Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 10, 2019

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Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 10, 2019

Bridget Bishop was the first person hanged after being convicted of practicing witchcraft in the Salem witch trials on June 10, 1692.

On June 10, 1793, Washington, DC officially replaced Philadelphia as the Capital of the United States. To honor Washington, today we will adopt a smugly superior attitude, name-drop constantly, and speak condescendingly to those who currently live in the states we used to live in.

Rebecca Latimer Felton was born on June 10, 1835 in Decatur, Georgia and later became the first woman to serve in the United States Senate after being appointed by Governor Thomas Hardwick to fill a vacancy in 1922.

The United States Naval Academy graduated its first class on June 10, 1854.

The Girl Scouts of America were incorporated in Washington, DC on June 10, 1915.

The Republican National Convention in Cleveland became the first political convention broadcast on the radio on June 10, 1924.

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on June 10, 1935.

President John F. Kennedy signed the 1963 Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963.

I AM delighted today to approve the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages. This act represents many years of effort by labor, management, and several private organizations unassociated with labor or management, to call attention to the unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job. This measure adds to our laws another structure basic to democracy. It will add protection at the working place to the women, the same rights at the working place in a sense that they have enjoyed at the polling place.

While much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity–for the average woman worker earns only 60 percent of the average wage for men–this legislation is a significant step forward.

Apple Computer shipped the first Apple II computers on June 10, 1977.

Coca-Cola introduced Classic Coke on June 10, 1985.

Ray Charles, who was born in Albany, Georgia died on June 10, 2004.

Those of you who attended the 2003 Inaugural of Governor Sonny Perdue will remember that Ray Charles played that night.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State tax collections for May are up slightly against the previous May, according to the Albany Herald.

Georgia’s May net tax collections totaled almost $1.76 billion for an increase of just over $1 million, or 0.1 percent, compared to May 2018. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled $21.67 billion for an increase of $940.7 million, or 4.5 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year when net tax revenues totaled nearly $20.73 billion.

Georgia state healthcare programs covered 20,000 fewer children in 2018 than the year before, according to the Gainesville Times.

In Georgia alone, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which in Georgia is called PeachCare for Kids, covered 20,000 fewer children at the end of 2018 than the year before, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

“That 1.6 percent drop is less than an overall 2.2 percent decline in enrollment nationally,” the report states.

Nationwide, about 828,000 fewer children were enrolled in Medicaid last year, with declines in 38 states.

“While enrollment growth slows during periods of economic growth, it is uncommon for there to be an actual decline in enrollment,” the report states. “The decline in children’s enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP reinforces serious concerns that this alarming trend could continue—and perhaps even worsen.”

Former President Jimmy Carter has returned to teaching Sunday School after a broken hip, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter talked about his recent health setback and his conversation with President Donald Trump, as he returned to teaching Sunday school in Georgia for the first time since breaking his hip.

Carter told people gathered at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains that he and his wife, Rosalynn, have nursing care at home and are doing fine. He thanked those present for their prayers and good wishes.

“The main purpose of his call was to say very frankly to me on a private line that the Chinese were getting way ahead of the United States in many ways,” Carter said.

He said he told Trump the U.S. has been in constant war for years, spending trillions of dollars, while China has invested in projects such as high speed rail that benefit its people.

In March, Carter became the longest-living chief executive in U.S. history, exceeding the lifespan of former President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30 at the age of 94 years, 171 days.

U.S. Representative Lucy McBath (D-TN) held a Town Hall meeting, according to the AJC.

McBath, D-Marietta, is among the mass of House Democrats not openly agitating for an impeachment inquiry into the president. But even before a friendly crowd packed with supporters, the first-term congresswoman representing Georgia’s 6th District felt the pressure.

In fact, the second question of the event advocated opening impeachment proceedings against the president. Marietta resident Lori Goldstrom, who described herself as one of McBath’s early backers, said she was “concerned” she had not spoken out in support of impeachment.

“It’s really troubling, all these children who are dying at the border,” she said. “The House has a job to do and you need to have a hearing.”

“Looking at the Mueller Report, there is no doubt in our mind that there has been obstructive behavior in concealing the truth,” she said. But McBath urged patience and switched the emphasis to enforcing House subpoenas issued to current and former administration officials.

McBath tacked toward the Democratic middle throughout the hourlong appearance. Again and again, she stressed the need to find bipartisan solutions to national problems on health care, climate and infrastructure.

