Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 29, 2018

29
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 29, 2018

On January 29, 1779, British forces captured Augusta, Georgia.

Walter F George Vienna Georgia

Walter F. George was born on January 29, 1878 in Preston, the county seat for Webster County, Georgia. Ron Daniels has a brief bio of the United States Senator who gave his name to a Law School, a courthouse, and a lake. The photo above is a bust in the town square of Vienna, Georgia, in Dooly County, where George made his home.

On January 29, 1892, the Coca Cola Company was incorporated in Georgia in Fulton County Superior Court.

On January 29, 1955, Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin signed legislation granting the power to take land needed for the Stone Mountain Park through condemnation if negotiations to buy it fell through.

On January 29, 1977, Congressman Andrew Young resigned his seat to accept the nomination by President Carter as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

On January 29, 1998, a bomb exploded in a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic, killing a police officer. Eric Rudolph would later admit to setting that bomb, along with the Centennial Park bombing in 1996, and the bombing of a Sandy Springs abortion clinic and an Atlanta bar in 1997.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Flu deaths in Georgia have doubled, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The number of flu-related deaths in Georgia has more than doubled, climbing to 25 from 12, state health officials reported late Friday. The Department of Public Health also said there were 115 hospitalizations in the metro Atlanta area due to influenza infection during the week of Jan. 14 through Jan. 20. The week before, there were 40 hospitalizations in metro Atlanta due to flu.

There have been 671 hospitalizations in the region so far this flu season. Nationally, flu activity has remained widespread in 49 states from coast to coast for three weeks in a row. The number of people getting the flu is still increasing, as is the hospitalization rate. The latter – a predictor of the death rate – is now on track to equal or surpass that of the 2014-2015 flu season, the New York Times reported. Like that year, the main strain of flu circulating this year is the H3N2 strains, which tends to cause more illnesses and deaths.

Wellstar Health System, which has 11 hospitals, is seeing a 30 percent spike in flu patients this month compared to last January, WABE reported. “I just think that because we’ve had the cold snap, we were all together in our homes and our kids were out of school that we will see another increase in the flu volume,” said Freda Lyon, vice president of emergency services for WellStar.

Officials at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta said its ER is seeing about 40 patients a day with the flu or flu-like symptoms, WABE reported.

The Albany Herald reported that Southwest Public Health District Director Dr. Charles Ruis said, “We are concerned about the amount of illness and the number of hospitalizations throughout our 14-county district, and we are now investigating the possibility of the first flu death in the district.”

**Stay home from work or school if you’re sick, so you don’t spread the flu. Before returning to school or work, flu sufferers should be free of fever (without the use of a fever reducer) for at least 24 hours.

** If your doctor prescribes antivirals, take them.

** If you’re not sick, stay away from people who are.

** Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to help guard against the flu. If soap and water are not accessible, the next best thing is to use alcohol-based sanitizing gels.

** Cover the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu. Use a tissue, or cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow or arm.

** Avoid touching your face, as flu germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Health officials say there are common sense flu prevention techniques — frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water. (If water is not available, alcohol-based gels are the next best thing.) If you are sick, cover your coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow or a tissue that is then discarded. Also, don’t go to work, and don’t have your children go to school, when sick.

Dr. Cherie Drenzek, state epidemiologist with the Georgia Department of Public Health said if you do get sick and think you may have the flu, contact your health care provider right away, particularly if you or family members are at high risk for serious flu complications — young children (under the age of 5), those over 65, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or asthma. Even young, healthy adults should call their doctor if symptoms don’t improve or get worse after three to four days of illness.

There are antivirals such as Tamiflu or Relenza that can help reduce the duration of flu symptoms but the medication needs to be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to be most effective. GoodRx (www.goodrx.com) is a website that can help people find availability at area pharmacies and find the cheapest place to obtain the medication.

