Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 7, 2018

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Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 7, 2018

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On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced a resolution before the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia calling for American independence from Great Britain.

Lee’s resolution declared: “That these United Colonies are, and of right out to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; that measures should be immediately taken for procuring the assistance of foreign powers, and a Confederation be formed to bind the colonies more closely together.”

Four weeks later, Georgia’s members of the Continental Congress – Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton — voted for a version written by Thomas Jefferson of Virginia and called the Declaration of Independence.

The first successful ascent of Mt. McKinley, also called Denali, in Alaska, the highest mountain in North America, was completed on June 7, 1913.

On June 7, 1942, Japanese troops occupied American territory in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska.

Ronald Reagan became the Republican nominee for Governor of California on June 7, 1966.

June 7, 2016 was declared “Prince Day” in Minnesota under a proclamation issued by Governor Mark Dayton. Prince was born on this day in 1958. Governor Dayton missed his chance to begin a proclamation with “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together today….” This year, Dayton proclaimed Prince Day on April 21, 2017.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The United States Air Force announced a new program at Robins Air Force Base, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The base will host the Advanced Battle Management System, a new global air space intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information system mission, said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

The mission will not mean new jobs for now, but it could in the future, said Dan Rhoades, director of strategy for the 21st Century Partnership, a Robins booster.

J-STARS will be a part of the Advanced Battle Management System along with other current and future platforms that specialize in tracking enemy activity and managing troops on the ground. That will include drones to be based at Robins.

Governor Nathan Deal announced state revenues yesterday.

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia’s net tax collections for May totaled almost $1.76 billion, for an increase of $31.5 million, or 1.8 percent, compared to last year when net tax collections totaled nearly $1.73 billion. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled $20.73 billion, for an increase of $940.8 million, or 4.8 percent, compared to May 2017, when net tax revenues totaled roughly $19.79 billion.

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

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for May increased by $12.4 million, or 1.4 percent, compared to last year when Income Tax collections totaled $871.4 million.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax combine for the net increase:

  • Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $26 million, or 17.6 percent.
  • Individual Withholding payments were up $43.3 million, or 4.7 percent.
  • Individual Income Tax Return payments were down roughly $7.9 million, or -18.7 percent.
  • All other Individual Tax categories, including Non-Resident Return payments, were up a combined $3 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections totaled almost $975.8 million, for an increase of $65.5 million, or 7.2 percent, over last year. Net Sales and Use Tax increased by nearly $15.6 million, or 3.3 percent, compared to May 2017, when net sales tax totaled $479.1 million. The adjusted distribution of sales tax to local governments totaled $473.1 million, for an increase of $46.1 million, or 10.8 percent, over last year. Finally, sales tax refunds increased by roughly $3.8 million, or 90.7 percent, to a total of $8.1 million.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for May increased by $5.3 million, or 15.8 percent, compared to last year when Corporate Tax collections totaled $33.4 million.

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the net increase:

  • Corporate Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down $10.7 million, or -43.2 percent.
  • Corporate Income Tax payments were down $3.7 million, or -23.5 percent.
  • All other Corporate Tax categories, including S-Corp payments, were down approximately $1.7 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections during the month totaled almost $151.7 million, for an increase of $4.9 million, or 3.3 percent, compared to May 2017.

Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees for the month totaled $32.1 million, for an increase of $2.4 million, or 8.2 percent, over last year. Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections decreased by nearly $1.9 million, or -2.4 percent, compared to May 2017, when TAVT collections totaled $75.9 million.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr visited Macon a year after a massive wave of overdoses, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“Our own medicine cabinets are perpetuating this crisis,” State Attorney General Chris Carr said inside CVS on Gray Highway late afternoon Wednesday. “Nearly 1,000 families lost a loved one due to opioid overdose last year in Georgia.”

Carr helped create the state’s opioid task force, comprised of nonprofits, doctors, addiction specialists, state health agencies and other stakeholders, in October.

“What I have learned is, this really is an epidemic that knows no geographic, economic or demographic boundaries,” Carr said. “Everybody has a role to play.”

Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Natalie Paine said that opiate-treatment plans are lacking, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

District Attorney Natalie Paine said addiction to heroin and prescription opioids is “not something you treat overnight.”

“It’s not something that you go to rehab and in 30 days get rid of,” she said during the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Luncheon Series. “It’s a very long process.”

Paine, whose office oversees criminal cases in Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties, said there are no affordable options nearby. A facility near Statesboro, Ga., that used to charge individuals $700 a month as a nonprofit now charges $1,000 a day under its current corporate owners, she said.

“We’re the second-largest city in Georgia, and we don’t have really anywhere that we can send somebody for an extended amount of time to get much-needed help,” she said. “I would think that it is one of the single most important things we can do in terms of our future because (the problem) is not getting better yet.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is looking at upgrade options for the state’s voting equipment, according to the Associated Press.

Brian Kemp established the Secure, Accessible and Fair Elections Commission in April to study a replacement for Georgia’s current electronic touchscreen system, which does not create an auditable paper record, after efforts to get replacements installed in time for this year’s elections failed.

The group will meet for the first time June 13, and will review options including touchscreens that print paper ballots, and ballots marked by hand with a pen.

Georgia’s current centrally managed elections system lacks a verifiable paper trail that can be audited in the event of problems; the state is one of just five nationwide that continues to rely exclusively on aged electronic voting machines that computer scientists have long criticized as untrustworthy because they are easily hacked and don’t leave a paper trail.

At this point, any change would not affect this year’s elections, and any new system would likely be overseen by the next Secretary of State.

State Rep. Jeff Jones (R-St Simons) opposes a beach nourishment program for Sea Island, according to The Brunswick News.