“I’m going to continue to reach across the aisle each and every day,” she said. “My goal is to be the Georgia congresswoman who has passed (the most) bipartisan legislation.”

A prosecution against State Senator Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) has been dropped, according to the AJC.

Capitol Police arrested state Sen. Nikema Williams, an Atlanta Democrat, on Nov. 13 along with 14 metro area residents during a protest in the days following last year’s closely contested gubernatorial election.

Williams’ attorney, David Dreyer, a Democratic state representative from Atlanta, called the arrest an “affront to the First Amendment.”

“The charges should have never been brought in the first place, and she never should have been arrested,” he said.

Williams, who also is the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, was charged with obstruction and disrupting the General Assembly. The other 14 protesters were charged with disrupting the General Assembly.

In a court filing, Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan said that while there was probable cause for Williams’ arrest, his office decided not to prosecute her.

“While the Capitol Police were professional and correctly did their job, we must also balance the need for public safety in such an important public forum with the inviolable right to free speech and protest, especially of the government,” Morgan wrote in the dismissal. “Our decision here does not reflect condemnation of that arrest decision; this decision is a choice to let the arrest itself serve as punishment for the crime.”

A Joint Commission of the State House and Senate will consider freight movement and logistics challenges, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Georgia Legislature will take up the matter of truck traffic with a joint House-Senate Commission this summer, seeing both an issue to be solved and economic development opportunities. The Georgia Freight and Logistics Commission will “find ways to move freight more efficiently throughout Georgia spurring economic growth and job creation.” per the press release announcing the house speaker’s and lieutenant governor’s appointments to the group.

The group includes three state senators and three representatives, six members from the logistics industry, and four representative members from local governments. Representatives from the Georgia Municipal Association, Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia and Metro Atlanta Chambers of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Ports Authority will serve in an ex-officio (non-voting) capacity.

Without trying to over-simplify their work, the study will be a matrix of alternatives. Reducing truck traffic likely means increasing the amount of freight shipped by rail. Every box car or container on a train represents a truck not on Georgia’s roads.

In addition, Atlanta’s traffic problem is one that many other Georgia communities see as an opportunity. Upgrading the state’s highways with routes suitable for large trucks that bypass metro Atlanta would alleviate some traffic issues while opening the door for smaller, rural communities to attract their share of employers in the logistics field.

Wes Wolfe of The Brunswick News looks at the fallout for the film industry from Georgia’s passage of the Heartbeat Bill.

It’s possible to look at what’s happened in another Southern state. Film and TV work prospered in North Carolina, but a significant faction of the Republican majority in the North Carolina General Assembly became hostile to the industry it saw as opposed to its social conservatism, and killed the state’s incentive program in 2014, turning it into a grant program, which led to a large reduction in projects based in the state.

On top of that was the fiasco around H.B. 2 in 2016, viewed by detractors as punitively discriminatory against transgender people. During the year H.B. 2 was law in the state, the Associated Press estimates North Carolina lost $3.76 billion in business — $196 million of that from canceled entertainment and sports projects.

A study by the North Carolina Fiscal Research Division concluded, though, it’s hard to tell the impact of small events, like H.B. 2, in larger economic trends in a populous and economically diverse state like North Carolina.

The difference between this controversy and what went down in North Carolina over a period of three or four years, though, is the Georgia legislature is much more supportive of the entertainment industry, and those blockbuster incentives aren’t going anywhere.

State film staff and legislators alike celebrated the 2008 law that revolutionized film and TV investment in Georgia. That law provided a flat 20 percent tax credit on qualified production expenditures and another 10 percent in addition if the production used a Georgia promotional logo, like the “made in Georgia” sequence at the end of an episode.

Georgia was the No. 1 filming location in the world last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

A former landfill site on Jekyll Island now hosts a solar array, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Built on the site of a former construction landfill near the middle of the island, the 1 megawatt facility is expected to produce enough power to supply the energy consumption of more than 100 average homes.

Radiance Solar built the $1.5 million array, which is owned by Atlanta-based Cherry Street Energy. Cherry Street will sell the electricity to Georgia Power under its Renewable Energy Development Initiative, which seeks to increase the utility’s procurement of renewable energy.

“It’s our understanding that it’s one of the largest (solar arrays) on state-owned property,” said Cherry Street Energy CEO Michael Chanin. “I don’t know of a larger one.”