House and Senate both convene today at 10 AM.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

Upon Adjournment SENATE RULES 450 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

11:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEH 403 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE JUDICARY (NON-CIVIL) 406 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

2:00 PM Kelley Sub House Jud’y (Civil) 132 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE ED & YOUTH 450 CAP

3:00 PM Fleming Sub House Jud’y (Civil) 132 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

Criminal justice reforms led by Governor Nathan Deal have resulted in lower numbers of African-Americans being imprisoned.

The number of African-Americans sent to state prisons in Georgia has declined by 30 percent in the past eight years — the result of historic reforms in the state’s criminal justice system.

Black prisoners still make up far more of Georgia’s prison population than white prisoners, after decades of mass incarceration by the state. But the numbers are turning around. Overall, the crime rate is down. But the state has also made large reductions in the number of nonviolent offenders sent to state prisons, in part by creating dozens of “accountability courts” around the state.

Drug offenders now are often diverted from prison and sent to drug courts, where they spend about 18 months receiving counseling, job training and frequent drug tests.

The State Budget process will dominate the legislature this week.

The House Appropriations Committee will meet earlier to go over the proposed supplemental budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which runs through June 30. The Legislature revises the state budget annually, after getting an update on needs and the revenue stream.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, has a 7:30 a.m. meeting scheduled for the Human Resources appropriations subcommittee she chairs.

Among the spending increases they’ll consider recommending are an additional $2.4 million for crisis services for autistic children and $15 million for child welfare services, to accommodate the increased number of children in state custody.

Dempsey also is expected to hold a subcommittee meeting Wednesday to discuss the proposed “big budget” that sets agency priorities for the 2019 fiscal year, from July 1 through June 30, 2018.

Over in the other chamber, two bills supported by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, are scheduled for first readings and assignment to committees today.

He’s among the co-sponsors of SB 357, which would create a health innovation center and a council to oversee its activities. The measure is a top recommendation of the Health Care Reform Task Force he’s serving on.

Hufstetler is sponsoring SB 359, which is another try at addressing so-called “surprise billings” that occur when patients receive services from out-of-network providers.

Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) legislation for a state authority to govern Hartsfield airport may be grounded by opposition from Gov. Deal’s administration.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration has effectively joined the effort to ground a state takeover bid of Atlanta’s busy airport before it can take flight.

As word of Republican state Sen. Burt Jones’ measure to give the state oversight of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport percolated under the Gold Dome, the director of a key state agency penned a memo harshly critical of his plan.

The memo by Diana Pope of the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission warned that adding a layer of state oversight “will cast a negative perception that could negatively impact credit ratings because of the potential disruption in services and the uncertainty of how it may impact existing and future business relationships.”

She also cautioned that there is nothing simple about creating a state oversight board. The airport authority has accumulated more than $3 billion in outstanding debt, and an overhaul could require the state to refund bonds because of recent tax changes.

With the memo, though, Deal’s administration may have signaled it doesn’t want the takeover bid to jeopardize another prized asset: The state’s AAA bond rating. We’re told the governor’s top aide, Chris Riley, recently reinforced the point in a meeting with state Senate leaders.

The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education says that poverty and community factors are affecting education outcomes.

The partnership was founded in 1992 by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Economic Developers Association. It consists of business, education, community and government leaders.

The state’s Department of Education’s official action plan includes steps to improve educational equity, but success depends on responses at the community level, according to the Partnership report.

“Teachers and school leaders need resources and support to help overcome the harmful impacts of poverty and adverse neighborhood factors. It is rare that a school can outperform its community,” the report states.

Georgia has the third-largest rural school population in the nation, Rickman noted as she explained the issues facing rural schools.

Access to health care is one of the most urgent issues facing rural schools, especially when poverty is also an issue, Rickman said.

Cobb County Commissioners seeking legislative approval for an additional sales tax ran into questions at the Capitol.

[Commission Chair Mike] Boyce described the legislators as noncommittal to the tax proposal.

“We had two major questioners. (State Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb, and state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth) both had concerns,” he said.

