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


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

On March 7, 1861, delegates to the Georgia Secession Convention reconvened in Savannah to adopt a new state Constitution. A resolution offering to host the Confederate Capitol did not pass.

On March 7, 1965, a group of marchers led by Martin Luther King, Jr., met Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

“I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick… I thought I saw death.”

—John Lewis, SNCC leader

John Lewis, now the United States Congressman from the Fifth District was in the front row wearing a light-colored overcoat and backpack.

GaVoice talked to Lewis about what was in his backpack on that day.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A bribery indictment against an Atlanta contractor could affect the legislation to take over Hartsfield Jackson Airport by the state, according to the AJC.

The indictment of the politically-connected Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari spells out the latest charges filed in the Department of Justice’s three-year investigation of Atlanta City Hall corruption, and officially names him as the person who allegedly paid bribes to the city’s former chief purchasing officer, Adam Smith.

Jafari is also accused of paying bribes in 2014 to an unnamed official in DeKalb County. Federal prosecutors last week issued a subpoena to the county seeking various documents related to county contracts and spending. It’s unclear if the the subpoena is related.

Jafari will fight the charges against him, according to defense attorney Steve Sadow, who provided The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with a statement Wednesday.

The indictment comes at a critical moment for the city-run airport. A planned vote is scheduled for Thursday in the Georgia Senate on a potential state takeover of the airport. Pak said the timing of Jafari’s indictment was coincidental.

National Democrats are preparing for 2020 elections in the Atlanta suburbs, according to the AJC.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it’s staffing up in Georgia’s 6th and 7th congressional districts, a notably early investment as the party seeks to defend and expand upon gains made in the midterms.

The DCCC announced the upcoming hires Thursday as part of a new multi-million-dollar campaign called March Forward. The party said it plans to hire nearly 60 grassroots organizers to help build out its infrastructure in key areas across the country long before the 2020 elections.

The party declined to say how many organizers it plans to send to the north Atlanta suburbs, but its move to hire paid field staff represents the DCCC’s biggest on-the-ground investment in Georgia since the 6th District special election in 2017.

