Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2018

On July 4, 1776, the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826.

On July 4, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly convened for the first time after passage of the Constitution of 1868 with a legislature comprising 186 members, of whom 36 were African-American.

On July 3, 1889, the Georgia General Assembly held its last session at the Kimball Opera House, located at the corner of Marietta and Forsyth Streets in downtown Atlanta before moving into a new Georgia State Capitol. On July 4, 1889, the Georgia State Capitol was dedicated, then housing all three branches of the state government.

Happy birthday to Idaho, which became a state on July 3, 1890.

On July 3, 1913, the Georgia state Senate tabled a motion to allow the Georgia Women’s Suffrage Association to address the chamber.

On July 3, 1970, the Atlanta Pop Festival was held in Byron, Georgia.

Among the artists playing at Byron were the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix.

The Clash played their first live show on July 4, 1976 at The Black Swan in Sheffield, England.

Back to the Future was released on July 3, 1985.

On July 3, 1986, President Ronald Reagan reopened the Statue of Liberty after a two-year restoration.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Valdosta Times has a story about several local residents who became American citizens.

The Primary Election in House District 28 may be subject to a re-do after election officials gave some voters incorrect ballots, according to the AJC.

Something went very wrong when dozens, maybe even hundreds, of voters received the wrong ballots in a tight primary election in North Georgia.

They lived in one state House district but voted in another.

Now, the election that seemed to unseat an incumbent representative might be thrown out. State Rep. Dan Gasaway, who lost the May 22 primary by just 67 votes to Chris Erwin, is asking a judge to order a new election.

Election officials in Habersham County have acknowledged the errors, sending letters to voters saying “your address was found to have been placed in the wrong House district.”

“The Habersham County election office is a complete disaster,” said Gasaway, a Republican who has represented the Homer area since 2013. “It is going to take disciplinary action from the Secretary of State’s Office to get this corrected.”

A Jeffersonville, Georgia family has been reunited after the parents were charged with allowing their teenager to smoke marijuana, according to the Macon Telegraph.

After a juvenile court hearing Monday, David Ray left the Twiggs County courthouse with Suzeanna and Matthew Brill, who were arrested in April and charged with reckless conduct after they admitted to allowing their son to smoke pot to help stop seizures.

The reckless conduct charges against the Brills also were dropped Monday, according to Superior Court records.

In making its recommendation, the Division of Family and Children Services “is looking at whether or not a child is safe in their home,” Suzeanna Brill’s lawyer, Lauren Deal, told The Telegraph. “I think the overwhelming evidence is that David is safe in his mother’s home.”

The Brill’s story made national headlines in May, prompting Sheriff Darren Mitchum to hold a news conference where he defended his office’s decision to charge them with reckless conduct.

Asked if she thought the dropped charges and return of her son was a happy ending, Suzeanna Brill plainly said, “No.”

“It’s a happy beginning,” she said. “Hopefully we can get something accomplished for more than just David in the state of Georgia … Cause if I can’t take care of my kid here, I can’t be here.”

Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputies took a unique approach to driver education about the hand-free driving law, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

While drivers sat in air-conditioned cars, Cpl. Chuck Benson stood in the 90-degree heat holding a cardboard sign warning them to put down their phones.

Benson was one of several officers dressed as civilians on the streets Monday educating drivers about Georgia’s new hands-free law, which became effective Sunday. The officers are part of the campaign to bring awareness to the law by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office’s traffic safety division.

Benson said these locations were chosen because they are considered high-crash areas. For over an hour, he stood on the side of Windsor Spring Road and radioed in reports of any drivers he saw holding their phones. He said he would estimate between 30 to 50 drivers were pulled over and educated on the law.

Benson said the sheriff’s office isn’t giving out any tickets until Wednesday. For now, those pulled over will be educated on the guidelines of the law and given a warning citation if no other laws were broken, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.

Georgia State Patrol troopers also began enforcing the distracted driving law, according to AccessWDUN.

Curt Yeomans of the Gwinnett Daily Post writes about other laws that went into effect at the beginning of this month.

One of the big laws now in effect may be the fireworks bill, House Bill 419, because it could mean shoot fireworks any day of the year atmosphere that has existed since fireworks became legal in Georgia in 2015 could be curtailed.

The bill lets cities and counties restrict fireworks use through general noise ordinances. The only exemptions guaranteed in the law are New Year’s Day, the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day, July 3, the Fourth of July, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve.

