Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 29, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 29, 2020

On January 29, 1779, British forces captured Augusta, Georgia.

Walter F George Vienna Georgia

Walter F. George was born on January 29, 1878 in Preston, the county seat for Webster County, Georgia. Ron Daniels has a brief bio of the United States Senator who gave his name to a Law School, a courthouse, and a lake. The photo above is a bust in the town square of Vienna, Georgia, in Dooly County, where George made his home.

On January 29, 1892, the Coca Cola Company was incorporated in Georgia in Fulton County Superior Court.

On January 29, 1955, Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin signed legislation granting the power to take land needed for the Stone Mountain Park through condemnation if negotiations to buy it fell through.

On January 29, 1977, Congressman Andrew Young resigned his seat to accept the nomination by President Carter as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

On January 29, 1998, a bomb exploded in a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic, killing a police officer. Eric Rudolph would later admit to setting that bomb, along with the Centennial Park bombing in 1996, and the bombing of a Sandy Springs abortion clinic and an Atlanta bar in 1997.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Joe Campbell of Camilla won the Special Election for House District 171, according to WALB.

Joe Campbell (R) has been elected in the special election to fill the seat after the sudden death of [State Rep. Jay] Powell. He will now represent Colquitt, Decatur and Mitchell counties in the Georgia House.

Campbell was running against fellow Republican, Tommy Akridge, and Democrat Jewell Howard.

Howard garnered 33.35 percent of the votes while Akridge managed 8.38 percent, leaving Campbell with 58.27 percent and a strong victory over the other two candidates.

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway announced he will not run for reelection this year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Conway, a Republican, was Gwinnett County’s longest-tenured sheriff. He was first elected to the post as a Republican in 1996 and was continually re-elected after that. There had been uncertainty for months, however, as to whether he would seek re-election this year.

“My decision to not seek re-election was not made easily, but I have reached a point in my life where I desire to pursue other opportunities which will afford me more time with my family, who recently suffered a great loss,” Conway said in a statement.

His son-in law, Chris Clay, recently died after a long battle with brain cancer.

“That’s been a big loss,” he said in a press conference Tuesday. “… It’s affected our family and I’ve got a daughter I want to help now. That’s not the only reason (I chose to not run for re-election). I still want to pursue business. I’ve always been a businessman at heart. I got out of law enforcement in the ’80s – didn’t plan on going back in but it’s just the way things happened.”

So far, there are five Democrats seeking the party’s nomination for sheriff, including Curtis Clemons, Keybo Taylor, Ben Haynes, Floyd Scott and Jerry Ramos-Acre. Recent election cycles have seen Gwinnett increasingly go for Democrats, including Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 and Stacey Abrams for governor in 2018.

Democrats also flipped two county commission seats, a school board seat, the solicitor general’s office and several state legislative seats in the county in 2018.

“In the sheriff’s office, a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ doesn’t really mean anything because the job is to prosecute people that violate the laws in the state of Georgia or the United States,” he said. “That’s not a big effect on the sheriff.”

In his statement, Conway said he hired Chief Deputy Lou Solis two years ago with the intention of preparing him to succeed him, though he didn’t know it would be so soon. Conway endorsed him for sheriff on Tuesday due to his work ethic, abilities and commitment, he said.

“Chief Deputy Solis has worked exhaustively over the past two years to familiarize himself with our operations,” Conway said. “His work ethic is unparalleled and his contributions to our office are great. He has demonstrated outstanding leadership time and time again.”

Under the Gold Dome – LD 7

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 7) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY- CANCELED MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS PUBLIC SAFETY SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HUMAN RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 606 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH – CANCELED 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE DOT Board Election- 7th Cong. District Senate Chamber

2:00 PM HOUSE Ad Valorem Tax Subcommittee of Ways & Means 133 CAP

2:30 PM HOUSE Energy Subcommittee of Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications 415 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES- CANCELED 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE DOT Board Election- 8th Cong. District Senate Chamber

3:00 PM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM 125 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS HIGHER ED SUBCOMMITTEE 515 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR – CANCELED 506 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE 606 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT MEZZ 1

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

Vacation plans for legislators and lobbyists may have to wait for a longer than usual legislative session. From the AJC:

The intense budget fight brewing between Kemp and Ralston, over both the extent of cuts needed and where the knife should slice, already has lobbyists and lawmakers advising each other to prepare for a legislative session that could drag on through mid-April.

On Monday, both Ralston and the governor appeared before members of the Georgia Municipal Association at a gathering near the state Capitol. The House speaker sought allies.

“In weddings, they tell you to speak now or forever hold your peace,” Ralston told the mayors. “I’m telling you much the same this morning. Because soon it will be too late.”

