Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 11, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 11, 2019

On February 11, 1733, the first military formation in Georgia was held, as male colonists assembled with their muskets.

On February 11, 1776, Georgia Royal Governor Sir James Wright escaped from house arrest in Savannah to a waiting British warship HMS Scarborough.

Burt Reynolds was born on February 11, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan, though some accounts say Waycross, Georgia. Beginning with Deliverance, filmed along the Chattooga River in North Georgia in 1972, Georgia rose to number three in the nation for film production while Reynolds’s star rose to prominence. Other Reynolds movies filmed in Georgia include The Longest Yard, Gator, Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, and Sharkey’s Machine.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today


10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 12) House Chamber




1:00 PM HOUSE Lumsden Sub Public Safety & Homeland Security 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary 605 CLOB


2:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Human Development Subcommittee 122 CAP



2:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Economic Development Subcommittee 341 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Academic Support Subcommittee of Education 506 CLOB


2:00 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non – Civil) 132 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Transportation Subcommittee 123 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – Education Subcommittee 341 CAP



3:00 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 132 CAP


Senate Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 12

SB 16 – “Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Act” (H&HS-32d)

House Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 12

Modified Open Rule

HB 62 – Health; require certain notice in mammogram report to patients with dense breast tissue (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 23 – Public utilities and public transportation; electric membership corporations and their affiliates to provide broadband services; specifically authorize (Substitute)(ED&T-Houston-170th)

United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will campaign for President in Lawrenceville, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Massachusetts Democrat will hold an organizing event at Central Gwinnett High School, located at 564 W. Crogan St. in Lawrenceville. The doors for the event will open at 3:45 p.m., but the actual event itself will begin at 4:45 p.m.

This will be one of the first stops on the presidential campaign trail for Warren, who officially kicked off her bid for the White House in her home state this weekend.

Although traditionally a Republican stronghold in recent decade, Gwinnett County has been shifting toward Democrats in recent elections. Hillary Clinton won the county in the 2016 presidential election and Stacey Abrams won it in last year’s gubernatorial election. Several local seats have also flipped from Republicans to Democrats in recent elections.

Western Judicial Circuit (Clarke and Oconee Counties) Senior Superior Court Judge David Sweat has removed State Rep. Chris Erwin from his seat representing the 28th State House District, after ordering a new election, according to the AJC.

A judge wrote in an order Friday that state Rep. Chris Erwin is no longer a member of the Georgia House because his election must be redone a third time.

Erwin, a Republican from Homer, loses his northeast Georgia House seat while the election is in doubt, according to state law. He took office Jan. 14.

Senior Superior Court Judge David Sweat threw out December’s election between Erwin and former state Rep. Dan Gasaway because three voters lived outside House District 28 and one person voted twice.

Those four voters could have been enough to change the outcome of the election.

Erwin appeared to win the December election by two votes, but now he’ll have to face Gasaway again in an April 9 election.

From Now Habersham:

In an attempt to avoid another voided election, the judge is requiring the boards of elections in all three counties to create approved voter lists ahead of the April 9 primary. Voters must meet the following guidelines to be eligible:

•  They were or should have been eligible to vote in the May 22, 2018 General Primary.

• The voter did not request a Democratic ballot in the May 22, 2018 General Primary Election.

• They did not become ineligible to vote in House District 28 in the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election.

The boards of elections must provide their approved voter lists to candidates Chris Erwin and Dan Gasaway by March 1. The candidates will then have five days to object to any of the names on the list. If they do, the election boards will have until March 11 to rule on those objections.

Stefan Ritter resigned as Executive Director of the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, according to the AJC.

Commission Chairman Jake Evans said Ritter offered to resign partway through an investigation into complaints against him, a probe that began the first week of January. Evans refused to describe the allegations, and the state has withheld commission staff complaints filed against Ritter.

Evans said Ritter will be paid three months’ salary — about $45,000 — as part of a settlement with the commission. In exchange, Evans said, Ritter gave up his right to sue the commission after being forced out.

“I think this is a great result for both parties,” he said.

“We’re absolutely going to continue to prosecute the cases which we believe have probable cause and have merit,” Evans said. “We are going to move forward on initiating that as promptly as we can, and we are going to reduce the adverse impact of this on the commission and the staff.”

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) has re-introduced legislation aiming to lower prescription drug prices, according to AccessWDUN.

“For too long, we have turned a blind eye as pharmacy middlemen have manipulated drug prices to maximize their profit margin,” Collins, a Gainesville Republican, said. “The Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act will protect patients and pharmacies by increasing transparency over the drug pricing process, providing greater oversight to protect taxpayer dollars, and ensuring patients are able to choose their pharmacy.”

