Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 10, 2017


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 10, 2017

Millard Fillmore was sworn in as the 13th President of the United States on July 10, 1850, following the death of President Zachary Taylor.

On July 10, 1864, Conferderate forces retreated south across the Chattahoochee and burned the bridge behind them. General Sherman wrote later of the day,

General Garrard Moved rapidly on Roswell, and destroyed the factories which had supplied the rebel armies with cloth for years.

Over General Garrard was then ordered to secure the shallow ford at Roswell and hold it until he could be relieved by infantry, and as I contemplated transferring the Army of the Tennessee from the extreme right to the left, I ordered General Thomas to send a division of his infantry that was nearest up to Roswell to hold the ford until General McPherson could send up a corps from the neighborhood of Nickajack.

General Newton’s division was sent and held the ford until the arrival of General Dodge’s corps, which was soon followed by General McPherson’s whole army.

The Scopes “Monkey Trial” began on July 10, 1925, in which a Tennessee public school teacher was tried for teaching evolution, against state law. Three-time Democratic candidate for President William Jennings Bryan volunteered to help the prosecution, and famed lawyer Clarence Darrow defended John Thomas Scopes.

On July 10, 1985, “Classic“ Coke returned, joining the new formula on store shelves.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games broke ground for Atlanta Olympic Stadium on July 10, 1993; after the Olympics, the stadium was modified for baseball and became Turner Field.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal congratulated Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald on her appointment by President Trump as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and appointed J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., as interim commissioner at the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“I’m proud of my friend and colleague Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, and I am grateful for tireless efforts in promoting the health and well-being of Georgians,” said Deal. “As commissioner, she’s been an asset to our state and an advocate for our citizens. I’m certain she will bring those same qualities to the CDC and lead the federal agency skillfully. I’m confident that Dr. O’Neal’s extensive experience, vast medical knowledge and strong leadership capabilities will allow for a seamless transition. As interim commissioner, Dr. O’Neal will continue promoting the critical work performed by DPH employees, advancing programs throughout the state and collaborating with Georgia’s 159 county health departments and 18 public health districts. I wish Drs. Fitzgerald and O’Neal great success in their new roles and endeavors.”

“I am humbled by the challenges that lie ahead, yet I am confident that the successes we’ve had in Georgia will provide me with a foundation for guiding the work of the CDC,” said Fitzgerald. “The progress we’ve made in Georgia around early brain development, childhood obesity and creating a model for addressing life-threatening epidemics would not have been possible without the full support of Governor Deal and a dedicated public health staff. I look forward to the continued good work of DPH under Dr. O’Neal’s leadership.”

Senator Johnny Isakson spoke to the AJC’s Jim Galloway about efforts to reform federal healthcare laws.

“You have do away with the individual mandate, and then define what the new individual mandate is,” Georgia’s senior senator said.

Put another way: With or without Obamacare, somebody will be telling you and me that we need to purchase health insurance, and that somebody must have the ability to punish us — in the wallet — if we do not.

That’s the price of preserving the ability of those with pre-existing conditions to sign up for health insurance. And that’s a feature of the ACA that Senate Republicans aren’t going ditch. “Getting rid of it ain’t going to happen,” Isakson said.

“We’ve got to make sure we have everybody in the system and paying. That’s the biggest hitch,” Isakson said. “We would have had a deal two weeks ago if [Senate leadership], the insurance industry and the administration could figure out that one problem.”

Isakson can’t accurately be described as a Republican swing vote, but he has his requirements – which I asked him to name.

He wants health insurance policies sold across state lines. He wants the number of essential benefits now mandated by Obamacare reduced, in order to promote diversity in policies offered by insurance companies. A competitive health insurance environment is necessary to make a Republican overhaul work, he maintains.

Isakson knows there’s a balance to be struck here. The greatest sin of Obamacare, the senator said, was the “bronze policy” that offered low premiums, but had such a high deductible that it has been nearly useless. A policy-holder might be protected from the catastrophic costs of cancer, only to be bankrupted by a broken leg.

