Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 12, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 12, 2020

Today is Georgia Day, celebrating the founding of the Thirteenth Colony on February 12, 1733.

After years of planning and two months crossing the Atlantic, James Oglethorpe and 114 colonists climbed 40 feet up the bluff from the Savannah River on this day in 1733 and founded the colony of Georgia.

George II granted the Georgia trustees a charter for the colony a year earlier. The trustees’ motto was Non Sibi Sed Allis—not for self but for others. Georgia would be a philanthropic and military enterprise that would provide the “worthy” poor a new start and serve as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the English colonies.

The trustees prohibited slavery and large landholdings….

Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law, on February 12, 1793 requiring states to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if the state in which the slave was captured did not permit slavery.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

On February 12, 1867, the editor of the Milledgeville Federal Union expressed dismay at the rapidity with which Atlanta was growing and basically everything about Atlanta.

“Atlanta is certainly a fast place in every sense of the word, and our friends in Atlanta are a fast people. They live fast and they die fast. They make money fast and they spend it fast. They build houses fast, and they burn them down fast… . They have the largest public buildings, and the most of them, and they pass the most resolutions of any people, ancient or modern. To a stranger the whole city seems to be running on wheels, and all of the inhabitants continually blowing off steam.”

On February 12, 1999, the United States Senate voted 55-45 against convicting impeached President Bill Clinton on a charge of perjury. Senator Paul Coverdell voted guilty and Senator Max Cleland voted not guilty. On the second charge of obstructing justice, Coverdell and 49 other Republicans voted guilty and Cleland joined 49 other senators in voting not guilty. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to convict a President, so Clinton was acquitted on both counts.

Five years ago, on February 12, 2014, most of Georgia state government was closed by Executive Order because of an ice storm.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia is monitoring about 200 residents for possible coronavirus infection, according to Georgia Health News.

Dozens of people in Georgia who have recently traveled to China are ‘‘self-monitoring’’ for possible symptoms of the novel coronavirus, Public Health officials said Tuesday.

None so far has emerged with symptoms or has warranted being quarantined, said Cherie Drenzek, the state epidemiologist.

“A handful’’ of people in Georgia have been suspected of having the coronavirus, but tested negative for it, Drenzek told reporters after a meeting of the board of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

She said about 200 people are checking whether they have fever or respiratory problems associated with the virus, which has led to more than 1,000 deaths, all but two of which were in mainland China. This self-monitoring period lasts 14 days.

The ‘‘self-monitoring’’ patients are airline passengers who arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and were determined to have recently traveled to China. Such people were given instructions at the airport on how to check for fever and other symptoms once they returned to their homes, Drenzek said.

From the AJC:

Thirteen cases have been confirmed in the United States, none in Georgia.

However, Reuters reported Tuesday that an Atlanta couple, identified as Renee and Clyde Smith, tested positive for the coronavirus and are hospitalized in Japan. The Smith were passengers — along with at least two family members — aboard a cruise ship that has been tied up at the quay in Yokohama south of Tokyo for nearly a week, the news service reported.

Under the Gold Dome Today

9:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS- PUBLIC SAFETY SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

10:00 AM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM 125 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS PUBLIC SAFETY 406 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS GENERAL GOVERNMENT 341 CAP

11:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS- FISCAL MANAGEMENT AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR SUBCOMMITTEE on SB 313 310 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS EDUCATION 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS- HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP

Governor Brian Kemp is addressing foster care in a legislative package, according to the AJC.

A trio of bills were filed in the House last week that begin to shape Kemp’s plans for the changes he believes need to be made to improve the state’s foster care program.

“As a pro-life governor, I am proud of our efforts to protect the unborn,” Kemp said in a statement. “Now, we must champion the most vulnerable among us when they leave the delivery room.”

Three bills in a package of legislation have been filed so far.

House Bill 912 would allow foster parents to leave children in their care with a babysitter for up to three days without having to get approval through the state Division of Family and Children Services. Current law limits that time to two days.

House Bill 913 would drop the age requirement for potential adoptive parents from 25 to 21. A third bill, House Bill 911, would make it illegal for a foster parent to engage in a sexual activity with those in their care, closing a loophole the legislation’s sponsor said exists once a child in foster care turns 16 — Georgia’s legal age of consent.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke at the dedication of the Nathan Deal Judicial Center yesterday, according to WABE.

