Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 15, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 15, 2020

An elected Provincial Assembly first convened in Georgia on January 15, 1751. The Assembly did not have the power to tax or spend money, but was to advise the Trustees.

The state of New Connecticut declared its independence of both Britain and New York on January 15, 1777. In June of that year they would decide on the name Vermont. Vermont would be considered part of New York for a number of years, finally being admitted as the 14th state in 1791.

The donkey was first used as a symbol for the Democratic Party on January 15, 1870 by cartoonist Thomas Nash.

democrat-donkey-cartoon

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – LD 3

COMMITTEE MEETING SCHEDULE

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY- Canceled MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:30 PM SENATE HIGHER ED 450 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH- CANCELLED 307 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE DEFENSE AND VETERANS AFFAIRS 415 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE STATE PROPERTIES 403 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM- Canceled 125 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HS- Canceled 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT- Canceled MEZZ 1

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

House Bill 276 by State Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Suburbia) appears headed to be the first bill passed this Session. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

On the House side, HB 276, sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, collects taxes from “marketplace facilitators” whose websites are used to sell goods and products produced by a separate company.

Senate leaders are also pushing for third-party sellers to charge a sales tax on online purchases. The Senate moved on the first day of the session to insist on their version of the bill, sending it back to the House. On Tuesday, the House insisted on its own bill.

The next step, a temporary conference committee made up of three House and three Senate members will form. The House has already appointed its three members: Reps. Harrell, Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe and Matt Dollar, R-Marietta.

Harrell told CNHI that the General Assembly is looking to get this legislation passed “as quickly as possible.”

“I think both the House, the Senate and the administration, all three, are in agreement that this is an issue that, quite frankly, we probably should have accomplished last year,” Harrell said.

From the Associated Press via the Gainesville Times:

EBay and Etsy are among the marketplaces targeted by the bill, but it remains to be seen what other companies could be affected.

“I think the House and the Senate are pretty much in alignment” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brett Harrell, a Snellville Republican, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I think that’s also true of the administration.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, a Rome Republican, said Monday that he hopes the measure could take effect as early as April 1, which could boost tax collections for the state’s current budget year. Harrell said he wants to ensure that the Georgia Department of Revenue and smaller retailers could accommodate a start before the July 1 beginning of the next budget year.

State officials estimate that tightening marketplace rules could bring in $78 million for the state and $65 million for local governments in the first year. Other estimates have suggested much greater revenue gains.So far, 38 states and the District of Columbia require online platforms to collect taxes for third-party sellers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Owners of brick-and-mortar stores strongly support it.

“We think this is a great way to bring parity for retailers in the state of Georgia as the business of retailing and customer behavior evolves,” said Thomas Buesse, executive director of the Georgia Retail Association.

State Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) is optimistic that legislation will pass to address “surprise billing,” according to Georgia Health News.

Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, told a breakfast gathering that the Governor’s Office has been involved in crafting legislation on the billing issue.

What’s known as surprise billing refers to instances in which consumers have procedures or visit ERs at hospitals in their insurance network, then receive separate bills from non-network doctors involved in their care. These unexpected charges can amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

“I think we’ll get it done,” said Watson, a physician. If the Legislature fails to act on surprise billing, he added, it would not be a successful legislative session.

The issue is very complicated, said Rep. Jodi Lott, an Evans Republican who serves as House floor leader for the governor. She added, “I think we’re ready to pass something.”

From the AJC:

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, one of the key legislators on the surprise billing issue, introduced legislation Tuesday that would curb patients’ risk of getting a surprise bill. He emphasizes it’s just a draft and negotiations are still in process. But in the proposal, Hufstetler, a doctor, takes a step toward the position of insurance companies — doctors’ opponents on surprise billing. The legislation is Senate Bill 293.

Senate Bill 293 would base the price list on what insurance companies have already negotiated in their other contracts. Doctors have traditionally opposed that. The state Department of Insurance would create the price database, and there would be additional options for independent arbitration.

Hufstetler and Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, have been key opponents on the surprise billing issue, but recently they’ve been meeting and trying to hash it out. Smith chairs the House Rules Committee but was until recently chairman of the House Insurance Committee. He was seen as an advocate for insurance companies’ position on surprise billing.

Smith said he and Hufstetler had come to agreement on a lot of the sticking points.

House Bill 756 by State Rep. Bob Trammell and a number of his Democratic colleagues would require more stringent measures for coal ash ponds, according to The Brunswick News.

A bill filed Monday, the first day of the 2020 legislative session would force Georgia Power Co. to install impervious lining around every site where coal ash is stored, including ash ponds set for permanent closure in the coming years. The measure aims to keep the ash from leaching into nearby drinking wells and underground aquifers.

“We have to be protective of our groundwater,” said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, one of the bill’s six Democratic co-sponsors. “The possibility of toxic coal ash seeping into the water is very real.”

Georgia Power spokeswoman Holly Crawford said the company is reviewing the bill. She said 10 of the 29 ponds will be sealed in place “using proven engineering methods and closure technologies,” and that the closures meet state and federal regulations. Company representatives also tout the economic benefits of recycling coal ash into materials like concrete.

