Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 9, 2020

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Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 9, 2020

The first modern circus was held in London on January 9, 1768. The next one kicks off on Monday in the big building downtown with a gold dome.

Thomas Paine published a pamphlet titled, “Common Sense” on January 9, 1776. The pamphlet is considered to have united colonists to the cause of American independence.

Herman Talmadge was sworn-in to his second term as Governor of Georgia on January 9, 1951.

Segregated seating on Atlanta buses was held unconstitutional by a federal court on January 9, 1959.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter arrived in Athens to register at the University of Georgia on January 9, 1961.

Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, debuted the iPhone on January 9, 2007.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia  Governor Brian Kemp has an editorial in the Augusta Chronicle.

In January 2019, I took the oath of office to officially became Georgia’s 83rd governor. Since then, I have worked around the clock to make good on campaign promises and keep Georgia moving in the right direction.

As a father of three, my top priority will always be public safety. That’s why – working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Attorney General Chris Carr and our dedicated U.S. Attorneys – we have doubled down on our efforts to stop and dismantle street gangs and drug cartels. As you know, ruthless criminals are flooding our communities with drugs, weapons, violence and fear. Nearly every county has reported a rise in gang activity with membership levels climbing to 71,000. We are under siege with no time to waste.

Under Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds, the new anti-gang task force is taking the fight to these criminals and working with local law enforcement officials across our state to put them behind bars. During this legislative session, I look forward to working with the General Assembly to strengthen anti-gang laws and give law enforcement greater tools to shut down illegal operations.

Another alarming public safety concern – made worse by organized crime – is human trafficking. Every day, innocent children are sold for sex in Georgia. It is a disturbing, profit-driven industry threatening families and communities in every corner of our state. Last January, my family and I attended Street Grace’s Stop Traffick event in Atlanta that illustrated the evil that we face; 72 school buses drove in rush-hour traffic to represent the 3,600 children sold into modern-day slavery in Georgia every year. This visual called my family to action. We could not remain on the sidelines of this fight….

During the upcoming legislative session, we will continue to value life by championing reforms to our state’s foster care and adoption laws. We will invest in education, strengthen our anti-gang and human trafficking laws, and spur economic growth by eliminating red tape for job creators. We will continue to budget conservatively, save for a rainy day, and be good stewards of taxpayer funds.

Above all, we will continue to put hardworking Georgians first in 2020. We will stand with our farmers, support our veterans, defend our conservative values, and always protect the most vulnerable among us.

I am honored to serve as your governor and look forward to working together in the new year to build a safer, stronger Georgia!

Governor Kemp is considering whether Georgia will continue accepting federal resettlement of refugees, according to the AJC.

[An] executive order by President Donald Trump requires state and local governments to provide written consent to the federal government if they want to accept refugees, giving state officials new powers to block them.

Kemp’s decision could affect as many as 1,052 people who are fleeing persecution in their home countries and who could be brought to Georgia this fiscal year, according to the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies. But Kemp has stayed largely silent on the issue, aside from suggesting he has some flexibility with his timeline. He said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it “seems like a lot of what’s been reported on deadlines and what needs to be done is not correct,” though he and his office didn’t elaborate.

Forty-two states — many led by Republican governors — have either issued such letters or have indicated they will do so, according to Church World Service, a refugee resettlement agency. Dozens of cities and counties across the nation have done the same. Kemp is among a handful of state leaders who has not yet taken a stance.

A Special Election for DeKalb County Sheriff drew nine candidates during qualifying, according to the Champion.

Voters in the March 24 special election for DeKalb County sheriff will see nine candidates on the ballot.

Qualifying for the seat began Jan. 6 at 9 a.m. and ended at noon Jan. 8.  Melody Maddox has been serving in the role since Dec. 1 after former sheriff Jeffrey Mann announced Nov. 13 that he would retire on Nov. 30. As required per the DeKalb County code, Maddox, the former DCSO chief deputy was appointed to serve in the sheriff’s position until the position is filled through an election.

Those who qualified as candidates for the sheriff’s position are:

Geraldine Champion, retired homicide detective

Harold Dennis, former DeKalb County reserve lieutenant

Adam Gardner, law enforcement

Ted Golden, retired special agent for DEA

Antonio Johnson, retired marshal

Kyle Keith Jones, retired law enforcement

Melody Maddox, DeKalb County sheriff

Carl Mobley, retired DeKalb County officer

Ruth Stringer, retired law enforcement

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced his office will work with Augusta University and the Georgia Cyber Center, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Election security must be a “first priority,” Raffensperger said in a statement.

“In this challenging environment, Georgia is fortunate to have national-caliber expertise to help stay ahead of the bad actors,”  said. “This association is another way Georgians can be confident that their vote will be accurate and secure.”

The Augusta experts will examine the state’s systems — which is receiving new equipment this year — and the environment in which they are employed to look for potential vulnerabilities, [Dr. Alex Schwarzmann, dean of the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences] said. The center will get a replica of the real systems deployed to help with that evaluation, he said.

“We’ll be evaluating the equipment, identifying any potential security vulnerabilities and advising the state on how to make sure these vulnerabilities do not become a risk in terms of official elections in the state,” Schwarzmann said. “We’re looking at the entire environment in which the collection of equipment can be used safely.”

The Georgia-Florida water lawsuit is headed for the United States Supreme Court, according to WABE.

