Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 20, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 20, 2019

New Jersey became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights on November 20, 1789.

Duane Allman was born in Nashville, Tennessee on November 20, 1946.

President John F. Kennedy lifted the naval blockade of Cuba on November 20, 1962, ending the Cuban Missile Crisis.

On November 20, 1975, Ronald Reagan announced he would run for President of the United States against incumbent Republican Gerald Ford. On May 4, 1976, Reagan won Georgia’s Presidential Primary with 68% over Ford.

Newt Gingrich was reelected Speaker of the House on November 20, 1996.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Republicans rallied in support of President Trump, according to the AJC.

The Women for Trump Empower Hour, as the event was called, drew a beyond-capacity crowd of both men and women to the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum and Park. An hour before things got underway, the line stretched through the parking lot and down the sidewalk. By the time things kicked off, overflow crowds had gathered outside the event hall to listen.

Many waiting to get in said impeachment hearings inspired them to come.

“The support for the president is increasing,” she said. “Do they really think the American people are that stupid?”

The State House Special Committee on Economic Growth met to hear public feedback on proposals to legalize gambling, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The committee, co-chaired by Georgia state Reps. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville), Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) and Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) and joined by committee members Dale Washburn (R-Macon), Al Williams (D-Midway) and Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville), traveled to Valdosta to discuss new economic development possibilities, specifically gaming.

Lawmakers cannot legalize gaming, or gambling. They can, however, introduce a constitutional amendment to referendum ballots and allow residents to decide. Valdosta was the first stop on a series of meetings the committee will hold around the state to start a dialogue with local communities and gauge interest in legalized gambling.

Representatives emphasized that the lottery has not been able to fully fund HOPE for years. They discussed concern of HOPE dropping from 100% funding for students to about 70%, and how gaming industries could help close the gap. The other major area where gaming revenue could be directed is to state health care.

Lowndes County Commissioner Mark Wisenbaker asked the state representatives why HOPE scholarship funding has declined, and Stephens responded that increased population growth and static lottery participation is one cause. The other is the rise in cost of state universities.

Powell said HOPE was a “blank check” for university systems who continued to raise tuition and fees despite the lottery being unable to keep up with the monetary demands.

When asked by Bill Slaughter, chairman of the Lowndes County Commission, about the kind of economic impact gambling would have, Stephens said having six gaming resorts in the state could raise $1 billion in taxes.

If approved by voters, state lawmakers said an independent gaming commission could possibly be established to regulate the new industries.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

“I want to get some local feedback on this idea, how local people feel,” said state Rep. Jason Ridley, R-Chatsworth, to a meeting of the League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area. “And I want to see what the final bill looks like. There have been times when there have been bills come through the General Assembly that sound good but the final bill has a lot of problems.”

Lawmakers are talking about placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would legalize one or more of casino gambling, horse racing and sports betting.

“I’m skeptical of all three,” said Ridley. “I’m skeptical of where the money would go. If the money is going to be directed, for instance, to health care and making sure that everybody across Georgia has better access to health care, I would feel more comfortable.”

State Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton, said he is also waiting to see what the final proposal looks like before making up his mind.

“I’m skeptical of legal gambling, whether any benefits would outweigh the costs,” he said.

From the AJC:

The Valdosta hearing was the first of several planned “listening sessions” across the state as lawmakers study the potential economic impact of expanding gambling, which supporters say would bring thousands of jobs and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the Georgia Lottery-funded HOPE scholarship.

But to those in the room, it felt a lot like a sales pitch.

Local elected officials at the meeting said if Georgia voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing casinos, they would likely want to bring one to the Valdosta area.

House Regulated Industries Chairman Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, said the panel is still scheduling community visits, and he expects there will be a few more before lawmakers return to Atlanta in January for the 2020 legislative session. Harrell said he hopes the tour of the state allows lawmakers to learn as much as they can about what Georgians think.

Residents of rural Georgia are diagnosed with HIV at rates nearly as high as metro Atlanta, according to the Albany Herald.

“Fulton and DeKalb counties dominate in terms of number of cases, but rural areas have new diagnosis rates only slightly lower than these urban areas. These rural areas likely need different strategies for HIV prevention and ways to ensure access to treatment and prevention services,” said [Aaron Siegler, an associate professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health], who has produced research on HIV prevention.

Rural residents have more obstacles in getting medical care or in preventing HIV in the first place, he added.

Georgia has the leading rate of new diagnoses among states. The state ranks No. 3 in HIV risk in the nation, trailing only Ohio and Nevada, according to the study from Health Testing Centers, which used data from the CDC.

Gwinnett County‘s proposed 2020 budget includes funding for 166 additional positions, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Under the spending plan proposal unveiled Tuesday morning, the county is looking to spend a total of $1.83 billion in its proposed 2020 budget. That is up 0.4% from the 2019 budget.

