Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 25, 2019

25
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 25, 2019

James Oglethorpe won reelection to the British Parliament while in America on April 25, 1734.

The United States declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898.

On April 25, 1996, Georgia Governor Zell Miller signed Senate Bill 519 designating English the official language of Georgia.

Click here for the text of the bill.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump spoke in Atlanta yesterday, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Trump on Wednesday provided an update of sorts, including progress in creating and bolstering several federal initiatives to combat the crisis.

There were a record-breaking 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017 and opioids were involved in 67.8% of them, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But these deaths may be on the decline. Complete data has yet to be released, but provisional data from the CDC show an overall 3.2% decline in overdose deaths from September 2017 through September 2018.

He promoted his administration’s border security efforts as part of the solution to the crisis and praised China’s recent decision to schedule fentanyl. Trump also claimed that opioid prescriptions have gone by more than a third since he took office.

“Already during my time in office, we have reduced the total number of opioids prescribed by 34%. That’s a pretty amazing number,” he said.

And at the Justice Department, Attorney General Bill Barr plans to move forward from delivering the Mueller report to Congress by focusing on matters he deems more pressing, including the opioid crisis, a source close to Barr told CNN.

During his speech in Atlanta, the President bolstered his administration’s border security efforts, including a southern border wall, as a great deterrent to drug smuggling — attempting to connect the issue to opioids.

Trump said Customs and Border Protection seizures of meth and cocaine and heroin and fentanyl at the southern border are up 45% in the last two years.

“They’re going up much higher. We are seizing it all over. You probably saw the numbers today. We are detaining, capturing, call it anything you want, more people than ever before,” Trump said.

From WSB-TV:

The president also said he expects to carry the state when he runs for reelection next year.

“I love the state, and I guess they like me, because I’ve done well from the beginning,” Trump told Elliot.

Trump won Georgia in 2016.

“I think it’s in play only for us in the upcoming election, to be honest with you. I know, (Sen.) David Perdue is going to be running, and I’m running, and we’re going to do very well,” Trump said.

Elliot also asked the president about the delay in federal aid for South Georgia farmers still suffering seven months after Hurricane Michael.

Trump blamed congressional Democrats.

“A lot of that money goes to farmers, and that’s what we’re doing, and David Perdue is working very hard, and I’m working very hard, but they’re trying to hold us up, but it’s not appropriate,” Trump said.

From the AJC:

“I made a very strong statement about the border and I was criticized. They said, ‘It’s not that bad.’ Well, let me tell you that statement was peanuts compared to reality,” said Trump, who was introduced at the Atlanta summit by First Lady Melania Trump. “But we are confronting reality and confronting the grave security and humanitarian crisis on our southern border.”

Moments later, the president vented about Democratic opposition to his immigration policies.

“Congress must also act to fix, however, our horrible, obsolete, weak, pathetic immigration laws,” he said. “We could solve the entire problem – I say 45 minutes, but it could go a lot quicker than that, let’s bring it down to 15 minutes – if the Democrats would agree to do certain basic commonsense things with respect to our laws.”

Trump got backup from the state’s Republican hierarchy, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who both greeted him at Hartsfield-Jackson as Air Force One touched down. Several members of Georgia’s congressional delegation praised Trump’s initiative.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson noted the crisis has “touched so many families, including my own.” He added: “Georgia and states across the country, along with our medical community and first responders, now have better tools to fight this epidemic to help more Georgians and Americans.”

By midafternoon, roughly two hours after arriving in Atlanta, Trump was aboard Air Force One again.

From Georgia Public Broadcasting:

During his keynote address, Trump highlighted the initiatives fronted by his administration, including increased funding, drug take-back programs, increased access to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone and supporting faith-based recovery initiatives.

His remarks were punctuated when he asked State Director of Faith-Based Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Monty Burks to join him on stage. The president introduced Burks as a former addict who was ushered into recovery “when two women of prayer from his hometown church helped him get onto a path of recovery.”

