Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 17, 2017


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 17, 2017

On February 17, 1739, Thomas Jones wrote to the Georgia Trustees in London of the appalling conditions in Savannah.

“The profanation of the Lord’s Day. When at church in the time of divine service, can hear continual firing of guns by people that are shooting at some game, others carrying burdens on wheelbarrows by the church door.

“The uncommon lewdness practiced by many and gloried in.

“The negligence of officers in permitting several in this town to retail rum and strong liquors, unlicensed, who have no other visible way of livelihood, where servants resort and are encouraged to rob their masters… .

“I need not mention profane swearing and drunkenness, which are not so common here as in some other places, and few are notorious therein, besides Mr. Baliff Parker, who I have seen wallow in the mire….

The Georgia legislature, on February 17, 1783, passed legislation granting land to veterans of Georgia militia who served during the Revolutionary War.

On February 17, 1784, the Georgia legislature passed a bill to increase an earlier formula for settling the state, allotting 200 acres to each head of a family, plus 50 acres for each family member (including up to 10 slaves) up to a maximum of 1000 acres.

Thomas Jefferson was elected Third President of the United States on February 17, 1801. The election was deadlocked for three months between Jefferson and his running-mate Aaron Burr.

On November 4 [1800], the national election was held. When the electoral votes were counted, the Democratic-Federalists emerged with a decisive victory, with Jefferson and Burr each earning 73 votes to Adams’ 65 votes and Pinckney’s 64 votes. John Jay, the governor of New York, received 1 vote.

Because Jefferson and Burr had tied, the election went to the House of Representatives, which began voting on the issue on February 11, 1801. What at first seemed but an electoral technicality–handing Jefferson victory over his running mate–developed into a major constitutional crisis when Federalists in the lame-duck Congress threw their support behind Burr. Jefferson needed a majority of nine states to win, but in the first ballot had only eight states, with Burr winning six states and Maryland and Virginia. Finally, on February 17, a small group of Federalists reasoned that the peaceful transfer of power required that the majority party have its choice as president and voted in Jefferson’s favor. The 35th ballot gave Jefferson victory with 10 votes. Burr received four votes and two states voted blank.

On February 17, 1820, the United States Senate passed the Missouri Compromise to govern the admission of new states as either slave-holding or not.

On February 17, 1854, Georgia Governor Herschel Johnson signed legislation by the Georgia General Assembly placing on the ballot for the next generation the question of whether to move the state capital from Milledgeville to Atlanta.

Alexander Stephens, who was born in Crawfordville, Taliaferro County, Georgia, was inaugurated as Vice President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861. Stephens graduated from Franklin College, later known as the University of Georgia, and served in the Georgia legislature. Stephens opposed Georgia’s secession. One year later, Georgia’s delegation to the Confederate Congress, numbering ten members, was sworn in.

Ina Dillard was born on February 18, 1868 in Oglethorpe County Georgia. She married Richard Russell, who served on the Georgia Court of Appeals and as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Their son, Richard B. Russell, Jr., would be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, where he served as Speaker and became the youngest Governor of Georgia in the 20th Century. In 1932 he ran for United States Senate and was elected.

In 1936, Russell was elected to his first full term in the Senate over former Governor Eugene Talmadge. In 1952, Russell ran for the Democratic nomination for President and he was an early mentor for Lyndon B. Johnson, who later served as President. Russell served on the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy.

Russell served as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee for many years. Russell was an acknowledged leader within the Senate, and especially among Southern members, and he led much of the opposition to civil rights legislation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On February 19, 1953, Governor Herman Talmadge signed legislation creating the Georgia State Literature Commission to investigate and refer for prosecution anyone selling obscene materials. In 2014, the Washington Post wrote about the State Literature Commission.

Georgia created the nation’s first censorship board.

The vote was unanimous. The Georgia State Assembly approved House Bill 247 on Feb. 19, 1953, with no dissent, establishing the Georgia Literature Commission. Despite being born into controversy, it lived on for 20 years surviving legal and legislative challenges until the administration of then-Gov. Jimmy Carter defanged it, setting off its slow death.

