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

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

On August 12, 1492 by the current calendar, Christopher Columbus set sail from the port of Palos de la Frontera in southern Spain with the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Other accounts date his arrival at the Canary Islands off the coast of northwestern Africa on August 12, 1492.

Juan Ponce de Leon invaded Puerto Rico on August 12, 1508 and declared himself Governor.

On August 12, 1864, Confederate General John B. Hood prohibited Confederate soldiers from seizing civilian property.

The Second Battle of Dalton was joined on August 14, 1864.

The first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line on August 12, 1904.

On August 12, 1908, Ford’s first “Model T” rolled off a Detroit, Michigan, factory floor. Within six years, the car, company and man were propelled to unprecedented success, thanks to the new Highland Park plant’s first-of-its-kind assembly line, which created the intricate product quickly and in large numbers.

“If it hadn’t been for Henry Ford’s drive to create a mass market for cars, America wouldn’t have a middle class today,” wrote [Lee] Iacocca.

Increased travel spurred appeals for better and more roads, the development of suburbs, the oil industry’s rise and a boom in gas stations, strip malls and motels.

But the assembly line itself had the biggest impact on American society, Hyde contended, in making possible the swift, mass production of everything from computers to “fast food.”

On August 12, 1910, Georgia Governor Joseph M. Brown signed legislation prohibiting the carrying of a pistol or revolver without a license.

East Germany began building the Berlin Wall on August 12, 1961.

[T]he government of East Germany, on the night of August 12, 1961, began to seal off all points of entrance into West Berlin from East Berlin by stringing barbed wire and posting sentries. In the days and weeks to come, construction of a concrete block wall began, complete with sentry towers and minefields around it. The Berlin Wall succeeded in completely sealing off the two sections of Berlin.

Three churches in Albany, Georgia first allowed African-Americans to attend their services on August 12, 1962.

On August 12, 1968, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played together for the first time.

The first Space Shuttle, Enterprise, made its first flight in the earth’s atmosphere on August 12, 1977

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A fifteen-year old was arrested in Forsyth County for allegedly using an e-scooter in a carjacking, according to the AJC.

The male teenager is accused of using an electric scooter to ambush a man and steal his rental car just before 9:45 p.m. Monday, Atlanta police said in a news release. He was arrested in Forsyth County on unrelated charges.

Police have obtained warrants charging the teen with aggravated assault and hijacking a motor vehicle. The suspect is being charged as a juvenile, and AJC.com only identified minors being charged as adults.

The victim initially told police that two young men riding e-scooters attacked him and stole his vehicle at the Chevron gas station at 180 Ponce De Leon Avenue. Officer TaSheena Brown told AJC.com that investigators found the second young man didn’t participate in the carjacking and rode away on the e-scooter, so he isn’t expected to be charged.

Under Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s new nighttime scooter ban, which went into effect Friday, the suspect and other young man would have been violating the 9 p.m. curfew for e-scooters and electric bikes. Those modes of transportation are banned between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Governor Brian Kemp participated in the ribbon cutting for a new medical school in Southwest Georgia, according to a press release from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Close to 700 people who have a stake in the opening of PCOM South Georgia came to a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 6, 2019, at the newly constructed 75,000 square foot facility to witness Georgia Governor Brian Kemp lend his support to the first four year medical school to locate in the Southwest Georgia region.

Speaking from “the region that literally feeds, clothes and provides not only for our state, but for our nation and the rest of the world,” Governor Kemp said, “I’m proud to say that the state saw how training world class doctors in Moultrie could be a real game changer for our region and we have supported this effort. But it was you all that got the ball started and we’re honored to be a part of it.”

Kemp said, “I know that this facility will be at the forefront of improving the quality of life for hard-working Georgians here in South and Southwest Georgia.”

He thanked the leadership of PCOM for their commitment – “their financial commitment and their human capital commitment that they have made, a commitment to our state to continue to make us a great place to do business and equip the next generation of medical professionals.”

He added, “What’s so exciting about this class and this facility is we have a better opportunity for our local kids to get educated here and to stay here where they were raised and give something back not only to their local community, but to our state.”

“Together I know we can continue to work hard every day to expand opportunities in health care for those who need it the most,” Kemp said.

“I’m proud to be here today. I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished and I will be proud to see these fine folks graduate in just a few years and what they will do for our future in our state.”

The one hour event concluded with a presentation of a key to the city by Moultrie Mayor William McIntosh and Colquitt County Administrator Charles Cannon IV. McIntosh said, “This key is symbolic of this community, along with the entire region, extending and embracing welcome and best wishes to the administration, faculty, students and staff of PCOM South Georgia.

