Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 23, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 23, 2017

Georgia History

On January 22, 1733, James Oglethorpe arrived at Yamacraw Bluff, where the colony of Georgia would be founded. Yamacraw Bluff is now known as River Street in Savannah.

On January 23, 1775, the Georgia Commons House elected three delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

Lieutenant William T. Sherman was ordered to Georgia for the first time in his military career on January 21, 1844.

On, January 22, 1861, following the passage of Georgia’s Secession Resolution, six delegates, including both from Gwinnett County, signed a statement protesting the decision to secede.

On January 23, 1861, Georgia’s members of the United States House of Representatives resigned following passage of the Secession Ordinance; her Senators had resigned earlier. The next day, the secession convention in Milledgeville elected ten delegates to a conference of Southern states in Montgomery, Alabama

On January 22, 1866, Georgia Governor Charles Jenkins signed a resolution by the legislature asking for federal troops to be removed from Georgia.

On January 23, 1923, Georgia ratified the Twentieth Amendment to the US Constitution, which ended Presidential terms on January 20th following an election and those of Congress to January 3d.

On January 22, 1959, Atlanta buses were integrated after a federal court decision.

United States Senator and former Georgia House Speaker and Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. died on January 21, 1971.

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued its 7-2 decision in the case known as Roe v. Wade.

On January 23, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon announced that terms had been reached to settle the Vietnam War, a document known as the “Paris Peace Accords.”

On January 21, 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned draft resistors from the Vietnam War era and urged Americans to conserve energy.

On January 21, 1978, the Bee Gees Saturday Night Live album hit #1 on the sales charts, where it would stay for 24 weeks.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

ON SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 2017, GOVERNOR NATHAN DEAL DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY in seven South Georgia Counties.

Severe weather impacts Atkinson, Berrien, Brooks, Colquitt, Cook, Lowndes and Thomas

Following the recommendation from Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMHSA) officials and local Emergency Management Agencies (EMA), Gov. Nathan Deal is declaring a state of emergency for seven South Central Georgia counties impacted by severe weather and tornado touchdowns on January 21 and 22. The state of emergency is currently in effect and will remain so for the next seven days.

“These storms have devastated communities and homes in South Central Georgia, and the state is making all resources available to the impacted areas,” Deal said. These storms have resulted in loss of life, numerous injuries and extensive property damage, and our thoughts and prayers are with Georgians suffering from the storm’s impact. As we continue to assess the damage, I’m prepared to expand or extend this emergency declaration as needed. In addition to the state’s response, all indications suggest we will also be submitting a request for federal assistance as well.

“The National Weather Service predicts a third wave of severe weather today, which may reach as far north as metro Atlanta. I urge all Georgians to exercise caution and vigilance in order to remain safe and prevent further loss of life or injuries.”

Gov. Deal plans to visit the affected areas in the coming days.

State agencies assisting in the seven counties include:

  • GEMHSA, which is coordinating all disaster response
  • Department of Public Heath, which has deployed trauma trailers
  • Georgia Search and Rescue Task Force 2 (Valdosta)
  • Department of Natural Resources
  • Department of Public Safety

President Donald J. Trump spoke to Gov. Deal and sent his condolences to Georgia’s tornado victims.

From the Los Angeles Times:

A spate of violent, fast-moving tornadoes continued to wreak havoc across the Deep South on Sunday, killing at least 14 people in south Georgia and raising the weekend’s severe-weather death toll to 18.

Some of the most extensive damage came Sunday afternoon, when a large twister with winds of 60 mph tore across Albany, Ga., killing at least three people and mangling homes across suburban neighborhoods.

“There are no words to tell you how bad this is,” Ron Rowe, Dougherty County Emergency Management Agency director, said at a news conference in Albany, a city of just more than 75,000 people about 170 miles south of Atlanta. “It’s just tornadoes and pure destruction.”

“It ripped through here bad,” Chris Cohilas, chairman of the Dougherty County Commission, said on a Facebook live feed Sunday afternoon as he walked along a two-lane road past fallen trees and upturned cars. “We’ve got people that are hurt …. It looks like a nuclear bomb went off.”

Earlier Sunday, just before 3 a.m., a single long-track tornado, or a couple of smaller tornadoes, struck the Georgia-Florida line, hurtling northeast for about 80 miles, said Mark Wool, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Tallahassee, Fla., office.

