Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 16, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 16, 2020

On January 16, 1786, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted by the Virginia General Assembly.

On January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting alcoholic beverages, when Nebraska became the 36th of the 48 states then in the Union to ratify the Amendment.

At 4:30 PM on January 16, 1991, the Persian Gulf War began as air attacks against Iraq launched from US and British aircraft carriers, beginning Operation Desert Storm.

On January 16, 1997, a bomb exploded in a Sandy Springs abortion clinic, later determined to be the work of Eric Rudolph, who also bombed Centennial Olympic Park in 1996, a lesbian bar in Atlanta in February 1997, and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – LD4











Governor Brian Kemp will deliver the State of the State address today, according to the Albany Herald.

“Tomorrow, I will outline my blueprint for a stronger, safer and more prosperous Georgia to the people of our state,” Kemp posted on his Twitter account. “But for today, let’s focus on a historic 2019.”

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston warned the 2020 session is likely to be a long one, as lawmakers grapple with decisions on the spending cuts Kemp will recommend to adjust for a sluggish revenue outlook.

“Georgia is a big, growing, dynamic state,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “Budget decisions that impact the people of this state are too important to be influenced by a legislative calendar. We’ll take the time necessary to get the work done.”

A foster care system overhaul is expected to be part of today’s address, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp will unveil an overhaul of Georgia’s adoption and foster care system on Thursday that will triple a tax incentive for some adoptive parents and reduce the minimum age for unmarried people to adopt children.

The Republican is set to unveil the legislation at his State of the State address, where he will cast the proposal as part of “incredible progress” in recent years to make it easier for families to adopt children.

“Our goal is simple: to keep our kids safe, to encourage adoption and to ensure that every young Georgian — no matter where they live — has the opportunity to live in a safe, happy, loving home,” Kemp said in prepared remarks.

The legislation would increase the tax credit for adoptions out of the state foster care system from $2,000 to $6,000 for the first five years. The incentive would then drop back down to $2,000 a year until the child turns 18.

Governor Kemp appointed new members of the State Board of Education, according to AccessWDUN.

WDUN radio host Martha Zoller was one of three people appointed Tuesday to the Georgia state Board of Education by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Kemp also appointed Phenna Rene Petty to represent the 14th Congressional District in northwest Georgia, and Sally Lynn Nabors to represent that 13th Congressional District in the southern and western suburbs of Atlanta.

He reappointed Lisa Kinnemore of the 4th Congressional District in the eastern suburbs of Atlanta and Jason Downey of the 8th Congressional District in central and south Georgia.

Gov. Kemp also nominated Jannine Miller as the new Planning Director for the Georgia Department of Transportation, according to the AJC.

Jannine Miller is senior advisor to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and former advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. If approved by the state Senate and House transportation committees, she’ll become Kemp’s point person at GDOT, which is otherwise independent. She’ll replace Jay Roberts, who left the post last September to join a lobbying firm.

As GDOT’s planning director, Miller will have a big say in which highway projects become priorities for funding.

“This role is vitally important to our state’s economic success, and there is no better candidate for this job than Jannine Miller,” Kemp in a statement announcing her nomination. “Jannine’s experience in transportation policy, budgetary analysis and planning, and big-picture infrastructure development is truly unparalleled, and I look forward to working with her in the years ahead.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wants to change the date of qualifying for the United States Senate seat currently held by Senator Kelly Loeffler (R), according to the Gainesville Times.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wants to hold candidate qualifying for Loeffler’s Senate seat during the first week of March, spokesman Walter Jones said Wednesday. That’s the same window that candidates in other 2020 Georgia races must officially declare to get on the ballot.

But before Raffensperger sets that deadline, he’s asking the legislature to amend a state law dealing with special elections to specify that his office has discretion to decide the qualifying dates. He said he’s trying to avoid potential lawsuits at a time when Georgia courts are already busy with litigation challenging the fairness and security of the state’s elections.

“This is about providing Georgia voters certainty and order by putting into law what has been the practice for over 30 years,” Raffensperger, a Republican, said in a statement. “The last thing voters need now is another frivolous politically motivated lawsuit based on muddled legal reasoning.”

Georgia law says candidates in special elections to fill vacancies in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House can’t qualify to run before the election is officially called and must sign up no later than 60 days before the election. That window doesn’t close until early September.

From the AJC:

The legislation, House Bill 757, would give the secretary of state authority to set the candidate qualifying period for the November election. Raffensperger’s spokesman said he wants to hold candidate qualifying during the first week in March, the same time that candidates in other races will file their intention to run.

If that [existing] law were interpreted to mean candidate qualifying must remain open until September, candidates could have potentially sought to run in two Senate races this year. A candidate who lost a primary election in May for the seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue could have then jumped into the race against Loeffler.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Pitcher’s Mound) will appoint an advisory committee to develop proposals to foster the tech industry in Georgia, according to the AJC.

Duncan appointed a panel that includes retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, former Georgia Tech president G.P. “Bud” Peterson and 10 others to advise him on developing policy or legislation that could accelerate the growth.

Georgia Tech has been a major driver of tech-business development in Georgia. Companies moving to Georgia — mostly to Atlanta — often cite the research and deep pool of talent the university provides.

The Georgia Innovates Task Force will hold a first meeting this month.

