Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 24, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 24, 2017

On October 24, 1733, the Georgia trustees ordered a ship to Rotterdam to pick up a group of Lutherans expelled from Salzburg, Austria, and then send the Salzburgers to Georgia.

On October 24, 1775, Lord John Murray Dunmore, British Governor of Virginia, ordered the British fleet to attack Norfolk, VA.

On October 24, 1790, the Rev. John Wesley wrote the last entry in his journal, which he began keeping on October 14, 1735.

The first American “Unknown Soldier” was chosen on October 24, 1921 in Chalons-sur-Marne, France.

Bearing the inscription “An Unknown American who gave his life in the World War,” the chosen casket traveled to Paris and then to Le Havre, France, where it would board the cruiser Olympia for the voyage across the Atlantic. Once back in the United States, the Unknown Soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.

The Charter of the United Nations took effect on October 24, 1945.

On October 24, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower pledged the United States’ support for the South Vietnam government led by President Ngo Dinh Diem.

On October 24, 1976, Newsweek released a poll showing Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter leading President Gerald Ford in 24 states, with a combined 308 electoral voters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Elaine Myers, who spent more years at the Georgia State Capitol than most legislators, has died.

The state Capitol is mourning the death of Elaine Myers, a longtime House employee.

The Sharpsburg resident retired from the General Assembly in 2014, but returned to work part time in the House majority leader’s office during the 2015 session. She then worked as one of the page desk supervisors in the 2016 session, but illness prevented her from returning to the page desk in the 2017 session.

Myers was diagnosed with ALS in February and died on Saturday. She was 73.

“Elaine Myers was an institution at the state capitol. She was a beacon of joy in an environment that can sometimes get caught up in political conflict and tension. She served this state with a cheerful heart and with grace,” said House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

Governor Nathan Deal appointed William J. Edgar as State Court Judge for Bacon County, replacing Judge Kenneth E. Futch, who resigned.

Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Frank J. Jordan announced he will retire effective December 31, 2017.

Deal will appoint Jordan’s successor. If Jordan had remained in the judgeship, he would have been up for re-election in May.

Jordan, 70, said the decision to retire after a more than 45-year legal career was made after lengthy conversations with his wife, Pamela.

“My wife and I are both still working, and we have talked about this,” Jordan said. “The timing just felt right.”

Jordan said he is most proud of starting a drug court in Columbus 10 years ago. The accountability court allows those accused of drug-related offenses to enter counseling and rehabilitation programs with the goal to end the addiction.

He saw a drug court in action in 2002, while attending a conference in Reno, Nev. It took almost five years before he could, with the help of others in and out of the court system, activate such a court in Muscogee County.

The Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit serves Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot, and Taylor Counties.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), who chairs the House Transportation Committee, is turning his attention to transit funding.

At a panel discussion on mass transit in Georgia Monday, Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, said he’s “confident we’re going to see some good things happen” on mass transit – in part because the Peach State has the right political leadership. Among those he cited were some of his fellow panelists – state Sen. Brandon Beach, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and MARTA Board of Directors Chairman Robbie Ashe.

“We have the right group of people to take a giant leap forward when it comes to transit,” Tanner said during the discussion at the American Public Transportation Association exposition at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Tanner is in a better position than most to know what’s possible. He’s chairing the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding, a group put together by Speaker David Ralston earlier this year. Its mission is clear from its title – to study how public transportation should be paid for, and what governing structures would be needed if the state were to devote regular funding to transit.

“If you’re going to be competitive for economic development in the future, if you want Amazon or companies like Amazon, you have to have transit,” he said.

State Rep. Matt Dollar (R-Marietta) will introduce legislation to preempt local governments from regulating short term rentals through services like AirBNB.

State Rep. Matt Dollar said since the industry is not going away, legislators need to define a statewide framework for how the businesses should operate.

Earlier this year, Dollar introduced legislation that would keep local governments from banning the short-term rental businesses.

