Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 12, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 12, 2018

Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the Constitution on December 12, 1787.

Guglielmo Marconi completed the first transatlantic radio transmission from Cornwall, England to Newfoundland on December 12, 1901.

Jimmy Carter announced he would run for President of the United States on December 12, 1974.

Dickey Betts, guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, was born on December 12, 1943.

The United States Supreme Court released its decision in Bush v. Gore on December 12, 2000, stopping manual recounts of contested ballots in Florida.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor-elect Brian Kemp addressed state legislators yesterday at the Biennial Institute in Athens, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

Governor-elect Brian Kemp called for unity and outlined some of his legislative agenda in his first major speech since winning the close gubernatorial election over Democrat Stacey Abrams last month.

“But the campaign is over and it’s time to put politics behind us,” he said. “It’s time to shed the labels and work together as Georgians. It’s time to stand up for our communities, and our values, and our people.”

Kemp was the final speaker at the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s three-day Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, held in election years just after elections for state offices and just before the newly elected state Legislature convenes in January.

Kemp praised the track records of his Republican predecessors in the governor’s mansion, Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal, and also outlined what some of his first legislative goals will be. He noted recent accomplishments of the Legislature and outgoing Deal, including a public education system now “fully funded” and the addition of 800,000 jobs during Deal’s two terms.

“Governor Deal transformed the criminal justice system, reducing costs, strengthening families, and keeping our communities safe,” Kemp said, indicating he will build on those reforms.

“My plan for Georgia’s future begins with our economy and continued job growth,” Kemp said. “As a small business guy I know the impact that taxes, regulation and government red tape can have on investment, expansion and hiring. That’s why on day one I will create the Georgians First Committee, led by business leaders, not bureaucrats, to identify things that frustrate our small business owners.”

“Let’s raise the rural hospital tax credit, tackle the rural doctor shortage, improve teacher retention through pay raises, and champion an early learning initiative that improves outcomes for Georgia students,” he said. “Let’s use innovation to lower health care costs, insurance premiums and prescription drug prices, while improving access to quality health care.”

From Jill Nolin with CNHI:

“The rising tide in Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah has not lifted our rural communities. Some continue to struggle and in some areas it feels like they’re still in the Great Recession,” he said.

“We know that mental health is the root of school violence. Let’s address this before the tragedy strikes,” Kemp said. “Our classrooms are for raising the next generation of Georgia leaders, not a hunting ground for school shooters.”

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, said he was encouraged by the focus on teacher pay, but said the $5,000 salary bumps that Kemp proposed during his campaign isn’t enough.

Likewise, Henson said expanding the rural hospital tax credit, which enables eligible hospitals to raise up to $4 million a year in donations, fails to address the high number of uninsured and under insured patients straining these hospitals. He said talk of a Medicaid waiver might progress with Kemp.

From the AJC:

In the speech, Kemp didn’t announce a departure from his stance on issues such as his vow to expand gun rights and pledge to sign a “religious liberty” measure. But he sought to take a more conciliatory approach to the lawmakers he’ll need to pass his agenda.

He repeated previous campaign promises, such as an increase in teacher pay and a boost in rural hospital tax credits. And he outlined a new group, dubbed the Georgians First Committee, that will hash out ways to reduce regulations and boost small businesses.

State House Speaker David Ralston also discussed his priorities, according to the AJC.

House members, led by Ralston, had already laid out their own agenda. Last week, finishing up two years of work, the House Rural Development Council offered up a package of legislation intended to help rescue a rural Georgia bereft of jobs, health care, and – increasingly – young people.

It proposes a rewriting of Georgia’s “certificate of need” process, through which the state regulates the construction of hospitals and the services they offer. House members also proposed lowering – but also broadening – a tax on communication services, so that it includes services like satellite TV and livestreaming purchases. Think Netflix and Hulu.

That cash would be used to extend high-speed service to Georgia’s broadband deserts.

Other initiatives: Tax credits would be extended to employers who create jobs five and 10 at a time, rather than 50. Farm-based wineries would be able to sell as much as 24,000 gallons of their product without running afoul of Georgia’s arcane alcohol laws.

Insider: How does “certificate of need” fit into rural development?

Ralston: Anything that breaks down the barriers to access to quality health care in rural Georgia, or creates barriers, I think is fair game. And there’s a feeling by many that we couldn’t talk about the whole issue of rural hospitals and ignore that issue. So I think it has to be part of the discussion.

Insider: I didn’t see any reference to Medicaid waivers. (Note: Democrats speak of expanding Medicaid coverage for those who can’t afford health insurance. Some red states have pursued separate deals with the federal government, allowing them more control over how the money is spent, under the name of “waivers.”)

Ralston: There’s some discussion out there. I think Governor-elect Kemp talked about that in the campaign. I’m willing to have a discussion about that. I just don’t think we can fix our health care system on the promises of the federal government. That’s been my concern with Medicaid expansion. Waivers are a different kind of thing.

Whitfield County legislative delegation members want to know public opinion before deciding whether to support changing term limits for county commissioners, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, said he would “have a struggle” with supporting local legislation to abolish term limits on commissioners since it wasn’t supported by all board members.

