Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 3, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 3, 2018

On January 1, 1751, the law prohibiting slavery in Georgia was repealed after an act passed by the Georgia Trustees the previous year.

On January 2, 1766, some Sons of Liberty marched on the Royal Governor’s Mansion in Savannah to “discuss” the Stamp Act, which required the use of stamped paper for all printing as a means of taxing the colonies. They were met by a pistol-toting Governor Wright. The next day, January 3, 1766, the Royal Stamp Master arrived at Tybee Island and was taken to the Governor’s Mansion. On that day, Georgia became the first and only colony in which the stamp tax was actually collected.

Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution on January 2, 1788.

Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts became the first United States Senator to be censured by the body on January 2, 1811.

Delaware, technically at the time a slave state, rejected a proposal to secede from the United States on January 3, 1861.

The Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect in eleven Southern states on January 1, 1863, though parts of Virginia and Louisiana were exempt.

On January 3, 1973, Andrew Young was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman from Georgia since 1871.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Senator David Perdue (R-Sea Island) writes that 2017 was a successful year for President Trump.

When President Donald J. Trump was elected, he outlined his top goals: confirming a conservative Justice to the Supreme Court, rolling back onerous regulations, fixing our health care system, and changing our archaic tax code.

We have begun to do that, and we are already seeing the economy start to move. Trump’s agenda is starting to work and this has been a year of significant accomplishments.

In addition to Justice Neil Gorsuch being confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, 145 federal judges will be confirmed, including 12 circuit judges, compared to only three in former President Barack Obama’s first year.

Look, I come from the business world where results matter. These results are fantastic for any president’s first year.

President Trump is an outsider and business guy who is listening to the American people. He is continuing to move at a business pace, not a bureaucratic pace, and as a result our economy is on the cusp of a turnaround.

Overall, it is estimated that these tax changes will create nearly 1 million new jobs and increase wages anywhere from $4,000-9,000.

Ultimately, these efforts will generate much-needed economic growth that is a crucial part of solving our national debt crisis, which is still my No. 1 objective in the U.S. Senate.

Georgians sent me to the Senate for the same reason they sent President Trump to the White House: To get results. I am proud of what we have accomplished in 2017, and in 2018 I am committed to doing all I can to continue changing the direction of our country.

Governor Nathan Deal appointed Alisha Adams Johnson as the new Solicitor General for the Rockdale Judicial Circuit, succeeding Richard Read. Read announced his resignation in October 2017 and it became effective just before the New Year.

Gov. Deal will attend a groundbreaking ceremony today at the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training in Augusta.

Deal yesterday declared a state of emergency for 28 counties in advance of winter storms.

The emergency declaration will take effect immediately and extend through Jan. 5 at midnight.

“The state has begun preparations for potential winter weather in the 28 counties, including sending all Georgia Department of Transportation brine trucks and 75 additional plows to the impacted areas,” said Deal. “The emergency declaration ensures all state resources are available if necessary. We will continue monitoring the weather and provide updates as needed. I encourage all Georgians in the potentially impacted areas to stay informed, get prepared and be safe.” The counties include: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Candler, Coffee, Charlton, Chatham, Clinch, Echols, Effingham, Evans, Glynn, Jeff Davis, Lanier, Lowndes, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Ware and Wayne.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter was hospitalized after a heart attack but attended the Commission meeting by phone.

Hunter was one of two commissioners who participated in the meeting, where the county’s 2018 budget was approved, by telephone. Commissioner Jace Brooks also called into the meeting, but he explained he was recovering from foot surgery which had taken place Friday.

Hunter said the heart attack happened Saturday and he was recovering at the Ronnie Green Heart Center at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

“I had to have a [stent] placed in a major artery, but the doctor said it did well and that recovery will be quick,” Hunter said. “Hopefully we can go home (Wednesday) so I just wanted to thank everybody for your prayers and for standing with us as we go through this and I hope to be back to see you all shortly.”

Despite being in a hospital bed, Hunter cast votes as usual on items that came up for a decision. Among his votes was one against the county’s proposed 2018 budget, the only vote cast against it.

Gwinnett Commissioners approved a 2018 budget of $1.67 billion dollars.

The budget was approved on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Tommy Hunter casting the lone vote against it. Chief Financial Officer Maria Woods told commissioners the budget was crafted around goals the board set for the county nearly a year ago.

“This proposed budget authorizes 152 new positions and supports the priorities established at your strategic planning session in March,” Woods said before the vote.

Among the budget’s many items are 65 new police officer positions, plus one civilian position in the police department, funding to staff two new ambulance units and one ladder truck unit for the fire department, bilingual staff for the Board of Elections and Registration and expanded advance voting and the addition of Sunday voting for the November general election.

