Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 15, 2018


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 15, 2018

On February 15, 1796, Georgia Governor Jared Irwin and legislators gathered with a crowd for the burning of the “Yazoo Act.”

On February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor, Cuba.

On February 15, 1952 Gov. Herman Talmadge signed a joint resolution directing the purchase of Stone Mountain for development as a Confederate Memorial.

On February 15, 2011, Georgia Congressman John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in the civil rights movement.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal has ordered flags to half-staff on Friday, February 16, 2016 at the State Capitol and in Henry County to honor the late Locust Grove Police officer Chase Maddox. The Memorial Service will be held Saturday.

The Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform delivered its 2018 Report to Gov. Deal and recommended a legislative package:

Recommendations included in the report, unanimously approved by the full Council, have been divided into two pieces of legislation and introduced in the Senate, SB 406 and SB 407.

“Georgia’s unprecedented success in criminal justice reform serves as the standard for other states to emulate,” said Deal. “As a result of our efforts, fewer Georgians were committed to prison last year than any time in the past 15 years, thereby saving millions of taxpayer dollars and keeping families and communities intact. While we provide individuals and families with second chances, we are simultaneously making communities safer by incarcerating the most serious and violent offenders. These common sense reforms lay the foundation for a more equitable criminal justice system and bring us another step forward in making Georgia a safer, more prosperous place to call home. I look forward to reviewing these recommendations and working with the General Assembly to ensure that Georgia not only remains at the pinnacle of criminal justice reform, but continues to lead the nation in these critical efforts.”

Based on the Council’s recommendations, SB 406 would require comprehensive criminal background checks for elder care providers in personal care homes or other assisted living facilities. The bill, which has been referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee, would also require elder care providers and their employees to participate in the FBI database to better protect older adults.

SB 407, which has been referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee, would codify the Governor’s Criminal Justice E-filing Project, reform the misdemeanor bail process, provide judges with additional opportunities to convert monetary fees or fines into community service, and impose tougher penalties on firearm-related offenses. SB 407 would require juvenile judge participation in the Juvenile Data Exchange Project to access the best data available when determining appropriateness of in-home treatment programs, provide a process for Medicaid determination while a parole-eligible inmate is incarcerated, and continue previous reforms to improve probation services. Finally, SB 407 seeks to further enhance employability of drug court participants by allowing them to seek limited driving permits. Under this provision, the Department of Driver Services would also have the flexibility to issue probationary licenses and ignition interlock devices.

The Criminal Justice Reform Council also reported new findings based on previous reforms:

  • In 2017, Georgia saw the lowest number of overall prison commitments since 2002, and the lowest number of African-Americans entering the prison system since 1987.
  • From 2008 to 2016, Georgia experienced simultaneous decreases in overall crime, down 24 percent, and imprisonment rates, down 6 percent.
  • The number of individuals under probation supervision has steadily decreased since the enactment of last year’s reforms.

The members of the Criminal Justice Reform Council include:

  • Hon. Michael P. Boggs, Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia (Co-Chair)
  • Hon. Bill Cowsert, Senator, 46th District
  • Hon. Chuck Efstration, Representative, 104th District
  • Hon. Jason Deal, Superior Court Judge, Northeastern Circuit
  • Hon. Steve Teske, Judge, Clayton County Juvenile Court
  • Hon. George Hartwig, District Attorney, Houston Judicial Circuit
  • Hon. Scott Berry, Sheriff, Oconee County
  • Hon. Stephanie Woodard, Solicitor General, Hall County
  • Tracy J. BeMent, District Court Administrator, Tenth Judicial Circuit
  • R. David Botts, Esq., Criminal Defense Attorney
  • Roy Copeland, Esq., Criminal Defense Attorney and Assistant Professor, Valdosta State University
  • David J. Dunn, Esq., Circuit Public Defender, Lookout Mountain Circuit
  • Carey A. Miller, Esq., Executive Counsel, Office of the Governor (Co-Chair)
  • Teresa Roseborough, Esq., Executive V.P., General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, The Home Depot
  • Christine Van Dross, Esq., Circuit Public Defender, Clayton Judicial Circuit

From the AJC’s analysis of the latest criminal justice reform effort.

The legislation, Senate Bill 407, would require that judges consider a defendant’s ability to pay in setting bail and would give law enforcement officials flexibility to issue citations instead of criminal charges for some traffic-related offenses and other violations.

The legislation takes aim at a bail system that’s come under increasing scrutiny in Georgia and across the nation. Civil rights groups claim jailing poor people simply because they lacked money for bond violates federal laws, and several lawsuits in Atlanta and elsewhere have challenged the practice.

He is likely to face fierce pushback from law enforcement groups who are wary of loosening bail bond restrictions and concerned with other parts of the measure that limit some first-time offenders convicted of felonies to a year of probation.

The debate over the legislation comes as some local governments embrace more strident changes to cash bail systems.

Under the Gold Dome

Legislative Day 22 – House and Senate convene at 10 AM.


