Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Election for January 5, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Election for January 5, 2018

Georgia and American History

On January 5, 1734, the Trustees of Georgia ordered the return of 42 Jewish settlers who had come in 1733, primarily from Portugal, without the knowledge or approval of the Trustees. The Brits who sponsored the Jewish settlers refused and Georgia is home to the oldest Jewish settlement in the United States.

On January 5, 1781, traitor Benedict Arnold and 1600 British troops captured Richmond, Virginia.

Samuel Elbert was elected Governor of Georgia for a one-year term on January 6, 1785. Elbert was an early participant in Patriot meetings at Tondee’s Tavern, a Lt. Colonel in the first group of troops raised in Georgia, and a prisoner of war, exchanged for a British General, and eventually promoted to Brigadier General reporting to Gen. George Washington. As Governor, Elbert oversaw the charter of the University of Georgia and afterward, he served briefly as Sheriff of Chatham County.

Georgia voted for George Washington for President on January 7, 1789. Technically, they elected Presidential Electors who would later meet in Augusta and cast their ballots for Washington.

On January 7, 1795, Georgia Governor George Matthews signed the Yazoo Act, passed after four land companies bribed members of the General Assembly to vote for legislation selling more than 35 million acres of land for less than 2 cents per acre.

On January 6, 1961, United States District Court Judge William Bootle ordered the University of Georgia to enroll Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, ending the segregation of UGA.

On January 5, 1978, the British band the Sex Pistols started their American tour at the Great Southeast Music Hall in Atlanta, GA. The AJC has a photo gallery from the show, including the young promoter, Alex Cooley, who would become legendary.

On January 6, 1988, the United States Postal Service released a stamp commemorating the bicentennial of Georgia’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich (R) was re-elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 7, 1997. In the election for a second term, nine Republicans voted against the incumbent Speaker.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced that the City of Atlanta and State of Georgia governments will close early on Monday, January 8, 2018.

In light of several factors, Gov. Nathan Deal, along with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Fulton County government officials, announced early closures for state and local government in metro Atlanta on Monday, January 8. The City of Atlanta will close at 2:30 p.m. Fulton County and state government will close at 3 p.m.

Agencies are also encouraged to allow employees with the ability to telecommute to do so. Employees and visitors are also encouraged to use MARTA to travel on Monday.

Finally, state and local governments will continue monitoring weather and will send additional guidance to employees as necessary.

Governor Deal also proclaimed January 5, 2018 as “UGA Football Day.”

Gov Deal Jan 5 2018

And the Capitol groundskeepers got into the act as well.

Liberty Plaza G

Then the groundskeepers got back to addressing the rodent problem.

SmCaddyshack

Greg Bluestein of the AJC got a copy of Governor Deal’s proclamation.

On Monday, January 8, our Georgia Bulldogs will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide for the College Football National Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta; and

Following this historic season under the leadership of former All-SEC Georgia defensive back and current coach Kirby Smart, I hope to join UGA alumni, students, and fans across the nation to celebrate UGA’s first National Championship since the 1981 Sugar Bowl. This season has been most memorable, with UGA punching a ticket home after a win in double overtime against Oklahoma, perhaps the most exciting football game ever played; and

This season, UGA fans have travelled far and wide to “see the Dawgs play” as they filled up Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana, took over EverBank Field in Jacksonville, overwhelmed Auburn at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the SEC Championship, and turned the City of Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Stadium red; and

Led by 31 seniors, including Nick Chubb and Sony Michel – the most prolific running back duo in FBS history, Lorenzo Carter – who forever earned a place in UGA lore by blocking a field goal attempt in the second overtime of the Rose Bowl, Davin Bellamy – who forced turnovers at some of the season’s most pivotal moments, as well as Dominick Sanders – UGA’s co-record holder for interceptions, the Dawgs are ready to make history for the university and the State of Georgia; and

With the nation’s best linebacker – Roquan Smith – anchoring this tough SEC defense, Jake Fromm – a Warner Robins native who has impressed us all – leading a potent offense, and Rodrigo Blankenship – who now holds the record for the longest field goal in Rose Bowl history, the Dawgs will be called to, in the timeless words of Larry Munson, “Hunker it down one more time;” and

There is just a little more wood to chop in this special season. I, therefore, call upon UGA fans in every corner of the state and those living across our nation and around the world to join me in cheering on the Dawgs as they once again take the field to kick off the 2018 College Football National Championship; now

I, NATHAN DEAL, Governor of the State of Georgia, do hereby proclaim January 5, 2018, as UGA FOOTBALL FRIDAY in Georgia and encourage all 103,706 state employees and UGA fans across our state to dress accordingly in red and black attire.

Senator Johnny Isakson committed to the G on the floor of the United States Senate.

