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


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

The British Parliament enacted The Coercive Acts on March 28, 1774.

The Coercive Acts were a series of four acts established by the British government. The aim of the legislation was to restore order in Massachusetts and punish Bostonians for their Tea Party, in which members of the revolutionary-minded Sons of Liberty boarded three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 crates of tea—nearly $1 million worth in today’s money—into the water to protest the Tea Act.

Passed in response to the Americans’ disobedience, the Coercive Acts included:

The Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.

The Massachusetts Government Act, which restricted Massachusetts; democratic town meetings and turned the governor’s council into an appointed body.

The Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in Massachusetts.

The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in their private homes as a last resort.

Charles Wesley, hymnist, and brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, died on March 29, 1788 in London, England. Charles Wesley served as Secretary to James Oglethorpe and as a Chaplain at Fort Frederica on St Simons Island. This past Sunday, his hymns were played in churches across the globe, including Christ the Lord Is Risen Today and Rejoice, the Lord Is King.

Here is one of Charles Wesley’s hymns, played at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

On March 29, 1865, Federal troops under General Ulysses S. Grant began the Appomattox campaign.

On March 29, 1937, Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation imposing the first state tax on distilled spirits in Georgia.

If made in another state and imported into Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 80 cents per gallon and alcohol at $1.60 per gallon – or at fractional amounts for smaller containers. If made in Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 40 cents per gallon and alcohol at 80 cents per gallon.

Governor Ernest Vandiver signed legislation authorizing the construction of monuments to Georgians killed in battle at the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields on March 28, 1961.

Identical 15 1/2-foot-tall monuments of Georgia blue granite were sculpted by Harry Sellers of Marietta Memorials. At the top of the shaft is the word “GEORGIA” over the state seal. Lower on the shaft is the inscription, “Georgia Confederate Soldiers, We sleep here in obedience; When duty called, we came; When Country called, we died.”

Georgia’s first “Sunshine Law” requiring open meetings of most state boards and commissions, was signed by Governor Jimmy Carter on March 28, 1972.

On March 29, 1973, the last American troops left Vietnam, ending United States engagement in the war.

A nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania overheated on March 28, 1979 and within days radiation levels had risen in a four county area. It was the most serious accident in commercial nuclear history in the United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A state funeral was held yesterday for former Governor Zell Miller at the capitol. From the Associated Press:

Gov. Nathan Deal became emotional as he thanked Miller’s family at the former U.S. senator and two-term Georgia governor’s state funeral.

“To the family, let me just say thank you for being a part of his life, for being a part of the fabric that has made our state great,” Deal said.

“I think what the people appreciated is, he governed on what he campaigned on,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said. “And he was determined — you know him — to be very forceful and decisive and knew where he wanted to go.”

“His achievements as governor are truly legendary, as was his career in the United States Senate,” Deal said. “I think that fact is verified by yesterday, in which three of the five living presidents of the United States attended his funeral here in our capital city.”

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson spoke to the Macon Telegraph about his long history with Zell Miller.

Isakson came to Warner Robins on Wednesday after attending a memorial for Miller in Atlanta. Isakson was a state senator in Georgia when Miller was lieutenant governor, and Miller presided over the Senate. In 1990, Isakson ran against Miller for governor and lost. He later succeeded Miller in the U.S. Senate when Miller chose not to run for re-election.

“Times were tough then, but they were respectfully tough,” Isakson said when asked about the differences between the political climate then and now. “Zell was a respectfully tough lieutenant governor and a respectfully tough United States senator. He got his job done, but he never went below the pale.”

“Today in politics it seems like everyone is trying to see who can hit the furthest below the belt to win points.”

“It has become very combative, very media driven, very professionally managed by people who make a career of telling you what to say and when to say it instead of really sitting down and negotiating with other people across the table,” he said. “It’s not what it used to be, but it’s still the best system on the face of this Earth.”

Atlanta lawyer Andrew Ekonomou is set to join President Trump’s defense team, according to the AJC.

Since earning his law degree from Emory University in 1974, Andrew Ekonomou has held a variety of prominent positions, including several years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, where he served briefly as acting U.S. attorney.

He’s also been involved in high-profile cases, including representing a co-defendant in former Georgia school Superintendent Linda Schrenko’s corruption trial, and prosecuted countless murderers.

Jay Sekulow, the main attorney representing Trump, told Reuters News Agency on Tuesday that after the departure of Washington attorney John Dowd from Trump’s personal legal team, Ekonomou will assume a more prominent role. Ekonomou, who said he has been working with Sekulow on the Trump investigation since June, currently works under contract as an assistant district attorney in Brunswick and also has private practice in Atlanta, The Lambros Firm.

Former President Bill Clinton returns to Atlanta as part of a new book tour in June, according to the AJC.