State budget cut decisions on health care will be controversial, according to the AJC.

Legislators writing the Georgia budget said they will push back at cuts to health care funding proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

“It’s pretty obvious we’re not excited about these cuts,” state Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro, told the head of one state agency testifying Tuesday before a House Appropriations subcommittee on health funding. He said the Legislature had spent years trying to understand and fight key health care problems in the state, especially in rural areas, and finally had programs hitting the ground to do that.

“It appears that the cuts are all the new programs that we have added over the last few years,” Parrish said. “And we’re going to take a long hard look at that.”

State Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said it was “painful” to see cuts to a program that subsidizes doctors and other professionals in rural areas in order to persuade them to keep working there. Half of Georgia’s counties have no ob/gyn, and a handful have no doctor at all.

The program is already subsidizing 37 doctors, but the state funded an additional 13. Doctors applied for the slots, but then the recent budget proposal would cut the program back to 37. The same with nurses and physician’s assistants, which went back from 25 slots each to 20.

“It’s sort of a yo-yo effect,” Hawkins said. “They make plans based on what we’re telling them we’re going to do. And then we say, ‘Well never mind,’ you know? … If we can find some money to fix this, we’re going to look for it I think.”

Parrish, the subcommittee chairman, said changes were coming to Kemp’s budget, no matter that the governor wields the veto pen.

“It’s my understanding that he recommends and the General Assembly appropriates,” Parrish said.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is asking for additional budgeting to cover defending the state against election-related lawsuits, according to the AJC.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is asking state budget writers to approve an additional $200,000 to help the state defend itself against mounting elections lawsuits.

The money would pay for attorneys and legal costs associated with the rising expense of court cases, including one alleging that the state’s election laws create obstacles to voting and that voting machines aren’t secure.

“Recently our state’s election laws have become a central focus of litigation,” Carr told a House Appropriations subcommittee. “The fiscal impact that this litigation will have on the state in the coming months and years is significant.”

Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget would transfer nearly $200,000 from the secretary of state’s office to the attorney general’s budget for “legal services to support election litigation and cyber security” in fiscal 2020 and 2021.

Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin warned that cuts to funding for accountability courts may prevent new courts from being established, according to the AJC.

Accountability courts, the centerpiece of Nathan Deal’s efforts to overhaul the state’s criminal justice system when he was governor, take in drug addicts, the mentally ill, veterans and those charged with DUI. The 18- to 24-month-long programs allow participants to avoid jail and prison time if they stay sober, get treatment, get an education and hold a job.

Over the past eight years, with increased funding and incentives, the number of such courts statewide has increased from 72 to 163, with the number of participants growing from about 3,000 to more than 12,000.

The cost savings can be enormous, Gosselin said, noting that housing an inmate in prison costs taxpayers about $18,000 a year, while the cost for an accountability court participant is about $3,600.

The judge added that the cuts would have more of a detrimental effect on accountability courts in rural areas, where local counties are unable to provide as much additional funding support as those in metro areas. Startup courts will also suffer, largely for the same reason, Gosselin said.

The Georgia State Senate adopted House Bill 444, which changes dual enrollment eligibility, according to the AJC.

House Bill 444 would restrict students to a total of 30 college credit hours, and would mainly limit courses to 11th and 12th grade students, with some exceptions. Currently, they can take up to 15 credit hours a semester.

Students who want to take more than 30 credit hours would have to pay for additional classes. The legislation has a grandfather clause for current dual enrollment students.

Proponents say the legislation is needed to reduce the rising costs of the state’s dual enrollment program, once known as Move On When Ready, which began in 1992. A 2018 state audit found general fund spending for the dual enrollment program increased by more than 325% over the prior five years. The 2019 fiscal year budget was about $105 million.

The bill’s critics questioned whether a thorough analysis was done to determine program costs. They also raised concerns that it would discourage some lower-income students from seeking a college degree since they may have to pay for some dual enrollment courses.

The State Senate Regulated Industries Committee herad Senate Bill 298 to regulate vaping by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), according to AccessWDUN.

Georgia lawmakers considering restrictions on vaping products heard from doctors and students Tuesday who said e-cigarette use is prevalent among children and poses serious risks to their health.

More than 2,600 people nationwide have been diagnosed with a vaping-related lung illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dozens of people have died.

A bill before the Georgia Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities committee would raise the minimum age to purchase vaping products in the state from 18 to 21, increase penalties for selling them to minors and restrict packaging that appeals to young people. It would also require schools to teach students about the dangers of vaping.

“My biggest concern is those marketing schemes of where they’re trying to appeal to a younger and younger audience,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said.

The State House Governmental Affairs Committee recommended passage of legislation that would change this year’s election for the Isakson Senate seat from a jungle election to a primary process, according to the AJC.

