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

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

On August 4, 1753, George Washington became a Master Mason at the Masonic Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

On August 5, 1774, Royal Governor James Wright issued a proclamation banning assemblies to protest British policy.

President Abraham Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax on August 5, 1861 at the rate of 3 percent on all income over $800 per year.

16th Amendment

On August 3, 1910, Georgia became the ninth state to ratify the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allows Congress to levy a tax without apportioning it among the states.

On August 5, 1910, Gov. Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing betting on election outcomes.

Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President on August 3, 1923 after Warren Harding died in office.

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank, her family, and two others were found by Nazis in a sealed area in an Amsterdam warehouse. They were sent first to a concentration camp in Holland, then most were sent to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot died from Typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March of 1945.

On August 4, 1958, a wagon train left Dahlonega, headed to Atlanta to pay tribute to the mighty General Assembly deliver 43 ounces of gold to be used to coat the dome of the State Capitol.

Gold from Dahlonega on its way to Atlanta. Photo by Ed Jackson via http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu

The caravan transporting the gold from Dahlonega to the State Capitol arrived in Roswell/Sandy Springs area on August 5, 1958. At the current price of $1270.10 per ounce, that would be worth $54,614.30.

President Ronald Reagan began the process of firing all striking Air Traffic Controllers on August 5, 1981.

On August 3, 1982, Michael Hardwick was arrested, setting in motion the prosecution that would eventually lead to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick.

The World of Coca-Cola opened on August 3, 1990 between Underground Atlanta and the Georgia State Capitol.

Divers raised the turret of USS Monitor near Cape Hatteras on August 5, 2002.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced that the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Global Commerce Division generated more than $5.56 billion in Georgia investments and 27,373 jobs in Georgia during FY 2018. From the Press Release:

“Industry leaders and companies from around the world continue to choose Georgia thanks to the world-class, business-friendly environment we have built over the last eight years,” said Deal. “Georgia’s unparalleled resources, including our highly skilled workforce and our physical and digital infrastructure, continue to attract international companies that are planning to expand or relocate. These numbers reflect Georgia’s appeal to global job creators and translate to real economic growth in our communities and new job opportunities for families across the state. Nearly 80 percent of these projects brought investments to communities outside of the metro Atlanta area, demonstrating the depth of talent, investment and connectivity available in every corner of the state.”

“With the support of the General Assembly and local officials, Georgia has established a worldwide reputation as a reliable and innovative place for businesses of all sizes to plan for future growth. I commend Commissioner Pat Wilson for his leadership, as well as the dedicated GDEcD team that works to keep Georgia on the minds of business executives around the world. As we head further into this century of promise and work to maintain Georgia’s position of leadership on the international stage, we are creating opportunities today and for generations to come. While we have cemented our reputation as the No. 1 state in which to do business, we are also making Georgia the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

  • 419 projects generated $5.56 billion in investments and created 27,373 jobs.
  • Nearly 80 percent of projects were located outside of metro Atlanta counties, resulting in the creation of 14,447 jobs and $4.6 billion in investments.
  • Businesses already located in Georgia created 13,864 jobs and generated $2.84 billion in investments.
  • Companies new to the state created 13,499 jobs and generated $2.72 billion in investments.
  • There was job growth of 153 percent in the software and technology sectors, and 83 percent for data centers.
  • 89 international projects (Foreign Direct Investment) created more than 6,800 jobs and generated more than $1.9 billion in investments.
  • European companies included 49 locations, created 3,831 jobs and generated $837 million in investments. Companies from the United Kingdom, France and Germany led European companies in job creation.
  • Companies based in Asian countries included 24 locations, created 1,822 jobs and generated $489 million in investments. Korean and Japanese companies provided the largest investments among Asian companies.
  • GDEcD’s Entrepreneur and Small Business team served 586 businesses, 60 percent of which are startup companies.

Democratic candidate for Governor Stacey Abrams has doubled-down on her rhetoric, referring to Stone Mountain’s carving as a “monument to domestic terrorism,” according to Jill Nolin, writing for the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Abrams called for the removal of the carving last fall in a series of tweets shortly after a protester was killed when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, where groups clashed over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

“I never once said ‘sandblast,’ but I did say that we should do something about the fact that we have this massive monument to domestic terrorism without context and without information, and I believe absolutely the state should not be paying for a monument to domestic terrorism.”

“But will I ever say that Stone Mountain is a good thing, that celebrating the terrorism that was visited upon not only African-Americans but Jews in the state of Georgia is a good thing? Absolutely not. And if I was willing to say that, then you should not want me to be the next governor of Georgia,” Abrams said, prompting a standing ovation.

The AJC looks at changing attitudes in Gwinnett after the Gwinnett County Commission voted to place a transit referendum on the March 2019 ballot.

“It’s a little disappointing that there’s as much push-back as there is,” Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said of last week’s meeting. “I’m just very, very happy to get to the point that we’re able to approve the contract and move forward.”
Gwinnett County has shot down MARTA multiple times, though it hasn’t held a vote in nearly 30 years.
The referendum being called for March 19, 2019, not this November, was a surprise. It drew the ire of many transit … read more

In a public survey completed last October as part of the county’s transit development plan, 65 percent said they would “strongly support” or “somewhat support” a new transit-funding sales tax.