Savannah already has restrictions in place for short-term rentals, which the city defines as renting a home for less than 30 days at a time. The regulations include, among other things, only allowing the rentals in certain parts of the city and ensuring that no more than 20 percent of the homes in areas such as the historic district are available for rent at a time.

As written, Dollar’s legislation would repeal the laws Savannah has in place.

“As this becomes a bigger issue, I believe that more locals are going to start putting forth guidelines, restrictions (or) bans,” the Republican said.

I’ve been predicting such legislation since at least July 20, 2017.

Steve Bannon came to Georgia to pitch his anti-establishment efforts to Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus.

A Home Depot co-founder who’s been one of the most prolific givers to Senate Republicans, Marcus fumed to Bannon for hours about the lack of return on his investment. In the past six months alone, Marcus has funneled $2 million to a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and tens of thousands more to the National Republican Senatorial Committee — only to watch the Senate fail again and again.

Marcus is thinking about joining Bannon. An adviser, Steve Hantler, said the billionaire intends to give his party until the end of the year to pass legislation and then would weigh his options.

“Like many donors, if the gridlock continues in Washington, Mr. Marcus will consider new approaches to breaking the gridlock, including those proposed by Steve Bannon and others,” he said.

Asked whether Marcus is open to funding primary challenges to Republican incumbents, Hantler responded: “You will have to draw your own conclusion.”

Georgia has seen the largest price decrease for gasoline as the delivery system recovers from hurricanes and disruption.

The average price per gallon of unleaded regular has fallen 29 cents to $2.38, compared to $2.67 cents in September, according to AAA. The price per gallon is eight cents cheaper than the national average of $2.46.

“The national average gas price is lower for the sixth straight week, the longest such decline since the summer of 2016,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, a technology company that tracks gas prices. “Perhaps even more wild is that the national average has now remained under $3 per gallon for nearly 3 years, or 1,087 days as the days of cheap oil have continued. While recent actions from OPEC may cause oil prices to hold above the key $50 per barrel level, there is no threat of a quick return to the $3 per gallon days. In fact, the national average may continue to decline for a few weeks before leveling off as gasoline inventories continue to heal after Harvey.”

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs recognized Perry as a PlanFirst Community, recognizing its efforts to develop and implement community planning.

Grantville City Council candidates met voters in a public forum last week.

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce is concerned with drug abuse and resulting crimes and their affect on economic development.

“We know — at least what I’ve heard from people in the community — is that much of the crime is to support drug issues, whether it be the use or the trade of drugs,” said Chamber CEO Brian Anderson.

It’s a big concern for the entire city, he explained, and could negatively impact efforts for more job creation.

“We just had a group of site selection consultants in town to kind of grade us on how we do in the economical development arena,” said Anderson. “… They gave us all good, high marks in many, many areas, and then turned around and basically said, ‘Your crime numbers, if anybody does research on your community based on what they can get off the Internet, you could get d-listed for projects because your crime number is so high.

“That was a wake-up call for the business community, that not only is this hurting families, hurting individuals, creating law enforcement and cost-to-city type of concerns, now we also know the numbers themselves could negatively impact our ability to recruit companies and more jobs to the community,” he said. “So we have to work on it if we’re going to be competitive.”

Anderson provided data that the Chamber collected as part of its Regional Prosperity Initiative, the precursor to Columbus 2025. The information was derived from FBI uniform crime reports for the year 2015.

“The overall crime rate in Columbus, GA is 79 percent higher than the average of crimes committed in Georgia,” according to the information. “It is also 113 percent higher than the national average. When it comes to violent crimes, Columbus, GA shows a crime rate that is 47 percent higher than the Georgia average. The crime rate is also 49 percent higher than the national average. When it comes to property crimes, Columbus, GA is shown to be 83 percent higher than the Georgia average and 123 percent higher than the national average.”

