Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 4, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 4, 2019

On June 4, 1785, James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia, met with John Adams, the first ambassador from the new United States to Great Britain.

On June 4, 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to always be right vote. In August 1920, enough states had ratified the 19th Amendment that it took effect.

The Battle of Midway began on June 4, 1942. During the battle, four Japanese aircraft carriers that had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor and one cruiser were sunk at the cost of one American carrier and one destroyer.

Today is the 30th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, China.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Roll Call reports that Georgia State Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) is expected to announce a campaign for Seventh District Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Rob Woodall.

State Sen. Renee Unterman is expected to announce Thursday her campaign for the Republican nomination in Georgia’s 7th District, a demographically changing seat outside Atlanta that had the closest margin of any House race in the country last year.

Democrats are hoping they can put Georgia in play at the presidential level, seriously contest the Senate race and finally flip the 7th District, which they came within 433 votes of winning last fall. Republicans are trying to win back the neighboring 6th District, which they spent millions of dollars defending in a high-profile special election in 2017, only to narrowly lose it a year later.

lthough she threatened to switch parties earlier this year after losing a committee chairmanship in the state Senate, Unterman’s entrance into the GOP contest could push her to the front of the pack given that she already has a constituency in the Legislature. Her sponsorship of the law that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected will likely endear her to GOP primary voters.

Deloitte Consulting has been chosen to develop Georgia’s federal healthcare waiver applications, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp and the Department of Community Health (DCH) announced Deloitte will work with state officials to develop federal healthcare waivers for Georgia’s Medicaid program and private health insurance marketplace based on the Patients First Act.

“As Governor, I am committed to tackling the healthcare challenges facing our state. Georgians need better options – reduced costs, enhanced access, and improved quality of care – as soon as possible,” said Governor Kemp. “Through the Patients First Act, we are now one step closer to reaching these objectives in every corner of Georgia. Deloitte offers unmatched experience in developing innovative solutions for complex healthcare issues. Working with our federal counterparts, the Department of Community Health, and Deloitte’s team, I look forward to crafting a Georgia-centric healthcare system that puts patients first.”

“The Department is eager to roll up our sleeves and get to work, and we are excited to utilize Deloitte’s experience and results in this arena to support our team and stakeholders in the coming months,” said Frank W. Berry, DCH Commissioner. “The Patients First Act is about affordable, accessible, high-quality health care for Georgians across our state. Today’s important announcement – and the work that has gone into making it happen – has laid a strong foundation upon which to build options for Governor Kemp to consider.”

In the Amended FY 2019 Budget, the Legislature allocated $2.6 million in funding for healthcare waiver consulting services. At $1.92 million, Deloitte’s proposal is under budget, and state officials expect to submit the 1115 Medicaid and 1332 State Innovation Waivers to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the U.S. Department of Treasury by December 31, 2019.

Congress has passed disaster relief for Puerto Rico and for Georgia farmers affected by Hurricane Michael, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The House of Representatives passed a multi-billion dollar disaster relief bill Monday, sending the measure to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature. The vote was 354-58.

The President had previously said that he supports the legislation, which will bring much-needed relief to Americans affected by hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other disasters. But despite the green light from the President, a handful of House Republicans held up passage of the measure last week after the Senate passed the bill.

At the end of May, a deal was finally struck between Democrats and Republicans to pass a $19.1 billion bill without funding for the border that the President had sought. The measure passed in the Senate by a vote of 85-8, and the President later tweeted to say it had passed “with my total approval.”

But the lengthy negotiations over the bill underscore how even a priority that typically receives broad bipartisan support — aid to rebuild after natural disaster — has become subject to partisan infighting in Congress, raising questions over how lawmakers will manage to work together in upcoming spending fights that loom on the horizon.

From the AJC:

“Today, Congress finally put hardworking Americans first by advancing the disaster relief package,” said Gov. Brian Kemp, who is planning to soon visit with South Georgia farmers who were hit by the storm in October. “I applaud President Trump for his support and the Georgia delegation for their tireless efforts. Together, we will rebuild South Georgia and keep our great state moving in the right direction.”