The bill’s backers expect pushback from the bill to center on how much it would cost Georgia Power to install new liners. The company is set to collect $525 million from customers through 2022 to clean up coal ash under a rate increase request the Georgia Public Service Commission approved last month.

State Rep. Gerald Greene (R-Cuthbert) announced a $1.5 million grant to fight feral pigs, according to the Albany Herald.

Representative Gerald Greene reported on the opening day of the 2020 General Assembly that $1.5 million has been granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District to pilot an eradication program for feral swine. The program will address the destructive menace in Calhoun, Dougherty and Terrell counties.

Greene is working with the State Agriculture Department and the Department of Natural Resources to create a balance in the wild hog population. “By working together with our state and national partners, our hope is to control this invasive species, to protect crops and farming areas, while protecting our national resources for the future,” he said.

Ivanka Trump visited Atlanta yesterday and discussed human trafficking, according to the AJC.

Trump said her father’s administration is “committed to bringing the full force and weight of the U.S. government to solve the horrific problem of trafficking in persons.” The governor and Georgia’s first lady, Marty Kemp, also pledged their efforts, which will include legislation increasing penalties for those convicted of sex trafficking.

Despite the star power of the event, it was the stories of the victims that riveted a small audience that included U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and GBI Director Vic Reynolds.

“You really represent resilience and strength on a level we will never know,” Trump told the women who testified.

Federal and state officials pledged their help. Trump cited bipartisan legislation her father has signed over the past three years. Later this month the White House will host a summit of government officials, employers and others seeking solutions to modern slavery.

The Kemps have also made trafficking a priority. On Monday, the first day of the legislative session, Marty Kemp unveiled a new training program to help identify sex trafficking victims.

“You are very brave to tell your story,” the governor told the victims who spoke Tuesday. “People are listening now. Your fellow Georgians are listening.”

The Daily Beast covered what Ivanka Trump wore.

Ivanka Trump absolutely wowed when she stepped out Tuesday in a jaw-dropping black and white print blazer and pants combo during a trip to Atlanta.

The first daughter looked just as stunning as ever in pictures/clips in the long sleeve jacket and matching print trousers as she joined Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and other government officials at Atlanta’s Safe Haven Survivors of Human Trafficking.

She completed the truly stunning look with a matching print top, loose hair and black high heels. To say it was the perfect winter look would be a serious understatement.

Hall County hosted a public session with the state’s new voting equipment, according to AccessWDUN.

About 50 people attended the first session, where representatives from the Secretary of State’s office demonstrated the new system, then allowed those in attendance to actual use the machines to cast pretend ballots.

Hall County elections officials, who hosted the event, were pleased with the turnout.

“I think this is an indication that the public is listening, and they are very interested in seeing these new machine, and coming in and learning everything they can,” Elections Director Lori Wurtz said. “I think this says we’re going to have a smooth election day.”

But Wurtz said she knows holding the demonstrations during business hours means some people cannot attend because they are at work.

“So people can drop by our office anytime during the day and we have some machines set up,” she said. “We’ll be happy to help people get familiar with the machines.”

Wurtz said groups of people can also be accommodated, but she asked the groups call the Elections Office to schedule an appointment. She also said the office would schedule night and weekend demonstrations if enough voters requested it.

“I think it’s great, but I think it’s going to be slower, Susan Joninas, one of the county’s poll managers, said. “Slower moving, maybe not next year, but certainly this year.”

Gwinnett County will hold a public session with the new voting machines, according to the AJC.

Gwinnett county elections officials will demonstrate the state’s new voting machines at 10 a.m. Feb. 1 at Pinckneyville Community Center, 4650 Peachtree Industrial Blvd. in Berkeley Lake.

Voters using the new system will present their driver’s license or other identification card for scanning, then proceed to a touchscreen voting machine. Once completing their election choices, the new equipment will print out a paper ballot for review. Once reviewed by the voter, the paper ballot is then scanned for tabulation.

The Glynn County Board of Elections is addressing budget issues associated with the new voting machines, according to The Brunswick News.

Because the new machines involve paper ballots, the board will have to spend more money on toner and paper, said Elections and Registration Supervisor Chris Channell.

While the Georgia Secretary of State’s office has yet to release the official rules for operating the new machines, Channell said it’s likely that ballot paper will have to be purchased from Dominion Voting, which manufactures the machines, at a higher cost than from third-party providers.

He also said the board is looking for new poll workers. The board would prefer to have more than necessary for its first time using the new voting machines.

Five candidates have applied for a seat on the Clarke County Board of Education, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The names of the five who submitted an application to fill the seat are Mary P. Bagby, Alia Ghosheh, Giovanna McDavid, Rafaela Delgado Marin and Antwon Stephens.

School officials released the names Tuesday, but as of Tuesday afternoon had not yet released their applications and supporting materials each candidate submitted by a Friday deadline.

The board is scheduled to choose a new member during a Thursday meeting after hearing briefly from each candidate and any of their supporters who sign up to speak to the board before Thursday at 4 p.m.

Under Georgia law, school boards are responsible for picking a new member when someone steps down before completing his or her term.

