On April 2, 1513, Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, claiming it for the Spanish crown. Today he is best-known in Georgia for giving his name to be mispronounced daily on a sketchy street in Atlanta. It is not known if he was wearing jean shorts, or if those were developed later. Georgians began mispronouncing his name immediately.
On April 2, 1917, Jeanette Rankin took office as the first woman elected to Congress, representing Montana.
Born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana Territory, in 1880, Rankin was a social worker in the states of Montana and Washington before joining the women’s suffrage movement in 1910. Working with various suffrage groups, she campaigned for the women’s vote on a national level and in 1914 was instrumental in the passage of suffrage legislation in Montana. Two years later, she successfully ran for Congress in Montana on a progressive Republican platform calling for total women’s suffrage, legislation protecting children, and U.S. neutrality in the European war. Following her election as a representative, Rankin’s entrance into Congress was delayed for a month as congressmen discussed whether a woman should be admitted into the House of Representatives.
Finally, on April 2, 1917, she was introduced in Congress as its first female member. The same day, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and urged a declaration of war against Germany.
On April 2, 1985, Governor Joe Frank Harris signed legislation recognizing the Right Whale as the official state marine mammal. Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tested a drone aircraft for use in conducting surveys of the aquatic population off the East Coast.
Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary could use it in a variety of ways, including sea turtle and right whale counts, he said. It could even give managers a better idea of how many boats are out in the sanctuary.
“It’s much cheaper than putting an aircraft or a boat out,” Sedberry said.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Today is the last day of the legislative session, according to AccessWDUN.
[T]here’s still plenty of legislation that could be considered on the last hectic day Tuesday.
That includes a bill that would allow in-state production of low-potency medical marijuana oil and another that would authorize a state takeover of Atlanta’s airport.
The airport is currently owned and operated by the city of Atlanta, and city officials strongly oppose a takeover. One recent version has the state taking an oversight role, rather than a full takeover.
There’s also a bill on the table that would increase the minimum marriage age from 16 to 17.
[T]he measure is stalled in a House committee.
But its sponsor, Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said he hasn’t given up on getting the provisions enacted this year. The Senate Finance Committee he chairs added the language to a House bill expanding tax credits for low-income housing projects. It was passed (again) by the full Senate Friday.
“The surprise billing is attached to HB 540 and back in the House,” Hufstetler said Monday. “We are requesting that the House be allowed to vote on it.”
Any measure that doesn’t pass by midnight can be rolled over to the 2020 session.
Legislation to allow local regulation of rental scooters hit a speedbump, according to the Athens Banner Herald.
State Rep. Kevin Tanner, a Republican from Dawsonville, told the Senate Public Safety Committee recently that he’s putting off the proposed statewide rules for electric scooters until next year while negotiations with scooter companies continue.
The biggest problem is that users are “dumping them all over the place,” Commissioner Andy Herod previously said. “They are making private profit and the public is picking up the cost of having to deal with this.”
The legislation in the General Assembly would have banned people from parking scooters on sidewalks and in other locations that could hinder vehicles or pedestrians, among other restrictions.
Athens-Clarke County commissioners voted in December to impose a year-long ban on the electric scooters while they develop rules for dockless vehicles like the scooters. Once it adopts rules, the commission then plans to put out a request for proposals from scooter rental companies to participate in a pilot program.
The General Assembly approved legislation to improve education for students with dyslexia, according to the AJC.
Senate Bill 48, if signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, would eventually require dyslexia screening for every student starting in kindergarten. It also would pave the way for teacher training programs.
Experts estimate that 10 percent to 20 percent of the population has the condition. If so, then the reading condition afflicts anywhere from 175,000 to 350,000 of Georgia’s nearly 1.8 million public school students. Some say they have gotten little help in their schools.
Besides mandating screening for all kindergartners beginning in the fall of 2024, the legislation would set in motion changes in credentialing designed to encourage colleges to equip future teachers with the skills to recognize and deal with the condition. It would also establish training programs for current teachers.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, said school districts will only have to conduct the screening if the General Assembly gives them the money to do it. A study committee last summer estimated the screening cost at $8 or less per student, putting the total under $2 million a year. The legislation would also establish pilot programs in a handful of districts — in urban, suburban and rural settings — to test screening and teaching methods before the statewide implementation. Martin said the approach will likely evolve as the state gains knowledge about the condition.
Gwinnett County opposes an annexation by Norcross that would take the municipality across I-85, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.
The county is fighting efforts by the city to use legislation to annex 2.8 square miles sandwiched between Interstate 85, Buford Highway, the county line and Jimmy Carter Boulevard. The annexation would be pending voter approval.
City officials have said they can provide improved services and that the area is one of the few, if not only, viable option to accommodate Norcross’ plans for expansion and meeting demands for services. County officials, however, have raised concerns about the size of the annexation area as well as its impact on a tax allocation district in the area and tax revenues used to pay for police services.
“It is the largest annexation by any Gwinnett city in my memory and will have significant impacts on residents, businesses and property owners in the area proposed for annexation, for those currently in the City of Norcross and for the majority of all within Gwinnett,” county commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in an email to the Daily Post.
“The County is opposed to this proposed annexation and has expressed that position to the Gwinnett Legislative Delegation.”
It is not clear if the annexation bill, House Bill 661, will make it out of the General Assembly by the end of Sine Die day — the last day of the 2019 legislative session — on Tuesday.
Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Suburbia) talked to 11Alive about his last campaign.
“Ugliness sells,” said the Republican who has represented Georgia’s 7th District since 2011. “That is certainly what they teach you in campaign school.”
“I don’t have to beat down the other guy,” Woodall told 11Alive News. “I want it to be true that my opponent is always a very good man or woman with very bad ideas. And let’s have that conversation and see where the election falls.”
