Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections of May 10, 2017


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections of May 10, 2017

Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded on May 11, 1864 at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, near Richmond.

On May 11, 2011, Newt Gingrich announced via Twitter that he would run for President. Two days later, I caught up with Newt at Fincher’s Barbecue in Macon for a brief interview the day he was scheduled to speak to the Georgia Republican Party State Convention.

Happy Birthday to Minnesota, which became a state on May 11, 1858. Y’all talk funny.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced yesterday that the collapsed section of I-85 in both directions will reopen by rush hour on Monday, May 15th.

The new opening date is nearly two weeks earlier than GDOT’s most recent commitment of Memorial Day weekend, and five weeks ahead of the original projected opening date of June 15.

“While this situation has been a tremendous challenge, the response from the people of Georgia has been nothing less than remarkable,” said Deal. “It is extraordinary that in just six weeks, this critical piece of infrastructure is nearly ready to reopen for motorist use following the fire and bridge collapse. I am grateful to President Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for providing the financial assistance necessary to complete the bridge on an expedited timeframe. I’d also like to thank Commissioner Russell McMurry for his leadership throughout this project, as well as the leadership of MARTA, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and the State Road and Tollway Authority for leading the charge in providing alternative commute options. Most importantly, I thank the motoring public for their patience and the Atlanta business community for its flexibility. In Georgia, we get things done, and we have risen to the occasion for I-85 to be completed as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Today, I will celebrate that re-opening by eating lunch at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, one of a number of businesses that was hurt by the I-85 collapse.

Georgia tourism set a new record in 2016, according to state economic development officials.

State officials touted Georgia’s estimated tourism haul for 2016 in an announcement on Tuesday. Including direct, indirect and “induced” economic benefits, the state saw $61 billion in economic activity from its visitor industry last year. That’s a record for the state and up from $58.9 billion in 2015, according to Emily Murray, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Georgia’s tourism economy is growing faster than the rest of the United States — 3.5 percent to the nation’s 2.1 percent, according to Pat Wilson, the state’s economic development commissioner. The demand for Georgia tourism is 34 percent higher than its pre-recession market in 2008.

New voters registering in the Sixth Congressional District after a federal judge re-opened registration, have caused a backlog in the system.

Local counties under order to reopen voter registration in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District face a backlog of tens of thousands of applications and have already begun working overtime to process them all in time for the June 20 runoff election.

Still, despite concerns that a federal judge’s order would back them into a corner, no problems have been reported so far as the counties themselves appear to have hit the ground running.

“Everything has been going very smoothly,” said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state’s top elections official.

All three counties that have areas in the 6th District — Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton — had contingency plans in place in anticipation of Thursday’s ruling. The first of tens of thousands of backlogged registration applications have already begun to be processed, although officials said it is impossible to know how many of them involve residents in each county who actually reside in the district itself.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall takes the gavel today as chief judge for the Southern District of Georgia.

During a ceremony Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood will hand over the duties of the chief judgeship to Hall. It will be the first time a chief judge has been sworn in at the 101-year-old U.S. District Courthouse in Augusta.

As chief judge, Hall will take on the administrative and operational duties for the Southern District, which is composed of 43 counties with six federal courthouses. Hall will be responsible for personnel, budgets and the local rules of the court. He also will serve as the contact for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Courts Administrative Office, he said.

Hall practiced law in the Augusta area for 26 years before being selected by President George W. Bush to serve as a federal judge. He was sworn into office on May 1, 2008. He will serve as the chief judge for the next seven years.

Marietta may soon term-limit the Mayor and City Council, according to the MDJ.

Marietta mayors and council members may soon have term limits of three four-year terms if an amendment to the city charter proposed by Mayor Steve Tumlin is approved.

“Georgia code is always broad enough to find an argument, and I think we have an argument,” Tumlin said after the May 10 meeting during which the plan was discussed. “We have a constitutional right to home rule … There’s enough in the code to do it.”

The plan would begin in 2018 with a clean slate for everyone, so current leaders would not reach their term limits until 2030.

Savannah City Council is considering a plan to reduce poverty by requiring city contractors to hire locally.

The program presented to the Savannah City Council on April 27 would establish employment agreements with contractors to hire qualified Savannah residents for city projects when they have vacancies for a job.

In addition to keeping local dollars in the city and reducing the city’s poverty rate, the program could help Savannah obtain a skilled workforce and make the city more competitive, said Taffanye Young, Community and Economic Development Bureau chief.

The program would apply to construction contracts of $250,000 or more and service contracts, such as food preparation, security, and maintenance, of $100,000 or more.

Savannah is also considering subsidizing ride-share services for some seniors.

Lowndes County Board of Education voted against putting a referendum on the ballot to term-limit members.

Henry County Board of Education members are considering live-streaming meetings.

Cave Spring City Council member Michael Phillips resigned his office.

Phillips’ four-year term runs through 2019 and the City Council decided to fill the seat by appointment. Letters of interest will be accepted at City Hall through June 6.

The terms for Posts 3 and 4 end this year, along with Post 5. Those seats — held by Councilmembers Nellie McCain, Charles Jackson and Mike Ragland — will be on the city’s regular election ballot in November.

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