The president went on to say that critical to combating the opioid crisis, “is my strong support for faith-based initiatives. America is a nation that believes in the power of prayer and strength of fellowship and we believe in the grace of God.”

In Georgia, government agencies such as the Department of Public Health and the Department of Corrections offer faith-based support programs to help connect community members with resources.

Over the past two decades, researches have become more invested into evaluating the success of faith-based programs with respect to health outcomes. Some studies have reflected the positive impacts that initiatives organized around religious institutions can have.

The promotion of faith-based programs and initiatives is just one facet of the Trump administration’s comprehensive approach to combating the opioid crisis in America. During his speech, Trump also touted the increased funding for medication-assisted treatment programs and targeting ports of entry to stop the influx of illegal drugs from other countries.

From the Associated Press:

The first lady spoke briefly about her visits to hospitals and treatment centers and her meetings with doctors and nurses as part of her own campaign to highlight the “terrible toll the opioid epidemic is having on children and young mothers.”

“My husband is here today because he cares deeply about what you’re doing to help the millions of Americans affected by the opioid epidemic,” she said.

Governor Brian Kemp embarked on a statewide tour celebrating his first 100 days in office, according to 11Alive.

Kemp highlighted what he called a “historic increase” in pay for grade school teachers across the state, a larger investment in mental health services for students and school security, new solutions for Georgia’s healthcare system, along with new overall efforts aimed at safety for communities statewide.

“Working with the General Assembly, we have allocated millions in relief efforts for Georgians still reeling from Hurricane Michael. Republicans and Democrats came together to overwhelmingly pass budgets that fund our priorities while keeping our state’s fiscal house in order,” the governor said.

“By launching the Georgians First Commission, we will make Georgia the top state in the nation for small business. Job growth in our state is beating national trends and companies around the world have Georgia on their mind,” Kemp said. “We have a lot to celebrate after the first 100 days of my first term, but we are just getting started. Together, the next 100 days will build on these successes and keep Georgia moving in the right direction.”

From the AJC:

At Wednesday’s event and other public appearances, the governor has characterized his support for House Bill 481 as a fulfillment of campaign promises, and he said he’s not worried about repercussions from opponents who warn of economic and political payback.

The legislative session will also be remembered for what didn’t pass, most notably a transportation measure that would have given the state more oversight of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, cleared the way for new rural mobility initiatives and expanded a jet-fuel tax break that would primarily benefit Delta Air Lines.

While he stayed publicly neutral on the airport takeover measure, Kemp recently revealed he opposed the changes. But he remains miffed the aviation tax break, which he personally jockeyed for during the final day of the session, didn’t win approval.

“I had a plan that Delta supported that was going to be good for them on the jet-fuel tax and would have provided much-needed funding for rural airports,” he said. “Some in the Legislature, for whatever reason — and I’m still kind of baffled — didn’t agree with that. But we’re committed to working on that.”

Governor Kemp visited Macon on his statewide tour, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Gov. Brian Kemp met with Middle Georgia school district leaders for an education roundtable as part of a statewide tour marking his first 100 days in office.

The governor and school officials discussed a range of topics that included teacher morale, pay raises and dual enrollment programs during Wednesday’s meeting at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport.

One of the highlights of Kemp’s first few months in office was backing a $3,000 pay raise for teachers that state legislators approved. On Tuesday, the Bibb County school board approved a 2 percent bonus for full-time employees.

Kemp said the pay raise is a good start but more can be done to improve teacher morale and retain them for the long-term.

“We have to show a commitment for a number of years to led educators know that we appreciate them,” Kemp said.

 From 13-WMAZ:

He held an open table talk at Middle Georgia Regional Airport with more than two dozen Central Georgia educators to hear their thoughts and questions on initiatives.

Kemp talked about his work to increase teacher pay, increase mental health programs and security in schools, and school testing.

“I feel like as long as people are having that dialogue and they know that we’re listening and trying to do what we can I don’t think they’re expecting a miracle from us, they just want us to be at the table and try to help with the issues they’re facing every day,” said Kemp.

