Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 20, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 20, 2017

On February 20, 1792, President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, creating the United States Postal Service.

The act allowed for newspapers to be included in mail deliveries and made it illegal for postal officials to open anyone’s mail.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The order authorized the Secretary of War to designate military areas from which all persons could be excluded. On March 9, 1942, Roosevelt signed Public Law 503, which authorized the evacuation from the West Coast and internment in prison camps of Japanese and Americans born of Japanese ancestry.

On February 20, 1970, Georgia ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote.The Amendment states:

Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Seriously. 1970. Luckily ratification occurred when Tennessee approved adoption of the Amendment on April 18, 1920.

Interestingly, the only case in which the United States Supreme Court has addressed the Nineteenth Amendment arose in Georgia. Breedlove v. Suttles was a suit brought in Fulton County Superior Court concerning the poll tax. Here’s an excerpt:

The tax being upon persons, women may be exempted on the basis of special considerations to which they are naturally entitled. In view of burdens necessarily borne by them for the preservation of the race, the state reasonably may exempt them from poll taxes.

The laws of Georgia declare the husband to be the head of the family and the wife to be subject to him. To subject her to the levy would be to add to his burden. Moreover, Georgia poll taxes are laid to raise money for educational purposes, and it is the father’s duty to provide for education of the children. Discrimination in favor of all women being permissible, appellant may not complain because the tax is laid only upon some or object to registration of women without payment of taxes for previous years.

Privilege of voting is not derived from the United States, but is conferred by the state and, save as restrained by the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments and other provisions of the Federal Constitution, the state may condition suffrage as it deems appropriate.

It is fanciful to suggest that the Georgia law is a mere disguise under which to deny or abridge the right of men to vote on account of their sex. The challenged enactment is not repugnant to the Nineteenth Amendment.

Bless their hearts.

On February 20, 1974, Reg Murphy, an editor for The Atlanta Constitution was kidnapped and held until managing editor G. James Minter delivered $700,000 in ransom. I’m not sure if they’d pay 700 cents to get any employee back nowadays.

In Augusta today, the boyhood home of President Woodrow Wilson will be open for tours today in honor of President’s Day.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today, the Georgia General Assembly is in recess, though several House Committees will meet at the Capitol.

10:00 AM Kelley Sub of House Jud’y (Civil) Committee 132 CAP

11:00 AM Sub 2A of Public Safety & Homeland Sec’y 406 CLOB

1:00 PM PUBLIC SAFETY 606 CLOB

Governor Deal had some things to say about Richmond County Public Schools.

 As Gov. Deal signed off on a $50 million Cyber Innovation and Trainng Center in Augusta, he spoke of his enthusiasm for the area’s institutions of higher learning. He was less kind to the Richmond County School System.

“They have too many chronically failing schools,” Deal said. “In order to have the pipeline for workers and students who will be able to take advantage of this…if you want those to be local students, they have to have an underlying good education.”

“People do notice,” he said. “The military takes note of that.  And I would point out to you that as we had our meeting with them several weeks ago, they pointed out that they have more of the children of those who are working in their facility that go to Columbia County to go to school than go to Richmond.”

Deal is now supporting a new House bill that would also allow the state to take over schools.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer compared House Bill 338 to last year’s Opportunity School District legislation.

▪ The OSD superintendent, appointed by the governor, could have been somebody without any work experience in education. HB 338 calls for the Georgia Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor, to appoint a Chief Turnaround Officer. The CTO would need at least 15 years of work experience in K-12 education and an advanced degree in K-12 education, and to have been a principal or higher in a public school system for at least three years with “extensive experience” in turning around failing schools.

▪ The CTO would recommend Turnaround Coaches, approved by the state school board, to “assist schools that are identified as in the greatest need of assistance.”

▪ The OSD proposal specifically defined which schools would qualify for state takeover. But the draft of HB 338 is vague. It says the schools in greatest need would be “based on the number of years such schools have received an unacceptable rating and any other factors deemed appropriate by the Chief Turnaround Officer.”