Under the Gold Dome Today

10:00 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 28) House Chamber


SB 173 – “Georgia Educational Scholarship Act” (Substitute) (FIN-27th) ENGROSSED

SB 211 – Advertisement and Sale of Meat; representation of nonanimal products and non-slaughtered animal flesh as meat; render unlawful (AG&CA-7th)
SB 216 – Ad Valorem Taxation; local governments to accept prepayments of ad valorem taxes; allow (FIN-53rd)
SB 200 – Georgia Department of Transportation; procedure for appealing the rejection of a contract bid; require (Substitute) (TRANS-51st)
SR 275 – Joint Innovation and Emerging Technologies Study Committee; create (RULES-45th)
SB 225 – Juvenile Code; in conformity with the federal Social Security Act and the Family First Prevention Services Act; bring provisions (H&HS-20th)
SB 131 – “Georgia Major Airport Authority Act” (Substitute) (TRANS-25th)
SB 190 – Child Custody Intrastate Jurisdiction Act; party may bring a counterclaim for contempt in response to a complaint seeking a change of legal or physical custody; provide (JUDY-18th)
SR 264 – Joint Emergency Medical Services Study Committee; create (RULES-53rd)
SB 108 – Competencies and Core Curriculum; computer science in middle school and high school; require (Substitute) (ED&Y-9th)
SB 2 – Public Utilities and Public Transportation; electric membership corporations and their affiliates; authorize; broadband services; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-51st)
SB 58 – Attorney General; written approval that allows for a private person to bring a civil action regarding false taxpayer claims; eliminate requirement (Substitute) (JUDY-48th)
SB 121 – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Data Base; length of time prescription information is retained from two years to five years; increase (Substitute) (H&HS-20th)
SB 171 – Courts, Primaries and Elections, and Ad Valorem Taxation; compensation of various local government officials; modify (Substitute) (SLGO(G)-50th)
SR 237 – United States Congress; call a convention; limit on the number of terms that a person may be elected; United States House of Representatives; request (RULES-46th)
SB 213 – Campaign Contributions; content of and certain reporting times for certain campaign disclosure reports; revise (Substitute) (ETHICS-31st)
SB 80 – Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority; expired provisions; issuance and review of requests for proposals for a new location, ownership; remove (ED&T-26th)
SB 132 – Insurance; modernization and updates; provide; Commission on the Georgia Health Insurance Risk Pool; repeal Article 2 of Chapter 29A (I&L-16th)
SB 138 – Disabled First Responders; certain benefits; provide (Substitute) (FIN-9th)
SB 162 – Local Government; disaster mitigation improvements and broadband services infrastructure; downtown development authorities; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-28th)
SB 110 – Courts; State-wide Business Court; pursuant to the Constitution of this state; establish (Substitute) (JUDY-23rd)
SB 163 – “Tim Tebow Act” or “Equal Opportunity for Access in Education Act” (Substitute) (ED&Y-14th)
SB 167 – Relative Search by DFCS; foster placement for a child adjudicated as a dependent; determine such child’s permanency plan; provide (JUDY-28th)
SB 177 – General Assembly; requirements for consideration of local legislation revising existing districts or creating new districts; provide (R&R-28th)
SB 186 – Trusts; qualified self-settled spendthrift trusts; establish (Substitute) (B&FI-46th)
SB 195 – “Prescription Drug Benefits Freedom of Information and Consumer Protection Act” (Substitute) (H&HS-52nd)
SB 212 – Department of Driver Services; criteria; authorize certain licensed driver training schools to administer on-the-road driving skills testing; revise (Substitute) (ED&Y-9th)
SB 222 – Criminal Procedure; Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform; create (Substitute) (JUDY-23rd)
SB 214 – Barbers and Cosmetologists; the number of apprenticeship hours required; change (RI&U-9th)
SB 227 – Special License Plates; benefit the Georgia Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, Inc.; establish (RULES-9th)
SB 103 – Air Facilities; airports owned by a county, municipality shall not assess any fee to a veteran for motor vehicle parking; provide (Substitute) (TRANS-44th)
SR 67 – Senator Bill Jackson Interchange; Columbia County; dedicate (Substitute) (TRANS-24th)
SB 209 – Individual Schools and School Systems; star rating for financial efficiency; eliminate (ED&Y-10th)
SB 219 – Education; general educational development (GED) diploma; correctly answer 60 percent questions on the US Citizenship Civics Test; require (Substitute) (ED&Y-6th)
HB 92 – Georgia Municipal Courts Training Council; training hours completed by a municipal court judge in excess of those required may carry over to the following year; provide (SJUDY-28th) Rutledge-109th
SB 178 – Specialized Land Transactions; statements of accounts under “Georgia Condominium Act” and “Georgia Property Owners’ Association Act”; provide (Substitute) (SJUDY-9th)
SB 210 – “Quality Basic Education Act”; recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-53rd)


Modified Open Rule
HB 118 – Crimes and offenses; transmitting a false alarm; revise offense (Substitute)(PS&HS-Morris-26th)
HB 337 – Georgia Peer-to-Peer Car-Sharing Program Act; enact (Substitute) (RegI-Blackmon-146th)
HB 373 – Labor, Department of; employment security; change certain provisions (I&L-Werkheiser-157th)
HB 458 – Fire protection and safety; use of class B fire-fighting foam for testing purposes if such foam contains a certain class of fluorinated organic chemicals; prohibit (NR&E-Gullett-19th)
HB 512 – Agricultural Commodity Commission for Propane; provide (A&CA-Watson-172nd)
HB 525 – Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center; rename to Savannah Convention Center (ED&T-Stephens-164th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 83 – Quality Basic Education Act; recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five; provide (Substitute)(Ed-Douglas-78th)
HB 91 – Hospitals and health care facilities; Federal Bureau of Investigation to retain fingerprints when an agency or entity is participating in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s program; allow (Judy-Welch-110th)
HB 198 – Health; eliminate certificate of need requirements for all health care facilities except certain long-term care facilities and services (Substitute)(SCQHC-Hatchett-150th)
(Rules Committee Substitute LC 33 7901S)
HB 288 – Superior courts; revise the sums that the clerks are entitled to charge and collect for filing documents and instruments pertaining to real estate or personal property (Substitute)(Judy-Powell-32nd)
HB 296 – Superior Court of Hall County in the Northeastern Circuit; revise term of court (Substitute)(Judy-Hawkins-27th)
HB 307 – Abandoned Motor Vehicle Act; enact (Substitute)(MotV-Powell-32nd)
HB 325 – Law enforcement officers and agencies; records of investigation of an officer by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council shall be retained for 30 years; provide (Substitute (PS&HS-Clark-147th)
HB 332 – Agriculture; service of the Commissioner of Agriculture and the president of the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation as ex officio members; revise provisions (Substitute) (A&CA-Meeks-178th)
HB 353 – Insurance; create the crime of staging a motor vehicle collision (Substitute)(Ins-Carpenter-4th)
HB 444 – Dual Enrollment Act; enact (Substitute)(Ed-Reeves-34th)

