Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 19, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 19, 2017

British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781,  ending the American Revolution.

On October 19, 1790, Lyman Hall, one of three signers of the Declaration of Independence from Georgia, died in Burke County, GA. Hall was elected Governor of Georgia in 1783, holding the position for one year, and was an early advocate for the chartering of the University of Georgia.

On October 19, 1983, the United States Senate voted 78-22 to create a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., to be celebrated on the third Monday of January. The House passed the King holiday bill, sponsored by Reps. Katie Hall (D.-IN) and Jack Kemp (R-NY), by a vote of 338-90 in August. President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation on November 3, 1983.

Gwinnett County will host the Ninth Annual Frontier Faire this Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM at the Fort Daniel Historic Monument, 2505 Braselton Highway in Buford.

The faire is staged each year by the Fort Daniel Foundation and the Gwinnett Archaeological Research Society.

“You get a chance to see archaeology, or the rediscovery of history, in action,” Frontier Faire publicity official Eli Stancel said. “It’s more than just a sign on the side of the road. You actually get to touch and feel, and see how we go through the process of discovering things.”

This year’s event will feature a special ribbon cutting — or more likely a “rope cutting” to be more true to the period — that will be held at 10 a.m., on the spot where the original gate for the War of 1812 era fort was located.

Fort Daniel, which sat on Hog Mountain, predated Gwinnett County by about four years and became the staging ground for a road that went to another fort at Standing Peachtree, known as Fort Peachtree. That road, according to officials from the Fort Daniel Foundation and the Gwinnett Archaeological Society, was the original Peachtree Road.

The opening of the replica gate marks the second year in a row that the faire has included the opening for some new feature for the site. Last year’s event featured the opening of the blacksmith’s shop, which is now fully operational and will be open for this year’s festival.

In addition to the ribbon (or rope) cutting, this weekend’s Frontier Faire will also feature many of the event’s traditional hallmarks, such as opportunities for attendees to participate in archaeological excavations, War of 1812 reenactors giving flintlock musket demonstrations, presentations by local members of the Sons of the American Revolution, frontier life demonstrations and Native American food preparation and hominy demonstrations.

Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge J. Wade Padgett received an award from the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council for his book on the history of the circuit.

The Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council selected Padgett’s book, “From Court in the Wilderness to Court in the Metropolis: A History of the Augusta Judicial Circuit,” as this year’s recipient for the award. Padgett is to receive the award at a ceremony in Morrow, Ga.

“When I was sworn in as a Superior Court judge, Judge (Bernard) Mulherin gave me a ‘scroll’ with the names of all the judges who had served as Superior Court judges since 1870. I was flattered to be among that number,” and it sparked his interest to learn about those who preceded him on the bench, Padgett wrote in an email.

Padgett started in 2012 with his research from newspaper archives at the Georgia Archives in Atlanta. He focused his project on developing biographical descriptions for every judge, clerk and prosecutor for the Superior, State, Civil and Magistrate, Probate and Juvenile courts in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, which is composed of Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Voter registration for federal elections must remain open until no fewer than 30 days before an election, even for runoffs, under a federal court decree.

A federal judge says Georgia cannot close voter registration for any federal election, including runoff contests, more than 30 days before the election.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten in May ordered the registration deadline extended to 30 days before the June runoff election. The consent decree filed Tuesday applies that to all federal elections and runoffs.

Liberty Plaza across from the Georgia State Capitol will be reworked under an RFQ issued this week.

The plan is to demolish a parking deck and utility bridge located between Liberty Plaza and the Downtown Connector and replace those structures with an extension of Capitol Square to the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Jesse Hill Jr. Drive, according to an RFQ released by the Georgia State Financing & Investment Commission (GSFIC).

The extension may create a four-lane street with two lanes in each direction and sidewalk improvements along the east edge of Liberty Plaza. Other upgrades to existing intersections at the site would include traffic signals, crosswalks and pedestrian refuge islands.

The main purpose of the project is to provide an alternate route around Liberty Plaza, allowing traffic to be routed around the plaza during large events when Capitol Police may want to close Capitol Avenue.

Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens came under pressure from a local State Representative and the Cobb County Sheriff, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

A series of text messages between Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren and state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, show the two urged Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens to keep the school’s cheerleaders off the field while the national anthem is played.

