Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 14, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 14, 2018

On December 13, 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court organized three regiments of militia to guard against attacks by the Pequot Indians. That day is recognized as the birth of the National Guard.

On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, led by Patriot Sam Adams, boarded three British ships in Boston harbor and threw tea worth $700,000 to $1 million in today’s money into the water in what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

Boston Tea Party

On December 15, 1791, Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights, giving the first ten Amendments a three-quarter majority required to become law.

President George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. Here’s an article about the nation’s mourning for our first President.

The Congress, in session at the capital of Philadelphia when Washington’s death was announced, immediately adjourned. The House of Representatives assembled the next day and resolved to shroud the Speaker’s chair in black and have members wear black during the remainder of the session. On December 23, John Marshall speaking for the joint committee of both houses, presented five points that became the foundation for the United States’ first “state” funeral. Resolutions structured mourning events around public commemorations that fostered unity and a sense of national identity among grieving Americans.

Governor George Towns signed legislation on December 16, 1847 to build a State School for the Deaf and Dumb. The institution now known as the Georgia School for the Deaf was begun with a log cabin, $5000 from the legislature and four students and is still in operation in Cave Spring, Georgia.

Echols County, Georgia was created by the Georgia General Assembly on December 13, 1858.

On December 15, 1859, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing public execution of criminals. The previous day he signed legislation prohibiting slave owners from freeing their slaves on the owner’s death.

On December 16, 1897, Gov. William Atkinson signed legislation recognizing June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, as a state holiday.

President William McKinley addressed the Georgia General Assembly on December 14, 1898.

McKinley_at_Atlanta2 McKinley Atlanta SM

On December 14, 1939, a parade was held through downtown Atlanta with stars from Gone With the Wind and the Junior League held a ball that night. The next day, December 15, 1939, Gone With the Wind held its world premiere at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta. On December 15, 1939, Gone With the Wind held its world premiere at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta.

On December 16, 1944, a German counterattack in the Ardennes region of Belgium created a “bulge” in Allied lines with particularly difficult fighting near the town of Bastogne. During the Battle of the Bulge, 89,000 Americans were wounded and 19,000 killed in the bloodiest battle fought by the U.S. in World War II. National Geographic has an interesting article published for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle.

Former Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall died on December 13, 1992. Arnall served in the State House, as Speaker, Attorney General, and in 1942 at the age of 35, was elected Governor.

Arnall also led the fight to outlaw the poll tax and the white primary, and is noted for making Georgia the first state to allow 18-year-olds to vote. He is further remembered for his role in obtaining a new state constitution for Georgia in 1945.

The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee released a report on December 15, 1998 that recommended impeachment against President Bill Clinton and introduced H.Res. 611.

Al Gore conceded the presidential election to George W. Bush on December 13, 2000.

On December 15, 2016, Republican Tim Echols was sworn in by Gov. Nathan Deal to a second term on the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that Norfolk Southern Corporation will be moving its corporate headquarters to Atlanta.

Gov. Nathan Deal was joined by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms today to announce that Norfolk Southern Corporation, one of the nation’s premier transportation companies, will locate its headquarters in Fulton County, creating 850 jobs and investing $575 million. Norfolk Southern’s new campus will house the company’s headquarters, dispatch operations, operations and service support center, crew management center, corridor operations offices, national customer service center, administrative functions, marketing department and police communications center.

“As a major hub for both transportation and innovation, Georgia is a fitting home for Norfolk Southern’s new headquarters,” said Deal. “As the No. 1 state for business six years in a row, Georgia has become a preferred location for industry leaders like Norfolk Southern, as we have seen more than 30 locations or expansions by Fortune 500 companies in the better part of the last decade. Much of this success can be attributed to our expansive infrastructure network, our culture of collaboration and ready-to-work communities, all of which are essential in helping businesses move goods around the nation and to international markets as efficiently as possible.

“Today’s announcement will open many doors of opportunity for residents of the metro Atlanta area while also reinforcing Georgia’s distinction as the Southeast’s gateway to global commerce. We appreciate Norfolk Southern’s significant investment in Fulton County and look forward to celebrating the company’s future growth and continued success.”

Norfolk Southern is a major transporter of automotive products, coal and industrial products. Its subsidiary, Norfolk Southern Railway, operates approximately 19,500 route miles in 22 states and Washington, D.C. In 2017, Norfolk Southern employed 4,710 Georgians.

“Norfolk Southern is excited to embark on a new future in the city of Atlanta,” said James A. Squires, Norfolk Southern chairman, president and CEO. “This future depends on collaboration with customers, suppliers, and partners – and ready access to technology, talent, and our 22-state network. A unified office team in a new Atlanta headquarters will connect Norfolk Southern with every resource needed for success.”

