Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 29, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 29, 2019

Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his fourth trip to Georgia on April 29, 1926, closing on the purchase of property at Warm Springs, Ga.

Dachau concentration camp was liberated by American troops on April 29, 1945. At least 31,951 inmates died there, more than 30,000 survivors were found on liberation day, and more than 250,000 passed through the camp and its subcamps.

Dobbins Air Force Base was dedicated on April 29, 1950, named for in honor of the late Capt. Charles M. Dobbins and in memory of the other servicemen from Cobb County. Dobbins was shot down over Sicily in 1943 and his family attended the opening of the base.

Hank Aaron hit his first home run in Atlanta against the Houston Astros on April 29, 1966, providing the winning margin as the Braves won 4-3.

Atlanta was selected as the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics on April 29, 1988.

On April 29, 1993, Barry White guest-starred on The Simpsons. I guess that makes today “Whacking Day.”

A new historical marker in Savannah commemorates Mary Musgrove, who served as an interpreter for James Oglethorpe and helped maintain relations with the Creek Indians.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Department of Public Health is recommending measles vaccinations, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Three Georgians were diagnosed with the illness in January, bringing the total number of cases statewide to six.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious respiratory disease. Health officials say it is particularly dangerous for infants who cannot be immunized until they are at least 12 months old and young children who have only received one dose of measles vaccine.

“Measles can be prevented through vaccination,” said Dr. Cherie Drenzek, chief science officer and state epidemiologist, Georgia Department of Public Health. “Keeping immunization levels high is critical to preventing outbreaks or sustained transmission of measles in Georgia. It also provides herd immunity for those who cannot be vaccinated.”

Health officials say people with symptoms of measles should contact their health care providers immediately but they should not go to doctor’s offices, hospitals or public health clinics without first calling to warn about any symptoms. Health care providers who suspect measles in a patient should notify public health immediately.

Governor Brian Kemp discusses his administration’s first 100 days in the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Amended 2019 Budget invested $69 million in security upgrades at all 2,292 schools in our state. By providing one-time, $30,000 grants, local leaders can determine the most effective way to keep students safe in the classroom.

In addition to upgrading security, the Amended Budget for 2019 doubles funding for mental health services in Georgia schools. These two budget items will ensure a safe and effective learning environment – no matter your ZIP code.

To keep our communities safe, we created a Gang Taskforce within the GBI. Led by gang prosecutor Jaret Usher, this highly specialized team will work with federal, state, and local law enforcement to stop gang violence and dismantle organized criminal networks.

During the 2019 Legislative Session, I was proud to partner with lawmakers to pass the Patients First Act. This legislation paves the way for state leaders to craft innovative flexibility options that help lower healthcare premiums, enhance accessibility, and ensure quality outcomes in every part of our state.

I was also proud to champion a carefully crafted, balanced bill that helps patients with chronic, debilitating diseases to get the medicine they so desperately need. House Bill 324 expands access to low THC oil without opening the door to recreational drug use.

Governor Kemp signed House Bill 387, which will allow volunteer fire departments to place liens on buildings owned by non-subscribers after fighting a fire, according to the Rome News Tribune.

House Bill 387 lets volunteer fire departments place liens against non-subscribers who ask for help but later refuse to cover the cost.

Lumsden, R-Armuchee, said about 25% of the fire departments in Georgia are volunteer. Many are nonprofits offering subscription services where no other protection is available.

“A (Georgia State) Firefighters Association representative contacted me about carrying it since I have a public safety background,” the retired Georgia State Patrol trooper said Sunday.

“It came out of an issue common to many volunteer fire departments across the state but also because of a substantial fire in Chatham County,” Lumsden added.

The featured bill at the signing ceremony was SB 77, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, which provides added protection for monuments within the state.

Former Forsyth Mayor Paul H. Jossey Jr., who served for twelve years, has died, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Former State Representative Joe T. Wood has died, according to the Gainesville Times.

In 1965, Wood started a run of 23 consecutive years serving the people of Hall, Forsyth and Dawson counties in the Georgia House of Representatives.

“He was especially strong at veterans affairs,” Jackson said. “We passed a lot of bills in that area.”

The Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville, Ga. honored Wood by naming one of its buildings after him, which is a 150-bed capacity. He also worked to help secure funding for Gainesville College, Lanier Tech and Interstate 985.

Christopher Tomlinson, Executive Director of the State Road and Tollway Authority and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, said rental scooters could become part of transportation, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“For us, we’re looking at transit and wanting to coordinate with both the public sector and the private sector. (Scooter sharing services) Bird, Lime, (plus) ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft, (and) bikeshares,” Tomlinson said. “These are all parts of the region’s transit solutions.”