The texts were made public the week Olens, who took over as KSU’s president last November, is set to be formally sworn in during a ceremony held on campus Thursday at 10 a.m.

KSU spokesperson Tiffany Capuano said last week the Athletics Department’s decision to keep its cheerleaders in the tunnel ahead of football games had nothing to do with five of them taking a knee during the anthem last month to protest racial inequality and police brutality. But texts sent between the sheriff and the legislator appear to show them bragging about convincing Olens to keep them off the field.

The Board of Regents said it will investigate the issue.

Olens has come under fire in recent weeks for his handling of five cheerleaders who took a knee during the national anthem late last month at a football game on campus, and the University System of Georgia announced Wednesday it is conducting a special review into allegations raised about athletic processes concerning KSU’s cheerleaders.

But shortly after the Board of Regents’ announcement of a special review late Wednesday, Olens released a statement saying the situation could have been handled better.

“In hindsight, I regret how the events over the past two weeks have unfolded and admit that the circumstances could have been handled better,” he said. “I believe that a university should be a marketplace of ideas, encouraging free expression and open dialogue. To that end, I welcome the opportunity to meet with the cheerleaders and any student who wishes to participate in a discussion about how we can work together to continue to make KSU a university of which we are all proud.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue‘s department is moving to rescind regulations that allow small poultry producers to sue larger companies.

Investigative reports in recent years by The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets have leveled allegations that the corporations use retaliatory business practices against farmers who speak up, saying they’re being treated unfairly — claims those [large poultry] companies have disputed. In the meantime, farmers seeking to take those companies to court must prove corporate wrongdoing that harms competition across the industry, not just individual damage.

The regulations, which came out during President Barack Obama’s final weeks of office, sought to make it easier for those farmers to take legal action.

Perdue said the regulations would have spurred “unnecessary and unproductive litigation” and harmed the very small farmers they were trying to protect. He said his duty was to protect competition as a whole and not just individual competitors.

My goal at this point is to make sure the industry — both those in the production side and those in the buying and processing side — that we abide by the USDA motto, which is to do right and feed everyone,” Perdue, who ran his own agribusiness after serving two terms as Georgia governor, told reporters Tuesday.

But groups advocating for those small farmers warned the move amounted to nothing more than an appeasement of industry groups.

“Farmers will lose even the most basic protections — protections that folks in any other profession would take as a given, like the ability to understand how their pay is calculated or the right to bring abusers to court without having to prove harm to an entire industry in the process,” the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a grass-roots ag group, said in a statement.

DeKalb County CEO Mike Thurmond was joined by local mayors in a political event to promote passage of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the November ballot.

If approved by voters Nov. 7, the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) would bring in about $100 million a year for transportation and public safety infrastructure. The property tax relief measure would return roughly $22 million a year from existing sales taxes to homeowners. Both measures must pass to be enacted.

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond, surrounded by eight mayors and other government officials, said the tax overhaul package would change the course of the county.

“A new day has dawned. It’s a day that focuses on cooperation, communication and transparency,” Thurmond said at the press conference at the DeKalb Roads and Drainage Division near Memorial Drive.

The sales tax would be distributed to cities and unincorporated areas proportionately based on population. Over the next six years, about $388 million would fund unincorporated infrastructure, while $249 would be distributed to city governments.

Meanwhile, another measure on the ballot would give homeowners a break on their property taxes.

The change to the homestead local option sales tax (HOST) would lower residents’ property bills countywide. Currently, 80 percent of HOST goes toward property tax reduction and 20 percent for government infrastructure. If approved, 100 percent of HOST would go toward property tax relief.

The Gwinnett County Commission is acquiring land for a transit center at Gwinnett Place Mall.

The existing transit center on Satellite Boulevard is located on one of the properties that county commissioners approved declaration of taking condemnation proceedings for. Buses from different Gwinnett County Transit routes stop there, giving riders a place to change buses as they move around.

“It’s a property that we lease, and long-term it made sense to actually own the property because we do see it as one of the hubs to our transit system currently and in the future,” Gwinnett Transportation Director Alan Chapman said. “As we’ve developed our transit plan, the Connect Gwinnett transit plan, it’s obvious to us that it will continue to be a primary transfer point for our different, both local and other types of transit routes that we may develop in the future.”