Georgia state representative and St. Simons Island resident Jeff Jones says he is opposed to the Sea Island Co.’s plans to renourish Sea Island’s beach with 1.3 million cubic yards of sand and construct a third rock groin to retain the sand.

Jones and then-state Rep. Alex Atwood, along with multiple environmental advocacy groups, opposed the groin. The groups filed two unsuccessful appeals after the Shore Protection Committee, part of the Coastal Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources, approved it.

After two hurricanes hit the Golden Isles in 2016 and 2017, Sea Island resubmitted the groin and nourishment project along with a long-term beach renourishment and management plan. The plan is currently under review by the Shore Protection Committee.

In an email to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials, Jones said he opposed the groin in “the strongest of terms.”

Jones said Wednesday that he had spoken to some environmental engineers about the plan, who convinced him it is a bad idea.

“I respect (the Sea Island Co.’s) right to develop their property, but there’s the old principle that I can’t do something to my property that would adversely affect my neighbor’s property,” Jones said Wednesday. “And that’s clearly what this groin will do … I hope the corps will do the right thing and properly consider the impact of this if they issue a permit for it.”

A Chatham County Grand Jury recommended longer sentences and fewer early releases, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“After our three months of grand jury service, it is obvious to this jury that one of the most glaring and troubling issues facing Chatham County is the number of recidivists brought before the grand jury,” jury foreman Kurt Rodenberg wrote in the term’s presentment filed in court on Monday.

It cited the money spent for law enforcement to repeatedly capture, the district attorney’s office to repeatedly prosecute and the courts to repeatedly hear cases for those recidivists which would “in our opinion, greatly exceed the cost of extended incarceration.”

“Chatham County would be a safer community with 600 fewer drug dealers, sex offenders, robbers, gang members and other felons off our streets.”

The Henry County Board of Education plans to move voting precincts out of schools by 2020, according to the Henry Herald.

According to Tina Lunsford, Henry’s director of elections and voter registration, the county intends to move all voting precincts out of schools by the 2020 election cycle, if “acceptable alternate facilities can be utilized.”

Lunsford said the county has already moved its voting booths elsewhere in the schools.

“Beginning with the 2016 election cycle, we asked the Board of Education and the principals of the schools to allow us the use of the gym, which has a separate entrance and exit, and while most schools accommodate that request, some do not.”

A year ago, Lunsford said the Board of Elections voted to move polling places from schools to churches or recreation centers for a variety of reasons, such as schools being in session during primary season, construction and/or remodeling of schools and a lack of handicap-accessible parking.

The Savannah-Chatham Board of Education voted to raise property taxes, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A combination of increases for unfunded state mandates, planned increases in teacher pay and school safety enhancements led the Savannah-Chatham County School board to approve a tentative 2.25 mill increase in property taxes during Wednesday’s regular meeting.

The vote is the first step towards an official and final vote on June 20. The final vote will follow three public hearings scheduled for June 13 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. and again on June 20 at 6 p.m. The board will hold a special meeting that day at 6:30 p.m. for the final vote.

Savannah is considering reducing a fire fee after citizen opposition, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The city may reduce the controversial fire fee by more than half as opposition grows ahead of bills being sent this fall, but the decrease may also result in staffing cuts and the elimination of millions of dollars’ worth of planned expenses, under a proposal outlined by Mayor Eddie DeLoach.

“We brought change too quickly and should have done a much better job explaining our thought process to the residents and business community,” DeLoach said during a press conference Wednesday. “We apologize for letting our zeal to improve the city get a head of our ability to fund the services.”

DeLoach said he also plans to recommend during a city council budget workshop on June 18 that the city retain the one mill property tax decrease that was passed in conjunction with the fire fee as part of this year’s budget – a reduction expected to reduce city revenue by about $5.2 million.

Tybee Beach traffic threatens terrapins, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The stream of vehicles headed to Tybee on a June weekend is relentless, and so is the instinct of a diamondback terrapin to cross Highway 80. The inevitable result doesn’t take long to find if you’re looking.

“The causeways that are connecting the mainland to the barrier islands serve not only as high ground for the females to nest but also unfortunately in many cases a death trap,” Gray said, holding the injured turtle as traffic whooshed by. “Diamondback terrapin females will cross the road… looking for high ground to nest.”

Meanwhile, Gray continued to patrol, joined by Kathryn Craven an associate professor of biology at Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong campus. Terrapins nest from May to July, typically coming out of the brackish water to lay their eggs in the hours around high tide. Already on Saturday about a dozen dead turtles lay squashed on the shoulder. It was too late to help any of them. But the rescuers quickly found another terrapin that had been freshly killed. The impact threw her eggs from her body. Four eggs were damaged but four were intact. Craven and Gray arranged them on a clean towel in a plastic tray. They’ll be incubated back at the Armstrong campus at 87 degrees, a temperature that ensures they’ll all be female. Then they’ll be released as hatchlings in about 60 days.

Lower Pool West Park below the Buford dam has been closed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the closing of Lower Pool West Park, which is located at Little Mill Road and Buford Dam Road, this week. The park is located at the base of the dam and offers visitors a view of its hydroelectric plant from a bridge on its walking path. Anglers also visit the park to try and catch fish swimming in the Chattahoochee River.

Since the dam is where water releases from Lake Lanier into the river occur, however, that can make waters at the park dangerous when those releases become more frequent as they have been after the area’s recent storms.

“Due to the need for constant water releases at Buford Dam because of recent high rainfall events, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Sidney Lanier has closed Lower Pool West Park until further notice,” the corps said in a statement. “During water release conditions, water levels along the river will be high, turbulent and very dangerous.”

 

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