Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 28, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 28, 2017

On February 28, 1784, John Wesley executed a document titled “The Rev. John Wesley’s Declaration and Establishment of the Conference of the People called Methodists.”

On February 28, 1827, the first American railroad organized to transport people and freight commercially, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, was chartered. At the time, Baltimore was the second largest city in the nation.

On February 28, 1854, 30 anti-slavery opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would repeal the 1820 Missouri Compromise, met in Ripon, Wisconsin and called for the creation of the Republican Party.

On February 28, 1885, the American Telephone and Telegraph company was incorporated, though some accounts say March 3d.

On February 28, 1991, the First Gulf War ended, as President George H.W. Bush declared a ceasefire and that Kuwait was liberated.

Veterans of the 24th Infantry Division yesterday commemorated the 26th Anniversary of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Sixteen soldiers from the now-inactivated 24th ID, which was based at Fort Stewart from 1974-1996, were among the American troops killed in the war. On Monday, during the annual remembrance ceremony, the names of two fallen 5th Engineer Battalion soldiers who supported the 24th ID during the war were added to the base of the memorial.

[Retired U.S. Army Maj. Dan] Ashcraft encouraged those at the ceremony to reach out to other veterans if possible and encourage healing.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the names of the fallen soldiers were read aloud and a floral wreath was placed at the base of the memorial.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

In addition to early voting now underway in Cobb County, voters in Coweta County also started advance voting yesterday on their Special Purpose Local Option Sales for Education (E-SPLOST).

The ESPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax that is applied to all goods – including food – purchased inside Coweta County. The Coweta County School System has had an ESPLOST for many years, and the current 1 percent tax, ESPLOST IV, expires at the end of June.

The school system’s ESPLOST is one of three local sales taxes currently being collected. Coweta County has a SPLOST, which is divided among the county and its municipalities, and the Local Option Sales Tax, which is also divided among the county and its municipalities and is used for general government operations. The remainder of the 7 percent sales tax that Cowetans pay is state taxes.

The proposed new ESPLOST will last for five years, if approved, and can raise no more than $134 million.

Under state law, ESPLOST revenue can only be used for capital projects. That includes construction projects as well as purchases of items that are expected to last several years, such as school buses. The sales tax money cannot be used for things such as teacher salaries, school operations or utility bills.

Voters in Thomasville will decide a referendum on Sunday sales of alcohol.

The Tuesday, March 21, ballot will contain two questions: Sunday alcohol sales by the package and sales by the drink.

Frank Scoggins, Thomas County elections supervisor, said a voter may cast a ballot for one of the questions or both. If only one vote is cast, the ballot will not be rejected.

“It’s for City of Thomasville precincts only,” Scoggins said about the election, adding that the city has 10,750 registered voters.

Early voting continues until Friday, March 17.

Early ballots are cast at the elections office at the Thomas County Judicial Center, 325 N. Madison St. Photo identification is required to vote.

Early voting hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

COMMITTEE MEETINGS – LEGISLATIVE DAY 26

8:00 AM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 307 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE SESSION (LD 26) CHAMBER

12:30 PM SENATE RULES – UPON ADJ’T 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY – CANCELED 307 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 515 CLOB

1:00 PM House Environmental Quality Sub Nat’l Res 403 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 415 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE ECON DEV & TOURISM 125 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HS 450 CAP

2:00 PM House Sub A Public Safety & Homeland Sec’y 406 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HS 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUD’Y CIVIL 132 CAP

2:00 PM House Local Gov’t Sub of Gov’tal Affairs 514 CLOB

2:00 PM House Transportation Subc Resolutions 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 506 CLOB

2:00 PM House Resource Mgmt Sub Nat’l Res 403 CAP

2:30 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY – Law Enf & Emerg Mgmt 123 CAP

2:30 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 515 CLOB

3:00 PM House State Gov’t Admin Sub Gov’tal Affairs 514 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUD’Y 307 CLOB


SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 5 – Lottery for Education; net proceeds transferred to the state treasury for credit to the Lottery for Education Account; establish the percentage (Substitute) (H ED-46th)

SB 166 – “Nurse Licensure Compact”; Georgia Board of Nursing exercise certain powers with respect to compact; authorize (H&HS-45th)

SB 168 – Child Abuse; permitted to access child abuse records by department, or county, or other state or local agency; extend; Central Child Abuse Registry; permit access (H&HS-49th)

