Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 7, 2019

7
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 7, 2019

Georgia voted for George Washington for President on January 7, 1789. Technically, they elected Presidential Electors who would later meet in Augusta and cast their ballots for Washington.

On January 7, 1795, Georgia Governor George Matthews signed the Yazoo Act, passed after four land companies bribed members of the General Assembly to vote for legislation selling more than 35 million acres of land for less than 2 cents per acre.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich (R) was re-elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 7, 1997. In the election for a second term, nine Republicans voted against the incumbent Speaker.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal‘s two terms in office are profiled by Greg Bluestein in the AJC.

He steadied the state’s finances and exponentially boosted its depleted reserve funds as he initiated record spending on infrastructure and new building projects but held the line on some sweeping tax breaks sought by many in his party.

He warred occasionally with both sides of the aisle, taking stances that drove some conservatives to threaten sanctions and payback after controversial vetoes and infuriating Democrats with hard-line approaches on many debates, including his steadfast opposition to Medicaid expansion.

And yet he pushed through most of the key elements of his agenda with overwhelming bipartisan support — sometimes even unanimous — as he rewrote criminal justice initiatives, overhauled workforce training policies and vastly expanded the judicial branch.

At a time of peak polarization, Deal stands out as an anomaly in his final days in office: an understated politician who never lost an election and built a legacy as a consensus-building pragmatist with a record that seems a throwback in the era of Donald Trump.

A Democrat-turned-Republican who ruled the state during eight years of increasing partisanship — but who will leave the Governor’s Mansion with polls that show he’s the state’s most popular politician.

He steadied the state’s finances and exponentially boosted its depleted reserve funds as he initiated record spending on infrastructure and new building projects but held the line on some sweeping tax breaks sought by many in his party.

He warred occasionally with both sides of the aisle, taking stances that drove some conservatives to threaten sanctions and payback after controversial vetoes and infuriating Democrats with hard-line approaches on many debates, including his steadfast opposition to Medicaid expansion.

And yet he pushed through most of the key elements of his agenda with overwhelming bipartisan support — sometimes even unanimous — as he rewrote criminal justice initiatives, overhauled workforce training policies and vastly expanded the judicial branch.

But he won two terms in office, and steered the broad majority of his priorities through the Legislature, by knitting together a coalition of rural conservatives and more moderate suburbanites with a blend of pro-business policies and culturally conservative legislation.

And he leaves office with a raft of new policies embraced by both parties, including vastly expanded tuition-free tech school programs and a redesigned approach to workforce development. In all, his office said, more than 800,000 jobs were created since he took office.

But even his fiercest opponents applauded his consensus-building strategy in the Legislature that started his first year in office with major changes to the HOPE scholarship program. His more inclusive approach was a contrast from that of his predecessor Sonny Perdue, whose aggressive style earned him the disdain of some GOP leaders.“We regarded the Legislature as equal partners with the state. That makes all the difference in terms of the relationship between the legislative and executive branch of government,” Deal said. “If they don’t work together, not very much comes out.”

It’s a very good article that I recommend reading in its entirety.

Bluestein also has an article reviewing Deal’s campaign promises and progress made on fulfilling them.

Governor Deal appointed a surveyor to determine the boundary between Jackson and Hall Counties.

Gov. Deal has appointed State Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland) to the Georgia Public Service Commission, to fill the remainder of the term of former Commissioner Doug Everett.

Voters in parts of Gordon and Murray Counties go to the polls tomorrow to elect a new State Representative for District 5 to fill the vacancy created by the death of State Rep. John Meadows.

Six candidates qualified for the State House District Five special election, according to the Suwannee Democrat.

The five Republican candidates for HD 5 attended a meet-and-greet organized by the Murray County Republican Party, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The Murray County Republican Party served as the facilitators, with Chairman Kevin Jones as the leader of the introductory event. The five Republicans in the six-candidate race – Matt Barton, Steven Cochran, Larry Massey, Scott Tidwell and Jesse Vaughn – all attended, saying a few words to attendees regarding their campaign, platforms and goals if elected.

Jones, who was pleased with the turnout, was appreciative of those who came out to support candidates who were their family members and friends during the holiday season.

“None of you will be able to fill John Meadows’ shoes,” Jones said, speaking to the legacy of the late representative who chaired the powerful rules committee and was a leader for Northwest Georgia at the Capitol. “But you’ll be starting your next chapter for our district and our community. Thank you for your hard work and willingness to step up. It takes a special man to do that.”

The Chattanooga Times-Free Press also covered the meet-and-greet in HD 5.

Unlike the general election, which featured a heated governor’s race that gained national attention for months, there are no high-profile contests on the ballot to pull people to the polls. Adding to the candidates’ challenge, the heart of the campaign falls during the holiday season. Voters are focused on gifts, travel plans and big family dinners.

Look just south to Bartow and Floyd counties, which held a special election for a Georgia State House District 14 seat Tuesday. There, 3,173 people — or 9 percent of registered voters — turned out.

On top of the low voter turnout, the special election here boasts six candidates. The crowded field makes the race more fractured and, as a result, more unpredictable. The race likely will go to a runoff in February, but the fight to get into the top two could be tight.

The candidates don’t have an antidote for the impending apathy. They plan to take the usual path — work family connections, knock on doors, plant signs, call friends, ask those friends to call their own friends, post on Facebook and pray the right people remember to show up to the polls.

Curt Yeomans of the Gwinnett Daily Post spoke to retiring State Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) about his 26 years at the Capitol.

Coleman served in the House of Representatives for 26 years and the upcoming legislative session will be the first to convene without him since 1992, the same year Bill Clinton was elected to his first term as president.

For a quarter of a century, Coleman has been a mainstay on the House Education, Natural Resources and Environment, and Retirement committees.