“Give credit where credit is due, and that goes to Stacey Abrams and her voter identification and turnout machine. She did an amazing job,” Woodall said.
He also describes the Democratic vote in 2018 as a “high water mark,” and predicts whichever Republican gets nominated in 2020 will win the 7th district seat. But it won’t be pretty.
Congressman Lucy McBath (D-Suburbia) was not a legal Georgia citizen when she was elected to Congress, according to Daily Caller.
Tax documents uncovered by The Washington Free Beacon reveal that Cobb County, Georgia, does not recognize the freshman congresswoman’s home as her permanent residence, and consequently, the county has revoked the homestead exemptions her family previously received.
McBath acknowledged during her campaign that she decided to run for Georgia’s sixth district while she was still living in Tennessee. Her Republican challenger, former Georgia Rep. Karen Handel, questioned how McBath and her husband, a permanent resident of Tennessee, were able to write off Cobb County taxes using the homestead exception, which allows permanent county residents to lower their property tax liability.
While McBath called the accusation “baseless,” the Cobb County tax commissioner is requiring the McBaths to pay back taxes for the past three years. A tax audit determined that the family was misusing the homestead exemption from 2015 though 2018 since they never qualified for it.
Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) introduced legislation to ease international adoptions, according to the Gainesville Times.
The Intercountry Adoption Information Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-Rhode Island, would require the Secretary of State’s office to include in its annual report information about countries that have new policies or laws that reduce or prevent U.S. adoptions. The Department of State would also be required to include information on its efforts to encourage these countries to resume U.S. adoption.
“Millions of children at home and abroad are in need of a loving home, and families all across the globe are eager to provide them with the care and support they deserve,” Collins said in a statement. “The Intercountry Adoption Information Act will help bring families together by ensuring parents pursuing overseas adoption, like the Romano family, have access to the information required to navigate the international adoption landscape, and ultimately, to bring their children home.”
Collins is also taking the lead in addressing the Mueller report, according to the AJC.
Part honey, part vinegar would be one way to describe the strategy the Gainesville lawmaker has deployed since becoming the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican earlier this year. Collins, 52, describes it in slightly different terms: “offensive defense.”
The four-term congressman ascended to the role in part because of his bipartisan policy experience. But Collins has also aggressively fought Democrats’ investigations of the Trump administration, using procedural tactics and rhetorical flourishes to trip up their inquiries.
With special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe now completed, Collins has entered the biggest spotlight of his political career.
The fast-talking former lawyer has become a fixture on cable news shows, where he’s tenaciously defended the president and polished one-liners about what he’s labeled the Democratic “fishing expedition” into Trump’s background.
Columbus Government Center visitors must wear hard hats now, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.
The Columbus Government Center’s continuing deterioration was evidenced again last week when ceiling tiles fell outside a courtroom on the 10th floor.
The courts and offices have nowhere else to go, so business will go on, as usual, except everyone has to wear a hard hat now.
Visitors cannot bring their own, because of security precautions: The headgear has to be inspected, declared safe, and issued by the city at a checkpoint in the east wing off Second Avenue.
With so many workers and visitors daily coming and going, the supply of available hard hats soon was exhausted, so city officials had to scrounge for any protective headgear they could get, even requesting donations from local organizations that regularly use such equipment.
“We understand this is an imposition, but we have to improvise with the resources we have,” said a sheriff’s major wearing a Columbus Cottonmouths goalie’s helmet.
Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools is waiting for a report by AdvancED, the regional accrediting body, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Chris Griffin was named Chief Magistrate Judge for Whitfield County, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.
The four Superior Court judges announced Monday they had named Magistrate judge Chris Griffin as chief magistrate to fill the unexpired term of Haynes Townsend, who retired effective Sunday. Griffin has been a Magistrate judge since 2009, having been elected to three four-year terms. Prior to becoming a Magistrate judge, Griffin served 16 years in law enforcement as a Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office deputy and as assistant police chief in Tunnel Hill.
Griffin’s appointment as chief magistrate created an opening, and the judges appointed Thomas Lee Phillips II, a captain with the Dalton Police Department, to fill Griffin’s unexpired term as Magistrate judge. Phillips has been with the police department since 1988 and also served 10 years with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
The judges appointed Rodney “Rod” Weaver to fill the unexpired term of Shana Vinyard.
The qualifications to be a Magistrate judge are at least one year of residency in the county, the individual must be at least 25 years old and must have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
More than 14,000 cases came through Magistrate Court in 2018, and a judge is on call 24 hours a day to handle arrest and search warrants for law enforcement. The court handles a variety of cases, including evictions, civil disputes up to $15,000, violations of county ordinances and some misdemeanor crimes. The judges also handle first appearances, hearings in which defendants are informed of the charges against them and can make a plea or be referred to Superior Court, depending on the severity of the charges.
Dalton City Council approved a contract with a new City Attorney, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.
The Glynn Environmental Coalition received two federal grants through the EPA, according to The Brunswick News.
“The Glynn Environmental Coalition has been working on the applications for additional funding for our technical assistance grants for almost nine months,” said Rachael Thompson, GEC executive director. “Our organization receives this funding to assist the public in understanding what actions are being taken toward remediation, help the public participate when public input is requested and provide annual status updates for each Superfund site.
“To put it simply, this funding is specifically to keep our community involved in the remediation process. Public participation is an extremely integral part of the Superfund site cleanup process, and we are grateful to have been awarded additional funding to continue to involve our community.”
The grants for Terry Creek and LCP are for $25,000 each. The money is to hire an independent technical advisor who will review documents and final studies, the proposed plan, record of decision, consent decree, and participate in community and public meetings.
Sammy Strode announced he will run against incumbent Tony Thomas for Savannah Alderman in District 6, according to the Savannah Morning News.