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

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Mar

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

On March 15, 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated at a meeting of the Senate.

On March 15, 40 BC, Octavian executed 300 Senators and knights in vengeance for Caesar’s death.

On March 15, 1758, Georgia’s Royal Governor Henry Ellis signed legislation dividing the colony into eight parishes, primarily for religious administration, but with some parishes having secondary government functions.

On March 17, 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City by Irish serving in the British army; the date commemorates the death of St. Patrick in 461. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah, Georgia was held in 1813.

On March 16, 1861, delegates in Savannah unanimously ratified the Confederate Constitution and voted to have a new state constitution drafted.

On March 17, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation granting African-Americans the same rights as whites for contracts, suits, inheritance, property, and punishments for violation of the law.

On March 15, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge negotiated bank loans totalling $2 million dollars to keep the state’s public schools open.

On March 17, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed a joint resolution of the state legislature to place a plaque on the wall of the Georgia Capitol commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Georgia.

On March 15, 1943, Sea Island was officially named as Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation designating the island that had informally been given several different names.

On March 17, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation creating a commission to revise the 1877 Constitution of Georgia.

On March 15, 1980, USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. Vinson was the first Navy ship named after a living American.

On March 16, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Illinois Democratic Primary. His spiritual successor President Barack Obama, from Illinois, would visit Carter’s home state of Georgia on March 16, 2012.

Howard “Bo’ Callaway, the father of the modern Georgia Republican Party, died on March 15, 2014.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the last day of early voting for the Gwinnett County MARTA referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Today is the final day of the three week early voting period for the referendum, in which Gwinnett voters are being asked whether a contract to join MARTA should be approved. Passage of the referendum means 1 percent sales tax would be levied so the county can be a part of the regional transit system.

Voters who doesn’t cast a ballot by 7 p.m. today at the elections headquarters in Lawrenceville or at one of seven satellite voting locations will have to go to their regular assigned polling location Tuesday, which is the referendum date. County officials have previously said no votes can be cast at the elections headquarters on the day of the referendum.

As of Wednesday night, 25,616 Gwinnett voters had cast advance in person ballots during early voting.

Democrat Stacey Abrams met with former Vice President Joe Biden to divide up the spoils discuss the future, according to the Associated Press.

Biden, 76, who served as President Barack Obama’s closest adviser, is on the cusp of deciding whether he’ll make his third run for the presidency. Abrams, 45, narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race last November. She is being heavily recruited to run for the Senate in 2020, but she’s not ruled out making a presidential bid herself. She also could be considered as a vice presidential running mate.

A person close to Abrams confirmed the meeting, saying it was set at Biden’s request. The person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Biden and Abrams represent starkly different identities for a Democratic Party in flux, with one an aging white man who is the consummate Washington politician and the other an up-and-coming black woman from Generation X who has become a national political celebrity even in defeat. Her star climbed higher when she delivered the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last month.

If Abrams doesn’t run or doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, she could be a vice presidential pick, especially if Biden or another white candidate won the nomination. There is wide agreement across the Democratic spectrum that the party will require a 2020 ticket with some racial and gender balance.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan will support legislation term-limiting him, according to the Gainesville Times.

State Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, will propose a constitutional amendment creating a term limit for Georgia’s lieutenant governor position.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said in a statement Thursday that he supports the idea.

“The Office of Lt. Governor is no place for academic tenure,” Duncan said. “Individuals elected to this office should focus solely on serving Georgians, and no Lt. Governor should consider this post a permanent home.”

Georgia Senate plans to take over Hartsfield-Jackson airport could run into obstacles in the Georgia House and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to 11Alive.

Just before the legislative session started in January, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told reporters he saw no need to scrap a management structure that has been running the airport “pretty well.” The Senate bill was assigned to the House Rules Committee rather than the Transportation Committee, where legislation regarding airports is typically referred to, at least initially, Atlanta Business Chronicle reported.

[T]he Federal Aviation Administration would have to approve an ownership transfer.

Under a policy the FAA adopted in 2016 during an effort by the state of North Carolina to take over Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, the federal agency will not consider a transfer application if the local parties involved don’t agree on the plan.

Doug Selby, the city’s bond counsel, told the Senate committee the current lease agreements signed by Delta Air Lines Inc. and other carriers at Hartsfield-Jackson prohibit a transfer of ownership. Delta CEO Ed Bastian has spoken out publicly against the takeover bill. Selby also cited a letter from the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission stating a change in ownership could dampen investment in the revenue bonds that finance airport operations.

House Bill 316 by State Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) passed the Georgia Senate and is headed for Governor Kemp’s desk, according to The Brunswick News.

The Senate approved the legislation by substitute Wednesday, and the House voted to concur with the Senate amendment, eliminating the need for a conference committee and allowing the bill to clear the General Assembly.

State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem and the lead sponsor of the bill, said it had five amendments requested by Democrats that were incorporated into H.B. 316, though several of these just codified what was already expected practice or specified in other rules or instructions.

From the Associated Press:

Republican lawmakers and many county election officials say the electronic ballot marking devices will be the easiest to administer and can accommodate all Georgians, including those with disabilities.

