Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 19, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 19, 2017

On February 19, 1807, Aaron Burr was arrested in the Mississippi Territory, in what is now Alabama. Burr had served as Vice President during the first term of President Thomas Jefferson, leaving the administration after the 1804 election; later Jefferson issued a warrant accusing Burr of treason.

On Febrary 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the military to remove from military areas any people whose exclusion was “necessary or desirable.” By June 1942, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans had been interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

Union College in New York may have discovered a sample of hair from George Washington. From the Augusta Chronicle:

While college officials can’t say for sure it’s the real deal, the historical evidence is there. The hair was discovered in a pocket-sized almanac for the year 1793 that belonged to Philip J. Schuyler, son of General Philip Schuyler, who served under Washington during the Revolutionary War and founded Union College in 1795.

Susan Holloway Scott, an independent scholar and author, said locks of hair were frequently given as gifts during Washington’s day and it’s likely Martha Washington gave the snip of her husband’s hair to Eliza Schuyler, daughter of the general and wife of Alexander Hamilton.

Eliza passed it on to her son, James A. Hamilton, as noted by the handwriting on the envelope: “from James A. Hamilton given him by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia flu deaths are now up to 79 this season, according to Georgia Health News.

That total easily surpasses the 58 deaths the state reported in 2009, the first year that all flu deaths were required to be reported to Georgia Public Health.

The Department of Public Health on Friday also reported 165 hospitalizations in the eight-county metro Atlanta area during the week of Feb. 4 through Feb. 10. That’s the highest number of flu hospitalizations reported this season.

Three of four children who died had not received the flu shot, the CDC’s acting director said.

About half of the children who died had underlying medical conditions that made them more vulnerable to severe complications from the flu, and 60 percent had been admitted to the hospital before they died, WebMD reported Thursday.

CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said Friday that flu activity is still high, but it did not increase significantly over the past week.

“While this may mean that we’ve peaked, we won’t know until know more until we see the data for the coming weeks,” Nordlund said.

Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter is recovering from surgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

The Georgia General Assembly will convene for Legislative Day 23 at 10 AM on Tuesday, February 20, 2018. The House Public Safety Committee will meet at 1 PM today in Room 606 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

Legislators adopted a new sexual harrassment policy that will require biennial traning of House and Senate members, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

House Bill 774 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) will be heard in the House Public Safety Committee today. The legislation would authorize booting vehicles statewide, according to the AJC.

Not only that, but it would increase the customary fee to get the dang thing off your car from $75 to $85.

The bill is backed by something called the Georgia Vehicle Immobilization Coalition, which has hired a well-connected lobbying firm to push it on their behalf. I’ve never heard of this coalition, but the Atlanta mailing address traces back to Advance Booting Services, one of the larger operators in the metro area and owner of a perfect one-star rating on Yelp.com by consumers of their services.

But in a hearing before the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee last week, Advance co-owner Jeff Phillips told lawmakers the coalition wants statewide regulation to rein in bad actors.

“Our goal was continuity, kind of like the towing industry has,” he said. “We want consistency across the state. We want regulation for everybody.”

While other parking enforcement tools, like towing, are specifically allowed in state law, booting isn’t mentioned at all.

The Brunch Bill (SB 17) could increase restaurant sales if passed by the House, according to WCTV of Valdosta.

Last week, the State Senate passed the so-called “brunch bill.” The bill would allow restaurants to sell alcohol at 11:00 am on Sundays. Right now, bar sales are banned until 12:30 pm.

“Brunch, it’s impactful down here in the South. People love to come out for something like that,” said Salty Snapper General Manager Will Eason. “I would have had at least ten or fifteen more people in here today just having that law being able to change.”

“Probably have to hire more people to be honest. I know the staff would be absolutely thrilled about it. Any business is good business, good for the county bringing in more money,” Eason says.

Senate Bill 418 by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) has become mired in controversy over the sale of puppies by national chain Petland. From the AJC:

Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Chairman John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, who is sponsoring Senate Bill 418, said if a product is legal and regulated by federal or state government, municipalities shouldn’t be allowed to limit their sale.

“We just don’t think that someone’s personal political agenda ought to drive what you can and can not sell,” he said. “We’re the number one place in the nation to do business and we just don’t think you ought to arbitrarily, just because you don’t like something, say you can’t operate it.”