“I want Georgia to be a national leader in technology research, development and implementation and allow for growth and evolution across all parts of Georgia,” Duncan said in a press release. Atlanta has become a center for tech companies that facilitate financial payment.

Senate Bill 293, addressing surprise medical billing, could pass the General Assembly soon according to the Rome News Tribune.

Georgia Senate leaders have targeted surprise billing early in the 2020 legislative session, which started on Monday. At a news conference Monday, Hufstetler said he has backing for legislation to curb the practice from both Gov. Brian Kemp and influential House members like House Rules Committee Chairman Richard Smith, R-Columbus.

“We’re going to finally this session get the consumer out of the middle of this issue and leave it between the health-care provider and the insurer to take care of,” Hufstetler said.

Hufstetler’s latest bill calls for patients receiving medical services at an in-network facility to be charged the same amount regardless of whether the work was performed by an in-network or out-of-network provider. That arrangement would apply for all health plans contracted as of July 1, 2021.

The bill leaves it to medical providers and insurance companies to work out the cost difference. Any disputes between the two parties would be resolved through arbitration overseen by the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s office.

House Bill 444 by State Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) would change dual enrollment rules for high school students, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Changes to Georgia’s dual enrollment program could be in the offing that would nix free college-level classes for freshman high schoolers.

Costs for the program allowing high-school students to take post-secondary classes have swelled from around $23 million in 2015 to around $140 million projected for the 2021 fiscal year. A revised bill presented to a state Senate committee Wednesday would cap enrollment enough to keep the program within its roughly $100 million budget for this year, Georgia Student Finance Commission President Caylee Noggle said.

Sponsored by state Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, the bill aims to keep growing enrollment in the program from overwhelming its budget. It has the backing of Gov. Brian Kemp. On Wednesday, Reeves said the program’s taxpayer-funded offerings have evolved beyond their original intent, noting some students can now enroll in exercise classes like Zumba.

Reeves will carry the legislation as a substitute to a bill he introduced last year on dual enrollment. His original bill largely mirrors the replacement legislation, which was crafted with staff from Kemp’s office.

State Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville) was appointed Chair of the Georgia Film, Music, and Digital Entertainment Commission, according to NowHabersham.

Rogers was appointed to the post this week. He’s served on the commission for several years, since first being appointed by former governor Nathan Deal. Gov. Kemp reappointed Rogers to the panel last November.

The 18-member commission serves as an advisory committee to the governor on matters relating to the state’s entertainment industry.

Augusta has a shortage of census workers for this year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A bill introduced Tuesday in the Georgia House by Judiciary Chairman Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, would add language that candidates will sign up “during a period designated by the Secretary of State” of at least 2 1/2 days during the wider window prescribed by the current law.

The Lowndes County Board of Education is considering purchasing a crisis alert system, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Steve Coleman, Lowndes County school safety coordinator, presented the proposal to the board. Both Dewar elementary and Hahira elementary schools received state security grants for $30,000 each and three different systems made a bid.

The Hall County Board of Elections is adding early voting locations for the March 24 Presidential Preference Primary and the May 21 Primary, according to the Gainesville Times.

Both elections will have three weeks of early voting as usual, but for the third week of early voting, the county will have three additional locations open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the North Hall Community Center, East Hall Community Center and Spout Springs Library. The Hall County Government Center, the main early voting location, will also be open.

The additional cost for the new locations is $22,400, Elections Director Lori Wurtz said. The change was unanimously approved by the Hall County Board of Elections on Tuesday.

After the March and May elections, the board will spend time at its June meeting looking at turnout and discussing feedback from poll workers and may adjust the early voting plan if needed.

Oconee County discussed security of voting equipment, according to the Oconee Enterprise.

During a Board of Commissioners Town Hall, Oconee Elections Director Fran Leathers assured voters that Oconee’s new 119 ballot devices and corresponding printers, as well as 17 precinct scanners, are safe and secure.

“Security is at a much higher level with the paper back-up used for auditing purposes or a recount,” Leathers told The Oconee Enterprise.

During a presentation of the new equipment, however, Watkinsville City Councilman Dan Matthews told a representative of the Secretary of State’s Office that he was not confident the state has tested for every possible scenario.

The precinct for North High Shoals has moved from the fire station to the new Town Hall within the town park. Malcom Bridge Middle School will no longer serve as a polling site due to security reasons, said Leathers, explaining that the precinct will move to Philothea Greek Orthodox Church, located at 3761 Mars Hill Road.

The county has also closed the Government Annex precinct, leaving City Hall as the sole voting place for Watkinsville residents.

Leathers said that in addition to signage explaining those changes, the Elections Office will assign poll workers to the defunct precincts at peak hour in order to redirect voters to the correct polling site.

Gainesville will spend $2.1 million on upgrading the county administration building, according to the Gainesville Times.

An injured Right Whale calf spotted off Georgia is not expected to survive, according to The Brunswick News.

The then-week-old calf and its mother, nicknamed Derecha, were first spotted Wednesday, Jan. 8, off Georgia’s Altamaha Sound by biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Photographs revealed the calf has deep gashes on either side of its head.

Two days later aerial and on-water surveys with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources re-spotted the pair Friday afternoon about 12 miles south off St. Simons Island.

Most worrisome is the gash on the left side of the calf’s mouth, which appears deep enough to have exposed bone and injure the underlying structure that produces baleen.

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