Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2019

Representatives of three cities in Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders,” the first written Constitution in an American colony and one of the first founding document to cite the authority of “the free consent of the people.”

On January 14, 1733, James Oglethorpe and the rest of the first colonists departed Charles Town harbor for what would become Savannah, and the State of Georgia.

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784. The Treaty was negotiated by John Adams, who would later serve as President, and the delegates voting to ratify it included future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

On January 14, 1835, James M. Wayne took the oath of office as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A Savannah native, Wayne had previously served in the Georgia House of Represestatives, as Mayor of Savannah, on the Supreme Court of Georgia, and in Congress. His sister was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and his home is now known as the Juliette Gordon Low house. When Georgia seceded from the Union, Wayne remained on the Supreme Court.

On January 14, 1860, the Committee of Thirty-Three introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow slavery in the areas it then existed.

Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of eleven African-American Georgians elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. After his election, on January 10, 1966, the State House voted 184-12 not to seat him because of his publicly-stated opposition to the Vietnam War. After his federal lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ordered Bond seated.

True story: Julian Bond was the first Georgia State Senator I ever met, when I was in ninth grade and visited the state Capitol.

On January 14, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring Japanese-Americans, including American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as Italians and Germans to register with the federal Department of Justice. The next month, Roosevelt would have Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections


Republican Brian P. Kemp will take office today as Governor of Georgia.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

Georgia’s new governor campaigned as a self-described “politically incorrect conservative” who sealed support among fellow Republicans with an endorsement from President Donald Trump and eked out a close November victory after lobbing a last-minute accusation that the state Democratic Party tried to hack the election.

Now the question is whether Brian Kemp will be as partisan a governor as he was a candidate after he’s sworn into office Monday.

He told reporters during a statewide victory lap last week he plans to work hard to win support from Georgians who didn’t vote for him in November. And he’s already thinking ahead to running again in 2022.

Republicans still control all statewide offices in Georgia and both chambers of the legislature, giving Kemp little short-term need to reach across the aisle. But the 2018 midterms saw Georgia Democrats make their first notable advances in years, including a gain of a dozen seats in the state House.

From the AJC:

His inaugural speech, to be delivered at 2 p.m. Monday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, will set the tone for his first year in office. Expect a broad focus on working across party lines and building consensus — and none of the partisan attacks that proliferated on the campaign trail.

That’s just the start of a hectic week. Kemp is expected to outline some specifics Wednesday at the Georgia Chamber’s annual breakfast, and then sharpen the details and unveil his spending plan Thursday in his State of the State address. He’ll cap the week with his inaugural gala Thursday night.

Kemp is but one player in a larger changing of the guard in Georgia politics. Geoff Duncan, a former Republican member of the state House, will become the titular head of the state Senate as lieutenant governor. How he will handle the chamber’s complicated politics could make or break legislation.

A slate of other GOP candidates won every other statewide post. Brad Raffensperger, another ex-legislator, will become Georgia’s top elections official as secretary of state. He’ll have to navigate the tangle of voting rights problems that surfaced during last year’s elections.

A total of 42 freshmen will take office in the 236-seat Georgia Legislature, meaning that nearly one in six seats has changed hands since last year as incumbents lost re-election, ran for another office or retired.

Even as Republicans won every statewide office, a Democratic surge across the suburbs reshaped the Legislature. Democrats picked up 13 seats, all in metro Atlanta, to cut into the GOP majority in both chambers. Republicans still control the legislative branch, but Democrats plan to wield newfound clout.

The Gainesville Times spoke to Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller about the upcoming legislative Session.

[I]n January 2018, State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, joined the ranks of top leadership when he was elected by his colleagues to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore. Miller was first elected in 2010, and as President Pro Tempore he presides over the Senate when the president of the Senate is absent and handles administrative duties for the Senate.

But with Deal and Cagle leaving office Monday, Brian Kemp and Geoff Duncan will take over as governor and lieutenant governor. Both are from North Georgia — Kemp is from Athens and Duncan from Cumming — but with the departures of Deal and Cagle, Hall will lose two of its top state leaders.

