Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 4, 2018


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 4, 2018

On June 4, 1785, James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia, met with John Adams, the first ambassador from the new United States to Great Britain.

On June 4, 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to always be right vote. In August 1920, enough states had ratified the 19th Amendment that it took effect.

The Battle of Midway began on June 4, 1942. During the battle, four Japanese aircraft carriers that had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor and one cruiser were sunk at the cost of one American carrier and one destroyer.

Today is the 29th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, China.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Statesboro voters may now vote early in the City Council District 5 runoff election, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Early voting opens Friday, June 1, in the June 19 special election runoff for a City Council member in Statesboro District 5.

The candidates are Don Armel and Derek Duke, vying to fill the unexpired term through 2019 of former councilman Travis Chance, who resigned in March and is now a Bulloch County commissioner candidate in a separate runoff. The county and state runoffs do not occur until July 24, and the only early voting available now is for Statesboro council District 5.

Election Day voting will occur at one location, Pittman Park United Methodist Church, 1102 Fair Road, the city precinct for District 5, from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. June 19.

A federal lawsuit seeks to force Georgia to use paper ballots in this year’s General Election, according to the AJC.

The plaintiffs, a group of election integrity activists and voters, say the courts need to step in to safeguard democracy in Georgia. Legislation to replace the state’s electronic voting machines failed to pass at the Georgia Capitol this year, and tech experts have repeatedly shown how malware could change election results.

While scrapping the state’s 27,000 electronic voting machines within the next five months would be a drastic move, it’s necessary to ensure that hackers aren’t altering election results, said Donna Price, a plaintiff in the case and the director for Georgians for Verified Voting, a group advocating for a paper voting system.

“We are asked to trust the word of the election officials that votes are counted as cast. That is not acceptable,” Price said. “No matter what our political beliefs, election outcomes are a matter of life and death: Do we have health care when sick? Do our kids go to war? Is our system of government safe?”

Georgia is one of five states that relies entirely on electronic voting machines that don’t leave an independent paper backup. Roughly 70 percent of the country uses some form of paper ballots, which are invulnerable to digital tampering.

The State of Georgia will not collect jet fuel sales taxes beginning July 1st, according to the AJC.

Gov. Nathan Deal and the General Assembly allocated about $29 million in this year’s budget to fund grants to make up the difference for local governments, such as Clayton County, on SPLOST sales taxes that go for parks, roads and other projects when approved by voters.

The state’s announcement also comes on the heels of an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to dismiss a lawsuit by Clayton to uphold airport fuel tax collections that the Federal Aviation Administration questioned.

Clayton and its school district split $18 million annually from fuel taxes levied on the Atlanta-owned Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which is located in the county. But the FAA last year indicated it could begin enforcing a policy it upheld in a 2014 decision prohibiting the use of taxes collected at an airport for any purpose other than for the airport.

The Georgia Department of Revenue put out its announcement that it was ordering vendors not to collect most local sales taxes on jet fuel around 4 p.m. Friday. Politicians and government agencies often release controversial decisions late on Friday to limit publicity.

“Today’s action ensures that Georgia will be in compliance with federal regulations and avoids the possibility of significant sanctions both on the state and local jurisdictions,” Revenue Commissioner Lynne Riley said.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is reporting rising numbers of Bald Eagles, according to The Brunswick News.

DNR announced the survey — which, unlike others, did not cover the whole state — turned up more than 100 nesting areas that included around 127 young birds. The results come on the heels of a 2017 full-state survey in which DNR discovered a record 218 nest territories, which was the third consecutive year topping 200.

In Glynn, Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Liberty and McIntosh counties, the survey turned up 79 occupied nest territories, with 64 including at least one eaglet. In the other area — roughly bordered by I-16 and I-85, excluding Savannah — there were 28 occupied nest territories, including 19 with at least one eaglet.

Georgia DNR is also calling for more water safety awareness given current conditions, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Officials with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said Sunday that the [Etowah River] Big Float points out the importance of water-safety awareness.

Close to 460 rafters participated in the Saturday event sponsored by Coosa River Basin Initiative. And over 100 of them had to be rescued when fast currents swept them past the take-out point.

Recent heavy rains and electric generation upstream at Allatoona Dam had increased the river flow and volume to about three times the normal level, Barr said. Personnel with the DNR and the Rome-Floyd County Fire Department had suggested the event be canceled due to potential hazards and high-water conditions.

“These type waters can create a dangerous environment for rafters and small watercraft,” Barr said. “The pressure… has tremendous power and can easily be underestimated.”

Hall County saw electrical outages and high numbers of downed trees in recent storms, according to The Gainesville Times.