About 55 percent of those polled in a later phone survey said they would support such a sales tax.

“I think Gwinnett voters are ready to vote for a much more organized transportation system,” said Emory Morsberger, a longtime developer and former Gwinnett representative on MARTA’s board. “… People are tired of sitting in traffic. It’s eating up a huge amount of time, and it’s hurting people’s quality of life.”

“The discussion I’ve heard down in my area is most people don’t see the benefit if you don’t live on the I-85 corridor,” state Rep. Brett Harrell, a Republican from Snellville, said. “Why would somebody in Snellville or Grayson or Loganville vote for that?”

Questions have been raised about the March 2019 date for the Gwinnett transit referendum, according to the AJC.

County spokesman Joe Sorenson said a special election would likely cost “somewhere in the ballpark of $500,000.” Even without knowing the approximate cost, residents who wanted the vote held earlier said county leaders would be wasting taxpayer funds by holding the referendum on March 19, 2019.

“We are constantly told about the budget and how additional elections are costly,” Penny Poole told commissioners after the vote Wednesday. “I’m not understanding how this morning why the referendum is not attached to the mid-term elections (but) placed in March 2019.

“There needs to be answers because we’re asking for Sunday voting, we’re asking for Saturday voting. We’re told that these things cannot be done because of budgetary problems, but here you are scheduling an election for something as important as transportation and MARTA in an off-year … when there’s nothing going on.”

The decision to hold the vote in March instead of November was met with confusion, anger and accusations of political gamemanship by audience members. Many attendees told commissioners they wanted the vote moved to November if possible.

A Joint Committee of State House and Senate members will meet this month to consider whether Georgia should allow some form of in-state cultivation of medical cannabis, according to the AJC.

The meetings of the Low THC Medical Oil Access Commission could result in legislation to change Georgia’s medical marijuana law next year.

“The whole point of this commission is to figure out how we’re going to legally get this medicine in patients’ hands, because currently there’s no legal way to do it,” said state Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, the commission’s co-chairman.

“It’s impossible to meet with families whose children struggle with paralyzing illnesses and not leave convinced that the state of Georgia must be a place where government doesn’t block medications proven to help patients,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the president of the state Senate. “I’ve been very clear — I’m 100 percent opposed to legalizing marijuana. However, I am fully committed to helping children, veterans, and all Georgians struggling with devastating health challenges.”

The Low THC Medical Oil Access Commission will hold its first meeting Aug. 29 at the Georgia Capitol, where the commission will hear from patients, parents and organizations. Later meetings will include testimony from law enforcement agencies, doctors and farmers.

The Joint Study Committee will also meet in Carrollton next month, according to the Douglas County Sentinel.

“For Georgians struggling with debilitating illnesses, access to medical cannabis oil can be the difference that allows them to live a full life,” Brass said. “The commission’s work in expanding access to low THC medical cannabis oil will improve the quality of life for many Georgia patients. We look forward to traveling the state to give citizens an opportunity to actively take part in public commission meetings. Thanks to Lt. Gov. Cagle’s leadership and the efforts of many advocates from communities statewide, we are now able to work towards providing our patients access to every viable treatment option available.”

The meeting in Carrollton has been scheduled for Sept. 18. The site of the meeting has not yet been determined.

“The Georgia General Assembly has championed several pro-medical cannabis bills in recent years, and while our state has made great strides in expanding our medical cannabis program, we still have a long road ahead to ensure that hurting Georgians have safe, affordable access to medical cannabis,” Gravley said. “I would like to thank Speaker Ralston for appointing me to serve as co-chair of this important commission and I’m eager for the commission to begin its work to benefit all Georgia patients seeking relief.”

The meeting in Carrollton will concern licensing, dispensing and security.

Former Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration struck a secret deal to pay $147,000 in addition to the publicly disclosed severance package for ousted airport manager Miguel Southwell, according to the AJC.

Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed reached secret terms in a settlement with the airport general manager he fired in 2016, agreeing to pay Miguel Southwell $147,000 more than was disclosed to the City Council and the public, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found.

The August 2016 settlement, reached in the heat of the presidential campaign, ended public accusations of illegal conduct between Reed and the former airport boss and defused a crisis that had the potential to threaten Reed’s political future.

Only part of the agreement would become known to the public that year — a payment of $85,516, including health care and career counseling — that was approved that December by City Council. A resolution to council described the payment as a “full and final settlement” with Southwell.

City Council President Felicia Moore, who was a council member when the body approved the payment, said the council was misled. If the additional $147,000 payment came from public sources, it required council approval. If it was from private sources, she said, that too deserved public vetting.

“This shouldn’t have been done undercover. Period. Point blank,” she said. “It should have been done so that people knew exactly what was taking place.”

Casino gambling interests are lining up for the 2019 legislative session in Georgia, according to the AJC.

