Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 26, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 26, 2018

On June 25, 1788, the Commonwealth of Virginia became the tenth states to vote for ratification of the United States Constitution by a vote of 89 to 79. A committee was appointed to be chaired by George Wythe to draft a proposed Bill of Rights.

On June 25, 1868, the United States Congress provisionally readmitted Georgia to the Union following the Civil War with the requirements that they ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and never deprive any citizens of voting rights.

On June 25, 1876, Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeated the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry under Lt. Colonel George Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

On June 25, 1888, the Republican National Convention nominated Benjamin Harrison for President of the United States; Harrison’s grandfather was WIlliam Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States.

On June 26, 1918, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the Eighteenth Amendment, which outlawed the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol. Governor Hugh Dorsey did not sign it for nearly a week, but the United States Secretary of State considers an Amendment ratified when the state legislature has voted on final passage.

On June 26, 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco.

The Berlin Airlift began on June 26, 1948 after the Soviet Union had blockaded West Berlin, which was occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France.

On June 25, 1990, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in Georgia v. South Carolina, a boundary dispute. From Wikipedia:

A… 1922 Supreme Court decision, also called Georgia v. South Carolina, 257 U. S. 516, also held that all islands in the river belong to Georgia, but that the border should be in the middle of the river between the two shores, with the border half way between any island and the South Carolina shore.

Since the 1922 case, a number of new islands were created in the river between the city of Savannah and the ocean, due to the deposit of dredging spoilage or the natural deposit of sediments. In some cases, the new islands were on the South Carolina side of the previously drawn boundary, and Georgia claimed that once a new island emerged, the border should be moved to the midpoint between the new island and the South Carolina shore of the river. In some cases, the state of South Carolina had been collecting property tax from the land owners and policing the land in question for a number of years.

When an island causes the border to leave the middle of the river, it raises the question as to how the border line should return to the middle of the river at each end of the island. South Carolina advocated a right angle bend at each tip of the island, while Georgia advocated a “triequidistant” method which kept the border an equal distance between the two shores and the tip of the island (resulting in a smooth curve).

The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in the UK on June 26, 1997.

Gone with the Wind was re-released on June 26, 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A Cannabis-based drug tested in Georgia has received FDA approval, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The drug has been tested at Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University since 2014, although different studies were used for approval. Whether those patients will continue to receive the drug directly from its manufacturer will depend partly on insurance coverage, a doctor at MCG said.

The approval of Epidiolex by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday was not a surprise to Dr. Yong Park.

“That was expected,” said Park, chair of Child Neurology at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. Park has been conducting open-label research on the drug since December 2014, although the FDA approval was based on randomized control trials conducted elsewhere. Georgia has been submitting safety data, so it might have been part of a review, he said.

In the Georgia study, Park said 2016 preliminary data among children with difficult to control seizures found that the drug reduced seizures by 51 percent overall, with a 48 percent reduction in major seizures. Some patients were completely seizure-free during a 28-day observation period as part of one of those studies, he said.

The FDA approval is only for two rare and difficult-to-treat childhood seizure disorders, Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes. Because there are still manufacturing and distribution issues to work out, Park said he has been advised by London-based GW Pharmaceuticals that it will be February before the drug is commercially available. It is still unknown whether insurance will cover it, and that and the potential availability could affect whether the Georgia patients still receive the drug from the company, Park said.

Former Republican Presidential candidate Steve Forbes campaigned with LG Casey Cagle in his gubernatorial bid, according to the AJC.

Former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes campaigned with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on Monday, touting his plans to cut taxes and dismissing concerns that his stance on social issues could deter business investment.

Forbes, the chief executive of Forbes Media, said lower tax rates will speak louder to businesses scouting Georgia. He singled out legislation this year that reduces the state’s top income tax rate from 6 percent to 5.5 percent this decade.

“There’s never enough tax reform. But you have to do it in a way that’s feasible,” he said. “Just keep knocking it down. And when people look at Georgia and see the tax burden going in the right direction, that bodes well for the future. It’s a trend line.”

Georgia farmers might be collateral damage in a trade war, according to the AJC.

Cotton, peanut, pecan and soybean crops in the state all face falling prices and the loss of major markets as a result of retaliatory tariffs either implemented or proposed by China. These import taxes have been created in response to new tariffs President Donald Trump has slapped on trading partners in recent months.