But Democrats and cybersecurity experts say the machines are hackable and that hand-marked paper ballots would be cheaper and more secure.

Systems using electronic ballot markers include touchscreen computers, where voters make their selections and then print a paper ballot. Under the legislation, voters will have a chance to review a summary of selections on their ballot printout before putting it through a scanner, where votes are tallied. Setups from different vendors vary, but many offer ballot printouts that include text summaries as well as barcodes where voter selections are encoded for tabulation.

House Bill 514 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), creating a new Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission, passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, according to Georgia Health News.

The commission would be authorized to take ‘’a very deep dive’’ into the state’s mental health system, said Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), lead sponsor of House Bill 514. He said Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) have all worked on the commission proposal.

The 23-member panel would include “unbiased’’ experts in the mental health and substance abuse fields, Tanner said. He likened it to the criminal justice reform commission launched by former Gov. Nathan Deal.

The House has already approved the bill 152-10.

The Senate panel’s vote for a behavioral health commission came on the same day a House panel canceled a hearing on high-profile legislation to let Gov. Kemp seek federal health care waivers. Such waivers, if granted, would allow Georgia to extend health coverage to more low-income people.

The chairman of the special House committee on health care access, Richard Smith (R-Columbus), told GHN that the panel wasn’t yet ready to take up Senate Bill 106, which has the potential to increase Medicaid enrollment as well as change rules in the state’s health insurance exchange.

House Bill 481 by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Cobb) was heard by the Senate Science & Technology Committee yesterday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A Georgia Senate committee listened to emotional testimony Thursday over a proposal that would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The committee did not take a vote, and it was unclear when they might.

Abortion opponents across the country are hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court — with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will either reverse Roe v. Wade, or uphold specific state laws that could undermine the court’s 1973 ruling establishing the right of women to abort a fetus that can’t survive outside the womb.

Similar “heartbeat” legislation passed the GOP-controlled Ohio Senate on Wednesday and was approved by the Tennessee House last week. Several other states including Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina are also considering similar legislation.

The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest, but only when the woman files a police report first, and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

Some changes have been made since House passage, including to allow a pregnant woman to pursue child support from the father for direct medical and pregnancy expenses.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has come out in favor of the anti-abortion proposal.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission is considering turning over management of the water system to the Macon Water Authority and imposing a new management fee, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Floyd County Superior Court will implement a family accountability court, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“These are some of the hardest cases we have to deal with,” Judge Jack Niedrach said Thursday during a presentation to Rome Rotary Club members on the state of the local judiciary.

“Drug use and mental health are often issues; there’s rarely enough money for two households; and then there are instances of abuse — spousal and child abuse,” he added.

Niedrach said Chief Judge Bryant Durham is working with Judge Kay Ann Wetherington, who was sworn into office in January, to set up a family accountability court. The goal: to find solutions other than incarceration to problems in local homes.

The family court will join the mental health court Niedrach started and the drug court over which Judge Billy Sparks presides. Niedrach said accountability courts — part of the criminal justice reforms spearheaded by former governor Nathan Deal in the past few years — are proving effective.

Lawrenceville City Council member David Still will run for Mayor after incumbent Judy Johnson announced she will not run for reelection, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The first-term councilman and Lawrenceville native has served on the City Council since 2016, but he joined the Downtown Development Authority in 2012 and currently serves on both boards. He also served various duties in the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association from 2006 to 2010.

He was also former Councilman Tony Powell’s campaign manager in 2010.

“I’ve always felt, to be on the council, you needed to be engaged and understand (the city government) in some form as a volunteer and I consider the council position a volunteer position and a servant position,” Still said. “Then, to be mayor, you need to have served some time on the council so you understand how it works.”

The first-term councilman and Lawrenceville native has served on the City Council since 2016, but he joined the Downtown Development Authority in 2012 and currently serves on both boards. He also served various duties in the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association from 2006 to 2010.

He was also former Councilman Tony Powell’s campaign manager in 2010.

“(I want) to just continue to make (the city) healthy, to find a way to create that live, work, play community so that where you work, where go to church, where you go to play, where you live, you’re building community — you have all of those relationships,” Still said.

Thomas Mahoney, III was reppointed Chairman of the Chatham County Board of Elections through 2022, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chairman job functions include acting as the board’s spokesperson and participating in Election Day by visiting polling places and being present in the elections office during the entire tabulation period. The chairman also provides oversight of the elections supervisor and assistant elections supervisor on job duties and responsibilities by spending at least two hours per week in the office. The position pays $600 a month.

The board has attracted increased scrutiny following the Nov. 6 midterm election, with about a dozen speakers at the subsequent meeting complaining about long lines and waiting times, an inadequate amount of voting machines, poorly trained poll workers, and a lack of provisional and sample ballots.

Dozens of residents had also called for the resignation of Mahoney and Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges. Mahoney and Bridges disputed some of the claims as being inaccurate, while acknowledging there were some problems that did occur that day. The complexity of the ballot, which included lengthy amendments many voters had not read ahead of time, a difficulty finding poll workers, and a turnout that rivaled a presidential election was also cited by Bridges as a cause of the long waits.

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