Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 11, 2017


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 11, 2017

On August 12, 1492 by the current calendar, Christopher Columbus set sail from the port of Palos de la Frontera in southern Spain with the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Other accounts date his arrival at the Canary Islands off the coast of northwestern Africa on August 12, 1492.

Juan Ponce de Leon invaded Puerto Rico on August 12, 1508 and declared himself Governor.

On August 11, 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg declared martial law in Atlanta.

On August 12, 1864, Confederate General John B. Hood prohibited Confederate soldiers from seizing civilian property.

The first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line on August 12, 1904.

On August 12, 1908, Ford’s first “Model T” rolled off a Detroit, Michigan, factory floor. Within six years, the car, company and man were propelled to unprecedented success, thanks to the new Highland Park plant’s first-of-its-kind assembly line, which created the intricate product quickly and in large numbers.

“If it hadn’t been for Henry Ford’s drive to create a mass market for cars, America wouldn’t have a middle class today,” wrote [Lee] Iacocca.

Increased travel spurred appeals for better and more roads, the development of suburbs, the oil industry’s rise and a boom in gas stations, strip malls and motels.

But the assembly line itself had the biggest impact on American society, Hyde contended, in making possible the swift, mass production of everything from computers to “fast food.”

On August 12, 1910, Georgia Governor Joseph M. Brown signed legislation prohibiting the carrying of a pistol or revolver without a license.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the summer commencement address at the University of Georgia on August 11, 1938. Later that day, Roosevelt endorsed Lawrence Camp over incumbent Governor Walter F. George, saying George had not been sufficiently supportive of the New Deal.

East Germany began building the Berlin Wall on August 12, 1961.

[T]he government of East Germany, on the night of August 12, 1961, began to seal off all points of entrance into West Berlin from East Berlin by stringing barbed wire and posting sentries. In the days and weeks to come, construction of a concrete block wall began, complete with sentry towers and minefields around it. The Berlin Wall succeeded in completely sealing off the two sections of Berlin.

Three churches in Albany, Georgia first allowed African-Americans to attend their services on August 12, 1962.

The Atlanta Braves signed legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige on August 11, 1968.

On August 12, 1968, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played together for the first time.

The first Space Shuttle, Enterprise, made its first flight in the earth’s atmosphere on August 12, 1977.

President Jimmy Carter was nominated for reelection as President by the Democratic National Convention in New York City on August 13, 1980.

President Ronald Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act on August 13, 1981.

The ERTA included a 25 percent reduction in marginal tax rates for individuals, phased in over three years, and indexed for inflation from that point on. The marginal tax rate, or the tax rate on the last dollar earned, was considered more important to economic activity than the average tax rate (total tax paid as a percentage of income earned), as it affected income earned through “extra” activities such as education, entrepreneurship or investment. Reducing marginal tax rates, the theory went, would help the economy grow faster through such extra efforts by individuals and businesses. The 1981 act, combined with another major tax reform act in 1986, cut marginal tax rates on high-income taxpayers from 70 percent to around 30 percent, and would be the defining economic legacy of Reagan’s presidency.

Reagan’s tax cuts were designed to put maximum emphasis on encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship and creating incentives for the development of venture capital and greater investment in human capital through training and education. The cuts particularly benefited “idea” industries such as software or financial services; fittingly, Reagan’s first term saw the advent of the information revolution, including IBM’s introduction of its first personal computer (PC) and the rise or launch of such tech companies as Intel, Microsoft, Dell, Sun Microsystems, Compaq and Cisco Systems.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High was released on August 13, 1982.

On August 11, 1984, Ronald Reagan jokingly announced that he had “signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever…we begin bombing in five minutes,” without knowing he was speaking into a live microphone.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Composite Medical Board voted yesterday to require doctors to take 3 Continuing Education credits on proper administration of opioids.

Starting next year every medical doctor in Georgia will be required to undergo opioid training.

Dan DeLoach, Chairman of the Georgia Medical Board, says, “Georgia is experiencing an opioid epidemic.”

