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


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

The British Parliament enacted The Coercive Acts on March 28, 1774.

The Coercive Acts were a series of four acts established by the British government. The aim of the legislation was to restore order in Massachusetts and punish Bostonians for their Tea Party, in which members of the revolutionary-minded Sons of Liberty boarded three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 crates of tea—nearly $1 million worth in today’s money—into the water to protest the Tea Act.

Passed in response to the Americans’ disobedience, the Coercive Acts included:

The Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.

The Massachusetts Government Act, which restricted Massachusetts; democratic town meetings and turned the governor’s council into an appointed body.

The Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in Massachusetts.

The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in their private homes as a last resort.

Governor Ernest Vandiver signed legislation authorizing the construction of monuments to Georgians killed in battle at the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields on March 28, 1961.

Identical 15 1/2-foot-tall monuments of Georgia blue granite were sculpted by Harry Sellers of Marietta Memorials. At the top of the shaft is the word “GEORGIA” over the state seal. Lower on the shaft is the inscription, “Georgia Confederate Soldiers, We sleep here in obedience; When duty called, we came; When Countdry called, we died.”

Georgia’s first “Sunshine Law” requiring open meetings of most state boards and commissions, was signed by Governor Jimmy Carter on March 28, 1972.

A nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania overheated on March 28, 1979 and within days radiation levels had risen in a four county area. It was the most serious accident in commercial nuclear history in the United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Bart Simpson Chalkboard Erratum

Former United States Senator Saxby Chambliss has endorsed Karen Handel in the Sixth Congressional District.

Chambliss served in the United States Senate from 2003 to 2015.

“Karen is one of those people who simply gets things done,” he said. “Her reputation from Atlanta to Washington is that she is the kind of person…that you can work with. And she will do what she says she’s going to do.”

Handel is the candidate he “feels most comfortable” with as Republicans work to maintain control of the seat, which covers north Fulton and parts of Cobb and DeKalb counties.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to receive the support of Senator Chambliss, who was an effective advocate in Washington,” Handel added. “If elected to represent the 6th Congressional District, I intend to lead by his example and always put the interest of Georgians first.”

Senator David Perdue endorsed Dan Moody for the Sixth District this morning. From the Press Release:

U.S. Senator David Perdue today endorsed Dan Moody’s campaign for Congress in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.  Perdue, a successful businessman and CEO before his outsider campaign for the U.S. Senate, is seen as a major force for change and getting things done in Washington, and is a staunch ally of President Donald Trump.

“In politics, there are endorsements and there are endorsements,” Moody said.  “This is an Endorsement with a capital “E.” and I couldn’t be prouder to have David’s support.  He is one of the top “get things done” members of the Senate and I look forward to helping him strike while the iron is hot and implement real conservative change in Washington.”

In the ad, Perdue says:

You sent me to Washington as an outsider to help fix a broken system. With a new president who isn’t afraid to shake things up, we finally have a real chance.

Trust me, we don’t need another career politician up here.

Dan Moody cares more about getting results, than getting credit. 

That’s so uncommon and exactly what we need.

Dan’s one of us.

The ad is running on broadcast and cable television across the district.  Bigly.

Liberal Democrat Jon Ossoff has Alyssa Milano and some guy I’ve never heard of driving voters to the polls for early voting.

Georgia Department of Agriculture officials announced an outbreak of Avian Flu in northwest Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture said Monday that a flock of chickens at a commercial poultry breeding operation located in Chattooga County, northwest of Rome, tested positive for avian influenza.

The virus was identified during a routine screening, the department said.

The flock of chickens was destroyed. The Associated Press reported that 18,000 chickens were killed.

“Poultry is the top sector of our number one industry, agriculture, and we are committed to protecting the livelihoods of the many farm families that are dependent on it,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black. “In order to successfully do that, it is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity.”

Governor Deal’s office maintains a list of legislation signed into law.

Under the Gold Dome

The House Rules Committee meets this morning at 9 AM in Room 341 of the Georgia State Capitol.

Yesterday, the Senate Rules Committee met and placed 71 bills on the Rules Calendar for day 39 (today) and day 40 (Thursday).