Structured Rule
HB 168 – Sales and use tax; tangible personal property to certain non-profit health centers; extend exemption for five additional years (W&M-Taylor-173rd)
HB 311 – State government; waiver of sovereign immunity as to actions ex contractu and state tort claims; provisions (Substitute)(Judy-Welch-110th)
HB 502 – Civil practice; continuances for members of the Board of Regents and the Attorney General; revise (Judy-Welch-110th)
HB 507 – Ad valorem tax; criteria used by tax assessors to determine the fair market value of real property; revise (Substitute)(W&M-Wilensky-79th)

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform is looking into Georgia’s 2018 elections according to AccessWDUN.

The committee has opened an investigation into alleged voter suppression tactics.

Fair Fight Georgia, a group launched by Democrat Stacey Abrams – who narrowly lost the 2018 gubernatorial election-is suing, seeking to overturn some state voting regulations. The group has said it is pleased with the launch of the congressional investigation.

“Democrats are bringing out their full arsenal of weapons to relitigate November’s election in preparation for an upcoming election,” [Congressman Doug] Collins said in his prepared statement. “Elections within the state of Georgia are just that – an issue to be addressed by state and local officials within our state. The fact that a U.S. congressional committee is inserting themselves into a statewide issue squarely outside of their jurisdiction exposes their purely political objectives.”

Collins went on to say that Democrats who claim voter suppression after losing elections is a growing trend.

The Georgia House Health and Human Services Committee passed House Bill 481 by State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), according to the Gainesville Times.

a Georgia House committee approved legislation Wednesday to outlaw abortion after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, which is around the same time many women medically confirm they are pregnant.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion up to 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A heartbeat is generally detectable by medical professionals at around 6 weeks.

The House Health and Human Services Committee approved the anti-abortion measure on a party-line vote of 17 to 14. Thirteen Republican men and four Republican women voted for it. Seven Democratic men and seven Democratic women voted against.

The committee approval means the bill could soon move to a vote before the full House, but timing is tight.

Thursday marks a Georgia legislative deadline by which bill must generally pass one house or the other. Any passage in the full House would send it to the Senate.  Gov. Brian Kemp pledged during his recent campaign for governor to sign the “toughest abortion laws in the country”. Kemp’s campaign website says he supports “a ‘Heartbeat Bill’ that outlaws abortions after six weeks.”

From the AJC:

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ed Setzler, told a House panel that the bill represented Georgians’ beliefs.

“I believe in the common sense of Georgians,” Setzler said. “They recognize that science tells us a living, distinct whole human being with a heartbeat living in the womb is worthy of protection.”

One amendment that did make it came at the personal behest to the committee by Cooper, who asked members to “trust” her. Over the objections of witnesses, the committee voted to preserve the ability of women to abort fetuses that doctors say are incompatible with life.

Cooper presented the image of a woman carrying an anencephalic fetus, whose malformed head leaves brain tissue simply hanging in a sac. For some women, being forced to carry that baby through visible late-term pregnancy “would literally put them under psychiatric care,” Cooper said.

House Bill 198 to reform Certificate of Need, will receive a vote in the House today, according to Georgia Health News.

The state House on Thursday will consider a somewhat trimmed-down version of its originally proposed overhaul of the state’s certificate-of-need (CON) laws. The highly anticipated vote on House Bill 198 is expected to be close, experts say.

CON regulates how health care facilities function in Georgia. A provider must get a “certificate of need” from the state to proceed with a major project, such as building or expanding a medical facility or changing what services are available to patients.

Leading hospital groups oppose a broad CON revamp, saying it would hurt existing hospitals, including those in rural Georgia. Proponents say it would spark competition, increase access to services, and reduce health care costs.

The Senate’s version of the CON overhaul has stalled without a committee vote. But the House bill is still alive, and a new version passed the House special committee on health care access on Friday.

The legislation also would provide more rules for the rural hospital tax credit program, which the latest proposal maintains at $60 million, rather than the original bill’s $100 million.

House Bill 316 on elections, passed out of the Senate Ethics Committee, according to the AJC.

On a 7-5 vote in the Senate Ethics Committee, Republicans supported the bill to convert the state to a $150 million voting system that combines touchscreens and computer-printed ballots. Democrats opposed the measure, saying ballots bubbled in with a pen would be more secure from hacking and more accurately reflect voters’ choices.

