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

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

washington_and_lafayette_at_valley_forge

George Washington’s Continental Army entered winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1777.

On December 20, 1864, Confederate forces in Savannah retreated ahead of Sherman’s army, crossing over into South Carolina, four years to the day after South Carolina’s secession.

On December 19, 1868, Congress opened hearings into barriers African-Americans faced to voting in Georgia, which included threats, violence, and death, on

Eugene Talmadge, who was elected four times as Governor of Georgia, in 1932, 1934, 1940, and 1946, died on December 21, 1946, leading to the Three Governors Controversy.

On December 19, 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors” for lying under oath and obstructing justice by a vote of 228-206.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), Chair of the House Transportation Committee, says the State House will consider transit funding in the 2018 legislative session.

Particularly being considered is a regional transit authority that would help metro Atlanta transit providers, such as Gwinnett County Transit, which has a station off Interstate 985, with coordinating routes more efficiently.

“Everybody operates in their own silo and, when you’re talking about transit, you cannot just think about county lines,” said Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, chairman of the House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding, which has held public meetings throughout the state.

“You’ve got to think about how we’re going to move people across the whole region,” he said.

Tanner, also the House Transportation Committee chairman, said, “We have multiple different operators (driving) buses that are just passing each other on the road going to the same places, but all of them are being paid for … by federal dollars.

“With regional coordination of mobility, we can become much more efficient and effective.”

State legislators say that integration of data across state agencies will allow more efficient provision of services.

Currently, each agency houses its own records. The committee found the practice especially problematic in the healthcare and social services arenas, where many of the clients overlap.

“The more you delay, these silos become more and more entrenched.… I think if we don’t push the lever, we’ll be here next year talking about the same thing,” said Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and Rep. Katie Dempsey, both Rome Republicans, co-chaired the Joint Study Committee on Transparency and Open Access in Government.

The group looked at the benefits of and barriers to creating a central warehouse of information available to analyze statewide problems and solutions. They adopted six recommendations and pledged to help push enabling legislation.

“I hope to continue this process in the session,” Hufstetler said. “And I also think we’ll have some legislators on both sides who understand this a little better now.”

The recommendations call for storing the data in a de-identified form — for privacy and security reasons — that complies with federal HIPAA regulations. That way, the report states, the information can be kept on tap for use in future projects instead of being destroyed.

Congressman Jody Hice (R-Bethlehem) will hold a telephone town hall tonight from 6-7 PM.

Constituents are allowd to submit questions ahead of time here, or by calling Hice’s office in Washington D.C. at (202) 225-4101.

To join the conference call at any time during the event, call (855) 756-7520 and enter the passcode 38210#.

Former Grovetown City Clerk Vicky Capetillo pled guilty to federal charges alleging she stole more than $891,ooo from city coffers.

In 2015 alone, she deposited more than $186,000 in cash into her own bank account, money that she stole from the city, Hale said.

Capetillo used different schemes. One that netted her more than $756,000 in cash was using customers’ accounts to steal cash payments for city services. In September 2014, she took $13,5000 from funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave to Grovetown to compensate for damages from the 2014 ice storm, Hale said.

A service Grovetown provided, cashing personal and payroll checks, gave Capetillo another way to steal from the city. Capetillo would give customers cash but instead of depositing the corresponding checks into the city’s bank account, she occasionally deposited them into her own account, Hale said.

Grayson Mayor Allison Wilkerson and City Council member Linda Jenkins were sworn in Monday night.

Joseph Goldstein was sworn in to the Marietta City Council seat previously held since 1908 by his father, Phillip Goldstein.

The CDC list of banned words was “fake news.”

Senior agency budget officials reportedly said they were not to use the words in preparing the next year’s budget documents. It emerged that similar prohibitions existed at other federal health offices.

The words included some that advocates argue are core to the mission of public health: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

According to the Washington Post, instead of “evidence-” or “science-based,” one suggested substitution was “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The CDC’s new director, Brenda Fitzgerald of Georgia, responded to the furor on Sunday.

“I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC,” she tweeted. “We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs.”

Facebook and Government

The ACLU is warning local governments and some federal politicians about their use of social media.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia sent a letter “threatening legal action” to U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point, after the group says he illegally blocked people from commenting on his official Facebook page and deleted their posts, according to a release.

The ACLU is also threatening legal action against two sheriffs and a police department, and sent letters to the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office, Worth County Sheriff’s Office, Henry County Police Department and to Ferguson.

“Our democracy thrives when people can freely criticize elected officials — including yourself — so that the people you answer to can best determine whether you should remain in office,” reads the letter to Ferguson, which was obtained by the Ledger-Enquirer. “The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia (ACLU-GA) writes this letter to address your office’s apparent attempt to silence your own constituents in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The ACLU argues that Ferguson’s Facebook page counts as a “limited public forum,” and that Ferguson is legally prohibited from deleting comments or blocking viewers from his page.

“It is unconstitutional for your office, a governmental entity, to silence the voices of those with whom you disagree. Because your government Facebook page has been opened for any member of the public to post comments, it is considered a “limited public forum” under the law regardless of how your office might choose to characterize it,” the ACLU wrote in the letter.

Amy N. Timmerman, communications director for Rep. Ferguson, referred the Ledger-Enquirer to the social media guidelines published on the Congressman’s Facebook page.

The guidelines describe the page as a “moderated online discussion site and not a public forum,” and provide a list of forbidden comments, including profanity and vulgar language, commercial or campaign-related statements, posting identifiable information about another individual, spam and other stipulations.

A federal court in Virginia earlier this year held that free speech protections extend to facebook pages of government officials.

a federal court weighed in on the question in a case with obvious parallels to Trump’s. It determined that the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause does indeed prohibit officeholders from blocking social media users on the basis of their views.

Davison v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors involved the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Phyllis J. Randall. In her capacity as a government official, Randall runs a Facebook page to keep in touch with her constituents. In one post to the page, Randall wrote, “I really want to hear from ANY Loudoun citizen on ANY issues, request, criticism, compliment, or just your thoughts.” She explicitly encouraged Loudoun residents to reach out to her through her “county Facebook page.”

Brian C. Davidson, a Loudon denizen, took Randall up on her offer and posted a comment to a post on her page alleging corruption on the part of Loudoun County’s School Board. Randall, who said she “had no idea” whether Davidson’s allegations were true, deleted the entire post (thereby erasing his comment) and blocked him. The next morning, she decided to unblock him. During the intervening 12 hours, Davidson could view or share content on Randall’s page but couldn’t comment on its posts or send it private messages.

“The Court cannot treat a First Amendment violation in this vital, developing forum differently than it would elsewhere,” Cacheris wrote, “simply because technology has made it easier to find alternative channels through which to disseminate one’s message.”

The Government Accountability Office dinged USDOT for liking and retweeting another Twitter user’s comments about pending legislation.

In a report issued Wednesday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said the transportation department violated a provision in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, when it retweeted and liked a tweet that urged its followers to “[t]ell Congress to pass” certain legislation.

“Although DOT was not the author of the tweet, DOT, by retweeting and liking it, not only endorsed the message, but also created agency content,” the GAO wrote in a six-page report.

GAO cites a law that says the department shouldn’t used funds “for publicity or propaganda purposes … to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress,” and that, the GAO concludes, is what happened here.

“Although DOT was not the author of the tweet, DOT, by retweeting and liking it, not only endorsed the message, but also created agency content,” the GAO wrote.

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