Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for March 11, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for March 11, 2019

On March 11, 1779, Congress created the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

On March 11, 1861, the Confederate Congress, assembled in Montgomery, Alabama, adopted the Constitution of the Confederate States of America. Today the original signed manuscript of the Confederate Constitution is in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries.

On March 11, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur obeyed the President’s order dated February 20, 1942, and left the Philippines.

On March 11, 2005, Brian Nichols shot and killed Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau in the Fulton County Courthouse, leading to a lockdown of the state capitol and a number of nearby buildings. Nichols killed two more before taking a young woman hostage in Duluth; that woman, Ashley Smith, would talk Nichols into surrendering the next day. Nichols was eventually convicted for four murders and is serving consecutive life sentences.

Happy Birthday to former Governor Roy Barnes, who served from 1999-2003, and lost to Republican Sonny Perdue in 2002, and to current Governor Nathan Deal in 2010.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections

President and First Lady Trump arrived at Fort Benning before touring Alabama storm damage, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

President Trump has nominated former Georgia congressman John Linder as U.S. representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The nomination is pending Senate approval but U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., is already praising the choice.

“John has been a public servant, a passionate advocate for tax reform and a good friend of mine for many years” Isakson said in a statement. “In addition to his military service in the U.S. Air Force, John’s 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives will benefit him greatly if confirmed for this new role.”

“As an early member of the House Homeland Security Committee, John has experience working on challenging security issues including prevention of nuclear and biological weapons proliferation,” Isakson said. “He was also a key advocate of expanding our trade relationships with allies in the Asia-Pacific region, supporting Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.”

First Lady Marty Kemp will host a pet adoption day at the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday, March 30th from 9 AM to Noon.

“The Kemps are excited to open our home to promote pet adoption and find forever homes for rescue cats and dogs,” said First Lady Marty Kemp. “Our family has always held a special place in our hearts for animals, so we are thrilled to have so many state and local partners ready to join us in this important initiative.”

Commissioner Gary Black will be with the First Lady at the adoption day. Visitors at the Mansion will also have the opportunity to visit with the Georgia Grown mascot, Georgie, at the event.

“We are excited for this upcoming event and the exposure that it will bring to pets in need of forever homes. The Georgia Department of Agriculture shares the First Lady’s passion for animals, and we are proud to partner with her in this endeavor,” said Commissioner Gary Black.

Anyone can easily register for this adoption event through the First Lady’s website. There are three one-hour time slots offered to visit with the pets available for adoption. All adoption fees and documentation will be handled by the humane societies, shelters, and rescues in attendance. The Atlanta Humane Society and Lowndes County Animal Shelterwill be two of the organizations at the event.

Under the Gold Dome Today

9:00 AM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 30) House Chamber







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

2:00 PM HOUSE Life & Health Subcommittee of Insurance 515 CLOB



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





SR 266 – Georgia High School Association; assessment of its operations and practices; encourage (Substitute) (ED&Y-8th)
HB 166 – Genetic Counselors Act; enact (Substitute) (H&HS-32nd) Silcox-52nd
HR 165 – Property; conveyance of certain state owned real property; authorize (Substitute) (SI&P-15th) Greene-151st




House Bill 353 by State Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) would create a new crime of stagning a vehicle collision, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Kasey Carpenter, would make it a felony offense to either intentionally cause an automobile collision or attempt to manufacture evidence for a wreck that never happened.

Faking a wreck could land a person in prison for one to five years. But if another person is injured or killed, that could turn into five to 20 years behind bars.

The Dalton Republican said he hopes the measure will deter would-be fraudsters from staging a wreck, saving consumers and businesses money.

“I think this bill will send a message that staging a motor vehicle accident will not be tolerated and, in turn, should reduce car insurance rates for all Georgians,” Carpenter said.

Early votes continue to pour in the Gwinnett MARTA referendum, according to the AJC.

Between Feb. 25 and March 3, the Gwinnett County elections office saw 4,682 votes cast. After satellite voting locations opened in cities across Gwinnett on March 4, the total number of early votes cast in person was 19,118 as of Sunday evening, according to the county.

Gwinnett’s unprecedented three-week early voting period — including keeping polling places open 12 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays — continues through Friday, March 15, and Election Day is March 19. In addition to the county elections office in Lawrenceville, voters can cast ballots at county parks in Buford, Suwanee, Duluth, Norcross, Stone Mountain, Snellville and Dacula.

“The reality is that special elections, standalone issue elections, like this one in the middle of March, have historically had tremendously low turnout,” said state Rep. Brenda Lopez, D-Norcross, at a recent town hall meeting. “If the referendum were not to pass, I would attribute it solely to that reason.”

