Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 12, 2018

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Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 12, 2018

On March 12, 1739, James Oglethorpe, recognized as the Founder of Georgia, wrote the Georgia Trustees, urging them to continue the ban on slavery in the new colony.

Juliette Gordon Low held the first meeting of the Girl Guides, which would later be renamed the Girl Scouts, in her home in Savannah, Georgia on March 12, 1912.

Gianni Agnelli was born on March 12, 1921 in Turin, Italy, and would come to be the wealthiest man in Italy, head and principal shareholder of Fiat, and recognized as an Italian Senator for Life in 1991. Among those who follow fashion, Agnelli has long been recognized as an archetype of the Italian approach to menswear.

His style was about more than clothes—it was an attitude, a philosophical response to absurdity. Watching him could tell you how to live, how to behave. In Italy, they call it sprezzatura, making the difficult look easy. Americans are gonzo, a spirit personified by Hunter S. Thompson, who defined it as a man who learns to fly by falling out of a plane. Agnelli might look gonzo—especially on nights when he showed up in boots and an ill-fitting tie—but was, in fact, sprezzatura; he knew how to fly all along. “When he was not perfectly dressed, it was contrived,” says Taki Theodoracopulos, the writer, columnist, socialite and son of a Greek shipping tycoon. Taki is one of the few surviving members of Agnelli’s social circle. “The tie askew, the unbuttoned shirt—nothing was an accident. Or, to put it another way, it was meant to be an accident, which made it even more stylish.”

Clarence Thomas, originally from Pin Point, Georgia, was sworn in to the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on March 12, 1990.

R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 12, 2007.

Happy birthday to former Atlanta Braves slugger Dale Murphy.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal has a busy Friday. He announced that Georgia will partner with self-driving vehicle company Waymo.

“On behalf of the State of Georgia, I am proud to welcome Waymo to Atlanta’s community of industry leaders,” said Deal. “The transport of freight and cargo is a critical driver for the American economy. Nowhere is this economic development tool more apparent than in Atlanta, the nation’s leading logistics hub. As we look to the future of innovation and efficiency, self-driving vehicles are at the forefront of enhancing roadway safety and making the transportation of American goods more feasible. We are excited to partner with Waymo, the leader in self-driving technology, in testing self-driving trucks here in the No. 1 state for business.”

From the company:

Starting next week, Waymo will launch a pilot in Atlanta where our self-driving trucks will carry freight bound for Google’s data centers.

Over the past year, we’ve been conducting road tests of Waymo’s self-driving trucks in California and Arizona. Our software is learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars. The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer.

Now we’re headed to Georgia. Atlanta is one of the biggest logistics hubs in the country, making it a natural home for Google’s logistical operations and the perfect environment for our next phase of testing Waymo’s self-driving trucks.

Gov. Deal traveled to the Polk County Airport in Cedartown to sign the FY 2018 Amended Budget.

Gov. Nathan Deal [on Friday] signed the Amended FY 2018 budget at a signing ceremony in Polk County, authorizing $25.4 billion in spending for the current fiscal year. The state appropriations within HB 683 are based upon a 2.7 percent growth in general fund revenues over FY 2017 collections. This additional funding will address growth needs in education and human services, provide additional funding to local governments and school systems, and support statewide economic development efforts.

“With this amended budget, we are investing in our priorities and addressing critical issues for Georgia citizens,” said Deal. “The $25.4 billion in state appropriations reflects the solid economic growth that Georgia continues to enjoy and ensures that our state agencies and local governments have the resources needed to meet the demands of a growing and vibrant state. Georgia’s economy continues to surpass expectations, allowing for further investments to improve our air transportation systems, protect coastal Georgia’s tourism industry and provide additional financial assistance to communities across the state. I want to thank the members of the General Assembly who made this amended budget possible, as their cooperation will have a lasting impact on the lives of Georgians.”

Amended FY 2018 budget highlights include:

  • $101.4 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth.
  • $25.9 million for airport runway extension projects.
  • $60.7 million in additional funds for Forestland Protection Act reimbursements.
  • $15.7 million for school buses for local school systems.
  • $9.6 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program.
  • $2 million to expand marketing efforts to promote educational opportunities available at the technical colleges.
  • $10.3 million for technical college equipment replacement statewide.
  • $28.2 million for the Indigent Care Trust Fund and Medicaid.
  • $1.2 million for hospitals to offset costs due to the high number of flu cases.
  • $15.1 million for child welfare services to care for children in state custody.
  • $3.5 million for autism services for children under 21.
  • $10 million for grants to local communities for beach nourishment projects.
  • $1.6 million for improvements to the Great Dunes South Beach Park and the Ocean View Beach Park at Jekyll Island State Park.