The Georgia State House will convene the first day of the 2018 Session on Monday, January 8th at 10 AM. The House Appropriations Committee will hold its first public hearing on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 11 AM, though I guess weather may change that.

Gov. Deal signed a Writ of Election to fill the vacancy in House District 175 created when State Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) resigned. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Carter resigned Nov. 15, 2017 to take on the position of executive director of advancement for the Technical College System of Georgia.

According to an announcement from the Lowndes County Board of Elections, qualifying dates are as follows: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 10-11 and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12 at the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, 214 State Capitol in Atlanta.

The qualifying fee is $400.

Republican John LaHood, president and CEO of Fellowship Senior Living, is running for the Georgia State House District 175 seat, as confirmed in November 2017.

Early voting for this special election will be held 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 22-26  and Jan. 29-Feb. 2, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 3 and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 5-9.

The election date for the special election is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 13.

State Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas) will retire from the legislature after this year’s session.

Maxwell said that after 30 years of public service to the county and state, he will depart the General Assembly at the conclusion of his current term in December.

He has represented parts of Paulding County since his election to the House in 2002.

“I’ve been blessed to serve my neighbors, my community and this state as a member of the House,” Maxwell said in a prepared release. “It has been the honor of a lifetime, and I am tremendously grateful to the residents of Paulding County who trusted me to represent them.”

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said Maxwell “is as good a man as you can find.”

“While I’m sad to see him leave the General Assembly, he has certainly earned the pleasure of spending more time with his friends and family. He is a trusted member of our House leadership team, and he will leave some big shoes to fill,” Ralston said.

Martin Momtahan has become the first candidate to throw his hat into the ring for the house seat being vacated by Rep. Maxwell. From a campaign press release:

Paulding County businessman Martin Momtahan formally announced his intention to run for House District 17 in the Georgia House of Representatives. Momtahan’s announcement comes on the news that Rep. Howard Maxwell will not seek re-election to a ninth term.

“I have operated successful businesses in Paulding County for over a decade, and I know the burden that over-regulating bureaucrats add to how we work, where we live and how we provide for our families” Momtahan said. “The American dream doesn’t require a bureaucrat making sure you check every box, but it does require our elected officials to fight to protect our rights, our values, and our moral convictions.”

Momtahan said he intends to campaign on the issues of regulatory and tax reform, infrastructure investment, and defending the core conservative values that make Paulding County our home. He specifically wants to see a scale back to the growing number burdensome regulations that affect small businesses in the state, a gradual transition away from an income tax to a consumption based tax, and investment in roads, bridges and 21st century infrastructure that help move people, goods and data through Georgia. In the area of critical infrastructure investment from the state, he believes that Paulding County has been ignored for long enough.

“People who live in Paulding County want to have little to do with the bureaucrats working in downtown Atlanta. They want to be able to have a good job, provide for their family and raise their children with as little interference as possible from their government. It’s not in the American spirit to ask for permission to innovate or to become an entrepreneur, but the expanding bureaucracy is set on taking every opportunity away from the great, taxpaying citizens of Paulding.”

“I’m ready to run, and fight, for the hard-working people of District 17 who want to have their piece of the American dream,” Momtahan said.

Martin Momtahan is a successful businessman in Paulding County with over 30 employees at West Metro Driving School, which he has operated for the last 11 years. A graduate of Paulding County High School and Kennesaw State University, he has grown his business and family locally.

Martin has been married to his wife Stephanie for 9 years, and has two children. His parents have also lived in District 17 for the last 18 years.

Martin has been active in the community throughout his business and personal life, participating and donating annually in events that benefit local schools, the Paulding Education Foundation, Paulding Public Safety Appreciation Foundation and the Dallas Christmas Parade that supports local community initiatives and food banks.

Qualifying for a seat on the Colquitt County Commission opens next week to fill the seat vacated by the late Luke Strong, Jr.

Strong’s seat, which he had held since 1987, has been unfilled since his death in September. The election in March will determine who will serve for the remaining year.

After Strong’s death in late September, the March 20 date was the first date on the calendar for which the state allows elections to be held that realistically could be met.

“This will get our year started early,” said Colquitt County Probate Judge Wes Lewis, whose office oversees elections. “I know the voters in District 1 will have a lot of interest.”

Qualifying for the special election will run from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday and 9 a.m.-noon on Wednesday at the Colquitt County Courthouse. The qualifying fee is $126, which represents 3 percent of the annual salary for the office.

Early voting begins three weeks prior to the March 20 election and will be held at Colquitt County Courthouse Annex. Only voters in District 1, which includes Moultrie and Shaw voter precincts, will participate.

With that out of the way, the election year will move on to May 22 primary elections in which candidates can vie for a full four-year term in District 1 that will begin on Jan. 1, 2019.

