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

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

On February 7, 1733, the first Georgia colonists had been here a week and they finished building a hand-operated crane to move heavy supplies and livestock from their boats to the top of the forty-foot high bluff where they were building a settlement.

On February 7, 1980, Pink Floyd opened “The Wall” tour in Los Angeles.

On February 7, 1990, the Communist Party Central Committee of the Soviet Union agreed to a proposal by Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev that is should give up its political monopoly.

The response from the United States was surprise and cautious optimism. One State Department official commented that, “The whole Soviet world is going down the drainpipe with astonishing speed. It’s mind-boggling.” Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger indicated that he was “personally gratified and astonished that anyone would have the chance to say such things in Moscow without being shot.” President George Bush was more circumspect, merely congratulating President Gorbachev for his “restraint and finesse.”

Ironically, the fact that the Communist Party was willing to accept political challenges to its authority indicated how desperately it was trying to maintain its weakening power over the country. The measures were little help, however–President Gorbachev resigned on December 25, 1991 and the Soviet Union officially ceased to exist on December 31, 1991.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp did an interview with 13WMAZ in Macon.

Q: Can you elaborate more on the proposed Georgia Bureau of Investigation gang task force?

A: “The budget I proposed does have a half a million dollars in it to create a gang task force within the GBI, which will be seasoned investigators and prosecutors that understand gangs, and not only doing the joint operations or assisting the locals, but arresting gang members and going after them on the street, and also getting them prosecuted and getting them locked up and put away. That’s the big key, if you don’t know how to prosecute gangs, it can get kind of tricky. This is not just the GBI running point on this whole thing. This is going to be a partnership with all folks at the local level.”

Q: Constitutional carry has gotten a lot of press lately. What are your views on that and the bill that’s been proposed, which would not require Georgians to have a permit to carry in public?

A: “I’m not really commenting on that. There’s all kinds of pieces of legislation that are in. I’ve said and I’ll continue to be a strong supporter of the second amendment. I hunt and I shoot and I carry. I won’t just support, but I’ll advocate. We’ll see what the legislature wants to roll out this year. My positions from the campaign have not changed.”

It’s worth reading (or watching) the interview in its entirety.

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIROMENT 606 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 10) House Chamber

12:00 PM SENATE RULES- UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE INTERSTATE COOPERATION 506 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee 606 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE – CANCELED MEZZ 1

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE INTRAGOVERNMENTAL COORDINATION 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE HUMAN RELATIONS AND AGING 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES AND UTILITIES- Canceled and Rescheduled to Wednesday at 1:00

3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – CANCELED MEZZ 1

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION – CANCELED 310 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

Democrat Stacey Abrams will visit Gwinnett County to thank voters, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Abrams announced Wednesday that she will visit unincorporated Duluth Monday as part of her ongoing “Thank You” Tour around the state. The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sonesta Gwinnett Place ATL, which is located at 1775 Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth.

The former state house minority leader’s visit to Gwinnett will be coming after a busy week. She appeared in a Super Bowl ad that aired in select Georgia markets to call for election reform on Sunday and then delivered the Democratic Party’s response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 59 by State Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) would outlaw single-party consent recordings, according to the AJC.

Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said he believes all parties should be aware if they are being recorded. Mullis, like many Republicans in the Senate, backed Cagle’s 2018 campaign, contributing $10,500 to it.

“If I record a conversation, it’s to protect myself,” he said. “But if somebody uses a recording for malicious reasons, that’s not proper.”

Mullis said the bill was “in no way related” to the recording of Cagle, even though he has not proposed the bill in the past. He said the legislation aims to ensure that everyone can enjoy “their right to privacy.”

Georgia law requires one person to know when someone is “intercepting a wire, oral or electronic communication.” Mullis’ proposal, Senate Bill 59, would require all parties to give “prior consent” to being recorded.

House Bill 75 will improve bus safety if passed, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Rep. Mitchell Scoggins is approaching his one-month anniversary in the House District 14 seat covering parts of Floyd and Bartow counties, and the retired probate court judge is already filling up his plate.

“It’s a learning experience,” Scoggins said. “I’m doing a lot of listening, but I’m trying to get involved — as much as they’ll let a freshman get involved.”

While the Cartersville Republican hasn’t sponsored any legislation yet, he’s been asked to sign on to several other lawmakers’ bills. He said he’s a supporter of House Bill 75, which will close a loophole in the law governing when vehicles must stop for a school bus.