For three decades, Georgia and Florida have been battling over how to share a precious resource: water. Georgia has it, and Florida, which is downstream, says it’s not getting its fair share. The dispute is once again headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Florida wants the justices to cap Georgia’s water use. But a court-appointed special master recently rejected that idea.

After two decades of talks and lawsuits, Florida finally went to the Supreme Court in 2013, asking it to limit how much water Georgia could use.

State Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) is preparing to take over as Chair of the House Rules Committee, according to the Georgia Recorder.

The Columbus Republican and retired University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service director was sworn into the state Legislature Jan. 10, 2005. For about eight of the last 15 years, he chaired the state House Insurance Committee. So, he’s heard his share of testimony about the price Georgians pay for health care.

When Smith is sitting in the Rules chair, he’ll give preference to bills that he says meet common litmus tests.

“Will it create jobs, will it improve health care, the road system, fund the state?” Smith said.

Smith said he intends to approach the job with objectivity. He’s looking for a satisfactory answer to several questions, like why a bill is being proposed, whether it has unintended consequences and how it would benefit the state.

“Then you say ‘OK, maybe that needs to make it to the House floor for a vote,’” Smith said.

The Valdosta Daily Times looks at the work of the Joint Special Committee on Access to Health Care and Insurance.

Independent pharmacies in Georgia are saying big pharmaceutical management companies are running them out of business, and lawmakers are struggling with what they can do to even the playing field.

A Joint Special Committee on Access to Health Care and Insurance convened within days of the first session to hear testimony from Georgia pharmacists, patients and physicians on how pharmacy benefit managers — third-party drug providers such as CVS and Express Scripts — and Medicaid managed care organizations “rig the system” to profit from patient’s drug needs.

“Calling this meeting so close to the session hasn’t been taken lightly,” Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, chairman of the House insurance committee, said. “It’s being convened because we believe that it’s necessary.”

Last session, Rep. David Knight, the Griffin Republican, led legislation that passed with almost unanimous bipartisan support to prevent large pharmacy benefit managers from steering patients away from independent pharmacies to often more expensive drugs with unreliable prescription services.

The House Majority Caucus announced in the hours following the meeting that Knight will spearhead additional legislation this session “closing loopholes in existing laws” and bringing oversight to pharmaceutical management companies and Medicaid managed care organizations contracted with the state. The legislation will carve out prescription drug benefits from Medicaid managed care — intended to save money while compensating local pharmacies equally.

The Georgia Recorder writes about the State House Maternal Mortality Committee.

A push to ensure low-income new mothers have a year of health care coverage through Medicaid – as opposed to cutting off access for many of them two months after they give birth – is among the raft of proposed legislative fixes coming out of the study committees that met this fall.

The proposal from a panel focused on the state’s high rate of maternal deaths, which routinely places Georgia among the worst in the nation. It was packed into a report released Monday that also recommended mandating autopsies for women who die during or after pregnancy and leaning more on local health departments to provide care to pregnant women and new moms.

Rep. Sharon Cooper, a Marietta Republican who chaired the maternal mortality study committee, says she has been pressing the governor’s office to fund the Medicaid extension even as Gov. Brian Kemp calls for budget cuts in response to unsteady state revenues.

Georgia Health News looks at some of the challenges for rural Georgia healthcare.

Taliaferro (pronounced “Tolliver”) is the least populous county in Georgia, with fewer than 1,800 inhabitants. But its people have more than their share of problems. They suffer from a higher obesity rate than Georgia’s average, and County Health Rankings show the county has a higher rate of physical inactivity as well as a lack of access to exercise opportunities. There is also a higher rate of poverty among children, which adds to the difficulty in maintaining a public health standard for the upcoming generation.

The needs are obvious. But the difficulty that Twilley experienced shows how hard the problems can be to address. Here and in other parts of rural America, many organizations face big challenges when they try to improve public health. Even when new projects are introduced, the efforts may not be sustainable if the funding runs out.

Whitfield County Commissioners will not vote on placing a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the ballot until Dalton signs off on an agreement, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners had planned to vote this coming Monday on an intergovernmental agreement that would spell out how a four-year, $66 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) would be spent.

But with the Dalton City Council tabling action on that agreement this past Monday, Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter said commissioners probably won’t vote on the matter.

“We can’t vote until they sign off on it,” she said. “We’ll probably leave it on the agenda in case they sign it at the last minute, and table it if they don’t.”

Statesboro swore in three new City Council members, according to the Statesboro Herald.

District 2 Councilwoman Paulette Chavers, was then voted mayor pro tempore by the rest of the council.

Separately and in series, Chavers, District 3 Councilwoman Venus Mack and District 5 Councilwoman Shari Barr each raised her right hand and was administered the oath of office by Bulloch County Probate Court Judge Lorna DeLoach.

State Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) spoke to the Newnan Times-Herald about the upcoming legislative session.

Ethylene oxide, coal ash and the Golden Ray – as well as health care legislation, rural broadband, and gambling – are among the issues Rep. Lynn Smith expects to deal with this legislative session.

Smith, R-Newnan, is chairwoman of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, and her committee hears most bills dealing with environmental issues.

Another issue Smith said she is working on involves the way property tax values are calculated for land that has streams or wetlands on it. The state requires a 50-foot buffer on each side of a stream, and that buffer can add up to a significant amount of land that can only be used in a limited way. Smith said she wants to make sure that is taken into account when property values are calculated.

Sam Pardue announced his resignation as  Dean of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Floyd County Commissioner Allison Watters announced she will run for reelection, according to the Rome News Tribune.

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