Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 1, 2017


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 1, 2017

On March 1, 1778, the Georgia legislature confiscated property owned by 117 people after labeling them traitors.

The Articles of Confederation were ratified on March 1, 1781.

The nation was guided by the Articles of Confederation until the implementation of the current U.S. Constitution in 1789.

The critical distinction between the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution —the primacy of the states under the Articles—is best understood by comparing the following lines.

The Articles of Confederation begin:

“To all to whom these Present shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States”

By contrast, the Constitution begins:

“We the People of the United States do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

On March 1, 1875, Governor James Smith signed legislation making cruelty to animals a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $50.

Paul Broun, Sr. was born on March 1, 1916, in Shellman, Georgia, and served 38 years in the Georgia legislature.

Broun was first elected to the state senate in 1962 in a historic election that took place after the federal courts struck down Georgia’s long-established county unit election system. Broun was one of several new senators elected in a class that included Jimmy Carter, the future president of the United States; Leroy Johnson, the first black legislator elected in Georgia since Reconstruction; and politicians like Hugh Gillis, Culver Kidd, and Bobby Rowan, who would have a lasting impact on legislative politics.

Broun was elected to nineteen consecutive terms in the senate, where he served as the chairman of the Appropriations Committee and the University System Committee.

Dorothy Felton was born on March 1, 1929, and served as the first Republican woman elected to the Georgia legislature.

Dorothy Felton was the first Republican woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly and eventually became the longest-serving Republican and the longest-serving woman of either party in the state legislature. She also worked for more than a quarter of a century for the right of the Sandy Springs community of Fulton County to incorporate as a municipality, a goal that was not achieved until four years after she retired from elective office.

Felton was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1974 from a district in Sandy Springs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day 27






1:00 PM Senate Finance – Sales Tax Sub 125 CAP




2:00 PM HOUSE Kelley Sub Jud’y Civil 515 CLOB








3:30 PM SENATE FINANCE – Income Tax Sub 123 CAP


The House and Senate will each concentrate today (Day 27) and Friday (Day 28) on passing their own bills out in order to meet the Crossover Day deadline (28) by which a bill must pass at least one chamber in order to be eligible for final passage this year.

The Senate has 12 bills on the Rules Calendar and the House has 24.


SB 147 – Cemetery and Funeral Services; unitrust distribution method provisions; permit a cemetery to request a trustee (RI&U-27th)

SB 159 – Criminal Trespass and Damage to Property; entry upon land or premises of another that has been marked with purple paint; provide for the crime of criminal trespass (JUDY-24th)

SB 104 – Kidnapping, False Imprisonment and Related Offenses; human trafficking hotline model notice in government buildings; require posting (SI&P-35th)

SB 95 – Selection of Jurors; state-wide master jury list; change provisions; Georgia Crime Information Center; pardons and paroles; provide conforming cross-references (Substitute) (JUDY-23rd)

SB 139 – Focused Programs of Study; pathway in leadership; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-6th)

SB 174 – Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform; reform for individuals supervised under accountability courts; provide (Substitute) (JUDY-18th)

SB 175 – Juvenile Code; juvenile court proceedings; enact reforms (JUDY-18th)

SB 176 – Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform; driving privileges; enact reforms (Substitute) (JUDY-18th)

SB 1 – “The Protect Act- Protecting Georgians Against Terrorism”; revise the definition of domestic terrorism (Substitute) (PUB SAF-46th)

SB 186 – Education; HOPE; students who earned high school diploma through dual coursework are eligible; associate degree; clarify (Substitute) (ED&Y-37th)

SB 81 – “Jeffrey Dallas Gay, Jr., Act.”; opioid antagonists under conditions the state health officer may impose; provide state health officer may issue standing order permitting certain persons and entities to obtain (Substitute) (H&HS-45th)

SB 152 – Education; policy of the state; students who are subject to compulsory attendance; not assigned to alternative education program more than two semesters; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-10th)


Modified Open Rule
HB 114 – Move on When Ready Act; prohibit school systems from excluding students in dual credit courses from valedictorian or salutatorian determinations (Substitute)(Ed-Dickey-140th)

HB 197 – Fair Business Practices Act; requirements for solicitations of services for obtaining a copy of an instrument conveying real estate; provide (Judy-Teasley-37th)

HB 391 – Safe Place for Newborns Act of 2002; revise provisions (JuvJ-Clark-98th)

HB 437 – Agricultural Education Advisory Commission; recreate (Substitute)(Ed-Dickey-140th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 5 – Courts; compensation of juvenile court judges; change provisions (Substitute)(JuvJ-Caldwell-131st)

