Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 27, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 27, 2016

On November 27, 1864, Sherman ordered the courthouse in Sandersville, Georgia burned.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader and State Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) are hosting a forum on mental health issues and strategies for families coping during the holidays.

Unterman and Schrader, who joined forces earlier this year to address opioid addiction, will co-host A Family Forum on Having a Healthy Holiday Season During Struggles in Lawrenceville Monday. The forum will begin with networking at 6 p.m. at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive. The program is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

“Holidays can be stressful times for families, especially when someone you love is suffering from mental health issues and/or substance abuse struggles,” Schrader said in a statement. “We have had many forums on what to look for to find out if your loved one is struggling, but we have not equipped our community with practical steps, strategies and advice on what to do next.

“It is time for us to bring together experts that can offer resources, advice and encouragement for your loved ones and yourself.”

The event is the latest public education event Shrader and Unterman have been involved with. They co-hosted a summit on opioid addiction earlier this year, as well as a press conference over the summer to address that same topic. Unterman also participated in a Georgia Bureau of Investigation forum in Lawrenceville earlier this month to address mental health issues.

Runoff elections begin in some municipalities, as early voting begins.

Democrats Jaha Howard and Jen Jordan meet in a December 5th runoff election for State Senate District 6.

Jordan and Howard were the top vote-getters in Nov. 7’s eight-person contest for the District 6 state Senate seat vacated by former Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Smyrna. Jordan topped the results with 5,868 votes, about 24.4 percent, while Howard received 5,408 votes, about 22.5 percent.

Though Howard and Jordan topped the field, with the winner flipping the once Republican-held seat, GOP voters may play an important part in next week’s contest, as the five GOP candidates received 51 percent of the total votes across the district while the three Democrats received 49 percent.

The district includes residents of Smyrna, Cumberland, Vinings and parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs. Those who do not take part in advance voting, which runs Monday through Friday, will have one final chance to cast ballots on Dec. 5’s election day.

In Peachtree Corners Post 4, incumbent Council Member Jeanne Aulbach faces Joe Sawyer in the December 5th runoff.

Johns Creek Post 3 has a runoff election between John Bradberry and Vicki Horton.

Fulton County will open 18 sites for early voting for eligible residents from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 27 through Friday, Dec. 1. Please note there will be no Saturday voting this time around.

Roswell voters will choose a new Mayor and two council members in their runoff election.

The race to succeed outgoing long-time mayor Jere Wood is a battle between Lee Jenkins and Lori Henry. Matt Judy and Karen Parrish are facing off to win the Post 6 seat on the City Council while Mike Nyden and Sean Groer are vying for the Post 3 seat.

Marietta City Council Ward 1 has a runoff election between Cheryl Richardson and Jay Davis.

Albany Commission Ward 2 has a runoff election between incumbent Bobby Coleman and Matt Fuller.

Republican John LaHood announced he will run for the House District 175 seat being vacated by State Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta).

This comes after Rep. Amy Carter announced her resignation Nov. 15 to work for the state’s technical college system. A special election will be held to fill her position. The special election date has yet to be determined and must be set by the governor.

LaHood said that the government needs a business approach to deal with issues facing South Georgia. He said South Georgia sometimes feels voiceless where government is concerned.

State resources first go to Atlanta and then trickle down south. For example, LaHood said there are five hospital systems that make up more than 65 percent of the net hospital revenue in the state. Those five hospitals are all around Atlanta.

This means these five hospitals have the biggest representation when it comes to decision making processes.

“So, our rural hospitals need to be protected. They need a voice,” LaHood said. “We’ve had some rural hospital closures recently, and we need to take measure to protect our rural hospitals.”

Former State Rep. Nikki Randall has joined Navicent Health as Director of Community Outreach and Civic Engagement.

Democrat Otha Thornton spoke to the Savannah Morning News about his campaign for State School Superintendent.

State Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee) is planning to introduce a cellphone ban for drivers.

Texting while driving was banned in 2010, but the Armuchee Republican — who serves on the House Distracted Driving Study Committee — said the compromise bill failed to stem the rise of accidents with injuries or fatalities.

“The texting law is really ineffective,” Lumsden said Wednesday. “The penalties aren’t stringent enough and there are many loopholes.”

The study committee, chaired by Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, has been meeting since August and is expected to sign off on a proposed bill before the group disbands Dec. 1. Lumsden said they’ve drawn from the model used by the military and U.S. Department of Defense to simplify the issue.

