Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 9, 2018


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 9, 2018

The first modern circus was held in London on January 9, 1768.

Thomas Paine published a pamphlet titled, “Common Sense” on January 9, 1776. The pamphlet is considered to have united colonists to the cause of American independence.

Herman Talmadge was sworn-in to his second term as Governor of Georgia on January 9, 1951.

Segregated seating on Atlanta buses was held unconstitutional by a federal court on January 9, 1959.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter arrived in Athens to register at the University of Georgia on January 9, 1961.

Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, debuted the iPhone on January 9, 2007.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in the dispute between Georgia and Florida over water from the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers.

Supreme Court justices on Monday seemed sympathetic to Florida officials who complain that their neighbors to the north in Georgia are hogging water in a way that endangers a sensitive Sunshine State estuary.

But while the court seemed to think “common sense” and maybe even physics favored Florida, the powerful U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not — it favors Georgia, and even the Supreme Court’s clout might not be enough to overcome that.

“There’s nothing common-sense about the operations of this basin,” said Craig S. Primis, a Washington lawyer representing the state of Georgia, who spent much of his time at the lectern during oral arguments fighting questions about why capping Georgia’s consumption of river water would not necessarily result in more water downstream.

“It is incredibly complicated,” he said.

Florida has sued to impose consumption caps on Georgia, saying the reduced flow of the water, especially during droughts, has harmed its ecosystem.

Ralph I. Lancaster Jr., a special master appointed by the Supreme Court to study the issue, agreed Florida had been harmed. But he ruled that the Corps really controls the flow of water and that Florida had not met its obligation to show that the caps it would impose in Georgia would actually benefit Florida.

Governor Nathan Deal will speak at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast on Wednesday at 8 AM at the Georgia World Congress Center. On Thursday, he will deliver the State of the State at 11 AM in the House Chamber. At 2 PM on Wednesday, Chief of Staff Chris Riley and Office of Planning and Budget Director Teresa MacCartney will deliver a press briefing on the Governor’s budget proposal.

Gov. Deal announced last week that state revenues were up 10 percent in December over the same month a year before.

Georgia’s net tax collections for December totaled $2.26 billion, for an increase of $206.1 million, or 10 percent, compared to last year when net tax collections totaled nearly $2.06 billion. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled $11.3 billion, for an increase of $444.7 million, or 4.1 percent, over December 2016, when net tax revenues totaled roughly $10.86 billion six months into the fiscal year.

Individual Income Tax collections for the month totaled $1.26 billion, up from approximately $1.11 billion in December 2016, for an increase of approximately $146 million, or 13.1 percent.

Georgia State Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) was formally elected President Pro Tempore in the opening minutes of yesterday’s first legislative day of the 2018 Session. From the Gainesville Times:

A significant moment came before noon in the Senate when Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, was officially voted in as Senate president pro tem — making him the second-in-command of the Senate. Miller is now second only to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, president of the Senate.

An often-discussed issue around the legislature Monday, and in the days leading up to the session, has been the 2017 adoption reform bill that died in the final hours of the previous session. Both Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston have called for a “clean” version of the bill to be passed by lawmakers early in the session.

Miller told The Times on Monday that the bill was “an important bill for Georgia, and it’s an even more important bill for families.” He said lawmakers had a responsibility to make adoption “as seamless as possible” in Georgia, and that a bill would be coming in the first weeks of the session.
Miller noted those issues and a few others as being on the legislative agenda this year: economic development and reform of criminal and juvenile justice — including additional changes to law enforcement pay in the state.

The senator also said he intends to continue reforms to the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

“We’ve made great progress in the DFCS area, but there’s a lot to be done,” Miller said, noting that he aimed to get a bill through that makes changes to “staffing levels” and “credentialing” of employees to get the “right people in the right positions and (help) the agencies — and agencies in general — find the right people and attract the right kind of talent.”

He said he would have a better grasp of legislative priorities in the Senate by the end of the week.

State Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) gave his last speech as Senate President Pro Tem, as he runs for Lieutenant Governor.