These tariffs are an effort to narrow the country’s $46 billion trade deficit, the result of the nation importing far more than it exports.

“We’ve used a different method to try and bring people to the negotiating table, and I think most growers in the state realize that,” said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. “Does that mean they’re not concerned about this fall’s harvest and where part of our crop might go, and what’s the price going to be? Absolutely, and I’m concerned too.”

The four crops caught up in recent rounds of tariffs combined for a value of $2 billion in Georgia in 2016, according to the UGA Cooperative Extension. New tariffs would raise the cost of importing U.S. agricultural products, leaving Georgia farmers facing uncertainty over the value of their crops. Some crops are already witnessing falling prices in the wake of gloomy expectations.

Soybean prices have fallen $1.50 a bushel since the Chinese threatened tariffs in April, said Terry Hollifield, the executive director for the Georgia office of the American Soybean Association. That drop is equivalent to about 10 percent of the crop’s value.

Democratic candidates for statewide office lined up as “No” votes on religious liberty legislation, according to Project Q.

Moderator Jason Rae, affiliate relations director for the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, opened the panel by asking the candidates if they would support a statewide LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law and whether they opposed anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” bills. Secretary of State nominee John Barrow, Attorney General nominee Charlie Bailey, Insurance Commissioner nominee Janice Laws and Labor Commissioner nominee Richard Keatley all answered yes to both questions. Agriculture Secretary nominee Fred Swann arrived after the question was asked.

It was a notable moment for Barrow, who during a 2014 bid for reelection to Congress refused to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The legislation would have prohibited employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Barrow was one of only eight Democrats in the U.S. House to refuse to sponsor the bill.

While the five-time Congressman did vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and voted for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, Barrow also voted to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, leading him to often score on par with his Republican counterparts in Georgia on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard. He lost that election in 2014.

State Senator Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton) will chair the Senate Study Committee On Regulatory Oversight of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, according to a press release from the LG’s office.

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle announced appointments to the Senate Study Committee on the Excessive and Duplicative Regulatory Oversight of Community Based Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD). The Study Committee, created by SR 506 and sponsored by Senator Mike Dugan, will work throughout the year to improve access to quality, affordable health care for disabled Georgians by eliminating bureaucratic regulations and enhancing services available at the community level.

“For families facing the challenges of life with a disability, quality home and community-based care services are absolutely essential to make everyday challenges more manageable so all Georgians can share in our state’s unparalleled quality of life,” said Lt. Governor Cagle. “We’re working hard to eliminate bureaucratic red tape so every family living with disability can get access to the services they need, at the right time, in the lowest cost setting. I’m optimistic Chairman Dugan and the members of this committee will bring forward solutions to improve the range and quality of services available statewide, while eliminating needless layers of bureaucracy and barriers to quality care.”

Lt. Governor Cagle has appointed the following Senators to the Senate Study Committee on the Excessive and Duplicative Regulatory Oversight of Community Based Intellectual and Developmental Disability: Chairman Mike Dugan, Greg Kirk, and Larry Walker. Cagle also appointed citizens Lynnette Bragg, Tena Blakely, and Charles Harper.

“Senseless and duplicative regulations hold back our health care system from providing the needed services that our disabled communities rely on,” said Chairman Mike Dugan. “I’m grateful for Lt. Governor Cagle’s leadership in fighting to bring health care decisions to the community level, where local leaders can maximize efficiency to provide the best possible care for disabled citizens. I look forward to working with this committee to further advance that objective.”

The Eagles Landing Educational Research Committee gave a presentation on the proposed new city in Henry County and it went off the rails, according to the Henry Herald.

Members of the public asked a variety of questions about the feasibility of a new city of Eagles Landing, but it was a question about the impact of the new city on Stockbridge that set off a member of the ELERC and ground the meeting to a halt.

A member of the public asked about that impact as demonstrated in a recent feasibility study ordered by the city of Stockbridge and conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia.

“People are saying things that don’t make sense,” [Committee member] Halron said. “It’s very disappointing to me that city councilmen and other representatives don’t understand what their budget is, their expenses and revenue. As a citizen, I used to think I could look up to them. If I was a business owner and I had a $9.5 million budget, I’d know where that revenue came from. I’m not seeing that with the council.”

