Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 28, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 28, 2018

August 28, 1929 saw Governor Lamartine Hardman sign a Constitutional Amendment authorizing the levy of a state income tax.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream Speech” on the Mall in Washington, DC.

An obscure college professor named Newt Gingrich began his political career on August 28, 1976, as he kicked off his first campaign against Congressman Jack Flynt.

Old Newt Pic

On August 28, 2008, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked the accreditation of the Clayton County Public Schools. Later that day, Governor Sonny Perdue removed four members of the Clayton County Board of Education upon the recommendation of an administrative law judge.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump nominated DeKalb County Superior Court Judge J.P. Boulee to a vacant seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, according to the AJC.

Both of Georgia’s Republican senators, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, applauded Boulee’s nomination.

“President Trump has chosen an outstanding legal professional to fill this judicial vacancy in Georgia,” Perdue said. “Judge Boulee is immensely qualified for this role.”

Said Isakson, “I look forward to working with Judge Boulee as his nomination proceeds in the Senate.”

Governor Nathan Deal ordered flags on state properties flown at half-staff until the day of Senator John McCain’s interment.

Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal visited Rome yesterday to support the reelection of State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue are trying to slow the movement to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after the late Senator John McCain, according to the AJC.

Perdue went as far as to suggest that he would block any efforts to quickly move the legislation in order to “talk about all the options.”

“I think right now what we have is an opportunity to honor John McCain in the right way,” Perdue said. “So unless somebody presents a case that I’m not aware of, I will resist that.”

Isakson said Monday that it was too early to weigh in on the proposal to rename the building out of which both he and Perdue work.

“It’s not time to talk about it,” he said. “We owe it to the McCain family to talk about John McCain and his contributions to the country and not anything else, and that’s what I intend to do.”

The Red & Black looks at the Democratic State Convention.

Nearly every speaker had the same mantra on Saturday: Get you, and everyone you know, out to vote.

Abrams focused some of her address on telling the politically active audience to have real conversations with those who have been discouraged from the polls. Increasing voter turnout is how Democrats say they will flip the state.

“To win, we need to do more than proudly support a bumper sticker or put a sign in our front yards,” Abrams said.

A federal tax proposal could spell trouble for donations to rural hospitals in Georgia, according to the AJC.

The proposed rule by the U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service would limit or eliminate the federal tax break donors get for giving to such state programs.

The proposed rule is a response to how states reacted to a provision in last year’s tax law that set a $10,000-a-year cap on how much Americans can deduct on their federal return for state and local taxes they paid.

A tax credit directly reduces the taxes someone owes the state.

The proposed rule would largely exclude donations that are essentially refunded with state tax credits from being deducted on federal tax returns as a charitable contribution.

“You have some states that are trying to game the system by getting money for state services by calling it a donation,” said state Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, a director with the tax services business Ryan. “What they have done is broken the system for rural hospital tax credits.”

Supporters of the rural hospital tax credit say there is a cause and effect when it comes to the amount of benefit donors receive. Two years ago, donors could get a state tax credit worth 70 percent of what they donated to the program. Because few contributed, lawmakers changed it to 90 percent, but the program didn’t hit the $60 million cap until legislators offered a dollar-for-dollar credit on taxes for money donated to the program.

“The only reason the rural hospital tax credit reached the statewide maximum this year is because the (federal) tax plan created a need for big wage earners to find a new deduction vehicle,” Howard Holman, a member of the foundation for Vidalia’s Meadows Regional Medical Center, wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Former President Barack Obama has endorsed local Democratic candidates in two State House districts, according to the AJC.

“I found out when he tweeted out the full list. I got a phone call from my campaign manager, who said ‘Barack Obama just endorsed you on Twitter.’ I made him say it to me twice,” said [Matthew] Wilson, an attorney running in House District 80, which includes parts of Brookhaven, Chamblee and Sandy Springs. District 80 is considered by Democrats to be the top opportunity to win a Republican-held legislative seat in Georgia this year, Wilson said.