He spoke Tuesday at the dedication of Georgia’s new Nathan Deal Judicial Center. It’s the first building in Georgia designed entirely for the judiciary. He called the six-story concrete and granite building “magnificent” but said it will ultimately be defined by what’s done within it.

“Let that work in this judicial center be worthy of the hope and trust that has been placed in us as judges, as jurists and as members of the judiciary,” Thomas said.

The $131 million building near the state Capital, is named in honor of former Gov. Nathan Deal, who oversaw criminal justice reform in his eight years leading the state.

“Buildings signify things,” Deal said. “They are representations of the values that we, as a people, place on certain elements of our lives. This building, hopefully, will be regarded as a symbol that Georgia is a state that believes in part of its motto being ‘justice’.”

The building is the new home to Georgia’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. More than $7 million was approved by the General Assembly in 2014 to design the building. Ground was broken in August 2017.

From the AJC:

Judges must adhere to the rule of law and not substitute their own racial, religious or partisan preferences to achieve a desired result, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Tuesday.

“Our decisions should not be driven by a desire to be revered or lionized for reaching certain outcomes,” he said. “We are not mass media icons. We are judges, nothing more and nothing less.”

Gov. Brian Kemp said the building was appropriately named for his predecessor, noting that Deal’s criminal justice reform initiatives made Georgia a national leader. “It set a standard across our country,” Kemp said.

Inmates from Ware State Prison built desks, tables and filing cabinets for the new center. Hancock State Prison inmates reupholstered and embroidered the chairs used by the nine justices in the Supreme Court of Georgia courtroom.

On Monday evening, state Justices Charles Bethel and Michael Boggs presented Thomas with another item built by Ware State inmates: a gavel made with wood from Thomas’s hometown of Pinpoint, Ga.

“I can’t tell you how touched I was,” Thomas said.

From the Gainesville Times:

“It is the rule of law that holds our nation together. It is, indeed, what holds our state together through difficult times,” Deal said. “And even though we have had tough times in our state, and I’m sure we will have others in the future, it is that rule of law and appreciation and reverence for it that keeps us as a free people in a republic.”

The United States Senate confirmed U.S. District Judge Andrew Brasher to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals serving Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, according to the AJC.

Tuesday afternoon’s 52-43 vote fell strictly along party lines.

President Donald Trump has now appointed a majority of judges serving on the 11th Circuit panel.

The Democratic Party of Georgia also criticized Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler for voting with Republicans to confirm Brasher.

Dave Williams of Capitol Beat News Service reports on state revenue improving in January.

Georgia tax collections were up 4.5% last month compared to January of last year, welcome news for state lawmakers trying to come to grips with budget cuts ordered by Gov. Brian Kemp.

The state Department of Revenue brought in nearly $2.36 billion in taxes in January, an increase of $100.8 million over the same month in 2019.

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) announced that the Port of Savannah will receive a $34.6 million dollar grant, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The grant will be used to straighten and realign Berth 1, one of the oldest areas of the port, to increase efficiency.

“That is really good news because this will modernize all the berths, including Berth 1, so they can handle larger ships and it will include not only realigning and straightening it, but also deepening it to 47 feet where it can accommodate the bigger ships now,” said Carter, who worked with the Department of Transportation to secure the federal funding, including sending an official request letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

“On behalf of the Georgia Ports Authority, I would like to extend our appreciation to our delegation in Washington, especially U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Congressman Buddy Carter who worked diligently to help bring this about,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch.

“This is another example of the federal government recognizing the Port of Savannah as a gateway port and the critical nature of what we do to support growth throughout the Southeast and the nation.”

Georgia will no longer require special testing of new residents from Puerto Rico who apply for Georgia drivers licenses, according to the New York Times.

The state of Georgia on Monday agreed to remove an extra layer of requirements for Puerto Ricans to transfer their driver’s licenses to the state as part of a settlement in a federal class-action discrimination lawsuit.

The Georgia Department of Driver Services said it had eliminated the knowledge and road test component of the application process for those who moved to the state from five United States territories.

People from Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands will now be treated the same as license holders from other states who become Georgia residents, the state said.

Kelly Farr, director of the Governor’s Office of Budget and Planning apologized to legislators for opacity on proposed budget cuts, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“First off, I’d like to start off with an apology,” Farr said. “The last time I was up here, I didn’t meet the expectations of what y’all thought I was going to talk about it.”