Modified Open Rule
SB 130 – Right To An Attorney; waiver of the right to counsel; provisions; clarify (Substitute)(Judy-Strickland-111th) Tillery-19th

SB 134 – “Save, Earn, Win Act” (B&B-Morris-156th) Shafer-48th

SB 137 – Child Support Recovery Act; federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005; require the obligor to pay the full fee (Substitute)(Judy-Pirkle-155th) Kirk-13th

Modified Structured Rule
SB 14 – State Income Taxes; rural hospitals income tax credit; clarify the amount of an exemption for certain entities under the contributions (Substitute)(W&M-Taylor-173rd) Burke-11th

SB 16 – Low THC Oil; definition; provisions relating to conditions eligible for use; change (Substitute)(JudyNC-Peake-141st) Watson-1st

SB 41 – Pharmacists and Pharmacies; durable medical equipment suppliers; provide for the licensure; definition; requirements; discipline and revocation (Substitute)(H&HS-Petrea-166th) Unterman-45th

SB 106 – Pain Management Clinics; health care professionals who must be on-site; revise a provision (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd) Kirk-13th

SB 125 – Physician Assistants; authority to prescribe hydrocodone compound products; authorize a physician to delegate to a physician assistant (Substitute)(JudyNC-Kelley-16th) Jeffares-17th

SB 133 – Corporate Net Worth Tax; less than a certain amount; make such tax inapplicable to corporations (Substitute)(W&M-Blackmon-146th) Walker III-20th (AM 37 0368)

SB 180 – Hosspital Care for the Indigent; additional reporting requirement for rural hospitals; provide (Substitute)(W&M-Kelley-16th) Burke-11th (Substitute 34 5234S)

SB 183 – State Road and Tollway Authority; definition; powers of the authority; provide (Substitute)(Trans-Harrell-106th) Beach-21st

SB 193 – Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program; program mission and practice; revise (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd) Unterman-45th

SB 250 – State Sexual Offender Registry; individual is convicted in another country; require registration (Substitute)(JudyNC-Ballinger-23rd) Mullis-53rd (AM 29 2614)

SR 204 – Kyle Gilbert Memorial Highway; Gwinnett County; dedicate (Substitute)(Trans-Tanner-9th) Miller-49th (AM 39 0197)

The Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act, House Bill 314 by Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland) is running into walls in the General Assembly.

Shaw’s bill, dubbed the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act, would create a $100 million pool of money that would be invested in small businesses located in counties with less than 50,000 residents within a two-year span.

But state budget analysts concluded the hit to the state budget would be less painful once the new jobs translate into new state revenue. The program, they found, would likely cost the state as much as $12.5 million in one year once it matures.

This time, the measure came to a grinding halt in a Senate committee, even after sailing through the House earlier this month. Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, asked to table it this week for “further study.”

But Shaw quickly revived his plan Thursday, just one day after it stalled.

The proposal was tacked onto a Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Larry Walker, R-Perry, that is awaiting action in the House – a common maneuver in the final days of the legislative session.

But Walker said he’s worried that the potential cost of Shaw’s measure endangers his bill and said he’ll push to have it extracted.

State Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) introduced House Bill 329 to flatten Georgia’s state income tax, though the State Senate has other ideas.

A bill, sponsored by Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, would throw out the state’s complex, graduated tax brackets and replace it with one 5.4 percent tax rate.

That amounts to a tax break for many Georgians, since the current rate tops out at 6 percent.

But Powell’s bill also increases taxes on lower income residents. His plan included an earned income tax credit for families that was designed to offset that hit, although it still left childless residents with a tax hike.

[S]enators have proposed to abandon the flat tax approach and just lower the top-end rate.

The Senate proposal would set that high-end tax rate at 5.65 percent and increase the personal exemption by $300. It would likely cost the state about $200 million.

Opponents of Campus Carry legislation rallied in Athens.

House Bill 271 by Rep. Jesse Petrea (Savannah), amending the Shore Protection Act has been tabled in the State Senate.

Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, sponsored HB 271 in the House, where it had passed unanimously. But it stalled in the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.

Petrea said he asked for the bill to be held until the next session to allow for more community involvement. The 2017 legislative session is scheduled to end March 30. Lawmakers will reconvene in January [2018]. In the meantime, a Senate subcommittee of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee has agreed to look into the subject.

At issue is the landward extent of the state’s regulatory reach at the shorefront. The current law defines the state’s jurisdiction by drawing a zigzag line connecting 20-foot native trees to each other and to shorefront buildings erected in 1979 or earlier.

