Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 12, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 12, 2019

The first Georgia-Florida war game weekend began on June 12, 1740, as Georgia founder James Oglethorpe led 400 soldiers landing opposite the Spanish fort at St. Augustine.

The Virginia Convention adopted George Mason’s “Declaration of Rights” on June 12, 1776. From Wikipedia:

The Declaration was adopted unanimously by the Fifth Virginia Convention at Williamsburg, Virginia on June 12, 1776 as a separate document from the Constitution of Virginia which was later adopted on June 29, 1776. In 1830, the Declaration of Rights was incorporated within the Virginia State Constitution as Article I, but even before that Virginia’s Declaration of Rights stated that it was ‘”the basis and foundation of government” in Virginia. A slightly updated version may still be seen in Virginia’s Constitution, making it legally in effect to this day.

It was initially drafted by George Mason circa May 20, 1776; James Madison assisted him with the section on religious freedom.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights heavily influenced later documents. Thomas Jefferson is thought to have drawn on it when he drafted the United States Declaration of Independence in the same month (June 1776). James Madison was also influenced by the Declaration while drafting the Bill of Rights (introduced September 1789, ratified 1791), as was the Marquis de Lafayette in voting the French Revolution‘s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789).

The importance of the Virginia Declaration of Rights is that it was the first constitutional protection of individual rights, rather than protecting only members of Parliament or consisting of simple laws that can be changed as easily as passed.

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan spoke in then-divided Berlin and challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

Former President George H.W. Bush was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Federal officials announced they will not house unaccompanied minor immigrants at Fort Benning, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families said that the military installation was no longer available to shelter the children.

“The Department of Defense is an exemplary partner and we look forward to their continued collaboration as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) develops efficient, cost-effective strategies to address temporary shelter needs for Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC),” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“Fort Benning DoD property in Fort Benning, GA is no longer available for use to provide temporary shelter for unaccompanied alien children.”

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security reported that in 2019, almost 110,000 migrants had attempted to enter the U.S. illegally in April, and the vast majority were families or unaccompanied children. For comparison 51,000 total tried to enter the U.S. illegally in April 2018.

Governor Brian Kemp is expected to name Doraville Police Chief John King as Georgia Insurance Commissioner, according to the AJC.

Doraville Police Chief John King is expected to be named by Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday to replace suspended Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, who last month was accused in a 38-count federal indictment of an elaborate scheme to steal $2 million from his former employer before winning the November election.

Kemp is expected to announce King, a Brigadier General in the Georgia National Guard and a native of Mexico, later Wednesday. King would be the first Hispanic constitutional officer in Georgia history.

He will replace Beck pending adjudication of his case. King is expected to be a candidate for a full term in 2022, when Kemp will also be on the ballot as he runs for re-election. Kemp’s aides wanted to narrow his choice to candidates willing to be on the ticket that year.

The Alpharetta City Council adopted a ban on e-scooters, according to the AJC.

Alpharetta took the preemptive move Monday night and banned dockless electronic scooters.

Minutes show that the vote was 5-0; two council members were absent who had previously voted to approve the ban.

The city of Lilburn on Monday night passed a 12-month ban on the devices. But Alpharetta joins Marietta and Woodstock in having outright bans.

Columbus City Council approved a $284.8 million dollar FY 2020 budget that includes $1 million to fight blight, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The $1 million allocation is nearly 18 times larger than the department’s average demolition budget of $56,000.

[Mayor Skip] Henderson said in April that the large increase in funding will “rid some of the neighborhoods from having to look at these burned out, skeletal remains of trailer parks and also take down some of the homes that have been marked for demolition that (the city) just never had the funding to do.”

Blight is an issue in every district in the city, according to [Columbus Building Inspections and Code Enforcement Director John] Hudgison, though it is more prolific in some districts than others.

Vacant and abandoned properties can have a negative impact on the entire community by decreasing surrounding property values, drawing crime and drug activity and reducing local tax revenue, as well as affecting the sense of pride homeowners have in their neighborhood.

Hudgison said homeless trespassing, arson, illegal dumping, junk vehicles, prostitution and scrap metal theft are also issues that plague abandoned properties.

Coweta County and its municipalities will sign an agreement tonight on disposition of proceeds from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the November ballot, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Officials from the county and municipalities have been meeting to flesh out the list of transportation projects that will be on the Nov. 5 ballot. At their most recent meeting on Monday afternoon, they reviewed a list of projects and learned the vote will likely be for a maximum of $125 million instead of $100 million.