He says the new training requirement was needed. “We’re seeing the number of people addicted to opioids increase on an annual basis. We’re seeing the number of people dying from an opioid overdose increase on an annual basis.”

The new training required for Georgia doctors will cover instruction on the guidelines for properly prescribing the powerful painkiller, as well as recognizing signs of abuse.

From Carrie Teegardin at the AJC:

DeLoach said the board hopes that doctors may cut back opioid prescribing as a result of the training, something he said many Georgia doctors have already done as the problems associated with the medications have become widespread.

“I’ve decreased the number of opioids that I write probably by 70 or 80 percent,” DeLoach said. “There are other agents that are available. You can also better tailor the number of tablets that you are prescribing so that there are not a lot of medication that is left over that could fall into the wrong hands.”

The Medical Association of Georgia, the state’s lobby arm for physicians, opposed the requirement. The group said it is concerned that mandating continuing education on a single issue could lead to requirements for specific training on other issues as well. MAG said it supported voluntary training on opioids.

Georgia elected officials lauded President Trump’s declaration that the opioid crisis constitutes an emergency.

Advocated by a White House commission on opioids, the emergency declaration is expected to send more federal dollars to states to address the crisis, including improving access to medications that reverse overdoses.

“This is something that (Trump) can be applauded for,” said Bibb County Sheriff David Davis, who has seen the effects of the opioid crisis firsthand.

In his middle Georgia community, five people died and more than two dozen others overdosed on opioids within a matter of days earlier this summer.

“Those of us in law enforcement and public health have realized that this is on the way to becoming a national crisis,” Davis said.

Each county has different needs, but each county is still facing an epidemic where people die,” said Renee Unterman, a Republican state senator from Buford who has sponsored legislation combating the opioid crisis.

Unterman said her office received many calls in the last few days from residents disappointed that Trump hadn’t yet declared a national emergency. Thursday’s announcement, during which Trump said he is drafting paperwork to formally declare a national emergency, is “really exciting,” Unterman said.

More than 170 people in Georgia have died of an opioid overdose so far this year, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In 2016, more than 534 died from opioids.

State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) wants to consider expanding the rural hospital tax credit program to include small rural for-profit hospitals in addition to non-profits.

There are nine for-profit hospitals in Georgia that are in counties with less than 50,000 people, which is the population cutoff for the program. One of them, Chestatee Regional Hospital, is in Gooch’s district.

That hospital, he said, has struggled just as much as the state’s nonprofit facilities.

“I just feel like if we’re going to really do something for rural health care, we really can’t let the IRS designation stand in the way,” Gooch said at a recent meeting of the Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee.

“If we’re going to try to help communities in rural Georgia, we’ve got to figure out a way around that for-profit versus not-for-profit status,” he added.

The state Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee discussed expanding Universal Service Fund fees in order to pay for expansion of broadband access.

Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, who is chairing the Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee, which met Tuesday in Dahlonega, said the additional revenue is needed to quickly spur results in areas of the state that are being left behind.

Lucas said he has no reservations about asking city dwellers to help pay for services they will not use because of the advantages they enjoy in an urban area.

“The state has to make a commitment,” Lucas said. “There is no way to get around it.”

Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, who sits on the committee, has already proposed legislation that would expand the fee to all phone lines, including cellphones, and allow the proceeds to be used on broadband.

Under Gooch’s proposal, expanding the program would mean a significant influx of cash for rural broadband. Gooch said he expects a more broadly applied fee to bring in about $200 million annually, which he said could be divvied up among service providers through a grant program.

“I personally believe that the consumer will justify that dollar a month if they know the money’s being spent to upgrade their level of service,” Gooch said.

Gooch said he doesn’t consider it to be a new fee, since some people are already paying it. For example, he said he’s paying it now even though his local provider, Windstream, is not eligible to receive the funds.

Everyone should have to pay it, he said, including Atlanta residents who often enjoy much faster speeds and more reliable connections at more affordable rates.