HB 51 – Postsecondary institutions; reporting and investigation of certain crimes by officials and employees; provide manner (Substitute)(App-Ehrhart-36th)

HB 67 – Crimes and offenses; entering a motor vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or felony; provide for increased punishment (Substitute) (JudyNC-Boddie-62nd)

HB 165 – Medical practice; maintenance of certification shall not be required; provide (Substitute)(H&HS-Price-48th)

HB 208 – Game and fish; boat registration fees and additional methods for reporting the sale of boats; revise (Substitute)(GF&P-Rhodes-120th)

HB 266 – Guardian and ward; personal property value guardian may receive without becoming legal conservator of minor; provisions (Judy-Kelley-16th)

HB 271 – Water resources; shore protection; revise various provisions (Substitute)(NR&E-Petrea-166th) (AM 40 0197)

HB 275 – Game and fish; rules and regulations used to establish criminal violations; change provisions (GF&P-Dubnik-29th)

HB 328 – Highways; uniform rules of the road; provisions (Substitute) (Trans-Watson-172nd)

Pursuant to House Rule 33.3, debate shall be limited to one hour on HB 338.
Time to be allocated at the discretion of the Chair.

HB 338 – Education; system of supports and assistance for low-performing schools in the greatest need; provisions (Substitute)(Ed-Tanner-9th)

HB 344 – Paternity; parties beyond movants in a child support case request a genetic test; allow (JuvJ-Dempsey-13th)

HR 362 – Joint Study Committee on Stream Buffers in Georgia; create (SRules-Smith-70th)

Structured Rule
HB 85 – Ad valorem tax; methodology used to establish forest land fair market value; revise (Substitute) (W&M-Powell-171st) (Rules Committee Substitute LC 43 0636S)

HB 118 – Fantasy Contests Act; enact (Substitute)(W&M-Kelley-16th)

HB 314 – Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act; enact (Substitute) (W&M-Shaw-176th)

HB 329 – Income tax; rate of tax imposed on the taxable net income of individuals; modify (Substitute)(W&M-Powell-171st)

HB 337 – State Tax Execution Modernization Act; enact (Substitute) (W&M-Williamson-115th)

HB 357 – Georgia Uniform Certificate of Title for Vessels Act; enact (Substitute)(W&M-Stephens-164th)

HB 375 – Revenue and taxation; tax executions; modify certain provisions (W&M-Raffensperger-50th)

HR 51 – Forest land fair market value; prescribed methodology; remove – CA (Substitute)(W&M-Powell-171st)

Legislation & Local Issues

House Bill 338 by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) will be heard today in the House and is described by some at the follow-up to the Opportunity School District Amendment that failed last November. From WALB-TV in Albany:

Another bill aimed at improving chronically failing schools in Georgia is making its way through the legislature.

Dougherty County superintendent Dr. David Mosely said he doesn’t see the bill as a threat for Dougherty County schools.

If passed, the state will appoint a chief turnaround officer who would work with a team of coaches to identify the school systems that have the greatest need for assistance. The officer and coaches would then work with the local school system and community to make a plan for improvement.

“I don’t think you can legislate excellence,”” explained Mosely. “I think that commitment comes from within.”

Georgia house representative Darrel Bush Ealum describes the bill as the most “far reaching legislation” the house will consider this year.

The bill has the same mission as the opportunity school district amendment, but [legislative] leaders have made changes to the unpopular areas so that the local boards have more say.

From Kathleen Foody and Ezra Kaplan with the Associated Press:

The struggling-schools bill is considered an alternative to Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment seeking to let the state take over schools dubbed “chronically failing.” Voters rejected that idea.

Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, sponsored this year’s bill creating a “chief turnaround officer” to work with struggling schools and has said he wanted to create a partnership rather than a takeover. The bill still lays out dramatic consequences for schools that don’t improve within two years of state intervention or that refuse a “turnaround” contract with the state.

House Bill 65 by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) on medical cannabis moves forward after dropping a provision allowing use for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A key state House committee has endorsed letting people join the registry if they have AIDS or HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, the painful skin disease epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy, Tourette’s syndrome or those who are in a hospice program. But they did not endorse PTSD, which was part of an earlier draft of the bill.

“The condition (PTSD) is real. It’s just the fact that we didn’t have a definition to it,” said state Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, before his House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee approved its version of House Bill 65 on Monday. But Golick also said that if a tight definition were proposed, it could and should deserve consideration.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, the original author of the bill, said he was disappointed that PTSD was removed, but he’s hopeful there might be a chance of adding it back at some point.