Petrea’s bill, supported by the DNR, instead drew the line a measurable distance landward from beach features.

House Bill 510 by members of the Columbus delegation, repeals old legislation that required a different way of measuring distance from a liquor store in Columbus/Muscogee County and Hall County.

House Bill 510, a law that would make the mandated distance between liquor stores and schools and churches, passed the Senate on a 48-5 vote, with Sen. Ed Harbison, D-Columbus, and Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, voting in favor of it.

It passed the Georgia House earlier in the month on a 142-13 vote with all five members of the Columbus delegation sponsoring the legislation and voting for its passage. The bill now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature before it can become law.

The bill comes as the city is facing multiple lawsuits in Muscogee County Superior Court from local package store owner Pat Daniel, disputing how the city grants liquor licenses. The city asked for the legislative fix because the 2010 census had put Columbus in a 1970s-population triggered law that was written specifically for Chatham County, Columbus City Attorney Clifton Fay said.

“The way this has been explained to me is that Columbus will now be treated in state law the same way the other 150-odd counties are,” Smyre said. “The fact that there were lawsuits was brought to my attention after it passed the House.”

Daniel, represented by her husband, Columbus attorney Steve Hodges, filed suit challenging how the city measured the distance from the competitor’s proposed location to a nearby church day care on Woodruff Farm Road. The store has to be 600 feet from the church, according to state law and city ordinance. The city was measuring from front door to front door by the most direct ground route. The provision that was written for Chatham County that now applied to Muscogee County, stated that the measurement had to be property line to property line by a straight line.

“If you are a prospective business owner and are going to open a package store in Muscogee County, you do your due diligence and go by the state law, then you realize that the state law does not apply, that seems to me you are making it particularly difficult to do business in Muscogee County,” McKoon said.

Under existing law, it is illegal to sell liquor “within 100 yards of any church building or within 200 yards of any school building, educational building, school grounds, or college campus” [OCGA §3-3-21(A)] or to sell “ wine or malt beverages within 100 yards of any school building, school grounds, or college campus.” [OCGA §3-3-21(B)].

But for “counties having a population of not less than 175,000 nor more than 195,000, according to the United States decennial census of 1970 or any future such census,” section (d) of the existing code specifies that distances are measured from property line to property line by the shortest route, rather than door-to-door. So, a store in a strip mall might be hundreds of yards “closer” to a church or school in Columbus or Hall County than it would be measured in any other jurisdiction.

The population requirement is interesting because when written, it covered Chatham County (1970 population 187,767), but any county that registers a population between 175k and 195k at a decennial census “opts-in.”

As of the 1990 Census, it covered Muscogee County also. In 2010, it picked up Hall County. Between 1980 and 1990, Gwinnett grew from 166k to 352k, bypassing the section, as it only applies to decennial censuses. Cobb County also dodged the section, bypassing it between 1960 and 1970. Henry skipped past the triggering population between 2000 and 2010. Richmond County may be subject to the measurement section.

HB 510 simply deletes the section that mandates a different measuring system for these two areas.
Decatur County voters last week overwhelmingly supported the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (E-SPLOST).

The 2017 ESPLOST passed Tuesday night with 87.4 percent of voters choosing “yes” for the 1 cent sales tax that goes toward new facilities, renovations and retiring bond debt in Decatur County schools.

Out of the 654 total voters for ESPLOST, 569 votes “yes” and 82 voted “no.”

Cobb County Board of Education members heard from leaders of the Satanic Temple in Atlanta.

Eight speakers signed up to address the school board were initially allotted one minute each and fought for more time.

Five of the eight speakers focused on racial issues in Cobb schools, and Fred Mephisto, the head of the Atlanta chapter of the Satanic Temple, asked for the school district to reply to his request to start an after-school club at Still Elementary School.

Mephisto, the representative from the Satanic Temple, addressed the school board twice Thursday with the same message: Respond to the group’s request to hold the monthly club at Still Elementary or the group will sue.

The Satanic Temple applied to start its after-school Satan club at Still Elementary School in Powder Springs on Sept. 16 after the national Temple announced its intention of starting After School Satan Clubs at nine schools across the country — including Still Elementary. Still was selected because the Good News Club, an evangelical Christian group, uses the school for its after-school program, according to Mephisto, which is a pseudonym.