“In reality, you will have two qualifying terms” for that seat, Lewis said, “one for the unexpired term and then another one for the full term later in the year.”

Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-West Point) has endorsed Republican Randy Robertson in the election for State House District 29, which is being vacated by Sen. Josh McKoon, who is running for Secretary of State in the GOP Primary.

“Randy is the right choice to be the next Senator from Georgia’s 29th District,” Ferguson said in the post to Robertson’s Facebook page. “He will work to reform our criminal justice system, maintain our high standard of education and continue to keep Georgia as the number one State for business. Having him at the State Capitol is great for the 29th District and I am honored to support his candidacy.”

Robertson, a Republican, announced his intention to seek the office in March of last year, a full year before qualifying, which will be held March 5-9 of this year. The Republican Primary is on May 22, 2018 and the General Election is in November.

Virginia Republican David Yancey won reelection to the House of Delegates yesterday when his name was drawn from a bowl.

A Virginia elections official reached into an artsy bowl, pulled out a name and named Republican David E. Yan­cey the winner of a House of Delegates race that could determine which political party controls the chamber.

With that race in limbo and Democrats suing over another disputed Republican win, the GOP’s hold on a chamber it has dominated since 2000 remains tenuous. In a hearing Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Democrats will ask a judge to order a new election for a Fredericksburg-area House seat because nearly 150 voters were given the wrong ballots.

Thursday’s dramatic and rare election lottery, carried live on CNN, drew national attention as an odd way to decide a highly consequential contest. Simonds and a crowd of about 100 state officials, journalists and politicos crowded into the West Reading Room of the Patrick Henry Building for the event. Yancey was not present, although he sent a representative.

Yancey will not be seated if a recount is pending, said House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who is in line to become speaker if Republicans control the chamber.

But even without Yancey, the GOP would enjoy a 50-49 majority on the first day, when delegates pick a speaker for the next two years.

Talking to reporters outside the House chamber just 90 minutes after the lottery, Cox was direct: “We will be in the majority on the first day.”

Republicans boasted a seemingly insurmountable 66-34 majority heading into November elections. But as Democrats swept statewide offices for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, they also picked up at least 15 House seats in a blue wave widely viewed as a rebuke to President Trump.

Paul Bennecke, the Georgian who serves as Executive Director of the Republican Governors Association noted on Facebook that Yancey is a Georgia Bulldog, having graduated from UGA in 1995. Yancey’s Democratic opponent, Shelly Simonds, has a daughter named Georgia.

2018 Session [still under construction]

Here are the issues I’ll be watching in the 2018 General Assembly.

Budget & Taxes – The state budget – actually two budgets, the “little budget” that trues up the current year spending and the “big budget” for the next fiscal year – is the only legislation the General Assembly is required to pass. I suspect that this will be a little more complicated this year than has recently been the case. Federal tax reform passed in December will have two main effects on Georgia’s budget process. First is that to the extent that it determines federal spending going forward, and federal spending makes up roughly 50% of state revenues, federal tax reform and (crossing my fingers) a federal budget will have ramifications for the state. Second, because state income tax calculations rely on federal provisions, changes in federal tax law will have effects on Georgia taxpayers that can be estimated, but when taxpayers change their behavior based on federal tax rules, it can be difficult to estimate state tax proceeds. Because income taxes are the largest single source of state revenue, estimating the effects of federal reforms becomes complex. We may not know yet how much of a change this represents for the state budget process, but if it’s dramatic, that may cause the budget process to be more drawn out than usual.

Healthcare and Opioids – An article in today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution summarizes some of the challenges facing the legislature on healthcare and opioid abuse.

Slices of Georgia are in a full-on health care crisis: Premiums higher than a mortgage payment. Insurance networks for 2018 that suddenly exclude all of a family’s doctors. An opioid epidemic; rural hospitals going bankrupt; the uninsured poor; their unpaid emergency room bills.

Legislators from both the House and the Senate spent much of the past year running committees devoted to issues surrounding health care, including the rural-urban divide. Their findings include the need for broadband access in underserved areas to facilitate “telehealth” service.

One issue that may cross chamber and election lines is money to deal with the opioid crisis.

The chairwomen of the Legislature’s two health committees, Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, and Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, have suggested a need to support funding for behavioral health programs to deal with the addiction epidemic ravaging the state.

“I don’t do the budget,” Cooper said, “but I think anything we can do to help with finding more options would be a plus.”

The state’s health care problems and gaps usually have an impact on each other, like a collection of dominoes that knock each other down. Addicts who can’t afford treatment may burden the emergency and hospital systems with unpaid health scares. Then hospitals wind up deeper in debt.