“We owe our brave veterans this option,” he said.

Twin bills that would eliminate the role of the Georgia High School Association in student athletics led to turmoil within the agency.

With a bill pending in the state legislature that would all but eliminate the GHSA for another association to govern high school athletics in the state, the GHSA’s board of trustees voted 5-3 at a special meeting Monday to ask executive director Gary Phillips to resign, and a special executive committee meeting has been schedule for 10 a.m. on Monday at the Thomaston-Upson Civic Center, where the full committee of more than 60 people will vote for or against the board of trustees’ recommendation.

Phillips, who is under contract until 2018, is declining comment until after Monday’s meeting.

The GHSA is facing a pair of bills to form a new association. Senate Bill 203 is authored by Bartow County’s Bruce Thompson and backed by 16 other senators, including John F. Kennedy of Macon. House Bill 415 has six sponsors, led by John Meadows of Calhoun.

The House Education Committee right after lunch on Monday heard Meadows of Calhoun, one of the primary authors, discuss the need for a new association. Several times, he mentioned the “internal problems” of the association, “real or perceived”, and wanted a passage to push the bill to the rules committee.

Meadows said he’s looking for “progress” from the GHSA by Friday. As chairman of the House Rules Committee, his House Rules Committee can decide to send the bill to the full House, and a step closer to becoming law. Or he could decide not to send it to the House. For this year, anyway.

“If progress is being made, I’ll sit on it,” he said. “But y’all do know what happens to bills in the first year, right? They stay alive until next year.”

Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White) voiced concerns over the impact of the now-stalled casino gambling bill.

Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, was one of the bill’s leading opponents. Thompson, whose district also covers portions of Cherokee, said Tuesday he was glad to see the casino bill halted.

“For nine days in a row I went to the well and railed against it,” he said. “I am glad to see it stopped.”

Thompson said he fears legalizing casinos in Georgia could result in a spike in sex trafficking rates.

“My primary concern is the sex trafficking trade,” he said. “Atlanta has been in the country’s top 5 cities for human trafficking and all statistics show that outside the security perimeter of a casino, sex trafficking will increase.”

Thompson said he also had qualms about the bill’s language, which would have asked Georgia voters whether to legalize “destination resorts” in the state.

“The fact the bill doesn’t have the name casino in it starts the conversation about how we’re not being transparent about it,” he said.

The senator also said he didn’t think the measure would necessarily translate to more money for the HOPE Scholarship, which he said has been underfunded by the Georgia Lottery for years.

Senate Bill 12 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) will benefit a Gainesville charity dental clinic if passed by the State House.

Senate Bill 12, which would allow dental hygienists to perform cleanings and more without a doctor present, was recently adopted in the Senate and passed to the House for approval.

Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said he voted for the legislation. Hawkins is also a dentist and volunteers in his spare time at the Green Warren Dental Clinic.

Charlotte Crow, developmental director for the Good News Clinic, said they normally see 500 patients a month.

“(The bill) really relates to places like us, that provide services for people in need,” Crow said.

Most of these people are from low-income families and might not be able to afford to see a dentist.

“Hopefully, this legislation will raise the awareness of the hygienists in our area and encourage them to volunteer,” Hawkins said.

House Bill 154 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) is nearly identical to SB 12 and has already passed the House, setting up a likely compromise between the two bills.

A Georgia State University feasibility study would give the go-ahead on the incorporation of Skidaway Island in Chatham County.

If incorporated, Skidaway Island would become Chatham County’s fourth biggest city, after Savannah, Pooler and Garden City.

Based on the analysis, the study estimates that the new city’s annual expenditures would be anywhere from $4.6 to $4.8 million, and its annual revenue would be around $6.4 million, leaving an annual net revenue of about $1.6-$1.8 million.

Landings Association President Jim Rich said that while the study is encouraging, it is still too early to be sure about incorporation.

“We are still in the early stages of a lengthy and detailed process,” Rich said. “If someone is against it, well, they know something we don’t know. If they’re very for it, I’d call that overly optimistic. We just don’t know yet.”

The Landings Association’s board reached out to state lawmakers about introducing legislation this year that could enable a vote on the matter in 2018.

The legislation to incorporate the island community of about 8,500 residents would act as a placeholder and no vote would be taken until lawmakers meet for the 2018 legislative session. If the legislation is approved, incorporation would then have to be approved by voters in a referendum.