The Amended FY 2018 budget includes $74.8 million for Forestland Protection Act grants for local governments and school systems to offset tax digest impacts from dedicated conservation use forestland in their areas. Of this funding, $34 million will go directly to local school systems.

Additionally, this budget helps to grow vital industries in rural communities by providing $25.9 million to extend 13 runways at regional airports throughout the state. The runway extensions will increase the number of airports that can safely accommodate larger aircraft, which will attract businesses to underserved areas of the state. The budget also provides $10 million to coastal Georgia communities for beach renourishment projects and assistance in recovery from the last hurricane season.

 Deal also announced that tax revenues are up 4.8 percent for February over the same month in 2017.

ov. Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia’s net tax collections for February totaled $1.23 billion, for an increase of nearly $55.9 million, or 4.8 percent, compared to last year when net tax collections totaled almost $1.18 billion. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled $15.1 billion, for an increase of roughly $868.8 million, or 6.1 percent, over February 2017, when net tax revenues totaled $14.23 billion.

The changes within the following tax categories contributed to the overall net tax revenue increase in February:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for the month totaled $476.5 million, up from $451.9 million in February 2017, for an increase of $24.6 million, or 5.4 percent.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections deposited during the month totaled nearly $899.7 million, for an increase of $87.7 million, or 10.8 percent, over last year.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections and refunds for February combined for a net decrease of roughly $5.6 million, or -23.8 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year when net Corporate Tax refund outlays outstripped revenue collections by a total of $23.3 million.

From the AJC on the FY 2019 budget, which passed the State House:

Friday, the Georgia House voted 155-14 for a new budget for the upcoming year.

The measure doesn’t include any pay raises for 200,000 teachers and state employees, although it does give a bonus of up to $900 to state retirees. Members of the Employees Retirement System haven’t received a cost-of-living raise in several years.

The House added $8 million in grants to local school districts to beef up security following last month’s massacre at a Florida school.

House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, is hoping the Senate ups it to $16 million.

About one-third of new state spending — $361 million — would go to improve the financial stability of Georgia’s teacher pension system. Most of the rest would fund increased k-12 and college enrollment and growth in public health care programs.

Under the Gold Dome Today

Both chambers convene at 10 AM today for Legislative Day 33.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

8:00 AM SENATE NATL RES & ENVT SUB 122 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

Upon Adjournment SENATE RULES 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE AND LABOR 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- Sales Tax Sub 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SVCS 606 CLOB

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

2:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE – Ad Valorem Sub 125 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE MEDICAL CANNABIS WORKING GROUP 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES AND TELECOM 403 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 341 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE CODE REVISION 415 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION AND YOUTH 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY & HOMELAND SECURITY 415 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Resource Mgmt Sub Natl Res & Envt 514 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDY 307 CLOB

 SENATE RULES CALENDAR

HB 79 – Law enforcement; retaining license plate data obtained from automated license plate recognition systems beyond certain periods; prohibit (PUB SAF-56th) Pezold-133rd
HB 422 – Veterans Service, Department of; nonprofit corporation as a public foundation; authorize incorporation (VM&HS-1st) Hitchens-161st
HB 441 – Trusts; establish qualified self-settled spendthrift trusts; provisions (Substitute) (B&FI-46th) Fleming-121st
HB 592 – Insurance; compliance self-evaluative privilege; repeal applicability and sunset provisions (I&L-14th) Lumsden-12th
HB 670 – Georgia State Council for Interstate Juvenile Supervision; number of legislative branch representatives; revise (JUDY-23rd) Powell-32nd
HB 816 – Revenue, Department of; mandatory fingerprinting and criminal record checks for certain individuals; provide (FIN-52nd) Gravley-67th
HB 885 – Georgia Air Quality Act; limitations on powers of certain Boards and Departments; revise certain provisions (NR&E-47th) McCall-33rd

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
SB 17 – Alcoholic Beverages; provide governing authorities of counties in which the sale for consumption is lawful; authorize certain time on Sundays (RegI-Hanson-80th) Unterman-45th
SB 356 – Georgia Commission on the Holocaust; membership; change (SProp-Silcox-52nd) Kirkpatrick-32nd
Modified Structured Rule
HR 944 – People’s Republic of China; organ harvesting; express concern (IntC-Hill-3rd)

Structured Rule
SB 371 – Taxes; furnishing of sales and use tax information to municipalities and counties; change provisions (W&M-Lott-122nd) Anderson-24th

House Bill 205, to regulate oil and natural gas exploration in Georgia, passed the Senate and is headed to Gov. Deal to sign or veto. From the AJC:

The Georgia Senate on Friday approved the first change to the state’s regulation of fracking since 1975.