After years of support, then-Gov. Jimmy Carter cut the commission’s annual appropriation by about 20 percent in 1971, while simultaneously fighting a public battle against pornography. His administration then implemented zero-based budgeting, in which each governmental organization had to justify itself, which had become increasingly hard to do for the commission.

The first portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to hang in the state capitol was unveiled on March 17, 1974 and was replaced in 2006 by the current portrait.

On February 19, 2014, Elana Meyers (now Elana Meyers Taylor) from Douglasville, Georgia, won the Silver Medal in bobsled in the Sochi Olympics. Her father Eddie Meyers was a standout running back at the Naval Academy who served six years in the Navy and signed with the Atlanta Falcons after his service.

The Newnan Times-Herald writes about the real “Sister” Schubert, whose rolls are at most holiday dinners in our home.

Patricia “Sister” Schubert Barnes says women should find their passion and follow it with enthusiasm.

“I do believe I was put on this world to bake bread,” she told a mostly female crowd of about 130 on Feb. 5 at the Carnegie Library’s upstairs meeting room. Barnes’ talk was part of the 2017 Edgar B. Hollis Distinguished Speaker Series, sponsored by the Newnan Carnegie Library Foundation.

Barnes opened her talk with a short prayer. She reflected on the story of how her grandmother’s Everlasting Bread recipe grew from a family favorite into a national staple.

“I did take a recipe, a family recipe that I made those for years for my family and turned that into a business,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been successful because I found my purpose.”

She said her bread brings families together in the kitchen and around the table. “I believe our world needs a lot more of that, don’t you?,” she asked.

Amen, Sister.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal appointed David L. Mincey III to the Superior Court for the Macon Judicial Circuit, filling the vacancy created when the Governor appointed Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self, III to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Under the Gold Dome

Committee Meetings – Legislative Day 20




12:00 PM SENATE RULES -Upon Adjournment 450 CAP

12:30 PM Reeves Sub House Jud’y Non-Civil 403 CAP



1:30 PM Fleming Sub House Jud’y (Civil) 132 CAP


3:30 PM Kelley Sub House Jud’y (Civil) 132 CAP


SB 2 – “The FAST Act – Fairness, Accountability, Simplification, and Transparency – Empowering Our Small Businesses to Succeed” (Substitute) (ED&T-30th)

SB 3 – “Creating Opportunities Needed Now to Expand Credentialed Training (CONNECT) Act”; enact (Substitute) (ED&Y-37th)

SB 117 – Georgia Technology Authority; definition of the term “agency”; change; establishment of certain policies and standards used by all agencies; provide (S&T-9th)


Modified Open Rule
HB 44 – General appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018 (Substitute)(App-Ralston-7th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 9 – Crimes and offenses; use of device to film under or through person’s clothing under certain circumstances; prohibit (Substitute)(JudyNC-Blackmon-146th)

HB 138 – Superior courts; fifth judge of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Hawkins-27th)

The House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee’s 2A Subcommittee recommended passage of campus carry legislation, House Bill 280, by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton).

Licensed gun owners could carry concealed handguns on public college campuses under legislation that began advancing Thursday in the Georgia House despite the Republican governor’s forceful veto of a similar bill last year.

A subcommittee of the House Public Safety Committee approved the bill sponsored by Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, sending it on to the full committee. Georgia is among 17 states that ban concealed weapons on campus.

The measure would allow anyone 21 and older with a state-issued permit to carry a concealed handgun on campus. Ballinger said she decided to add an on-campus preschool to exempted buildings, along with student housing and athletic venues, hoping that it would address some of Gov. Nathan Deal’s expressed concerns last year.

House Bill 372 by Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta) would attempt to use sales tax exemption to spur broadband deployment in counties that lack sufficient penetration.

“My bill, I can tell you, will not cure the issue of lack of broadband or bandwidth in rural Georgia,” said Parsons, who heads the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee.

The sales tax break would apply to work done in about 115 counties — areas with either low-income communities or areas that lack adequate broadband.