The partisan bickering that preceded the House vote — over a problem everyone agreed urgently needed to be fixed — portends just how difficult it will be for Congress and the administration to get anything of substance done in the lead-up to the 2020 elections. Until a few years ago, emergency assistance bills for natural disaster victims were considered essentially nonpartisan.

“I am so pleased that we could come together to help our farmers recover after Hurricane Michael,” said U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville. “Going forward, Congress needs to put politics aside and work together on bipartisan solutions that will help communities that need it the most.”

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) says the disaster relief package will help blueberry farmers, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-District 1) said in a statement released late Monday that, among other disasters, the aid will assist Georgia blueberry growers who were devastated by unusually harsh weather in 2017. Georgia was expected to produce around 90 million pounds of blueberries, but was drastically reduced to 30 million because of the record-setting freeze combined with warm winter weather, he said.

In 2018, blueberry growers faced another freeze and another year of significant losses, he said. This legislation will provide the assistance needed to recover from the devastating losses due to harsh weather in both 2017 and 2018.

“I am thrilled this assistance is finally on the way,” said Carter. “For too long, real Americans, real Georgians have been suffering because Congress failed to deliver this desperately needed relief. Blueberries are a $1 billion industry for Georgia, and the backbone of many of our rural communities. The loss of this crop isn’t only devastating for the growers, but entire local economies. It has taken months of negotiations, but help will be there soon.”

The legislation includes more than $3 billion for emergency assistance for hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, freezes and other severe weather. This funding specifically includes the Georgia blueberries which were damaged by the devastating freezes in 2017 and 2018. It also includes funding for areas of Georgia hit by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

Former President Jimmy Carter has been awarded tenure on the faculty at Emory University, according to AccessWDUN.

Carter earned the distinction after serving as University Distinguished Professor for the past 37 years, the university announced Monday.

He’ll be the first tenured faculty member at Emory to hold a Nobel Prize and the first to have served as U.S. president.

Elaine Justice, Emory’s director of media relations, said Carter lectures about once a month in subjects ranging from religion and public health to political science and history. Any Emory professor can request that Carter address their class, Justice said. He also holds yearly town hall sessions where first-year students get the opportunity to hear him speak and ask questions.

Carter joined the university as a professor in 1982, just over a year after leaving the White House. Also in 1982, Carter partnered with Emory to launch The Carter Center, a nongovernmental organization focused on global human rights issues, an affiliation that continues today.

Emory President Claire E. Sterk said of Carter: “Across nearly four decades, he has given Emory the full measure of what it means to be a public intellectual and an engaged faculty member. He has viewed teaching as a revered calling — the same humble approach he has brought to every undertaking, large and small, across a lifetime.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams will go to Hollywood to continue playing Governor of Georgia meet with film industry executives, according to the AJC.

The Democrat is scheduled to meet with Hollywood figures on June 11 in Los Angeles along with Ilyse Hogue, the president of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, according to an invitation obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The invite, distributed by former CBS chairwoman Nina Tassler, sets up a session to address the “reality that employees in the state may not have full access to healthcare or the freedom to make decisions about their futures and their families.”

“Many of us have projects in the state. I know it’s complicated,” wrote Tassler. “There’s lots of money and jobs at stake – for us and for the people of Georgia. That’s why Ilyse Hoge and Stacey Abrams want to meet with us.”

Abrams and her allies have pushed a “#StayAndFight” movement that encourages Hollywood leaders to donate to candidates and groups challenging the law instead of boycotting the state. The industry employs more than 90,000 people in businesses that range from set design to catering.

Abrams told The Los Angeles Times that the fallout “puts us in a unique position to fight back — not only against the legislation here but the legislation around the country — and to fund the defeat of these politicians and their horrible behavior.”

Georgia’s population could be undercounted in the next census if a citizenship question is included, according to the AJC.

The possible inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 census, the national debate over immigration and other factors could cause an undercount of Georgia’s population by as many as 177,000 people, or nearly 2%, according to a report released Tuesday.