Public Service Commissioner Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland) pushed his colleagues to increase the use of biomass for electric generation, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

At Shaw’s urging, the all-Republican panel unanimously agreed last month to push the state’s largest electric utility to add 50 megawatts of biomass to its long-range energy plan.

Shaw, who hails from Lakeland and represents South Georgia on the commission, pitched his proposal as a way to create jobs in rural Georgia and lessen the economic hit to the state’s prized forestry industry. The October 2018 storm set the industry back about $762.7 million in losses.

“We’ve seen the devastation that occurred to not only those rural communities but to that forestry industry and those landowners in those areas who will never be able to recover what they’ve lost,” Shaw said.

Georgia Power now purchases more than 335 megawatts of energy from 15 biomass producers, with most of the fuel coming from the forest, according to the utility.

Whitfield County Commissioners may place the next Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the November 2020 ballot instead of earlier in the year, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners were originally looking to place a SPLOST referendum on the May 2020 general primary ballot, but they now say they may place it on the November 2020 presidential election ballot.

Savannah leads the United States in the export of shark fins, according to the Savannah Morning News.

For the last five years the port of Savannah has been the U.S. leader in the export of fresh shark fins, a legal but controversial trade item essential for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy.

Last year, more than 18,000 pounds of shark fins, valued at about $808,000 was exported from Savannah. All of it was shipped to Hong Kong. (While Savannah led in the value of shark fins exported, a larger amount of fins, at nearly 37,000 pounds, was shipped out of Galveston, Texas.)

“Savannah is the No. 1 exporter of shark fins in the United States,” said Cathy Liss, president of the nonprofit Animal Welfare Institute. “Georgia plays an unfortunate role in the lucrative, billion-dollar shark fin trade. As long as we continue to provide a marketplace for shark fin products, the United States, including Georgia, will undoubtedly contribute to the destruction of shark populations.”

Finning is banned in U.S. waters but it’s still legal to buy and sell shark fins here. To end American involvement in the trade of shark fins, the U.S. Congress introduced the bipartisan Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, which would ban all trade of shark fins in the U.S.

Two Georgia lawmakers, both Democrats, were among the bill’s original backers when it was introduced on January: U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. and U.S. Rep. Henry C. Johnson. Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott added his name later as did Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall.

More recently, so did U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican whose district includes every coastal county in Georgia.

“Rep. Carter has officially signed on as a co-sponsor,” wrote Carter’s spokeswoman Mary Carpenter in an email.

Chatham County Commissioners directed the Board of Elections to consider adding polling places for 2020 elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The vote at the regular commission meeting on Friday directs the BOE to investigate the need within Chatham County, including the cities of Pooler and Savannah.

The issue of additional polling places for voting came up in large part due to long wait times in Pooler during the 2018 mid-term elections. Some voters waited over four hours to cast their ballots.

Voter registrations surged 267% in 2018 with a total of 188,315 registered, an increase of 51,251 registrations compared to the last mid-term elections in 2014.

Early voting included 32,361 voting in person, compared to 17,697 in the 2014 mid-term for an increase of 83%.

The board of elections has already been looking at adding two polling locations in Pooler. The issue was tabled by the Pooler city council over concerns that included making sure future population growth is considered when adding any locations.

The Bulloch County Board of Education heard from proponents and opponents of senior tax relief, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A school property tax exemption for senior citizens wasn’t on the agenda as such, but the Bulloch County Board of Education heard from people on both sides of the issue for nearly an hour during “public participation” Thursday night.

Of the 19 people who spoke on the topic, more than twice as many spoke against the exemption request – or at least in opposition to an age-only exemption qualification – as spoke for it. However, seniors seeking the exemption, after an organizational meeting that drew more than 75 people on July 29, had said they were selecting three or four people to speak for them at Thursday’s meeting.

The pro-exemption group was requesting “100 percent relief from the Bulloch County property school tax levy at age 65, without income limitations,” [Carolyn Akins] explained. On behalf of the group, she asked the board to make a decision as soon as possible so the request could be sent to the Georgia General Assembly in January.

If approved by the Bulloch County BOE and the state Legislature, the request would eventually come back as a referendum for Bulloch County voter approval.

The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed planning for new voting machines, according to The Brunswick News.

Now that the Glynn County Board of Elections knows which voting machines it will be using in the 2020 presidential primary, the group can begin to plan its public education campaign.