The money for expanded advance voting, and Sunday voting, days will be put in reserve pending the county’s ability to recruit enough poll workers to staff that expansion.

The budget also includes a 4 percent pay for performance raise and one-time longevity pay.

Cobb County seniors face higher fees at county centers.

County commissioners in mid-November approved a slate of fee increases related to programs offered by the county’s senior services department, the library system and parks facilities. Among them were higher hourly rates for art, computer and exercise classes offered by senior services, with nonresidents paying one-and-a-half times the proposed resident rates.

Also in the approved measure was the establishment of several new fees. Though seniors had previously paid no membership fee to use county senior centers, the county starting Feb. 1 will begin charging county residents $60 a year should they wish to use those facilities, while non-residents will pay $90 annually. Included in the yearly membership are free, evidence-based health programs, access to workout facilities and free coffee.

Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce and county staff have scheduled five town hall-style meetings at senior centers across the county to discuss the fees.

“We hear you and we heard you over the last month that this was not properly advertised, and I accept that as a valid comment, which is why we’re waiting to implement the fees for the seniors,” Boyce told Clements following the comments he made at the Dec. 12 commission meeting.

Since then, “I’ve decided that I’m going to take this show on the road to tell them what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Boyce said of the meetings, the first set for 10 a.m. Jan. 12 at the East Cobb Senior Center on Sandy Plains Road in Marietta.

State Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners) was appointed a Deputy Whip.

The state House of Representatives announced House Majority Whip Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, has picked Hilton to serve as deputy whip in the chamber. Hilton was elected last year to replace the retiring Tom Rice as the House District 95 representative.

“Rep. Hilton will be a great addition to our Whip Team,” Coomer said in a statement. “I’m thankful for Rep. Hilton’s willingness to serve the House in this new leadership role, and I look forward to collaborating with him as we work to pass meaningful legislation for the citizens of Georgia.”

Deputy whips serve a key role in the House of Representatives because they are tasked with keeping an eye on legislation that is moving through both the House and the Senate. They are also tasked with making sure their fellow representatives know and understand details contained in bills and resolutions that are moving through the General Assembly.

“It is an honor to serve my Majority Caucus colleagues as a Deputy Whip,” Hilton said. “I am grateful for the trust and confidence Republican House leadership and Chairman Coomer have placed in me to support our Caucus. I look forward to facilitating public policy that will benefit families in our district and across Georgia.”

State Rep. Meagan Hanson (R-Brookhaven) will introduce hate crime legislation in the upcoming session.

The proposed law would add enhanced punishments for crimes committed against protected classes of people based on race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, mental disability and physical disability, Hanson said. Those are the same classes protected under the federal hate crimes law passed in 2010, she said. The final bill is still being tweaked, she said, and complete details are not yet available.

“It is an interesting political time right now … in the midst of what happened in Charlottesville,” Hanson said in an interview on why she decided to sponsor the bill.

Hanson said she was convinced it was time to sponsor a bill after meeting and working with local leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, a national advocacy group pushing for state hate crimes legislation. She said she has also talked to prosecutors and to Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan who support such a bill.

“It’s shocking that Georgia doesn’t have this [hate crimes legislation] on the books,” she said.

At one time, Georgia had a hate crimes law. In 2000, the General Assembly passed a bill calling for enhanced punishment for crimes committed due to “bias or prejudice.” The state Supreme Court in 2004 threw the law out, however, calling it “unconstitutionally vague” for not specifying biases, such as a crime committed against someone because of their religion or sexual orientation.

“I believe both sides of the aisle find this to be a partisan issue,” she said. “To me, it’s good policy and should be non-partisan. It saddens me a little bit that this is a partisan issue.” She said state Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) has said he will sign on to her bill.

Senate District 17 voters will elect a new state legislator on January 9, 2018.

Two of the four candidates for the Georgia Senate District 17 seat said last week that they would support legislation to create Board of Commissioners districts in Rockdale County.

The BOC districts issue is just one of the local topics that candidates Brian Strickland and Nelva Lee, both Republicans, spoke on during a forum at Emmanuel Community Church on Ga. Highway 212 in Newton County Thursday night.

District 17 includes parts of Rockdale, Newton and Henry counties. The candidates are running in a special election set for Jan. 9 to succeed Rick Jeffares, who resigned last month to focus on his bid for lieutenant governor.

Jeffares introduced legislation in last year’s session of the General Assembly that would establish four commission districts with a chairman elected at-large.

Lee said that she would “definitely support” the legislation. However, she qualified her answer, saying that she would also solicit local input.

“I would definitely choose to work with (local officials) first and ensure that that is definitely something that the local officials and the local voters are interested in,” she said. “… It sounds, in theory, like a great idea to expand the number of elected officials. I would definitely have to study that a little more.”