Clinton will embark on a month-long North American promo tour in June which includes a stop in Atlanta on Wednesday, June 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

Pre-sale tickets for the event (presented by the Fox Theatre) are available April 3. Anyone interested in receiving an invitation to the pre-sale can register their email address today thru April 2 at

Tickets go on sale to the general public Friday, April 13 at 10 a.m. at by calling 800-735-3000 or at the Cobb Energy Centre Box Office.

The Georgia Senate and House convene at 10 AM today for Legislative Day 40, also known as Sine Die. The Senate is working from the list of bills tabled yesterday. Click here for the House Rules Calendar.

The Senate-House Transit Conference Committee meets at 8:30 AM in room 506 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

Jim Galloway of the AJC writes about the importance or unimportance of “local control.”

Sometime this week, the mayors of several metro Atlanta cities – three of which were created by a GOP-controlled state Legislature – will gather to discuss whether to mount a constitutional battle for the right to determine what goes on inside their boundaries.

Their argument: The Republican party, which came to power with a promise of more local control, is now spinning out of control.

“This Legislature has been – there’s been a real assault on local control and home rule, which is encased in the Georgia constitution. These are not small issues,” said Rusty Paul, the mayor of Sandy Springs and former chairman of the state GOP.

Deals between rural and urban Georgia often dominate the Legislature. This year, the primary transaction is an even swap: Legislation to establish a path toward commuter rail in metro Atlanta, in exchange for greater rural access to broadband service. Both are considered fundamental to the economies of each, and both could be in play until midnight Thursday, when the Legislature adjourns.

It’s a very good piece on an issue that will continue to drive legislative debate for the foreseeable future, and it quotes your humble narrator extensively, so I recommend reading it in its entirety.

James Salzer of the AJC writes about the last day of the legislative session.

Conference committees — groups of three House members and three senators — often get together late on the final day of the session and decide what’s in the final bills colleagues will vote on. The rank and file are brought bills they’ve sometimes never seen before, and they are asked to vote on them. Yes or no. No might be the safer bet, but most lawmakers would rather say yes.

“Sometimes you had to just rely on your friends,” said U.S. Rep. David Scott, an Atlanta Democrat who served about 30 years in the General Assembly before being elected to Congress. “And you pray.”

The $26.2 billion state budget — the one bill lawmakers by law must pass — still needs a House vote. Conference committees will meet and come out with new bills. Some legislation might be gutted and have the innards replaced. Lobbyists will have amendments attached to bills, changing a mandate (“shall do something”) to a suggestion (“may do something”) and vice versa.

In the end, lawmakers will take more than 100 votes between 10 a.m. Thursday and midnight, a lot of which probably could have taken place a month or so ago. But what fun would that be?

Legislation to expand rural broadband is caught between the two chambers, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, who is the sponsor, said the changes are needed so providers won’t have to navigate a patchwork of local ordinances and a range of fees for accessing public right-of-way, such as utility poles.

“There’s no consistency around the state,” Gooch said, referring to local fees.

But the proposal has been met with concerns that it needlessly limits the control of cities and counties that are already permitting the new technology in some areas.

“This is about running roughshod over local governments,” said Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford.

Amy Henderson, spokeswoman with the Georgia Municipal Association, said the bill would “grant private wireless telecom companies nearly unfettered access to the public rights-of-way.”

The Senate passed the measure late Tuesday with a 38-to-14 vote after raising the cap on what local governments can charge providers for roadside setups. Gooch wanted to put the fee at $25 every year for each wireless unit. Lawmakers raised that to $125. There’s currently no limit.

The bill now goes back to the House, where it may prove a hard sell.

[Another] proposal, carried by Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, would set up a grant program for any future funding, such as state appropriations or money from the federal level, that would go toward projects expanding broadband in rural Georgia.

The measure would also clarify that the state’s dozens of local electric cooperatives can provide broadband service, among other changes.

Supporters of House Resolution 518, which would ensure that government funds collected for a specific purpose are spent for that purpose, are calling on Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to support their legislation, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We held a rally outside Cagle’s (gubernatorial) campaign rally in Perry on Thursday,” said the Coosa River Basin Initiative’s Joe Cook, who has been a point person for the Georgia Water Coalition on HR 158, which proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would require the state to “dedicate,” or spend fees on the specific purposes for which the fees were collected. “We stood outside encouraging Cagle to be our hero on this issue.”

As lieutenant governor, Cagle has the power to tell Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, to move the bill, Cook said. Cagle’s press secretary Danny Kenso did not return any of four emails or two phone calls from the Savannah Morning News seeking comment.

Georgia lawmakers have relied on a practice of diverting to the state’s general fund fees that are collected for specific purposes. An oft-cited example is the $1 fee on tire purchases, which is supposed to fund the cleanup of dangerous tire dumps. Instead about 40 percent of the more than $469 million this and other ostensibly “dedicated” fees have generated since the 1990s have funded other portions of the state budget, according to the Georgia Water Coalition.