Hospitals are Isakson’s focus. The Senate Republican drafts so far would curtail the expansion of Medicaid, to the point that Congressional Budget Office scoring says 22 million Americans would lose coverage over the next decade. Gov. Nathan Deal never accepted the federal cash that would have allowed expansion in Georgia, so many state hospitals remain in a precarious financial position – especially in rural portions of the state.

When Obamcare was passed, federal payments to hospitals tasked with heavy loads of charity work – such as Grady Memorial in Atlanta and Memorial Health in Savannah — were to be phased out. Medicaid expansion was to have solved the problem. Those extra payments disappear in four-and-a-half years.

Isakson wants those payments restored — permanently. “America’s not going to be a country that leaves its poor on the doorsteps of hospitals, dying because they can’t get treatment. We’re smart enough to figure something out.

“There’ll be some contribution for hospitals that take on the charity payments, and I think a lot of it will come from not-for-profits,” Isakson said.

The senator was speaking of those hospitals that are public and non-profit in name, but are operated by private management companies that do very well, thank you. We have them here in Georgia, but it’s a national phenomenon.

For the last several years, the Legislature has approved a “bed tax” paid by all Georgia hospitals in order to build a pool of cash that can be used by the state to draw down matching federal Medicaid dollars.

It sounds like Isakson’s thinking of a nationalized version of this.

The Georgia Senate Health Care Reform Task Force, convened by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, meets at Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton today.

Gwinnett County will study transit needs as part of its ongoing Comprehensive Transit Development Plan.

Coweta County Chief Deputy Sheriff James Yarbrough finished a stint with the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchanges (GILEE) peer-to-peer training program in Israel.

The Acworth Board of Alderman approved a local church’s plan to set up small cottages to house freed human trafficking victims.

Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins held a service to send former Governor Sonny Perdue and First Lady Mary Perdue to Washington to preach to the heathens.

When a church sends members out on a mission, it often holds a commissioning ceremony to ask God’s blessings for the trip, but a Warner Robins church on Sunday held a ceremony in recognition of a different kind of mission.

Hundreds of people came to Second Baptist Church for a commissioning service honoring Sonny and Mary Perdue. Sonny Perdue, who served as Georgia governor for eight years, is the new U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

He is a member of the church and his son, Jim Perdue, is pastor. Jim Perdue said the ceremony was held to recognize his parents for the “mission” in which they are embarking to serve the nation.

“A missionary is someone who, while he has everything rolling like it’s supposed to right where he is with his business and family and kids and his grandkids, will pick up and move to Washington to D.C., which we all know needs more missionaries, and be faithful and obedient to God,” Jim Perdue said.

He then asked his parents to come down to the altar, and dozens more family and church members gathered around them as he prayed for them.

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials says that Hispanic voting is on the rise in Georgia.

About 53 percent of Georgia’s Hispanic voters came out for the 2016 presidential election, which was up from 47 percent in 2012, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. Notably, about 73 percent of registered Hispanic women cast a ballot.

Nationally, nearly 48 percent of Hispanic voters participated, which was on par with turnout in 2012.

“Here in Georgia, we saw a dramatic increase, not only adding more voters but more voters actually going to the polls,” said Jerry Gonzalez, the association’s executive director.

Georgia gained more than 60,000 Hispanic voters since 2012, which was an increase of about 25 percent. Hispanics make up nearly 4 percent of the state’s registered voters, or a little more than 244,000 voters, according to the report’s count.

Property Taxes On the Rise

Cobb County Commissioners will hear from citizens on a proposal to raise property taxes by adopting a rate higher than the full rollback rate.

Despite rising property values that have pushed the county tax digest to record levels, no elected bodies in Cobb plan to roll back millage rates, effectively increasing what the county, its six cities and two school districts collect in taxes.

In a double whammy, some taxpayers will see increased rates on top of increased property values.

At $33.66 billion, Cobb’s 2017 gross tax digest is the highest ever — up 6.5 percent from last year — but Cobb County commissioners and the city of Austell have announced they intend to raise millage rates for residents.