Seven were killed in Cook County, Ga., where a tornado ripped through the Sunshine Acres mobile home park, destroying many of its structures and leaving a muddy grass field strewn with metal siding and smashed cars. Pink fiberglass insulation clung to downed power lines. Blankets dangled high in pine trees.

Two more fatalities were confirmed in Berrien County, according to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. And in Brooks County, a husband and wife were killed after a tornado picked up their mobile home.

Committee Meeting Schedule

11:30 AM SENATE RULES – Standing Committee only 450 CAP

12 NOON HOUSE NAT’L RES & ENV 606 CLOB

1 PM SENATE HIGHER ED. – CANCELED 307 CLOB

1 PM SENATE REGULATED IND & UTIL 310 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE HUMAN REL & AGING 515 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE CODE REV 506 CLOB

2 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

2 PM HOUSE MIL AFF WRKG GRP 415 CLOB

3 PM SENATE RETIREMENT 310 CLOB

3 PM SENATE GOV’T OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

3 PM SENATE ETHICS – CANCELED 450 CAP

3 PM HOUSE WAYS & MEANS 606 CLOB

Georgia Right to Life takes to the streets surrounding the state capitol at 11 AM this morning in the March for Life. The Benham brothers will keynote, and Mike Griffin will serve as Master of Ceremonies.

Full Schedule of Events
11:00 am – Prayer Service – Bound4Life Atlanta
11:30 am – Praise and Worship – Kurt Scobie
12:00 pm – Pro-Life Memorial Service including special guest Bette Noble, followed by the keynote address by the Benham Brothers
1:00   pm – Silent march (approximately one mile) through downtown Atlanta

The Georgia Supreme Court hears arguments today in a case challenging the state’s abortion statute.

Three obstetricians have sued the state and Gov. Nathan Deal to stop enforcement of a 2012 law they say forbids nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and gives district attorneys unlimited access to all abortion patients’ medical records, violating the constitutional right to privacy.

The state, represented by Attorney General Chris Carr, Solicitor General Sarah Warren and other assistant AGs, will use sovereign immunity as a shield. They will rely on a recent decision by the high court in Georgia Department of Natural Resources v. Center for a Sustainable Coast holding that claims against defendants in their official capacity are protected by sovereign immunity unless it is waived by the General Assembly or the Georgia Constitution.

A Fulton County Superior Court judge granted the state’s motion to dismiss after the Sustainable Coast decision in 2016.The doctors appealed.

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Ann Harris will sit on the Supreme Court bench today in the place of Justice Britt Grant.

Harris has been designated to serve in place of Grant, who recused [herself] from the Fulton County case, Eva Lathrop, M.D. et al. v. Nathan Deal, Governor et al., involving three Georgia obstetrician-gynecologists who are appealing the dismissal of their constitutional challenge of a state law that prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Harris will not only hear arguments in the case, she will also participate in rendering the court’s decision.

“I am very honored to be asked to sit by designation, and also a little nervous, as you might imagine,” Harris said. “And of course I’m preparing for Monday’s oral argument just as I would my own cases that come to me on appeal from a lower court — read the briefs filed in the case, read the case law on which they rely, read the lower court’s order.”

This is the first time Harris has been asked to sit by designation on the state’s Supreme Court.

“We maintain a list of judges from around the state,” said court spokesperson Jane Hansen. “And whenever a judge has to recuse him or herself, whoever is next on the list is asked to sit on for the justice.”

Sam Olens, Kennesaw State University President and former Attorney General, will speak at an anti-human trafficking event on Thursday at 7 PM at Congregation Etz Chaim, 1190 Indian Hills Parkway in Marietta.

State Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) helped launch Georgia Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

“The death penalty, I believe, is both constitutional and may be morally applied,” Harrell said during the press conference. “That said, as a person of faith, I view the death penalty first from a standpoint of protecting the innocent rather than having a primary purpose of punishing the guilty.

“And with that in mind, we’ve evolved as a society in this nation, and in this state, to be able to protect the innocent through life without the ability of parole.”

The legislator was joined by other Republicans and Libertarians, including former Fifth Congressional District GOP Chairman David Burge, former Athens-area Right to Life President Charles Jones, Foundation for Economic Education Chief Operating Officer Richard Lorenc, America’s Future Foundation Atlanta Chapter chairwoman Jennifer Maffessanti and Mercer University College Republicans immediate past chairman Austin Paul.

