Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 8, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 8, 2018

On March 10, 1734, a group of German immigrants reached the mouth of the Savannah River, from where they would proceed on to Savannah. Today, the Georgia Salzburgers Society works to preserve the Salzburger heritage and traditions in Georgia.

March 8, 1862 saw the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, VA, take ninety-eight hits from Union warships without sinking. Virginia sank USS Cumberland after ramming it, blew up USS Congress, and ran USS Minnesota aground. It was the worst day in US Naval history at that time.

On March 9, 1862, CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, a Union ironclad, fought to a draw in the Chesapeake Bay.

On March 9, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed two pieces of legislation dealing with African-Americans, one recognized their marriages, the other legitimized children born to African-American couples prior to the act and required parents to maintain their children in the same way white were required.

On March 10, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation allowing women to have bank accounts separate from their husbands as long as the balance was less than $2000; an earlier act set the limit at $1000.

On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first speech over his new invention, the telephone.

Thomas B. Murphy was born on March 10, 1924 in Bremen, Georgia and would first be elected to office in the 1950s, winning a seat on the Bremen Board of Education. In 1960, Murphy ran for the State House facing no opposition and was sworn in in 1961. In 1973, he became Speaker Murphy and would hold the post until Bill Heath, a Republican, beat him in the November 2002 General Election.

Murphy held the top House seat for longer than anyone in any American state legislature. He died on December 17, 2007.

Bobby Fischer, the Eleventh World Champion of Chess, was born on March 9, 1943 and is considered by many the greatest player of all time.

Governor Ellis Arnall signed two important pieces of legislation on March 9, 1945. The first created the Georgia Ports Authority, with its first project being the expansion of the Port of Savannah. The second authorized the placement of a referendum to adopt a new state Constitution (in the form of a single Amendment to the Constitution of 1877) on the ballot in a Special Election to be held August 7, 1945.

On March 8, 1946, a conference convened on Wilmington Island, near Savannah, that would lead to the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, commonly called the World Bank.

On March 8, 1946, a special train arrived at Savannah’s Union Station from Washington, holding nearly 300 delegates, government officials, technical experts and reporters from 35 nations. Thousands of Savannahians watched as a 100-car motorcade rolled along flag-bedecked streets to the General Oglethorpe Hotel on Wilmington Island.

Treasury Secretary Fred M. Vinson headed the American delegation; the British were led by John Maynard Keynes, “the father of modern macroeconomics.”

The stakes were enormous.

Two years earlier, as World War II neared its murderous end, the winning Allies pondered the nature of the postwar global economy. The United States was emerging as the leader of the free world, largely supplanting the British Empire, gravely weakened by the war.

The IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (better known as the World Bank) were born at a July 1944 conference in Bretton Woods, N.H., where 44 countries established rules for the global monetary system.

The IMF was intended to promote international economic cooperation and secure global financial stability, providing countries with short-term loans. The World Bank would offer long-term loans to assist developing countries in building dams, roads and other physical capital.

The Bretton Woods agreements were ratified internationally by December 1945. Vinson, seeking a site for the new organizations’ inaugural meetings, sent Treasury agents around the country. “They made some fine reports on Savannah,” he later told the Morning News. He had never visited the city.

On March 9, 1970, Governor Lester Maddox signed legislation setting the Georgia minimum wage at $1.25 per hour.

On March 8, 1982, President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “an evil empire” for the second time, in an address to the National Association of Evangelicals.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT CAP 450

10:00 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 29) House Chamber

House Bill 198 by State Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) failed on a 72-94 vote on the House floor yesterday. From the Dalton Daily Citizen:

A plan to change how Georgia regulates health care services — while also requiring much more transparency from the state’s nonprofit hospitals — was rejected Thursday.

The proposal was backed by several high-profile legislators who sought to update a decades-old program called certificate of need, or CON, which regulates how many health care facilities can pop up in any given area with the goal of controlling health care costs.