Upon Adjournment SENATE RULES 450 CAP



8:30 AM HOUSE Env Quality Sub Natl Res606 CLOB







1:30 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Ad Val Sub 506 CLOB




2:00 PM HOUSE Transportation Sub Transit 506 CLOB




2:15 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Sales Tax Sub 133 CAP





SB 362 – Education; establishment of an innovative assessment pilot program; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-37th)

HB 683 – Supplemental appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018 (Substitute) (APPROP-4th) Ralston-7th

SB 262 – Stockbridge, City of; corporate boundaries of the city; revise (Substitute) (SLGO(G)-17th)

SB 263 – City of Eagles Landing; incorporate; charter; provide (Substitute) (SLGO(G)-17th)


Modified Open Rule

HB 381 – Abandoned Mobile Home Act; enact (Substitute)(Judy-Corbett-174th)

HB 763 – Education; student attendance protocol committees to school climate; expand (Ed-Nix-69th)

HB 783 – Administrative procedure; provisions creating inactive boards, panels, authorities and other such bodies; repeal (Substitute)(CR-Caldwell-20th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 635 – Disabled Adults and Elder Persons Protection Act; at-risk adult protection investigative/coordinating teams; provide establishment (Substitute)(HumR-Cooper-43rd)(Substitute LC 37 2563S)

HB 657 – Firearms; providing to person on probation as a felony first offender; make unlawful (PS&HS-Petrea-166th)

HB 795 – Labor, Department of; authorize Commissioner of Labor to perform certain functions; provisions (I&L-Gravley-67th)

Structured Rule

HB 690 – Revenue and taxation; fair market value of vehicles; change a certain definition (W&M-Ridley-6th)

HB 792 – Waste management; sunset date for certain solid waste surcharges and hazardous waste fees; extend (Substitute)(W&M-Rogers-10th)

SB 362 – Education; establishment of an innovative assessment pilot program; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-37th)

HB 683 – Supplemental appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018 (Substitute) (APPROP-4th) Ralston-7th

SB 262 – Stockbridge, City of; corporate boundaries of the city; revise (Substitute) (SLGO(G)-17th)

SB 263 – City of Eagles Landing; incorporate; charter; provide (Substitute) (SLGO(G)-17th)

Gov. Deal’s income tax relief plan is running into legislators who think it should go further, according to the AJC.

State Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said doing nothing would be “horrible” and mean a tax increase for many Georgians. If lawmakers pass Deal’s plan, he said, the impact would merely be “bad.”

His assessment of Deal’s plan: “We ain’t there yet.”

The State Senate passed Senate Bill 366 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), which would require cities and counties to study pay rate for law enforcement employees. From the AJC:

Lawmakers are trying to help local law enforcement departments retain their officers after passing a drastic pay hike for state police two years ago.

One of those ways could be through a yet-to-be-created “local law enforcement compensation grant program” available to the state’s poorest counties. The grant program would also need to be funded through this year’s budget before it could be in place.

“We have to help those local law enforcement officials to find a way to afford to be competitive,” said state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, who sponsored the legislation, Senate Bill 366.

“We will continue to lose more and more officers if we can’t compete with the counties around us and the state patrol,” Gooch said.

State Senator Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) co-sponsored Senate Bill 395 to assist in efforts to protect Georgia military facilities from future cutbacks.

State legislators whose districts include part of the 14th Congressional District elected Jerry Shearin to the Georgia Department of Transportation Board, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

“It was a very close vote,” Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, said about the contest between Shearin and former Whitfield County commission chair Mike Babb. “Both of them were very knowledgeable about transportation issues.”

Shearin, a former chair of the Paulding County Commission, is president of Brightway Insurance. He fills the STB seat left vacant due to the retirement of Roger Williams of Dalton.

Board members are chosen by the state representatives and senators from their respective districts to serve five-year terms. They oversee general activities of the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“I appreciate your faith in me and am thrilled to represent you and our constituents,” Shearin told the delegates.

Athens Republican Houston Gaines will take another shot at House District 117, according to a press release.

Athens Republican Houston Gaines announced today that he will run for the House District 117 seat this year and named his leadership committee with representation from Clarke, Oconee, Barrow and Jackson counties.

“This district wants and deserves conservative leadership at the state Capitol – and that’s not what it’s getting now,” said Gaines. “I’m going to provide our district a conservative alternative to the out-of-touch representation we have today.”

“I have lived in this district my entire life and had the privilege of graduating from the university in my hometown. My family’s roots run deep here. Just as my grandfather served this community as a judge, I want to work on behalf of my neighbors in this district to bring high-paying jobs to this region, invest in education to bolster our workforce and prepare students for the careers of tomorrow and protect the high quality of life we enjoy here.”

The race will present a rematch between Gaines and Democrat State Rep. Deborah Gonzalez, who won the seat by a narrow 450-vote margin in a special election last year to fill the unexpired term of Regina Quick.

“Special elections are – as evidenced by their name – unique,” Gaines said. “The dynamics in 2018 will be inherently different, as will our campaign. That’s why we are announcing today, in early February, almost 9 months from Election Day. I’m ready to get to work speaking directly to every voter in this district to hear what issues are most important to them, let them know my vision for our state, and to provide a clear contrast with my opponent.”