Stephen Bradley, current District Attorney for the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit (Baldwin, Jones, Hancock, Wilkinson, Putnam, Jasper, Greene, and Morgan Counties) announced he will run for Superior Court Judge, according to 13WMAZ.

Bradley took over the office in 2015 after the District Attorney at that time, Fred Bright, stepped down because of health issues.

With eight counties, the Ocmulgee Circuit covers more courthouses than any other judicial circuit in the state. The election is May 19.

Charles Olson withdrew his candidacy for Mayor of Macon-Bibb County, according to WGXA-TV.

Election day for the new Macon-Bibb mayor along with new commissioners will take place in May.

Johnny Crist announced he will resign as Mayor of Lilburn to run as a Republican for State House District 108, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Lilburn voters will have to choose a new mayor and councilman in a special election this year after Mayor Johnny Crist has turned in his resignation to run for a seat in the Georgia General Assembly, city officials announced Tuesday.

Crist confirmed he is running as a “conservative Republican” for the Georgia House of Representatives District 108 seat, prompting him to step down, effective later this spring. The seat is held by Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, who was one of several Democrats who flipped seats in Gwinnett’s legislative delegation in the 2018 elections.

The seat’s former occupant, former state Rep. Clay Cox, had previously announced plans to run for the seat again as a Republican, but backed out at Thanksgiving.

Crist’s resignation has, in turn, created a domino effect, leading to Councilman Tim Dunn, who has been the mayor pro tem, stepping down from his council seat so he can run for mayor. Dunn’s and Crist’s resignations will be effective March 1.

The special election to fill the mayor’s seat and Dunn’s Post 4 council seat will be held May 19.

Dr. John Cowan announced he will run for the 14th Congressional District seat being vacated by Republican Tom Graves (R-Ranger), according to the Rome News Tribune.

“I’m running now because I believe I have the necessary skills and training to address the nation’s deepest needs,” he said. “The values and freedoms that Americans hold dear are imperiled by our nation’s unsustainable healthcare spending. We spend more on healthcare than any developed nation yet have declining life expectancy and worse health. Healing a broken healthcare system will go a long way toward putting us back on the right path. This can’t happen without physicians in Congress. It’s time to make a House call.”

“I grew up on a cattle farm in Northwest Georgia, where my family has lived for a century now,” Cowan said in the release. “My community has invested in me and given me unbelievable opportunity. I want to represent our conservative values in Congress because we continually need a new supply of business and civic leaders who don’t come from the career political class. We need creative new ideas, rooted in traditional values.”

Luke Martin, the Floyd County GOP chair, said they’re happy to have a local candidate enter the race.

“Floyd County Republicans are excited at the chance to elect one of our own to Congress,” Martin said. “We have three strong pro-Trump, pro-gun and pro-life candidates in the race right now and I’m excited to see who the voters elect this summer.”

Clayton Fuller, an Air Force veteran from Lookout Mountain, and Marjorie Greene, a wealthy businesswoman from Alpharetta who shifted her campaign here from the District 6 race, have also been campaigning locally.

Dalton City Council remains at loggerheads with Whitfield County Commissioners over service delivery strategy. From the Dalton Daily News Citizen:

Mandatory mediation of the service delivery agreement among the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, the Dalton City Council and the city councils of Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell ended without a deal. And on Thursday, Dalton City Council members are scheduled to meet with the city’s attorneys to discuss how they will go forward.

“I don’t know what our next step is,” said Dalton Mayor David Pennington. “I won’t know that until after we have had a chance to talk to our attorneys about what our options are.”

State law requires cities and counties to negotiate a new service delivery agreement every 10 years, spelling out which services the governments will provide and how they will be funded. The agreements are aimed at reducing duplication of services. The Whitfield County service delivery agreement — actually 39 separate agreements — covers items ranging from ambulance service to historic preservation to zoning.

Glynn County Commissioners will put a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the November ballot, instead of the previously considerd May election, according to The Brunswick News.

At a meeting Tuesday, Glynn County commissioners committed to building a new animal control shelter at the county’s public safety complex and pushed the vote on Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 2020 from the May primary ballot to the November general election ballot.

In light of the new commitment, Brunson suggested moving the SPLOST 2020 referendum from the May primary ballot to November to work on completing more SPLOST 2016 projects before putting it before the voters.

Also, he said there were many questions about a planned $19 million-plus courthouse expansion project that the commission should get answered before putting SPLOST 2020 to a vote.

“We still have a lot of moving parts as it relates to SPLOST 2016, the animal control facility not the least of them,” Brunson said. “I think we need to get down the road, that project needs to be shovel-ready at least by the time we take this to the voters again.

Hall County Public Schools will hold public sessions to discuss a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (E-SPLOST) on the March ballot, according to the Gainesville Times.

Before the March 24 vote, community members will have several chances to ask questions about the sixth round of the education special purpose local option sales tax and the general obligation bond referendum.

Hall County Schools invites people to attend any of its seven informational meetings, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. every Monday, from Jan. 27 through March 9.

The bonds will allow Hall to begin work on its school renovations and building products. The system will pay back the bonds with revenues from the 1-cent sales tax.

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