Valdosta Mayor John Gayle held a mock press conference with students to discuss a proposed curfew for juveniles.

Georgia and Bibb County have seen rising preterm birth rates.

Georgia’s rate rose from 10.8 to 11.2 percent, and Bibb County from 13.8 to 14.4 percent, or 289 to 297 preterm births, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The preterm birth rate relates directly to the infant mortality rate, which stands at 7.4 percent in Georgia and 11 percent in Bibb County.

“If you go and look at the long-term picture of the infant mortality rate and prematurity, it has been coming down and we have had some success,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just in the last two years we’ve seen an increase back up to levels that we were seeing a couple years prior.”

Rodriguez said the hospital is working with the March of Dimes and other stakeholders to address the issue of infant prematurity and why it’s happening more.

“While we have a good idea of the usual factors that cause premature births, without looking at all of the state data for 2016, it is difficult to say why there is an increase in 2016 compared to previous years,” said Elise Blasingame, executive director of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia. “It does seem to be on par with national trends based on the available data, but we would still like to know what impacted this shift in Georgia.”

The Cobb County Development Authority approved issuing $65 million in bonds to expand Georgia Tech on the Lockheed Martin campus.

Alex Marchetti withdrew his challenge to Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker’s re-election, clearing the way for a fourth term for the first Mayor since incorporation.

Coweta District Attorney Pete Skandalakis will leave the office he has held for 25 years to take the reins at the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia.

The Prosecuting Attorneys Council is a state agency that represents district attorneys and state employees in district attorney offices. One of the council’s primary duties is to train prosecutors across the state and to “provide the the daily support and training that they need” to carry out their duties, Skandalakis said.

The PAC is also active at the Georgia General Assembly concerning budget matters, legislative matters and policy matters.

“I will still be involved in prosecution,” he said. “It’s something I’m looking forward to. It’s an honor and it helps me still be involved in prosecution, at a different level.”

Skandalakis just began a new term on Jan. 1, 2017. Because more than 27 months are left in his term, a special election will be held to fill the unexpired term. Under Georgia law, the governor will appoint an interim district attorney, and a special election will be held during the next general election. Georgia’s next general election is the non-partisan general election and general election primary in May of 2018.

The Grantville Coalition of Concerned Citizens will host a forum for city council candidates tonight.

The Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce rolled out a public policy agenda this week.

Spruce up downtown, practice fiscal responsibility, don’t overtax the manufacturing base and start planning special sales tax-funded projects sooner rather than later.

Just as economic development is a team sport, so is public policy,” Chamber Chairman Eddie Bussey said. “That has always been our approach in advocating with our local elected leaders in bringing issues to the forefront that we feel are essential to fostering a healthy and thriving economy.”

Steve Wade, chairman of the chamber’s Advocacy Committee and president of The Augusta Chronicle, said the agenda shouldn’t be construed as marching orders for the local government, but as a “platform for engagement.”

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office is investigating a Facebook post promising free gas for early voters.

Stacey Abrams’s campaign for Governor lost a deputy campaign manager who resigned after being interviewed by Russian media.

Marcus Ferrell, an Abrams deputy campaign manager, was interviewed on Sputnik News in August to discuss the candidate’s decision not to rebuke protests against her opponent at an Atlanta convention and her call to remove Confederate leaders from Stone Mountain.

Ferrell offered his resignation after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution posed questions about his appearance on the program.

He talked about how Democrats can defeat Trump in 2020 and how Abrams’ Stone Mountain proposal would be a “wedge issue” that black voters would remember in the May primary.

“It’s not a popular issue. It’s not a pretty issue. It might not poll well right now. But it’s an issue that’s on the minds of African-Americans and defenders of freedom in America and our allies,” he said. “I do believe it will become an issue, and I wish it wasn’t. I wish they would just take it down.”

It was one of at least three appearances on Sputnik by Ferrell, who worked as an outreach director for Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid before joining Abrams earlier this year. The other two instances came before he formally joined Abrams’ campaign and did not mention the candidate.