“Not everybody can move to Atlanta,” Gooch said.

Major General John Morrison, Jr., commander of the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, says the TechNet trade show will expand as Augusta becomes the center of Army cyber security.

“These kinds of forums are absolutely critical,” said Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., Fort Gordon’s commanding general. “It brings together industry with military in an open forum where we can collaborate and share ideas, because we all have the same problem when it comes to cybersecurity. And the reality of it is, we want to leverage industry innovation to increase our capabilities. And we want to learn from each other.”

Morrison said he is seeing and feeling how the Augusta area is becoming the bustling center of Army cyber operations.

“In just three short years, Army Cyber Command will be down here in total,” he said. “They’re already here with a forward presence, and it is just an exciting time. And it’s going to mean a lot not only to Fort Gordon, but it’s going to mean a lot to the entire community.”

Morrison said the trade show attracted about 20 percent more attendees and about 15 percent more exhibitors than last year’s event, and he sees that trend continuing.

“For all those in the local Augusta area, you can start seeing that it really is becoming the center of the universe for Army cyber,” Morrison said.

Savannah will issue $8.6 million in bonds to fund street improvements.

The Judicial Council of Georgia voted to recommend adding a new judge to the Cobb County Superior Court.

The council is the state judiciary’s chief policy-making body and is made up of 27 members who represent various levels of courts in Georgia, including its chair, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harris Hines.

“Every year, every circuit has to submit their caseload numbers to the Administrative Office of Courts and the state Judicial Council as to what their caseload (and) case count is,” explained Cobb Superior Court Administrator Tom Charron. “This year, our numbers suggested that our judges had one of the highest caseload per judge throughout the state. And so we submitted our statistics along with a request that we be considered for an additional Superior Court judgeship.”

In addition to presenting the Judicial Council with caseload data, officials also provided letters of support from Cobb Commission Chair Mike Boyce, Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren, Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds and former Gov. Roy Barnes, who practices law out of his Marietta office.

Warren, who supervises the Cobb jail, wrote in his letter that a new judge would help control the population at the jail, which houses those accused of crimes before and during their trials.

“Considering our growing population, the number of cases being handled each year and the population of our detention facility, this expansion is clearly needed,” Warren wrote. “Having an additional judge will enable cases to be heard sooner and provide relief to our courts as well as law enforcement when addressing the responsibilities of housing pre-trial inmates.”

Georgia Power appeared before the Georgia Public Service Commission to discuss the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

A lawyer for Georgia Power on Thursday said that if the company recommends completing the project, and the Public Service Commission agrees, the utility will also need a definite decision from the PSC approving additional delays and costs.

He said state law dictates that the PSC must make a decision or Georgia Power’s recommendation will take effect 180 days after being filed.

But some PSC staff members told the five-member commission that Georgia Power has agreed to delay Vogtle-related cost decisions in the past, and that the commission has to tread carefully.

PSC attorney Jeffrey Stair said PSC approval of higher costs could short-circuit a settlement between the commission and Georgia Power late last year on the plant.

The settlement cuts Georgia Power’s profit margin on the project if it isn’t finished by the end of 2020. It also puts the burden on Georgia Power to prove that additional cost overruns are reasonable and deserve eventual reimbursement through customers’ monthly bills.

“Once you approve a higher cost … you have forever foreclosed” arguing that the higher costs are unreasonable, said Stair.

Oglethorpe Power, a co-owner of the nuclear project, suggests a financial wrinkle may be upcoming.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Oglethorpe Power Corporation said it has doubts “about Toshiba’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Toshiba is supposed to make its first payment to Oglethorpe and the other owners of Plant Vogtle in October. Without the payment, Georgia regulator Stan Wise said the project might not be completed.

“If Toshiba’s not going to make that payment, then clearly that affects everyone’s decision adversely,” said Wise, the chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission. “That’s a milestone that we can’t go forward without.”

Toshiba released its earnings results on Thursday, with a loss of more than $8 billion.

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