House Bill 53 could impact recess for students in Savannah-Chatham County public schools, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The bill, which the Georgia House sent April 4 to Gov. Brian Kemp, mandates 30 minutes of daily activity or unstructured time for kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary students except in certain circumstances, while the Savannah-Chatham County’s more generous policy mandates 30 minutes of recess for pre-K to fifth-grade students except on certain occasions.

Kurt Hetager, chief public affairs and administrative services officer, said legislators in Atlanta grappled with some of the same issues the Savannah-Chatham County school board did as they discussed House Bill 83, such as how far the lawmakers want to dig down into the details to dictate how schools determine when recess is provided.

Savannah-Chatham County board members and the Wellness Committee discussed the language of the policy last year, especially the difference between the word “recess” and “unstructured break time.” The board purposely used the word “recess” in its policy. The Savannah-Chatham County policy does allow for teachers to withhold recess on occasion for academic reasons, but allows parents to request their children’s recess not be withheld for this purpose.

Savannah-Chatham County’s policy requires principals provide at least 30 minutes of recess each school day for students in pre-K through grade five. It also strongly encourages a “regularly scheduled, supervised recess period” for students in grades six to eight but leaves it at the principal’s discretion.

For students in grades six to eight, local boards of education are tasked with writing policies for who in the district will be authorized to determine when, where and for how long recess is provided, if at all. The local policy also should cover whether unstructured breaks can be withheld for disciplinary, academic or other reasons.

“When the dust settles on this bill, we’ll modify as appropriate,” Hetager said.

The Glynn County Board of Education is working on its FY 2020 budget, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Board of Education met Wednesday to hold one of its first in-depth discussions of the upcoming year’s school system budget. The school board will vote in July to approve the budget and will hold two public hearings beforehand.

Total expenditures for fiscal year 2020 are estimated to be $139,469,700, which is about a 5 percent increase from fiscal year 2019’s budget.

Estimated total revenue for fiscal year 2020 is $136,138,600.

Additional funding from the state budget will come in this year to cover salary raises that Gov. Brian Kemp promised to provide to the state’s teachers and other staff.

The state budget included funds to help cover a $3,000 increase in the state salary scale for certified employees. All other staff will receive a 2 percent pay increase.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is predicting a good sea turtle nesting season this year, according to The Brunswick News.

Mark Dodd, head of the state Department of Natural Resources’ sea turtle program, displayed a graph showing an upward trajectory over a significant number of years. While nesting goes in cycles, the last couple years have been above average. Even last year’s number of 1,735 nests, which was below 2017’s 2,187, was above what it could have been.

As it stands, nesting’s growing at around 2.5-3 percent annually.

The pattern tends to indicate this will be a significantly bigger year than last, and some of the people participating in the cooperative meeting pegged it at a record year. Not so much more than 2,500 nests statewide, but topping 3,000.

There were 3,291 nests recorded in 2016, according to seaturtle.org, an online database of sea turtle nesting statistics.

Cave Spring City Council aims to vote on a rewrite of their alcohol ordinance before July, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“We’d like to have it done within 60 days,” Mayor Pro Tem Tom Lindsey said following a Tuesday night work session on a proposed draft.

City Attorney Frank Beacham is using Rome’s ordinance as a template. He’s also incorporating elements that council members like in other Georgia cities such as Ball Ground, Kennesaw, Dahlonega and Acworth. The work session focused on tailoring the changes to Cave Spring — as it exists and as they’d like to see it develop.

“Cave Spring is not like Rome,” Council member Nellie McCain said during a discussion of how close to homes, schools and parks that package stores may be located.

Plans are to meet at least one more time — perhaps two — to vet the draft ordinance, with Beacham making changes as required. A May 7 session is expected to focus on rules for on-premises consumption.

Council members also are discussing the possibility of visiting some of the nearby downtown districts to see how their provisions work in practice.

Doesn’t that last part sound a little like a pub crawl?

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