The citizen responded by saying the feasibility study would cut around 37 percent from the city’s revenue.

“It said 49.7 percent, sir,” Halron responded. “What are your credentials?”

The Dougherty County Commission approved a FY 2019 budget that includes a three-mill rate increase, according to the Albany Herald.

The commission, at a special called meeting Monday, approved a budget that will raise the county’s millage rate by 3 mils. The spending plan also includes a 5 percent cost-of-living raise for employees, along with a 2.86 percent merit raise.

For Dougherty taxpayers, based on a $100,000 home assessed at 40 percent of fair market value, the millage increase will mean an additional cost of $120 annually.

“Consider this the price of doing business, prices are going up everywhere,” District 1 commissioner Lamar Hudgins said. “We had to do something.”

The 3-mill hike is the county’s largest increase since at least 2002. But the $67 million budget presented to the commission was nearly $2 million in the red, and the county was closing in on a Saturday deadline to have a balanced budget to the state.

Ed Wall, a Piper Jaffery Financial consultant, had already presented commissioners with 15 budget options from which they might choose. Those options ranged from no rate hike to 2- , 3- and 4-mill hikes.

Gwinnett County Public Schools will hold public meetings to discuss the proposed millage rate for 2019, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

By state law, local taxing authorities, such as the board of education, must either keep their tax collections revenue-neutral by decreasing the millage rate to offset the gained taxes from the property value updates or announce a tax increase.

At the May board of education meeting, the school district approved the tentative adoption of a combined millage rate of 21.75, slightly lower than last year’s rate of 21.85 due to a 0.10 decrease in the debt service millage.

The slightly lower total millage will still generate more revenue for fiscal year 2019 and is requiring the school district to make an announcement of a proposed property tax increase. However, taxpayers whose property values have not increased due to reassessment will see a slight reduction in their school tax bill.

The first hearing will be held at 7 p.m. July 9 followed by the second and third public hearings taking place at 11:45 a.m. and 7 p.m. July 16 in the Board Room at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center, located at 437 Old Peachtree Road N.W. in Suwanee.

CNN highlights the City of South Fulton, where all top officials in the criminal justice system are African-American women.

South Fulton, an Atlanta suburb and one of Georgia’s newest cities, has the distinction of being perhaps the first city in the nation to have its criminal justice system led entirely by black women:

• Chief Judge Tiffany Carter Sellers
• interim Police Chief Sheila Rogers
• solicitor LaDawn “LBJ” Jones
• public defender Viveca Famber Powell
• court administrator Lakesiya Cofield
• chief court clerk Ramona Howard
• court clerk Tiffany Kinslow
• court clerk Kerry Stephens

Many will hail this group as a definitive sign of progress in the tortured relationship between the justice system and black America.

“This was not something that was pre-planned or prescribed,” said Chief Judge Tiffany Carter Sellers. “It came together very organically.”

Rome and Floyd County will update citizens on progress under Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax programs, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

County Manager Jamie McCord and City Manager Sammy Rich will address the citizens advisory committees for the 2013 and 2017 SPLOST packages for about an hour at the facility off Martha Berry Highway in Armuchee.

“It’s also open to the public to listen and ask questions,” County Clerk Erin Elrod said Monday.

The $64.9 million package approved by voters in 2013 funded projects ranging from the PAWS animal shelter on North Avenue and an upgrade at the Forum River Center to the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College and the widening of Burnett Ferry Road.

“They’ll talk about where we’re at on the 2013 SPLOST,” Elrod said. “That collection will be wrapping up in March 2019.”

The 1-cent tax for the $63.8 million 2017 SPLOST package will start immediately after that, on April 1, 2019. Voters also approved the option of selling SPLOST-backed bonds to jump-start projects before the tax money is in the bank.

Georgia Sea Turtles are on pace to produce an average number of nests this season, according to the Savannah Morning News.

By Monday, the network of volunteers and professionals who patrol the state’s beaches daily to protect and study sea turtles had recorded 905 loggerhead nests on barrier islands from Little Tybee to Cumberland.

“Based on these numbers, we predict this year’s nest total to be between 1,700 to 2,000 nests,” wrote Department of Natural Resources senior wildlife biologist Mark Dodd in an email to all the sea turtle coordinators. “That will put us slightly below last year’s total (n=2,155) but still approximately twice the nesting levels we documented when we started comprehensive surveys in 1989. Overall, the population has been increasing at approximately 3 percent a year over the last 30 years.”