“By requiring price concessions between pharmacies and middlemen be included at the point of sale, the Phair Pricing Act will guarantee patients at the pharmacy counter directly benefit from lower costs allegedly negotiated on their behalf.”

Georgia state legislators are supplementing hurricane aid, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

State lawmakers plan to send more aid to farmers in storm-ravaged southwest Georgia as more than $800 million in federal disaster assistance continues to be bogged down by a standoff on border security in Washington.

Georgia legislators have proposed adding another $10 million to a loan program for farmers who are trying to bounce back after Hurricane Michael entered the state more than four months ago as a monster Category 3 storm, dealing a more than $2.5 billion blow to the industry.

That additional funding – which is expected to cover loans for another 30 or so farmers – is on top of the $55 million that lawmakers approved during a recent special session focused on storm aid. That original pot of money has already been tapped out, with farmers borrowing an average of $290,000.

“It’s not that the states are not willing to do their part to help us,” Rep. Terry England, who chairs the House’s budget-writing committee and who is also a farmer, told reporters last week. “It’s that Congress’ inaction has left our folks hurting.”

From the Associated Press, via the Statesboro Herald.

Republican Rep. Terry England, chairman of the House Appropriations committee, said the $192.5 in additional expenditures passed Friday comes after better than anticipated continued revenue growth.

England said, however, that it represented a conservative approach and plans ahead for “little bumps” the state could see in the coming year as revenues fluctuate because of state tax cuts passed in 2018.

The new budget puts $10 million more in state funding into the Georgia Development Authority to bolster a loan program created during a special legislative session in November. The program benefits farmers and people in the agricultural sector impacted by Hurricane Michael, which wreaked havoc on southwest Georgia and caused billions of dollars of crop damage.

England said the program had already distributed $55 million in loans, and that the additional funding would help 30 to 35 farmers in the state.

The budget also includes funding for school safety put forth in Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget proposal. It allocates $30,000 for each public school in the state for increased security measures, like additional school resource officers, decided at the local level. The budget also includes over $8 million for mental health resources in Georgia high schools.

The AJC looks at what will happen if the Gwinnett MARTA referendum fails.

Snellville Mayor Pro Tem Dave Emanuel asked a key question at the end of the forum: What happens if the MARTA referendum fails?

Nash doesn’t think Gwinnett can afford to entertain that notion. She said there’s “no viable alternative,:

“I don’t even want to say it out loud,” she said. “The quicker we pass the question, the quicker we can get started on what has to be done.

“If it doesn’t happen March 19, we’ve got to come back and find another way to approach it,” Nash said.

Savannah City Council is considering projects for inclusion in a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the November ballot, according to the Savannah Morning News.

With an estimated $790 million in potential city projects to choose from and only an estimated $120 million expected to be raised by the sales tax, anyone who thinks they are going to get everything the city needs on the list is due for a wake-up call.

″$120 million seems like a lot, but actually does not go very far,” City Manager Rob Hernandez told the Savannah City Council when the proposed projects were presented Jan. 31.

And the $120 million amount is only an estimate. The city still has to negotiate its cut with Chatham County officials, who ultimately decide how much the municipalities will get after almost a billion dollars of potential projects were submitted by local governments for the county’s consideration, according to Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott.

Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris will serve as Chair of the Metro Atlanta Mayors Association, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

U.S. Air Force Rescue Squadron 41 returned from deployment in Africa, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Four candidates have announced they are running for Mayor of Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

A fourth hat was thrown into the mayoral ring Saturday morning: Kevin J. Bussey.

Bussey, his wife, Chelsea Bussey, and their four children gathered at the Lowndes County Historic Courthouse steps to announce his candidacy to supporters holding flyers and wearing T-shirts promoting his run.

Bussey grew up in Valdosta on Wisenbaker Lane and went through the Valdosta City Schools system before joining the Army.

When he retired for medical reasons in 2015, he moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the White House and the Department of Commerce.

Now back in Valdosta, Bussey faces three other candidates in the mayoral race: radio host Scott James Matheson, former Valdosta Fire Department chief J.D. Rice and former city councilman David Sumner.

Lowndes County Board of Election meets Tuesday, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Savannah-Chatham County‘s STEM public school won a national award, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah-Chatham County public “choice” school, which earned a STEM Excellence Award on Jan. 30 at the Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, relies on an interdisciplinary curriculum and teamwork among teachers as well as the students, said Principal Jimmie Cave.

STEM Academy also provides a different approach to middle school teaching. Some classrooms are geared toward “making” and provide room for students to work together to brainstorm, draw or build. Other classroom labs provide computers or video equipment where several students can work together on coding or to produce videos.

It’s a school where “it’s cool to be smart. It’s cool to make good grades,” Wade said.

