Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 28, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 28, 2019

August 28, 1929 saw Governor Lamartine Hardman sign a Constitutional Amendment authorizing the levy of a state income tax.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream Speech” on the Mall in Washington, DC.

An obscure college professor named Newt Gingrich began his political career on August 28, 1974, as he kicked off his first campaign against Congressman Jack Flynt.

Old Newt Pic

On August 28, 2008, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked the accreditation of the Clayton County Public Schools. Later that day, Governor Sonny Perdue removed four members of the Clayton County Board of Education upon the recommendation of an administrative law judge.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Longtime Clerk of the Georgia State House Robbie Rivers has died, according to the AJC.

Rivers served as the clerk for more than 20 years until his retirement in 2013, responsible for managing thousands of bills, amendments and voting records.

“No one loved serving others as much as Robbie Rivers,” said House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge. “Robbie was never too busy to help a new representative who sincerely wanted to learn the legislative process. We have lost an institution.”

Rivers, who grew up in Bremen, originally received the clerk’s job from Democratic Speaker Tom Murphy, who also was from Bremen, and survived the Republican takeover of the House in 2004.

“Robbie Rivers was a dear friend who always put others before himself,” said Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. “At the Capitol, you could count on him to bring a smile to people’s faces. He was a pillar of institutional knowledge in Georgia’s legal and political communities.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams (Not Governor) says she was pressured by campaign staff to pretend she had a boyfriend, according to Elite Daily.

Apparently, while campaigning for governor of Georgia in 2018, Abrams’ advisers had a whole list of things she could do to be more appealing: change her hair, lose some weight and, yes, get a boyfriend. In an Aug. 27 interview, she told Bustle that she had been pressured to adjust, and even maybe fib a little. She decided not to take heed of the suggestions.

“I was not going to fake a boyfriend,” Abrams told the publication for its Rule Breakers series. “If I find him, great, but I wasn’t going to pretend that he existed or create some notion of relationship.”

Rather, she decided to do her best with what she has. Instead of denying the reality of public expectations, she chose to “give people some space to accept me,” she told Bustle. For instance, she chose to keep her natural hair during the campaign but regularly asked her stylist to make sure it looked great while staying comfortable, and herself.

It may be a little ridiculous that her relationship status was even an issue, but it’s sadly not out of the norm. According to a September 2018 study in the Columbia Journalism Review, media coverage of female politicians includes more questions about family roles and work-family life balance. Even the most seemingly harmless word choices can lead respondents to see male candidates as up to 15% more qualified than female candidates.

For now, Abrams doesn’t seem too concerned about finding a boyfriend. She’s too busy fighting voter suppression and preparing for whatever’s next on her political bucket list. The right guy just hasn’t presented himself, she told Recode, and “as an introvert, I’ve been inside my house.” I can’t blame her. Politicians, they’re just like us.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan will announce a task force on healthcare, according to Georgia Health News.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan announced Wednesday that he has formed a task force to tackle health care access and costs in Georgia.

Duncan said the group will study medical price transparency and other “free-market’’ solutions, the use of data and technology, and employer innovations in health care.

The task force will consist of state lawmakers and academic and industry leaders. It will also include Atlanta-based consumer advocate Clark Howard, who’s nationally known as an author and broadcaster. The first meeting will come next week.

“Georgia has taken huge steps toward being a leader in the field of health care,” he said in a statement. “I am proud of the work we accomplished to pass 22 health care bills this past legislative session, but there is still much to be done. Now is the time to build on that momentum and find high-quality, affordable and accessible health care solutions. I am looking forward to working with this distinguished and diverse group of individuals to find common-sense solutions for all Georgians.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced the state’s opioid lawsuit will be moved to business court, according to the Albany Herald.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has announced that the Metro Atlanta Business Case Division Judges Committee has granted a motion to transfer the state’s opioid litigation to the business case division of Gwinnett County Superior Court.

“As we continue our multi-pronged fight against the opioid epidemic, we are pleased our lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors has been transferred to the Business Case Division of the Gwinnett County Superior Court,” Carr said. “This is the proper venue for a case of this complexity and is good news for the people of Georgia.”