Along with a requirement that all voting machines include a paper ballot component, the law also required local boards of elections to give the public more advance notice before moving or closing polling locations, lengthened the time it takes for an inactive voter to fall off the rolls and slackened the “exact match” voter verification rules.

Following the bill’s passage, local elections officials began laying the groundwork for a public information campaign to educate voters on how to use the machines in advance of the May primary.

Members of the voter advocacy group Women’s Voices of Glynn attended the board’s July meeting, requesting the board extend early voting to at least one Sunday.

Opening the early voting polls for an extra day would cost a good bit of money, the board found, but shifting the hours on a day the polls are already open so they open and close later in the evening is a possibility.

Suicides are rising in Georgia prisons, according to the Macon Telegraph.

As the U.S. grapples with rising suicide rates, few places bear the brunt of that mental health crisis more than state prisons. Few correctional systems have struggled as much as Georgia’s, which has experienced a rate spike so large that it now ranks among the nation’s highest.

A three-month investigation by The Telegraph further highlights the state’s struggles. Between 2014 and 2016, state records show that 20 state prisoners had taken their own lives. In the nearly three years since, 46 prison deaths were deemed suicides. Georgia’s prison suicide rate — at 35 suicides per 100,000 — is nearly double the national average.

The Telegraph also found nearly half of state prison suicides since 2014 have occurred at six facilities south of Macon, even though those correctional facilities can hold only a fifth of Georgia’s overall prison population.

In the past three years, Valdosta State Prison accounted for nearly 20% of all suicides despite having space to hold less than 3% of the state’s prison population.

America’s state prisons saw fewer suicides between 1980 and 2010. But in recent years, as correctional facilities found themselves on the front lines of America’s opioid and mental health epidemics, that progress was erased.

Between 2013 and 2014 alone, U.S. state prison suicide rates rose by nearly a third. And Southern states including Georgia, Alabama and Texas saw even larger increases in their rates.

Georgia correctional officials believe one in five people incarcerated in state prisons have a documented mental health need.

Georgia State Senate Bill 15 is receiving renewed attention in the wake of several mass shootings, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Senate Bill 150 passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee this year but stalled when gun rights lobbyists spoke against it. Since then, more than 100 Georgia residents have been killed by intimate partners.

SB 150 would prohibit those guilty of family violence from buying, owning or possessing firearms. It would also apply to people named in temporary protective orders after a hearing where the accused can offer a defense.

A federal law prohibits those convicted of domestic violence from owning weapons, but there’s no enforcement, said Georgia state Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta. It was one of the reasons why he supports SB 150.

“I don’t think anybody is against it,” Jones said of the bill, which he believes can pass next year. “Sometimes it just takes time for bills to get some legs,” he said.

Rome City Council will hold a ban-a-thon tonight, considering bans on a variety of menaces, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Rome City Commission is taking aim at panhandling and homeless camps with two ordinances slated to be unveiled Monday night.

First readings are also scheduled for proposed limits on fireworks and four-wheelers at the meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, 601 Broad St. Commissioners start their pre-meeting caucus at 5 p.m. and both sessions are public.

The first ordinance would ban “urban camping” – defined as “the use of an area for living-accommodation purposes” such as sleeping, cooking or storing personal effects – on all public property without a permit.

A number of Georgia cities besides Atlanta have enacted similar ordinances in recent months. Ringgold did so in December and LaFayette followed suit in March.

Two new candidates announced they are running for Gwinnett County Commission Chair in 2020, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The open race to be the next Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners chairman gained two more candidates this week when Norcross resident Desmond Nembhard and Peachtree Corners resident Brooke Siskin announced they were entering the race.

Siskin announced her candidacy in an email to reporters on Monday while Nembhard teased a bid for the office on his Facebook page Wednesday and posted a link to his campaign website, www.electdesmond.com, on the social media page Friday. Both candidates are Democrats who have previously sought public office in Gwinnett.

At least a half-dozen Democrats have now said they will run for the commission chairman’s seat next year. The seat became an open race after Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, a Republican, announced earlier this year that she would not seek re-election next year.

Gwinnett County solicitor Brian Whiteside will not prosecute for marijuana possession, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Solicitor General Brian Whiteside has pledged to not prosecute any misdemeanor marijuana cases — and he said uncertainty created by Georgia’s new hemp farming law is to blame.

The reason? Now that the new Georgia Hemp Farming Act is in place, it’s hard to determine whether the chemical composition of a suspicious item makes it legal or illegal.

“We met with the (county and municipal police) chiefs (Friday) and, basically, I told them I’m not prosecuting people for marijuana because it can’t be proven,” Whiteside said. “It’s up to each individual police department as to what they do, but we just can’t prove what is marijuana and what is hemp.”