Cooper’s concern was if public safety is funded by a sales tax and a recession hits, the funding could be in jeopardy. Yet Boyce said he told lawmakers that while there are some issues with the tax proposal, the beauty of it is everyone has nine months to make their arguments before voters decide whether to approve it or not.

State Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, said he did not know of any support for drafting the tax law among Cobb legislators either.

“It was nothing to do with public safety. It’s really a budgetary issue. It’s not a public safety issue. They have a big budget gap, and they’re trying to close that, and it’s being advertised as public safety, but it’s really more a budgetary issue,” Wilkerson said.

State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-east Cobb, was also skeptical.

“Let’s just say I have a lot of concerns, especially since commissioners seem divided on it,” she said.

Setzler said while he appreciated the “warmth and candor” of Wednesday’s discussion, “at the end of the day, this is a new revenue scheme for the county, and although it’s being presented as being about public safety, it’s really about spending and other things.”

Three State Representatives introduced legislation to bring back the tax credit for electric vehicles.

On Wednesday, state representatives Spencer Frye, Todd Jones, and Allen Peake announced the introduction of House Bill 98 for the 2018-2019 legislative session.

While the text of the bill apparently hasn’t been posted to the Georgia Legislature’s website, the bill would create a $2,500 credit for buyers of electric cars within the state, presumably starting sometime in 2019.

While that previous credit was in effect, Nissan frequently cited the greater Atlanta area as one of the top regions for sales of its Leaf electric car.

When the credit was ended as of July 1, 2015, however, sales of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars in Georgia plummeted to little more than one-tenth the June 2015 level.

Jim Galloway of the AJC raises the historic question of whether the Talmadge Bridge in Savannah is really named the Talmadge Bridge.

Within the next few weeks, state Rep. Ron Stephens will likely begin a delicate debate over Georgia culture and history with this assertion: The Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge in Savannah isn’t really the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge.

It never has been.

Yes, the name of the segregationist governor has been physically attached to the graceful suspension bridge for 27 years now, but that was accomplished through bureaucratic fiat, Stephens’ research is expected to show.

Not by a proper act of the Legislature.

And because the bridge lacks an official name, his fellow lawmakers should feel free to bestow one chosen by the local community, Stephens will argue. The Republican prefers that the bridge bear the name of Juliette Gordon Low, a Savannah native and founder of the Girl Scouts.

It’s a fascinating story worth reading in its entirety.

Cobb County hosted the Georgia Sheriff’s Association Winter Training Conference.

“The Georgia Sheriff’s Association and visiting sheriffs were very appreciative of the training and thankful for the hospitality provided by Cobb County,” said Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren in a statement. “We have a lot to be proud of in Cobb County and having the chance to involve our great staff during the conference was a privilege. Between the excellent training and impressive list of speakers … it is going to be hard to top this event!”

The visiting sheriffs received training in topics including procedural updates from state agencies, adult mental health issues, legal and legislative issues as well as court security standards. They also had the opportunity to see the latest in law enforcement equipment and technology during a vendor fair.

The Glynn County Republican Party hosted four of the five GOP candidates for Secretary of State.

State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, introduced a constitutional amendment resolution Jan. 11 in the Senate that would, if the amendment was approved, set English as the official state language. The Senate Rules Committee favorably reported the resolution Thursday.

“We’re going to fight the attempts of the left to force counties and municipalities around this state to print ballots in foreign languages,” McKoon said. “That’s just wrong. You have to learn English to become a citizen through the naturalization process. Why would we print ballots in foreign languages?”

Additionally, McKoon touted his experience as a private attorney, handling election law issues and arguing those issues in court.

State Rep. Brad Raffensperger, R-Johns Creek, laid his intentions on the line up front.

“My name is Brad Raffensperger, and I’m running for secretary of State to make sure only American citizens can vote in our elections, to make sure Georgia is a great place to find a job, but also a great place to build a business,” Raffensperger said.

Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Richard Steele rolled out two self-service car tag renewal kiosks.

Tax Commissioner Richard Steele announced two new self-service tag renewal kiosks have been added at the Lawrenceville and North Gwinnett tag offices. While the kiosk at the Lawrenceville office will have a limited schedule — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays — the North Gwinnett office’s kiosk will be open 24 hours a day, every day.

“I am constantly looking for ways to make tag renewal more convenient for Gwinnett taxpayers. The after-hours kiosks will offer a new option in addition to paying online, mailing in payment or visiting a tag office.” Steele said in a statement. “We are also looking forward to adding additional kiosks in other county locations in the future.”

County officials said residents must have a valid Georgia driver’s license and the address on their renewal notice must be correct to use the kiosks. Officials also said a state-run system must proof of the resident’s insurance and they must have a valid emission inspection on file as well.

Residents who use the kiosk to renew their vehicle registration will receive their current license plate decal immediately at the kiosk. They can use Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express to pay their renewal fees.

County officials also said residents can also renew their vehicle registrations at self-service kiosks that are located in Kroger stores in DeKalb, Walton, Hall, Clayton and Fulton counties.

Democrat Zahra Karinshak announced raising $135k in her campaign for the Senate District 48 seat being vacated by Sen. David Shafer’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor.

The Valdosta Daily Times profiles candidates in the February special election for House District 175.

Four candidates vie for [former State Rep. Amy] Carter’s unfinished term. They are:

• Treva Gear, Democrat, Valdosta, educator.

• John LaHood, Republican, Valdosta, business owner.

• Bruce Phelps, Republican, Lowndes County, who lists his occupation as emergency medical technician.

• Coy Reaves, Republican, Quitman, self-employed.

The Valdosta Daily Times asked the candidates to introduce themselves and answer a series of questions.

A contested judicial election between Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Ralph Van Pelt, Jr. and challenger Melissa Hice could prove a “blood sport.”

Melissa Hise, 49, announced last week she will run against Ralph Van Pelt Jr., a Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit superior court judge since 1996. Hise denied her run has anything to do with the fight between Van Pelt and one of the country’s most famous lawyers; she said she simply wanted to provide voters with a fresh face.

“I want you to finish your two years remaining on your term and to qualify for re-election — if you have the stamina and resolve!” Cook wrote in a letter to Van Pelt in October 2016. “There is nothing so interesting as a Northwest Georgia election where politics for generations has been a ‘blood sport.’”

Hise could have run against Judge Don Thompson, whose term is up this year. But she said Thompson will help move the judicial circuit forward. Appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2016, Thompson started to oversee the circuit’s new drug court last year. That is a rehabilitative program that aims to keep non-violent, addicted offenders out of jail.

“Judge Van Pelt has held his seat for quite a while,” Hise said. “If you’re looking for a change and something different, you’re looking at his seat.”

Van Pelt said he has never resisted change in the circuit. He added that his experience makes him more qualified. Before taking the bench, he worked as a private lawyer and the circuit’s district attorney. Though he hasn’t kept a tally, he says he has worked hundreds of jury trials. Hise said she has never been the lead attorney on any jury trials.

“Making an inexperienced mistake can cost taxpayer money and lots of grief to people involved in a case,” Van Pelt said.

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit covers Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker counties. The election for Van Pelt’s seat is May 22.

Allene Magill, Executive Director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators has died.

“The PAGE family is overwhelmed and saddened today with the passing of Dr. Allene Magill, our leader and executive director,” said Craig Harper, director of communications. “Allene was a tireless advocate for educators and public education in Georgia for many decades with her most important work occurring over the past 14 years with PAGE.”

“Allene was a visionary leader who saw great potential in people and helped all with whom she worked to do even more than they thought they were capable of doing,” Harper said. “She never stopped striving to ensure educators had the support they needed to develop professionally, and to provide the best instruction in the classroom and the highest level of leadership, regardless of position.”