If the bill passes, cities would not be allowed to “prohibit, ban or otherwise restrict” the sale of anything that is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Virginia Galloway, a lobbyist with the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition, said she worried about the unintended consequences of taking local control away from municipalities.

“We’re concerned about whether or not in the future this could be used about something that’s not about pet stores,” she said, arguing that the legislation is too broad. “You needed a mouse hole but you made a barn door.”

WSB-TV’s Jim Strickland filed a story about SB 418.

WSB Radio personality Erick Erickson is actively opposing the legislation.

In Georgia, there is a growing puppy mill industry and local governments have decided to take action. In some areas of the state, cities and counties have increased inspections and barred the entry of some puppy mills with terrible business practices.

Please join me in calling on our legislature to stop this legislation. Take action now.

Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller is profiled by his hometown Gainesville Times.

His new post came after years serving as a Senate floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal, a job that can be difficult and uncomfortable based on the political fortunes of the sitting governor or the financial condition of the state. Before that, he was chairman of the Republican caucus in the Senate.

The economic future of the state was far from certain when Miller entered office in 2010. He was chosen as one of Deal’s Senate floor leaders in 2012, became the GOP caucus chairman in the Senate from 2013-2014 and was a floor leader again from 2015-2016.

“I felt like government in general was less about personal responsibility and more about entitlement,” Miller said of his decision to run in 2011. “I believed and still believe in capitalism, personal responsibility and a strong work ethic.”

“For years, I have been blessed to call Butch a good friend,” [Governor Nathan] Deal said in a statement to The Times on Friday. “As my state senator and a former floor leader, he has been a loyal partner in legislative efforts to make Georgia the best possible state in which to live, work and learn. From education to criminal justice reform, he has been on the forefront of critical initiatives that address the challenges facing our state today.”

Legislation for a one-cents sales tax in Macon-Bibb County appears to be moving forward in the State House, according to Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph.

It looks like state House lawmakers are ready to help set up such a vote, but in compliance with current state law, which requires all the money be used to roll back property tax rates. Any further, and possibly confusing, adjustments of the millage rate would be left to the county.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, is starting things with his House bills 944 and 945, which set up a vote on capping property tax assessment rises at 2 percent a year. If voters approve that, then the county could also ask voters for that new penny in sales tax, too.

Peake likes the idea of a property tax cut, and of leaving other questions to the county commission.

“They have to make that tough decision themselves whether they want, after the millage is decreased for the property tax rollback, to increase it again to meet the obligations of the county,” Peake said.

The Associated Press has a good overview of this year’s legislative session to date.

The Gainesville Times notes that candidates for Governor have surpassed a combined $20 million in fundraising.

All told, the five Republicans and two Democrats have raised more than $20 million since candidates began declaring last spring. In July, candidates had raised more than $10 million.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle retains an enormous financial advantage over all other candidates. Seen as the frontrunner after more than a decade as the state’s second-highest officer, Cagle has attracted a huge number of donations from businesses, lobbyists and Atlanta lawmakers. Cagle has $5.7 million on hand — or about as much as the next three highest-raising Republicans.

Both Secretary of State Brian Kemp and former state Sen. Hunter Hill have both raised more than $2.2 million, and Kemp raised almost $3 million. Hill resigned from his Atlanta Senate seat to focus on his run for governor.

Primaries in the Georgia gubernatorial race are set for May 22. Primary runoffs will occur in July and the general election on Nov. 6.

Democratic former Congressman John Barrow is campaigning for Secretary of State, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“The opportunity is that, alone of all the candidates running for statewide office on either side of the ticket, I think I’ve developed and built up the largest political base,” Barrow said.

“It was a very competitive district, and it was made increasingly competitive as a result of gerrymandering, and so I’ve had the privilege of competing at the highest level of intensity, for the largest number of voters, for the most sustained period of time, of anybody, I think, in memory,” he said. “So that was a great experience. It was also a great base to build on.”

“I’ve been able to deal with folks on both sides of the aisle and on all sides of various issues in my time in Congress and in local office, 14 years as a county commissioner before that, and I think that’s a unique qualification for this office in particular, an office that most folks think of as being a nonpartisan job,” Barrow said.