Rep. Gonzalez will remain in the legislative session through late March.

“Deborah Gonzalez has made it clear that she is committed to the far-left ideologies that mirror the most radical wing of the Democrat Party,” said Joan Rhoden, President of the Conservative Republican Women of Northeast Georgia. “Those aren’t the values of District 117, and those left-wing policies do not represent the heart of District 117. We have a choice in Houston Gaines. Houston will give us a voice and will provide a refreshing option from our current liberal activist legislator. While Deborah Gonzalez spends her time putting out inflammatory and divisive statements attacking law enforcement agencies and advocating for sanctuary cities, Houston will take a strong stand to support law enforcement and the policies that help keep our communities safe.”

Gaines also announced the following as the leadership committee for his House campaign:

Clarke County:
Kitty Culpepper
Barbara & Vince Dooley
Joan & Gordon Rhoden
Jenny Sligh

Oconee County:
Commission Chairman John Daniell
Tammy Gilland
School Board Chairman Tom Odom

Barrow County:
Commission Chairman Pat Graham
Clay Kelley
Mike Pentecost

Jackson County:
Katie Griffin
Ron Johnson
Sheriff Janis Mangum

Johns Creek City Council passed a resolution asking for a charter change to term limit members and the Mayor. From

Under the proposal, which must be passed by the Georgia Legislature, no person elected mayor or to the City Council in the general municipal election of 2019 will be able to serve for more than two consecutive four-year terms. The law will not include any partial terms served in office or terms served prior to January 1, 2020.

Language in the resolution would allow a person to rotate back and forth from mayor to the City Council in elections, a feat – if it could be pulled off – that would allow someone to serve 16 consecutive years in elected office. Otherwise, a two-term official would have to skip a term before running again.

Richmond County Democrats are fighting among themselves, including having a former county party officer removed from a meeting, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Two Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies summoned to a regular Wednesday meeting escorted [former party Secretary Joe] Traina out of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers building where ameeting was taking place. The deputies were brought into the meeting by party officer Franklin Williams.

The local party has been in conflict with Traina and several others for more than a year since the group began challenging the way the party was conducting itself. Last month, under direction from the state Democratic party, the local party redid county committee elections after Traina and fellow activist Jim McBrayer reported that earlier elections had been conducted improperly, or not at all.

During several meetings over the last 14 months, Traina and others repeatedly called for “points of order” and made other statements during the meetings. In a Feb. 9 certified letter to Traina, party chairwoman Mtesa Cottemond Wright alleged Traina had created fear among party members and engaged in “cruelty to senior citizens,” and caused the executive committee to vote to censure him and ban him from all party premises and events for seven years.

Savannah City Council approved changes to a Confederate memorial in Forsyth Park, according to the Savannah Morning News.

While state law prohibits the relocation of war monuments, City Attorney Brooks Stillwell said it could be argued that the city can legally relocate the busts since they were not an original part of the monument. Rather, the busts were relocated to the north and south sides of the monument in 1910 after originally being erected in Chippewa Square eight years earlier.

Some aldermen were not convinced, however, and staff was directed to hold off until the legality of the move is confirmed.

“I have no affinity for the monuments, but I have an affinity for following the law,” said Alderman Julian Miller.

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash gave her 2018 State of the County address yesterday. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Nash used the bicentennial to introduce Gwinnett’s vision during her State of the County address at the Infinite Energy Forum in Duluth. She juxtaposed where the county was when it was founded in 1818 against where it is today, while also highlighting moments from the last 200 years where the county took leaps forward.

“As we approach Gwinnett’s third century, the pioneering spirit is still important,” Nash said. “We face challenges and decisions that represent opportunities for the future, and we’re exploring new territory in diversity and inclusiveness. To continue to thrive, we must make the most of all our assets.”

Nash’s speech focused on two areas where the county is focusing its efforts, economic development and transportation.

Nash said expanding transit will be the next big decision facing Gwinnett County, with a transit development plan currently underway. The county’s Connect Gwinnett effort is intended to identify transit improvement and expansion options while also developing a plan to put those expansion efforts in motion.

Clermont Town County Ward 1 drew two candidates for the March 20 Special Election to fill a vacancy.

Bibb County homicides are up 50 percent from this date in 2016, according to the Macon Telegraph.

There were 50 percent more homicides in Bibb County this year than in 2016.

The death toll reached 30 the morning of Dec. 21, when the body of 21-year-old Neil Patel was found in the woods near the Bloomfield Recreation Center.

“God help us,” Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said, breaking the news to a group of reporters behind the crime scene tape that was stretched across Lions Place at Southview Drive.

Navy and Marine C-130s will begin receiving overhauls at Robins Air Force Base.

Brig. Gen. John Kubinec, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, made the announcement to the Houston County Development Authority on Wednesday. The first planes will start coming in June, then the work will gradually ramp up. By 2021 the base is expected to be doing all of the Navy’s C-130 work, which will mean 400 additional jobs.


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