“I’ll take a look at it, but it has been the precedent, well before I came to the Legislature, that a request for local legislation be unanimous,” he said.

“Most of the calls I’ve been getting have been against changing term limits,” he said. “If there are people who support removing term limits, I want to hear from them and find out what their reasons are.”

State Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton, said he wants commissioners to place a question on an election ballot asking if voters support removing term limits before he decides whether he could support a law ending those term limits

“Because it isn’t a unanimous vote, before we take legislation down there, we need to make sure this is what the community wants. If the people want to do away with term limits for county commissioners, I’ll be happy to introduce that bill,” he said.

Payne said he wants to make sure he’s acting in the interests of the majority and not a few.

Brad Freeman will be sworn-in as Sheriff of Monroe County on Thursday, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and District 5 Council member Mike Baker attended their last meeting of city council, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Tomlinson, 53, is wrapping up almost eight years as the 69th mayor of Columbus while Baker, 61, has served his district for three terms, nearly 12 years. Both were presented a real clock from the 10-member council and separate resolutions thanking them for their service to a government with a $275.3 million budget.

The mayor, an attorney, is set to join the law office of Hall Booth Smith P.C., after leaving early next month while also looking at pursuing a higher political office.

One of her biggest defeats as mayor was a vote to “Thaw the Freeze” on property taxes, which failed by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin in November 2016. The same proposal failed by an even larger margin in a previous referendum.

“We were not able to overcome the tax system, which is very controversial in this community, the property tax freeze,” the mayor said. “I know this. We made up 20 points in favor of doing something in adopting another system. I also know that young people cannot and will not tolerate the current tax system we have. They, from a generational perspective, understand the strain it puts on our growth and prosperity.”

The Glynn County Board of Elections fired Elections and Registration Supervisor Monica Couch, according to The Brunswick News.

Assistant supervisor Chris Channell will serve as interim supervisor while the board searches for a permanent replacement. Chairwoman Patricia Gibson had no comment on the decision to fire Couch when reached by phone Tuesday afternoon. She did say the board had been in touch with human resources to start the process of posting the job and hiring a new supervisor.

Before going into executive session, the board discussed, among other things, two temporary employees who will be responsible for scanning physical voter registration cards into a physical database.

Jim Sells was sworn-in to the Grantville City Council, representing District 1, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Last month, Councilman Willie Kee resigned from his council post and requested the city council appoint Sells, who won the council seat by one vote, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. City Manager Al Grieshaber said the council will decide whether or not to appoint Sells at its Dec. 17 meeting. The swearing in was the only order of business that could be completed because of the lack of a quorum.

Environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit in Charleston, SC, challenging plans for seismic testing off the east coast, according to The Brunswick News.

Alice Keyes, vice president for One Hundred Miles, said one of the reasons OHM is part of the suit is because they “believe our federal government is unlawfully and unjustifiably threatening marine species and taking it one step closer to offshore drilling. This is an industrial development that will transform Georgia’s working waterfront, our beaches and our pristine marshes.”

She said seismic testing poses a danger to the entire food chain, but especially to North Atlantic right whales. Keyes referenced a letter signed by 28 right whale experts and sent to the Obama administration in 2016 that suggested seismic testing off the Atlantic coast could provide a tipping point to the right whales’ path toward extinction.

The CDC confirmed a fourth case of acute flaccid myelitis in Georgia, according to Georgia Health News.

The Georgia Department of Public Health did not give identifying information about the fourth patient with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), but said Monday that the person is a child.

There is no known single cause of AFM, whose symptoms include weakness in the arms or legs, and sometimes paralysis.

The condition affects the nervous system, specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter. It causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak or even paralyzed. Cases of acute flaccid myelitis are characterized by a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes.

Acute flaccid myelitis’s symptoms are likened to those caused by polio, which was once a major public health threat in the United States. But polio was eradicated in this country thanks to the polio vaccine, and the CDC recently emphasized that none of the children who developed AFM symptoms had the polio virus.

Navicent Health moved closer to a merger with South Carolina-based Atrium Health, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Navicent Health Board of Directors and the Atrium Health Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the strategic combination Tuesday. The Georgia Attorney General’s Office has already authorized the proposed deal, which the two parties will finalize over the next several weeks.

“We believe this strategic combination between Atrium Health and Navicent Health will have a significant and positive impact on the communities we are privileged to serve, and we look forward to expanding access to quality healthcare while reducing disparities,” the health care systems wrote in a joint statement Tuesday.

“By working together, Atrium Health and Navicent Health can implement innovative treatment models like virtual care and telepsychiatry throughout central and south Georgia, creating the next generation of healthcare that is better for all we serve.”

Georgia Power is accepting proposals for up to 540 megawatts of renewable energy, according to the AJC.

The purchases, through Georgia Power’s Renewable Energy Development Initiative (REDI), will be the final action to fulfill a 2016 deal approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission to provide 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy through multiple projects.

The company, the largest electric provider in the state serving more than 2.5 million customers, will be receiving proposals from interested companies until noon January 15, 2019.

“We are eager to receive, review and select projects from this RFP that will provide significant long-term value,” said Mallard.

The company, which currently has 976 megawatts of solar power online, expects to grow its renewable resources by an additional 1,600 megawatts by 2021.

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