“These are common-sense regulations for an industry that is new since the regulations went into effect,” said state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome.

Hufstetler said the legislation would affect an eight-county region in northwest Georgia that companies have identified as a possible source of natural gas. A fracking operation involves lowering a drill and pipe up to 2,000 feet underground.

If Deal signs the bill, the state’s Environmental Protection Division would be able to regulate fracking and collect a tax of 1 cent per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas drawn from Georgia and 3 cents per barrel of oil.

From the Rome News-Tribune:

“The regulations haven’t been updated since the 1970s and fracking didn’t exist then,” said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, who carried House Bill 205 through the Senate in a 51 to 0 vote.

Only eight counties in Northwest Georgia, including Floyd, are expected to have the deposits, which are found in shale formations.

The measure was sponsored by Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, and co-sponsored by local Republican Reps. Katie Dempsey of Rome, Eddie Lumsden of Armuchee and Christian Coomer of Cartersville.

The legislation does not affect a local government’s authority.

“Safeguards are in place, and there’s also a little bit of revenue for local governments,” Hufstetler said.

The state would get a tax of 3 cents per barrel of oil extracted and 1 cent for every thousand cubic feet of gas. Cities and counties could enact local levies of up to 9 cents per barrel of oil and 2 cents per thousand feet of gas.

Senate Bill 17, called the “Brunch Bill” or the “Mimosa Mandate,” will be voted on in the House today after passing the Senate, and would allow communities to decide to allow alcohol sales by the drink earlier on Sundays.

Cook County Airport in Adel could receive additional funding in the FY2018 Amended Budget for runway lengthening, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The budget includes $25.9 million for extending runways at 11 rural Georgia airports. While the budget does not name the airports, the Georgia Department of Transportation says the Cook County Airport is one of them.

Located west of Adel, the general aviation airport has two runways, one 4,000 feet long and the other 5,001 feet long, said Mark Dinnerman, chairman of the Cook County Airport Authority.

The money signed into the budget would allow for extending the larger runway by another 500 feet, he said. The smaller runway cannot be extended because it is hemmed in by two roads, Dinnerman said.

A runway extension would allow larger corporate jets to land in Cook County, he said.

Most of the Republican candidates for Governor appeared at a public forum in Norcross on Saturday. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

In addition to transportation, the candidates also weighed in on criminal justice, tax breaks for big corporations such as Amazon, off-shore drilling, due process and property rights. In Gwinnett, where traffic congestion is a major issue and a referendum on expanding transit may appear on the November ballot, the issue of how people get around could be a key issue, though.

Coweta County will host a number of contested elections, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

At the end of candidate qualifying, State Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, and three judges are the only Coweta County elected officials who are unopposed.

State Reps. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan; Josh Bonner, R-Peachtree City; and Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville all picked up opposition. So did Coweta County Board of Education member Beth Barnett.

Smith, who has served District 70 since 1996, is being challenged in the Republican primary by Greg Heller. Bonner, who is serving his first term, is being challenged in the primary by Mary Kay Bacallao.

Trammell, who serves as House Minority Leader, is being challenged in the general election by Republican Leonard Gomez, a former Grantville City Councilman.

Rep. David Stover, R-Palmetto, is being challenged in the primary by Samuel Anders and by Democrat Tom Thomason in the general election.

Roger Burdette will take a seat on the Effingham County Commission after no one else qualified for the election.

Five candidates are running for Savannah-Chatham School Board President, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In the running for board president are board vice president and incumbent Larry Lower of District 6, former board president Joe Buck, Betty Morgan, David Lerch and Tye Whitely.

Dougherty County Commission District Two has seven candidates competing in this year’s election, according to the Albany Herald.

Also on Friday, the two Republican incumbents who are part of Southwest Georgia’s local legislative delegation in the state House added Democratic challengers. House District 152 Rep. Ed Rynders of Leesburg saw Marcus Batten join the race. Batten will square off with Mary Egler in the district’s May 22 Democratic primary for the opportunity to face Rynders in the Nov. 6 general election.

HD 151 Republican Rep. Gerald Greene also drew Democratic opposition, as Joyce Barlow qualified to challenge the delegation’s longest-serving member in the general election.

House District 153 Rep. Darrel Ealum, a Democrat, will face the challenge of Democrat CaMia Hopson in the May 22 primary. The winner of that race will square off with Republican qualifier Tracy Taylor on Nov. 6.