Georgia ranks fifth among states for the highest possible undercount in percentage terms, with blacks, Hispanics and children under 5 years of age at the biggest risk, according to the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank whose report was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Trump administration has argued introducing the citizenship question would help it better track demographics and enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“The American people deserve to know who is in this Country,” President Donald Trump tweeted in April.

Georgia Democrats will attempt to flip control of the State House through a new “Georgia House Majority Project,” according to the AJC.

The Georgia House Majority Project will zero in on the most vulnerable GOP incumbents by peppering their districts with digital ads, direct mail and voter outreach starting later this year, according to a press release.

The group’s finance director is Bobby Kaple, a former newscaster who ran unsuccessfully for Georgia’s 6th District last year. He said the organization has lined up a campaign team that includes veterans of President Barack Obama’s campaign.

The organization is a type of “independent expenditure group” that is legally barred from coordinating with political campaigns but can still spend money promoting candidates and attacking their rivals.

Democrats sense an opportunity to turn the tables on nearly two decades of Republican rule. The party flipped about a dozen seats in the Georgia Legislature in November, mostly in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, leaving the GOP with a 105-75 advantage in the chamber.

Democrats are now circling 15 House seats where Republicans won by less than 55 percent that includes the Acworth-based district of state Rep. Ed Setzler, the GOP sponsor of the new abortion restrictions, which outlaw the procedure as early as six weeks.

Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene has declared her candidacy for the Seventh Sixth Congressional District, according to the AJC.

The political newbie is hoping her private sector experience and message of fiscal responsibility will resonate in a primary that already includes former Congresswoman Karen Handel and a state senator.

Greene is the owner of Taylor Commercial, a commercial construction company started by her father five decades ago. She bought him out in 2002 and now renovates apartments, townhomes and commercial buildings in 11 states.

Greene said overhauling the country’s finances would be her top priority in Congress. She pledged to rein in government spending, balance the federal budget and support the Fair Tax, a proposal that would replace federal personal and corporate income taxes with a national retail sales tax.

“If we look at our country as our household, we’re going to go under foreclosure because we’re overspending. I look at it that way as a business owner and then I also look at it as a mom,” said Greene in an interview. “This is where we have to dial in, and it takes people like me to step into it to solve these problems.”

Former State Senator Michael Meyer von Bremen took the oath of office as Dougherty County Magistrate Judge, according to the Albany Herald.

Meyer von Bremen, who is leaving his position as managing partner in the Albany office of law firm Hall Booth Smith P.C., will take over his duties on the bench on June 10. He was sworn in by Dougherty County Probate Court Judge Nancy Stephenson with his wife Peggy by his side.

“I’m looking forward to following the law and treating people fairly when they come into court,” he said during an interview following the Monday morning ceremony at the Dougherty County Judicial Building.

Meyer von Bremen is replacing retired Magistrate Court Judge John F. Salter, who also served as Dougherty County State Court judge before being appointed magistrate judge in 2012. Meyer von Bremen was appointed to the position by State Court Judge John Stephenson in late April.

The City of Savannah has created an online platform for receiving public comments, according to the Savannah Morning News.

[T]he city has launched, Speak Up, Savannah!, an online site where residents can learn about and comment on projects.

The site, at SpeakUpSavannah.com, gives residents a voice in decisions that impact the community.

Nick Zoller, the city’s new communication director, said the site not only offers residents a place to relay their concerns, residents can also converse with project managers on specific topics.

“The relationships and information sharing that Speak Up, Savannah! encourages will help us to continue moving our community forward,” Zoller said. “Digital engagement platforms like this one truly provide a direct link between the city and those who we serve.”

The Gainesville Times Editorial Board opines that politicians found guilty of crimes should receive harsh sentences.

Former gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams last week accepted a plea deal under the state’s First Offender Act that will see him serve four years on probation for insurance fraud and lying to investigators, after which his criminal record will be expunged and he will be exonerated as far as the state’s judicial system is concerned.

It’s hard to see that as justice being served.