At 93,000 members, PAGE is Georgia’s largest professional association for educators. Magill was the executive director since July 2003, following superintendent positions in Paulding, Forsyth and Dalton.

The Muscogee County Board of Education will vote today on make-up dates for snow days, including whether to hold classes on Presidents’ Day.

According to the school district, four days of classes have been missed, two for Hurricane Irma on Sept. 11-12 and two for snow and ice on Jan 17-18.

And while school districts may miss up to four days without the state requiring them to be made up, Lewis is recommending that classes be held on Monday, Feb. 19, a scheduled holiday.

The board will vote on making the move which effectively changes the school calendar.

In an email to MCSD employees, Lewis wrote, “These four canceled days of school represent a concerning amount of local instructional time for our students. My reasoning is that Presidents Day is typically not considered a major travel day.”

Patrick Anderson will run for Hall County Board of Education Post 2, which is being vacated by incumbent Brian Sloan.

Anderson told The Times in an email that he had corresponded with Sloan in recent weeks and met him personally at a board of education meeting last Monday.

“I’m very excited to run for the South Hall school board position, especially after attending the meeting and seeing what a great leadership team we have in Superintendent (Will) Schofield and the board,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he wants to see schools do a better job teaching students about healthy living habits, life skills, job hunting and relationship challenges and preparing young men and women for life’s little but important responsibilities, like living on a budget, saving money, understanding insurance options and building credit.

“Personally, my passion for education is to prepare students for success after high school with life and job skills,” he said. “One thing that is missing everywhere, I think, is that we just teach to the test or textbook and not to real life.”

Georgia state climatologist Bill Murphey said that 2017 was the warmest year on record for Georgia.

The annual average statewide temperature for 2017 was tied with 2016 for the warmest on record with 65.8 degrees as the average mean temperature, Georgia state climatologist Bill Murphey said.

Atlanta broke records throughout the entire year, as it had the third warmest winter and spring on record, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. For the city, 2016 and 2012 were the No.1 and No. 2 warmest years, respectively.

There were many factors that could have contributed to Georgia’s warm year, including very warm overnight low temperatures, the clouds which affect infrared radiation cooling, and evaporation, Murphey said. A La Niña period occurred from about Apr. 2016 until about June 2017, he also noted.

“Recall how dry it was in Georgia, especially during the fall and winter La Niña event of 2016, with all the north Georgia wildfire activity,” he said. “In fact annual average temperatures for 2016 for Atlanta were the warmest on record … The annual average statewide temperature for 2017 was tied with 2016 for the warmest on record.”

South Dakota is considering repealing Marsy’s Law, whose supporters are making a push for passage in Georgia. From US News & World Report:

Some South Dakota legislators want to repeal a voter-approved constitutional “bill of rights” for crime victims, citing unintended consequences like high costs to counties and protections they say have actually hampered investigations.

South Dakota is the first state to seek to repeal “Marsy’s Law” of the six that enacted it, said Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for Marsy’s Law for All. Montana‘s Supreme Court recently tossed the constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2016, citing flaws in how it was written.

South Dakota House Speaker Mark Mickelson said Thursday that lawmakers would be seeking to strengthen victims’ rights provisions already in state law before asking voters to repeal the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment they passed in 2016.

“We’re going to strengthen South Dakota victims’ rights,” Mickelson said. “Part of that is removing the unintended consequences of Marsy’s Law from the constitution.”

But Mickelson said he and others are trying to fix unintended consequences from Marsy’s Law that have degraded victims’ rights. Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said his office depends on the eyes and ears of the public to help the Sioux Falls-based department solve cases, but the amendment has limited the information they can provide.

“We struggle sometimes being able to share enough information with the public to have them help us in solving crimes,” Milstead said.

The Marsy’s Law repeal proposal would go to voters in the November election, potentially with replacement language saying that victims have the “right to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and the right to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse.”

Comments ( 0 )