Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 28, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 28, 2019

On January 28, 1733, Georgia’s first colonists celebrated a day of thanksgiving for their safe arrival in Savannah and Chief Tomochichi’s granting them permission to settle on the Yamacraw Bluff.

On January 28, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed a joint resolution of the Georgia House and Senate amending the Georgia Constitution to make the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia a constitutional board and reduce the power of the Governor over the Regents.

The movement to a constitutional board came after the loss of accreditation of all Georgia state higher education institutions for white people. The previous Governor, Eugene Talmadge, had engineered the firing of UGA’s Dean of the College of Education; after the Board of Regents initially refused to fire the Dean, Talmadge dismissed three members, and replaced them with new appointees who voted for the firing. Talmadge lost the 1942 election to Arnall.

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff as many Americans watched on live television. President Ronald Reagan addressed the loss of seven astronauts.

Reagan had originally been scheduled to give his State of the Union that evening, but cancelled the speech. His address on the Challenger disaster was written by Peggy Noonan. The speech written by Noonan and delivered by Reagan is ranked as one of the top ten political speeches of the 20th Century.

Happy birthday today to Northwestern University (1851), Yale Daily News (1878), the first daily college newspaper in the country, the United States Coast Guard (1915), and the Lego brick, which was patented on January 28, 1958. Elvis Presley made his first appearance on television on January 28, 1956 on the Stage Show on CBS.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome

10:00 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 5) House and Senate Chambers

Early voting in the Special Election for House District 176 continues, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Sixty-eight voters had cast ballots by end of day Friday, Jan. 25, according to the Lowndes County elections board.

Four candidates are vying for the seat vacated by Jason Shaw at the beginning of the year. Shaw took a position with the state Public Service Commission.

District 176 is made up of portions of Lowndes, Atkinson, Lanier and Ware counties.

Early voting continues weekdays this week and next week at the Lowndes County Board of Elections, 2808 N. Oak St.

Election Day is Feb. 12. Ballots can be cast then 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at designated polling places.

State legislators are working on Medicaid expansion plans, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, who hails from rural Luthersville and who has filed a measure that would fully expand Medicaid, said the “ground is softer” this year for a major health-care measure.

“The mere presence of (the waiver) in the budget is a signal that there is momentum on the issue,” Trammell said in remarks at the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s conference in downtown Atlanta.

Sen. Dean Burke, a Republican from Bainbridge and an influential voice on heath care in the Senate, said he believes there is a growing acknowledgement that more resources need to go toward rural health care.

He said there is significant momentum for a waiver, although much will depend on the details of such a proposal and he anticipates a “robust discussion” on how a waiver is designed.

“There are strong, strong feelings on both sides of that issue,” said Burke, who is also a doctor and an administrator at a rural hospital. “If it was a simple issue, we would have settled it by now.”

The General Assembly will consider shortening runoff elections, according to the AJC.

State lawmakers are considering ways to hold runoffs closer to the dates of primary and general elections, while still giving time for military and overseas voters to mail absentee ballots. Federal law requires election officials to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before a federal election.

A bill introduced by state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, a Republican from Marietta, would allow military and overseas voters to return absentee ballots by email or fax. She sought the legislation to make it easier for military members to vote after a friend deployed in Germany rushed to get her vote in on time.

While Kirkpatrick’s bill, Senate Bill 30, wouldn’t shorten Georgia’s runoff period, she said it would start the discussion.

“Nobody wants to be in campaigns, either the candidates or the constituents, for nine more weeks,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s so long because we have to allow time for those military absentee ballots to come in.”

State House Bill 8 would remove the sales tax on feminine hygience products, according to the Macon Telegraph.

New legislation in the Georgia House of Representatives aims to eliminate the so-called “tampon tax,” which requires consumers to pay sales tax on feminine products that many consider a medical necessity.

House Bill 8, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, would exempt tampons, pads and other menstrual products from Georgia’s sales tax. Other medical items, such as prescription medications, insulin syringes and hearing aids, are already tax-free.

“There’s no male equivalent for this product,” Buckner said in an interview with The Telegraph. “And so, when you look at the fact that this is something that happens to women, essentially, once a month for forty years, they’re being taxed for a medical product or device that is a necessity, not an option.”

It’s a very simple request, Buckner said.

“It is merely putting another medical device in the codes section or in the Georgia law where the other tax-exempt medical devices are listed,” she said.

Menstrual products are classified by the Federal Drug Administration as medical devices and should be treated as such in the tax code, Buckner added.

Part of the Georgia Capitol Mezzanine level has been named the “John Meadows Mezzanine, according to the Calhoun Times.

In honor of the late John Meadows, the Resolution 5 dedicated the mezzanine located at the southern portion of the state Capitol between the third and fourth floors as the John Meadows Mezzanine.

Meadows, a decorated veteran who served as a Calhoun City Council member, city mayor and eventually a representative in the House and chairman for the powerful rules committee, made a huge impact on his fellow politicians, the citizens he represented and his peers.

“He diligently and conscientiously devoted innumerable hours of his time, talents and energy toward the betterment of his community and state,” said Ralston during the reading. “By the example he made of his life, he made this world a better place in which to live.”

The mezzanine in which Meadows’ final legislative office was located will represent his dedicated service and devotion to his community and state. A plaque will be produced and authorized in the mezzanine, designating the place to be in honor of Meadows.

The Fourth Annual Savannah Traffick Jam met to discuss fighting human trafficking, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The event is a daylong conference organized to educate the public about the rise of trafficking and to encourage collaboration between local agencies, according to Heather Bilton, Savannah Traffick Jam co-organizer.