Nearly 200 of the nests so far this year have been recorded in Chatham County. Ossabaw Island leads the county-wide count with 103 nests, then Wassaw with 81, Tybee with 13 and Little Tybee with one.

Both the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education and the Savannah City Council raised property tax millage rates for the FY 2019 budgets, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown is asking for increased funding for overtime, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown, who successfully campaigned for his office on a platform in 2016 that included finding ways to reduce overtime, now seeks more overtime funding for the department.

“Give me time,” Brown said Friday. “I inherited this.”

Being understaffed, he said, leads to necessary overtime, adding he has a plan to reduce the amount of overtime, but the first step is yet to come.

Bulloch County Commissioners approved a budget Wednesday of more than $40 million, and 43 percent of that is earmarked for public safety.

Of that 43 percent, well over half goes to the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Jail (26 percent), Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office (25 percent) and its various departments.

Opioids

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr spoke about opioid abuse and human trafficking in Statesboro, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“When we talk about human trafficking, we’re talking about domestic minor sex trafficking,” Carr said. “We’re talking about adults who are selling children for sex.”

“There should be zero tolerance as it relates to this issue,” he said. “We’ve got to prosecute those that are perpetrating these crimes. You’ve got to get rehabilitation to those that are victims. …  We also have to focus on the demand side, and that’s what we’re focusing on as state attorneys general, focusing on those who would go out and purchase children for sex.”

On the subject of “the opioid crisis,” Carr cited a statistic that four Georgians a day die from opioid overdoses. Opioids include frequently abused prescription painkillers such as oxycodone as well as purely illegal drugs such as heroin.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) addressed federal efforts to curb opioid abuse in an Op-Ed published by the Gainesville Times.

Over the last five years, Americans have seen a dramatic rise in home invasions. The numbers rose slowly and steadily from 2000 to 2013 and skyrocketed from there through 2016, when the same menace claimed 20,145 lives in 12 months.

The intruder has made its way into communities in every corner of every state. It’s called fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that stole into countless families, widening the wake of damage left by other opiates like heroin. Together, opioids ended the lives of at least 1,395 Georgians in 2016.

I recently visited an inpatient treatment center in Sautee Nacoochee that serves people across our region and navigates the intersections of substance abuse and mental health treatment. While I’m grateful for the hope that private initiatives like this offer people who are living under the shadow of opioid abuse, working with local law enforcement, churches and mental health experts has strengthened my conviction that Congress must combat this epidemic proactively.

My colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee share this resolve, and we worked together to send the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues [SISTA] Act to the full House of Representatives for a vote. For those on the front lines, one of the most vexing realities of the opioid crisis is that cartels constantly engineer new synthetic drugs in order to skirt U.S. laws.

The SISTA Act would stem the rush of synthetic compounds into neighborhoods by providing law enforcement with appropriate tools and allowing them to declare new drugs illegal if they mirror the makeup of substances that are already prohibited. The bill would also make it easier for the Department of Health and Human Services to study fentanyl copycats and fight their effects.

On June 15, the House passed the SISTA Act, taking the biggest strides yet toward defeating the criminal drug makers who target our communities. But there’s more we can do.

Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) is also highlighting his work to combat the opioid epidemic, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Woodall’s office is highlighting the work done locally by officials such as Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader and state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, to spotlight the need for additional resources in local communities to fight opioid addiction.

Work between members of the House and local officials have led to a flurry of bills, including more than half a dozen that were scheduled for votes in the chamber over the past week.

“Individuals and families are being irreparably damaged by opioid abuse and addiction,” Woodall said. “Sadly, there is no cure-all or quick fix to this problem facing our community and our country, but long-term solutions can only be achieved together, and that partnership is exactly what these bills are intended to leverage.”

“For too long, substance abuse, especially opioid abuse, has hurt families in our community,” Schrader said. “As a result of the opioid crisis, many communities now recognize the lack of resources available to support their citizens. I’m grateful to all our local and federal leaders such as Sen. Unterman, Rep. Woodall and many more for their willingness to address this crisis with collaboration, evidenced-based treatment and resources.”

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