Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 15, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 15, 2019

On February 17, 1739, Thomas Jones wrote to the Georgia Trustees in London of the appalling conditions in Savannah.

“The profanation of the Lord’s Day. When at church in the time of divine service, can hear continual firing of guns by people that are shooting at some game, others carrying burdens on wheelbarrows by the church door.

“The uncommon lewdness practiced by many and gloried in.

“The negligence of officers in permitting several in this town to retail rum and strong liquors, unlicensed, who have no other visible way of livelihood, where servants resort and are encouraged to rob their masters… .

“I need not mention profane swearing and drunkenness, which are not so common here as in some other places, and few are notorious therein, besides Mr. Baliff Parker, who I have seen wallow in the mire….

The Georgia legislature, on February 17, 1783, passed legislation granting land to veterans of Georgia militia who served during the Revolutionary War.

On February 15, 1796, Georgia Governor Jared Irwin and legislators gathered with a crowd for the burning of the “Yazoo Act.”

On February 17, 1784, the Georgia legislature passed a bill to increase an earlier formula for settling the state, allotting 200 acres to each head of a family, plus 50 acres for each family member (including up to 10 slaves) up to a maximum of 1000 acres.

Thomas Jefferson was elected Third President of the United States on February 17, 1801. The election was deadlocked for three months between Jefferson and his running-mate Aaron Burr.

On November 4 [1800], the national election was held. When the electoral votes were counted, the Democratic-Federalists emerged with a decisive victory, with Jefferson and Burr each earning 73 votes to Adams’ 65 votes and Pinckney’s 64 votes. John Jay, the governor of New York, received 1 vote.

Because Jefferson and Burr had tied, the election went to the House of Representatives, which began voting on the issue on February 11, 1801. What at first seemed but an electoral technicality–handing Jefferson victory over his running mate–developed into a major constitutional crisis when Federalists in the lame-duck Congress threw their support behind Burr. Jefferson needed a majority of nine states to win, but in the first ballot had only eight states, with Burr winning six states and Maryland and Virginia. Finally, on February 17, a small group of Federalists reasoned that the peaceful transfer of power required that the majority party have its choice as president and voted in Jefferson’s favor. The 35th ballot gave Jefferson victory with 10 votes. Burr received four votes and two states voted blank.

On February 17, 1820, the United States Senate passed the Missouri Compromise to govern the admission of new states as either slave-holding or not.

On February 17, 1854, Georgia Governor Herschel Johnson signed legislation by the Georgia General Assembly placing on the ballot for the next generation the question of whether to move the state capital from Milledgeville to Atlanta.

On February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor, Cuba.

On February 16, 1923, Howard Carter and his archaeology party entered the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen.

The steps led to an ancient sealed doorway bearing the name Tutankhamen. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb’s interior chambers on November 26, they were thrilled to find it virtually intact, with its treasures untouched after more than 3,000 years. The men began exploring the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.

Inside lay a sarcophagus with three coffins nested inside one another. The last coffin, made of solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tut. Among the riches found in the tomb–golden shrines, jewelry, statues, a chariot, weapons, clothing–the perfectly preserved mummy was the most valuable, as it was the first one ever to be discovered. Despite rumors that a curse would befall anyone who disturbed the tomb, its treasures were carefully catalogued, removed and included in a famous traveling exhibition called the “Treasures of Tutankhamen.”

On February 16, 1948, the United States Air Force renamed Robins Air Field to Robins Air Force Base. Robins AFB and the City of Warner Robins are named for Air Force General Augustine Warner Robins.

On February 15, 1952 Gov. Herman Talmadge signed a joint resolution directing the purchase of Stone Mountain for development as a Confederate Memorial.

Fidel Castro was sworn-in as Prime Minister of Cuba on February 16, 1959.

On February 16, 1968, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representative Rankin Fite placed the first 911 call from Haleyville City Hall to Congressman Tom Bevill at the Haleyville police station.

The first portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to hang in the state capitol was unveiled on March 17, 1974 and was replaced in 2006 by the current portrait.

On February 15, 2011, Georgia Congressman John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in the civil rights movement.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE Life & Health Subcommittee 506 CLOB

9:30 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 16) House Chamber

11:00 AM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 132 CAP

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT – CANCELLED 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- Ad Valorem Subcommittee 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee 406 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

United States Senators Johnny Isakson (R) and David Perdue (R) signed a letter asking for quicker action on disaster relief, according to the Albany Herald.

Supplemental disaster funding was supported by 98 U.S. senators, including Isakson and Perdue, in funding proposals voted on earlier this year, but this week’s initial agreement to fund the government after Friday does not include this funding.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Isakson and Perdue joined with a bipartisan group of senators representing states recovering from recent hurricane and wildfire damage to urge an immediate vote on disaster recovery funding for states working to rebuild, writing, “We insist you bring a disaster supplemental bill to the floor for consideration at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the federal government fulfills its responsibility.”

As part of an effort to ensure Georgia farmers and others recovering in the wake of Hurricane Michael receive federal aid, Isakson and Perdue have twice introduced a $3 billion agriculture disaster relief amendment to bills under consideration before the Senate in the 116th Congress.