The 2016 election in District 80 was decided by only 286 votes, with Rep. Meagan Hanson, a Republican, ousting incumbent Rep. Taylor Bennett, a Democrat. Bennett had won the seat in a 2015 special election against Republican candidate J. Max Davis by fewer than 100 votes.

Hanson, too, believes her constituents will put policy over politics. When she won in 2016, Bennett had also received Obama’s endorsement, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton earned 54 percent of District 80’s vote. Hanson, a Republican, still won the House seat with 50.58 percent of the vote.

“These numbers tell me that the people of House District 80 make their own determination of which candidate to support based on issues important to them, not partisan politics,” Hanson said.

In Hutchinson’s District 107, which covers parts of Lawrenceville, Snellville and Lilburn, the playing field is different. Instead of a one-term incumbent who won by a margin of 1.16 percentage points, Hutchinson is in an open race against fellow newcomer Janet Mihoci, a Republican. Mihoci did not respond to interview requests.

In District 107, where Casas ran unopposed for three terms and won handily in the five contested elections before that, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the presidential vote by 12 percentage points; she won Gwinnett County by six percentage points, though losing the state of Georgia by the same amount.

The Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia named Bert Poston, District Attorney of the Conasauga Judicial Circuit, as 2018 District Attorney of the Year, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The Georgia Municipal Association gave their “Champion of Georgia Cities” Award to State Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) spoke about economic issues to the Rotary Club of Statesboro, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Six years ago, before Allen had thought about running for Congress, he said, business at his construction company was off about 40 percent. Pessimistic about when the economy would recover, he advised a young person at the time to keep his head down and hold onto his job.

“Well folks, today I’ve been in the district for four weeks. It’s like somebody turned on a light switch,” Allen said Monday. “I have never seen this much optimism in my life from the standpoint of folks that want to grow their businesses and want to put people to work.”

“Of course, that creates other problems,” he said. “We need a work force. We’ve got 6.7 million jobs open in this country right now. We’ve created and brought back 300,000 manufacturing jobs, and of course that puts a lot of pressure on the Education and Work Force Committee.”

Also a member of the Agriculture Committee, Allen was closely involved in development of the House version of the Farm Bill, which would authorize all U.S. Department of Agriculture programs for five years beginning Oct. 1. As in past farm bills, the biggest funding item in the legislation is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

“It was a very difficult bill to pass, not because of the farm part but because we have work requirements under the supplemental nutrition program,” Allen said.

Soccer parents asked the Whitfield County Commission to include new soccer fields in the next Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Monday night at a work session of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, community organizers and soccer enthusiasts made a presentation to request dedicated funds for a soccer complex in the county. Funding would come from the next version of the 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). Both county and city officials have said they intend to ask the public to approve a new SPLOST for when the current SPLOST expires on June 30, 2019. Governments must list the projects the money from a SPLOST would pay for.

Shortages of mental health professionals come as students are presenting more mental health problems, according to the Macon Telegraph.

In Georgia, schools receive funding to hire one counselor for every 450 students. The American School Counselors Association recommends a ratio of 250 to one.

And there’s not just a shortage of counselors — the number of school psychologists in Bibb County is also at low. Many school psychologists have retired in recent years, and fewer people seem to be entering the profession, said Brooke Widner, coordinator of psychological services for the district.

She said the school district’s seven full-time and two part-time psychologists are each responsible for about 2,500 students, though the National Association of School Psychologists advises one psychologist for 1,000 students.

Mental illness has become more prevalent in Bibb County schools in recent years, said Director of Support Services Beverly Stewart.

“I would definitely say that we have seen an increase in the number of students coming to school with mental health issues, be it anxiety, or ADHD, depression, suicidal ideation,” she said. “So across the district, that we are seeing an increase in that.”

Brunswick will begin collecting property taxes, having previously paid Glynn County to bill and collect, according to The Brunswick News.