“It will be back,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Hatchett, a Republican from Dublin who chairs the majority caucus, said in an interview Thursday evening. “We’ve invested our energy up to this point and we’re going to listen and take up some more parts of the bill and see if we can’t start the process to modernize certificate of need because I really firmly believe in that.”

Certificate of need is seen as a protection from the threat of a new facility swooping in and poaching insured customers seeking more profitable services. In rural areas of state, the program is often seen as vital armor for fragile small-town hospitals.

State lawmakers had originally sought to make sweeping changes to how Georgia regulates health care services. The original proposal would have completely repealed certificate of need and replaced it with a licensing program.

House Bill 481 by State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Cobb) passed the State House, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

During tense debate, several Democratic lawmakers opposed to the bill turned their back to its author, Republican Rep. Ed Setzler. Earlier in the day, some handed out wire coat hangers in reference to unsafe home abortions.

Democratic Rep. Renitta Shannon, speaking against the bill and about her own past abortion, went over time and her microphone was cut off. She refused to yield the floor until colleagues surrounded her and implored her to walk away.

If the measure in Georgia is passed by the state Senate and signed into law, it would almost certainly trigger legal challenges.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion up to 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A fetal heartbeat is generally detectable at around six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

The bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest, but only when the woman files a police report first, as well as when a fetus is deemed not compatible with life.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has endorsed the proposal, and earlier Thursday issued a statement to encourage the House to pass the measure. Kemp campaigned last year on a pledge to sign some of the toughest abortion laws in the country.

HB 481 was assigned to the Senate Committee on Science and Technology.

From the AJC:

Eleven House members either sought to be excused from voting on HB 481, the “heartbeat” bill, or didn’t vote. Eight were Republicans.

Among the excused: Dave Belton of Buckhead, Ga.; Brett Harrell of Snellville; Matt Hatchett of Dublin, the House caucus chairman; Chuck Martin of Alpharetta: Sharon Cooper of Marietta; and Matt Dubnik of Gainesville.

Votes not recorded for Ron Stephens of Savannah and Ed Rynders of Albany.

Republicans voting no: Butch Parrish of Swainsboro; and Deborah Silcox of Sandy Springs.

There were geographic exceptions, but a number of legislators from north metro Atlanta. (One Democrat crossed party lines to vote for the bill: Mack Jackson, a preacher from Sandersville.)

House Bill 84 by State Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) aimed to reduce or eliminate “surprise” medical bills and failed by a 77-78 vote margin on the House floor, according to the AJC.

Surprise billing happens when properly insured patients go to a hospital in their insurance network, for example, but then find out that some doctor or service within that hospital was not in network. Then the patient gets a bill for the full price the out-of-network doctor decides to charge, and the insurance compay may pay little or nothing.

The House bill would have left the burden on patients to find out which doctors in their upcoming procedure were in network. But it would have mandated that when they ask, the information be provided to them. It also would have set up a mediation process.

Responding to a question from the floor on why HB 84 didn’t go further, Smith raised concerns with the constitutionality of bills that force insurance companies to pay a certain amount that they have not contracted to pay. That issue, Smith said, can be heard in a subcommittee of his panel: “We will have a hearing but a hearing only.”

House Bill 525 by State Rep. Ron Stephens would change the governing structure for the Savannah Convention Center, according to the Savannah Morning News.

House Bill 525 sponsored by Ron Stephens (R-District 164), establishes the Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority. It replaces the local authority with a state authority that provides bonding capacity as well as a tax-exempt status for the operation of the facility, bringing the Savannah Convention Center’s operation and governance in line with other convention facilities in Georgia.

The bill gives the governor the power to appoint six of its 12 voting members. Currently, each of six state representatives and two state senators from Chatham County has the ability to appoint a member to the local authority.

Local lawmakers will instead share three appointments to the state authority. Also gone are an appointment each from the Chatham County Commission and the Savannah City Council. The bill retains voting, ex-officio appointments for the president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority and the president of the Savannah Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

H.B. 525 passed the house Thursday, the last day it could do so and stay viable this session. It still has to pass the senate before the governor can sign it into law.