House Bill 930, which was signed by then-Gov. Nathan Deal in May, created the 16-member Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, also known as the ATL, a new regional authority that will implement transit projects across 13 metro counties and ensure plans connect efficiently across jurisdictions.

Technology will be a key component the ATL will focus on, Tomlinson said, with the board expected to pursue this year policies and standards dealing with electric scooters, colloquially referred to by some as e-scooters.

Tomlinson’s comments follow the Marietta City Council’s unanimous vote in February to ban shareable dockless scooters, applying to rentable scooters provided by several companies, though residents will still be allowed to ride their own scooters.

Georgia’s United States Senators lauded Medicare rules changes, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, both R-Ga., had high praise for President Donald Trump’s administration Thursday after a proposed rule change regarding Medicare reimbursements was announced.

The rule change would allow rural hospitals in lower income areas receive high Medicare reimbursement payments.

“Too many Georgia hospitals have been forced to close in recent years, and it appears that this rule change is consistent with our efforts,” Isakson said in a statement. “If so, this is a huge victory for Georgians and it will help ensure patients have continued access to emergency and medically necessary care.”

Perdue said, “Improving the wage index will help protect rural hospitals in Georgia from devastating reductions in Medicare payments and ensure the long-term viability of our health care network. This is an important step toward leveling the playing field, and Sen. Isakson deserves a great deal of credit for his efforts on this issue.”

Limited broadband access is affecting agriculture in Georgia, according to the Albany Herald.

“We’re creating all sorts of useful data on machines in the field, but if we don’t have a reliable way to get it off the machines, processed and back into the farmers’ hands, it’s not going to be utilized,” Porter said.

Rep. Buddy Carter of Georgia’s 1st District, Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia’s 8th District and Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr met with members of the UGA Precision Agriculture team and stakeholders from the Georgia Cotton Commission, Georgia Peanut Commission, Georgia Pecan Commission and the Flint River Water District on April 17 on the UGA Tifton campus to discuss the importance of broadband access for the future and sustainability of Georgia agriculture.

Porter and UGA agricultural engineer Glen Rains said tools such as auto-steer technology, variable rate irrigation, in-field controllers, smartphone apps, soil moisture sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles are all critical precision agriculture tools they use in their research for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. These technologies help UGA scientists be more efficient in the field, but many of the state’s producers are restricted by the lack of broadband access or poor-quality broadband service.

“We’re sitting on the cusp of all of this new and innovative technology. Most of our farmers have this technology, but it’s underutilized for that one reason,” Porter said.

“We know that information regarding our crops can change, sometimes hourly,” Porter said. “We know we definitely need daily decisions when we’re looking at it. We need the data uploaded and a decision made within a day, maximum. Sometimes we may want it a little faster if it’s a fast-moving disease. We just don’t want the information to be sitting on a controller or field computer for weeks or seasons at a time. The timeliness is gone. There’s very little use for it anymore.”

Three out of four options for the Columbus Government Center include partial or complete demolition and replacement, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Officials estimate around 300,000 square feet will be needed to replace the complex.

A Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is the most likely source of funding for the project. Henderson said during his State of the City address earlier this year that he would ask council to consider the tax once the Muscogee County School District tax for special projects expires in 2020.

Voters would be asked to approve the tax that can only be utilized for capital projects.

South Georgia towns are seeing increased gang activity, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“Gang activity is located throughout the whole state of Georgia,” [GBI Special Agent in Charge Mark] Pro said. “It’s not just in larger cities. It’s everywhere.”The Georgia Gang Investigators Association tried to fill the void by polling local law enforcement early last year. The group tallied more than 71,000 gang members and associates in Georgia, which is a figure that includes prison inmates.

[Governor Brian]

Kemp often cites the group’s findings – and local news reports – when pledging to “stop and dismantle” criminal street gangs.

“All you have to do is pick up your local paper, turn on the television or talk to your law enforcement in your local community,” Kemp said at a recent press conference. “It is a serious issue in our state – one that we cannot afford to ignore if we hope to be the best state in the nation to live, work, start a business and raise family.”

In Lowndes County, the sheriff’s office reported at least 300 active gang members and associates claiming affiliation to everything from Crips to Ghost Face Gangsters and Aryan Brotherhood, the latter being white supremacist prison gangs.

Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk attributed roughly two-thirds of all local crime to gangs. Auto thefts and break-ins appear to be the most common gang-related offenses, but he said a recent murder was also gang related.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mike Hamby spoke to the Athens Banner-Herald.

What is the internal force that drives you in public service?