Strickland, who resigned as the House District 111 representative to run for the Senate seat, said he understands the issue is important to Rockdale voters.

“I’ve already heard in campaigning from a lot of citizens that complain, especially in southern Rockdale,” he said. “Right now, with the at-large system, with three people elected at-large, all the power can go to one part of the county, and those who don’t live in the middle of the county aren’t represented at the county level.”

Municipalities

Keisha Lance Bottoms has been sworn in as Mayor of Atlanta.

Bottoms stood on a stage before 2,500 people at Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel and declared that “Atlanta magic” could be just as real as the “black girl magic” that helped her beat fellow Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood in the Dec. 5 runoff.

But the city needs to unify before it can realize its true potential, she said.

“It’s no secret that we have economic disparity in Atlanta,” Bottoms said. “That’s why the theme of my campaign was ‘Keep Atlanta moving forward, leaving no one behind.’”

Craig Newton took the oath of office as the new Mayor of Norcross.

As Newton — the first black person to serve as mayor in any Gwinnett city — and new Norcross Councilmen Chuck Paul and Dan Watch took their oaths, the focus was on the city itself. Summerour Middle School students did make a presentation to mark the milestone, but the new mayor said that while the significance isn’t lost on him, he was less focused on making history.

Serving the city is more important to him.

“I do respect the historical nature of my election,” Newton said. “There are a lot of people who came before me that fought hard to ensure the rights of all Americans, and I certainly appreciate that, but my focus is not just being first; my focus is on being the best — the best mayor that Norcross, Gwinnett County and the region has seen. That’s my focus: being the best for Norcross.”

The event had two focuses. One was to swear in the new city officials, who received the oath of office from Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham, the first black person appointed to the state’s high court. The other was to recognize retiring Mayor Bucky Johnson and retiring Councilman Pierre Levy.

Warner Robins also broke new ground, electing two African-American city council members.

The council had a new member as Daron Lee was sworn in. He is the first black council member elected citywide, and for the first time the council has two black members. The other is Councilman Clifford Holmes, who was sworn in for another term. He did not face opposition in the Nov. 7 election.

“This would not be possible without everyone,” Lee said. “It took more than one race, it took more than one gender, it took more than one (religious) belief to make this possible today. I will tell you, I pray that as long as you all are holding me up, I will never fall and will never let you down.”

Smyrna City Council adopted the state’s first ordinance regulating the use of handheld electronics by drivers.

The ordinance, which the city describes as “a temporary and experimental regulation” is scheduled to go into effect April 2 and last for two years, after which the city may decide to extend it. During the first 45 days of that time, police will only hand out warnings to drivers using the devices.

In a nutshell, drivers may not use a cellphone or other electronic device with their hands while operating a vehicle, but mounting the phone to the dashboard and talking on speakerphone or using voice commands to operate a GPS app is allowed.

The vote to ban the devices came down to the wire after Councilman Ron Fennel abstained from voting. He said he personally supports the plan, but would not vote on it because he works for TEAM Georgia, which advocates for road safety measures.

That put the council in a 3-3 tie, with Councilmen Derek Norton, Charles Welch and Doug Stoner in favor and Councilwomen Andrea Bluestein, Maryline Blackburn and Susan Wilkinson opposed.

State Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, created the House Study Committee on Distracted Driving, of which he is the chair, during last year’s legislative session. Last month, he released the results of a statewide survey which found 72.4 percent of Georgia Republican voters and 64.5 percent of Georgia Democrat voters say they would support a statewide hands-free driving law, but it is not yet clear whether such a law would be considered or pass in the upcoming legislative session.

In casting the tie-breaking vote, Mayor Max Bacon said he does not trust the state to do the right thing and hopes Smyrna will be an example to them and to other cities.

Sandy Springs City Council is considering further regulation of short term rentals like AirBNB.

“With our new comprehensive code, we now allow short-term rentals. We now allow them with some restrictions in some residential areas,” Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert said in a presentation regarding the city amending its code to further regulate short-term rentals at the Sandy Springs City Council’s meeting Jan. 2 at City Hall.

The city is considering hiring Host Compliance, a San Francisco-based company that would charge Sandy Springs $21,000 a year to keep track of all the city’s short-term rentals and ensure landlords would comply with its code by registering and paying its fees. In turn, the city is expected to make thousands of dollars in annual revenue.

Though no action was taken by the council, Tolbert said it could vote on the issue as early as its next meeting Jan. 16, but it likely won’t be on the agenda for a vote until the Feb. 6 meeting.

