Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 8, 2018


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 8, 2018

Lyman Hall, one of three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence, was elected Governor on January 8, 1783.

On January 8, 2007, R.E.M. was announced as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s REM at their induction into the Rock Hall.

On January 8, 2014, Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were announced as incoming members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Columbus, Georgia native Frank Thomas, a long-time Chicago White Sox outfielder.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal, who previously announced that state government would close early today, has closed non-essential state offices today.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are closing non-essential agencies to ensure our employees’ safety as well as ensure the Georgia Department of Transportation’s ability to maintain and treat our roads,” said Deal. “This closure will run from Columbus across to Augusta and northward. The Capitol will remain open, however, so that the Legislature may gavel into the 2018 session as constitutionally required.”

The Georgia General Assembly gavels in the 2018 session today, with the House convening at 10 AM. I would expect a very short session today, and adoption of an adjournment resolution setting at least the next legislative day.

The Senate’s Georgia Health Care Reform Task Force is scheduled to meet at 1 PM in Room 450 of the State Capitol. Click here to watch the livestream of the committee meeting.

The House Appropriations Committee (Full) meeting scheduled for Tuesday is currently listed as cancelled, but I’d check back later today and in the morning to see if it stays cancelled.

The next state budget is expected to top $26 billion dollars, once the Appropriations Committees begin meeting in earnest.

[T]he state budget — which will be about $26 billion in state revenue and around $50 billion with federal funding included — touches the lives of millions of Georgians.

Gov. Nathan Deal will present his spending plan to lawmakers this week, and then it will be up to them to decide what makes the cut and what doesn’t.

In addition, Deal’s office won’t find out until the first week of the session what impact the federal tax law Congress passed in December will have on the state budget because number-crunching wasn’t completed over the holidays.

“It is going to be one of those years that you are not going to see a lot of new and exciting things,” predicted House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn.

Many states are taking a conservative approach to spending as they see revenue — tax collections — slowing and worry about the uncertain effect of federal tax and spending policy. Also, some officials are concerned that after one of the longest expansion periods in modern history following the Great Recession, the U.S. economy is due for a downturn.

Georgia Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, is bullish on the state’s economy. He said Georgia is growing at a faster clip than much of the rest of the country.

“I am really pretty optimistic about this next year,” Hill said. “There are some unknowns. I have tried to look around the corner and see what could go wrong, but I don’t see the negative.”

Deal has traditionally been conservative in his predictions of growth, and despite optimism among his fellow Republicans in Washington about the tax plan, he can’t be sure when the business cycle of expansion and retraction will turn down. Many lawmakers were around a decade ago when the Great Recession brought widespread budget cutting and teacher furloughs.

The governor’s conservative nature on finances is why he’s unlikely to jump on the bandwagon some legislative leaders have gotten rolling to reduce the state income tax rate.

 The Federal Bureau of Investigation warns against flying drones near the National Championship game tonight.

Any aircraft, drones included, are prohibited from flying near the venues used during the championship weekend and game day, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia World Congress Center.

Violators would face prosecution under federal law for “flying drones in restricted space,” FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said Sunday. “Temporary flight restrictions” are in effect.

State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) pre-filed legislation to open public access to recordings of court sessions.

A bill prefiled in the Georgia Senate would expand public access to records and recordings of judicial proceedings, including court reporters’ recordings that the Georgia Supreme Court recently declared off-limits unless they had been entered into the court record.

Sen. Josh MccKoon, R-Columbus, who filed the bill Dec. 19, said it is in direct response to that ruling.

The opinion ”is a great concern for me from a transparency point of view,” he said. “I think it’s important that the public have access to these documents and records.”

The legislation—Senate Bill 311—would apply to the proceedings of any “tribunal in the state that is vested with powers of a judicial nature” and mandates that access to the records “shall not be exempted by order of a court of this state or by law” unless specifically exempted by the new law.

State Rep. Bubber Epps (R-Dry Branch) proposed a Constitutional Amendment to allow an an education local option sales tax (E-LOST).

Currently, only Colquitt County and nine other rural school districts have been approved for what is known as an education local option sales tax. The tax is different from the sales tax districts ask voters to approve for new high school buildings and other capital projects.

“It’s been working for those districts,” Bleckley County Schools Superintendent Steve Smith told lawmakers, speaking on behalf of several middle Georgia districts that want access to the additional one percent sales tax.