Washington hasn’t helped the provision of health care here: No one knows whether hundreds of millions of dollars in delayed funding for Georgia’s poor kids, their hospitals and clinics is actually going to come, or when, or whether it might fall victim to federal infighting.

Some are hoping the Legislature will step in to fill the federal funding gaps to pay for uncompensated patient care. Many are hoping that one way or another, the Legislature this year will lay the groundwork for the governor to work with the Trump administration to get medical coverage to allow more of the state’s poorest adults to pay their bills.

Any uncertainty in what state revenues will look like after federal tax reform further complicate the question of paying for healthcare and opioid treatment.

Transit – There is widespread affirmation from many lawmakers that transit funding should be a priority for the legislature. The details of what that look like will give new meaning to the phrase, “the devil is in the details.” From Maggie Lee with the Macon Telegraph:

Another House group is looking at the possibility of state spending on the local agencies that run buses, streetcars and Atlanta’s subway. But metro Atlanta is not the only focus, said state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, who sits on the state House Transit Governance and Funding Commission. He said the state has gone without funding transit for too long.

“Our goal is to not only to look at … the regional aspect of Atlanta, but also try to provide funding, some mechanism for transit around the state to participate in funding … the Macons, the Augustas, Columbus, Savannah,” said Smyre.

The state did make a landmark transit spend of $75 million in 2016 when they awarded grants to several transit systems, including those in Atlanta, Albany and Athens-Clarke County.

However, for every new expense, legislators either have to bring in more money to pay for it, or cut spending on something else.

“I think the budget will be maybe tighter than you might think, with the money we have to put in the teacher retirement system … [and] we’ve got to put more money into the Medicaid program,” said State Sen. Larry Walker III, R-Perry.

Notably, Gwinnett County, long an anti-MARTA bastion, appears to be getting serious about transit, but the county appears to be prepared to spend some time on deciding exactly what that will look like and where county funding could come from.

Partisan Points – I expect to see legislators from both party introducing legislation designed to make a partisan political points or to score points in reelection campaigns.

AirBNB – I’ve been saying for months that I think the General Assembly will take steps to either provide a statewide regulatory framework for short-term rentals or simply pre-empt local regulations on the burgeoning markets.

Rep. Matt Dollar, R-Marietta, introduced legislation earlier this year that would keep local governments from banning the businesses.

At a recent hearing on the bill, Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association Executive Director Jim Sprouse told Dollar that it would be unfair if businesses such as Airbnb went unregulated.

“Often these companies are seeking to operate illegal hotels in Georgia and do not pay taxes or are subject to regulations while their profits surge,” Sprouse said.

Brandon Hatton, a lobbyist for Airbnb, spoke in support of Dollar’s legislation.

Hatton said officials are working with local jurisdictions to ensure that hosts pay taxes on their income from the company. Hatton rejected the idea that hosts use the website to operate pseudo-hotels

Distracted Driving – With Smyrna passing an ordinance aimed at reducing distracted driving, and other cities aggressively enforcing existing laws against distracted driving, this seems ripe for a statewide approach.

Sexual Misconduct – With all the news reports about sexual misconduct within the entertainment industry and Washington, DC, I anticipate two major phenomena under this heading. State Rep. Jan Jones, the chamber’s second-most powerful member, chairs a committee considering new rules for legislators’ conduct.

The chair of a special committee tasked with reviewing sexual harassment policies at the Georgia statehouse said Wednesday any changes should include mandatory training and new avenues for lawmakers, staff and even lobbyists to file complaints.

But Republican Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, the second-ranking member of the House, said details need to be worked out as the committee meets in the coming weeks and hears the recommendations of employment lawyer Tashwanda Pinchback Dixon, whose services it has retained.

Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent filed legislation in December that would require mandatory sexual harassment training for members and employees of the General Assembly. Democratic state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick said she plans to file similar legislation.

Jones said some training should be required, but wasn’t sure how it would be carried out.

“I haven’t drawn a conclusion yet as to how frequently that will be, and it might be different kinds of training depending on your relationship to the Capitol. Do you work here? Do you visit here?” Jones said.

Additionally, the news media nationwide seems interested in what could be considered either rooting out abusive practices by politicians, or salacious gossip. Expect rumors and innuendoes and maybe eventually cameras chasing legislators. It won’t be pretty, fun, or dignified.

Rural Georgia – The attention being lavished on rural Georgia and proposals to help beleaguered parts of the state face one major challenge – everything I’ve seen proposed, from increased broadband access, to telehealth for underserved communities, to economic incentives, to increases in Medicare and Medicaid funding, every one of those will require large amounts of tax dollars, which may or may not be available. Until we have a handle on how the state’s budget will fare, it will be hard to say whether any given measure to help rural Georgia will be feasible.

 

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