An elected Provincial Assembly first convened in Georgia on January 15, 1751. The Assembly did not have the power to tax or spend money, but was to advise the Trustees.
The state of New Connecticut declared its independence of both Britain and New York on January 15, 1777. In June of that year they would decide on the name Vermont. Vermont would be considered part of New York for a number of years, finally being admitted as the 14th state in 1791.
The donkey was first used as a symbol for the Democratic Party on January 15, 1870 by cartoonist Thomas Nash.
On January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting alcoholic beverages, when Nebraska became the 36th of the 48 states then in the Union to ratify the Amendment.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.
At 4:30 PM on January 16, 1991, the Persian Gulf War began as air attacks against Iraq launched from US and British aircraft carriers, beginning Operation Desert Storm.
On January 16, 1997, a bomb exploded in a Sandy Springs abortion clinic, later determined to be the work of Eric Rudolph, who also bombed Centennial Olympic Park in 1996, a lesbian bar in Atlanta in February 1997, and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Governor Nathan Deal announced his administration Floor Leaders, who will be responsible for helping pass legislation supported by the Governor.
Reps. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) and Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville) will continue to serve on the House floor leader team, while Senator-elect Brian Strickland will join Senators P. K. Martin IV (R-Lawrenceville) and Larry Walker III (R-Kathleen) to carry the governor’s bills in the Senate.
The State House and Senate Appropriations Committees will meet in Joint Budget Hearing at 9:45 AM today and continuing tomorrow beginning at 9 AM.
Click here to watch the Joint Budget Hearings online. That’s how I’ll be viewing today, as I try to avoid getting any kind of cold or flu.
Five deaths and more than 300 hospitalizations in Georgia have been attributed to the flu this season.
There have been at least five deaths in Georgia attributed to the flu so far this season, with more than 300 people hospitalized because of it.
In confirming the four deaths, the Georgia Department of Public Health says that number is expected to increase as the widespread outbreak continues. Georgia is one of 49 states where flu cases are described by the Centers for Disease Control as “widespread.”
The predominant strain of flu circulating in Georgia and around the country is influenza A (H3N2). This strain can be particularly hard on the very young, people over age 65, or those with existing medical conditions, according to health experts. H3N2 is one of the strains contained in this year’s flu vaccine along with two or three others, depending on the vaccine.
“It is not too late to get a flu shot,” says J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., DPH commissioner. “Every individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine – not just for their own protection, but to protect others around them who may be more vulnerable to the flu and its complications.”
Please don’t be offended if I don’t shake your hand or accept a hug until we’re clear of the flu season.
A shortage of IV fluid bags is hindering some hospitals’ efforts to fight the flu.
Emergency rooms nationwide are feeling the effects of the shortage. They’re seeing more flu patients than usual, and those patients are often dehydrated when they arrive.
Because of that, they need a nurse to administer fluids. Without a plentiful supply of IV bags, the process is becoming difficult.
CBS46 talked with officials at Emory who say they’re “coping okay” with the IV bag shortage and that they believe the shortage could be alleviated soon.
Tift Regional Hospital has temporarily banned visitors under 18 year of age due to flu concerns. Navicent Health in middle Georgia had previously announced similar restrictions.
Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital reports 414 flu cases this season.
The Brunswick hospital of the Southeast Georgia Health System has seen 414 reported cases of the flu from Oct.1 to Jan. 15, according to the health system. During that same period last year, 36 cases were reported.
On the Camden campus, 144 flu cases have been reported this year, compared to 42 cases last year.
“The flu can be managed by your primary care doctor or the immediate care center,” [Dr. Steven Mosher] said. “It is not necessary to go to the emergency care center for the flu, and you risk exposure to other illnesses, unless your symptoms are very severe.”
Severe symptoms include a persistent fever of more than 102 degrees, dehydration due to vomiting and/or diarrhea, chest pain, shortness of breath, fever with a rash and sudden dizziness or confusion.
Symptoms such as sore throat, severe cough, body aches and headaches should be treated by a primary care doctor or by visiting the immediate care center.
“If someone isn’t able to get an appointment with their physician, we have three immediate care centers in Glynn County that can treat patients for flu,” Mosher said. “Patients will experience a much shorter wait time by visiting the immediate care center instead of the Emergency Care Center. The cost is much lower as well.”
An outbreak of influenza is apparently peaking in the Rome area which has prompted Redmond Regional Medical Center, Floyd Medical Center and Polk Medical Center to restrict visitors to the hospitals.
All three hospitals are restricting visitors to immediate family members and no one under the age of 13.
The Rome News-Tribune spoke to their local legislators about budget priorities.
Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on human resources. She said she tries to sit through all the presentations or listen in from her office.
“But we’ll be getting more details in our subcommittees later,” she noted.