The district required Mephisto to use his legal last name, Woelper, in order to address the board during public comment, according to Mephisto.

Mephisto gave the district three options Thursday night. The first option would be for the district to suspend all religious programming, and the Temple would go away. The second option would be to approve the Temple’s application, and the final option is for the district to deny the group’s application, which would result in a lawsuit.

The Satanic Temple has a constitutional right to hold the after-school program that would focus on critical thinking and secular morality, Mephisto told the MDJ.

Newnan City Council today considers changes to the alcohol ordinance that would allow some outside consumption.

Savannah staff are recommending a hotel moratorium to City Council.

Chatham County Commission is considering a rewrite of the animal ordinance.

Assistant County Attorney Jennifer Burns, who explained the ordinance, said the bulk of the changes are meant to make the county more proactive when it comes to controlling certain dogs, preventing the spread of rabies and stopping the over-breeding of dogs and cats.

Ms. Burns said the new ordinance would continue to meet all the requirements of Georgia law, although in some cases it takes a more stringent approach. For example, she said, while the law prohibits the abandonment of dogs, the local rule will also apply to cats.

In addition, Ms. Burns said, the local rules also allow for the creation of a county animal control board and give the Animal Services Department the authority to put measures in place to prevent problems. This, she said, could mean requiring a pet’s owner to repair or build a fence to keep certain dogs away from the public.

She said the point of the changes is not to overburden breeders or add government regulations, but to preemptively put a stop to the spread of rabies or attacks on humans or other animals.

Muscogee County Schools Superintendent David Lewis asked for a delay in board action to hire a private for-profit company to administer an alternative education program.


Governor Nathan Deal will consider applying for a waiver to cover additional Georgians under Medicaid, according to the AJC.

The Republican governor said there are limits to what the state can request “as long as mandates under the basic Obamacare legislation stand in place.” But he said the state would review healthcare options that could include changes to “mandated minimum coverage” provisions that require the state Medicaid program to cover a range of health services to recipients.

“Those are areas that some would like for us to explore, and I think we have the possibility of doing that within the context of our Medicaid program,” he said.

“We will be looking at those possibilities,” Deal added. “We have not formulated any proposal at this time, but the waivers will be primarily restricted to our Medicaid program.”

No significant change is expected this year. The governor’s office said later Monday that he would seek legislative approval for major changes to the state’s Medicaid program, and there are no plans for lawmakers to tackle that debate in the final days of the session that wraps up this week.

From Kathleen Foody at the Associated Press:

Trump’s administration has signaled a willingness to let states experiment with Medicaid funds using waivers. Former Georgia congressman Tom Price now leads the Department of Health and Human Services under Trump.

“We are exploring a variety of solutions that bring Georgians greater flexibility and access to care,” Deal’s spokeswoman Jen Talaber Ryan said in a statement following Deal’s comments. “No specific proposals have been decided upon, but he will continue working with members of the General Assembly to evaluate all options.”

Deal said during the congressional debate that he didn’t regret opting against Medicaid expansion, pointing to Republican-led states that did and feared having to kick people off should the proposal become law.

From Kyle “Right” Wingfield at the AJC:

The upshot is Georgia can finally pursue the kinds of reforms of Medicaid and Obamacare exchange plans that would help rationalize our health-insurance marketplace. No one has yet tested the boundaries of what HHS under Price may allow, but from what I’ve heard Georgia should shoot for the moon.

In short, we’re talking about using the tax dollars already going to health care for reforms that would actually help cover more people and lower costs. For too long, we’ve been spending those dollars in ways that raise costs, which leads to fewer people being covered.

If ever there was a time to combine conviction with expertise to the benefit of Georgia’s health consumers, it’s now, with Price at HHS and Nathan Deal (who chaired a key health subcommittee while in Congress) as governor. Let’s see what’s possible.

From the left-wing Huffington Post:

Another ironic twist is that having a Republican in the White House could make state GOP leaders more willing to negotiate with federal health care authorities on so-called waivers from standard Medicaid rules that would let states nudge their Medicaid expansions in more conservative directions. States like Arkansas and Indiana made such arrangements with President Barack Obama’s administration, but didn’t always get what they wanted.