▪ After implementing the turnaround plan for two years, a school that hasn’t improved enough, as determined by the CTO, could be subject to the following actions from the CTO: appoint a school master or management team to direct the principal; remove any school personnel; convert the school to a charter; completely reconstitute the school and hire all new staff; allow parents to move their children to another public school in the system; completely restructure the school’s governance; turn the school over to a “successful” system; turn the school over to a private nonprofit entity; or establish “any other interventions or requirements deemed appropriate” by the CTO and the state school board.

▪ If one-half or more of the schools in a local school system receive an “unacceptable” rating for five or more consecutive years, the governor could suspend the local school board members.

The Ledger-Enquirer also spoke to local school superintendents for their reactions to the House Bill.

Al Hackle of The Statesboro Herald looks at Senate Bill 85, which would ease restrictions on direct sales by brewpubs and distillers.

Senate Bill 85, which passed the Senate on a 49-to-2 vote Feb. 2 and has now been given a substitute version by a House committee, would allow a brewery to sell up to 3,000 barrels a year of malt beverages directly from its taproom. A beer barrel is defined as 31 gallons, so that’s 93,000 gallons a year, enough to quench many a thirst. The beer and ale would be sold by the glass, bottle, can or other container, not literally in barrels.

After that, craft brewers might seek further changes in the law in response to market changes that will inevitably occur, said Nancy Palmer, executive director of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild.

“But in the broad stroke, we are over the moon about this compromise and this legislation, and I anticipate that … assuming that it passes, this will be a huge step for Georgia breweries and we’ll be able to sit back and watch this industry grow in an exciting and healthy way for several years,” Palmer said Friday.

[Eagle Creek Brewing Co. owner Franklin] Dismuke has been following the bill’s progress and has contacted area legislators about it.

“This will be a major, major win for the brewing industry in Georgia,” he said, adding that there will probably be “a lot more breweries opening up in the state.”

Augusta could hit the jackpot with changes to casino legislation that would allow a potential non-Atlanta location.

Rep. Brian Prince, D-Augusta, said a bill being sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, would license two areas of the state for casino gambling – Atlanta and either Augusta, Savannah, Macon or Columbus.

“Augusta is in the mix,” and ideally suited for casino gambling, Prince said.

“What’s great about Augusta is we’re not just drawing from the state of Georgia. We have South Carolina right across the bridge and North Carolina less than two hours away,” he said.

Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta, said casino gaming packs “tremendous economic potential for Augusta” and expected the legislation to leave open the possibility of casinos obtaining more than two licenses in Georgia. Jones said in order to be successful, the casino “has to be something that attracts persons from at least the southeast.”

The AJC looks at other changes in the Senate’s version of the casino bill.

Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, said Friday that his Senate Bill 79 will see its first vote in committee on Thursday. Also, Beach on Friday introduced Senate Resolution 249, the proposed amendment to the state Constitution legalizing casinos. This latest version of SB 79:

• Would license up to two “destination resort” casinos in Georgia. One in either Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett or Clayton counties and one outside that region. The second casino, however, would have to be located within 30 miles of a major convention center.

• Would levy a tax of 20 percent on casino proceeds.

• Would send 30 percent of those tax revenues to the HOPE scholarship program, 30 percent to a needs-based college scholarship, 15 percent to help provide rural healthcare, and 15 percent to help provide rural trauma care. The remaining 10 percent is still being negotiated, [Senator Brandon “Dice”] Beach said.

State Rep. Dewey McClain (D–Lawrenceville) introduced House Bill 315 to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“This is good news for all working Georgians,” McClain wrote in the letter. “Georgia’s minimum wage is $5.15 an hour but many of the state employers pay the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. In many instances workers earning these wages cannot afford the basic necessities of life and end up receiving food stamps so they can eat.

“This amounts to an indirect government subsidy of the firms which employ these people, is a burden on the workers and is not fair to the tax paying public.”

Georgia Sheriffs are seeking state help to provide raises for their officers, according to The Macon Telegraph.

The sheriffs have been telling lawmakers that counties will lose good officers if pay doesn’t rise.

A jailer starts work, on average, at about $25,300 per year, according to the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association. Average deputy sheriff pay starts at $29,900.