The school system was careful in planning the school, which opened with a STEM focus six years ago, Wade said. “The decision was made we needed to come up with some form of high-performing middle school option. Dr. [Thomas] Lockamy proposed a STEM academy,” she recalled of the former superintendent. The philosophy was, “Let’s be sure we get this right.”

The Macon Telegraph looks at homelessness in Houston County.

Homelessness isn’t as visible in Houston County as it is in big cities like Atlanta, said Brandon Miller, chair of the Houston County Human Needs Coalition. Many think of the suburban county as an upper-middle class enclave rich with resources, he said.

In Houston County, the homeless lurk in the shadows, hiding in plain sight.

Most of the local homeless residents don’t congregate on street corners or wear dirty clothes, Miller said. They spend their days at work or school and their nights in cars or hotels.

It’s easy to pretend homelessness isn’t a problem in Houston County, because the population is largely invisible, said Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms.

“We tend to just kind of put our head in the sand and pretend that we don’t have a homeless situation,” he said.

The HomeFirst Gwinnett Initiative is asking for $950,000 dollars to fight homelessness, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett commissioners had already set aside the funding for HomeFirst Gwinnett Initiative in the county’s budget, but how that money will be used became clear during a presentation from the group’s director, Matt Elder, this past week. Elder said HomeFirst, which is set up in partnership with the United Way and Primerica, is seeking $950,000 for its efforts this year.

“We’re trying to create an easier, more effective and efficient system to connect people in need with those organizations that have the ability to provide assistance,” Elder said.

Among the items for which HomeFirst plans use its funding are the implementation of a coordinated entry system to help homeless residents of Gwinnett get assistance. The goal is to get that system up and running in April.

HomeFirst is also developing an assessment center and recently signed a lease for space in the old John Wesley United Methodist Church building in Norcross for one of those centers, which is expected to open in June. The organization wants to open a second center by December, but Elder said no location has been identified yet.

Downtown Columbus has a growing problem with parking, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

On-street parking has become a challenge, in particular for those working and doing business in the district. That includes perceived aggressive enforcement of timed parking zones, with a violation that can set a downtown worker or customer back $40 for an initial ticket.

The city counters that while there is limited street parking, there is plenty of space available in downtown parking garages. That includes the free RiverCenter deck that is underused by the public despite a short block-or-two walk from most area businesses. There also is garage parking for a small fee on Bay Avenue and and free first floor parking in a garage on Front Avenue. Meanwhile, those who live downtown pay $25 per year for unlimited street parking.

Officials say they are working to find solutions to the problem.

Reynolds Bickerstaff, board chairman of Uptown Columbus Inc., which focuses on developing and marketing the area, said the issue of parking and what he and others view as overly aggressive enforcement of the parking zones has become problematic.

“What’s happening now is people are getting tickets at 2 hours and 2 minutes in the 2-hour parking zones,” he said. “They’re intentionally monitoring certain areas where they think there will be easy violations. You can’t park in the same block for more than two hours. So if you park and move your car 10 spaces down, you’ll get a ticket for doing that. How’s anybody supposed to know that rule?”

Water supplies affect home insurance ratings, according to the Statesboro Herald.

New standards with the Insurance Services Offices (ISO) are requiring more information on available water supply, indirectly causing homeowner’s insurance hikes for many Georgians, including some in Bulloch County.

According to Statesboro Fire Chief Tim Grams, ISO standards have become more strict, demanding more specific information regarding water availability for homeowners.

Residents relying on privately-owned water systems that might not have met water availability and data requirements may have seen a change raising their ISO ratings, therefore leading to an increase in  insurance costs, he said.

Five Right Whale calves have been identified in the Atlantic off the Georgia coast, according to The Brunswick News.

One calf would make this North Atlantic right whale calving season better than the last one, which set off alarms far and wide with zero documented calves. There are five so far this season, with the latest spotted Feb. 5.

Photographs taken by park ranger, Ed Perry, confirm the mother is Catalog No. 4180,” according to a FWC post on Facebook. “Right whale No. 4180 is at least eight years old and this is her first known calf. the pair were observed resting and nursing at the surface.”

Observers with the Center for Coastal Studies in Massachusetts first spotted No. 4180 in Cape Cod Bay in March 2010, but she was making trips south within a year, even though females don’t typically reach calving age until nine years old or so. FWC staff saw her on three different occasions in January and February 2011. GADNR spotted her in December 2011, and she was back around the area in January 2013, but that was the last sighting of her until the most recent one.

At five, that’s not a lot of births, but it represents at the very least a moderate improvement. The 2016-2017 season was the second-worst on record since the one-calf year of 1999, but the zero-calf season of 2017-2018 subsequently claimed the top spot.

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