Gwinnett County Republican Women will host all four GOP candidates for Secretary of State in a forum on March 12, 2018.

The Gwinnett County Board of Elections is hiring bilingual poll workers for this year’s elections.

The Rome News-Tribune writes that local elections in Floyd County appear restrained so far this year.

[A]s yet, no challengers have publicly announced they’ll seek the open seats held by County Commissioners Rhonda Wallace, Larry Maxey or Scotty Hancock, or the County Board of Education posts filled by Chip Hood and Tony Daniel.

All five have said they plan to run for new terms, along with Juvenile Court Judge Greg Price — who holds the only non-appointed juvenile court judgeship in the state. None are amassing campaign chests comparable to those in the hard-fought city elections last year.

The Saint Simons Land Trust received a $1 million anonymous donation to help preserve the island’s character.

Port Wentworth City Council members may repeal an ethics rule requiring them to recuse themselves from votes affecting campaigns donors, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Port Wentworth’s ethics ordinance requirement for elected officials’ recusal from voting on issues related to campaign donors is causing a problem for one the city’s most frequent donors — Fred Williams.

Currently, the only council members who would be allowed to vote on issues brought by Williams are Bill Herrin and Lynda Smith.

Those two votes aren’t enough to approve or deny any agenda item.

Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez is proposing a restructuring of city departments for efficiency.

Rural Georgia

House Bill 951 by State Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland) would establish a Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation. From the AJC:

The Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation would identify business opportunities, create community plans, provide assistance to various industries and help coordination with nonprofit organizations.

“Rural Georgia has not seen the same level of economic prosperity,” said Shaw, R-Lakeland. “The Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation would provide a central location for research and information on rural development, which is crucial to enhancing economic opportunities.”

State Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), who Chairs the House Appropriations Committee, writes about the state budget, noting several items to benefit rural areas. Via the Barrow News Journal:

The mid-year budget’s funding for rural Georgia initiatives includes $25 million to lengthen runways at nine rural airports, plus two in Newnan and Coweta counties, to enable them to accommodate corporate aircraft; $75,000 for the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations; $75,000 for the Office of Rural Health to identify a postsecondary institution to house the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability; and $100,000 for a statewide medical fair to recruit healthcare employees to rural areas.

The AJC’s Bill Torpy writes that Atlanta residents are being asked to subsidize rural Georgia residents.

Advocates for rural folk say that 16 percent of Georgians — those who you have to pass scenic forests or bucolic fields to visit — don’t have access to the internet, which is so very 1995. It’s like 1.6 million poor souls are left without a good download.

The argument is that these faraway outposts, which have been drying up and losing jobs and population for decades, will continue to lag further behind if they don’t get a series of, um, governmental investments. One could be unkind and call these handouts. But let’s be nice.

“You can’t retain a business — much less attract a new business — if they don’t have access to data and access to the internet,” said state Rep. Jay Powell, who sponsored the legislation.

For years, I spent time roving Georgia for stories and discovered that it was an article of faith among rural residents that Atlanta was a sponge when it came to sopping up state resources. Rural and small-town residents were hardworking, salt-of-the earth Americans. Atlantans were, well, something else.

One way or another, though, when it comes to figuring out a way to help rural Georgia, metro Atlanta will mostly be pulling the weight.

CJ Garland writes in AgDaily about the increasing impact of federal regulations on rural areas, specifically farmers.

As a rural Kansas resident, I feel compelled to express my growing concern about the negative effects the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate, Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) classifications, and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requirements have on the agriculture and livestock industries. With the extension of the agriculture exemption of the ELD Mandate expiring mid-March, it is time for us to talk to federal lawmakers.

My hope is, by sharing our personal situation, I can show how far reaching these rules and regulations are, uncovering the yet unforeseen costs to all American farms, ranches, and citizens. If these laws and mandates are not modernized but are enforced, it will have a devastating effect not only on tens of thousands of small agricultural businesses, but millions of rural Americans and the lives we love.

Here’s another hit to rural America. We work hard all year, pouring time, energy, and money into the crops and livestock we produce. Sale time comes around and then what? Sale prices have plummeted. Our buyers — often the middlemen — are now paying the national haulers double or triple.

Agriculture is one of the, if not the, largest employer in the country.

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