In the December runoff election for secretary of state and public service commissioner, 103,639, or 19.7 percent, came out to vote. For the current referendum, turnout by the end of Election Day is not expected to exceed 100,000, said Ryan Anderson, the data analyst who runs Gwinnett County currently has about 544,000 registered voters.

“It definitely looks like we’re going to comfortably surpass the runoff early voting totals at this point,” Anderson said. “But the other important point is that over 80 percent of voting in Gwinnett came from day-of voters in the December runoff, versus under 50 percent in the November general.”

Former Georgia Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer is running for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, according to the AJC.

Shafer is the third leading candidate competing to succeed John Watson, who announced shortly after the midterm he wouldn’t run again. Veteran Republican activist Scott Johnson and Bruce Azevedo, a real estate agent who chairs the Ninth District GOP, are also in the race.

A former Georgia GOP executive director, Shafer lost a 1996 bid for secretary of state before winning a 2002 contest to represent his Duluth-based Senate seat. He rose to become the chamber’s president pro tem, one of the most powerful figures in the Capitol.

But his political career was derailed last year when he was defeated by Geoff Duncan in a razor-thin Republican runoff for lieutenant governor.

“The Democratic Party we replaced was a center-right party,” he said. “The Democratic Party seeking to replace us is a radical leftist, Marxist party.”

Democratic former Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves is considering a run for the 7th Congressional District, according to the AJC.

The Democrat filed paperwork over the weekend declaring his candidacy for the 7th District seat soon to be vacated by Republican Rep. Rob Woodall, and he said he’ll formally announce his campaign within days.

Eaves will join a growing field competing for the seat, which last year was home to the closest U.S. House election in the nation. National Democrats see it as one of the juiciest pickup opportunities in next year’s vote.

The runner-up in the 2018 contest, Carolyn Bourdeaux, has already launched another bid. So have Snellville attorney Marqus Coles and Democratic operative Nabilah Islam.

And a trio of Democratic state legislators – Brenda Lopez, Pedro Marin and Sam Park – is considering a run. The Republican side is unsettled, too, though state Sen. Renee Unterman is seen as an early frontrunner if she decides to get in.

Nine County GOP Conventions passed resolutions against House Speaker David Ralston, according to 11Alive.

The counties that passed the resolution to demand Ralston resign included Coweta, Cherokee, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Bartow, Fayette and Camden among others.

Georgia’s timber industry is threatened by storm losses and driver shortages, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

[W]hen Hurricane Michael roared in late last year, it wiped away three-quarters of a billion dollars in timber alone. The state is still counting up the damages from storms last weekend that hit Harris and Talbot counties hard. And then there are other stresses for the industry: it’s hard to find log truck drivers; and insurance, equipment and fuel for them isn’t getting any cheaper.

It takes years just to grow little trees that will be thinned for pulp — maybe two decades or more for the sturdy trees that become, say, telephone poles. In the meantime, there are costs like property taxes to be paid.

An anxious-looking state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black was at the state Capitol in late February, conferring with Gov. Brian Kemp about a proposed federal aid package for areas hit by Hurricane Michael. Those negotiations are still ongoing.

Debbie Buckner, from Junction City, feels for all the people who lost their retirements in Michael. And she’s got more worries about the industry too. She and her family grow timber and her son is a logger.

Buckner is also a Democratic state lawmaker, by the way. She said it might be time to consider some new policies to encourage more people to become drivers, to see what can be done about the insurance rates, about when mills can impose quotas. Especially during times of emergency — when you might have all those trucks-worth of timber on the ground.

Former United States Senator Saxby Chambliss will address local groups in Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Former Sen. Saxby Chambliss will be the center of attention April 5 at the annual legislative lunch, co-hosted by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce, Valdosta Board of Realtors, Home Builders Association of South Georgia and Valdosta Rotary Club.

“Sen. Chambliss brings a wealth of experience from his legislative career,” said John Page, chamber government affairs council chairman. “He served in the U.S. House and Senate, representing our great state. Because of that mindset, combined with his record of service, he can give regular people the deep insight to understand politics and government in a balanced way. A true statesman, Sen. Chambliss is deeply respected by both political parties. He holds his ground when it comes to his deep principles and does not blink.”

Glynn County Board of Elections will hear about progress on HB 316, the voting procedures bill, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 316 would, among other things, standardize the voting equipment of all Georgia counties, open new avenues for voter registration and change the rules on voting precinct realignments and polling place closures.

The state House of Representatives approved the bill last month, and the state Senate gave a favorable report Thursday, meaning it is likely headed to the floor for discussion in the near future. Channell, who visited the capitol recently to discuss legislative issues, said it seems likely the bill will be signed into law.

“(Former Secretary of State, now Gov. Brian) Kemp was very eager to get this new system in place, so I think that was a priority getting it through. I don’t think he’s not going to sign it if the Senate passes it,” Channell said.