Earlier this month, Skidaway’s state lawmakers, Rep. Jesse Petrea and Sen. Ben Watson, said they are open to the idea, but they are waiting to hear more input from the island’s residents before supporting any legislation.

The former Coastal Empire Fair grounds may be slated to become a movie production complex.

Rep. Craig Gordon, D-Savannah, has secured $2.5 million in private funding for the project that includes renovating existing buildings — including a hangar that could be quickly converted into a production stage — and the construction of on-site housing for production crews, said the legislator’s attorney, Charles Bowen.

Fulton County shoppers will pay higher sales taxes beginning today, with another hike starting April 1, 2017.

Senate Bill 183 by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-North Fulton) passed the Senate yesterday and would allow the state to continue collecting tolls after the roads they finance are paid off.

In the past, the state has pledged revenue from tolls to help pay for construction projects, but promised to remove the tolls when the project is paid off. One example: Ga. 400, where — after a public outcry against plans to keep the tolls — state officials removed them in 2013.

Now, Georgia uses tolls to regulate traffic, as well as pay for road projects. Under a “dynamic pricing” strategy, tolls rise as traffic increases. The idea is to limit the number of vehicles in toll lanes to keep traffic in them moving at 45 mph or more. Drivers are essentially paying for the privilege of moving faster than those in the general purpose lanes.

SRTA Executive Director Chris Tomlinson said the agency essentially is asking legislators to “formally recognize the strategy that the whole world knows we’re already doing.”

State Rep.Chuck Martin, who chairs the House Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee warns about growing subsidies to the Teacher Retirement System.

The Teachers Retirement System is scheduled to receive a $223 million subsidy from taxpayers in the upcoming fiscal year to ensure its financial security.

Martin said the subsidy could increase to $400 million next year for the TRS, which covers more than 400,000 teachers, University System of Georgia staffers, other education employees and retirees. The system makes monthly retirement payments to nearly 120,000 retirees.

State and local agencies and private companies unveiled plans to ease access to the Georgia Ports Authority Garden City Terminal.

During a public introduction of their plans for the area at an open house in Garden City on Tuesday, representatives of the Georgia Ports Authority, the Georgia Department of Transportation, local railroad companies, Chatham County and Garden City presented a shared goal to improve rail operations at the Port of Savannah and to lessen the effect these rail systems have on drivers traveling on nearby Ga. 25.

The largest aspect of the joint project will take place on the existing Garden City Terminal, where the Ports Authority will reconfigure, expand and interconnect the Mason and Chatham rail yards into a single, multi-modal facility that services the entire facility.

Known as the Savannah International Multi-Modal Connector, the $120 million project is expected to increase the Port’s rail capacity on site and allow for the railroad companies to provide faster and more frequent service. Total completion of the Multi-Modal Connector is projected for 2021.

Rick Harris, director of corporate communications for Norfolk Southern, said the railroad company has been consulting with the GPA on the project, and the benefits are two-fold. From the business perspective, Harris said, railroad companies such as Norfolk Southern benefit from the project by gaining extra capacity and smoother ingress and egress at the terminal.

The public, meanwhile, won’t have to hear as many train horns blow at local intersections, he said, and the project lowers the risk of collisions.

“The plan represents a win-win — for the community, for the port, for the railroads, and for customers who depend on freight rail transportation and on the port facility for safe, efficient handling of their goods to and from markets around the world,” Harris said in a prepared statement.

The Hall County Board of Education approved spending $27.5 million in SPLOST proceeds on school construction.

Cobb County and Kennesaw State University are working together to open IgniteHQ, to foster business startups.

“Starting something like this is not easy,” said IgniteHQ Executive Director Mark Hubbard. “Starting something from scratch is not easy. Starting something from scratch in the university system is not easy.”

Hubbard’s line drew a chuckle from KSU President Sam Olens, who was also at the event.

“The whole purpose of IgniteHQ is to provide an entrepreneurial path for bright KSU students looking to impact the community by creating businesses around their research and ideas,” Olens said. “And in fact, it’s not just the students, it’s the students and faculty that will also be a part of this relationship. And we already have some students that are here and we already have some students that are starting companies.”

While Olens and the other officials spoke in the building’s lobby, two KSU students were hard at work in the common space toward the back of the building.

WellStar Kennestone Hospital is significantly expanding its Emergency Department.

Protesters in Gwinnett County Hospital continue to disrupt Board of Commissioners meetings complaining about comments by Commissioner Tommy Hunter.

State Senator Brandon Beach (R-North Fulton) hosted a standing-room only meeting on local transportation issues.

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