“The way the attorney general interpreted the law, people traveling on a multi-lane road divided by a yellow line didn’t have to stop,” Scoggins explained. “This is changing it so that everyone has to stop unless it’s divided by a median or barrier of some kind.”

Senate Bill 10, introduced by Democratic lawmakers, would decriminalize marijuana possession, according to 11Alive.

Backers of the bill say it makes sense to do statewide what Georgia cities like Atlanta and others have done – and that’s to make marijuana laws less punitive.

Backers stress that SB 10 would not legalize marijuana, and would not turn Georgia into Colorado or California or other states that have lifted most penalties for marijuana possession. But, it would make changes that backers say are overdue.

This bill would make it a misdemeanor to possess less than two ounces. And it would decriminalize a half ounce or less – making the offender subject to the equivalent of a traffic ticket of no more than $300.

Traffic fatalities were reduced by the state’s “hands-free” law, according to an expert cited by the AJC.

An insurance expert told state lawmakers Wednesday that Georgia traffic fatalities, injuries and collision claims have fallen, thanks in part to the state’s new distracted driving law.

Traffic fatalities fell 3.4 percent I 2018 over the previous year, according to Robert Hartwig, director of the Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management at the University of South Carolina.

The finding mirror’s preliminary data released last month by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which found a 7 percent decline in fatalities.

Hartwig told the House Insurance Committee that the frequency of accidents involving injuries also has declined the last three quarters.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources leaders spoke to two legislative committees, according to The Brunswick News.

The commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources and each of the DNR division leaders did the two-for-Tuesday legislative committee work, appearing before both the House Game, Fish and Parks Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee during a busy Tuesday afternoon in Atlanta.

There was a good amount of talk about House Bill 208, which when enacted allowed DNR to raise license fees and go to work on projects across the department to enhance the experiences of Georgia residents and visitors.

Commissioner Mark Williams said to the House committee, “We have lived up to what we told you we would do, this past year and a half. You’ve got a scorecard in your folder … where we keep internally, and audit ourself, just to make sure we do what we’ve promised the hunters and fishermen we would do.”

Rusty Garrison, director of the Wildlife Resources Division, quickly guided the House legislators through what H.B. 208 allowed WRD to accomplish, which is quite a list.

He said staff was able to construct new fishing piers, restroom and paving improvements, boat ramps, power and lighting to accommodate night fishing, infrastructure upgrades to hatcheries, 195 miles of new roads at wildlife management areas, improved access to 403 miles of existing roads at WMAs, added and/or improved 223 acres of waterfowl habitat on managed impoundments, added and/or improved 951 acres of mourning dove habitat on managed dove fields, enhanced technical assistance for wildlife management on private lands and enhanced shooting range opportunities on four ranges.

State Senator P.K. Martin (R-Gwinnett), Chair of the Senate Education Committee is seeking nominees for an education advisory roundtable, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The new state Senate Committee on Education and Youth chairman is launching an education advisory roundtable. To fill out that panel, he is asking Georgia residents to submit nominations of people who they feel would be good fits for the roundtable.

In an announcement, his office said nominations of local administrators, educators, parents and students will be accepted. Nominations should be sent to Megan.mowers@senate.ga.gov.

Martin said in a statement. “Through the advisory council, we will review policy proposals, discuss key metrics and make recommendations to the Senate Committee on Education and Youth.

A bipartisan group of Georgia state legislators is proposing legislation to protect Coastal Georgia, according to The Brunswick News.

“Most of my life — 47 of my 50-plus years — have been spent in Coastal Georgia, and I’ve come to have a deep love for the wonderful treasures that are found in our natural resources in Coastal Georgia,” said state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, a sponsor of Senate Resolution 88, filed Tuesday by Savannah Democratic Sen. Lester Jackson. “I know that many of you are here today because you share this love. For some, it may just be walking along an unspoiled beach, or perhaps just sitting and looking across a vast expanse of marsh. There’s just a connection there with nature.”

Ligon talked about the natural beauty, and the connections between generations that come from coastal life, for those living here and those who visit here.

“As a people, we have come to realize that this is a very unique and limited resource,” Ligon said. “We don’t have a lot of coastline. And so we’re coming together to protect this valuable resource. We’ve done this in the past — we will continue to do this going forward, and that is why I’m proud to put my name on this resolution, opposing offshore drilling in Coastal Georgia.”