Tamar Hallerman of the AJC writes about Georgia legislators’ reactions to the border security funding deal.

The spending deal, which would set aside nearly $1.4 billion for President Donald Trump’s border wall and stave off another government shutdown through September, prompted “yes” votes from four Georgia Republicans.

One of the more notable votes in favor came from Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, an immigration hawk who has often sought to pull his White House ally to the right.

All five of the state’s Democrats opted to support the plan, bucking some House progressives who rejected the compromise.

Seven Georgia Republicans voted against the compromise. Most said it did not include enough money for the wall, and others griped about the lack of money for Hurricane Michael cleanup.

Governor Brian Kemp helped unveil a free app to connect users in crisis with mental health resources, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Downloadable to Apple and Android smartphones, the My GCAL app connects via text and chat with the confidential Georgia Crisis and Access Line. The hotline is now staffed 24 hours a day with counselors and clinical professionals.

“It’s good for all ages, adults too, but young people in particular are reluctant to talk about behavioral health issues,” said Rep. Katie Dempsey. “This is a way to explore resources through text with people trained to listen, assess and help someone decide what services they need.”

Dempsey and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, were among the lawmakers who stood with Gov. Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp as they unveiled the app. The two helped push for funding in the state budget to modernize the 13-year-old GCAL system.

“Our youth prefer to text instead of calling. They also may be in a crisis situation where they can’t call,” Hufstetler said. “This just makes our crisis hotline more accessible, particularly to our younger population.”

Kemp called the My GCAL app an “innovative tool” to address what parents, students and educators have convinced him is a growing mental health crisis in schools. His budget this year includes increased funding for intervention and school security measures.

Anyone in Georgia can contact GCAL for help for themselves or on behalf of someone else at 800-715-4225 or via the app. Callers in crisis can speak with live clinicians trained in de-escalation and, when needed, mobile crisis response teams can be dispatched. Information specialists also can provide referrals for treatment in a caller’s area.

A joint meeting of the Senate and House Natural Resources Committees heard about coal ash, according to The Brunswick News.

Senate committee Chairman Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla, let it be known this joint meeting was just on the basics, and anything further — including likely testimony from a number of interested parties — would occur as the committees handle bills in their regular course of business.

“I think it’s important to note this is an oversight hearing this morning — that’s the purpose of the meeting,” Harper said. “We’ve asked the Environmental Protection Division and the director to come, and others, to get us up to date on what’s going on, and that’s what this hearing is about. Obviously, today we will not be taking any testimony.

“Under both the state and federal rules, all 30 ash ponds in Georgia must cease accepting waste and close,” [EPD Director Rick] Dunn said. “Most impoundments in Georgia must cease accepting waste in April of this year. … And, they must complete closure of these surface impoundments or ash ponds within five years, although extensions of that requirement are available.”

[Georgia Power General Manager of Environmental Affairs Aaron] Mitchell said Georgia Power is looking at taking their coal ash reuse project from its active sites and use it with ash from closed sites — the utility filed a notice with the state Public Service Commission to begin an ash beneficial reuse research center at a Georgia Power facility, partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute. Staff at the center would study the beneficial reuse of coal ash and experiment with technology to condition the coal ash for best reuse.

From WABE:

Georgia Power is continuing to clean up coal ash, a byproduct from burning coal for electricity that can contain toxic materials. The utility presented its progress to state lawmakers at a hearing Thursday.

The utility is closing all 29 of its coal ash ponds, big, open ponds of water mixed with ash that run the risk of leaching toxics into groundwater, or having it flood over the top of the pond into neighboring waterways.

“In a short couple of months, we will cease to place ash in ash ponds forever,” Aaron Mitchell, general manager of environmental affairs at Georgia Power, told legislators from the Georgia House and Senate.

“From a water quality standpoint this is very good,” said Jac Capp, chief of the water branch of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Dalton Utilities is seeking the ability to borrow money without public approval, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Mark Woodall with the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club argued that the real driving force for the bill was the ongoing expansion of Plant Vogtle, which is a nuclear power plant near Augusta. That work is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

“Taking away the right of the people of Dalton to vote — that’s not going to solve our issues with Vogtle,” Woodall told lawmakers.

Sen. Chuck Payne, a Republican from Dalton, claimed that the utility’s push to end the public vote requirement is unrelated to its small stake in the project.

“Dalton Utilities has 1.6 percent interest in Vogtle. So Vogtle is not the reason that they’re doing this,” Payne said.

A Senate committee unanimously approved the measure on Thursday after a brief discussion. If it clears the Senate, the proposal will face opposition in the House, where some lawmakers remain unconvinced.

Rep. Jason Ridley, a Republican who represents a portion of Whitfield County, said he is against giving Dalton Utilities what he said amounts to an open checkbook for Plant Vogtle.

The State House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care heard House Bill 198 by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin), which would repeal the state Certificate of Need program, according to Georgia Health News.

State Rep. Matt Hatchett, a Dublin Republican and sponsor of the bill, said Wednesday that the legislation seeks to stabilize rural hospitals, promote transparency among nonprofit hospitals, and drive down health care costs and insurance rates.