House Bill 530 by State Rep. Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon) was revised by the House Juvenile Justice Committee before passing the House, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“This won’t catch every one,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, said during a Juvenile Justice Committee meeting Wednesday, but he said it will be worthwhile if it saves one child. “I don’t believe it’s significant in terms of numbers but if it’s you, it’s pretty significant.”

House Bill 530 is meant to prevent another case like the one in Effingham County, where siblings Mary and Elwyn Crocker Jr. quit attending public school and were found buried behind their family’s house in the Guyton area Dec. 20.

Under the latest version of the bill, local school districts would be notified when the parents of a child who is no longer attending public school have not filed a notice of intent to homeschool.

The schools would refer the matter to the state Division of Family and Children Services, which would conduct an assessment to determine “whether such withdrawal was to avoid educating the child.”

“The purpose of such referral and assessment shall be limited to determining whether such withdrawal was to avoid educating the child,” the bill reads. “Presentation of a copy of such filed declaration shall satisfy the assessment, and (DFCS) shall immediately terminate the assessment under this code section.”

House Bill 454 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) passed the house and would allow cities and counties to regulate electric scooters, according to the AJC.

House Bill 454 would prohibit users of scooter services like Bird and Lime from parking the devices on sidewalks and other places where they would obstruct pedestrians or vehicles. It also would allow anyone who encounters a device parked in a dangerous manner to move it.

The bill, approved on a 133-28 vote, would allow people to ride electric scooters on bike paths, in bike lanes and on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less if no bike lane or path is available.

It also includes provisions that would protect riders. For example, motorists would be required to yield to riders if they’re operating a device in a bike lane.

Senate Bill 131 by Senator Burt Jones (R-Jackson) would move the H/artsfield-Jackson Airport from City of Atlanta control to the state, according to the AJC.

The measure, Senate Bill 131, passed by a 34-22 vote despite stiff opposition from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. City officials say the airport has become the world’s busiest, and one of the most efficient, under Atlanta’s oversight. And they say any takeover attempt will jeopardize the airport’s finances and trigger a wave of litigation.

It now heads to the Georgia House, where it has a more uncertain fate. Gov. Brian Kemp, who has yet to take a formal stance on the measure, said in an interview that he’s monitoring the debate.

“I’m still where I was: I’m watching the process,” Kemp said in an interview. “I’ve spoken with the mayor and I’ve spoken with (the bill’s Senate sponsor) Burt Jones. We’ll wait and see. We’re still doing the due diligence.”

Jones, made his case for the bill as he unfurled a copy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution featuring a front-page article about the indictment of contractor Jeff Jafari.

“Once again another indictment, charge of corruption,” said Jones, a Jackson Republican. “It always has brought me to the conclusion that someone should look into those instances that have been going on there, causing so much… really embarrassment to the state of Georgia as a whole.”

House Bill 426 by State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Gwinnett) passed the House and would be Georgia’s first “hate crimes” legislation, according to The Brunswick News.

 “In 2017, the Douglas County district attorney, a Republican, talked about he desired to charge a criminal offense as a hate crime,” Efstration said. “That’s where 15 individuals were taunting African Americans who were in a park at a child’s birthday party. And as a result of that interaction, a man pointed a shotgun at the party and yelled racial epithets. And the Republican district attorney of Douglas County had to pursue prosecution under the gang statute, because there was no hate crimes statute at the time.”

He pointed to other incidents last year, including swastika graffiti at Centennial High School in Roswell, and mentioned that Gwinnett law enforcement stated there was an increase in “brutal attacks and armed robberies targeted at immigrants.” Efstration recalled one particularly heinous incident involving three men who allegedly attacked Latinos that resulted in one person suffering severe injuries and other — a resident of his district — dying.

“I submit to you that if you honestly search your heart, and you conclude that someone may be more vulnerable to a crime because of being in one of the protected classes where this person could be targeted for an attack, then this bill is needed in Georgia,” Efstration said. “If you honestly search your heart and conclude that hate can be used as a tool for evil in order to undermine the law and order that we take for granted many times in our society, then this bill is absolutely needed.”

