina Cooper was indicted for allegedly stealing public funds.

Right whales, Georgia’s official state marine mammal, have returned to her waters, heralding the Christmas season.

The crew of a South Carolina research vessel sighted the first right whale of the season Nov. 16 off Sapelo Island. On Dec. 1, aerial crews began their annual effort of regularly surveying an area from Wassaw Island to just north of Cape Canaveral looking for right whales mothers and calves. That effort will continue through March.

Last year 16 calves were recorded, a below-average total. Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologist Clay George is optimistic this year will be more productive for the bus-sized whales, whose entire population numbers about 450 individuals.

“The good news is that any time you have below-average calving it means that many more females are available to calf the next year,” George said. “They can’t have a calf every year. They have a year-long gestation and then a year to have and wean the calf. Then in right whales it takes a year or two of feeding to get their fat up to a level where they can go into estrus.”

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