The House Governmental Affairs Committee approved the legislation that would replace a planned free-for-all special election in November with a partisan primary election in May. Then the Republican and Democratic nominees would compete head-to-head in a November election.

The Republican-led committee and its Democratic minority joined forces in support of the proposal, with only one no vote from a Republican representative.

The bill sets up a clash between Republicans who support Collins and Loeffler. Meanwhile, Democrats backing the proposal are seeking to unify around one Senate candidate. So far, entrepreneur Matt Lieberman and former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver are seeking the Senate seat, while the Rev. Raphael Warnock of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church is considering a run.

“If you trust the primary process and if you trust the voters and want to give them the max opportunity to weigh in as members of parties that are an integral part of our process, I would ask you to vote in favor of this bill,” said committee Chairman Shaw Blackmon, a Republican from Bonaire.

From the Albany Herald:

Congressman Doug Collins, a Gainesville Republican who is among President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies, will likely enter the race to complete former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term, several media outlets reported Monday night. Isakson resigned at year’s end due to health complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Collins’ path to compete against Loeffler, an Atlanta businesswoman, could be made easier by legislation aimed at overhauling rules governing the special election in Georgia to fill Isakson’s seat. Kemp, who picked Loeffler last month to hold the seat until a November election, has said he would veto the bill if it clears the Georgia General Assembly.

If passed, the special-election bill moving through the state legislature would greatly reduce chances for a runoff in a jungle primary, which likely would result in votes being split between several strong candidates all competing at once. The top candidate in the free-for-all format would need more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff with the second-highest vote getter.

The State House Retirement Committee adopted a measure (HB 757) that would increase legislative pensions, according to the AJC.

The House Retirement Committee backed a bill Tuesday that it has approved in the past to raise what for most lawmakers are relatively small retirement payments.

Under House Bill 67, sponsored by Retirement Chairman Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, lawmakers would be eligible to receive 38% of their highest salary or $50 per month per year of service as a pension, whichever is higher. It would also increase the contribution lawmakers make into the system to help pay for the higher pension.

At $50 per month, per year, a lawmaker serving 20 years would receive $1,000 a month as his or her pension.

Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, a member of the committee, said the optics were poor considering that the House is holding budget hearings this week on Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to cut $200 million in spending from state agencies this fiscal year and $300 million next year. In some cases, employees have been laid off, but many of the cuts involve eliminating or not filling vacant positions.

“At a time of budget cuts, I don’t think it sends the right message that legislators are giving themselves an increase in their retirement benefit,” Wilkerson said. “I’d say bring it back next year when we have a better budget situation and we can discuss it then.”

United States Senator David Perdue announced his statewide campaign leadership team, according to WALB.

“Georgians sent me to the Senate to tackle tough challenges and find solutions. Since day one, I have been focused on breaking through the gridlock and getting things done. I am forever grateful for the support of so many people from across the state who have stepped forward to join my leadership team,” Perdue said. “Serving the people of Georgia in the United States Senate continues to be the greatest honor of my life and I cannot do it without your help. That’s why I am committed to keeping up the fight for conservative principles and getting results for families across our state from growing our economy, creating opportunity for our kids, and keeping all Americans safe.”

Click here for the full list.

State Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) and radio host Martha Zoller are unlikely to join the race for the Ninth Congressional District seat expected to become vacant due to Rep. Doug Collins running for the Isakson Senate seat. From AccessWDUN:

“I am certainly going to consider running for this position, but I, at this time, am leaning toward not running,” Zoller, host of WDUN’s weekday political talk show “Morning Talk,” said.

Miller was more adamant that he wouldn’t be a candidate.

“I am not planning on being a candidate for the congressional race,” Miller said. “I will be serving the 49th senate district and continuing my role as president pro tem of the state senate. I feel very gratified doing that and I feel that’s where I should be.”

Besides Miller and Zoller, other candidates who are being mentioned as possible candidates for the U.S. House are Chris Riley, former chief of staff for Gov. Nathan Deal; state Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega; state Sen. John Wilkinson of Toccoa, whose current district includes a portion of Hall County; and former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, who now lives in Towns County.

The Port of Savannah set new records for yearly throughput, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Last year proved to be another record year for the Port of Savannah with 4.6 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) moving through the port during the Calendar Year 2019, which was an increase of nearly 250,000 TEUs or 5.6% compared to the previous year.

“It was a record year and the fourth consecutive year in a row that we’ve achieved record status,” Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch said Tuesday, Jan. 28, during the authority’s monthly board meeting.

On the container side, Lynch attributes the growth to the expansion of the Panama Canal and larger ships.

“We’re still enjoying the fruits of that and the expansion of the vessels; up sizing is still happening,” he said.

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