SB 103 – “The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act”; pharmacy benefits managers; Commissioner of Insurance to promulgate certain rules and regulations; authorize (Substitute) (I&L-53rd)

SB 130 – Right To An Attorney; waiver of the right to counsel; provisions; clarify (Substitute) (JUDY-19th)

SB 183 – State Road and Tollway Authority; definition; powers of the authority; provide (TRANS-21st)

SB 202 – Medical Assistance; increase in the personal needs allowance to be deducted from a nursing home resident’s income; provide (Substitute) (H&HS-33rd)

SR 104 – State Ad Valorem Taxes; prohibit levy -CA (FIN-31st)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 87 – Corporations, partnerships, and associations; multiple-year registrations for certain types of business organizations; provide (SBD-Raffensperger-50th)

HB 234 – Motor vehicles; drivers stop at crosswalks with user activated rectangular rapid-flash beacons; require (PS&HS-Frye-118th)

HB 322 – Military; war veterans; change definition (D&VA-Hitchens-161st)

HB 382 – Georgia Commission on Women; place under Department of Public Health administration (SP&CA-Pruett-149th)

HB 422 – Veterans Service, Department of; nonprofit corporation as a public foundation; authorize incorporation (D&VA-Hitchens-161st)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 71 – Insurance; consumer protections regarding health insurance; provisions (Substitute)(Ins-Smith-134th) (AM 34 0750)

HB 260 – Special license plates; Georgia Electric Membership Corporation; establish (Substitute)(MotV-Powell-32nd)

HB 276 – The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act; enact (Substitute)(Ins-Knight-130th)

HB 287 – Special license plates; honoring service members killed in action; provide at no cost to eligible family members (MotV-Kirby-114th)

HB 319 – Habeas corpus; maximum amount counties may be reimbursed for certain costs; increase (Judy-Werkheiser-157th)

HB 323 – Code Revision Commission; revise, modernize, correct errors or omissions of said Code (Substitute)(Judy-Caldwell-131st)

Structured Rule
HB 204 – Ad valorem tax; property tax bills shall not include nontax related fees or assessments; provide (Substitute)(W&M-Harrell-106th)

HB 217 – Income tax credit; certain scholarship organizations; increase amount of the aggregate cap on contributions (Substitute)(W&M-Carson-46th)


 Trump Up

Trump Pence Capitol

A pro-Trump rally was held yesterday in Liberty Plaza across from the Georgia State Capitol. From the AJC:

Pushing back against the explosive protests targeting Donald Trump’s administration, supporters of the president launched a wave of counter-demonstrations showing the Republican their support.

One of the largest yet was staged on Monday outside the Georgia statehouse, where more than 250 people gathered for the “Spirit of America” rally to wave Trump campaign signs and patriotic flags and listen to more than a dozen speakers praise his policies.

They burst into chants of “four more years.” They sang “God Bless America” – twice. And they heard from a barrage of candidates who hope to tap into the president’s popularity among frustrated voters as they seek to run for higher office.

“These folks think they know what’s best for us. They think they’re the masters of the universe,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, a Columbus Republican with an eye on a statewide bid. “But in America, the people still get a say. The revolution, the earthquake on Nov. 8 is just the first step.”

Abu Zahed of Doraville shouldered a billowing Trump flag, telling everyone he could why he supported the president.

“The anti-Trump protesters are crazy,” he said. “All he wants is to get us jobs and fight terrorism. How can you disagree with that?”

University of North Georgia Professors discussed the opening days of President Trump’s Administration.

“I think moving forward, a problem that’s already hampering him and probably will in the future is a personality quirk,” [Associate Professor Glen] Smith said. “He’s got a thin skin, and I don’t think I’m going out on the limb by saying that … He doesn’t seem to take criticism and overreacts to that. I think that’s something he’ll have to correct over time or it’s going to keep bringing up problems for him.”

Professor Douglas Young, who also teaches political science at the Gainesville campus, observed that Trump is governing much more conservatively than he and others thought he would based on his rhetoric during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

“He was arguably the least conservative of all the (GOP) candidates,” Young said. “He was the most critical of free trade, he was the most populist, but I think so far, he has thrilled most conservatives.”

The American Conservative Union has given better than 90 percent approval to Trump’s Cabinet selections, according to Young.

Brittany Ivey from Toccoa, Georgia will attend the State of the Union with Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville).