“I have mixed emotions (about retiring) because I’ve been very lucky,” Coleman said. “I’ve served on every committee that I asked for and I served on Education the whole time and I chaired Education for the last 16 years.”

Given his background as a retired Gwinnett educator, it’s probably no surprise that the Education Committee was Coleman’s favorite assignment, but he also enjoyed his time on the Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

“Outside of education, that’s probably my second favorite committee because I love the environment, I love natural resource areas because I’m very, very committed to keeping our environment, air, water and all as clean as we can,” he said.

Coleman said the legislation he’s most proud of from his time in the legislature includes bills to do away with the state’s high school graduation test, create the Georgia Public Schools Innovation Fund to help struggling schools, get health insurance for school lunchroom workers, bus drivers and custodians.

Getting full funding for the Quality Basic Education formula at Gov. Nathan Deal’s urging last year is another high point for him.

State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) will file legislation to give law enforcement more tools to fight human trafficking, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Human trafficking is an evil and damaging criminal enterprise, with victims of all ages and backgrounds from every region of our state,” Efstration said in a statement. “I will introduce legislation to give law enforcement the tools needed to identify and prosecute traffickers, as well as the purchasers and enablers who are also culpable for these heinous crimes.”

The Georgia General Assembly’s 2019 legislative session is set to begin Jan. 14. This won’t be the first foray into trafficking legislation for Efstration, an attorney and former prosecutor. He and state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, have teamed up in the past to work on sex trafficking legislation.

The Gainesville Times looks at how legislative recommendations to make medical cannabis available in-state will benefit families.

Lawmakers should pursue licensing a limited number of growers, manufacturers and dispensaries for medical cannabis oil in the 2019 session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Those are the breakthrough recommendations made in late December by the legislative Joint Study Commission on Low THC Medical Oil Access, which convened a number of meetings in 2018 to explore how to open access in Georgia to the drug for thousands of registered patients.

[A]ccess to the drug in Georgia has remained elusive for families in need. The Times has documented the stories of several Hall County families who have trouble obtaining the drug for family members approved for treatment.

The state should offer 10 grow licenses, 10 manufacturing licenses and an adequate number of dispensing licenses, the commission recommends, with half granted to large capital investment firms and half to smaller groups.

“In doing so, the legislature must take into account the number of patients registered under the Low THC Oil Patient Registry that is administered by DPH to ensure demand drives supply and supports competition within the Georgia market,” the commission reports.

The Department of Public Health would retain oversight of the medical marijuana registry, and its budget would need additional funding, the commission suggests, to ensure “uniform product labeling and independent lab testing procedures with minimum standards for product purity and safety.”

The Macon Telegraph looks at the availability of mental health services for children.

The number of children and adolescents diagnosed with mental health disorders is rising, but for many Georgia youth, mental health care is out of reach.

“You have to dig to find what you need,” said Jennifer Giegler, a Bibb County school teacher who lives in Macon with her husband and five adopted children, four of whom have a diagnosed mental health disorder.

Georgia faces a severe shortage of mental health care providers, with only eight youth and adolescent psychiatrists for every 100,000 residents, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Schools also face a shortage of counselors and psychologists across the state.

Floyd County and Rome City school systems discussed school safety with local legislators, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

[State Rep. Eddie] Lumsden, who has served on the House Study Committee on School Security, said securing schools isn’t as big of an issue as mental health. He cited that most of the threats have come within schools, and said a focus on positive school climate must be addressed. At the time there were no school resources to address these issues, he said.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said she and Lumsden served on the committee because of his background in law enforcement and her background in education and mental health. She said school systems statewide were sent additional funds to help with school security before the committee even met. She added it is important to identify behavior that seems unusual and to take it seriously.

FCS Superintendent Jeff Wilson said he would love to have a mental health counselor in every school, however there are deeper issues to mental health which extends into the families as well. He said treating students at school won’t fully work if they are sent back into a dangerous environment. Dr. Melissa Davis, a pediatrician at Harbin Clinic and a RCS board member, added to this comment, saying there needs to be safe, stable and nurturing relationships between schools and their families which cost the school boards nothing.

Floyd County Superior Court Chief Judge Tami Colston, who retires this month, spoke about the importance of drug accountability courts, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

As part of her time on the bench Colston expanded Floyd County’s accountability court to include a drug court. The voluntary program provides treatment and counseling — along with heavy oversight — in lieu of sentencing. Colston sought and was awarded a grant from the state to establish the accountability court in 2017.

The drug court was the county’s second accountability court. Superior Court Judge Jack Niedrach established a mental health court in 2016.

One man described himself as sober, thriving and hopeful and said “I want to thank you, Judge Colston, for standing by me, never giving up on me and making me the man I am today.”

Another man described her as a person who would “fight for me even though I didn’t know how to fight for myself.” Today he’s found faith in himself and strength through his wife and two children.

Judge Billy Sparks will be taking over the drug court when Colston leaves.

Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy will host a Town Hall on St Simons Island on Wednesday, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Board of Elections meets Tuesday to discuss projects to modernize the county voting rolls and whether to hire a new supervisor, according to The Brunswick News.

The first Right Whale calf in two years was spotted off Florida’s coast, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A right whale calf spotted off Neptune Beach, Fla., late last month offers researchers “some glimmer of hope after no calves last year,” said Clay George, a biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

An estimated 410 right whales remain, making them highly endangered. They usually give birth off the coast of Georgia and Florida from about December to April, but last year they didn’t. No calves were spotted in the 2017-18 calving season and the whales also suffered from a higher than usual number of recorded deaths from entanglement in fishing gear, ship strikes and undetermined causes. George said researchers will need to see a lot more calves before they consider this season a success.

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