Some items in the budget include 166 new positions — 77% of which are in public safety and judicial positions — as well as 4% pay for performance for employees and the annualization of a 3% mid-year cost of living raise implemented earlier this year, and some new innovation including a situational awareness and crime response center, flexible med units and alternative response vehicles.

Augusta Commissioners adopted a balanced budget for 2020, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The commission voted 7-2 to approve the revised budget, with Commissioners Marion Williams and John Clarke opposed. Clarke said he thought some departments were given too much and others too little but declined to provide specifics.

The Augusta Commission also voted to pay for fixes to Fleming Park, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta Commission voted Tuesday to finally expedite $1 million to fix safety issues at Fleming Athletic Complex, where a child was electrocuted last year.

The funding was among $11 million in uncommitted special purpose local option sales tax money that was reallocated to other projects. Fleming was given the top priority after Commissioner Mary Davis asked that it be expedited. Fleming will also benefit from $1.5 million set aside to address safety issues at all of the Augusta Recreation and Parks facilities, Mayor Hardie Davis said. The fixes will help to bring “closure” to the tragic events at Fleming, he said.

Melquan Robinson Jr., 12, died in October 2018 at Fleming after he grabbed a fence that had been accidentally electrified. His family settled with the city for $1.5 million and an agreement to put a memorial in the park. A road that runs alongside the park was also renamed this month for Melquan.

Glynn County Commissioners are considering a pair of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendums, according to The Brunswick News.

Proposed by commissioners David O’Quinn and Wayne Neal at the group’s Tuesday work session, the plan would require a “seven-year vision” covering a two-year SPLOST from 2020 to 2022 and another five-year SPLOST from 2022 to 2027.

The special-purpose, local-option sales tax is a one percent sales tax proposed by local government agencies and approved or denied by voters at the ballot box. A SPLOST can run from one to six years, depending on the types of projects on the ballot. SPLOST 2020 will be on the ballot in the May 2020 primary election.

The two proposed the plan because they felt it would be the more responsible option when dealing with a $20 million Glynn County Courthouse expansion project and help restore faith in a citizenry they felt doubted the county’s ability to follow through on a SPLOST 2020.

A two-year SPLOST would amount to about $40.1 million, according to O’Quinn. Of that, $3 million would go towards the aforementioned courthouse work, while the rest would go towards the most high-priority infrastructure projects.

The city of Brunswick, Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission and Jekyll Island Authority also get a cut in the plan.

Whitfield County‘s SPLOST advisory committee is working to finalize its proposed project list, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“We’ve got to get from $27 million down to $19 million,” said Chris Shiflett, chairman of the advisory committee. The committee previously settled on a goal of having a SPLOST of no more than four years and collecting roughly $66 million during that time; the city’s share of that should be approximately $19 million, but requests from various city agencies and departments totaled roughly $27 million.

The advisory committee, which will soon present its recommendations to the county Board of Commissioners, was formed in the wake of county voters defeating a proposed six-year, $100 million SPLOST in March. The most recent SPLOST for the county expired on June 30.

In order to trim roughly $8 million from the city requests, the advisory committee nixed an airport hangar, for approximately $1 million; a heavy rescue truck for the Dalton Fire Department, also about $1 million; and a $1.5 million Haig Mill Lake Park trail extension. City officials had previously indicated they plan to move forward with the vast preponderance of the projects they requested SPLOST funding for, if not all of them, so the advisory committee was essentially deciding which of those items warranted SPLOST funds and which the city would have to pay for on its own.

A SPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county. The revenues can be used for certain types of projects but they can not be used for general operating expenses.

“We’re pretty much done,” Shiflett said at the conclusion of Monday’s meeting. The full SPLOST advisory committee has no more meetings scheduled at this time, although Shiflett will work with a handful of members to “set our words and verbiage” in a letter that will outline the projects they are recommending and explain the thought process behind those selections.

State Rep. Bob Trammell (D-Macon) had prefiled legislation to stop the salaries of suspended state elected officials, according to the Center Square.

House Minority Leader Robert “Bob” Trammell pre-filed House Bill 742 and House Bill 874 ahead of the 2020 legislative session that would change current law.

“They’re not going to work. They’re not doing the job. Somebody else is having to do that job,” Trammell said. “The taxpayers should not be paying them for the work in that circumstance.”

House Bill 874 will change Georgia’s constitution to prohibit state government officials, who are facing felony indictment, from receiving their taxpayer-funded salaries. The change will apply to all members of the General Assembly and other high-ranking officials such as the governor, his lieutenant, the secretary of state, state superintendent of schools and the attorney general.

Trammell’s second prefiled bill would change Georgia law to block pay for all other public officials and employees who are suspended because of a federal indictment.

According to the proposals, once the affected public official is reinstated to his or her position, they would be able to recover the lost wages.

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