“We are really pushing partnerships and want people to understand that we do live in a beautiful city, but we have a trafficking issue,” she said. “It’s critical that we do have that partnership and the key is for people to speak up. If something doesn’t look right to you, you need to say something.”

“Our main goal this year was to bring in the transportation industry to show that it happens at a lot of the truck stops,” said Bill Gettis, SIDC president and chairman. “Amtrak stations have also been noticed as well. . .We want people to know that human trafficking is in Savannah and we want them to recognize the signs and find out what is being done. A lot of people don’t know that there are a lot of organizations in Savannah that are working to stop it.”

“The Super Bowl is the biggest day for trafficking,” said Nancy Rivard, president of Airline Ambassadors International, a nonprofit dedicated to leveraging connections with the airline industry to facilitate humanitarian efforts. “Human trafficking is growing so fast and we have to talk about it.”

The Brunswick News looks at a proposal to toll the Torras Causeway in light of the earlier movement to remove a toll.

Former county commissioners Mark Bedner, who represented District 2, Cap Fendig, at-large, and Tommy Clark, District 1, and former mayor of Brunswick Brad Brown understand the need for infrastructure maintenance.

All four campaigned for the old tollbooth’s removal — which became a reality in 2003 — and all four oppose a new toll on the Torras causeway, which has been the subject of much discussion on the current Glynn County Commission.

Efforts to have the booth removed began as early as 1999 when Fendig was an at-large county commissioner-elect preparing to enter office. While that toll was a state-imposed and state-run, he said the commission can take lessons from it when talking about a new toll.

“As a guy coming into office, I went on a fact-finding mission, like anyone would do, to find out what the issues were, what was going on. Nobody was asking about the toll, so I went to Atlanta and got a meeting with Dan Guimond (the tollway authority director at the time), and he gave the rundown on what it was and so forth,” Fendig said.

Bedner said records showed $7 million in excess funds were going towards a variety of things, none of which were causeway maintenance. The GDOT had been using its general fund for causeway repairs.

“We really felt like the state had robbed Glynn County over the years because the surplus had been built up over the years and it really never came back,” Bedner said.

Warner Robins City Council member Mike Davis has died, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Davis, an eight-year council member and retired firefighter, represented District 6. He was first elected in 2011.

“He was probably one of my best friends and just a very a good man,” said Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms. “He’s going to be missed.

Davis served on the Warner Robins Fire Department from 1973 until his retirement in 2008, according to the biography. He began broadcasting high school football in 1994. He was a member of Southside Baptist Church.

The Southwest Georgia Council on Aging will hold public meetings in Albany and Moultrie next month, according to the Albany Herald.

The SOWEGA Council on Aging is conducting the first of two public hearings at 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the Kay H. Hind Senior Life Enrichment Center at 335 W. Society Ave.

“Part of what we do every year is provide public hearings,” Council on Aging Executive Director Izzie Sadler said. “(We invite people to) come and provide feedback and identify gaps in services.”

Among the ways such gaps are addressed is advocating for funding. Sadler said an issue recently voiced by senior citizens in southwest Georgia in prior public hearings is a lack of transportation services to and from doctor’s appointments.

From that, additional resources were implemented to help fill the transportation gap.

“We opened up a new program effective in all of our counties (to help with transportation),” Sadler said. “We are trying to get in touch with the community (to let them know about it.)

Gainesville area agencies will conduct a point-in-time study of their homeless population, according to the Gainesville Times.

A homeless count is conducted across Georgia every two years not just as a simple tally, but as a way to secure funding for service agencies that work on behalf of those without permanent shelter.

“Unfortunately, when that count was done in 2017, the vast majority of the data was unusable or incomplete,” said Michael Fisher, housing program planner with Ninth District Opportunity, Inc. in Gainesville, which is coordinating this year’s count in Hall, White and Habersham counties.

Several changes are being made this time around in an effort to remedy those mistakes and secure funding for local support services for the homeless.

For example, this year’s count will be conducted using a mobile phone application, rather than paper surveys, and the demographic data collected can be immediately transmitted to the state Department of Community Affairs and then onto the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Late Mrs. GaPundit volunteered in the Atlanta point-in-time counts for many years.

Rome City Commission will hear new proposed revisions to the municipal smoking ban, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Rome City Commission is slated to hold a first reading tonight of a new ordinance that would ban smoking — to include vaping — in almost every place open to the public.

A prohibition on outdoor smoking in the downtown district is also part of the ordinance, which was vetted by the city’s public safety committee earlier this month.

“The overarching principle is to protect people who don’t want to be exposed to secondhand smoke, to allow them to go into these places,” said Dr. JC Abdou of Harbin Clinic, spokesman for Breatheasy Rome.

The biggest change to the city’s existing smoking ordinance would be in the downtown district. The ban covers all publicly owned outdoor areas on Broad Street between East First Avenue and East Eighth Avenue. It also includes the side streets for a block off Broad, the Town Green, the public parking decks and Bridgepoint Plaza.

Atlanta Police will enforce a ban on drones near the Super Bowl, according to AccessWDUN.

Police spokesman Carlos Campos said in an email Sunday that there would be a zero-tolerance policy for drones flying in areas that include Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Georgia World Congress Center, State Farm Arena, Centennial Olympic Park and the Fox Theatre.

Campos said hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers will be watching for illegal drone use in the prohibited areas.

Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown announced he will run for reelection, according to the Rockdale Newton Citizen.

Brown becomes the second candidate to announce a run for Newton County sheriff. Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom announced earlier this month his intention to run.

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