This year she said she’ll be looking for funding for more early intervention programs that pinpoint mental health needs such as medication, counseling, education and family support groups.
“If we can take advantage of best practices early, the outcome for a child is so different,” she said. “Especially with autism. Depending on where they are on the spectrum, it’s possible to rewire their brain.”
Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, is starting his first session as chairman of the House Human Resources and Aging Committee. He also sits on the Appropriations subcommittees for public safety and education.
“We’ll be having separate hearings during the appropriations process,” he noted.
Lumsden was briefed last week on a pilot program through Emory University that has four Alzheimer’s diagnosis clinics set up around the state. Initial results sound promising, he said.
“About 75 percent of cases are diagnoses of dementia in general, but a better understanding of the specific disease leads to more effective treatment options,” he said.
Some legislators hope a federal broadband initiative will benefit rural Georgia.
State Sen. William Ligon, R-Waverly, said the state needed to make a good start of providing the same broadband access to thinly populated areas that larger counties and municipalities enjoy.
“It’s like bricks in a wall. It’s just one of the components we need to help rural Georgia,” Ligon said of broadband access.
But Monday, Donald Trump landed in Atlanta to watch Georgia and Alabama play for a national championship in football and he brought a load of bricks.
While he was in Atlanta, Trump signed an executive order to streamline and expedite requests for local broadband facilities to, among other things, “accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America.”
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., said he is glad to see Trump make the investment and that he already had been working with members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Rural Broadband Working Group to increase access.
“We have been working to increase access to telemedicine, make sure families have the internet access they need and ensure small businesses are connected so they are able to thrive and grow,” Carter told the Times-Union.
Ligon said he hopes the result of Trump’s executive order will be block grants that typically require some matching money from states. “The idea is to be able to take advantage of whatever is available to help our our state,” he said. “We believe we’ve got money to get off to a modest but good start.”
Echols County Administrator Latrice Bennett said even the phone service is bad in the community of 4,020 residents. “Most of the time, it’s up and down,” she said.
Echols County doesn’t have the wherewithal to begin making improvements on its own.The county seat is in Statenville, an unincorporated town with one red light.
“Less that half of residents pay taxes. It’s all we can do to keep our county office doors open,” she said. “Little counties just have so many issues every day, we can’t tackle the big ones.”
In the second round of capital funding for telecommunications growth, the Federal Communication Commission allocated $1.7 billion nationwide to fund internet expansion in targeted areas with the Connect America Fund. The money went to just 10 large telecommunications companies, groups like AT&T, Verizon and Windstream.
In North Georgia, the FCC shows $221,162 in available funding to improve internet service in Dawson County, $282,730 for Lumpkin County, $413,980 in Union County and millions more throughout the rest of the region.
Almost all of that money has gone to Windstream.
State lawmakers, through rural development commissioners studying the issue, have identified rural internet speeds as a bottleneck for growing businesses, health care providers and improvements in education.
This legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly is expected to take up the cause of rural broadband. A study from 2013 shows the state collects $33 million in taxes from sales of telecommunications each year. A proposal to exempt that equipment from sales taxes as an incentive has been considered leading up to the 2018 session.
State House Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith, (R-Columbus) continues working on a bill to address surprise medical bills.
“You go to a hospital and have a scheduled procedure and you think your insurance covers everything and then all of the sudden you get a bill in the mail for $500, $5,000, $10,000,” said state House Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith, R-Columbus. “There was a guy in Columbus who got a bill for $15,000. This should not be happening. The cost of health care is killing us,” he said.
Smith’s new House Bill 678 would require that patients scheduling a procedure receive a list ahead of time showing exactly which doctors they’ll see, what insurance would cover, and what the balance charge would be.
With that list, a patient could decide to shop around if there are more providers. Or if not, at least the bill would not be a surprise.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) passed last session and was assigned to Rep. Smith’s Committee, where it lingers.
Legislators are also considering how to raise the pay of local law enforcement officers.
While the state General Assembly may begin looking at ways to increase law enforcement pay and benefits, local leaders are trying to take a quicker route to stem force retention issues.
“We’re requiring these individuals to protect us, to keep us safe, to patrol and to put themselves in harm’s way, and as a result of that, they’re putting their lives on the line each and every day … It’s incumbent upon, I think, everyone to ensure that these individuals can take care of their families,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said.
“We will be creating a grant program that they could use to fill the gap as it pertains to compensation for local government officers,” he said.
Cagle said legislators would pursue a $7 million fund from existing state resources for the grant process.
State Rep. David Casas (R-Lilburn) joins the exodus of state legislators who are not running for reelection.
One of the longest-serving Hispanic members of the Georgia General Assembly is planning to retire from the legislature after this year’s legislative session.