Rep. Terry England, an Auburn Republican and also a sponsor, added, “We’re trying to do what’s best for the patient.’’ It aims to promote access, affordability and quality of care, he said.

Hospital opponents of the bill told committee members that it would hurt health care, especially in rural areas.

“We’ve been hit over the head on this,’’ Ethan James, a Georgia Hospital Association vice president, said of the legislation. It would do “tremendous damage to our rural health care system,” he said.

James said 60 rural hospitals in Georgia are against the bill.

Hospital groups, though, have voiced deep concern about the lifting of restrictions on ambulatory surgery and imaging centers, saying they would siphon off privately insured patients. Lewis of HomeTown Health said his hospital members are united against easing the surgery center rules.

The Medical College of Georgia is working on plans to increase the number of rural doctors in Georgia, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Expanding Medical College of Georgia by 50 students and shortening medical school to three years while offering loan remission for those who serve in rural areas could put dozens of new doctors in areas of need across the state.

It is “the biggest thing we’ve done since 1828,” when the Medical College of Georgia was founded, Dean David Hess said. An expansion and radical change to the education of medical students also could provide dozens of new doctors to rural areas of Georgia in need of them.

Hess and Augusta University President Brooks Keel have approached state leaders about expanding the medical school by 50 students and shortening medical school from four years to three, while also pitching the idea of the state paying the tuition of those students who agree to spend at least six years in underserved areas of the state, which is almost every county outside of the metro areas. Those students who complete the three-year program would then go into a three-year primary care residency in the state, Hess said.

The looming physician shortage breathed new life in adding those additional 50 students and ensuring they were looking at primary care, he said. Georgia ranks near the bottom in physicians per capita.

Homeowners on the Savannah River are not amused by the lowering of the water level, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

About 30 people showed up Thursday on Riverwalk Augusta to form an unsmiling half circle around a spokesman of the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as he explained to reporters why the river had been deliberately shrunk in the past several days and the agency’s plan to keep it that way after New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam is removed and replaced by a rock weir allowing migratory fish to get through.

The weir and fish passage are part of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project and serve as mitigation for damage that project is causing to spawning grounds in the river near Savannah from the harbor deepening, which is allowing saltwater to creep further up the river, spokesman Russell Wicke said. The passage near Augusta would allow endangered fish such as the shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon to access historic spawning grounds in the Augusta shoals currently blocked by the 80-year-old lock and dam, he said.

The lowered river pool now is part of a simulation to show what the river would look like once the weir is built and corps engineers and experts showed up in the Augusta area Thursday to begin making their own observations and readings. The corps was using two boats going up and down the river, one flying a drone to take aerial photos, taking measurements and depths at various points, Wicke said. So far, there have been no surprises, he said.

Eleven Georgians were elected to leadership in the National Cotton Council, according to the Albany Herald.

Trees Columbus will add 1000 trees to their area to restore part of the canopy, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms said City Council will likely appoint Larry Curtis Jr. to the District 6 seat vacated by the death of Council member Mike Davis, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert delivered the State of the Community address, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The mayor briefly highlighted some of the challenges still facing Macon-Bibb County, but primarily focused on why he says many residents are optimistic about the direction in which the county is headed. Reichert also challenged those in attendance and other residents to express why they love Macon.

“There are concerns about crime, poverty and economic security, but nearly 70 percent felt our community is changing for the better,” Reichert said during the event at the Edgar H. Wilson Convention Center.

Reichert also discussed the county’s financial situation after four consecutive years of deficits.

Last year’s budget of $154.7 million was still considerably lower than the $165.6 million in the combined city and county budgets from the year prior consolidation, Reichert noted.

Former unincorporated residents are now paying more taxes than before 2014. but those who lived in the former Macon city limits are paying less, Reichert said.

Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez gave his State of the City speech, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The speech was the first State of the City report given by Martinez since he took office last year and made history as the first Hispanic mayor of a Georgia city. He reflected on the changes that occurred in the city’s leadership. Not only did Martinez become mayor, but the City Council also welcomed two new members.

But while Martinez reflected on what he had learned after his first city in the city’s top official, he also unveiled a motto of “Keep Loganville rolling, Keep Loganville growing and Keep Loganville clean” that shaped the theme of his speech.

The motto that Martinez uttered at the beginning of his speech referred to three main focus areas that he said the city will work on this year: traffic, downtown economic redevelopment and beautification efforts around Loganville. The majority of the city is located in Walton County, but part of it is located on the other side of the county line in Gwinnett County.

Whitfield County Magistrate Judge Shana Vinyard is resigning effective April 1, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Whitfield County Magistrate Judge Shana Vinyard, who has been on “voluntary paid leave” from the judge position since Oct. 3, 2018, on Wednesday submitted her resignation effective April 1, fellow Magistrate Judge Chris Griffin said.

Griffin confirmed Vinyard, who has been drawing her yearly salary of $52,492, has been under investigation by the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC).

“The Judicial Qualifications Commission investigator did inform us yesterday that she submitted her resignation to Gov. (Brian) Kemp and it was accepted,” Griffin said.

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