Shafer recalled joining the Senate midway through the 2002 session. At the time, Republicans held 21 seats in the Senate and were therefore the chamber’s minority party. Shafer’s seat mate in the Senate was then-Sen. Casey Cagle.

“Most of us believed that we would eventually become the majority party, but none of us realistically thought that moment was only months away,” Shafer said.

“While I cannot say that I have enjoyed every minute of my time in the legislature, as I survey the last seventeen years, I feel immense gratitude at the opportunity to be part of what we have accomplished together.”

Shafer also told the Senate that he is proud of some of the things that have come from the chamber over the years including a shift toward zero-based budgeting and amending the state Constitution to cap the state income tax.

“And I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had to participate in the work of this body,” he said. “I am especially grateful for the opportunity to serve as your president pro tem.”

State Representative Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) announced he will not run for reelection this year.

Golick, one of Cobb’s longest-tenured legislators, was first elected to the State House of Representatives in 1998.

“… After 20 years of service, I will be retiring from the State House at the end of this term. Over the holidays, I took a hard look at the calendar, and the fact is my younger son will be heading off to college in less than four years. When I was growing up, it was just my mother and myself, and I remember very clearly how difficult that was for me. I promised myself many years ago that I would be a fully engaged father to my two sons — especially during the all-important teenage years — but there’s just no way for me to keep that promise completely if I’m running a time-consuming campaign this summer and fall — in addition to fulfilling my private sector job responsibilities — and then serving an additional two years in the State House on top of that. The choice was clear and obvious.

State Senate District 17 and House District 111 are up for grabs today, as voters go to the polls.

Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, resigned to focus on his bid for lieutenant governor. Rep. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, resigned the House District 111 seat to run for the seat Jeffares ceded.

Candidates for the District 17 Senate seat are Conyers pastor Phyllis Hatcher; McDonough business owner Nelva Lee; Strickland, a McDonough attorney; and retired civil engineer Ed Toney, of Hampton.

Hatcher is a Democrat while Lee, Strickland and Toney are Republicans.

Senate District 17 includes southern and eastern Newton County and splits Covington. Jeffares served the district since 2011.

House District 111 includes part of Henry County, and its candidates also have been invited to Thursday’s forum. Running for the House seat are Democrats Tarji Leonard Dunn, a real estate broker, and El-Mahdi Holly, a substitute teacher from Stockbrige, as well as Republicans Geoffrey Cauble, a general contractor from Locust Grove, and Larry K. Morey, a real estate developer from McDonough.

In both races, all four candidates will appear on the same ballot. If no candidate receives more than half the votes, the top two vote-getters will meet in a runoff on Feb. 6.

Three State Senators received new committee chair assignments. Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) was named Chair of the Georgia Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee. Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) will chair the Senate Public Safety Committee. Senator Greg Kirk (R-Americus) will chair the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle’s Health Care Reform Task Force issued its recommendations.

The Senate Health Care Reform Task Force’s steps may eventually lead to big solutions. It recommended the formation of two groups to research the state’s health care needs, form a strategic plan and make their own recommendations.

They would be called the Health Coordination and Innovation Council and the Health System Innovation Center. They would be formed without requiring new money from the state budget, Cagle said.

State Sen. Chuck Huftstetler, a task force member and a Rome Republican, has voiced support for covering more poor Georgians through what is called a Medicaid “waiver.” He said he was not disappointed by the outcome.

“I think we’ve got some great legislation that’s going to look at the person as a whole” — integrating data that is currently dispersed into a more coherent picture, Hufstetler said. Then the lawmakers could use the whole picture to make better decisions, he said.

From Georgia Health News:

The task force held five meetings across the state last year, talking to local residents about the problems their communities were facing.

State Sen. Dean Burke said the Senate is developing legislation to create the two proposed centers.

“I think we need to know what are goals are’’ prior to developing federal ‘’waiver’’ applications to improve health care, said Burke, a Bainbridge Republican.

The Health Coordination and Innovation Council, the report said, would provide a platform for stakeholders to identify and unite behind policy priorities, promote innovation, and oversee the implementation of a strategic plan for the future of health care statewide.