Both the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia support the legislation. About two dozen city and county governments, including Atlanta, Macon-Bibb County, Rome and Columbus, have passed supporting resolutions.

The Georgia Ports Authority has broken ground on its Mason MegaRail Project, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The $127 million project will double on-dock rail lift capacity at the port and open service to inland markets.

For drivers, it will mean fewer local rail crossings on area roads and as many as 200,000 fewer trucks state-wide to share the roads.

The Chatham and Mason rail yards, operated by CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads, will be combined as part of the project. The new terminal will allow 10,000-foot trains to be loaded at the terminal with containers double-stacked. Those trains will increase the capacity from 500,000 container lifts per year to 1 million.

“This project is a game changer for us,” GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood said. “Our team estimates that the Mason Mega Rail terminal will slash rail times to the Midwest by a good 24 hours and present a viable new option for many manufacturers, shippers and logistics professionals.”

Two Georgia Transportation leaders spoke to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry and State Road and Tollway Authority Executive Director Chris Tomlinson addressed the Gwinnett Chamber in a joint lunchtime presentation on transportation in the area.

“This community of Gwinnett County is now approaching 1 million people,” McMurry said. “I think we lose sight of the size of what Gwinnett is. I know the commissioners here certainly know (and) have to deal with that often. It gives a little perspective.

“When I think about 1 million people, approaching 1 million people, in one county in this great state, we need to remind ourselves that there are six states that are smaller than that in population, plus the District of Columbia … what an important county this is for Georgia.”

With continued population growth, however, there are growing demands on the parts of the local transportation network that are overseen by the county and the state.

Macon-Bibb County will see lower sales tax revenues than anticipated, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Special purpose sales tax collections that voters approved in 2012 were projected to raise $190 million over six years. When the collection window ends on Saturday, the extra penny of tax on the dollar will have generated about $178 million, said Julie Moore, assistant to the county manager for Budget & Strategic Planning.

Two areas scaled back because of the shortfall were road projects and storm drain repairs. Commissioners, however, did add some extra money for them as part of the current $280 million SPLOST.

Collections on that tax start rolling in on Sunday. It does not have a sunset date, meaning that Macon-Bibb can collect the money until it draws the full amount.

New Hall County regulations on short term vacation rentals will go into effect next week, according to the Gainesville Times.

On March 22, the Hall County Board of Commissioners approved new rules for the vacation rentals in the county. Despite initial misgivings, Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau said Wednesday, March 28, she believed the new rules would be successful.

Dickson said Wednesday she believed the commission had threaded the needle with the new rules, creating a system of regulations that would be fair and enforceable. Dickson spoke to commissioners March 19 to warn against going too far in regulating vacation rentals.

Columbia County will place armed security officers at all elementary schools, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The school board’s decision – coupled with a similar decision earlier this month to hire more officers for Columbia County middle schools – would place an officer at every public school in the school district. Each of the county’s five public high schools already has officers stationed on their campuses.

The projected cost of hiring 18 safety officers for the 18 elementary schools has been estimated at $1.1 million. Equipping those officers, at $11,000 per officer, would cost $198,000.

The board voted to hire the officers at its regular board meeting Tuesday night. A date was not given when the new safety measures would go into effect.

A Richmond County grand jury indicted a man of buying a vote in the Blythe Mayor’s race by providing alcohol to an underage voter. From the Augusta Chronicle:

The Richmond County Grand Jury indicted John Daniel Martin on Tuesday for buying votes, a felony, and for furnishing alcohol to a person under 21.

Martin, 35, is a former Blythe city councilman and a current candidate to fill a council vacancy in a May 22 special election.

According to the indictment, Martin gave a man named Jacob Odum alcohol and tobacco to vote for Stewart.

Stewart won the special election for mayor, beating former Blythe councilwoman Cyndi Parham by four votes, and is scheduled to be sworn into office at 6 p.m. today.

The Muscogee County Democratic Party is working to mobilize voters in federal and state races, according to WRBL.

“Our challenge is to get Democrats across the spectrum to get engaged, get involved and turn out the votes,” says [Muscogee Democratic Pary Chair Michael] Owens. “We know we have enough Democrats across the state to actually win this election and bring the Gubernatorial race home for a female for the first time in Georgia’s history.”

The City of Woodstock will join the national lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

Newnan City Council member Clayton Hicks will resign his seat to move to Florida, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

To fill Hicks’ seat, a special qualifying election would be held this summer in order to be put on the ballot by November, according Coweta Election Superintendent Jane Scoggins.

Hicks currently has one year left on his term, so whoever wins the election in November would have to run again in 2019 to serve a full term

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