“There’s a natural tendency for (the region), for those individuals, to come to Hall County and Gainesville,” Miller said. “That makes Gainesville and Hall County a central business district.”

“There’s also a culture in Hall County of altruism, there’s a culture of commitment to community, there’s a culture of economic development and quality of life and generosity and caring for your fellow man,” he said. “That is the fertile ground, that many leaders have been produced from Hall County.”

“Politics and government is fluid, and it will certainly change,” he said. “I and our other delegation members will work very hard to continue to make Gainesville and Hall County that continued area of prosperity and growth that we’ve experienced in the past.”

The Gainesville Times also spoke to local Democrats.

Deborah Gonzalez, outgoing state representative of District 117 in Georgia, encourages her fellow Democrats to not focus on the negative outcomes for the party, but the accomplishments.

“Look at the other end,” Gonzalez said during the Hall County Democratic Party meeting on Jan. 7. “We’ve got 103 women in that Congress, and we’ve got Muslims in that Congress, and we’ve got progressives in that Congress, and we’ve got mothers in that Congress, and we’ve got young millenials in that Congress and they’re dancing in the Congress halls.”

Before people know it, Gonzalez said 2020 is going to come. She urges Democrats to be prepared because she finds that Republicans are fully aware of the fact that Democrats will no longer remain silent.

She asks Democrats to be intentional and committed with their efforts.

“I know it’s challenging and there are times when you want to say, ‘It’s not going to happen,’” Gonzalez said. “But, remember, when you give up, how do we ask somebody else to pick it up again?”

In honor of the opening of the 2019 Session of the Georgia General Assembly, a Macon manure truck “poured one out.”

The Dalton Daily Citizen spoke to local legislators who are headed to Atlanta.

To the feds, medical cannabis remains a highly controlled substance, right up there with heroin, that has no recognized medical use.

But the cousin of cannabis, hemp, is now a different story. Cultivation of the plant was legalized nationwide through the new federal farm bill, which the president signed into law last month. “At the end of the day, anything over 0.3 percent is still against federal law,” said Rep. John Corbett, a Republican from Lake Park who has supported the state’s low THC oil program in the past. ”I guess as long as the feds continue to turn their head, (other states) can get by with it. But one day they might decide, ‘You know, we’re going to enforce the law.’”

Corbett chaired a study committee last year that ultimately endorsed growing industrial hemp in Georgia through a program that licenses growers. Already, about 40 states have passed laws that allow some form of cultivation or production, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Corbett’s committee convened as another group, a commission of lawmakers from both chambers, parents of children who use the oil and a sheriff, explored how best to create access to the medical cannabis that is already legal to possess under state law. That second panel endorsed in-state cultivation of medical cannabis — something that will prove a hard sell for lawmakers such as Corbett.

Maggie Lee, writes about three new states legislators from Middle Georgia in the Macon Telegraph.

Two new midstate representatives are heading to Atlanta, replacing lawmakers who retired. About 15 percent of Georgia’s 236 lawmakers will be either freshmen, or folks who are returning to office after a break.

Cochran Republican Danny Mathis will represent all of Twiggs, Wilkinson and Bleckley counties plus parts of Jones, Bibb, Houston and Laurens. He’s no stranger to elected office, as he spent 18 years as Bleckley County’s coroner. Mathis, 64, is also a funeral service provider. He won state House District 144 with 65 percent of the vote.

Macon Republican and realtor Dale Washburn will represent parts of Bibb and Monroe counties. It’ll be his first time holding elected office. Washburn, 68, beat three other Republicans in a two-round primary in the deep red district, and he had no Democratic challenger in the general election for state House District 141.

Andy Miller of Georgia Health News writes about the upcoming session.

Despite a new lineup of legislators — as well as a new governor and lieutenant governor — many health care issues in the upcoming session of the Georgia General Assembly will have a familiar look. They are largely the same ones that have percolated under the Gold Dome in past years.

