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

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

On July 25, 1972, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

On July 25, 1974, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Nixon that executive privilege did not allow the White House to refuse to turn over audio recordings that had been subpoenaed by a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States District Court Judge Amy Totenberg will hear arguments on a case seeking to force Georgia to use hand-marked paper ballots, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

A lawsuit filed by election integrity activists argues that the paperless touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are unsecure, vulnerable to hacking and can’t be audited. It seeks statewide use of hand-marked paper ballots.

A law passed this year and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp provides specifications for a new system, which state officials said will be in place for the 2020 presidential election.

But the plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to order the state to immediately stop using the current system, which it plans to use for special and municipal elections this year and which the plaintiffs fear would be used in 2020 if a new system isn’t implemented in time. Totenberg has scheduled a hearing Thursday on those requests.

Lawyers for state election officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, argue concrete steps have been taken to address the concerns, including arranging for the purchase of new voting technology statewide and adding security measures to existing systems.

They also argue that paper ballots have vulnerabilities and that putting an intermediate system in place while the state is moving to a new voting system “places an impossible burden on both state and local election officials and may result in voter frustration and disaffection from the voting process.”

Operation Southern Shield yielded thousands of traffic tickets in Georgia, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Safety, this year’s operation from July 15-21 yielded 3,258 speeding citations, 326 suspected DUIs and 689 seat belt citations by the Georgia State Patrol, Motor Carrier Compliance Division and Capitol Police. Last year, the same agencies gave out 2,514 speeding citations, 172 suspected DUIs and 752 seat belt violations.

This year, Georgia DPS agencies gave out 7,595 citations statewide, compared to 6,334 citations last year.

The Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation will open an Ellijay office, according to the AJC.

The Ellijay branch of the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation, announced Wednesday, will serve as a government resource for industry-specific assistance, community planning and other efforts to support rural economies.

The satellite office will extend the work of the first Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation, which opened in Tifton in August with a $1.7 million annual budget.

“This center is a direct result of the work of the House Rural Development Council and our continuing efforts to ensure prosperity is accessible to all Georgians — regardless of zip code,” said House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge whose district includes Ellijay.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce held a Rural Prosperity North Georgia Forum at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, according to the Gainesville Times.

Cultivating prosperity in North Georgia rural communities, compared to the state’s larger cities, requires a completely different approach, Republican State Sen. Steve Gooch and State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper believe.

Gooch encourages rural towns to have a relationship with the Georgia Economic Development Association and state agencies to get on developers’ radars.

“I believe the state needs to reach out more in rural areas and do a better job with that,” Gooch said. “We’ve got to work more in partnerships to help advertise and market these rural areas.”

Jasperse, who serves as the chairman of the Georgia House Education Committee, said community members need to put pressure on education leaders to meet workforce needs.

This could entail bringing in more digital learning opportunities and mobile laboratories, which offer science education resources to communities.

Through examining health care in Georgia, Gooch said he doesn’t see anyone addressing the core problem.

“The cost of health care is an issue,” he said. “Access would be more available if people could afford it.”

“Rural hospitals are in trouble and they’re going to continue to suffer,” Gooch said. “But, if we can get some of our universities and some of our agencies involved and try to partner with some of those community hospitals, we may be able to save them.”

Columbus City Council voted to move toward a 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to fund a new government center, among other items, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Council voted unanimously Tuesday night, with District 2 Councilor Glenn Davis absent, to approve a resolution that means the city will work toward getting a list of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects on the ballot for voters on Nov. 3, 2020.

Estimating from current collection rates, that 1% tax could generate a maximum of $350,000,000 over 10 years, according to City Manager Isaiah Hugley.

The current sales tax in Columbus is 8%.

The Muscogee County School District currently has an ESPLOST that expires June 30, 2020. The school board has not decided whether it will ask voters to renew the tax.

The city would borrow money to build the new buildings by issuing bonds, and use the SPLOST income to pay the debt off.