But sheriffs have another number on their minds: since a 20 percent raise for officers at state agencies went into effect this year, state troopers’ base pay now tops $46,000.

The state has long paid better than local agencies, said Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese. But the troopers’ raise is high enough that he said he and other sheriffs are worrying more about recruiting and retaining staff.

“We’re going to be losing the best of our best. That’s a concern of ours,” said Deese, who’s also president of the board of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis said his department pays more than some others but that “all of us are having issues finding good people.”

But state legislators don’t set pay for deputies. That’s been up to counties.

“If we were to do something different, then this would be a substantial change from how things have always been regarding how we compensate our county-level employees,” said state Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, who is a retired state trooper and a former county commissioner. He said he’s heard some ideas from sheriffs, but not any that he thinks would have broad support under the Gold Dome.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation may receive $35 milion dollars for construction of a new regional crime lab in South Georgia.

Currently, the Coastal [Regional crime] lab reviews evidence from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in 23 southeast Georgia counties and provides forensic biology services for another seven counties.

And while it’s the largest — and oldest — regional crime lab in the state, Ross Butler, director of the Coastal lab, said it’s no longer adequate to keep up with the workload of the facility’s three main services: firearms, forensic biology and drug testing.

Meanwhile, a growth study conducted recently by the Georgia Institute of Technology indicated that Coastal Georgia’s population will increase by anywhere from 1 million to 1.5 million people by 2030, and with the added population the agency expects added crime.

Dr. George Herrin, director of the GBI Crime Lab, said plans for the new facility will carry the regional lab through the next few decades.

Herrin said the new lab is being designed to handle cases from the 23-county region for the next 20-30 years. And if the spike in cases the area has seen in recent years is any indication, he said, it’s going to be needed sooner, rather than later.

“(The case load) is increasing a little bit each year,” he said. “For instance, in the last year or so, we’ve seen anywhere from a 10 to 50 percent increase in our service requests. We’ve seen a lot more officer-involved shootings in the last year. There’s a lot more emphasis on DNA — and not just from violent crimes, but crimes like burglaries and carjackings.”

Columbus State University will receive $2.5 million in construction funding under the FY2018 budget.

Guyton Mayor Jeff Lariscy is seeking the ouster of Police Chief Kelphie Lundy at a City Council meeting on March 9, 2017.

Hall County could get a new vineyard and winery if the Hall County Planning Commission approves plans.

Gainesville protesters are holding a vigil to support immigrants.

Ellen Gerstein of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health & Human Services will join a 12-member national advisory committee for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The City of Sugar Hill is seeking to create a building authority for its downtown.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan will deliver the State of the City address tomorrow at 5:30 PM at the Justice Center on Queen City Parkway.

Rooster down, hens up, in Marietta, as a new ordinance will allow up to four chickens but no roosters.

Trump Country

Homer in Banks County, Georgia is still Trump Country, according to the AJC.

Virtually no other place in Georgia was as supportive of Trump as Banks County, a sparsely populated area where nearly 9 out of every 10 residents voted for the Republican.

It’s hard to find a Democrat here. It’s even harder to find a Trump supporter who regrets his or her vote. And interviews with two dozen Banks County residents as the president approaches his one-month anniversary in the White House on Monday quickly revealed a few constants.

Most residents here brush off reports of chaos in the White House and reject the narrative that his administration is sinking into scandal and ineptitude. They feel his attacks on the media are justified. And they are somewhat concerned — if bemused — that he remains the same say-anything Trump he was on the campaign trail.

Trump notched a 5-point victory in Georgia in November despite losing most of metro Atlanta in part because of counties such as Banks, an overwhelmingly white, working-class and rural area where he ran up the score.

Support for GOP candidates here has crept from the high 70s in 2004 to nearly 90 percent in 2016, and no Democrats even bothered running in countywide elections last year.

Dalton State students spoke to NPR’s Marketplace about immigration issues.

Also still Trump County is South Georgia, though I hope the Administration has no plans to drain the Okefenokee Swamp.
Trump Rally

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