Cobb’s remaining five cities and two school districts intend to keep the millage rate the same, effectively increasing taxes for those whose homes and businesses have been reassessed at a higher value.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes spoke to the MDJ Wednesday about the 1999 bill he signed into law requiring governments to hold three public hearings and advertise a tax increase if they choose not to roll back millage rates.

A “rollback” is the rate that would allow a governing body to collect the same amount of revenue it did the prior year given the reassessment of property values within its boundaries.

“I put it in when I was governor because I didn’t like governments saying they’re not raising taxes when they are,” he said. “When the values go up and you keep the millage rate the same, you’re raising taxes.”

Cherokee County Commissioners are scheduled to give final approval next week to higher property tax rates.

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners has tentatively adopted a millage rate of 5.528, requiring an increase in property taxes of 0.82 percent, and has scheduled three public hearings on the tax hike in the coming weeks.

The tentative millage rate represents an increase of 0.0045 mills. Without the increase, the rate would be no more than 5.483. A home with a fair market value of $225,000 would see a tax increase of $3.82, and a non-homestead property valued at $200,000, $3.60, officials said.

Forsyth County Commissioners are expected to adopt a millage rate higher than the full rollback rate.

Officials plan to hold the maintenance and operations rate level at 4.642 mills, keep the fire rate at 1.975 and maintain the bond levy at 1.419. Those rates will fund the 2018 budget, which is in the preliminary stages of being prepared. The tax digest is projected to grow by 7.66 percent. That means taxes levied this year will be 3.85 percent over the rollback rate and that some property owners who have been reassessed may see their tax bills rise.

Forsyth County Board of Education property tax collections will likewise rise with reassessments, though the millage rate remains the same.

Commissioners announced in a news release this week the 2018 millage rate will remain the same at a total millage rate of 8.036 mills, but the county will see a 7.6 percent increase in the tax digest due to a recent value of reassessments and new construction. Taxes levied this year will see an increase of 3.85 percent over the rollback millage rate.

When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires a rollback millage rate be computed that would produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments or growth occurred.

The total millage rate is made up of: the maintenance and operations rate, which will stay at 4.642 mills; the fire rate, which will remain 1.975 mills; and the bond rate, which will remain 1.419 mills.

The millage rate is the formula that calculates property taxes. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value, which is 40 percent of the actual market value.

For the tax digest increase, about 3.67 percent came from new construction and 3.99 percent from increased values from reassessments.

Any changes to an individual tax bill will come from the value of their reassessment.

A pattern is emerging in the strongly-Republican northern arc counties this year with Gwinnett commissioners and the Gwinnett Board of Education also bumping the tax rate.

The City of Chamblee is considering retaining the same property tax rate as the previous year, resulting in an increase in revenues.

The property tax estimates in this proposed budget are based on the 2016 millage rate of 6.4 mils. Recent increases in the Tax Digest due to higher DeKalb County property assessments, will result in a tax collection increase year-over-year if the City opts to keep the millage rate at 6.4 mills. The term “tax increase” relates to the total amount of property tax proceeds the City will collect in 2017, as compared to total collections in 2016. Because property valuations are higher, at the same tax rate, the haul is comparatively higher. Chamblee says other revenue sources are being budgeted at or near 2016 actuals for 2017.

A number the City is required by law to broadcast is called the Roll-Back rate. This number is generated to illustrate where the City would have to adjust (lower) the City tax rate to keep year-over-year tax collections neutral.

The tentative millage rate of 6.40 mills will result in a collections increase equivalent to .386 mills over what the roll back rate would generate. Without this tentative tax collection increase, the millage rate will be 6.014 mills. The proposed “tax increase” effectively equates to a home with a fair market value of $237,054 being approximately $36.60 and the proposed “tax increase” for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $737,240 is approximately $113.83, for example.

Douglas County Board of Education will partially rollback its property tax millage rate, but reassessments will mean increased tax revenues.

Canton City Council is bucking the trend, and considering a property tax decrease beyond the rollback rate.

The new City of Tucker has adopted a property tax rate of zero percent.

The young city of Tucker is preparing to charge residents a stunning amount for property taxes: $0.

