Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 24, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 24, 2019

Georgia History

Jekyll Island

On January 24, 1915, the first transcontinental telephone call was placed from Jekyll Island, Georgia

January 24, 1933 saw the first sales tax in Georgia proposed to fund schools and aid for farmers.

On January 24, 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. became co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, sharing the pulpit with his father.

On January 24, 1987, some 12,000 to 20,000 civil rights protesters marched in Forsyth County, a week after a smaller protest. From the New York Times reporting:

CUMMING, Ga., Jan. 24— This small town in Forsyth County was overwhelmed today by civil rights marchers, members of the Ku Klux Klan and their sympathizers and an army of National Guardsmen and law-enforcement officers who kept the opposing groups separated.

Guarded by what a spokesman for the Governor’s office called ”the greatest show of force the state has ever marshalled,” a crowd of marchers estimated at 12,000 to 20,000 funneled slowly into Cumming, where a week earlier counterdemonstrators, throwing stones and bottles, disrupted an interracial ”walk for brotherhood” prompted by the all-white county’s racist legacy.

As the marchers headed into Cumming, which has a little more than 2,000 people, they found waiting for them, behind a stern-faced force of 2,300 guardsmen and police officers, a group of hundreds if not thousands of white, mainly young, rural men and women, repeatedly shouting, “N***er, go home!”

Whatever the final figure, the march was one of the largest civil rights demonstrations since a 1965 rally that followed a march from Selma, Ala. to Montgomery. The rally, led by Dr. King, drew 25,000 people.

Seriously, read the Times report.

On January 24, 2001, the Georgia House of Representatives approved legislation changing the state flag to the Barnes design with the state seal on a blue background and a banner depicting five previous flags that flew over Georgia.

2001GeorgiaFlag

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Human Trafficking is likely to be an issue during Atlanta’s Super Bowl, according to the AJC.

“The city of Atlanta is committed to ending human trafficking of all people,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement.

Mary Frances Bowley, founder and executive director of Wellspring Living, which fights childhood sexual abuse and exploitation, said the game’s busy and celebratory atmosphere can attract a criminal element along with sports fans.

“There will be more opportunity for trafficking to happen. The traffickers know that,” said Bowley, whose organization offers residential programs for girls and young women, along with life skills and job training. “A lot of times, because there’s so much mind coercion, girls don’t always walk away.”

She advocates a gut-check approach to helping possible victims. A girl or young woman with a much-older male partner who seems to exert control over her, or a group of young women who seem under the sway of a sole man (or even an older woman), can be cause for concern, she said.

Early voting opens next week in a special election for State House District 5, according to the Calhoun Times.

Republicans Matt Barton and Jesse Vaughn will faceoff to decide who will fill the seat left open by the death of Rep. John Meadows. The two top vote getters advanced from a six-candidate field on Jan. 8 to earn a spot in the runoff.

Early voting for the runoff will start Jan. 28 and run through Feb. 1 at the elections office, 215 N. Wall St. in Calhoun. Hours for early voting are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Former Congressman Jack Brinkley has died, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Former U.S. Rep. Jack Brinkley, a strong supporter in developing Interstate 185 and improving training at Fort Benning in the 3rd Congressional District, died Wednesday at St. Francis Hospital. He was 88.

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., said he was saddened by the passing of a dear friend and mentor. “He was a great representative in Washington for our area and he served us with great distinction,” Bishop said. “Our nation has lost an exceptional public servant, and I have lost a trusted friend and mentor. Georgia and the nation are truly better because of his service and we extend our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.”

A former Air Force pilot, he served on the House committees on Armed Services and Veterans Affairs, and the Armed Services Committee’s Military Installations and Facilities Committee, which has legislative jurisdiction over military construction and base operations.

United States Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) visited Georgia as part of his decisionmaking on whether to seek the presidency in 2020, according to CNN.

In Georgia, Booker met Saturday with his former law school classmate Stacey Abrams, whose underdog campaign for Georgia governor made her one of the standout Democratic candidates of the 2018 midterm election cycle — and a possible kingmaker in the next. A spokesperson for Booker confirmed the meeting but would not give further detail on what was discussed.

