Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 21, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 21, 2019

The Washington Monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885.

Happy Birthday to Congressman John Lewis, who was born on this date in 1940 in Pike County Alabama. In 1963, Lewis became President of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, based in Atlanta. In 1981, Lewis was elected to an at-large seat on the Atlanta City Council, and in 1986, he was elected to Congress, defeating Julian Bond in the Democratic Primary.

On February 21, 1958, Governor Marvin Griffin signed legislation creating the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to oversee construction and operation of a Confederate memorial and public park at the site.

On February 21, 1998, Julian Bond was selected as Chairman of the NAACP. Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, but the House initially refused to seat him due to his opposition to the war in Vietnam. The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled against the House and Bond was sworn in on January 9, 1967, serving there until his election to the Georgia State Senate. In 1986, Bond left the Senate to run for Congress.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Ivanka Trump visited a UPS facility in Duluth yesterday with Governor Brian Kemp, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Trump, who serves as an advisor to her father, President Donald Trump, visited and toured UPS Integrad, one of the company’s 11 “state-of-the-art” training facilities for its drivers, alongside the Kemps as part of a workforce development initiative implemented by the Trump administration this past July.

The initiative, which UPS pledged itself to early on, asked the private sector to “step up” and offer career enhancement and skill development opportunities for American workers, Trump said Wednesday. The visit was intended to show Trump and the Kemps exactly what workforce development means at UPS.

“We got a chance for all of our UPS employees to really show workforce development in action,” UPS Chairman and CEO David Abney said at a roundtable discussion following the facility tour. “It’s very easy for people like me to talk about it, but to really see and let (employees) show what a difference we’re making (is important).”

“The administration is deeply passionate about ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to benefit from the booming economy that we are experiencing, and ensuring that all Americans, regardless of background or age, have the opportunity to learn a new trade at some point in their life or experience the type of career enhancement that we saw today, which will afford them the opportunity to have personal development and professional development,” Trump said. “We are working with Congress to make sure programs such as this, that work with (state) governors, are getting the support that they (need), on the federal level.”

“(Workforce development) is one of the top issues in our state,” he said. “We have great things going on in our state when you think about what we’re doing in financial technology, cyber security, our number one, huge industry in agriculture, but also logistics.”

“It’s not only people getting a job (that makes workforce development important), but getting a good paying job,” Kemp said. “The wage increase is going up and we have a lot of opportunities, and that’s what happening here at UPS and that’s what we want to continue to happen in our state.”

Governor Brian Kemp is asking the Trump Administration for assistance in recovering from Hurricane Michael, according to the AJC.

The Republican recently appealed to President Donald Trump in a phone conversation to free up the promised funds for farmers and others devastated by the October storm, according to Kemp’s aides.

He’s also pushed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, both U.S. senators and the state’s congressional delegation to find a way to come up with the disaster money.

“Our farmers are hurting. Our families are hurting. They’re on the verge of economic disaster without some help,” Kemp said at this week’s Faith and Freedom Coalition luncheon.

“Urge your congressman, urge your senators, urge your president – we’ve got to have help for our farmers. I don’t want to take away from other important issues, but we can’t let Washington forget the plight we’re under in our state. It will be a disastrous game-changer.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE Governmental Affairs Elections Subcommittee 406 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS 403 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 19) House Chamber

12:00 PM SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT – CANCELLED 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE Kelley Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 415 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE STATE PLANNING AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS 403 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY MEZZ 1

3:00 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 415 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 341 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 606 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM 406 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Telecommunications Subcommittee of Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications 403 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE Motor Vehicles Driver Safety & Service Subcommittee 515 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 606 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION – CANCELED 310 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR FOR LEGISLATIVE DAY 19

SB 1 – “C.J.’s Law”; penalty for hit and run accidents that result in serious injury; provide (Substitute)(JUDY-42nd)

HB 30 – Supplemental appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2018 -June 30, 2019 (Substitute) (APPROP-4th) Ralston-7th

SB 72 – Game and Fish; hunting on wildlife management areas; prohibition; remove (NR&E-7th)

SB 76 – Veterinarians and Veterinary Technicians; veterinary technicians as veterinary nurses; redesignate (Substitute)(AG&CA-8th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR FOR LEGISLATIVE DAY 19

Modified Open Rule

HB 59 – Education; military students enroll in public school based on official military orders prior to physically establishing residency; allow (Ed-Belton-112th)

HB 130 – State Board of Education; authorize the Georgia Foundation for Public Education to establish a nonprofit corporation to qualify as a public foundation; authorize (Substitute)(Ed-Nix-69th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 160 – Community Health, Department of; pilot program to provide coverage for bariatric surgical procedures; reinstate (H&HS-Dempsey-13th)