In Sandy Springs, Tolbert said, Host Compliance identified 211 addresses in the city that were short-term rentals. While these types of rentals can be positive, they can also cause problems. In metro Atlanta, there have been reports of party houses, homes advertised as places where individuals rent homes and host parties that raise the ire of neighbors.

“They can replace long-term tenants. They can raise parking, noise, safety and trash concerns if allowed to go unchecked in the community. Essentially, without proper enforcement, we may not know of one in 10 out there,” Tolbert said, referring to stats provided by Host Compliance and iCompass. “They will continue to take advantage of us if we don’t keep it in check.”

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood has left office and is running for State House District 48.

Wood made the announcement for his future intentions, to run for the Georgia House District 48 Seat, at the Hagan-Wood Christmas Party in December.

He will run against Betty Price, incumbent.

“Now that I am getting ready to run a campaign, I haven’t slowed down at all. My Christmas break has been spent working on my House 48 campaign,” said Wood.

He compared it to his time in law school, when a holiday break just meant time away from class, not a time to stop working.

“No time off for me, I am back involved [in politics] more than ever and I enjoy it,” he said.

“It’s like catching a wave, when the opportunity comes, you have to take it. You can’t sleep late or you might miss the swell,” said the avid outdoorsman.

Kennesaw City Council has three new members, making a majority of new members.

When the new council holds its first meeting next year, the city will welcome business development manager Pat Ferris, Georgia Tech senior research engineer Chris Henderson and Kennesaw State University materials management professional David Blinkhorn to the seats for Posts 3, 4 and 5 respectively.

Tybee Island City Council has two new members.

City Clerk Jan LeViner administered the oath of office to new and returning councilmen John Branigin and Monty Parks during a brief ceremony in the City Council chambers Tuesday morning. Another new councilman, Jackson Butler, was not in attendance at the ceremony, but was sworn in by the clerk later in the day.

Branigin, Butler and Parks now join Mayor Jason Buelterman and sitting council members Barry Brown, Wanda Doyle and Julie Livingston as members of Tybee Island’s newest elected administration. Parks was the only incumbent to run for another term during the 2017 municipal elections on Tybee, leaving the seats formerly occupied by former councilmen Bill Garbett and John Major up for grabs.

With the new and returning members now seated, the Tybee City Council will convene for its first meeting of the year on Jan. 11.

Columbus Government Center will be closed today because of a broken heating system.

Georgia Municipal Association Executive Director Larry Hanson was named to Georgia Trend’s “100 Most Influential Georgians.”

GMA is an Atlanta-based voluntary, non-profit organization that provides its 521 members with legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and technical consulting services, the release stated.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Georgia Trend as an influential Georgian,” Hanson said in a statement. “There are many men and women on this list whom I admire and have great respect for. To be included among them is quite an honor, and is a reflection of the work done by so many others who also share in this accomplishment.”

Hanson has also recently served as the vice chairman of the board of the Department of Community Affairs and is a current member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, the release stated.

Former State Rep. Tom Dickson takes the reins as the new Mayor of Varnell.

Following a tumultuous 2017 that saw two council members resign and the mayor and another council member not run for re-election, the new mayor, Tom Dickson, a former state legislator, wants a more orderly and less controversial council running the affairs of Varnell.

“The paper obviously knows that we have had some controversy over the last year, so we are looking forward to actually keeping our names out of the paper for awhile,” Dickson said. “I think we have an excellent group of people on the City Council, and they are of a like mind. We are here to keep the city moving forward and to do that in an honorable and orderly manner.”

New council members Bill Caylor, Bob Roche and Clyde Williams — all of whom ran unopposed — were sworn in along with Dickson by the city’s Municipal Court judge, Allen Hammontree. Council members also began the process of the 2018 budget with a first reading with $954,000 in expenditures and $954,000 in revenues.

Gone from the council that started 2017 are Sheldon Fowler, who resigned after an incident at his home that resulted in his arrest for simple assault, simple battery against a law enforcement officer and disorderly conduct, and Andrea Gordy, who resigned after questions of her residency were brought to the forefront during controversy surrounding the council’s vote last summer to disband the city’s police department. Also gone are former mayor Anthony Hulsey, who vetoed the police department vote, and former council member Jan Pourquoi. They did not qualify for re-election.

The Cities of Lula and Helen swore in some of the oldest elected officials in Georgia.

In Lula, incumbent Councilman Mordecai Wilson, 92, was sworn in to begin his fifth term of service to the residents of that city.

Roughly 30 miles away, Geneva S. Elwell, 90, took her oath to return to city government for the first time in years. Elwell joined new city commissioners Steve Fowler and Lee Landress in taking their oaths prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Elwell was elected in November and takes office a month before her 91st birthday.

The two are believed to be the oldest municipal elected officials in the state, according to the Georgia Municipal Association.

 

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