The following day, Booker joined Rep. John Lewis, an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, on a road trip to Plains, Georgia, to attend Sunday school led by former President Jimmy Carter. Afterward, Carter told Booker in an exchange captured on Instagram, “I hope you run for president.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams aligned herself with the hated New Orleans Saints, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Abrams lost to Republican Brian Kemp in one of the closest governor’s races in decades in November, and she derided the election as not being “free and fair,” accused Kemp of systematic voter suppression as secretary of state, and refused to recognize his win as legitimate. She harkened back to the controversial NFC Championship game to further protest her loss on Monday to a crowd in Albany, Georgia.

“If you saw yesterday’s playoff game between the [Los Angeles] Rams and the [New Orleans] Saints, there was a call that should have been made and folks are righteously indignant,” she said in remarks flagged by The Daily Caller. “There was a call that should have been made a long time ago in Georgia—you don’t get to be the referee and the player.”

She referred to referees not calling pass interference on Sunday when Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman ran into Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis in the closing minutes of the game, which was tied 20-20. Had the call been made, the Saints would have had a critical first down and likely would have won. Instead, the Saints and Rams traded late field goals, and the Rams won the game in overtime to reach the Super Bowl.

Abrams’ defense of the Saints could raise eyebrows in Georgia. The Atlanta Falcons are Georgia’s NFL team and the Saints’ most hated rival, although it’s worth nothing many former New Orleans residents relocated to Georgia in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

While considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 against Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.), Abrams has maintained her focus on Kemp, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. She is still using language that suggests she was cheated out of the win, although the voter turnout and the facts on the ground belie her case.

“We are going to give Brian Kemp living hell,” she said. “Because I got news: Georgians want to know their votes count.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) pitched legislative appropriators on a $150 million replacement for Georgia’s voting machines, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia’s new elections chief asked lawmakers Wednesday for $150 million to replace the state’s outdated electronic voting machines. In doing so, he all but closed the door on a hand-marked paper balloting system that experts say is cheapest and most secure.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told Georgia legislators meeting for budget hearings that a new voting system is his top priority. Cybersecurity experts and voting integrity activists say the touch-screen machines Georgia has used since 2002 are vulnerable to hacking and can’t be audited effectively because they produce no verifiable paper record.

Although Raffensperger said the procurement process for the new system would not have a “predetermined outcome,” he told lawmakers he believed a system with ballot-marking devices would be faster and more accurate.

“We believe that you get a better result, a more accurate result, and are actually able to move people through the lines faster when you have a ballot-marking device, so you don’t have to cipher out what someone meant with stray marks,” Raffensperger said.

The Rome News Tribune spoke to local legislators about Governor Brian Kemp’s proposed state budget.

State lawmakers set their schedule through Feb. 8 and the next week in Atlanta will be another short one.

“We’ll meet Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome. “We’re letting out early because of the Super Bowl crowd coming in. We’ll also be off the following Monday.”

[State Rep. Eddie] Lumsden, Hufstetler and Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, were among the relatively small group of legislators who sat through Wednesday’s budget presentations from department heads. All three are members of their chamber’s Appropriations Committee.

“It’s an aggressive budget,” Hufstetler said. “But it’s built on growth of 3.3 percent and, year-to-date, we’re running 4.6 percent … so it looks reasonable.”

Dempsey called Kemp’s budget proposal “hopeful,” because it funds initiatives aimed at addressing the multi-faceted “crisis in access to quality healthcare.”

“But, as Gov. Kemp said at the end, it’s time for us to put our stamp on it,” she said. “We’ll go to work and try to include some things the House thinks is possible and the Senate will do the same. In the end, we’ll all come together on what’s best for Georgia.”

The Brunswick News looks at committee assignments for local legislators.

The Georgia Association of Convenience Stores is suggesting that gas buyers lock their cars while fueling, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In the wake of the January 15 officer-involved shooting in southwest Atlanta, the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores encourages gas customers to lock their cars when pumping gas.