Meanwhile, drivers who incur toll violations while using the Express Lanes on Interstate 85 could see any unpaid fines taken out of their state tax refunds. House Bill 150 lets the State Road and Tollway Authority collect on debts owed to them by using a setoff against refunds paid out by the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Another new law that has some relevance in Gwinnett is Senate Bill 339. It requires the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents to adopt a free speech or free press policy that will be used at all colleges and university’s in the system.

Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Spencer McGuire wrote a comprehensive review of new laws that’s worth reading.

Rural Georgia Hospitals have received more than $60 million dollars in donation under a state tax credit, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Department of Revenue posted a notice Monday – the second day of the new state fiscal year – that the $60 million cap on tax credits to entice donors to rural hospitals had already been reached.

The cap was hit after the General Assembly this year passed legislation giving donors a dollar-for-dollar credit on their income taxes for money they give to one of about five-dozen rural hospitals.

In previous years, the state had offered tax credits worth 70 percent of a donation, and then 90 percent, but neither had corporations or individuals rushing to sign checks.

State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, who sponsored the bill to make the credit worth 100 percent of a donation, called the measure, “another example of how we are working together to improve existing programs and implement new measures to support rural healthcare. This tax credit is the kind of program that really makes a positive difference for Georgians.”

Valdosta Mayor John Gayle was elected to an at-large seat on the Georgia Municipal Association Board of Directors, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton was elected Third Vice Chair of GMA, according to the LaGrange News.

As third vice president, Mayor Thornton will be in line to be the President of the GMA in three years.

“I was honored to be selected as third vice president for GMA,” Thornton said. “I look forward to serving as President in 2021.”

This year’s GMA President is Auburn Mayor Linda Blechinger. The GMA First Vice President is Dublin Mayor Phil Best and the GMA Second Vice President is Union City Mayor Vince Williams.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced it opposes President Trump’s tariffs and details effects on state economies, according to WABE.

Trump has said the tariffs will make the U.S. a “much stronger, much richer nation.” The Chamber does not agree.

The chamber calls the tariffs “the wrong approach,” one that is triggering retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. In a state-by-state analysis, it explained that about $750 billion worth of Georgia exports are threatened by the new tariffs.

Jason O’Rouke, vice president of public policy and federal affairs at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said his group agrees with the stance.

He said agriculture products are usually the first to see tariff impacts since they have finite shelf lives.

Georgia’s pecan industry could also be affected. About half of the state’s pecans are exported to China, and they are on China’s retaliatory tariff list.

The Columbus Government Center is flooded from a leaking pipe for the second time in two weeks, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Muscogee County School District passed a $302.7 million dollar FY 2019 budget, including pay raises, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

After giving property owners a tax cut last year by reducing the millage rate for the first time in 21 year — from 23.37 to 23.321, amounting to a decrease of $250,204 in local revenue for MCSD — the board kept the rate at 23.321 this year.

MCSD’s projected total general fund revenue of $282.6 million is an increase of $12.1 million (4.47 percent) over last fiscal year. This boost comes from mostly the state’s $11.9 million (7.66 percent) increase in allocations to MCSD, totaling $282.6 million and providing the majority (59.3 percent) of the district’s revenue.

This is the first time in 16 years the state has fully funded its share of the Quality Basic Education formula. Meanwhile, the local revenue picture is blurry, maybe even gloomy.

May 22 Primary Election Voter Turnout

Mark Niesse and Greg Bluestein of the AJC write about voter turnout in May’s Primary Election.

The number of black voters rose 43 percent in the May 22 election when compared with 2010, the last time there was a competitive race for governor, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of demographic data released this week by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

The data show the broad majority of African-American voters pulled Democratic ballots, which could bolster the hope of Stacey Abrams, who is racing to be the nation’s first black female governor. Her Republican opponent will be decided in a July 24 runoff between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

At the same time, the proportion of white voters continues to decline. White voter participation in last month’s primary was down 9 percent from 2010. And white voters are more likely to be conservative, making up 93 percent of the GOP primary vote — and just 30 percent of the Democratic support.

I went to Political Data Systems website and ran some numbers of my own.

African-American voters in 2018 Primary Election
Democratic Primary:     335,798
Republican Primary:         8,404

African-American 2018 Democratic Primary voters who also voted in the 2016 General Election
320,809

“New” African-America voters in 2018 Primary Election
28,035 (8% to 8.7%)

If African-American turnout remains roughly 8 points higher in this year’s General Election, it is unlikely to swing the Governor’s race Democratic, but it could switch several statewide offices lower on the ballot.

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