For the new campus, Norfolk Southern is purchasing property at 650 West Peachtree St. NW in Midtown Atlanta and collaborating with Cousins Properties for development purposes.

From the Gainesville Times:

Tim Evans, Hall County Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of economic development, anticipates this relocation having a positive impact on the local economy, especially since it already serves many business throughout Hall County.

“The infrastructure and right-of-way that Norfolk Southern owns is very much a part of our community and many others across the country,” Evans said. “Having close access to the headquarters and leadership of Norfolk Southern is valuable.”

Governor Deal joined the groundbreaking for a new Engineering and Research Building at Georgia Southern, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“This $60 million, 135,000-square-foot building will feature some of the most cutting-edge technology we’ve ever offered to our students,” [Georgia Southern interim President Shelley C. Nickel]said. “We will have robotics and automated manufacturing labs, a nano materials manufacturing lab, metal and nonmetal 3-D manufacturing spaces and so much more.”

The governor took special notice of manufacturing engineering in his remarks.

“This manufacturing engineering program has been hugely successful, and part of the reason is, there is not a whole lot of competition,” Deal said. “I am told that there is no other institution that teaches in this arena within 500 miles, and that there are only about 20 such schools in the entire United States, and it is certainly a growth area, as we see manufacturing coming back to the United States.”

Introducing Deal, state Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, praised the outgoing governor’s work in judicial reform, which slowed the growth of the state’s prison system and expanded special accountability courts dealing with mental health, substance abuse and other issues.

But Hill added, “The most lasting effect on Georgia that I believe Governor Deal will be known for is for promoting our state as the best place in America to do business and then producing on that by creating jobs.”

After Hill cited a lower figure, Deal updated it to report that the number of private-sector jobs created during his eight years in office is “rapidly approaching” 800,000.

Governor Elect Brian Kemp visited the White House, according to 11Alive.

Kemp, along with several governors-to-be, met with President Trump, Vice President Pence and his Cabinet Dec. 13 to talk about shared State-Federal priorities.

The Republican politician thanked the president for their response in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, which tore through the Florida Panhandle and southwestern Georgia in October.

“I thank you and the vice president for your interest in Georgia and response to Hurricane Michael. We certainly appreciate [Agriculture Secretary] Sonny Perdue’s interest as well,” Kemp said. “We’ve got a long recovery, but we appreciate the response and the interest you guys have shown.”

Kemp’s wife, Marty, also got the Washington treatment – communications staff for the governor-elect said she had her own meeting with Georgia Sen. David Perdue.

The GaPundit Award for Headline Writing goes to whomever came up with “Feds: Robert Johnson’s arrest has street gangs singing the blues,” in The Brunswick News. Robert Johnson is the name of both a legendary bluesman and a Jacksonville man accused of being a drug dealer.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr will give the keynote address at the University of North Georgia Oconee campus commencement on Saturday, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

The Secure, Accessible & Fair Elections Commission met in Macon to discuss voting machine options moving forward, according to the AJC.

Though the commission failed to reach a consensus, its members heard overwhelming support from the public for hand-marked paper ballots, which voters would bubble in with a pen and then insert into scanning machines. Of 27 people who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, only one — a county elections director — said he wanted a system other than manually filled-in paper ballots.

“People have lost trust in Georgia’s voting system,” Vicki Krugman, a voter from Oconee County, told the commission during its meeting in Macon. “We need hand-marked ballots. It’s the only verifiable system. We’re in an era of some very serious problems with hacking, and they’re not going away.”

Commission members said they want a new voting system that includes a paper trail in place before the 2020 presidential election. They also want some kind of audits written into state law to ensure the accuracy of election results.

When the commission next meets in a few weeks, it’s expected to vote on recommendations for the General Assembly. Then state legislators would introduce bills to rewrite Georgia’s election laws and buy a statewide voting system.

Cannabis farming could come out of the closet as a legitimate business in Georgia under legislation to be proposed in the next General Assembly, according to the AJC.

Cultivation, manufacture and distribution of medical marijuana products will likely be considered by the Georgia General Assembly during its 2019 legislative session, which begins next month. Georgia has allowed patients to use medical marijuana since 2015, but state law still prohibits buying, selling or transporting it.

A House study committee voted unanimously last week to allow farming of hemp that could be processed into droplets, capsules and creams that are already widely available to the public in nutrition stores but imported to Georgia from other states. Cannabidiol — also called CBD — is legal in the United States if it contains less than 0.3 percent THC, the main psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

A separate proposal from a joint House and Senate study committee would set up regulations for growing and selling a more potent cannabis product, low THC oil, which could be used by patients suffering from severe seizures, intractable pain, deadly cancer and other ailments. Georgia’s medical marijuana law allows up to 5 percent THC, but it doesn’t provide any legal way to obtain it.