Harrell cited studies about the cost of keeping someone on death row, sometimes for decades, versus the cost of keeping someone in jail for life without the possibility of parole, saying the latter option was the more affordable one.

“As someone who is skeptical of large government, I like to make sure that the government is as efficient and as small as possible,” he said. “And we’ve seen repeatedly since the re-institution of the death penalty in the ’70s that people have been tried, convicted and sentenced to death row, and I believe 156 now have been exonerated, including six from Georgia.

“So the government has failed to provide an efficient, effective and accurate system in that regard.”

Several Georgia Republicans issued statements supporting former Governor Sonny Perdue for Secretary of Agriculture.

“Sonny is a friend, a tested leader and true visionary when it comes to public service,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in a statement. “His background in public service coupled with his experience in business and agriculture make him an excellent choice to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

“Having served as Governor of Georgia, whose No. 1 industry is agriculture, his knowledge and experience in both the public and private sectors make him an excellent choice to lead the Department of Agriculture,” Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., said.

Rep. Jody Hice added: “Given his executive experience as a two-term Governor and his background as an agribusiness owner, Sonny Perdue is an outstanding choice to lead the Department of Agriculture. During his tenure as Governor, he shaped an agricultural policy that helped usher in a new era of economic growth.”

The Savannah Morning News opines that Perdue’s nomination will be positive for the state and nation.

Mr. Perdue is no gentleman farmer or a politician who likes to spend time on the seat of a tractor. He’s the real deal. He’s a third generation farmer who grew up on a dairy farm, then got into the feed and fertilizer business (a natural place for someone who’s interested in a career in politics). He’s also a veterinarian, so he knows animals as well as row crops. He speaks the language of farmers. He understands their needs and concerns and he wants to see them succeed.

On policy matters, Mr. Perdue understood that a rising economy tends to lift all boats. The public benefited from his pro-business approaches. He gets credit for laying much of the foundation for the success that Georgia has been experiencing as the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business.

By supporting projects that benefited Savannah’s port, he showed himself to be a chief executive who recognized the benefits of free trade and a global economy.

It’s also refreshing to see the president pick someone from the South for this key job. Typically, agriculture secretaries come from the Midwest and show a keen interest in crops like soybeans and corn. Consequently, the issues that concern many Southern farmers, who tend to grow more rice, cotton and peanuts, get shoved onto the back burner in Washington.

It will be good to see the needs of Southern farmers more properly addressed. Mr. Perdue, who often referred to himself as Georgia’s CEO, is just the man who can get down to business on the farm, and in Washington.

The Georgia Farm Bureau hosted the 2017 Georgia Ag Forecast this weekend.

The Savannah NAACP Branch is celebrating its 100th year.

A Gwinnett County seventh-grader allegedly brought edible cannabis to school.

New Burke County Sheriff Alonzo Williams has plans to deliver greater safety for citizens.

“We made a lot of promises and now the bounty is on our heads, but we’re not worried,” said Williams, Burke County’s newest sheriff in 36 years.

“The people of Burke County know me,” Williams said. “They know they can trust me and they know that I’m going to give them a good product, and that is safety for them and their families and service. Those things are going to happen. They saw that when I was police chief.”

His plans for the county, the state’s second-largest in size at 835 square miles, are numerous, but he believes they will work together to create a more self-sufficient and efficient agency. In the past, the department would find itself calling for aid from other agencies, which would sometimes take 30 minutes to an hour to respond.

None of Williams’ plans could occur, however, without more funding. There was some initial resistance by Burke County commissioners, but eventually he got what he wanted. The budget consists of $3,830,000 for the sheriff’s office and $2,205,000 for the jail. Included in that is a budget resolution of $836,000, which was needed since the budget had already been set under the previous administration.

Heckler & Koch will expand in Columbus, GA and plans to bring 84 new jobs.

A German manufacturer of handguns and assault weapons said it is expanding its Columbus operations as part of a move to close its plant in New Hampshire.

Heckler & Koch said it expects to add 84 new jobs in Columbus over the next two years as a result of a $28.5 million expansion that will add a new 50,000 square-foot factory in the west Georgia city.