HB 186 – Health; sale or lease of a hospital by a hospital authority; revise provisions (Substitute)(GAff-Stephens-164th)

HR 37 – Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics; create (Substitute)(Trans-Tanner-9th)

Structured Rule

HB 85 – Sales and use tax; organ procurement organizations; exempt sales (W&M-Houston-170th)

HB 183 – Ad valorem tax; right to appeal for any taxpayer that fails to file a property tax return or whose property tax return was deemed returned; provide (W&M-Harrell-106th)

The Georgia Senate Health & Human Services Committee recommended passage of HB 62 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Cobb), according to The Brunswick News.

H.B. 62, which passed out of the House by a 166-1 vote Feb. 11, would mandate a notification to women who are found to have dense breast tissue.

“About 40 percent of the women in our country really don’t understand what ‘dense breast tissue’ means, and if you have dense breast tissue, you now — it has been medically proven — that you have an increased risk, direct risk, of having a greater risk of cancer,” said state Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta and chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee. Cooper is the lead sponsor of the bill. “About three-to-four times greater risk than women with more-normal breast tissue.”

The notice as stated in the bill would read, “Your mammogram shows that your breast tissue is dense. Dense breast tissue is very common and is not abnormal. However, dense breast tissue can make it more difficult to detect cancer in a mammogram. Also, dense breast tissue may increase your risk for breast cancer. This information about the result of your mammogram is given to you to increase your awareness.”

“Use this information to talk with your health care provider about whether other supplemental tests in addition to your mammogram may be appropriate for you, based on your individual risk. A report of your results was sent to your ordering physician. If you are self-referred, a report of your results was sent to you in addition to this summary.”

The Georgia House Budget & Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee recommended passage of House Bill 197 by State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Currently, state agencies — such as DFCS, public health, corrections, the courts and the department of behavioral health and developmental disabilities — all keep separate records. The practice is called “siloing” in the information-technology arena.

“If we had access to that data … we could respond in a much more sophisticated way to the needs of these families and prioritize these cases,” [DFCS Director Tom] Rawlings told the House Budget & Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee.

His comments came in support of Rep. Katie Dempsey’s House Bill 197, which would create a central system. The Rome Republican’s measure passed out of committee unanimously Wednesday, clearing the way for a vote by the full chamber.

“I think it makes sense,” said Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Rome, the committee member who moved for passage. “It breaks down the silos and makes information readily available that helps us deliver services.”

“A goal for our state will be the mark set by Michigan, which has saved approximately $1 million a day over the last seven years,” Dempsey said. “That’s real dollars … But the reality is, we will be able to save lives by directing best practices and best services in a very effective way.”

State House Democrats criticized Gov. Kemp’s plan to seek Medicaid waivers, according to the Associated Press.

Rep. James Beverly, a Macon Democrat and chairman of the state House Democratic Caucus, called the Republican-sponsored bill “heinous” and “ill-conceived” in a press conference.

Beverly said there was currently no common ground between Georgia Republicans and Democrats on Medicaid.

“There is daylight between us and them and there should be. Our idea about Medicaid expansion is superior,” Beverly said, adding that Kemp’s proposal would hurt the poor working class and veterans.

Beverly said he was especially concerned that the bill would cap Medicaid eligibility at the poverty line, instead of slightly above it, as was required under the original call to expand Medicaid under the ACA.

From the AJC:

At a press conference called on the steps inside the state Capitol, they said the bill falls short of a cheaper, stronger, faster solution the state ought to enact but hasn’t because of Republican ideology.

“SB 106 is not an acceptable solution,” said state Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell, the vice chairwoman of the House Minority Caucus.

The Democrats say the state is being asked to spend $1 million and wait years to develop a state-specific waiver when what it should really do is just expand Medicaid to the whole population that’s eligible for it under the Affordable Care Act, from those without any income up to those who make 138 percent of the poverty level. That’s about $16,000 a year for a single individual.

State Rep. James Beverly, the House Minority Caucus chairman and a Democrat from Macon, said after the press conference that “I think people get stuck in their ideology and can’t throw it loose.” He said Kemp is “a great guy” with the wrong policy.

Senate Resolution 84 and Senate Bill 45, the “Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act,” both by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Fulton) would allow a statewide vote on horse racing in Georgia, and passed out of the Georgia Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee, according to the AJC.

Senate Resolution 84 would put a question on an upcoming ballot asking Georgia voters whether betting on horse racing should be legal. Senate Bill 45 would create a Georgia Horse Racing Commission that would be tasked with approving up to three licenses and regulating the facilities.