Health care regulations. Surprise medical billing. Rural health care. Medical marijuana.

Curt Yeomans of the Gwinnett Daily Post spoke to local legislators about their priorities for the Session.

In a year when a new governor and lieutenant governor will be taking office, the biggest change affecting Gwinnett residents might be the changes in the county’s legislative delegation. It will have nine new members this year, and Democrats now make up the majority in the delegation for the first time in decades.

The delegation will also have the state’s first Muslim legislator, Sen.-elect Sheikh Rahman, D-Lawrenceville, and its first Iranian-American legislator, Sen.-elect Zahra Karinshak, D-Duluth.

“We have (nine) new members that we have to nurture and we have to mentor,” said Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth, who is the delegation’s new chairman. “I think their coming in to the legislature is a positive, but you have to remember it’s not just us (Democrats). When we represent, we represent everyone.”

Some Gwinnett legislators said they foresee delegation members working across party lines on local legislation requests regardless of the new majority. A theme brought up among legislators that the Daily Post spoke with was focusing on what is best for Gwinnett.

“I expect we’re going to have a great working relationship between Republicans and Democratic members when it comes to issues that are important to the citizens of Gwinnett,” said state Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula.

Fulton County’s legislative delegation also switched to a Democratic majority, according to the AJC.

Last fall’s election saw a dramatic shift in the balance of power across metro Atlanta’s suburbs that had historically been controlled by Republicans. Democrats picked up seats in Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb counties, and now have majorities in each. DeKalb County now has no Republican members of its delegation.

Fulton’s House delegation now has 19 Democrats and six Republicans, where last year the balance was 12 Democrats and 13 Republicans. In the Senate, Democrats now have seven seats and Republicans have four, versus last year’s total of five Democrats and six Republicans.

“One thing is, I think you’re going to see us pay attention to all parts of Fulton County equally,” [State Rep. David Dreyer] said. “What you can expect is a lot of hard work and diligence. Voices from all parts of the community are going to be elevated.”

Robb Pitts, the Fulton commission chairman, said a change in philosophy for leaders might mean more success in passing legislation that’s a priority to the county. Rep. Roger Bruce, D-South Fulton, said he expects more conversation around improving transit and other transportation, and expanding Medicaid through a waiver for Grady Health Systems.

The Rome News-Tribune looks at local priorities for the 2019 Session.

Topping the list: Help with mental health issues in the community, compounded by the opioid crisis, that are straining the county jail.

“We want some guidance from the state on how to put this all under one umbrella with somebody taking the lead,” Commission Chair Scotty Hancock said. “We’re willing to do our part, but right now it’s a shotgun approach. Everybody’s repeating the same thing and nothing’s getting done.”

“In Georgia, not a single jail got a single penny for the wave of mental health problems we knew was coming (when the state shifted to community-based care),” [Jail Administrator Bob Sapp said. “One official said they didn’t want them in jail. I said, ‘how’s that working out for you?’”

Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, said his service on the Rural Development Council made it clear that information-sharing is key to helping communities be more efficient in dealing with the problems.

However, Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, noted that there was pushback from agencies reluctant to give up their data when she and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, chaired a joint committee on a potential initiative last year. But there are plans in the works this year.

Former State Senator Josh McKoon spoke to the Glynn County Republican Party, according to The Brunswick News.

State Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, introduced McKoon — the two were known to be close friends in the Senate. Since McKoon left the Senate, first for a secretary of state run that ended in the primary, Ligon’s carried the banner for religious conservatives in the chamber.

“He served in the state Senate for eight years, and he was a fearless, passionate conservative,” Ligon said. “He is someone that stood firm on his principle, without compromise. He was very effective — he served as our chairman of the Judiciary Committee for many years.”

McKoon spoke on several issues on his mind regarding the upcoming session, like legislation in the works on marijuana and gambling legalization, both of which he opposes. He also reflected on another attempt to get a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act through the General Assembly.