According to release, “slider crimes” occur when a thief approaches an unlocked parked vehicle, slides into the vehicle and either drives away or steals the vehicle’s contents.

“This incident is a wake-up call that this type of crime can happen to anyone, anywhere and anytime,” GACS President Angela Holland said. “Locking your car door at the gas pump should be part of your routine just like wearing a seat belt or locking your front door.”

The Georgia Ports Authority told legislators about work at the Port of Brunswick, according to The Brunswick News.

[GPA Executive Director Griff] Lynch began, “The good news is, for all of you, we have nothing to ask for. We’ve a very simple presentation, but we’ll save that for next year. That was a joke. So, if you look at the Georgia ports, one of the things, one of our key missions is we pride ourselves on being an economic engine for the state. And while we have about 1,300 folks who work for us directly, we touch so many more, and every several years we have the Terry College of Business do a study for us, economic impact study. These are the results of that study. Over the past year, 440,000 jobs impacted — we’re up 19-20 percent, and you can see the numbers that flow from there.”

Along with those jobs, there were impacts of $106 billion in sales, up 26 percent, $25 billion in income, up 25 percent, and a $44 billion impact to the state gross domestic product, up 33 percent. The state has 29 port-related projects that resulted in 4,740 in port-related jobs and $1 billion in investment through the 2018 calendar year.

Gwinnett County held the first educational meeting about the March transit referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The meeting at Bogan Park was the kickoff for Gwinnett County’s series of at least 14 public meetings to explain the upcoming vote on whether the county should join MARTA. The open house-style meetings are designed so county staff and consultants can explain the MARTA contract that Gwinnett voters will be voting on in March.

Early voting will begin Feb. 25 and continue daily, including Saturdays and Sundays, until March 15.

“There are two (goals for the sessions),” Gwinnett Transportation Director Alan Chapman said. “One is we want our potential voters to be well-informed about the transit plan that we’ve put together over the last year and a half and the other is to provide information about the MARTA contract.”

If the referendum passes, a one-cent sales tax would be levied in the county to pay for Gwinnett’s participation in MARTA. The transit agency could take over operation of Gwinnett County Transit’s routes by this summer and it would be tasked with the transit expansion, including the addition of new local routes, if the referendum passes.

I award a bonus point to GDP writer Curt Yeomans for use of “coalesce” in a news story.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners are considering changes to the county commission, according to the Macon Telegraph.

A plan to increase the salaries of Macon-Bibb County commissioners and the mayor has been tabled for now. However, earlier this week, members of the County Commission debated pay raises, the size of the commission and redrawing district lines.

The issue sparked discussions about what the salaries should be for the area’s top elected officials. Currently, Mayor Robert Reichert is paid $100,000 annually for his full-time position, while the nine part-time commissioners each get $15,000 per year.

An analysis by The Telegraph reviewed the salaries of elected leaders in similar sized cities and chief executives in private industry statewide. It found that the mayor’s current salary is higher than the salaries of mayors in Savannah and Columbus, but is lower than the average pay for top chiefs in the private sector.

Any proposed pay raises would be contingent on reducing the size of the commission and were aimed at attracting more people to run for public office, said Commissioner Joe Allen, who made the proposal.

The Albany City Commission and Dougherty County Commission are close to finalizing an intergovernmental agreement that would pave the way for a T-SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation), according to the Albany Herald.

The Albany City Commission was expected to vote to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the Dougherty County Commission Tuesday night that would move a proposed T-SPLOST closer to being a single-issue item on a March 19 special election ballot.

The County Commission approved an intergovernmental agreement on a transportation special-purpose local-option sales tax during a called meeting Friday morning of last week.

If passed by the city, County Attorney Spencer Lee will then petition the county Board of Elections for the referendum to be placed on a special ballot.

Fulton County Commissioners adopted a $1.11 billion dollar budget, according to the AJC.

Fulton County commissioners Wednesday added more than a million dollars to fund the National Black Arts Festival, to help staff the Hammonds House Museum, and for a slew of other pet proposals, before lawmakers finally approved the county’s $1.11 billion budget.