“Rural Georgia will benefit from this,” Beach said. “There’s horse farms, hay farms, breeding and auctions. It will create thousands of jobs.”

Republican Sens. Matt Brass of Newnan and Lee Anderson of Grovetown voted against the measure.

Many conservative groups and faith leaders oppose expanding any form of gambling because they find it immoral and an addictive habit that breeds crime.

Georgia State Senator Burt Jones (R-Jackson) introduced Senate Bill 131, which would create a state authority to run Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, according to the AJC.

Senate Bill 131 — introduced by state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, and co-sponsored by fellow Republicans Tyler Harper, Brandon Beach, Matt Brass, Jeff Mullis and Mike Dugan — would create the Georgia Major Airport Authority. It follows a series of study committee meetings on the matter chaired by Jones last year, which included scrutiny of the management of the airport by the city of Atlanta.

Amid a federal investigation into Atlanta City Hall and after lawsuits over the years alleging steering of airport contracts, Jones has said he believes the Atlanta airport should be run by an entity an arm’s length away from politics.

A spokesman for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a statement Wednesday saying: “For years, Hartsfield-Jackson International has been lauded as the world’s busiest, most efficient airport, and there is not an iota of evidence the State could improve upon or even maintain that stature. There has yet to be a single reasonable argument posed to justify any State takeover, or theft of the airport from the people of Atlanta who have worked for decades to make it the economic engine that it is for the state, region, country and world.”

As written, Jones’ bill would create a state authority whose members would include the governor or governor’s designee, the lieutenant governor or a designee, the speaker of the house or a designee, the transportation commissioner, the public safety commissioner and four people with experience in business, aviation, law or accounting appointed by the House speaker and the Senate president. The appointees would serve terms of up to six years.

The Georgia Division of Family and Childrens Services will issue March food stamps in staggered releases, according to the Albany Herald.

Officials from DFCS announced Tuesday that recipients of SNAP will have access to half of their monthly benefits on or about March 2, and that the other half will be made available on the date of their regular monthly issuance.

February benefits were issued early on Jan. 14 because of the partial shutdown of the federal government. Officials said the split release for March is designed to ensure recipients get some benefits as early as possible to replenish their pantries while restoring the normal distribution schedule.

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash delivered the “State of the County” address, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash talked a lot about connectivity during her State of the County Address on Wednesday, but the big focus was transit and the county’s upcoming MARTA vote.

Nash called the vote a “unique opportunity” to strengthen transportation and mobility, which she called one of the county’s most important foundations. She said increasing pressures on the county’s transportation network, from population growth and booming business activities.

“In my opinion, this is the next big decision for Gwinnett, akin to those made in the past regarding water, sewer and roads,” Nash said. “In fact the decision on transit can be viewed as a ‘trailblazing moment’ — one that will set the path for Gwinnett’s future.”

“I believe the Connect Gwinnett Transit Plan is an excellent way to keep Gwinnett vibrantly connected in the most literal sense,” Nash said. “I also believe robust transit options are critical to attracting and maintaining the talented workforce we all need.”

Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach delivered the “State of the City” address, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A reduced homicide and poverty rate and increased private investment in Savannah are signs the city is heading in the right direction, Mayor Eddie DeLoach announced during his fourth annual State of the City address Tuesday night.

“There is no doubt that I am proud to report to all of you today the state of our city is thriving,” DeLoach told the crowd at the Coastal Georgia Center.

DeLoach noted gun violence remains a problem in his city and he said the city still faces challenges with public safety, an aging infrastructure and maintaining a balance between residents and a growing tourism and business community.

He said the council would continue to dedicate resources to combat the city’s gang, gun and drug problem and work to make sure the city provides a pathway to economic freedom for Savannah’s citizens.

The St. Marys Hospital Authority voted to remove a board member, according to The Brunswick News.

The authority also has $3.5 million in the bank that members believe city officials want for their own, and it is the motivation behind an ongoing dispute with one of their members. And, after what the authority voted to do on Tuesday night, a lawyer predicted it’s possible the dispute will be resolved in a courtroom.

Authority members voted Tuesday to remove Jay Lassiter, who has served on the authority the past five years. He is accused of making false complaints about the authority, including an alleged illegal closed executive session and holding electronic meetings in violation of the state open meetings law.

Lassiter reported the alleged violations to the state Attorney General’s office last year, but there wasn’t enough evidence to hold an investigation. Authority lawyer Jim Stein said the Attorney General’s office dropped the complaint because there was no evidence an illegal meeting was held.