The company, which announced the move late last week, said it “worked closely” with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and Columbus’ chamber of commerce and development authority before deciding to consolidate operations in Georgia.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter says he will move forward in the case against Snellville Mayor Tom Witts before the end of February.

Cobb County and Marietta E-SPLOST funding is falling short of projections.

The Marietta and Cobb school districts may once again not collect as much funding through special 1 percent sales tax programs as they were projected to collect — just like the three previous sales tax cycles.

Through the end of 2016, the Cobb School District is $29 million, or 7.3 percent, under projections with its special purpose local option sales tax program while Marietta City Schools remains $3 million or 8 percent under projections, officials say.

Healthcare

Kellyanne Conway said over the weekend that President Trump will propose shifting Medicaid funding to block grants to states.

President Trump’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act will propose giving each state a fixed amount of federal money in the form of a block grant to provide health care to low-income people on Medicaid, a top adviser to Mr. Trump said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

A block grant would be a radical change. Since its creation in 1965, Medicaid has been an open-ended entitlement. If more people become eligible because of a recession, or if costs go up because of the use of expensive new medicines, states receive more federal money.

Ms. Conway, speaking on the NBC program “Sunday Today,” said that with a block grant, “you really cut out the fraud, waste and abuse, and you get the help directly” to intended beneficiaries.

Governors like the idea of having more control over Medicaid, but fear that block grants may be used as a vehicle for federal budget cuts.

Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama, a Republican, said that if a block grant reduced federal funds for the program, “states should be given the ability to reduce Medicaid benefits or enrollment, to impose premiums” or other cost-sharing requirements on beneficiaries, and to reduce Medicaid spending in other ways.

NPR has more on proposals to block-grant Medicaid.

Medicaid is now funded by the federal government and states together and it has an open-ended funding stream, meaning it pays for all health costs to which its beneficiaries are entitled under the law.

Conservatives who are concerned about the impact the growth in health care spending will have on the federal and state budgets have advocated block grants as a way to cut the Medicaid costs.

Block grants can take several forms. Under one scenario, the federal government would offer a fixed sum of money to each state, which would grow with inflation. Since the rate of overall inflation is typically lower than inflation in the health care sector that leads to an erosion of spending over time. And such a fixed block grant means less money is available when the economy is suffering and more people qualify for Medicaid benefits.

Conway said voters can also expect an Obamacare replacement to include wider use of health savings accounts, which allow people to save money tax-free to help pay for their medical costs.

The Gainesville Times writes that some women are changing their birth control in anticipation to changes in Obamacare.

U.S. Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick for secretary of health and human services, would not commit to maintaining coverage of all contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration during his Senate hearing.

A tenfold increase in IUD appointments reported by Planned Parenthood following Trump’s election can be attributed to the fear of changes likely to be made to the Affordable Care Act.

Trump himself has said he is not in favor of requiring a prescription to buy birth control.

A study published in Health Affairs in July 2015 estimated that more than 55 million women were receiving birth control at no cost. Women saved an estimated $1.4 billion on the pill alone in the first year after the mandate went into effect in August 2012, researchers found.

Cook Medical Center is closing the county’s only Emergency Room at the end of February.

Cook Medical Center’s ER closes Feb. 28, according to a press release from Tift Regional Medical Center, which will consolidate Cook Medical’s emergency services with its own ER in Tift County.

[P]atients in need of major medical care will be transferred to the nearest emergency room — which means leaving the county.

Tift Regional plans to extend indigent care funding practices to the clinic. Current Cook Medical ER employees will have “first opportunity” to apply for jobs at the wellness center, according to the press release.

“Ongoing reductions in reimbursements across the nation have created a risk of closure for one in three rural hospitals nationwide,” said Chris Dorman, Tift Regional’s president and chief operating officer.

About 22 percent of Cook County’s population is uninsured, forcing them to seek routine medical care in the expensive environment of an emergency room, he said.

Dorman said Cook Medical Center has lost approximately $2.6 million annually since 2012, with the emergency room being the main contributor to the financial loss.

Cook Medical’s ER treats about 10,000 patients annually, said Liza Tillman, public relations coordinator for the hospital.

Gwinnett Medical Center was recognized for excelling in coronary bypass graft surgery.

Southern Regional Medical Center says it’s back from the brink of financial collapse as it turns around its finances.

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