Meanwhile, the Health System Innovation Center would develop the technical expertise of the state’s academic, health policy, data, and workforce resources. The Center will also provide technical assistance to support rural providers in leading a transformation that improves access to quality, affordable care, the report said.

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) said that she hoped these initiatives would help address the state’s deficits in mental health care, as well as the opioid problem in the state.

From the Rome Tribune:

“It’s time for Georgia to act, and take ownership over the federal government, on healthcare,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who convened the task force last year to address rising costs and lack of access.

Four main areas of attack are identified: rural healthcare, the opioid cri-sis, mental health and promoting primary and preventative care.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is one of the seven members of the task force, which unanimously adopted the final report. An anesthetist at Redmond Regional Medical Center, he came out strongly in favor of preventative care.

“I think that’s where the biggest savings are,” Hufstetler said. “I’m in the operating room where I see, after the fact, the failure of not having preventative care and the multiple costs that could have been avoided.”

Unterman said she plans to drop an omnibus bill addressing the opioid epidemic, likely on Jan. 22, and another on children’s mental health.

A plus in the task force’s report, she said, is that it recognizes behavioral health issues are on a par with physical health when it comes to quality of life and economic vitality in the state.

She also emphasized the task force’s focus on collaboration and cooperation among public and private sectors.

“It doesn’t just touch on one agency. What the innovation center has is the ability to bring all these agencies together to work collectively,” Unterman said.

Cagle said the task force would remain intact and continue working through 2018.

Broadband expansion remains a hot topic at the General Assembly.

The lack of access to broadband connectivity was identified as an issue both legislators see as critical to continued economic growth across the state. “I think we will see the HRDC address this issue during the 2018 session,” said Nix. “Exploring new technology and incentives to suppliers are just two ideas that could help.”

“One of the toughest calls I receive from constituents is when a parent lets me know their students can’t do their homework due to the lack of connectivity,” Trammell said.

Seeing no quick solutions, Trammell said he recognizes access to broadband continues to divide communities across the state and acknowledges the General Assembly has an important role in developing solutions through expanded infrastructure.

The Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia suggest renaming Savannah’s Talmadge Bridge after their founder.

On Thursday, Girl Scout representatives informed the Savannah City Council of their intention to ask state legislators to rename the bridge into the city after the organization’s founder and Savannah native, Juliette Gordon Low.

The Girl Scouts adopted the name change as a national policy at their convention in October, said Amy Hughes, with Hughes Public Affairs. The bridge is one of the first things people see when they come into the city, Hughes said.

“It should be a symbol of inclusivity like the Girl Scouts,” she said.

The Girl Scout’s effort comes after the City Council approved a resolution in September for Georgia legislators to rename the state bridge to make the structure more representative of the community. Mayor Eddie DeLoach also proposed the change in response to the violence that had recently occurred in Charlottesville, Va., when white supremacists marched to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Stephe Koontz was sworn in as a member of the Doraville City Council, becoming Georgia’s only transgender elected official.

Emory University will receive a $400 million dollar gift from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation Jan. 8 announced it has pledged $400 million to Emory University’s medical facilities to find new cures for disease, develop innovative patient care models and improve lives while enhancing the health of individuals in need.

The transformational gift, the largest ever received by Emory, will change the lives of patients and their families. Through a new Winship Cancer Institute Tower in Midtown and a new Health Sciences Research Building on Emory’s Druid Hills campus, the foundation’s generosity will help advance new solutions for some of medicine’s most challenging diagnoses, even changing the meaning of what it means to receive those diagnoses for future generations.

“This is an extraordinary gift at an extraordinary time in Atlanta’s history,” Emory President Claire E. Sterk, PhD., said in a news release. “We are grateful and honored to be the recipients of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation’s stalwart trust in our mission. The legacy of Mr. Woodruff lives on, and even today, his spirit of generosity is creating hope for those facing the most difficult days of their lives.”

“This gift will allow us to accelerate the scientific discoveries needed for breakthroughs in patient care and to extend our reach in reducing the burden of disease for patients and their families,” Jonathan S. Lewin, MD, Emory’s executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of Emory Healthcare, said in a news release.