Under the proposal, providers would have to enhance access to at least 10 megabits per second. That’s still well below the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of broadband, at 25 megabits.

But it would be a vast improvement over what they have now.

State House members will vote today on a $25 billion dollar FY18 state budget.

The spending plan for fiscal 2018, which begins July 1, was backed by the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday and follows much of what Gov. Nathan Deal proposed during the first week of the session.

It would provide 2 percent pay raises for teachers and most state employees, and a 19 percent raise for child protection workers. The midyear budget Deal signed Wednesday — which runs through June 30 — included 20 percent salary hikes for state law enforcement officers.

Overall state spending would hit a record $25 billion, or $49 billion when federal and other funds are included. Officials say, however, that when inflation and population growth are added to the equation, the state is spending about what it was at the end of the 1990s.

The spending proposal includes more than $1.15 billion in new borrowing. High on the list is $105 million to build a new state courts building on the site of the former archives building in Atlanta, which is expected to be brought down next month.

The House also added money for dentists who treat low-income Medicaid patients and school counselors, and $600,000 to hire four scientists and two technicians to address the backlog in processing DNA rape evidence packages.

Senate Bill 16 by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) would roll back the allowable percentage of THC in medical cannabis products, and passed the upper chamber yesterday.

Senate Bill 16, sponsored by state Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, would add one additional condition — autism — to the state’s list of those eligible for use of the oil. However, it would also reduce the maximum THC level in the cannabis oil now allowed here from 5 percent to 3 percent, which backers of the plan said would bring the state more in line with others that also allow limited forms of the oil.

Watson on Thursday also called for federal officials to reconsider the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and addiction, and no accepted medical uses, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Changing that classification would allow more freedom for sanctioned use of the drug in medical research studies.

“To say cannabidiol has no medicinal value is just not true,” said Watson, who is a medical doctor.

Passage of SB 16 on a 41-12 vote sends it to the House, which is considering separate efforts including House Bill 65 and House Resolution 36 that would much more broadly expand the law.

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) is working in Washington to address the needs of rural Georgia communities for healthcare access.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure hospitals are fairly reimbursed for their services by the federal government.

The budget-neutral Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act of 2017 (S.397) would help hospitals remain open and functioning, especially in underserved and economically struggling regions by correcting a flawed formula that results in disproportionately low Medicare reimbursement payments to hospitals in rural and low-wage areas.

“Too many rural hospitals have been forced to close in recent years, and hospitals in states like Georgia are at a unique disadvantage because of the way these Medicare payments are calculated,” said Senator Isakson, a member of the Senate Committee on Finance. “This legislation would address the discrepancy in payments, help to prevent future closures of hospitals in medically underserved areas, enable hospitals to boost wages in economically struggling regions, and ensure patients have access to emergency and needed care.”

Specifically, the Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act would establish a national minimum “area wage index” of 0.874. The area wage index is based on the relative hospital wage level in the hospital’s geographic area compared to the national average. Over the past three decades, legislative and regulatory changes have combined with broader economic trends to create an uneven playing field that has resulted in hospitals losing out on millions of dollars in Medicare payments annually, said officials.

In Georgia, there are more than 100 hospitals that would benefit from a minimum area wage index that currently have an index below 0.874. Since 2010, five Georgia hospitals have closed that would have benefited from Senator Isakson’s legislation. The legislation has been endorsed by the Georgia Hospital Association and the National Rural Health Association.

Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah’s parent company reported a $44 million dollar loss for 2016.

The reported shortfall of $43.9 million was an increase over the almost $25 million reported for 2015.

The shortfall was contained in a required quarterly financial statement filed with Chatham County on Tuesday as part of regular filings in line with a May 1, 2012, agreement between Memorial Health Inc. and the Chatham County Commission. The statement was obtained through a Georgia Open Records Act request by the Savannah Morning News.

Among the key drivers cited by Dow, several of which were one-time items in the fourth quarter, were:

$3.8 million from business interruption due to Hurricane Matthew
$3.7 million increases in self-insurance reserves
$1.1 million in extraordinary legal and advisory fees

Also impacting the bottom line were:

$9.8 million in lower revenues due to more uninsured and under-insured patients
$8 million in increased supply, premium labor and repair costs

Memorial officials have blamed the financial shortfalls on what Haslam has called “the changing environment in health care.”