“Basically, you cannot touch your phone while driving,” he said. “You can still use it if you have hands-free capabilities, and you can use apps such as GPS if you set them up before you start. You just can’t touch the phone.”

Columbus City Council heard a proposal for the city’s first solar farm.

Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-LaGrange) introduced legislation to change repayment plans for future student loans.

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash will present the proposed 2018 county budget on Tuesday.

Nash recently sat down with the Daily Post and discussed some of the items that can be expected in her budget proposal. She is scheduled to present the proposed budget to her fellow commissioners at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Board of Commissioners Conference Room at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

“As you would expect, I don’t think you’ll be surprised by any of the emphasis areas,” Nash said. “Public safety certainly is one focus point of what’s going to be in the proposed budget that’s going to be presented (on Tuesday), and also going back and looking at some of the areas that took some of the severest cuts during the downturn that we’ve not been able to restore previously.”

When the recession hit around the 2008 to 2009 time frame, Gwinnett’s economy in turn took a hit. That forced county officials to have to cut a range of things, from positions in county government to grass mowing on county-owned rights-of-way.

Nash said the bounce back in the tax digest has given county officials an opportunity to review the services they provide to residents.

“We didn’t automatically add things back because revenues were coming back,” she said. “We used this as a chance to look at what are the most critical things for us to focus on.”

While there has been a look at restoring services and positions that were cut during the recession, county leaders are also looking at adding new positions to address growth and new demands for services.

The trial run of new voting machines in Conyers municipal elections is being heralded as a success.

Georgia’s elected officials are considering replacing the state’s electronic voting system with one that leaves a paper trail, a project that could cost well over $100 million to buy new machines for the state’s 5.4 million registered voters.

“The preliminary indication we’ve gotten from voters is that they’ve liked it,” [Georgia Elections Director Chris] Harvey said of the voting system tested in Conyers. “It’s very similar to what they’re already using. It does produce a paper form, but voters in Georgia are used to interacting with a touch screen.”

In the Conyers test, 97 percent of voters surveyed said they were satisfied with the system, Rockdale County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch said. More than 1,000 people voted in municipal elections at two precincts. The pilot project was paid for by Georgia’s current voting system vendor, Election Systems & Software, which provided its ExpressVote touch screens and DS200 tabulation machines.

“Voters were very familiar with touch screens,” Welch said. “The key is going to be to make sure that voters understand the ExpressVote only marks the ballot. It then needs to be inserted into the tabulator to count the ballot.”

Because votes were counted at one tabulation machine rather than at each touch screen terminal, results were reported more quickly on election night. Rockdale counted all its ballots by about 8 p.m., about one hour after polls closed, which is roughly 15 to 25 minutes faster than normal, Welch said.

The Georgia General Assembly may consider tweaks to state tax code to force Amazon to collect sales tax from somethird-party sellers.

Legislation has already passed the Georgia House that would increase sales tax collections on online sales in the state if it becomes law, but it still must be passed by the Senate and approved by the governor. And Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, said he is working on additional legislation that could force Amazon to collect taxes on behalf of its third-party sellers, instead of leaving it to those sellers to collect themselves.

“If we can pass legislation requiring (Amazon) to pay, we want to do that,” said Powell, chair of the House Ways and Means committee. “They claim it’s a bookkeeping nightmare, but that’s not true.”

Who is required to charge sales tax for online sales comes down to one concept: physical presence. A 1992 Supreme Court ruling said if a company had a physical presence in a state, like a store or a warehouse, it had to charge consumers the sales taxes levied by that state. If not, there was no requirement.

But for businesses that send their goods to Amazon to ship, having their inventory stored in a state — even for a day — could be enough to require them to collect and pay sales tax there.

Citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale faces trial this week on charges stemming from a campaign rally in 2016.

Tisdale, of Roswell, was arrested Aug. 23, 2014, after she allegedly refused to stop shooting video of a political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm and leave the property when requested.

She was removed from the Republican Party rally by then-Dawson County Sheriff’s Capt. Tony Wooten, and held in the Burt’s barn until two other officers arrived to take her to jail.

Tisdale alleges she was unlawfully arrested and assaulted by Wooten, who was cleared of any wrongdoing after an internal investigation by the sheriff’s office.

In August 2015, Tisdale filed notice that a lawsuit against the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and Board of Commissioners was looming unless a settlement could be reached in the case.

Tisdale was then indicted on one misdemeanor charge of trespassing, one misdemeanor charge of obstruction of officer and a felony charge of obstruction of officer in November 2015, and pleaded not guilty to all counts in March 2016.

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