Macon-Bibb Commissioners are considering new restrictions on short term rentals through services like AirBNB, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Commissioner Virgil Watkins proposes having short-term vacation rental properties register with the county and pay the 7-percent hotel/motel tax. Short-term vacation rentals are similar to a bed-and-breakfast type of lodging and should therefore be taxed, he said.

Watkins said he’s considering not having a registration fee since those properties should also have a business license. There are other standards, such as health code, that short-term rentals should meet as well, he said.

“Having them in a gray area long term is not going to be good for anybody,” he said. “What we’ve seen in different communities throughout the nation and the (short-term rental) growth we’re seeing here justifies it.

“They are competing with the hotel industry, if not the rental market.”

The topic of short-term rentals has reached the Georgia statehouse where a bill that could place limits on how local governments regulate the properties could come back up for discussion in 2019.

In Georgia, Savannah has its own regulations for short-term rentals, including a $300 registration fee. City officials wanted to resolve issues with downtown parking and have more accountability when guests caused a nuisance, said Macon-Bibb Assistant County Attorney Michael McNeill.

Columbus also is considering rules and fees for Airbnb rentals, including hosts to complete a permit application and criminal background check. A business license also would be required, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Forsyth County is also considering new restrictions for short term rentals, according to AccessWDUN.

District 2 Commissioner Dennis Brown proposed a motion to include a modification to the unified development code allowing dwellings in residential zoned areas to operate only if they apply and receive a conditional use permit.

He even offered a timeline for when those permits would go in effect and said, “The cup (conditional use permit) process will be available to the public no later than, and these are key dates, March 1, 2019 with no granted cup (permit) being effective until Jan. 1, 2020.” He added that, “all others in short term rentals in residential zones, any rentals for a period of less than 30 days, shall be prohibited completely.”

Additional requirements include a a limit of renting only twice a month for a 6 night rental minimum but Brown says other restrictions should apply and said, “a cup (conditional use permit) may not be sought for a short term rental permit is in an identifiable, residential neighborhood with attributes such as residential common area, ammentity area, a common subdivision name, and/or any HOA.”

A federal lawsuit by immigration detainees alleges deplorable conditions in the privately-operated Stewart Detention Center, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Savannah City Council is considering a $7.3 million dollar construction management contract for a new arena, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is seeking additional funds for another position in the special victims unit, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Porter’s budget proposal for next year includes a request for $53,268 for a victim’s advocate position in the unit. It is one of two positions that Porter is asking for in his 2019 budget request — the other is for $89,412 to add an assistant district attorney who will serve as the office’s second appellate attorney.

In recent years, Porter has gotten three assistant district attorneys, three criminal investigators and one legal associate for the special victims unit. Now it will have some one specifically intended to deal with the needs of victims of certain crimes, such as child molestation, child abuse, elder abuse or exploitation.

“What we’re asking for is to let me complete that unit with a specialized victim advocate for those specialized victims,” Porter said. “We’re handling about 700 or 800 cases a year in there so you’re talking about victims that require significant service. They require significant resources.

“They’re damaged. They’re people who have been crushed. They’re not like somebody who had their house broken into. They’re a different kind of victim and we need a different kind of victim advocate.”

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office is asking for funding for 105 new positions, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The full budget request from the sheriff’s office, including the requested 105 positions, is $102.2 million. The cost of adding all 105 positions would be more than $5.9 million, according to the business plan presented to the review committee. The Sheriff’s Office currently employs 768 people in full- and part-time positions.

The large size of the personnel requests is due to the fact that nearly three-quarters of them are for deputy positions (36 sworn deputies for court services, 18 deputies for the county jail, 16 deputies for field operations, two master deputies and three part-time deputies for jail courts).

“I know you’re seeing a lot of numbers, but in the last four years, since before Chief Walsh and I got here, we’ve only had 11 full-time sworn positions given to us and six full-time civilian positions given to us, so a total of 17 people given to us over the last four years,” Chief Deputy Lou Solis told the citizens review committee.

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