“Hemp is cannabis. Cannabis is marijuana. Marijuana is a drug,” state Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, a Republican from Douglas, told the House Study Committee on Industrial Hemp Production. “The most significant unintentional negative consequence in dealing with hemp is the likelihood of lessening or undervaluing what the drug of marijuana can or will do.”

Congress is considering a farm bill that would legalize production of industrial hemp with less than 0.3 percent THC. The bill could receive a vote in Washington this week, and if signed into law, states such as Georgia could set up regulations for standards, testing and licensing fees.

“It’s got the potential to be a big industry,” said state Rep. John Corbett, a Republican from Lake Park and the study committee’s chairman. “There might be years where hemp will give farmers an option to plant something that will generate income for them” besides corn, cotton, blueberries or soybeans.

Georgia State Senator P.K. Martin (R-Gwinnett) spoke about the upcoming legislative session, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“There’s been a lot of shakeup in the makeup of the legislative, here in Gwinnett County, as well,” Martin said. “For the first time in eight years, the General Assembly will convene and Georgia will inaugurate a new governor. Also, for the first time in 12 years, we will have a new lieutenant governor.

“And, in Georgia, we tend to look to the governor and lieutenant governor for leads on some of the major issues that we will face.”

Some of the big issues that Martin said will likely come up during the 2019 session, which begins Jan. 14, include education, health care and rural broadband.

“[Governor Elect Brian Kemp] spoke to us this week, on Tuesday, and laid out a few of his priorities,” Martin said. “Among them are education, teacher compensation, increased mental health funding, including a priority for mental health counselors in schools, creating a positive ecosystem in Georgia for small businesses … but also looking for ways to bolster the rural areas of our state through increased broadband access, access to health care and economic development incentives.”

Martin said he plans to take up the mantle of introducing legislation based on recommendations from a study committee that outgoing Sen. Fran Millar led to address issues surrounding dyslexia. Millar was defeated in November by state Sen.-elect Sally Harrell.

University of Georgia Professor Charles Bullock addressed the 2018 elections in Athens at the legislative Biennial Institute, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

“Going into 2020, we are going to be one of the major toss-up states,” Bullock said, referring to the next presidential election year.

In the last few national elections, Georgia has been largely ignored, Bullock said. Candidates assumed Georgia would go Republican, so there was no point in campaigning for the state’s electoral votes.

That means Georgia’s airwaves will be like Florida’s before the election: “Just covered up with political ads,” he said.

The change stems from the state’s evolving demography, he said; white people tend strongly to vote Republican, while people of color tend to vote more Democratic.

Post-election polls showed a big racial divide in races for statewide offices such as governor, as well as an urban-rural divide and an age divide, Bullock explained to a mostly-Republican gathering this week.

Voting for Republican Governor-elect Brian Kemp was about 75 percent of whites, 59 percent of the people over age 45, 88 percent of Christian evangelicals, 68 percent of evangelicals and 62 percent of voters with a high school or less education.

Democrat gubernatorial challenger Stacey Abrams’ strongest support came from black voters (92 percent), urban voters (68 percent), voters age 18-44 (59 percent), those with an advanced degree (60 percent) and voters who have lived in Georgia fewer than 10 years.

Democrat Jon Ossoff spoke in Habersham County, according to the AJC.

The investigative journalist raised $30 million in last year’s special election for the U.S. House seat, which he lost to Republican Karen Handel. Ossoff is now considering another run for office, perhaps a challenge to U.S. Sen. David Perdue in 2020.

And so Ossoff’s town hall meeting in rural northeast Georgia took on special significance as a chance to test his appeal to an unfamiliar crowd. And he unveiled an urgent, populist message railing against the corporate influence in politics and a national economy “built on debt and consumption.”

“There’s more and more cynical politics. Student debt is skyrocketing. We’re still maintaining this unfathomably large empire that costs trillions of dollars,” said Ossoff. “We’re doing nothing for crumbling infrastructure at home. And we wonder why there’s so much anger.”

He waded into the debate over voting rights, saying the election tactics were “reminiscent of Jim Crow” segregation-era laws.

“We now have a system where a shocking number of Georgians are convinced their vote doesn’t count,” he said. “I liked seeing Stacey Abrams fight at the end of this thing. I liked that she decided to make an issue of the flaws.”

Right whales were spotted off Georgia’s coast for the first time of the season, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Researchers spotted two female North Atlantic right whales about 20 miles southeast of Tybee Island Wednesday.