“We’ve always suspected Mr. Lassiter of being a pawn for someone else,” said Frank Drane, an authority member and lawyer. “He never had an issue until the task force was formed. All of a sudden, the paranoia started.”

The Muscogee County Board of Education voted to close the Early College Academy of Columbus and merge it with another school, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Center for a Sustainable Coast has filed a lawsuit to prevent construction of a new private dock on Cumberland Island, according to The Brunswick News.

The dock’s origins trace back to 2015, when the Coastal Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources issued a letter of authorization for the dock to Lumar LLC. Lumar is the umbrella group that represents heirs of Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler, who own the nearby 88-acre tract. A request by the same group to subdivide the property is the subject of ongoing negotiations with the National Park Service and several environmental groups, including the Georgia Conservancy.

The proposed dock has a 200-foot walkway leading to a 14-foot by 20-foot fixed deck connected by a ramp to a 10-foot by 50-foot floating dock. It will extend 50 feet into the Dungeness Cut.

In the center’s complaint against Lumar, attorney Jon Schwartz argues that the dock required a more rigorous permitting process than it received. The dock request should have gone before the Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee for an individual permit because it didn’t meet the requirements for an exemption, he wrote.

Georgia law streamlines the authorization of a single family dock if it’s built adjacent to a parcel that either already has a single-family residence on it or is suitable for the construction of a single-family home. Lumar fails both tests. Lumar’s 88 acres are vacant. And Camden County zoned the parcel “Conservation Preservation,” which prohibits the construction of detached single-family residences.

Houston County Commissioners will not consider adding gender reassignment surgery to their healthcare plan, according to the Macon Telegraph.

A transgender Houston County Sheriff’s Office sergeant says she’s being discriminated against because county officials will not make changes in health insurance this year that would allow coverage of gender reassignment surgery.

Sgt. Anna Lange and her attorney asked commissioners Tuesday to add treatment for gender dysphoria to the insurance coverage for 2019, but that request was denied. Gender dysphoria — the condition of identifying as the opposite of one’s biological sex — is recognized as a medical condition by organizations such as the American Medical Association.

Houston County operates a self-funded health insurance plan that is administered through Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Anthem offers the option for employers, such as Houston County, to have coverage for sex reassignment surgery, according to Anthem documents posted on its website.

Houston County’s insurance plan, however, does not include that type of coverage, county attorney Tom Hall said.

Whitfield County‘s proposed SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) has proponents and opponents, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Former Dalton mayor David Pennington says the City Council cut property taxes each year he was in office from 2008 to 2014, from 3.66 mills to 2.616 mills.

“But we continued to invest in the city,” Pennington said Tuesday night at a League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area forum at the Mack Gaston Community Center on a proposed 1 percent, six-year, $100 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that will be voted on on March 19 by Whitfield County residents.

Pennington, who opposes the SPLOST, debated former Whitfield County Board of Commissioners chairman Mike Babb, who supports the SPLOST. The Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce is supporting the SPLOST, and Babb and chamber President Rob Bradham are the spokesmen for that effort.

“I feel like it is the most fair way to fund projects,” Babb said.

Babb said the SPLOST spreads the tax burden out over a wide group of people other than just property owners, including visitors from out of the county and people who work in the county and live elsewhere.

Early voting for the SPLOST starts Monday. If approved, it would begin on July 1. There is currently a four-year SPLOST that expires on June 30 that is on track to collect $64 million. The current SPLOST funded a new emergency radio system for first responders, new firetrucks for both the Dalton and Whitfield fire departments, and Haig Mill Lake Park that opened last year, among other projects.

Gainesville City Council member Ruth Bruner will not run for reelection, according to AccessWDUN.

While Bruner did not disclose any names, she did say that she had talked to a couple of people who were interested in filling her Ward 5 seat. Those conversations, she said, led to her announcement being made now so those individuals can have ample opportunity to organize their own campaigns.

“I think we’re going to have some good candidates…(so I announced now) so they could be really thinking about it and planning and not wait until August…I think it’s going to give them time to make their plans.”

Habersham Medical Center (HMC) and Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) will partner to provide emergency services and inpatient care at Habersham Medical Center, according to AccessWDUN.

The Hospital Authority of Habersham County voted Tuesday night to approve a plan that will allow physicians groups that provide emergency and inpatient care at NGMC’s Gainesville campus to perform the same services at Habersham Medical Center.

“We’re excited about this move to improve how both hospitals work together to care for our mutual patients in the right place at the right time,” said Lynn Boggs, HMC’s chief executive officer, in a press statement released by NGMC. “This should assure anyone who currently travels to Gainesville for these services that they can receive high-quality care without leaving Habersham County.”

NGMC will take over the services on July 1.

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