If approved, the Georgia Secretary of State would put out a request for proposal, he said. Polling machine vendors would submit their proposal, one of which would be selected by the secretary.

Camden County Schools Superintendent Will Hardin will retire at the end of 2019, according to The Brunswick News.

The City of Statesboro is considering new transit routes, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Concept maps A, B and C were displayed on poster panels during Thursday evening’s open house hosted by city officials and Connetics Transportation Group, or CTG, in the Honey Bowen Building. Only 21 Statesboro-area residents signed in during the two hours. But 80 percent of the 506 responses to the preliminary survey last fall expressed a belief that public transit is needed in Statesboro, reported Dan Nelson, a CTG senior planner and the consulting firm’s project manager for this study.

The second survey, which lets respondents rank suggested routes by how useful each would be to them and people they know, will remain open online through March 24. It can be found through the transit study link at the top of the “Notices” column on the city’s homepage,

This 21-question survey also asks people how often they would use the service and at what times of day. Giving options from 50 cents to $3, it asks what one-way fare, if any, you would be willing to pay to ride a regular route, and whether you would accept a tax increase to support the service.

Columbia County high schools include student life centers to provide wraparound services for students, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Leigh Colburn, a former principal of Marietta High School, established a similar center in the metro Atlanta high school in 2015 after years of trying academic intervention to assist students’ education. After organizing the Graduate Marietta Student Success Center and tackling substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence and other issues with community service agencies, the school began to see results, and schools across the state took notice, including those in Columbia County.

The school system hired Rachel Czerepak to serve as the district’s wraparound support program specialist at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year and created student life centers in all five high schools and the alternative center. The goal is to focus on the whole child, not just academics.

“If you’re hungry, if you’re cold, if you spent the entire night in a van – you’re really not going to care about doing well (academically) even if you want to,” Czerepak said.

Prior to Czerepak’s arrival, the school system conducted a student survey asking what services they would be interested in receiving. Mental health, substance abuse, college and career, financial literacy and suicide prevention were among the top requests.

“They didn’t say things like tutoring or different academic courses,” Czerepak said. “They were talking about pretty heavy stuff that schools have not typically gotten into.”

The Dalton Daily Citizen looks as local municipal projects under a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the ballot for Whitfield County.

With Whitfield County officials looking to spend $18.2 million of the county’s share of a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on a new government services building, the city of Cohutta’s plan to spend $50,000 of SPLOST money on a new storage building may not seem that large.

But if the SPLOST passes on March 19, it would fund that storage building and other projects for the county’s smaller cities, something their officials say has sometimes been overlooked in the discussion of the major projects planned by Whitfield County and the city of Dalton.

“In a $100 million SPLOST, our $575,000 may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a big deal to us,” said Tunnel Hill City Manager Blake Griffin.

Whitfield County residents will go to the polls on March 19 to vote on the proposed 1 percent, six-year SPLOST that would be expected to bring in that $100 million. Early voting started on Feb. 25.

The City of Cave Springs is considering revising its alcohol ordinance, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

As Cave Spring voters are casting early ballots on the sale of distilled spirits, City Council members are reviewing alcohol ordinances from across the state.

If the measure passes in the March 19 election, the board plans to meet the next week to discuss the details they want to include when they enact it.

Cave Spring already allows beer and wine sales. Voters are weighing in on four other questions: distilled spirits package sales, distilled spirits by the drink, and extending those sales to include Sundays from 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon to 11:30 p.m. at night.

Early voting runs through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at City Hall. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz announced that the city will create a new “Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” according to the Athens Banner Herald.

MARTA is making a pitch for expansion into Gwinnett County, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“There is a groundswell of support for investing in public (transportation) infrastructure, recognizing the tremendous growth that’s happening in this region,” MARTA CEO Jeff Parker said of looks at transit done in Gwinnett and other metro communities.

“Atlanta has done it, Fulton County has laid out a plan for their expansion, DeKalb is currently undergoing plans for theirs, and Cobb County is just about to begin. There are plenty of opportunities to continue to invest in expanding public transportation infrastructure and that’s going to continue to happen.”

[MARTA Police Chief Wanda] Dunham said the agency has 460 sworn police officers and has been ranked third safest transit system in the nation and recently received an award from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration for its safety and security practices. It has its own 911 center, SWAT Team and bomb squad as well.

One of the arguments made by proponents of MARTA expansion is that they believe it will have economic development benefits for Gwinnett County.

They have pointed to companies such as State Farm and WestRock that located nearby transit lines as examples of why they believe Gwinnett’s economy could benefit from MARTA. State Farm Administrative Services Manager Michelle Pellegrini said the insurance company has seen a benefit from having a rail station right next to the building.

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