The legislation was introduced Feb. 14, passed the state House last week and now is set for a vote in the full state Senate.

The legislation now ensures that voters will be able to review their printed ballots before they’re counted and requires audits of election results to be in place in time for the November 2020 presidential election.

House Bill 302 passed out of the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee yesterday, according to The Brunswick News.

The state House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee took a second crack Wednesday at a bill that’s created a significant amount of political heat between localities and homebuilders. House Bill 302 would prevent a number of specifications localities currently have the ability to impose regarding the look of one- and two-family dwellings.

“The way I look at that, and the way the bill’s drawn now — we went back and made a couple of amendments,” said state Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain and the bill’s lead sponsor. “We put zoning back just as it was in the very beginning. We’re not touching zoning, and never were touching zoning, we were just trying to clarify, but we put it back.”

“We also created the overlay districts, which you can go in and lay out that overlay district, have the people in that area of the overlay sign a petition — if you have 50 percent plus one, they do what they want to do in that district. We didn’t touch HOAs or historical.”

Committee Vice-Chairwoman Susan Holmes, R-Monticello, said she wanted local control, and worried that this legislation if enacted would have a detrimental effect on communities, especially rural ones.

“I’m just so disturbed by this, y’all,” Holmes said. “Having been in local government for 12 years, I have been there. I have been from a little city that was absolutely pitiful and dying and dreadful looking, to having those guidelines which were very reasonable, that our local government voted for. See, it makes such a difference in my little city of Monticello, and I’ve also seen what has happened in Madison, Thomasville, Gainesville — cities around the state — Jackson. Cities in my area are just so upset by this, I just get calls and texts and emails about, ‘Please don’t let this bill pass.’”

The bill passed by a vote of 9-7 and moves on to the House Rules Committee. Today is the crossover deadline, however, and it was not on the initial Rules calendar. There is a Rules meeting at 9 a.m. and supplemental Rules calendars can be expected. If H.B. 302 does not pass the chamber today, it will not have the possibility of moving again until next year.

State Rep. Jeff Jones (R-St Simons) said his opposition to the Speaker may have cost his community an appropriation, according to The Brunswick News.

Jones fears his name may have cost McIntosh County a $400,000 allocation for a new visitors center.

Late in February, Jones joined nine other House members in urging Speaker David Ralston to resign after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Ralston, a lawyer, had used his legislative position to stall court actions in cases involving his clients.

Jones believed he had secured a $400,000 special allocation to help McIntosh County remodel a former restaurant into a visitor center in the southwest corner of Exit 49 off Interstate 95. Since he joined the resolution addressing Ralston’s court delays, he has heard no more about his request for the money.

Jones asked for $750,000 and believes there was $400,000 in the budget for the project. He acknowledged Monday night, he can’t say for certain whether the funding was approved before he signed onto the resolution Feb. 28 calling for Ralston to vacate his seat.

Had the sponsor of the resolution on Ralston waited until after Crossover Day, the McIntosh County funding measure would already have passed safely from the House to the Senate. Crossover Day is the point in the legislative session when bills and resolutions must be approved in one chamber to give the other time to act. The Georgia General Assembly has not yet hit that date.

The Dalton City Schools FY 2020 budget contains no tax increase in its first draft, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Spending would increase by just over $2 million but the local property tax rate would remain the same under the first draft of a fiscal year 2020 Dalton Public Schools budget the board of education recently reviewed.

Chief Financial Office Theresa Perry said the “predominate factor” in that increase is a permanent $3,000 a year pay increase for teachers proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp. The budget passed by the state House of Representatives last week lowered that pay raise to $2,775 but also expanded it to school counselors and other staff certified by the state.

The school system budget draft anticipates that salaries would increase to $46.613 million from $44.961 million. But Perry says the majority of that increase should be covered by additional state funding.

“It isn’t completely clear how much they will be funding, but based on the information I have, I expect it will be about 70 percent,” she said.

The Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education approved a new $118 million dollar school, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Statesboro City Council asked the city attorney to draft a “blight tax” ordinance for consideration, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discussed plans for the dam and locks on the Savannah River near Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Corps meeting was part of a 60-day comment period that ends April 16 on the agency’s draft recommendation to replace the lock and dam with a rock weir allowing fish passage but would lower the average pool in the Savannah River at Augusta and North Augusta, as a Corps simulation in February dramatically showed.

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