It’s one of two former landfill sites in coastal Georgia that have been been converted for use as solar farms. The other sits at the entrance to Dulany Industries’ multi-use industrial complex called SeaPoint on East President Street in Savannah.

The Jekyll solar farm and the one at SeaPoint are similarly sized. They both sell their electricity to Georgia Power, which distributes it via the grid. Unlike at Jekyll, Dulany Industries owns both the land and the solar arrays. At Jekyll, the state of Georgia owns the land, which is operated by the Jekyll Island Authority. The Authority leases the land to Cherry Street Energy for about $2,000 a month for 30 years.

Statesboro has hired lawyers to help with negotiations with Bulloch County, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Statesboro City Council this week retained four attorneys and their Atlanta-area law firm as the city’s special counsel for negotiations with the Bulloch County government toward a required 10-year service delivery strategy agreement.

Georgia’s Service Delivery Strategy Law mandates that counties and the cities within them reach agreement on how to provide and pay for public services. One frequent source of contention is the fact that city property owners also pay county taxes while rural property owners do not pay city property taxes.

“Service delivery is really about how do you pay for unincorporated services,” said Michael B. Brown, a Savannah-based consultant to the city of Statesboro. “They have to pay their own way. That’s what it’s about. Across the state, that’s what these plans are for.”

[C]ouncil members voted 5-0 to approve a resolution authorizing four attorneys with the law firm Smith, Welch, Webb & White LLC as special counsel “in the preparation, negotiation, mediation and litigation regarding the SDS” (service delivery strategy).

The Chatham-Savannah Board of Education has chosen a vendor to upgrade part of its administrative computer systems, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Hall County has started enforcing regulations on short-term rentals, according to the Gainesville Times.

Hall County’s number of short-term rentals has more than doubled since an ordinance allowing more homeowners to qualify was passed in March. Now, the county has a new system in place for neighbors to report concerns and for property owners to respond.

Hall County’s number of short-term rentals has more than doubled since an ordinance allowing more homeowners to qualify was passed in March. Now, the county has a new system in place for neighbors to report concerns and for property owners to respond.

Planning and Development Director Srikanth Yamala said there are currently 41 registered short-term rentals in Hall, up from just 13 before the ordinance allowing all residential properties to qualify was passed. The county gave people some time to register their short-term rentals under the new rules — many short-term rentals had been operating without a license — and only started issuing citations on May 1. Since then, 61 citations have been issued by the Hall County Marshal’s Office for operating without a license.

Smart parking meters in downtown Macon were never intended to be a cash cow, according to the Macon Telegraph.

When 577 smart parking meters were installed in downtown Macon almost a year ago, the main goal was to encourage more turnover in prime spots to help increase the number of people shopping and dining at area businesses.

If the meters made money, that would be considered an added benefit, and the profit would help fund some improvements downtown, officials said.

“The primary goal of the program was to assist with prosperity downtown by making parking more available for business activity,” Morrison said earlier this year. “We discovered most of the blocks downtown were at or near 100 percent occupied all day every day, and the predictability to find a space was very limited.”

Morrison said the parking program is on track to pay back the cost of the equipment and to get the program under way, as well as contribute to improvements downtown.

The development authority took out a loan for $750,000 to cover the cost of the meters and installation, Morrison said. He said the authority also took about $20,000 out of its general fund to pay Lanier’s expenses before the meters started making money.

The Glynn County Board of Elections will meet Tuesday, according to The Brunswick News.

The Athens Banner Herald spoke with Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz.

Red State Blues

Out of state Democrats continue to think of Georgia as fertile ground for future victories, according to USA Today.

Democrats see Georgia as a potential pickup in 2020, an enthusiasm fueled largely by Democrat Stacey Abrams narrow defeat by Republican Brian Kemp in the governor’s race. The four White House hopefuls comments in Atlanta largely looked past Georgia’s primary and to the potential for Democrats in the general election.

“This is a blue state,” Booker said of Georgia, which last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 1996 and where every statewide office is held by a Republican. “What that means is we need to go back to organizing and build a 50-state party.”

National Democrats have also bought into Stacey Abrams’s big lie about her loss in 2018. From the Bipartisan Press:

“Stacey Abrams ought to be the governor of Georgia. When racially motivated voter suppression is permitted, when districts are drawn so that politicians get to choose their voters instead of the other way around, when money is allowed to outvote people in this country, we cannot truly say we live in a democracy,” said Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., and one of nearly two dozen Democrats running for president.