The non-existent tax rate is possible because Tucker, which became a city of 35,000 residents last year, provides only a few services such as code enforcement, zoning and permitting.

The $7.6 million budget for Tucker’s operations next fiscal year would instead be funded by charges for business licenses, alcohol licenses, permits and utility franchise fees.

Of course, Tucker residents will still owe property taxes for DeKalb County’s schools and government, which provide most local services.

“It’s about keeping promises,” said Tucker spokesman Matt Holmes. “A segment of people said this city is going to be more expensive, but folks elected to city leadership positions said, ‘No, it doesn’t have to be that way.’”

Some Whitfield County residents are questioning property tax assessments higher than they anticipated.

2018 Elections

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle announced his campaign raised $2.7 million and has $2.5 million cash-on-hand.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle raised more than $2.7 million in roughly two months since he entered the governor’s race, outpacing his Republican rivals in the wide-open contest to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal.

The Republican has about $2.5 million cash on hand, and he’s likely to be aided by another fat bank account: The Georgia Conservatives Fund, a fund long run by Cagle’s top allies but with no official link to his campaign, has about $2.5 million at its disposal.

Cagle is the presumptive front-runner in a crowded GOP field that also includes Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams. He’s running on a pledge to create 500,000 new jobs, cut taxes and reduce the high school dropout rate.

Cagle’s campaign said his fundraising haul was one of the largest at this stage in an open gubernatorial contest, and that he collected contributions from more than 1,200 donors. Among them is former Georgia football coach Ray Goff and more than 150 GOP elected officials.

In a statement, Cagle said the $2.7 million take was “immensely humbling and encouraging.”

Democratic opponents to Congressman Rob Woodall (R-7) now number four, with former Gwinnett Democratic Party chair Steve Reilly joining the race.

Georgia State University Andrew Young School of Policy Studies assistant director Carolyn Bourdeaux announced her candidacy this past week, on the heels of Peachtree Corners attorney Steve Reilly’s announcement that he, too, would run for the seat.

C2 Education founder David Kim and homeless assistance advocate Kathleen Allen previously announced plans to run for the Democratic nomination for the seat.

Bourdeaux, who has already been endorsed by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Andrew Young, comes into the race with a background in public policy and government budgeting and tax policy. At Georgia State, she was the founding director of the university’s Center on State and Local Finance and served as director of the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office from 2007-10.

Meanwhile, Reilly comes into the race with deep connections to the local and state Democratic parties. He was the chairman of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party from 1996 to 2002. He has also served as the Democratic Party of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District chairman, and is currently a member of the party’s state committee.

Democrat Lisa Ring will run for the First Congressional District against Republican incumbent Buddy Carter.

“I was elected as a 1st CD Delegate for (Bernie) Sanders to the DNC, and as Co-chair (with Sen. Vincent Fort) of the Georgia Sanders Delegation. I am the Chair of the Bryan County Democratic Committee (as a committee, we qualify local candidates) and the Vice Chair of the Georgia Democratic Rural Council, both are elected positions.”

“Currently, all my work is volunteer. I am a former corrections officer (Lehigh County Prison in Pennsylvania) and the former Executive Director of the Allentown Day Reporting Center — an anti-recidivism program for convicted felons out on parole — also in Pennsylvania.”

“There are so many needs facing our district. My platform focuses primarily on economic issues. If we look closely at the proposed budget cuts for 2018, the 1st Congressional District will lose a minimum of nearly $105 million. These cuts have a detrimental effect on our veterans, our seniors, our children, our environment; every person will suffer the consequences. And many have been suffering for years.”

“Healthcare is probably the most crucial issue we face. Protections for over 300,000 residents of the 1st district with pre-existing conditions are being stripped away. Medicaid is being drastically cut. A tax on senior citizens is proposed. And tax credit to pay for insurance is dramatically reduced over time for everyone but the wealthy. The people of the 1st District need a leader who will stand up and protect their access to affordable healthcare. Then we can move forward to insure that everyone has the right of healthcare regardless of income. It’s time to take healthcare out of the hands of for-profit health insurers and put it into the hands of actual healthcare providers.”

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