State Rep. David Casas, R-Lilburn, told the Daily Post about his plans to not seek re-election Monday night. He was one of the few Hispanic elected officials in state government — and the only one elected as a Republican — and his decision to not seek another term means the small Hispanic caucus in the Georgia General Assembly will lose one of its members.
It also means another seat in Gwinnett’s legislative delegation will be open and up for grabs this year.
“I wish to spend more time with my wife and my teenage children,” Casas said in an email. “In addition to my private sector responsibilities as a college professor and administrator, I want to focus more attention to writing and invest more time in my church family.”
Casas remains the only Republican Hispanic to ever be elected to an office in Georgia’s state government.
“It has been a privilege for me to have served the people of Lilburn, Lawrenceville and Snellville for the past sixteen years and to have had the honor to help Georgia’s families,” he said. “I made a promise in my first campaign to ‘put Georgia families first,’ and I am thankful for the opportunities to have done just that.”
Gwinnett’s legislative delegation is also losing state Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, and Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, who are both seeking higher office this year.
State Rep. Ed Setzer (R-Acworth) has an announced opponent for the General Election.
Attorney General Chris Carr announced that his campaign has raised more than $1 million dollars for his retention campaign.
Carr reported $466,000 in donations on the last campaign finance disclosure date, June 30, 2017. His campaign announced Friday he has raised more than $538,000 since the last report. The campaign said it now holds $700,000 cash on hand heading into the November election.
“Since I took office as Georgia’s Attorney General, I have remained committed to upholding the Constitution and protecting Georgians by building relationships based on common ground and building trust with anyone willing to come to the table,” Carr said in the news release. “I am grateful that so many Georgians are supporting our campaign. We have much to accomplish together in the months—and hopefully years—ahead.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R-Athens) blamed poor management at Kennesaw State University for wiping a server used in a recent election.
Kemp, a candidate for governor making a campaign stop in Gainesville to talk to the Hall County Republican Party, said the decision to wipe a server critical to an elections-related lawsuit against the secretary of state and his office was made by the school and was “really incompetence on their part that we had no knowledge of.”
Election reform advocates filed a suit against the secretary of state last July 3. Four days later, server managers at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University wiped the server holding information critical to the lawsuit, which was filed over the state’s aging elections equipment.
In October, the school told The Associated Press that the server wipe was “standard operating procedure,” while Kemp’s office said at the time that the action was caused by “undeniable ineptitude.”
Kemp doubled down on that argument Saturday, saying the school was aware its systems had been proven vulnerable to attack and never shared that information with the state.
“It was their server, and they just wouldn’t talk to us about it,” Kemp said. “I think it was handled very poorly by Kennesaw State. They weren’t very transparent, and I think there’s been a lot of fallout from that.”
The Hall County Board of Elections will vote today on whether to continue using bilingual ballots for local elections.
The Hall County Elections Board is set to vote Tuesday on whether to reverse its decision to adopt bilingual ballots — a move opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
The vote to provide Spanish ballots for county and state elections passed in April 2017 on party lines, and the board at that time was missing one Republican member. That meant Democrats Kim Copeland and Gala Sheats had a lock on all action taken by the board.
The ACLU announced on Friday it had sent a letter opposing a reversal of the policy.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners didn’t provide any funding for bilingual ballots in its fiscal year 2018 budget.
“I think it needs to be studied,” [Elections Board member Craig] Lutz said. “I think we need to take a look at what is the actual cost? Are we actually disenfranchising anybody? What is actually being done? I don’t think this should be an emotional issue on either side.”
More than a quarter of Hall County’s population is Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and about the same percent speaks a language other than English at home.
A section of the Voting Rights Act mandates providing bilingual ballots if more than 5 percent or 10,000 citizens of voting age in a particular jurisdiction are members of a single-language minority where English fluency is not common. Hall County’s attorney, Bill Blalock, has said the county voter rolls and election history show it doesn’t cross these thresholds.
Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader will receive the Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service next month.
Hurricane Irma created a new small island off the Georgia coast.
Georgia now has a new coastal island, thanks to the powerful storm.
The new island formed when the storm shifted the channel of Blackbeard Creek and blew out part of a narrow finger of land that extended from Blackbeard Island south toward Sapelo Island, explained Marguerite Madden, head of the University of Georgia’s Center for Geospatial Studies.
The new island is small — about 100 acres, estimated Fred Hay, Sapelo Island manager for the state Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
They’re calling the little island Little Blackbeard, since it was formed from federally-owned and protected Blackbeard Island. Blackbeard Island is about 5,600 acres, and Sapelo is nearly 16,500 acres.
As the process of erosion and accretion continues on the barrier islands, the little island might eventually attach to Sapelo, Madden told scientists at the recent Southern Forestry and Natural Resource Management GIS Conference in Athens.
Little Blackbeard also might just disappear, Hay said.