A Toccoa woman who says she and her family have struggled financially since the Affordable Care Act was implemented will attend President Donald Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

Prior to the ACA, Ivey had received her family’s insurance through her employer, working part-time.  Increased premiums drove the family into the individual market, where a mid-level plan cost 65 percent of her gross monthly income, according to Collins’ office.

“One of the things that was not contemplated, I think, by the previous administration was the impact on the folks who got the insurance through their work and the incredible price increases that came through the mandates,” Collins said.

“My husband and I have been punished for working hard, driven to the edge of financial disaster as we paid thousands and thousands of dollars in premiums for a federal plan that our doctors rejected. Even though we’re healthy, this law has crippled our family,” Ivey said.

Georgia and other states could bear a greater burden for healthcare financing, according to the National Governors’ Conference.

The nation’s governors left Washington Monday aware they are going to be asked to pick up more of the burden of health care costs for their poorest residents but not knowing where they will get the money to do so.

That was the sober message delivered by Republican congressional leaders and President Trump during three days of discussion over what will replace the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, when and if it is repealed.

Several governors said they were shocked when health care consultants told them during a closed briefing Saturday that an idea under consideration by House Republicans would result in cuts to states and an increase in the uninsured.

House Republicans are considering capping federal Medicaid payments to the states and reducing it in those states participating in Medicaid expansion to low-income adults making a third more than the federal poverty level.

Legislative & Local Issues

The Associated Press looks at the legislature’s Hell Week, in which legislation must pass at least one chamber by this Friday in order to pass both houses this year.

OPIOID CRISIS

A drug used to reverse opioid overdoses called naloxone will be available over-the-counter under a bill approved by the Georgia Senate.

Senators on Monday unanimously approved the bill, which will codify an emergency order put in place by Gov. Nathan Deal last year.

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said the change will allow loved ones of an addicted person to be ready for the worst-case scenario.

The House voted Monday to add fentanyl to state laws on penalties for possessing, manufacturing, delivering or selling certain drugs. Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, said the change would give law enforcement another tool against people selling fentanyl.

Synthetic fentanyl is more potent than other prescription opioids or heroin. The Centers for Disease Control says roughly 9,500 people fatally overdosed on synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, nationwide in 2015.

In a separate House committee, representatives approved a measure to expand the prescription drug-monitoring program, which aims to prevent doctor hopping and weed out physicians who are over prescribing opioids.

NAME CHANGES FOR VICTIMS

Victims of domestic violence could change their names privately under a bill approved by the Georgia House.

House members voted unanimously Monday in support of the proposal from Ballinger. The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence has also supported the change.

Casino gambling legislation is dead for the session in the state Senate.

Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, said he does not have the votes to get Senate Bill 79 out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

“I am not discouraged,” Beach said. “I will double down and plan to crisscross the state starting in April” to build support for the bill in 2018.

He eventually pared that down to no more than two “destination resort” casinos with proceeds from a 20 percent tax going to a host of interests, from HOPE scholarships, to needs-based college grants, rural trauma care and rural hospitals, to broadband Internet infrastructure to law enforcement raises.

In the end, no matter how he tried to divvy up the spoils, Beach could not pull the support he needed to get it out of committee.

From the Marietta Daily Journal:

Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock, who opposed the legislation, said Friday that bringing casino gambling to Georgia would end up doing more harm than good.

“I don’t really have a huge moral problem with it,” he said. “If people want to throw their money away, that’s their business. My issues are more economic.”

He said he witnessed the effects casino gambling has on surrounding communities first hand during a trip to Biloxi two years ago.

“The entire town is decimated,” he said

Beware zombies: legislation declared dead midway through the Session can still stagger to life later on.

House Bill 51 by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) advanced yesterday as the House Committee on Appropriations voted to recommend passage. From the AJC:

The House Appropriations Committee approved the so-called campus rape bill 35-10 as students opposing it looked on in a packed meeting room at the state Capitol. At least one national group representing sexual assault victims said the Georgia bill was the first of its kind to advance.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, said the measure would shield the rights of college students accused of sexual assault while also protecting the privacy of victims.

“House Bill 51 is about due process, safety on our campuses … and rights of the accused,” the Republican from Powder Springs said.

The proposed bill says colleges and universities must report to law enforcement any allegations of sexual assault. But the bill also says college officials cannot identify the victim without her consent and she cannot be forced to cooperate with law enforcement.