The hard deadline for having the project list and the intergovernmental agreement settled in time for the TSPLOST question to be on the November ballot is July 16. The TSPLOST would be a five-year, one percent sales tax for transportation projects.

If approved, Coweta’s sales tax rate will become eight percent.

The discussion and vote on the agreement is set for 6 p.m. at the county commission chambers, upstairs at 37 Perry St.

The Glynn County Board of Elections heard a progress report on a project to digitize voting records, according to The Brunswick News.

The elections office started the work in January after the Glynn County Commission agreed to fund the project for a year. Office workers assign barcodes to each voter’s records and then scan them into the database.

So far, board staff members have scanned around 27 percent of all records into the digital database, said Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell. They’re a little further ahead on the other end, he said, with around 40 to 44 percent of records assigned a barcode.

Currently, the board is aiming to get as close to half-way done by the time qualifications begin on Aug. 19 for the city of Brunswick’s municipal elections, he said.

In other business, board Chairwoman Patricia Gibson brought up an ongoing U.S. District Court case over whether the state’s current voting machines, set to be replaced prior to the 2020 presidential primary, should be used in municipal elections this November.

The state will provide new voting machines to local boards of elections sometime prior to the next presidential primary, but not in time for the municipal elections in November. Some localities were selected to give the new machines a test run in November, but Glynn County was not one of those.

The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission held the first of two Town Hall meetings, according to The Brunswick News.

The Lowndes County Board of Education adopted a $94 million dollar budget for the coming fiscal year, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The budget calls for $94 million in total projected revenues and expenditures, a $5 million increase over last year.

The biggest increase in the budget comes from the state of Georgia, most of it for instruction costs.

This increase — from $61 million to $65 million — reflects certified and classified staff pay raises approved by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year.

The Whitfield County Board of Education adopted a $184 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Members of the school board approved the fiscal year 2020 budget by a vote of 4-0 on Monday. The budget has more than $184 million in total expenditures including some $33 million for capital projects including construction of two new middle schools. The fiscal year starts on July 1.

The majority of the general fund budget — 87 percent — is for salaries for teachers and classified workers (cafeteria, administrative, etc.). School board members approved a 2% pay raise for all classified positions, and the county system will also have to absorb some of the cost of a $3,000 raise for teachers proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp and passed by the state legislature.

“We do have positions which are not covered under the (state) allotment sheet,” said Chief Financial Officer Kelly Coon. “So any positions above and beyond what is funded on the allotment sheet, we would absorb totally. The 2% raise for classified positions are also funded locally.”

The budget dips into the general fund reserve balance for $630,837, leaving the system with $25.8 million in reserve there, although Superintendent Judy Gilreath said that may not be necessary.

The Hall County Board of Education is considering a property tax increase for its FY 2020 budget, according to the Gainesville Times.

The school district’s proposed budget includes about $2 million to hire more teachers to manage student enrollment growth and special education needs.

The savings this year could boost the district’s reserves, which stand at about $34 million, as it prepares a $270 million general fund budget for the 2020 fiscal year and 2019-20 academic year.

Schofield previously told The Times that additional revenues and expenses in the county budget were largely tied to teacher pay raises, about $3,000 per certified educator, which the state is funding.

Schofield said he also expects more than $1 million in state funding for ongoing school safety enhancements.

The Hall County Board of Education will pursue a property tax increase to fund this budget, and will host two more public hearings on June 24 before setting the millage rate.

The Gainesville City Schools Board of Education was recognized as a 2019 Quality School Board by the Georgia School Boards Association, according to the Gainesville Times.

Lilburn City Council adopted an ordinance that will ban new vape shops, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Lilburn City Council approved a vape shop ordinance that essentially bans any new stores devoted solely to selling vaping devices. Under the new ordinance, businesses would be limited in the amount of floor space they can devote to vaping devices and the amount of revenue they make from sale of those devices.

“We’re trying to get away from the standalone vape shops,” City Manager Bill Johnsa said. “That’s where we’re seeing the issues and that’s where you’re seeing the issues nationwide.”

Lilburn officials had been weighing what to do about vape shops since a moratorium was put in place in April. The moratorium was established because the city had a growing number of requests to open vape shops in Lilburn — Johnsa said there were about three requests that came in during the moratorium alone.

The new rules stipulate that no business can devote more than 25% of its floor space to vaping devices and affiliated products. Businesses also cannot earn more 25% of its retail sales revenue from the sale of those devices and products.