Nicknamed Magnet and Boomerang, the sight of these whales in early December — right on time for the calving season — is a huge relief to whale lovers.

“We’re all just keeping our fingers crossed that the moms show up and have their calves in tow or they stick around and have their calves here,” Clay George, the marine mammal coordinator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said last week.

George can breathe a little easier now that the moms have begun to show up. The next milestone for the season will be new calves.

“That’s necessary to help stop the slide in the population,” George said. “Not only is the population flat now, but it’s been declining since 2010. Now that decline is accelerating.”

Wreaths Across America will decorate graves at Fort Benning for the first time this year, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

“This is the first time at Fort Benning. This is the post’s 100th-year centennial and what a way to go out,” Shirley Jerman, organizer of the Main Post Cemetery effort, said Thursday.

The Columbus resident, wife of the late retired Sgt. 1st Class James Jerman, who is buried at Fort Benning, said despite getting a late start on this year’s Wreaths Across America event, which takes place at noon Saturday at participating cemeteries, it should be pretty special.

The eventual goal, of course, is to have a wreath — either purchased by individuals or sponsored through groups and businesses — on each of the nearly 7,800 headstones at the Fort Benning cemetery.

“It’s difficult in your first year. I was counting on maybe 200 and I’m competitive, so I kept thinking, well maybe 500. We actually right now have 1,096 that have been sponsored,” Jerman said. “Our cutoff date was Dec. 3. They have to have a cutoff because they’ve got to ship the wreath. They come from Maine and they’re actually live balsam fir wreaths.”

The Glynn County Democratic Committee elected new officers, according to The Brunswick News.

A property tax break for Coweta County seniors may be put off because of a single vote against it, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

In October, the Coweta County Board of Education voted 6-1 to move ahead with a proposal for local legislation that would provide more than $1.8 million in tax relief for senior citizens. District 4 representative Linda Menk cast the sole vote against the measure, protesting that it wasn’t “aggressive enough.”

A split vote could be a problem for the local legislative delegation, which historically has required a unanimous vote by a governing body before it will move forward with a resolution on the state level – making Menk’s “no” a potential fly in the ointment.

That’s a concern for Donald Smith, who asked the Coweta County Board of Education Tuesday whether it can remedy the situation.

“If the person who voted against it is willing to change her vote, is there a mechanism within the school board to revote on that and get a unanimous vote?” he asked. “The senior citizens need the tax relief, and we need it as soon as possible.”

While delegations set their own policies for legislation that originates in their districts, the unofficial rule is that local legislation is only introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives with unanimous votes from local governing bodies, according to Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan), who said the practice encourages all levels of government to work more efficiently.

“Local governments have to resolve their issues locally,” she said. “The better job they do facing the problems locally, the better job that we can do when it gets to the state level.”

During board comments Tuesday, Menk said she wants to correct any misinterpretation of her vote on the senior tax exemption increase.

“In no way should my vote be misconstrued as opposition to the proposed increases afforded to our seniors relative to school taxes,” said Menk, reading from a prepared statement.

Dalton may see legalization of golf carts on some streets, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The Dalton City Council recently approved an ordinance allowing for the operation of PTVs [personal transportation vehicles] on some residential streets if citizens request it and the council approves it.

“These are basically golf carts, but they have to be equipped for the street — have headlights, taillights, mirrors, seat belts. They aren’t necessarily what you’d see on a golf course,” said Dalton Police Department Assistant Chief Chris Crossen.

Crossen said the state changed the law not long ago to allow cities to permit PTVs on residential streets.

“City Administrator Jason Parker was the one who brought that to everyone’s attention and said that we might have some neighborhoods that meet the law and where the residents wanted them,” Crossen said.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education and Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks were recognized by the Georgia School Board Association, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The statewide education organization named Gwinnett County Public Schools and its school board as the winner of the 2018 Governance Team of the Year Award. The district was one of 33 school systems around the state that were qualified to receive the award and one of 10 districts that applied to receive it, according to Gwinnett schools officials.

“Each of the local boards of education chosen as finalists is doing outstanding work and it is quite an honor to be selected from such an impressive group,” Gwinnett school board Chairwoman Carole Boyce said in a statement.

“To be selected as the inaugural winner of this award is an accomplishment in which our entire community can take pride as it is a reflection of our collective work to make Gwinnett County Public Schools a system of world-class schools.”

The Governance Team of the Year Award is a new honor that GSBA created this year to recognize the superintendent and school board team that “best demonstrates its commitment to maximizing student achievement and enhancing trust and support for public education in their community,” according to the association’s website.

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