[State Rep. Ron Stephens's] latest attempt will involve a push next year to allow three gambling centers around the state that total at least $3 billion in investments, with some of the proceeds going toward shoring up the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship.

The bill would be tailored to require gambling giants commit at least $2 billion for a casino in Atlanta and $500 million for two others. His bill would also require that casino companies commit to create at least 10,000 new jobs.

Stacey Abrams, her party’s nominee, has said she would only back gambling measures if Republicans agreed to use the new revenues to add a needs-based program for HOPE.

And GOP nominee Brian Kemp echoed other GOP candidates for top state offices in opposing casino gambling.

While Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls suggested a majority of voters would support the change, it still must overcome opposition from social conservatives and other critics who are ready to fight to keep Georgia casino-free.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education may seek a new bond referendum in today’s meeting, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The meetings, which take place at 1:30 p.m. for the school board and 4 p.m. for the elections board, deal with the school district asking for a general obligation bond referendum to be put on the November general election ballot.

An announcement from the county’s elections office said the bond’s principal amount could be as much as $350 million. School system officials have not confirmed what the bond issue will cover.

District officials had previously tried to get a GO bond referendum placed on the May 22 primary ballot, but that effort was called off because of issues meeting the legal advertising time requirements.

That bond, which itself would have been $350 million, would have covered the build out of Discovery High School, a new cluster school in the Mill Creek district, renovations to Central Gwinnett High School’s fine arts facilities, lab and instruction space renovations at middle and high schools, athletic facility improvements, school bus purchases and technology improvements.

Bulloch County voters will decide whether to extend an existing 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A proposed six-year, $62 million extension of Bulloch County’s existing Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is headed to the Nov. 6 ballot after action this week by two county boards.

The four cities in Bulloch County, as well as the county government, would receive population-based shares of the money for their own projects. But first, $26.2 million is earmarked for shared projects said to serve all. This includes almost $7.25 million for expansion of the county jail and renovation of the sheriff’s department offices, $6.75 million for a new public safety radio system and two categories totaling $12.2 million for solid waste disposal and recycling capacity and equipment.

“We certainly hope that SPLOST passes because it would be a tragedy if it doesn’t,” Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson said Thursday. “With the SPLOST dollars, our capital projects are funded out of there, equipment is funded out of there and just some of the major budget issues.”

Georgia Power’s coal-fired Plant Hammond in Floyd County could have a limited future, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

“The numbers don’t look good,” [Georgia Power Regional Director Cassandra] Wheeler said. She explained that the future for the plant, which is essentially a peaking power producer as opposed to a continuously operating plant, won’t be known until the company completes the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan. “The staffing level is considerably lower than it was two years ago, even a year ago,” Wheeler said. Later, another member of the Georgia Power delegation at the meeting said the plant has just 41 full time employees now.

Georgia Power cut about 80 jobs from the workforce at Plant Hammond in the spring of 2017, about a third of its workforce at that time. The numbers have been dwindling ever since. Some of those employees were transitioned to other positions within the company.

The change in the mix of generating fuel, a big increase in use of natural gas versus coal, and the low cost of the gas as opposed to the coal, has a lot to do with the limited use of Hammond today.

Hammond has been in commercial production since 1954 but its capacity has been reducing since the price of natural gas dropped around 2007.

U.S. Army Surgeon General Nadja West spoke at Fort Gordon yesterday, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Georgia Sheriff’s Association presented its Meritorious Service Award to attorney Steven Scheer, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Lake Lanier continues to enjoy full pool status, according to the Gainesville Times.

A wet 2018 is having a dramatic effect on Lake Lanier — dramatic in the sense that nothing much, so far, is happening to the lake. It’s green waters have lapped the shores at around 1,072 feet above sea level since late April, a full foot above summer full pool. A record rain event in early June pushed the water level of the lake up to 1,074 feet.

For the past 90 days, rainfall has been 150 percent of normal in Gainesville, Murphey said.

Looking at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wayback machine, it’s been five years since the folks of Lake Lanier have enjoyed so full a summer.

In Aug. 1, 2013, the lake was at 1,071.9 feet. The next year, it was at 1,070.3. There was a four-foot drop from 2013 to 2015, when the lake started August at 1,068 feet. The August dryout continued until this year.

Hall County Superior Court Judge Jason Deal withdrew his name from consideration for the Georgia Supreme Court to avoid any possibility of an appearance of favoritism if he were appointed, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Valdosta City Board of Education will adopt a millage rate higher than the full rollback, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Valdosta city school system is calling for a 1.14 percent property tax increase.

School officials say upping the tax rate is not a millage increase but that is because the school system is rejecting the rollback rate based on property reassessments.

The millage will remain at 16.98 but the tax rate will increase more than one percentage point because of recent property reassessments.

Jeremy Jones, VCS assistant finance director, said, “Based off the tax bill, the (tax assessors are) going to send us the increase of 1.14 percent. We’re not changing the millage rate — (taxpayers’) property is now worth more, so if your property is worth a little bit more, you’re going to pay a little bit more in taxes.”

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