The Elbert County Board of Education will use a state grant to install new security cameras, according to the Elberton Star.

The Richmond County Board of Education adopted a $273.5 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The budget includes a $3,000 annual salary increase for certified personnel, and $3,000 annually for licensed practical nurses. A grant is also funding a 2% increase for school nutrition that is being doubled by the school system to 4%, and all other staff will receive a 2% increase.

The state is also funding a 2% increase for bus drivers, but one driver says that’s not enough. Yolanda Brown spoke at the meeting and requested that the board consider giving drivers the same raise teachers are receiving. She said there is a significant shortage in drivers, and higher pay could encourage more people to apply.

Total revenues and expenditures for the district this year are $273,528,895. In terms of expenditures, 61% are spent on salaries and 26% on benefits, with another 13% on operating costs and temp services. Revenues largely come from the state at 64% and local taxes at 35%.

The Albany City Commission heard public feedback on the proposed $288 million dollar FY 2020 budget, according to the Albany Herald.

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis asked for pay raises for employees, according to the Macon Telegraph.

For the upcoming fiscal year, however, the new Macon-Bibb County budget approved Tuesday does not include a bump in employee salaries despite last-minute efforts to do so. Several officials said that they didn’t feel the public could stomach another property tax increase to cover about $2 million in pay raises.

The $164.5 million budget for fiscal 2020 does not include a millage rate tax hike. The millage rate was increased a total of 6 mills the previous two years.

Davis has been outspoken about how pay disparities are causing him to have trouble retaining employees. His office posted a Facebook video June 4 that shows Davis ripping up a letter he sent to the mayor and commissioners asking for a 4% employee raise. He said they ignored the letter and asked for the public’s help.

There was a 1.5% cost of living adjustment in fiscal 2017 for all county employees.

The GBI has ruled the death of a federal inmate in the Chatham County Jail a suicide, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Sea Turtle nesting on Georgia’s coast has set a new record, according to The Brunswick News.

As of Tuesday, beach patrols from Tybee to Cumberland Island had recorded 1,726 nests. And the turtles keep coming.

“We got 12 nests last night,” said Kris Williams, project director of the Caretta Research Project, which operates on Wassaw Island.

Last month’s total of 1,030 nests for the coast was more than four times the 2018 monthly total. Last year’s entire season total of 1,742 nests is about to be surpassed, as well.

“It is crazy. All over the coast it’s just exploding. It’s awesome,” Williams said from Wassaw on Monday.

Mark Dodd, a Georgia Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist who coordinates the efforts of staff and volunteers in monitoring and protecting sea turtles, said if nesting continues to grow to a plateau in mid June he expects to end up with 4,200 to 4,500 nests. The previous record year was 2016 with 3,289 loggerhead nests.

Martha Zoller will return to the airwaves on WDUN, according to AccessWDUN.

“After spending the last few years traveling around Georgia and meeting Georgians from every walk of life and political persuasion, I’m excited to be back at WDUN to share how the sausage is made,” Zoller said. “You might be surprised at some of the insights. I can’t wait!”

Zoller’s show was a regular fixture on the WDUN lineup, until she left in 2009. In 2014, she went to work in politics, first with U.S. Sen. David Perdue and later for Gov. Brian Kemp, where she worked as a policy advisor and outreach director.

“Morning Talk with Martha Zoller” will be heard weekdays at 9 a.m. on WDUN AM550 and WDUN FM102.9, and it will be streamed live on, and WDUN’s streaming apps, available in the Apple and Android stores.

Shawnda Griffin announced she will run for Augusta Commission District 1, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Griffin, who was born in Augusta but raised in Columbia, S.C., will face announced candidate Michael Thurman in elections next May. The winner will replace Commissioner Bill Fennoy, who can’t run after winning two consecutive terms.

Former Augusta Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator Jacqueline Humphey filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination by city officials, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Rome City Commission extended downtown parking limits to 3 hours, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Banks County Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper announced he will not run for reelection, according to AccessWDUN.

“To answer any questions about my running for any political office, I intend to retire from public service at the end of my elected term,” Hooper said. “I truly appreciate the support I have received from my fellow commissioners, the entire staff of Banks County, the loyal citizens and especially the administrative staff.”

Hooper was elected Banks County Commission chairman in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016. The seat will be on the 2020 ballot.

In Banks County, the commission chairman is elected by the voters and runs the day-to-day operations of county government.

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