It says the university cannot conduct its own investigation until law enforcement is finished because of the risk that a probe by college officials “would destroy evidence,” Ehrhart said.

Many victims of sexual assault never report the crime to law enforcement but instead have the school investigate and punish the offender. The option is appealing to victims because the burden of proof is lower and privacy protections greater. Schools may suspend or expel a student if they are found responsible.

House Bill 65 by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) passed out of the House Judiciary (Non-Civil) Committee and heads to Rules Committee. From the AJC,

House Bill 65, sponsored by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, would double the list of illnesses and conditions eligible for treatment with medical marijuana in Georgia to include AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, epidermolysis bullosa, HIV, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome.

Additionally, the bill would let people who have registration cards from other states that similarly allow possession of certain low-THC cannabis oil to also possess the oil here.

The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee passed the bill on a 7-3 vote, after making tweaks that would require annual reporting by doctors who oversee medical marijuana patients. The committee also removed post-traumatic stress disorder from the proposed list of newly eligible diseases.

To have a clear path of becoming law, the bill must win passage from the House by Friday, which has been designated as Crossover Day for this legislative session. While parliamentary maneuvering can keep a bill alive past Crossover Day, making it from one side of the Capitol to the other by the end of that day makes final passage much more likely.

Companion bills in the General Assembly could set up a new governing body to take over from the Georgia High School Association, according to the AJC.

The General Assembly is pushing two bills that would set up an alternative to the 109-year-old governing body for school athletics, the Georgia High School Association, and its 56-member board.

“I don’t think any of them know what they’re job is,” complained one of the most powerful legislators in Georgia, Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun. The chairman of the House Rules Committee said he gets more complaints about the GHSA — from schools, from referees, from coaches and from parents — than about everything else put together, “and basically I’m sick of it.”

So he introduced House Bill 415, which quickly passed through that chamber’s education committee Monday. Next stop, Meadow’s Rules Committee that  could send the bill to the House floor for a vote.

Senate Bill 203, which is identical, is working its way through the other chamber, in a vice-like squeeze that leaves GHSA little room to maneuver.

The bills call on the state board of education to designate a new nonprofit as a state agency governing high school athletics. It would be open to both public and private schools and would have a governing board about a quarter the size of the GHSA board.

House Bill 280 by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) was given a “Do Pass” recommendation by the House Public Safety Committee yesterday.

House Bill 280, which would allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry firearms on public college and university campuses, with the exception of inside dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, and buildings used for athletic events. The bill also would require guns to be concealed and only those who hold a permit would be allowed to carry the weapons.

“This bill is about changing the dynamic” to provide the “basic, essential right of self-preservation” said state Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, the bill’s sponsor.

House Bill 436 by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella) passed out of a subcommittee of House Judiciary.

State Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, said that the point of his House Bill 436 is to speed an end to the costly, yearslong border dispute. His bill would take all tax revenue from the disputed area around Bass Pro Shops and set it aside in escrow until the dispute is settled. It would also force the losing side to pay the winners’ legal bills after this coming July.

The bill has its critics, such as Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Mallory Jones. He’s written to Dickey, asking the lawmaker to withdraw the proposal.

“Your bill, if passed, would have a devastating effect on Macon-Bibb’s ability to provide critical services to our citizens of Macon-Bibb County,” Jones wrote to Dickey. “We are already facing a potential $5 million deficit, and to tie up these tax dollars would cause a crisis in Macon-Bibb County.”

Newcomer with war chest gives Democrats hope in Georgia’s 6th District,” reads the AJC headline, but you’ve read this story before when it was about Michelle Nunn having a chance of beating David Perdue or when it said Jason Carter had a chance of beating Gov. Nathan Deal.

Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) is accepting internship applications.

Applications for the internships must be submitted by March 31, according to a news release from the Augusta congressman’s office. Internships will be broken into two sessions, with the first beginning May 15 and ending June 23. The second session will begin June 26 and end Aug. 4.

“Interning in a congressional office offers a unique opportunity to gain insight into the legislative process and how a congressional office operates,” Allen said in the release. “Interns play an integral part in carrying out the functions of our day-to-day operations. We practice a bottom-up approach to empower others to be the best that they can be and gain experience that will help them in the future.”

Gwinnett County residents will have a chance to learn about the county’s transportation plan in a round of public meetings.

Coweta County residents who won an Open Meetings Act lawsuit spoke to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Former Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts will run for Chairman of the Fulton County Commission.

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