Carr’s office said it filed this action to protect its citizens from the effects of the nationwide opioid crisis. Defendants are manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids.

Carr said this case requires a forum equipped to handle significant demands on time and resources, prompting a request that this matter be approved for transfer to the business case division of Gwinnett superior court.

U.S. Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) spoke about divided government and gridlock, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Allen blamed votes by some fellow Republicans for earlier failures to replace the Affordable Care Act and pass an immigration bill, but extolled tax reform as a success. He called a push by the Democrat-controlled House Education and Labor Committee “socialism” and said “Medicare for All” would nearly double federal spending. He expressed continued support for President Donald Trump, particularly in his trade dispute with China.

“I was elected in 2014 and we had divided government then, meaning that we didn’t have all the branches, and so we’re a little used to it being divided and trying to get things done for the American people,” Allen said. “Very difficult, because they’re really two different philosophies. There was difference back then; there is a big difference today on what America should look like, the vision for the country.”

Besides the health care reform, “the other big disappointment was the immigration reform,” Allen said. He didn’t mention Trump’s insistence on border wall funding, which was the focus of much of the debate at the time, although the legislation had other aspects.

“We had the votes in the House to do that, because we had the majority, but we had 30 (Republican) members who refused to vote for that legislation,” Allen said. “All we needed was about 18 of them to vote for it and we could have gotten it to the Senate.”

“We’ve got a mess at that border. We’ve got a mess in this country,” Allen said. “And those 30 people, on our own side, who voted against that legislation, they voted against it because they said they were going to lose their seat.”

The Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team confiscated more meth than any other drug, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Glynn County Commission Finance Committee recommended hiring a consultant to develop and implement a new impact fee, according to The Brunswick News.

The finance committee makes recommendations to the county commission. It does not make final decisions on financial matters.

According to a draft of the proposed contract, the consultant would look at what it would take to implement both countywide impact fees and fees specifically for St. Simons and Sea islands.

“Ross Associates’ services will include advice and assistance to Glynn County in general on impact fee matters, the preparation of an impact fee methodology report (including all impact fee calculations), preparation of a capital improvements element, the preparation of a final impact fee schedule for adoption, preparation of an impact fee ordinance conforming to all current state law requirements and assistance to staff in implementing the program,” the draft contract states.

According to the draft contract, revenue from impact fees would be set aside specifically for roads and bridges, stormwater drainage, flood control, bank and shore protection, parks, recreation areas and related facilities, public safety facilities and libraries, among other things.

If the contract is approved, Ross Associates would also help the commission create an impact fee advisory committee.

Carroll County Commissioners are considering placing a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum on the 2020 ballot, according to the Carrollton Times-Georgian.

Harris County voters will decide this year on an E-SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education) in November’s election, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

For the sixth time in three decades, Harris County voters will be asked to approve a sales tax to help fund school projects. But for the first time, the request will come in the form of two questions on the ballot.

When county voters go to the polls Nov. 5, and during early voting Oct. 14 through Nov. 1, they will see the Harris County School District’s asking:

▪ Whether to continue an existing 1% sales tax

▪ Whether to try a different way of financing the projects, which would include the possibility of an increasing property taxes.

Burke County dedicated a new judicial center, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

It was a celebration befitting a $20 million building that took nine years to build but left Burke County taxpayers with no debt.

Tuesday in the heart of Waynesboro, just across the street from the historic courthouse with its iconic clock tower that began ticking in 1898, the Burke County Judicial Center opened to the public with a dedication ceremony featuring Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton as the keynote speaker.

Burke County residents voted to use special purpose local option sales tax funds to build the judicial center in 2010. Unlike the old courthouse, the new 83,000-square-foot building has courtroom space for State, Probate and Superior courts.

The Athens-Clarke County Commission and the Board of Education held a joint meeting, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The joint meeting of the two elected bodies, engineered mainly by school board member Greg Davis, was the first time they’d sat down together in years.