Also listed as Senate sponsors are state Sens. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, and Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur.

State Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, said he’s lived on SSI for 52 years, where tourism means jobs, investment and income. Hogan’s a sponsor on the S.R. 88 counterpart, House Resolution 48, which was filed by Garden City Democratic Rep. Carl Gilliard on Jan. 28. It’s also sponsored by state Reps. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon; Ron Stephens, R-Savannah; and Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah.

The Gainesville Times looks at how items in Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget will benefit local seniors.

Hall County has the eighth-highest number of elderly residents of any county in the state currently on waiting lists for home- and community-based services, according to the Georgia Council on Aging.

About 6,400 seniors in total across 159 counties are on the waiting lists, but some reprieve may come if new Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget recommendations are approved.

The Georgia Council on Aging has laid out its top priorities for the 2019 state legislative session, and Kemp is already pledging to meet some of these significant policy proposals.

For example, Kemp’s proposed budget includes an additional $2 million for a state program that aims to keep seniors in their home communities through more service provisions.

Experts at the University of Georgia say 2019 might have limited economic growth, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Economic growth will slow in Georgia, but will still outpace the national average for the sixth consecutive year, [UGA College of Business Dean Ben] Ayers said.

Those headwinds include low unemployment rates, which will finally exert pressure on employers to raise wages, Ayers said. Higher interest rates and uncertainty over tariffs and trade tensions are also pushing against economic growth, as well as a trillion-dollar federal budget deficit.

The huge deficit, about 5 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, limits the federal government’s power to use fiscal policy to counter recessionary forces, he said.

Still, “the risk of recession in 2019 is still relatively low,” about 25 to 30 percent, Ayers said.

Northeast Georgia Health System will reopen some facilities at the former Chestatee Regional Hospital until they open a new facility in Lumpkin County, according to AccessWDUN.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin, or NGMC Lumpkin, is expected to open in 2022, according to a press release from NGHS Wednesday, but emergency and some other services should begin at the existing Chestatee hospital by the summer.

“We’re thrilled to share this exciting news, which ensures people in and around Lumpkin County will have local access to the high-quality health care they need for generations to come,” says Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS. “We appreciate the patience of the community as we’ve worked to create solutions that are high-quality, sustainable, and deliver on our mission to improve the health of the community in all we do.”

The emergency department, as well as some inpatient beds, imaging equipment and other services will open in July at the Chestatee facility. The hospital said complete emergency care services will be provided “24/7/365″ and by the same emergency physicians that care for patients at all of the NGMC hospitals.

From the Dahlonega Nugget:

“I would say our prayers have been answered here today with what’s happening,” said Senator Steve Gooch at a roundtable interview with local leaders and hospital officials on Monday. “This hospital we’ve had in the past has had trouble. It’s had ups and downs, but we’ve never had the quality provider that we’re going to see come into this community.”

Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Dockery said the development couldn’t have come at a better time as the community has sorely missed an in-county hospital

“We hear it a lot,” he said. “There is concern, especially from emergency services.”

He said a lack of a local facility has resulted in more than $21,000 worth of extra fuel charges as ambulances often travel to Gainesville or Cumming.

[State Senator Steve] Gooch said he believes the eventual Highway 400 development will bring more than medical care to the area as he predicted it would “prime the pump” for future development.

“I call it a game changer for the 400 corridor,” he said. “People ask all the time, why don’t we have a grocery store. Why can’t we get more retail? More restaurants? I believe this one decision to build a new hospital on that 57 acres will provide a domino effect of more commercial development in that corridor that includes pharmacies, restaurants, grocery stores, more housing and more community development.”

The Hall County Board of Elections will again consider bilingual ballots, according to the Gainesville Times.

Hall County’s elections board has a new committee, the two members of which will look at possible costs and procedures for implementing bilingual ballots, a move that may be mandated with the next Census.

Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires that counties with large enough populations of minority groups provide election materials in their population’s native languages. Voters who are not proficient in English have the option to bring a translator with them to the polls.

Hall’s elections board voted last year to reverse plans to provide ballots in Spanish, but now that the busy election season is over, board members said Tuesday that they wanted to devote some time to studying how the county could offer ballots in Spanish.

Board members David Kennedy and Ken Cochran will be on the committee, which was unanimously approved by the board Tuesday.