Bleckley County’s neighbor, Houston County, is one of the 10 districts with the tax. That district has been able to pay its starting teachers more than Bleckley County does, which puts his district at a disadvantage, Smith said.

“Being rural and very limited retail-based and very limited industry, it’s a real challenge for us to compete with a Houston County,” he said.

Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, is sponsoring the constitutional amendment, which would let school districts go to voters for a one percent sales tax to fund maintenance and operational expenses for up to five years. Districts would have to present a specific list of projects, just as they do now with capital projects.

“We want to help you help yourselves,” Epps said during a hearing called Thursday on the measure before the House Education Committee.

Georgia Democratic state legislators have released their priorities for the session.

Georgia Democrats lack political power to pass their state legislative agenda this year, but incoming House Minority Leader Bob Trammell says they’ll keep talking about health care, livable wages and education funding.

“We need to use the 40-day legislative session to focus on the big issues that face our state,” said Trammell, who replaces former Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who resigned to run for governor. “If we can agree to have a conversation on something like Medicaid expansion, we’ll be in a good position this legislative session.”

Many Republicans oppose expansion of Medicaid — the state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled — but they’re considering federal Medicaid waivers that could allow greater flexibility in state health care funding.

Trammell said Medicaid expansion could help insure 600,000 more Georgians.

He also wants a debate on how to increase stagnant employee pay despite low unemployment rates.

State Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) released a new list of endorsements in his campaign for Lieutenant Governor.

The list includes a few Gwinnett County names, including former representative and current county Commissioner John Heard, Sen. P.K. Martin, Reps. Joyce Chandler, Clay Cox, Brett Harrell, Scott Hilton and Chuck Efstration, former Sen. Clint Day and former Reps. Tom Phillips, Gene Callaway, Ron Crews, Scott Dix, Melvin Everson, Phyllis Miller, Emory Morsberger, Mike Muntean, Tom Rice, Donna Sheldon, Jeff Williams and Valerie Clark.

Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, and Rep. Tom Kirby, R-Loganville, whose districts reach into Gwinnett County, were also on the list.

The state legislators join a long list of officials and groups that have endorsed Shafer in the race. Other backers include U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, former Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Congressmen Bob Barr, John Linder, Ben Blackburn and Fletcher Thompson, philanthropist and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, GOPAC, the Georgia Republican Assembly and Republican Liberty Caucus.

Dawsonville and Hoschton will hold special elections to fill vacancies.

Qualifying begins Monday for a special mayoral election in Dawsonville and a city council election in Hoschton.

The Dawsonville election is being held to fill the unexpred term of James Grogan, which ends Dec. 31, 2019. Grogan was removed from office by the city council last year.

[T]he Hoschton election is to fill the post vacated by Scott Butler, who resigned in December.

Both elections will be held March 20.

Rome City Commissioners will meet tonight and elect a Mayor from among their members.

Voters returned Jamie Doss and Wendy Davis to the board in the November election, along with newcomer Randy Davis. City Clerk Joe Smith said Superior Court Chief Judge Tammi Colston is scheduled to administer the oaths.

“Then the city attorney will hold the gavel for the election of the mayor,” Smith added.

Rome’s charter calls for the nine sitting commissioners to elect a mayor each year to preside over the board. Doss has been the choice each year since 2014.

Commissioners are slated to hold their caucus at 5 p.m. and start their regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, 601 Broad St. Both sessions are public.

The agenda is light and several officials have said they want to be home before 8 p.m. to see the Georgia Bulldogs face Alabama’s Crimson Tide for the College Football National Championship.

A first reading is scheduled for a proposed amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance, with a public hearing and vote slated for the board’s Jan. 22 session.

The change would allow venues that serve liquor to meet the 50/50 food-to-drink sales ratio with food sold from an onsite food truck.

Three members of the Effingham County Commission traveled to Washington last month.

Vera Jones, Phil Kieffer and Reggie Loper were among 100 county leaders from Georgia who took part in the trip sponsored by the National Association of Counties and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.

In addition to Pence, they met with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter. They heard from federal departments and agencies, including the Small Business Administration, Energy, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Housing and Urban Development.

They discussed how federal policies impact Georgia counties and residents. Topics included the opioid epidemic, workforce housing, infrastructure, natural disaster preparations and health care reform, along with the latest developments at Plant Vogtle and the Georgia Ports expansion.

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