“They now have an administration that’s very willing to do waivers and set up some of the kinds of things they wanted to have in an expansion, like a work requirement,” Rowland said.

The Trump administration would be more willing to allow states to impose rules on Medicaid recipients that the Obama administration wouldn’t approve, such as work requirements, higher monthly premiums and higher costs when patients use their Medicaid benefits.

Medicaid changes in the AHCA and potential successor legislation will have a deep impact on Georgia’s healthcare network.

The American Health Care Act, the Trump administration’s proposed ACA replacement, was pulled at the last minute due to a split between the GOP’s right wing, whose members didn’t think the dismantling of ACA went far enough, and moderates concerned about Congressional Budget Office projections that AHCA would cut Medicaid expenditures by $880 billion over the next decade and increase the rolls of the uninsured by 24 million Americans.

According to Grady Health System CEO John Haupert, on the other hand, health professionals in Georgia — specifically hospital, physician and nurse organizations, he told Georgia Health News — saw more potential wreckage in AHCA, and were “united against the bill.” The greatest danger, Haupert said, was to “safety net” facilities like Grady in Atlanta, other urban hospitals and rural hospitals, all of which treat large numbers of poor and uninsured patients and thus depend most heavily on Medicaid.

Grady Health System officials estimated that the AHCA plan would have cost Grady alone some $65 million a year. Haubert, in letters to members of Congress, said the venerable Atlanta public hospital would have to eliminate at least 10 percent of its operating budget and “reduce critical services for Georgians,” including mental health, primary and specialty care services. (Medicaid accounts for more than a third of Grady’s patient service revenue.)

After the Friday reprieve, the Georgia Hospital Association issued a statement calling on the state’s congressional delegation to “reject measures that would jeopardize access to care for hundreds of thousands of Georgians, increase our uninsured population, weaken the state’s Medicaid program and reduce hospitals’ ability to meet the needs of their patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville) called for the “repeal and replace” of Obamacare and also addressed Medicaid waivers in a recent editorial.

First, we’ll reform Medicaid so it serves as a springboard rather than a landing pad. That means empowering more people with opportunities to become self-sufficient and obtain better jobs with higher salaries. Our Medicaid enrollees must also have primary care physicians to get the preventative care they need to stay healthy.

Second, I am committed to ensuring that those with pre-existing conditions have access to quality care. We have to make certain Georgia has a balanced insurance market so no matter where you call home, you can afford the care you deserve.

Finally, by exercising both new and existing waivers, we will control costs and inspire new delivery models that best serve every region of our state. Whether you get insurance through an employer or buy it on your own – all Georgians should have access to affordable, high-quality health care. We will stay true to our core principles of fiscal responsibility and we will achieve true conservative health care reform.

Road and Garage

Georgia Department of Transportation approved a $148.7 million dollar contract for construction on I-75 and I-16.

Several South Georgia counties are considering a regional Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST).

Lowndes County Commission will decide at its Tuesday, March 28, meeting whether or not to support a one-penny tax across the region devoted solely to transportation needs.

A 2015 state law allows counties to collectively initiate a regional T-SPLOST to fund transportation improvements. But at least 10 of the 18 counties in the region must support the tax for it to have a chance of happening.

So far, eight counties — Atkinson, Ben Hill, Brooks, Charlton, Clinch, Echols, Irwin and Lanier — have voted to support the T-SPLOST.

Berrien and Brantley counties have opposed the tax, and eight counties, including Lowndes, have yet to vote on the proposed collection.

If the counties move forward with the T-SPLOST, voter approval in a referendum will be required.

Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center plans include a parking garage funded by the City of Augusta.

City officials have been mum about the details of the contribution, but Mayor Hardie Davis and City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson said Thursday the city will be “engaged to the tune of” $10 million and $12 million “in terms of our partnership in helping to stand this facility up.”

The mayor wouldn’t elaborate on the reason for the contribution, while Jackson has said through a spokesman recently that a two-level parking facility is “part of the concept” presented by state officials ahead of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Jan. 11 announcement.

The $50 million state appropriation fast-tracked for the project includes $41.5 million to build a 159,000 square-foot facility on six acres at the former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame botanical gardens on Augusta’s riverfront at 13th Street.

Perdue Dan Moody

Saxby Chambliss Karen Handel

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