Hall County’s 911 center took more than 100 calls regarding downed trees following severe thunderstorms that struck late Friday afternoon.

Hall County 911 Director Gail Lane said the center received 103 calls reporting trees down, and 42 trees “were cut out to clear (the) roadway.”

Around 5 p.m. Friday, June 1, roughly 5,000 total customers of Jackson EMC and Georgia Power in Hall County were without power.

The storms dumped about a half-inch of rain in the Gainesville area between 5 and 6 p.m., according to data logged at the National Weather Service recording station at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport.

The State House Rural Development Council is looking a “small cell” technology as a way to spread broadband availability, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Still, Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, — one of 16 active members on the panel — said he has hopes that new “small-cell” technologies can start filling in gaps.

“From a technology standpoint, we see the ability to greatly expand it throughout the state,” he said. “I don’t see that the more rural parts will be served in the near future, but you’ve got to build the network out. I believe the technology gets us moving in the direction we want to go in.”

Towers aren’t going away but small cells — “about the size of garbage cans,” Lumsden said — can be added to increase capacity and coverage in targeted areas. They’re mounted on poles in the public rights of way and can serve customers in a radius of 500 to 1,200 feet.

Local governments have control over their rights of way and are unwilling to give that up. Rome City Commissioners discussing the issue said they welcome the service but have concerns about the potential for unsightly transmitters every quarter-mile, especially in historic districts.

There’s also the issue of right-of-way fees, which are set locally in the absence of statewide legislation. Lumsden said 35 states have adopted regulations, “but Georgia’s not one of them.”

Georgia’s peanut crop is threatened by this year’s rainy weather, according to the Albany Herald.

Two consecutive weeks of rainfall in Georgia stunted the growth of the state’s peanut crop and created ideal conditions for diseases in vegetable fields, leaving farmers scrambling to decide what to do next.

Georgia’s peanut and cotton acreage remains in flux due to the inclement weather. According to the Georgia Crop Progress and Condition Report, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, 73 percent of this year’s peanut crop has been planted. Some of the crop will likely need to be replanted because of saturated field conditions.

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension peanut agronomist Scott Monfort said the steady rainfall stalled the growth of peanut plants across Georgia. Fields are waterlogged from the abnormal amount of rainfall, and the plants are not pulling any essential nutrients from the soil.

“I’ve been in quite a few fields where everything looks like it’s several weeks behind,” Monfort said. “Peanuts that were planted a month ago look like they were planted a week ago. They’re just not growing.”

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert learned of a subpoena issued to a department director eight months afterwards, according to the Macon Telegraph.

James Bumpus, Reichert’s Small Business Affairs director until May 25 when he resigned, was served by federal prosecutors in October.

Reichert said he did not learn about the subpoena until it surfaced as part of an open records request made by The Telegraph. That request asked for all subpoenas from department directors and other officials.

“I don’t know what (Bumpus) was thinking about why he didn’t need to advise us,” Reichert said Friday. “We don’t know at this point what he provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We assume he made his (grand jury) appearance because we didn’t get anything from them.”

County attorneys are now gathering the information requested by prosecutors to make sure they have all the necessary documents, Macon-Bibb officials said.

Macon-Bibb County property owners are facing a millage rate increase, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Commissioners have spent four weeks combing through details, trying to shave off from the 3.75-mill increase proposed by Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration.

But after some give and take on how much money outside agencies receive, pension contributions and other areas, a commission committee was able to reduce the potential hike by about 1-mill, or roughly $4 million.

“Today we met for three hours, and amazingly we ended up in the same place,” [Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Virgil] Watkins said following the meeting. “We cut from different stuff and trimmed about $1.5 million then got to talking too much about pension (contributions) and ended up taking that back out at the end.”

“It was a lot of good conversation, but we’re still at about 2.87 mills,” for a tax increase, Watkins said.

WGXA looked at the Macon-Bibb budget issues related to a property tax increase.

The [Finance] committee proposed a mil rate increase of 2.97, while Mayor Robert Reichert’s increase in his proposed budget was 3.7. Commissioner Elaine Lucas said she would only support a two mil increase.

The proposed budget would be $161,614,009. Commissioners also debated on getting a Tax Anticipation Note (TAN), which borrows money against the net year’s taxes, although it would have to be paid by the end of 2018.

“This political power has been atrociously abused,” said one woman at the hearing.

“Speak as one of the many Macon-Bibb citizens who are tired of being shafted by these outrageous and unnecessary tax increases,” said Bryson Holloway.

“You are supposed to be the stewards of our finances it is a trust placed in you by the people of Macon-Bibb, and right now you are betraying that trust,” Holloway said.

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