Williams’ total sentence under his First Offender plea is four years of probation, a fine of $5,000, and 120 hours of community service. Somehow we don’t think that $5,000 fine will come close to offsetting the expense of law enforcement officials investigating for months a crime supposedly committed against someone who was running for governor.

Georgia’s First Offender Act was not meant for hypocrites like Michael Williams, but having reached an agreement with the district attorney and judge, he is able to take advantage of the law.

Not everyone is eligible for sentencing under the FOA. The law exempts from its application those accused of a variety of crimes, ranging from sexual offenses to elder abuse and assaulting a law enforcement officer.

We would like to see those exemptions expanded to include those who commit serious crimes while serving in public office. At the time of his false report of a crime, Williams was a member of the Georgia Senate, having served a Forsyth County district for two terms before deciding to run for governor.

The Dalton Daily Citizen Editorial Board wants to encourage candidates for an open seat on the Whitfield County Board of Education after the death of Thomas Barton.

Applications and nominations are being accepted to fill Barton’s unexpired term as the District 1 school board representative, which encompasses parts of southeastern Whitfield County. Per the state Constitution, a Whitfield County grand jury is required to appoint a member to the school board to serve out the remaining term for District 1, which ends Dec. 31, 2020.

The Whitfield County District Attorney’s Office is handling the application process. The application deadline is Friday, June 21, at 5 p.m. The grand jury is expected to interview applicants the week of June 24.

Serving on a school board is often a thankless job that opens members up to criticism, but it’s a vital job nonetheless. We encourage those who are civic-minded and reside in District 1 to offer themselves for public service.

The Muscogee County Board of Education voted for a $17 million dollar contract for Special Education services, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

During a called meeting Monday evening, the board voted 8-0-1 in favor of spending $17 million over three years for a continuum of services provded by ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education of Nashville, Tennessee, a proposal the Ledger-Enquirer first reported on in February.

District 3 representative Vanessa Jackson abstained, so the approval wasn’t unanimous, but the contrast still was stark.

Bibb County and Houston County Public Schools will offer free breakfast, lunch, and snacks for students over the summer break at nearly 100 locations, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Glynn County Planning Commissions are considering changes to their bylaws, according to The Brunswick News.

The Gainesville City Board of Education held a public comment meeting and no one commented, according to the Gainesville Times.

No community members spoke on Gainesville City Schools’ proposed budget at a hearing on Monday.

The proposed millage rate is 6.614, a full rollback from 6.85 to make up for increases in assessed property values.

After receiving the city’s final tax digest, the originally proposed rollback rate of 6.612 mills was adjusted to 6.614 mills, Superintendent Jeremy Williams said Monday. That cuts about $140,000 from the revenue that had been projected, but Williams said expenditures did not have to be adjusted. Reserve funds could be used to make up the difference, he said.

There will be another hearing on June 17, when the board will cast the final vote.

Statesboro City Council will consider a resolution to create a Creek District Oversight Committee, according to the Statesboro Herald.

In February when the council agreed to have the city take over financial responsibility for the Creek on the Blue Mile project, assuming a role initially filled by the Development Authority of Bulloch County, the “assumption” agreement called for an oversight committee. Funding sources now assigned to the city include a 30-year, low-interest line of credit for up to $15.5 million from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and a state direct investment, like a grant, of $5.5 million.

Bacon County Sheriff Mark Cothren was charged with elder abuse, battery, and violating the oath of office, according to AccessWDUN.

Nonstop flights from Augusta Regional Airport to Washington, DC will resume in January, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Beginning Jan. 7, there will be one flight a day from and to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., on American Airlines.

“This is big,” said Herbert Judon Jr., the airport’s executive director. “Washington, D.C., that capitol region is the No. 1 destination to and from the Augusta market.”

That includes people from the military and Fort Gordon, the cyber communities as well as the private sector, he said. This will allow them to take a fairly short direct flight as opposed to having to fly to a hub airport and grab a connecting flight, Judon said.

The Dougherty County Commission began considering a $69 million dollar budget for FY 2020, according to the Albany Herald.

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