The Medical College of Georgia is expanding a regional campus system in an effort to train more new doctors.

“Most of the state has very few doctors and very few specialists,” Hess said. “Hospitals want a pipeline of physicians and we can’t supply them fast enough.”

Admissions to MCG are at an all time high, 230 this year, with 52 of those 230 hailing from below a line from Columbus to Macon to Savannah.

The patient-centric curriculum at the Northwest Clinical campus in Rome is different from the way the physician training is done at any of the other campuses.

“I think it makes a lot of sense because that’s really how medicine is, you follow patients over long periods of time,” Hess said. Most traditional program offer rotations where the young doctors rarely get to see the same patient twice, Hess said.

Another factor that sets the Rome campus apart from others is cooperation between Floyd Medical Center, Redmond Regional Medical Center and the Harbin Clinic to train young doctors.

Georgia mental health advocates visited Georgia’s congressional delegation in Washington.

Approximately 20 individuals from Georgia attended Hill Day, including representatives from other community services boards like Highland Rivers, the Georgia Association of Community Services Boards (GACSB), mental health advocates and individuals living in recovery. Our state group met with all 16 members of Georgia’s congressional delegation or their staff members. Representatives from Highland Rivers met with staff of Congressman Tom Graves, Congressman Barry Loudermilk, Sen. Johnny Isakson and directly with Congressman Rick Allen.

The National Council identified five legislative priorities for which Hill Day attendees were asked to advocate with their member of Congress:

• Strengthening the Addiction Treatment Workforce Act (S. 1453). This bill would add addiction treatment facilities to National Health Service Corps sites where treatment professionals would be eligible for loan forgiveness, attracting more treatment professionals to underserved areas.

• Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2017 (H.R. 3032). This legislation would allow licensed marriage and family therapists and licensed mental health counselors to bill Medicare for their services, increasing access to mental health services for older adults.

• Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S. 1732/H.R. 3331). Seeking to enhance efficiency and care coordination, this bill would support wider adoption of electronic health records by behavioral health providers.

• Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act. This initiative seeks to expand a previous two-year demonstration project to expand access to behavioral health care by establishing standards for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics and setting a Medicaid reimbursement rate that adequately supports costs.

• FY 2018 Mental Health and Substance Use Appropriations. The behavioral health system includes many elements and initiatives, all of which are critical. Specific appropriations support federal agencies (such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services), as well as research, education and funding for programs at the state and local levels.

Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby’s son was arrested on unrelated drug charges after the Sheriff and 4 deputies were indicted in an allegedly illegal drug search at Worth County High School.

Opioid Crisis

Georgia is getting hit harder by the opioid crisis than many other states, according to a presentation at the UGA College of Public Health “State of the Public’s Health.”

Some of the highest opioid use is in the Rust Belt and the Southeast, said Michael Crooks of Alliant Quality, a healthcare consulting firm, during a session of the UGA College of Public Health’s annual “State of the Public’s Health” conference in the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

From 2009 to 2014, Georgia’s rate of increase in the number of patient encounters related to opioids led the nation, Crooks said.

And Medicaid statistics show high opioid use in parts of southeast Georgia, northwest Georgia and several counties to the north and east of Athens.

Two Navy sailors were found dead of overdoses at the same house near Kings Bay.

The deaths of two sailors assigned to Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base — found four days apart, but in the same off-base home — are under investigation after what authorities are calling separate drug overdoses.

Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Jerrell, assigned to the Trident Training Facility at Kings Bay, was found dead Thursday inside the home, said Sarah Self-Kyler, spokeswoman for U.S. Submarine Forces.

[Petty Officer 2nd Class Ty] Bell was found dead Monday at the same home, Self-Kyler said. She said toxicology reports are not complete, but both deaths look like apparent drug overdoses. Bell was 26 and Jerrell was 25, according to the Navy.

The Kingsland Police Department is investigating with support from the Navy Criminal Investigative Service, Self-Kyler said.

Camden County Deputy Coroner James Galloway said both bodies were sent to the GBI’s medical examiner’s office in Savannah and the results of autopsies are pending.

Stacy Carson, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Kingsland field office, said the GBI has begun investigating overdose deaths to determine whether they resulted from fentanyl, a powerful and sometimes deadly drug.

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