The moderated meeting focused on two issues, and the meeting divided into two smaller groups to talk about each: housing and economic development.

Before they met in small groups, the commissioners and board of education members heard from the heads of each group about some of the things going on in their organizations, and then from Athens-Clarke County Director of Economic Development Michelle Nguyen and Planning Director Brad Griffin.

Whitfield County Commissioners cut the property tax millage rate, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

It took three votes and about 20 minutes of discussion, but on Monday the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to cut the property tax rate by .5 mill to 8.812 mills, down from 9.312 mills in 2018.

Chairman Lynn Laughter cast the dissenting vote. Laughter typically votes only in the event of a tie but said she felt it was important for her to vote because it was a tax matter.

Commissioners had been scheduled to vote to set the tax rate at the rollback rate, 9.196 mills, the rate that would offset any increased revenue from growth in the tax digest. Commissioner Barry Robbins appeared to catch some of the commissioners off guard when he made a motion to cut the tax rate 1 mill.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to amend the bylaws of the 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) Advisory Committee to allow a citizen or group with a project idea to present it to the committee. The bylaws had stated that citizens had to present the idea to the government that would be affected prior to bringing it to the committee.

Henry County Commission Chair June Wood will run for reelection in 2020, according to the Henry Herald.

“These are exciting times for Henry County, including Stockbridge, McDonough, Hampton and Locust Grove,” Wood said in a release. “Henry County is the second-fastest growing county in the metro Atlanta area. As our community experiences this rapid growth, I’m proud to let you know our crime index is still the lowest compared to surrounding counties.”

Wood, a Republican, will be seeking her second term as chairwoman of the BOC.

“We are putting Georgia on notice, this train is on the move,” Wood said. “We put in the time and work, and it’s extremely gratifying to see those endeavors come to fruition. There is still more work to be accomplished, but I’m confident that we will continue to see growth and enrichment, and this train will certainly keep moving.”

Johns Creek has three contested city council elections, according to the Johns Creek Herald.

Two sitting council members, Jay Lin and Steve Broadbent, have decided not run again, while Councilman Chris Coughlin will see reelection. In Johns Creek, all City Council members represent the city at-large.

Three nominees will compete for Post 2: Royce Reinecke, Brian Weaver and Dilip Tunki.

Three challengers will face Coughlin for Post 4. Coughlin is a research scientist elected to the council for an interim term in 2015 and again through a special election April 2017.

Other Post 4 candidates are attorney and professor Kent Altom, wealth adviser Adam Thomas and financial analyst Marybeth Cooper, who has served as president of the Johns Creek Community Association.

Three candidates have thrown their hat into the ring for Post 6: attorney Erin Elwood, consultant Issure Yang and massage therapist Judy LeFave.

Early voting will be held Oct. 15 through Nov. 1, and early voting locations will be posted on the Fulton County elections website, fultoncountyga.gov/rae-home. Absentee voters can view application information on the same website.

The Chatham Area Transit agency’s Board of Directors voted to eliminate all 12 bus stops in Thunderbolt, according to the Savannah Morning News.

During CAT’s Aug. 27 board meeting, directors approved an action item to end service to Thunderbolt’s stops along bus route 12 Henry in October because this area falls outside the tax district that funds CAT operations. While CAT buses have served passengers at these Thunderbolt stops since 1987, last year transit officials received complaints about the independent town receiving bus service without paying taxes to support it.

CAT subsequently attempted to forge an agreement to continue serving these dozen stops, but during the Town of Thunderbolt’s regular monthly meeting on Feb. 13, council members unanimously voted against raising taxes to maintain the bus stops, according to the meeting minutes.

“Unfortunately, CAT is prohibited by the state constitution from continuing operations within Thunderbolt under the present circumstances,” CAT interim Executive Director/CEO Michael Brown stated in a press release. “For service to continue, Thunderbolt would have to become a part of the transit district and be subject to the associated tax levied by Chatham County to help pay for the service.”