The Winship Cancer Institute Tower in Midtown will provide urgently needed infusion facilities, operating rooms, clinical examination rooms, spaces for rehabilitation, imaging technology and clinical research capacity. In April, the institute became Georgia’s first and only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, joining an elite group, the top 1 percent of cancer centers nationwide.

Tom Cobb resigned as Mayor of Blythe after winning reelection but before being sworn-in.

The newly-elected mayor of Blythe tendered his resignation Friday prior to being sworn in.

Tom Cobb cited health issues and personal reasons and asked for “continual prayers” in a Friday letter, obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, in which he declines the mayor’s position.

Cobb, who previously served as Blythe mayor from 2000-2010, was unopposed for election in November. The term of current mayor Brent Weir, who did not run for reelection, expired Dec. 31, according to Blythe City Clerk Loriann Chancey. Weir succeeded former Blythe mayor Patricia Cole.

The agenda for a Blythe city council meeting Monday includes a call for a special election March 20 to fill the vacancy. Other agenda items include oath-of-office ceremonies for incoming council members Cynthia Parham and Daisy Price, the annual rehiring of city staff and approving two signers for city bank accounts.

Rome City Commissioners elected fellow member Jamie Doss as Mayor.

The Rome City Commission re-elected Jamie Doss to serve as mayor for another year Monday and chose Commissioner Bill Collins as mayor pro tem.

The unanimous votes — during the board’s first meeting of 2018 — followed a ceremony in which Superior Court Chief Judge Tami Colston administered the oaths of office to the three Ward II commissioners who won four-year terms in November.

This will be Collins’ first year as mayor pro tem, the commissioner designated to handle mayoral duties when the mayor is not available. Doss has been awarded the gavel annually since 2014.

Habersham County Commissioners elected Commissioner Victor Anderson as Chair and Natalie Crawford as Vice Chair.

“I appreciate the support that my fellow commissioners put in me to be chairman,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a lot of projects going on right now, some construction projects and some other matters that are underway that I really would like to see completed as chairman, so I hope we’re able to do that in this next year.”

Crawford said she is pleased to be returning to a leadership position in the five-member group.

“I appreciate the confidence of my peers on the commission,” Crawford said. “The role of vice chair is to support the chair, first and foremost, and the policies of this commission. I’m looking forward to another successful year for the Habersham County Commission and continue to work on those projects that we have in the works right now with our administration building; the conversation that we have ongoing with the hospital and trying to get it on sure and secure footing. There are a lot of important projects ahead of us, and this is a commission with an eye to the future and we’ll continue to do that and keep our nose to the grindstone.”

Cobb County Commission Chair Mike Boyce is considering option for addressing a budget gap.

Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce is not ruling out a property tax increase, cuts in county services or a combination thereof as options for filling a projected $30 million gap in Cobb’s fiscal 2019 budget.

In a sit-down interview with the MDJ on Friday, Boyce would not directly commit to his preferred method of addressing the next fiscal year’s budget, but said that the current property tax rate could not cover county services at their current levels.

“We’re in a situation where that millage rate is unsustainable if you want to keep the quality of life as we know it in Cobb County,” Boyce said.

“If the taxpayers decide they want to stick with the current millage rate, which generates about $403 million, what in the (desired) column do you want to give up?” Boyce said.

Beyond a millage increase, Boyce said some variation of Weatherford’s proposal to raise Cobb’s sales tax from 6 to 7 cents on the dollar to fund public safety or on other areas, which would free general fund dollars to cover other costs, is also on the table. A penny tax in Cobb collects about $130 million a year.

But Boyce on Friday was largely noncommittal to any of the four potential options on the table — a millage increase, cuts in services, a combination of the two or Weatherford’s proposed new tax — citing a desire not to detract from Weatherford’s efforts.

Former Democratic Congressman John Barrow, who is running for Secretary of State, indicated on Twitter that he expects State Senator Josh McKoon to be the Republican nominee.

John Barrow Twitter Josh McKoon

And from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and yours truly:

Todd Rehm Hangover Tuesday

AJC Hangover Tuesday2

Comments ( 0 )