Chatham County released a list of projects for a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County commissioners have released what should be their final project list for a proposed 1-cent sales tax referendum. The list also includes how much of the anticipated revenues will be shared with the county’s municipalities.

If approved by voters this November, the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax would be the seventh SPLOST referendum approved starting in 1985.

Chatham County commissioners are expected to vote on the list and any intergovernmental agreements with municipalities at their regular meeting on Friday. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

The county estimates the six-year collection for SPLOST VII to generate $400 million in revenue.

Savannah City Council voted to adopt the full rollback rate for the property tax millage rate, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Property taxpayers in Savannah will most likely get a break from city taxes in 2019 and 2020.

The city will set the millage rate on Aug. 1 following the first and second reading of the proposal.

The rate will apply to the second installment of property tax bills that will be due in November and the first installment of property tax bills in 2020.

Aldermen and the mayor reached a consensus at a workshop on July 18 to use the rollback millage rate of 12.86 mills, instead of the rate used for 2019 of 13.20.

Chattahoochee Valley Libraries will no longer issue fines for overdue books, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Chattahoochee Valley Libraries will be the first public library system in Georgia to stop fining its borrowers for overdue items when the new policy goes into effect next month.

And on the effective date, Aug. 15, all overdue fines will be cleared from patron accounts, although customers still must pay to replace items not returned after 42 days (six weeks).

The motivation for this change, CVL director Alan Harkness said, is based on the library’s mission to make its collection as accessible as possible to as many folks in the Columbus area as possible — so they use it as often as possible.

“This is a trend nationally,” he said, “and what library systems have found is that … (overdue fines) disproportionately impact children and community members that have the least financial resources. Overdue fines don’t encourage people to bring books back

Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias is accused of a raft of misdeeds related to a summer camp, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Willa Hilton, the former Jamestown director, accused Sias of firing her from her camp job Monday because she reported an alleged July 19 incident of child abuse to the Division of Children and Family Services.

Her response to being fired, obtained by The Chronicle, included the allegations of theft, child cruelty and others, such as reports Sias watched porn and drank alcohol at the center, kept a loaded gun at all times and inflated an air mattress there and asked her for sex.

A retired Army command sergeant major, Sias dismissed all the claims Tuesday as an effort by an ex-lover to embarrass him and threatened legal action against Hilton. He did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert vetoed $1000 dollar bonuses for employees, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Reichert sent a letter to commissioners Thursday informing them of the veto, which would cost $2.3 million.

“I am vetoing this ordinance because I believe our employees deserve to be paid well for the jobs they are currently doing, and spending this money now hampers our ability to give them raises that will benefit them for years, not just once,” said Reichert wrote in the letter.

He urged moving forward with a full pay-scale study.

Overturning the veto would require the support of six of the nine commissioners.

Commissioner Joe Allen, who supports the bonus, said he expects a vote at the next meeting to override the veto, and he believes it will be successful.

The Banks County Board of Education and Banks County Sheriff’s Office created a Heightened Enforcement Response Officer (HERO) Unit to address school security issues, according to AccessWDUN.

“The HERO Unit provides the school system with an instantaneous response by a heavily-armed, highly-trained, proactive protection detail,” says Sheriff Carlton Speed. “Most deputies assigned are longtime law enforcement veterans with a former SWAT or military background. The need for the HERO Unit became an increasingly apparent reality due to the frequency of nationwide school shootings. As with many area schools, our school system, along with the sheriff’s office, has investigated several unsubstantiated threats against our school system after the 2018 Parkland High School incident.”

Asked how the unit got its start, Speed explains it was in response to concerns about how the sheriff’s office could quickly address active threats in the county’s schools efficiently to minimize their impact.

Woodstock Police Chief Calvin Moss was named Outstanding Chief of the Year by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, according to the Tribune Ledger News.

Moss was selected as the 2019 recipient for his proactive contributions to his department, to the GACP and to the state’s law enforcement community. He was presented with the award Tuesday afternoon during the GACP’s training conference in Savannah.

Cynthia George was elected Chair of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission board, according to the Albany Herald.

 

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