Buford Board of Education member Beth Lancaster will not run for another term, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Beth Lancaster, first elected to the Board of Education in 2011, did not qualify for re-election according to Buford City Clerk Kim Wolfe. In a written statement issued after Monday night’s monthly board meeting, Lancaster said she did not feel she could give the school board what it needed to continue to grow after her term expires in December. She cited increased work commitments as the reason.

“It was a very difficult decision for me to not run again, but I feel sure that someone in our community will step up and continue to do what’s best for our school system,” the statement said. “It has been an honor to serve with Phillip Bear, Pat Pirkle, Daren Perkins, and Bruce Fricks. These board members have served diligently and been a constant example to me of having a servant’s heart. I am grateful to the Buford community for allowing me to be a small part of their long-standing tradition.”

Two of the three candidates running for her seat attended Monday’s meeting. Matt Peevy is a Buford City Schools alumnus and nephew of former Georgia State Senator Donn M. Peevy. Matt Peevy’s father, Mitch Peevy, was a Buford City manager. Peevy said he’s made a living in environmental restoration and sits on the Georgia Restoration Board. He has a daughter in the Buford City school system.

Lien Diaz also introduced herself at Monday’s meeting. She is a 14-year resident of Buford with four children in the school system. She is a former science teacher and multi-sport coach. Her career in education spans 23 years and she currently serves as the Director of Educational Innovation and Leadership at Georgia Tech.

David Jerome Carter, the third candidate that qualified to run for Beth Lancaster’s seat, did not attend the meeting.

Daren Perkins is running to defend his seat against Melissa Ferris-Ozkan, who did not attend Monday’s meeting. Perkins was elected to the Buford City Board of Education in a special election in 2005. He is is currently the gas supervisor for Buford Gas.

Duluth City Council member Kirkland Carden is asking the Gwinnett County Commission to rebuke Sheriff Butch Conway, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Carden held a press conference at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center Tuesday to call on the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners to issue a public statement recognizing the contributions of immigrants and their descendants to Gwinnett; rebuking Conway for supporting King, who has been attacked by critics for using what they see xenophobic language against immigrants; and to conduct an informal investigation of Conway’s ties to the Dustin Inman Society and similar groups.

“I was shocked that our sheriff, who was elected to represent and serve all of Gwinnett, would invite D.A. King as a spokesperson to represent his department on such a controversial, significant (and) impassioned issue,” Carden said. “D.A. King should be able to enjoy the same First Amendment protections as we all are, as any other American. However, hateful xenophobic rhetoric has no place in our county and should never be elevated to a public platform by the sheriff.”

Meanwhile, Conway has also been vocal in his support for King in recent weeks.

“I’ve known D.A. King for years as a passionate advocate whose life’s work is raising awareness of the importance of immigration enforcement,” Conway told the Daily Post earlier this month. “Mr. King has worked extensively with Georgia legislators over a period of many years to help create immigration laws in Georgia and has been featured in numerous mainstream media publications over the years, including a front-page profile in the New York Times.

“I consider D.A. King a personal friend and appreciate his support of the 287(g) program and his willingness to assist us in our efforts to educate the public about the importance of this program to our community.”

Albany Mayoral candidate Tracy Taylor will take unpaid leave from his job as a firefighter to run for office, according to the Albany Herald.

Tracy Taylor, a part-time Albany Fire Department firefighter, said city regulations require him to take a leave of absence while running for a city office.

“My chief called me Monday morning,” said Taylor, who is employed full-time as a Waycross firefighter, during an interview at his Dawson Road campaign headquarters on Tuesday. “I was told I have to fill out a request for leave of absence with no pay.”

He said he suspected that would be the case but was not sure, as his human resources handbook said the city encourages employees to be active in the political process. However, in another section it states that employees cannot actively be employed while running for office and he said he will fill out paperwork seeking to leave his position until after the completion of the campaign.

“I was somewhat unsure of it, and thought since I was part time and didn’t receive benefits from the city it would preclude that,” Taylor, who is one of seven candidates seeking the mayor’s position on the Nov. 5 ballot, said.

The other candidates are Edward Allen, Bo Dorough, incumbent Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, Henry Mathis, James Pratt Jr. and Omar Salaam.

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