Hamby: I think the driving force is how can we have a government that provides the tools. It doesn’t necessarily do the work for people, but provides the tools to make their lives better. We need to make sure there are tools in our toolbox that can help people who live here in Athens achieve what they want to do with their lives. I think that is important. You have to think about what decisions you will be making will impact life for someone 10 years down the road.

What are issues facing this council in coming months?

Hamby: First off the bat is SPLOST 2020. This will be a transitional SPLOST. Affordable housing, not only in Athens, but across the country is an issue facing many cities. We have an opportunity with SPLOST to put $40 million into affordable houses. I looked at some examples. Seattle is putting $75 million in affordable housing. Washington, D.C., I think is spending $60 million and Atlanta around $50 million, so $40 million in Athens will take it a long way.

Another key component is a new judicial center. Out courthouse is over 100 years old. The community has grown and the number of judges we have has grown so we need new space that is safe and accessible.

Some Hall County officials still believe a local reservoir will be needed, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority ratified an extension of the letter of intent for the 850-acre county-owned property at its April meeting. The letter is the same from year to year but needs to be renewed annually.

Permitting work on the reservoir stopped in 2016, after the Georgia Environmental Protection Division said the proposed reservoir was not needed to meet the state’s water supply needs through 2050. Judson Turner, then-EPD director, said in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that revised population projections showed slower growth, so the new reservoir would not be necessary.

“We think when you look out to 2060 and you look at the growth, we definitely think it is going to be justified based on what population growth is going to be,” County Administrator Jock Connell said.

The county is waiting to see what happens with the “water wars” legal dispute between Florida and Georgia, Connell said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Water Control Manual update also could affect the project, he said. The manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin was last updated in 2017, and Corps spokesman Pat Robbins said updates are usually done every five years, depending on funding.

The City of Savannah has issued an RFP to operate Historic Grayson Stadium, where the Savannah Bananas play baseball, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Bananas currently pay the city $20,000 a year in rent, under the existing lease agreement. The new terms in the city’s request for proposals would require the operator to take over field maintenance, which costs the city about $103,000 a year, according to the RFP documents. The operator would also become responsible for providing janitorial services, pest control and paying the stadium’s electric bill. And a $1 surcharge would also be added to the cost of each ticket to help pay for stadium improvements.

In turn, the city would be responsible for capital expenses exceeding $5,000 involving the foundation, structure, roofs, walls, stadium seating, electrical and lighting systems, air conditioners, plumbing, and water heaters.

The city has proposed including $7.5 million for stadium improvements in the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum going before voters this fall. The improvements are unlikely to be included on the final SPLOST list, because of the limited amount of funding and priority being placed by staff and council members on other projects.

The Glynn County Commission will discuss a new animal shelter for Animal Control and a potential 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) vote, according to The Brunswick News.

“We’re going to receive a report on an option that (county) staff has come up with,” said commission Chairman Mike Browning. “They’re looking at every way they can to get it within budget. They came back and said they wanted to present us some options and get direction from the county commission.”

Commissioners set aside $1.5 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 2016 revenue for the shelter, which it plans to build at the county’s public safety complex off the Ga. 25 Spur.

The subject of another penny sales tax first came up in public discussion at a county commission planning retreat in March. Commissioner Mike Browning said most commissioners were “receptive” to putting it on the ballot in the 2020 general presidential election.

Citizens voted to approve SPLOST 2016 during the 2016 general election. It will run for four-and-a-half years, ending in September 2020 or when $71,595,000 in revenue has been collected.

When interviewed in March, most commissioners were in favor of imposing the next SPLOST for the maximum duration, six years.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will host an open house to discuss improvements on the Tybee Island Causeway, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Project recorded the first nesting site of the season, according to the Savannah Morning News.

For the sixth straight year, the first nest was found on Cumberland Island National Seashore. Georgia Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Mark Dodd said the state’s southernmost barrier island has plenty of beach-nesting habitat, a number of female loggerheads that tend to nest there and a particularly dedicated Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative member, wildlife biologist Doug Hoffman of the National Park Service.

But Cumberland is just the start. Loggerheads, Georgia’s leading marine turtle and a protected species, nest on all barrier islands in the state. The season will hit full stride by June.

Loggerheads are already on track for recovery in Georgia. Gains in nesting for the big turtles named for their chunky heads are averaging 3 percent a year. Nesting in Florida and the Carolinas is also increasing.

While laying 1,735 nests in 2018, loggerheads had 2,155 nests in the state in 2017 and a record 3,289 the year before, when they topped for the first time a Georgia recovery benchmark of 2,800 nests.

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