Republican Clay Tippins campaigned for Governor in Gainesville, according to the Gainesville Times.

Clay Tippins parachuted into Gainesville on Saturday to give his gubernatorial pitch behind what he joked were the enemy lines of Casey Cagle’s territory.

“I think that’s where we are as a state, and I don’t think it’s such a bad picture for where we are as a country. If you look at what Gov. Deal, Gov. Perdue has left us with, there’s 49 states that would like to be Georgia: We’ve got the No. 1 place for doing business, a great balance sheet, low unemployment,” Tippins said.

“We’re in a time of unprecedented plenty. The question is, if we keep doing things the same way, will it stay that way?”

On transportation, Tippins said the state should be putting more of its own money into the Savannah harbor expansion project given the 7-to-1 economic return, as he described it, on investment into the port.

He also called for a north-south interstate bypass around Atlanta to accommodate truck traffic driving through Georgia from the port as well as the synchronization of Georgia’s traffic lights. He said Los Angeles, famous for its horrendous traffic, cut congestion by 25 percent by synchronizing the changing of its signals.

Greg Bluestein of the AJC profiles a wave of first-time candidates this year.

Dozens of Democrats signed up to challenge incumbents who had rarely, if ever, faced opponents or to contest seats left vacant by a wave of retirements. And Republican newcomers rushed to fill the void left by GOP colleagues — or challenge incumbents they felt weren’t up to snuff.

Most of the challengers will lose — Sandiford, for one, faces a tough fight in her conservative east Cobb County district — but the surge of candidates who signed up to run for public office this past week put the Democratic enthusiasm on vivid display.

“We don’t have to be a passenger when it comes to our government,” said Sarah Riggs Amico, a logistics executive running as a Democrat for lieutenant governor. “I want us to address a growing crisis in rural America. I’d like to see fully funded schools. I want us to grow jobs. And I know I can help do that.”

In the Georgia Senate, the number of women qualifying shot up by 40 percent compared with the 2016 election. There was a 25 percent bump of female candidates in the House. About 20 seats in both chambers are open, virtually all vacated by Republicans seeking higher office or retiring.

Alpharetta will elect a new Mayor and two Council members in May.

Muscogee County Sheriff Donna Tompkins says her jail population includes on average about 60 inmates with mental health issues, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Andrea Honaker with the Macon Telegraph looks at what Middle Georgia schools are doing to improve security.

The ACLU has sued Glynn County officials over what they claim is an unconstitutional cash bail bond scheme, according to the Brunswich News.

Some folks in Macon marched on Saturday in support of LGBTQ rights, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The event encouraged dissent against the recently passed Georgia Senate Bill 375 which allows state-funded child welfare organizations such as adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples based on religious beliefs.

Nuclear Notes

Georgia Power will lower electric rates as changes in federal taxation come online, according to the AJC.

The utility estimates the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will lead to about $1.2 billion in rebates and other benefits in the coming years. The plan still requires approval by state regulators.

Georgia Power said the average customer who uses about 1,000-kilowatt-hours per month could see about $70 in refunds through 2019.

“We are committed to offering the highest customer value with rates below the national average, and we’re pleased to be able to continue to pass the benefits of the new tax laws on to our customers,” Georgia Power Chairman, President and CEO Paul Bowers said in a news release.

About $330 million is expected to come from direct credits to ratepayers because of lower federal tax rates the company will pay over the next two years. Another $130 million in savings to customers will come from reduced taxes related to costs to finance two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in east Georgia.

The state Public Service Commission in recent months approved a new path to continue construction of the reactors, and that plan also included some rebates to consumers, though the plan to move forward has been challenged in court by consumer groups.

Plant Vogtle construction hit another milestone with the completion of a 13-hour continuous concrete pour. From the Augusta Chronicle:

The latest construction milestone at the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion near Waynesboro is a 13-hour-plus continuous concrete placement for one new reactor’s “turbine tabletop.”

The turbine tabletop is 10 feet thick with about 2,400 cubic yards, or 250 individual concrete trucks, of self-consolidating concrete. The tabletop serves as a pedestal for the Unit 4 generator and turbines and is designed to support the weight of the heavy components. More than 550,000 total cubic yards of concrete have now been placed at the construction site to date, according to a Georgia Power news release.

In January, Georgia Power announced that customers would pay $139 million less than expected in 2018 for the Vogtle expansion because of changes in federal tax laws and full receipt of the Toshiba parent guarantee payments.

The credits, amounting to $75 per individual customer, will be distributed across three separate Georgia Power bills in 2018, with the first $25 credit appearing in the coming months, the company said in the release.

 

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