Dean of the House Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, said at the outset he enjoyed working with Efstration, crafting the legislation. He also called attention to the speech of former state Rep. Dan Ponder, who made a memorable address in service of the state’s first hate crimes law. The state Supreme Court later found it too broad, and therefore unconstitutional.

“I just think about this — 45 states, 45 states have hate crimes statutes,” Smyre said. “Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Wyoming and Utah (do not). Yesterday, Utah passed it in the Senate, and now it’s in the Utah House. So, I come and ask you very, very strongly to pass House Bill 426.”

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis spoke about downtown parking, the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, and proposed changes to the city charter, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Dougherty County Commission heard from the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, according to the Albany Herald.

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul spoke about the Georgia Supreme Court decision on ankle bracelet monitoring, according to the Albany Herald.

An opinion released on Monday regarding Park v. The State by the Georgia Supreme Court said it affirmed in part and reversed in part the case of Joseph Park, who had been convicted in metro Atlanta of child molestation and sexual exploitation. Park requested an interlocutory appeal to address the constitutionality of OCGA § 42-1-14, which requires, among other things, that a person who is classified as a sexually dangerous predator — but who is no longer in custody or on probation or parole — wear and pay for an electronic monitoring device linked to a global positioning satellite system, or GPS monitoring device, allowing the state to monitor that individual’s location “for the remainder of his or her natural life.”

The high court agreed that it is unconstitutional on its face, as it presented an invasion of privacy issue for someone who has completed his sentence.

The state contended that a lifelong GPS search of an individual classified as a sexually dangerous predator is reasonable because, like a person who is on probation or parole, a sexually dangerous predator has a diminished expectation of privacy with respect to Fourth Amendment searches.

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul said he and his office take a view similar to that of the state, so they plan to see if changes can be made.

“We will work with the General Assembly in fixing this law, or amending it,” Sproul said.

In the meantime, HB 324 has passed the Georgia House of Representatives and is on its way to crossing over into the state Senate. If approved, Georgia would join 31 states that already allow some form of marijuana cultivation so that TCH could be used for medical purposes.

“We have looked at what other states have gone through with this, and recreational marijuana use is (legal in those states),” Sproul said. “We are against that. We may be a year or two away from that (if HB 324 passes). I don’t want to see this happen.

Gwinnett County Public Schools police are working with other law enforcement agencies to determine how explicit photos of a child were circulated, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The photo, which has been shared on Snapchat, depicts lewd acts being done to a young child, according to a Facebook post written by an adult sibling of a Norcross High School student.

The woman wrote on Facebook she saw the image on her sister’s phone and called Gwinnett County Police Department. The Facebook post has been shared nearly 1,000 times.

“Our School Police are working with other law enforcement agencies, trying to identify the Snapchat account holder where this originated, as well as trying to verify the authenticity of the photo and to identify individuals in it,” [GCPS spokesperson Bernard] Watson said. “To my knowledge, no letters have gone home on this. As with any social media issue involving children, we encourage parents to monitor their children’s online activity, talk to their children about concerns, and to be sure that if they see anything that causes concern that they report it to the appropriate authorities and not re-post it.”

Derrick J. Wilson of Snellville is the first announced candidate for Gwinnett County Commission District 3, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Over the years, I’ve sat back and watched how things in our area are just not being taken care of (by) the current county commissioner,” Wilson said. “He’s more of a behind-the-desk kind of leader and doesn’t engage with the community. Most people in my community don’t even know who he is, or if they do know who he is, it’s because of the controversies.

“I just feel like we need more representation in our district, and that goes from Snellville all the way up to Braselton.”

Wilson, who sat down with the Daily Post on Thursday for an exclusive interview to announce his bid for office, said there is a special significance in choosing today to launch his campaign for the District 3 commission seat. It is his mother’s birthday, so he chose to time his announcement to honor that date.

Floyd County Board of Education members and the superintendent visited Washington, according to the Rome News Tribune.

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