The Harris County Chamber of Commerce released its legislative priorities for 2018.

The five items on the 2018 State and Local Legislative Agenda are:

1. We support SB 232 – Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) – which would assist Harris County in its economic and workforce development efforts through enhanced broadband access for residents and businesses.

2. We support streamlining government regulatory processes and support incentives for companies investing in critical infrastructure upgrades.

3. We support increased funding for tourism marketing to make Georgia competitive with other southeastern states.

4. We support legislation and initiatives, such as HOPE, Move-On-When-Ready Apprenticeships, Georgia College & Career Academies and other efforts, that address early childhood, pre-K-12 and higher education to effectively prepare all students for the careers of the future and to provide a skilled workforce to support the region’s employers.

5. We support policies that increase the retention of Georgia’s post-secondary graduates and attract talent in high demand fields.

The AJC reports that DeKalb County is seeing slightly elevated early voting turnout.

As of Friday afternoon, the latest numbers available, 766 people had cast ballots in early voting. Early voting opened last Monday at select locations.

Erica Hamilton, who’s at the helm of the DeKalb elections office following the retirement of the director last month, described the numbers as more or less normal.

The reason for the slight uptick, she said, is that DeKalb is taking ballots for the DeKalb County portion of the city of Atlanta (about 10 percent of the city). Normally, Fulton County has been over the city’s entire elections, Hamilton said.

Mark Niesse at the AJC looks at the effects of proposed tax changes in DeKalb County.

Everyone in DeKalb County will pay higher sales taxes and lower property taxes if voters approve on Election Day. But the total cost of the tax proposals varies widely depending on where you live.

Some homeowners in cities will actually make money if the referendums pass. That’s because the property tax break is larger than the cost of the sales tax hike for those residents.

Meanwhile, most residents in unincorporated DeKalb would face higher costs. They would receive a smaller increase in their property tax refund after years of higher tax breaks than city residents.

On average, the tax proposals would cost roughly $80 to $100 per person annually to fund road repaving, fire station repairs and other infrastructure.

A new inland container port in Chatsworth could reduce the number of tractor-trailers on Georgia’s roads by as many as 50,000 per year.

A new inland port opening next year will take 50,000 trucks off the road in Atlanta annually, according to the state Port Authority. The port is expected to shift all that truck traffic to freight trains.

The Port of Savannah dispatches thousands of trucks throughout the state. Many of them use highways connecting Savannah to Atlanta and points north. The new port is expected to divert much of that truck traffic by sending freight on railroad lines from Savannah, through Atlanta and on to Chatsworth.

State officials say that freight will get dispatched by truck from Chatsworth, eliminating 50,000 trucks per year from Atlanta’s highways. Do the math, it comes to about six fewer trucks per hour on Atlanta highways.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is showing off a mobile telemedicine unit that could improve healthcare delivery across Georgia.

The Telehealth Education Delivered mobile unit stopped by the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta to show off telemedicine technology that the national VA is using to reach out to provide greater access, particularly through its 700 outpatient clinics. The Augusta VA has seen 2,500 telehealth visits in the last year, primarily through its community clinics in Athens, Aiken and Statesboro, said April Harris, facility telehealth coordinator. And it is looking to do more with what it calls clinical video telehealth, she said.

“We’re really looking to expand in our (video visits) into the home where veterans do not have to travel, do not have to come in, where it is more convenient, patient- and family-centered for the veteran,” Harris said. The provider back at the medical center has a camera and the VA provides patients with a tablet device to create the video link, she sad.

“Now it is more convenient because we are able to send a device into the home,” Harris said.

The technology can also be used to check on patients after a procedure. VA patient Robert Thompson of Augusta said he has not yet signed up for telehealth but is considering it and actually thinks it should have come sooner.

“We should have had this process a long time ago to save time and money,” he said. Thompson recently had stents placed in his heart and he would like to use telehealth to find out more about his condition.

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