Gwinnett County will take over operations of senior centers in Grayson and Snellville, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

County commissioners approved agreements with the cities on Tuesday to take over senior centers in each municipality to expand congregate meals services and relieve demand on the Centerville Senior Center. Each center is expected to open in March with federal funding that will be coming to the county through the Atlanta Regional Commission.

“I know we all want to say a word of thanks to both the city of Snellville and the city of Grayson for helping us out with this,” county commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said during the commission meeting Tuesday. “I think it’s going to be good for those communities as well as helping us with … our wait lists (for services).”

The Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education is moving forward to create a “bus hub” to transport students, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah-Chatham County School Board agreed Wednesday to support development of a new hub transportation system for students in 2020-21.

The vote was 6 to 3 in favor of the resolution, with board members Shawn Kachmar, Michael Johnson and Tonia Howard-Hall voting against it.

In December, administrators proposed eliminating neighborhood pick-up and drop-off bus service for high school students attending “choice” and charter schools. Instead, SCCPSS would provide bus stops at central locations, such as at neighborhood high schools, but families would be responsible for providing a way for the students to arrive at the hub bus stops.

The goal is to cut transportation costs by $923,000 in a district where many parents have been dissatisfied with bus transportation as the administration has grappled with a shortage of school bus drivers. In December, the board discussed expanding the program to younger students attending “choice” and charter schools if the high school pilot went well, the Savannah Morning News reported Dec. 17.

The Savannah-Chatham County Schools Superintendent has request more than $36 million in state funds to improve school safety, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools Superintendent Ann Levett has requested State Sen. Lester Jackson’s help in obtaining $3.62 million in state funds for school safety.

Part of the funds would be used to install more cameras at schools to provide administrators and campus police with a better view of people approaching the school buildings, Levett said Wednesday.

In the letter to Sen. Jackson, Levett said areas in the immediate vicinity of schools are not under surveillance currently, “placing our youth at risk while they are beyond the realm of our careful watch.”

Sen. Jack Hill, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said funding requests from individual senators will be discussed in about a month as part of the process leading up to passage of the fiscal year 2020 general budget. Gov. Brian Kemp has requested $30,000 in new school safety funds for schools in Georgia, Kurt Hetager, SCCPSS’ chief public affairs and administrative services officer, announced at the school board meeting Wednesday.

Whitfield County voters heard about an upcoming Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

“We are facing an important decision,” said Dalton resident Cathy Holmes, one of the organizers of the forum that focused on the 1 percent, six-year, $100 million proposed tax that will be voted on on March 19 in Whitfield County. There is currently a four-year SPLOST that expires on June 30 that was projected to collect $64 million. The new SPLOST, if approved, would start on July 1. The 1 percent sales tax is applied to most goods bought in the county.

Businessman Jevin Jensen began the presentation by noting that proponents of the SPLOST say it’s just a penny.

“But that’s only a penny if you buy something for a dollar,” he said. “It’s a 1 percent sales tax, so it’s a dollar for every $100 you spend.”

Attorney Steve Farrow, a former member of the state legislature, said lawmakers passed the law allowing counties to create SPLOSTs to give them an alternative to property taxes to fund projects.

“My question is which of the projects will still have to be done even if the SPLOST fails,” he said.

The City of Hahira is considering a panhandling ordinance, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Hahira is trying to put a stop to panhandlers on Interstate 75 Exit 29.

The issue was brought up by Hahira City Councilman Patrick Warren during the Tuesday, Feb. 5, work session. He has noticed panhandlers with signs on the exit ramps who he said are staying at a nearby motel.

Warren said he thinks Hahira needs a panhandling ordinance.

“In speaking with the (police) chief, it would be nice to have something on the books,” Warren said. “I know it’s not out of control or rampant, but you shouldn’t wait to enact a common-sense law.”

Floyd County Board of Education members are considering a measure that would allow third parties to rent school facilities, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Floyd County Schools’ board members are considering a policy that would allow any organization the chance to rent out a facility owned by the school system provided they pay a set fee in advance.

“If we allow other folks to use our facilities we need to put this in place to make it fair to everybody,” Superintendent Jeff Wilson said.

If the board members vote to pass the policy from Monday’s caucus it would allow any non-school related group, regardless of affiliation, equal access to school facilities. The use of the school facilities is conditional to rules and fees which were presented with the policy.

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