Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 16, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 16, 2019

On January 16, 1786, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted by the Virginia General Assembly.

On January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting alcoholic beverages, when Nebraska became the 36th of the 48 states then in the Union to ratify the Amendment.

At 4:30 PM on January 16, 1991, the Persian Gulf War began as air attacks against Iraq launched from US and British aircraft carriers, beginning Operation Desert Storm.

On January 16, 1997, a bomb exploded in a Sandy Springs abortion clinic, later determined to be the work of Eric Rudolph, who also bombed Centennial Olympic Park in 1996, a lesbian bar in Atlanta in February 1997, and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp ordered an investigation into the handling of state employee sexual harrassment claims, according to the AJC.

On his first day in office, Gov. Brian Kemp kept a campaign promise, ordering state government to reform the way employees’ sexual harassment claims are handled.

His executive order creates a centralized system with uniform standards to replace a disjointed, haphazard one that left victims seeking justice. But the reforms won’t happen overnight. They will require time to develop new training programs and more money and staff to ensure complaints are thoroughly investigated.

Kemp’s executive order Monday requires every department and agency under his authority to designate “at least two persons, not of the same gender” to investigate complaints and report their findings to the state Office of Inspector General, which will collect and audit investigations from across state government. Sexual harassment investigators will be required to have “standardized investigative training … to ensure consistency among all sexual harassment investigations across the state.”

In addition, Kemp ordered a new sexual harassment prevention training program which every state employee will be required to take when they are first hired and annually after that. The order also bans retaliation against those who file complaints.

The AJC profiles Tim Flemming, Governor Kemp’s new Chief of Staff.

Tim Fleming first worked for Kemp in 2002 during his successful bid for a state Senate seat, held a position for years in the Secretary of State’s Office and was campaign manager in last year’s victorious run for governor.

“I’ve had that role for many years. That comes along with the territory,” he said. “There’s the good and the bad and the ugly for any leadership role. You make tough decisions, but it’s your job to make sure it gets done – and to move in the right direction.”

Fleming comes from a family accustomed to the political glare. His grandfather was a Pierce County Commission chairman. His father was a Newton County Commission chairman. Summers in Covington were spent planting campaign signs and knocking on doors with his dad.

After Fleming graduated in 2005, Kemp turned to be the campaign manager for his biggest race yet: a bid for agriculture commissioner. Kemp fell about 40,000 votes short to Gary Black, who now holds that office, in the Republican runoff.

It wasn’t long before Fleming decided to seek office himself. He ran for an open Newton County Commission seat in 2008 and won by roughly 150 votes, becoming the youngest elected official in county history. In a nod to Kemp’s narrow victory in the governor’s race, he quipped: “I know what it’s like to win by a slim margin.”

The Georgia Department of Family and Childrens Services has issued food stamp benefits early due to the federal government shutdown, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Jan. 8, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials made the decision to protect Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants’ access and announced that food stamp recipients will have access to their full benefits for February, even if the partial government shutdown continues. USDA is working with states to load benefits onto recipients’ cards by Jan. 20, under a provision that allows them to award the benefits.

Georgia SNAP, traditionally known as food stamps, recipients can now access their February benefits via their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards and do not have to wait until their regularly-scheduled issuance date for the month.

Georgia DFCS worked over the weekend with its EBT vendor, Conduent, and with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to provide early issuance of February benefits for all SNAP recipients. The move was made in an effort to ensure families are fully prepared to purchase food in the event that the partial government shutdown is not resolved before current funding for the program is exhausted.

“Georgia has worked very closely with the federal USDA staff to prepare for the possible impact of a limited federal shutdown,” said DFCS Chief Deputy Division Director Jon Anderson. “The division is monitoring the situation and continuing to evaluate options as circumstances dictate. We are hopeful the early release of next month’s benefit amount will help families equip themselves appropriately should the partial shutdown continue.”

The Georgia Forest Commission is accepting applications for funds for debris removal after Hurricane Michael, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Georgia Forestry Commission created the Forest Debris Management Program to fund up to 80 percent of debris removal with a maximum payment limit that will be determined after the end of the first application period, according to a news release.

The Georgia Forestry Commission will be accepting applications from Georgia residents who are the legal owners of the property that was damaged during Hurricane Michael in early October.

Benefits are available for parcels of at least 10 acres of forest or a commercial orchard of any size.

You can apply for the money even if the work has been completed, the release stated.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) told the Savannah Morning News that a federal funding compromise is possible.

Carter was asked in an audio interview on Tuesday with the Savannah Morning News about concerns that President Donald Trump would declare a national emergency and take the SHEP funds to build a border wall.

“I don’t think that is going to happen,” Carter said.

Carter did admit, however, he has no assurances that money for any federal projects is safe from presidential use.

“We don’t really have assurances that any money is off limits.”

Carter does believe a compromise is “out there.”

Gwinnett County voters will have three weeks of early voting ahead of the March referendum on transit, according to the AJC.

The Gwinnett County elections board approved Tuesday night the unusually extensive schedule for voting ahead of the March 19 special election.

“I believe that turnout is going to be higher than in a typical special election,” county elections director Lynn Ledford told the board. “If we have the opportunity to provide these additional opportunities, than we should.”

The first day of advance in-person voting will be Feb. 25.

Every day between Feb. 25 and March 15, including Saturdays and Sundays, early voting will be available at the county elections office at 455 Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville. Voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.

During the final pair of weeks, advance voting will also be available at seven satellite locations.

The Glynn County Commission continues working on a proposal to collect a toll on the Torras Causeway to St Simons Island, according to The Brunswick News.

Augusta University has rolled out a new bike sharing program, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The bikes are part of the university’s new bike-sharing program called JagRide, which officially began with a ribbon-cutting outside the Jaguar Student Activities Center at noon. Across Augusta University’s three campuses, there are 18 bikes leased from Gotcha, a mobility company based out of Charleston, S.C.

Six bikes each will be located on the heath sciences campus, the riverfront campus in the new Georgia Cyber Center, and the Summerville campus.

The bikes are available 24 hours every day and can be reserved and paid for with the app SoBi, short for Social Bicycles. The bikes are free for the first 30 minutes and $5 every hour after. That money goes toward Gotcha’s operation costs.

Snellville City Council named Council member Barbara Bender as the new Mayor, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Snellville’s City Council accepted the resignation of embattled former Mayor Tom Witts and picked Councilwoman Barbara Bender to succeed him Monday night.

Bender, who was chosen by her colleagues in a 3-1 vote, will serve the remainder of Witts’ unexpired term, which has just shy of one year left. Councilman Roger Marmol cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he felt the city should have held an election to fill the mayor’s office.

Rome City Commission’s public safety committee recommended changes to the smoking statute, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“The first reading  [of the proposed revisions] will be Jan. 28 and they’ll hold the second reading, not a public hearing, at the first meeting in February,” City Clerk Joe Smith said.

The amendment to the city’s smoking ordinance would prohibit smoking and vaping on all public property along Broad and its side streets, between East First and East Eighth avenues.

It includes sidewalk cafes, the Town Green, the Third Avenue Parking Deck and Bridgepoint Plaza.

Smokers could be fined $50 for the first offense and up to $250 for repeat offenses. Business owners who fail to stop employees or customers from smoking could be hit with penalties ranging from $100 to $500.

Concerns about government overreach have dogged the proposal since discussions began last fall. Downtown property owner and resident Diane Lewis said Tuesday she strongly objects to the enforcement mechanism.

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