“Like everyone else we are facing the headwinds of the Affordable Care Act and we need to be proactive.”

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash gave the annual “State of the County” address.

Gwinnett County Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said all residents of Gwinnett County should be respected during her State of the County Address on Thursday, directly referring to the ongoing controversy surrounding Commissioner Tommy Hunter — even if she didn’t mention him by name.

“Inclusion does not just happen,” she said. “It takes intentional effort. Let me be perfectly clear — failure to respect all Gwinnettians and welcome their participation in our community is neither acceptable nor smart. Gwinnett’s future success depends on all of us, working together to build the community.

“We must engage and empower leaders from our diverse population who love Gwinnett to champion this important work.”

During Nash’s speech, which highlighted Gwinnett as a “remarkable” place, Nash addressed the county’s efforts on community outreach and bringing leaders from diverse population groups together to address community issues.

Her remarks on the need to show respect toward all people in Gwinnett drew applause from the hundreds of people who attended the luncheon.

Chair Nash also said that Gwinnett County voters will get a chance to weigh in on a transit referendum at a future date.

Nash said during her State of the County Address that county officials will conduct a Comprehensive Transit Plan study this year to gather information ahead of a transit referendum. Afterward, however, the details of when a vote would happen, or whether it would be on a T-SPLOST or joining MARTA were a bit squishy.

“It’s going to depend on what happens with legislation at the state level,” Nash said. “There are other tools that are being looked at by the state legislature for transit, so we are keeping our eye on that very closely … We want to see what the full range of options will be before we move forward, and we’ve got a lot of work that has to be done this year on this Comprehensive Transit Planning development.”

Nash’s announcement signals a big shift in her comments on a transit referendum. There have been calls for a MARTA referendum, but she has resisted them. Her stance was that while residents may want MARTA, they wouldn’t support the additional sales tax that would have to be paid to join it.

“I think it’s precarious if it’s MARTA, but again we’re going to be doing engagement with the public to try and figure that out,” she said on Thursday.

Georgia Ports Authority will test drive electric tractors for drayage at the port facilities.

The preview is sponsored by Georgia Power’s “Will it Work?” program — an initiative designed to get environmentally friendly technologies into the hands of companies that can use them.

It will allow both the ports and IKEA to put the jockey truck to use for several weeks to get a sense of how it will perform under normal operating conditions, said Osman Bholat, Georgia Power’s electric vehicle segment manager.

“Our goal is to bring the vehicle in, put it to use over a period of time and then give the company real data with which to evaluate its performance,” Bholat said.

“For starters, the truck will have to do everything its diesel counterpart does — and do it equally as well. Both of these companies work their trucks hard over two shifts per day.

“We’ll be looking at fuel and maintenance labor savings both per truck and across the fleet.”

HR Department

Applications to become Georgia State Patrol Troopers have risen after a 20 percent pay raise.

“We’ve seen in an increase in applicants statewide,” said GSP Sgt. 1st Class Crystal Zion, who’s with the agency’s recruitment unit.

School Districts, meanwhile, face continuous recruitment and replacing those leaving their jobs.

In Georgia, 70 percent of teacher hiring is done to replace employees who’ve quit teaching. Forty-four percent of the new hires in 2010 weren’t teaching five years later.

“Meeting the needs of every student is difficult,” Houston County Deputy Superintendent Cindy Flesher said. Houston County’s job fair is March 11. “Sometimes (teaching) is not for everybody. But really, the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

Bibb kept 73 percent of its teachers from July 2015 to 2016, said Paige Busbee, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources. The system usually ends up hiring between 200 and 250 new instructors before the beginning of each school year.

Houston generally fills about 200 certified positions yearly, but it has a higher retention rate, staying between 91 and 96 percent over the past five years, Flesher said.