At the heart of the issue facing Gwinnett’s criminal justice system is how to determine something’s THC concentration level. The level of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, present is the key factor distinguishing hemp from marijuana.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture lists the threshold THC concentration level separating hemp from marijuana is 0.3%. Anything less than that is classified as hemp.

Whiteside said Gwinnett officials are facing a testing issue: If they find something that could be hemp or marijuana, they don’t have the tools to tell what the THC level is.

Whiteside said he believes the solution in Georgia is to do away with misdemeanor marijuana violations and allow small scale cannabis sales — albeit with a tax to generate funds to support schools or law enforcement in the state.

“I don’t think we should prosecute misdemeanor marijuana,” Whiteside said. “I think we should tax it and use the revenue for pre-K, two-year colleges, four-year colleges and law enforcement pensions.”

The Gainesville Times looks at the genesis of the opioid crisis.

Between 2006 and 2012, Hall County received more than 47 million prescription pain pills, enough for 38 per person per year, according to a database published in July by The Washington Post and made available to the public.

In that same time frame, more than 76 billion opioid pills were distributed through pharmacies in the United States and more than 2.2 billion pills were distributed in Georgia

The data comes from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, which The Post gained access to as the result of a court order.

In the late 1990s, about one-third of the U.S. population, or 100 million people, was affected by chronic pain. The medical field started to be more attentive to patient pain, making it the fifth vital sign. In response, drug companies and the federal government pushed for expanded use of opioid painkillers.

But physicians started to prescribe opioids — particularly oxycodone and hydrocodone — for less serious reasons, Mize said, such as broken wrists, pulling wisdom teeth or high school sports injuries.

“They got focused on pain management and overprescribing hardcore medications recklessly,” Mize said.

In 2016, life expectancy decreased for Americans for the second straight year. Experts blamed the opioid epidemic. The increase in opioid use coincided with a rise in addiction and drug overdose-related deaths.

D.A. King‘s role in a debate about immigration is being defended, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

King, who founded the Dustin Inman Society in 2005, became the subject of local political attacks after the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office invited him to speak about the benefits of the jail’s 287(g) immigration program at a July 31 community meeting hosted by District 4 Commissioner Marlene Fosque.

While the meeting was intended as a forum to share information and differing perspectives about 287(g), the discussion turned into “unfair and unwarranted name-calling and misleading innuendo,” Gwinnett Sheriff Butch Conway wrote in a letter to the Daily Post.

King, who was the subject of that name-calling, has continued to come under attack in recent days — on Tuesday, Fosque accused him of “spewing hatred and bigotry and racism” — for his work related to the Dustin Inman Society, an organization named after 16-year-old Dustin Inman, who was killed in a car crash by a man who was in the country illegally. King describes the organization as “pro-enforcement on immigration.”

King said his intent at last week’s meeting was to talk about 287(g), and “lend (his) experienced knowledge on how to respond to the far-left race-baiting anti-enforcement lobby that is funded by corporate-America.”

“It should be noted that after being instructed to stick with the topic of 287(g), it was a campaigning (District 99 State Rep.) Brenda Lopez Romero who felt the need to present false ad hominem, personal attacks on me because she has no rational argument for not using every available tool to reduce crime in Gwinnett, including 287(g),” King told the Daily Post. “The goal (of) the illegal alien lobby, which includes the cowardly groups that dropped out and the three anti-enforcement substitute panelists, was never to argue on 287(g) — it was to marginalize anyone who supports the program.”

Georgia State House Republican leaders aim to raise and spend $10 million dollars on defending GOP seats next year, according to the AJC.

The GOP Majority Outreach – known as GOPMojo – has a goal of spending $10 million on roughly 30 of the state’s most competitive House seats to help Republicans defend a narrowing 105-75 advantage in the chamber.

The program also aims to boost base turnout by registering 200,000 new Republican voters ahead of next year’s election, helped by advice from GOP strategist Karl Rove. The group’s organizers say it’s the first time a voter registration project of this scale has been attempted by Republicans in Georgia.

“The effort will point out the clear choice Georgians have between moving forward in the right direction with strong leadership or making the sharp leftward lurch today’s Democratic Party represents,” said House Speaker David Ralston.

In 2020, Democrats are targeting the 16 seats where a Republican won with less than 58% of the vote last year.

The stakes are high. The party that controls the House in 2020 will have great influence in redrawing district lines the following year, and will help set the agenda on Georgia’s most divisive and pivotal political issues.

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