It’s a funding package that’s more than 10 percent higher than last year’s county budget.

Three of the board’s four Democrats led the requests for additional spending during Wednesday’s meeting, and the budget was approved by a 4-3 vote along party lines.

“It’s an outright embarrassment and insult to the taxpayers and citizens of Fulton County what took place here today,” said Commissioner Bob Ellis, a Republican. “We adjusted the budget to put politics and commissioners’ pet interests above the priorities of our citizens.”

The addition of $1.3 million in new projects during the meeting sent the proposed budget higher than what the county expected to have available in revenue.

A Coweta County grand jury recommends that the five-county judicial circuit that includes Coweta County be split, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

The Coweta circuit has one of the highest populations in the state, and the fourth-largest case load, according to Cranford. The other circuits in the top five are all single-county circuits.In 2014, a circuit split study was requested by three Carroll County legislators. The study, done by the Administrative Office of the Courts, studied five scenarios. It determined the optimum scenario would have Coweta and Meriwether counties in the Coweta circuit, and Carroll, Heard and Troup counties in a new circuit. The second place scenario would have Coweta become a single-county circuit, with the other four counties remaining together.

For a circuit split to take place, legislation will have to be passed by the Georgia General Assembly.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson spoke about the changing mission of Robins AFB, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson toured the base Tuesday, including a visit to the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or J-STARS. The unit is expected to fly for a few more years before the mission will be taken over by the Advanced Battle Management System to be based at Robins.

It was under Wilson’s leadership that the Air Force last year abandoned a plan to buy new planes for J-STARS and shift to a new system that will combine varying technologies to perform the task of tracking enemy movements on the battlefield.

She also said that once the transition is complete, the new system is expected to employ a similar number of people at Robins as J-STARS, including active-duty and guard personnel. When including support personnel, J-STARS is estimated to account for approximately 3,000 jobs at Robins.

Newnan City Council voted to stop film productions in downtown until May, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

At their last meeting, the Newnan City Council voted unanimously to suspend all new filming in downtown until the city can reassess the process of allowing production companies access to the city.

Mayor Keith Brady brought the matter before council, adding the item to the agenda Tuesday evening.

Brady said the decision would not affect the upcoming production of “Jumanji 2,” which is slated to begin next month.

“We’re a film friendly town and want to remain one, but we all recognize we have an obligation to our citizens, property owners and business owners to protect their rights and the ability to carry on without inconvenience and make a profit,” Brady said.

The halt on filming is exclusively set in the 9-block radius of downtown Newnan. Brady said smaller-scale filming projects would still be allowed.

Three candidates qualified for a special election for Augusta Commission District 5, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Chattahoochee Valley United for Life held their annual March for Life in Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Gainesville Times discusses local agencies where furloughed federal employees can receive free food.

Habitat for Humanity dedicated its 144th home in Coastal Georgia, according to the Savannah Morning News.

StreetWise Georgia’s StreetWise Care Pantrywill offer free food to furloughed federal employees on Saturday, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Golden Harvest in Augusta will open its food pantry to furloughed federal employees, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The AJC looks at how the federal government shutdown is affecting some Georgians.

The more than 135,000 low-income Georgia households that rely on the federal government’s vast system of affordable housing subsidies are beginning to feel the sting of the partisan budget impasse that has now stretched 34 days. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development furloughed roughly 95 percent of its employees, including most of its health and safety inspectors, according to the department’s contingency plan.

Key contacts at HUD, USDA and other federal agencies that provide seniors, the disabled, and the working poor with housing assistance aren’t responding to calls or emails.

Experts said more widespread hardship won’t begin until late February or March, when money for the housing choice voucher program, formerly known as Section 8, will begin to run out. That’s also when another critical funding stream for roughly 1.5 million low-income Georgians — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps — is expected to run dry.

Funding for 960 households in 35 Georgia apartment complexes has already evaporated or will disappear by February, according to figures from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). Local experts and HUD data suggest the number of complexes that lost funding may be higher.

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