“Teaching is hard. It’s not a 9-to-5 job. It requires long hours,” Busbee said. “I think the state puts a lot of pressure on teachers as far as accountability with testing. This emphasis on testing has turned some people off.”

Sixth Congressional District Special Election

Democratic Strategist Ed Kilgore writes about the Sixth District race for New York Magazine.

Handel has ten Republican rivals (qualifying ended), though she dodged a bullet when the HHS secretary’s wife, state representative Betty Price, decided against a run. Two formidable former state senators are in the race: Judson Hill, who will likely do well as a rare candidate from the Cobb County portion of the district, and Dan Moody, who is close to U.S. Senator David Perdue and his cousin, former governor (and Trump Agriculture secretary nominee) Sonny Perdue. Moody has personal wealth and at least an indirect claim to the support of Trump loyalists via the Perdues. But other candidates are signing up Trump activists quickly, and one, Bruce LeVell, is a bit of a Trump apprentice, having headed up the mogul’s “diversity coalition” during the 2016 campaign.

For Democrats, everything depends on making the almost-certain runoff, and that means minimizing intraparty competition. The best known of five Democrats in the race is former state senator Ron Slotin, a longtime stalwart of Atlanta’s Jewish community whose last run for office was an unsuccessful effort to topple the fiery anti-Zionist congresswoman Cynthia McKinney back in 1996. But there’s a newcomer who has quickly emerged as the most viable Democrat in the race: 29-year-old former congressional staffer and “investigative filmmaker” Jon Ossoff. He’s been phenomenally successful in online fundraising for the race, and has been endorsed by fifth-district representative John Lewis and fourth-district representative Hank Johnson.

The best hope for Ossoff or any other Democrat is to make the runoff and hope that the eventual Republican survivor is bloodied by internecine warfare. The biggest problem is that Democratic turnout in Georgia special elections — and really any sort of runoff perce— has been abysmal. That’s likely why local political analysts do not seem remotely as bullish as their national counterparts on the donkey’s odds of swiping the sixth.

Having said that, if the Trump administration’s next two months are anything like its first, the prospect of an early “referendum on Trump” to smite the 45th president could generate enough money and other resources to break the mold, and enough attention to get Democrats to the polls who would otherwise never show up. But for right now, it’s the GOP’s race to lose.

Generally speaking, I agree with most of the analysis except for two points. I still think one of the Independent candidate could make a dent in the usual predicitions, either through a strong candidacy or favorable placement on the ballot. Also, the analysis above seems to miss out on the whole “outsider” dynamic that started for Georgia Republicans with David Perdue in 2014 before Trump in 2016.

Roll Call writes that two Republican candidates in the Sixth District are trying trump the other’s support for the President.

Bruce LeVell, executive director of Trump’s National Diversity Coalition, and technology executive Bob Gray are vying to become the first Trump loyalists elected to Congress during his administration.

The 6th District’s close presidential result — a reflection of Trump’s underperformance in more affluent, well-educated suburbs nationwide — was enough to put it on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s initial target list.

But neither LeVell nor Gray see running with Trump as a political risk. Instead, they’re trying to one-up each other’s loyalty to the president, whose popularity has sagged since he took office.

“I was honored to be a surrogate for Donald Trump, campaigning for his vision to Make America Great Again for the entire 2016 election, through thick and thin,” LeVell said in a statement announcing his candidacy.

The Johns Creek city councilman [Bob Gray] claimed to have been “the only visible proponent of Trump in the district.”

That’s wrong, LeVell said Wednesday. He said he got the Sandy Springs Trump office off the ground — “I supplied the tables and the couches.”

“I’ve never seen Bob Gray in my life on the trail,” he added. “It’s disrespectful to try to piggyback on something.”

“My guess is everyone else is going to choose their words about this president very carefully,” said Chip Lake, a Republican consultant in Georgia. “They don’t want to alienate his supporters, but they don’t want to wrap both their arms around him either.”

Since special elections tend to turn out the conservative base, Trump loyalists might represent a bigger percentage of the electorate.

“I think they’re going to want to see these candidates pledge their support for a lot of what he’s done already and what he says he wants to do,” Lake said.

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