“I think that we all have to make our own decisions. And I can’t begin to — to speak for what her decision-making is. I know that she’ll do what she thinks is best for herself,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) said of Abrams and Abrams’ future. “But I think the reality is that suppression is real. But more importantly, we can’t stay home and we can’t rely on thin margins. We have to get more people registered to vote. We have to actually turn out more people to vote. Because when you rely on thin margins, then there is always going to be a question on — on what could have happened, but we have to put the work in and people have to recognize that elections matter. When you look at the thin margin of the last presidential election, and you look at where our country is now, it matters.

“My race for mayor in Atlanta almost 100,000 votes cast, 832 votes made the difference,” Bottoms said. “And so I think if we register, continue to register more people and turn out more people to vote, then I think that you’ll — you’ll clearly see that Georgia is blue again.”

National Review takes issue with the revisionist history being offered by Democrats.

Stacey Abrams’s refusal to lose the Georgia gubernatorial election graciously was one of the low points of the 2018 midterms. But her insistence that Brian Kemp and the Republicans stole the election from her has now become an article of faith among Democrats.

Democratic presidential contenders who traveled to Atlanta this week to speak to the African-American Leadership Council repeated the claim, which Abrams has made more than a dozen times since she lost to Kemp by 54,723 votes last November. In rote fashion, they repeated Abrams’s charges that the outcome was determined by “voter suppression” conducted by Kemp, who during the race was Georgia’s secretary of state.

Not be outdone by his supposed competition for moderate Democratic-primary voters, former vice president Joe Biden raised the ante when he addressed the same group on Friday. Biden claimed that voter-integrity laws — which Kemp was legally bound to enforce — were direct descendants of Jim Crow regulations aimed at preventing African Americans from voting. Describing the GOP’s policies as a “methodical assault” on voting rights, Biden said, “voter suppression is the reason why Stacey Abrams isn’t governor right now.”

The assertion that Abrams was cheated, like any legend, gains credibility the more it is told, and now that the presidential field is echoing the sore loser’s refrain, it is becoming harder and harder to contain. Indeed, in none of the accounts of Buttigieg and Biden’s speeches were their claims about cheating or suppression explained, let alone challenged.

The irony is that this comes from the same party that spent much of the fall of 2016 warning that Donald Trump and his supporters would never accept defeat and worrying that democracy was under threat from loose talk that fraud was the only way he could lose. Democrats were not wrong to worry about the damage that kind of rhetoric does to the public’s faith in the system.

When examined soberly, Abrams’s claims evaporate. Kemp’s win was no landslide, but his 1.4 percent margin of victory didn’t even give her the right to demand a legal recount. Demographic changes may mean that Georgia is trending away from the red-state status it has had in the last decade, but Stacey Abrams lost because Republicans still can turn out majorities there even in years when the odds favor Democrats.

Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer spoke to local activists in Hall County, according to the Gainesville Times.

“I think our Republican party is in trouble,” Shafer said. “I think if you look at the last election cycle, the statewide margins had narrowed to a very uncomfortable level and we lost seats that we shouldn’t have lost in the suburbs of Atlanta. I think there are a number of reasons why that happened, but one of them is I think there’s been a complacency that’s overtaken us in the 15 years of Republic supermajority. We’ve allowed it to become weaker and I think that we don’t have any margin of error going forward. We’ve got to pull everything together.”

Shafer stated he believed much of the Republican party’s lack of voter turnout in the 2018 elections boiled down to a need for local outreach and organization, as the same counties that saw fewer Republican voters in the midterm elections weren’t lacking in party support during the presidential election.

“Most of the counties that are unorganized today are counties that were carried overwhelmingly by Donald Trump and Brian Campbell,” Shafer said. “So, we know there are Republicans there, we just haven’t taken the time to plant and nurture local party organizations.”

“We’ve allowed the Democrats to out organize and out work us,” Shafer said. “You saw the damage from that in the last election cycle. When I look at what happened in 2018, I don’t think that what happened in the suburbs is that people who were Republican earlier just decided to become Democrats, what happened is that Democrats did a better job turning out Democrats than we did Republicans. We can’t allow that to happen in 2020, and we’re going to do everything we can to get ready for those 2020 elections.”

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