“This will be the fifth year since I originally introduced that bill in 2014,” McKoon said. “Just for those of you who are not familiar with this, all we are talking about with this legislation, is a bill that tells Georgia courts if somebody comes into your courtroom saying that the government is trampling on their religious freedom, you treat them the same way that you treat someone who comes into your courtroom to complain about free speech, or free association, or free press.”

The Brunswick News spoke to local business owners about the effect of the federal government shutdown.

Tanya Sergey, owner of A Moveable Feast, said she has lost half the business she normally sees.

She estimates half the business at her restaurant is from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick. And most of the FLETC customers were instructors, administrators and contractors.

“It’s definitely having an impact on us,” she said. “It affects everyone from me, the owner, to the dishwasher.”

Bruce Dixon, owner of the Holiday Inn and Fairfield Inn Mariott in Brunswick, said he has lost business as a result of the shutdown. Some FLETC trainees stay at his motels but the cancellation of some classes has affected his business.

“It reduces our occupancy rates some,” he said. “We have all been affected some by that.”

Rome City Commissioners will choose among themselves to elect a new Mayor, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Mayor Jamie Doss has held the gavel for five consecutive years. Commissioner Bill Collins was chosen as mayor pro tem — to handle duties in the absence of the mayor — for the first time in 2018.

While city commissioners all have equal power, the chair position was renamed “mayor” in 2002 to reflect the practice of other cities. Ronnie Wallace served as mayor for six years. His successors, Wright Bagby Jr. and Evie McNiece, served three years each.

Among the other items on the agenda is a resolution setting the qualifying fee to run for one of the six Rome City Commission seats that will be on the ballot in November.

Terms expire in December for the three Ward 1 commissioners — Milton Slack, Bill Irmscher and Sundai Stevenson — and the three Ward 3 commissioners, Collins, McNiece and Craig McDaniel.

The City of Statesboro has two new assistant city managers, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Hall County District Three Commissioner Shelly Echols has taken office, according to the Gainesville Times.

Echols, a Republican, defeated incumbent Scott Gibbs in 2018′s commission primary before running unopposed in November’s general election. She said it was a busy first week.

“It’s gone very well,” Echols said after Thursday’s voting session. “I’ve certainly enjoyed learning and working with everybody.”

Echols is the lone newcomer to 2019′s county commission. The only other commissioner up for re-election, District One Commissioner Kathy Cooper, won her primary and general election to secure another term.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division announced the sighting of a second Right Whale calf off the coast, according to The Brunswick News.

“Whale researchers from the Georgia DNR and Sea to Shore Alliance were nearby and approached in a small boat to collect high-definition images and video for photo-identification and health assessment purposes. Researchers turned off the boat’s engines and floated quietly as the whales swam past, cannonball jellyfish swirling in their wake.

“Please remember that only federally permitted researchers are allowed within 500 yards of the endangered species. All other boats must remain outside that limit.”

It’s believed the calf was born in the area sometime between Dec. 23 and 28.

Two tourists who removed loggerhead turtle hatchlings from the beach at Tybee Island were fined $930 each, according to The Savannah Morning News.

The Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia confirmed the fine Friday. Public Affairs Officer Barry L. Paschal said the couple has 60 days from their Dec. 15 receipt of the citations to respond. Typically these citations are paid like a traffic ticket, though the couple also has the right to challenge it in court.

Loggerhead sea turtles are a threatened species and as such are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, which allows for fines up to $25,000 per violation. Paschal said the notes from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Special Agent on the case, Jimmy Barna, indicated the couple’s actions were “far down on the full spectrum of violations.”

“It was clear they did not intend to harm the turtles,” Paschal said. “They weren’t taking them with an intent to transport and sell them.”

The hatchlings appeared healthy and five of them were released hours after they were discovered. The Tybee Island Marine Science Center kept the sixth one, now named Admiral. Now nearly six months old, Admiral graduated to a larger tank Thursday and an article about her progress prompted Paschal to relay the updated information on the case. What would have been a routine press release about the resolution of the case was preempted by the federal government shutdown, he said.

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