House Speaker David Ralston called a timeout in the session, with the Blue Ridge Republican setting aside this week for House budget writers to come to conclusions on amending the current year’s spending plan. The Republican Kemp ordered more than $200 million in reductions in the $27 billion-plus budget that runs through June 30. Most education and Medicaid spending is shielded from cuts. The House is likely to vote on the amended spending plan next week, before moving on to writing budget for the year beginning July 1.

“I cannot tell you how much I am encouraged by this dialogue,” House Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Clay Pirkle, an Ashburn Republican, told Farr. “It’s much better than a monologue.”

State budget cuts could affect analysis of a backlog of rape kits, according to the Center Square.

Georgia lawmakers are concerned that proposed cuts to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s budget could increase a sexual assault kit backlog.

The agency receives more than 200 sexual assault kits a month, but, with the lab’s staff, is only able to work on about 100, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said. If the pattern continues, the state could have a backlog of close to 2,000 cases by the end of the year.

Reynolds said he plans to address the issue by outsourcing drug cases and DNA tests for less serious crimes to private labs. GBI currently pays a private lab $160 per case, but the bureau currently leans on limited federal money to outsource the work.

“The lab that we are contracted with right now told me last week, ‘We can do a 1,000 a month,’ ” he said.

Reynolds told lawmakers he would have to find additional funds for more outsourcing.

Some boaters are complaining that new regulations on anchoring are too restrictive, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The new rules restrict overnight anchoring along the coast within 1,000 feet of a structure, including public and private docks, piers, and more. Some boaters say they have a right to access public waters and the new regulation is curtailing that right.

“It takes away a freedom,” said James Newsome, an Augusta resident who helped found the Facebook group “Save Georgia’s Anchorages.”

That line drawn 1,000 feet from a structure encompasses about 36 acres in a semicircle around a dock, an area bigger than 25 football fields.

To counter the backlash, State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, is sponsoring House Bill 833. It cranks down on the size of the restricted area.

“The department is authorized to establish anchorage restriction areas within the estuarine areas of this state as well as areas where anchoring is not allowed in any location that lies within 150 feet of marine structures and 150 feet of approved commercial shellfish growing areas and designated public harvest areas as determined by the department,” HB 833 currently reads.

“They’re taking public water and turning it private,” Stephens said.

Twin bills to address “surprise billing” are moving through the legislature, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Republican lawmakers in the Georgia House and Senate have filed identical legislation that would remove Georgia hospital patients from the billing equation, leaving it to medical providers and insurance companies to work out their cost differences.

The legislation still faces pushback on how costs would be worked out between insurers and medical providers, but representatives from both sides agreed at a Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing this week that the finish line is close after years of debate over the issue.

Dubbed “surprise” or “balance” billing, the extra hospital charges result from specialty procedures like anesthesiology or emergency-room surgery completed by out-of-network specialists. They can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to a patient’s final bill without their knowing in advance.

State lawmakers have tried for the past five years to tamp down surprise billing, said Rep. Lee Hawkins, sponsor of the House legislation.

Gov. Brian Kemp has thrown his support behind the bills, calling them “compromise legislation” worthy of passage.

“While there is more work to do,” Kemp said in a statement, “I am committed to working with the General Assembly, patients, providers and insurance carriers to pass this legislation and put patients first.”

The Glynn County Board of Elections is working to prepare for use of new voting systems, according to The Brunswick News.

The board has received all but 20 of its 255 touchscreen machines and printers from the state. The new machines include a printed paper ballot component, a scanner and a ballot box.

Once ballots are cast on the touchscreen device, voters can review their choices before running them through a scanner, which will deposit them into an attached ballot box.

[Chris Channell, supervisor of Glynn County Elections and Registration], advised the board that the elections office will likely exceed its budget for poll workers. The state has not issued a set number of workers per polling place, but Channell noted that a number of counties that piloted the machines during the 2019 municipal elections recommend doubling precinct staff.

The county’s budgeting process will make it a little easier, Channell explained. The March presidential preference primary and May general primary will take place during the 2019-2020 fiscal year while the November general election will occur during the county’s 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The two primaries will give the elections office a good idea of how much it will need to spend on future elections, he said.

Gwinnett County Board of Education member Carole Boyce will run as a Republican for reelection, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath (D-TN GA6) is supporting Mike Bloomberg for President, according to the AJC.

Former Arkansas Govenor Mike Huckabee has endorsed Rep. Doug Collins for United States Senate, according to the AJC.

Huckabee, who as a presidential candidate won Georgia’s 2008 primary, said he’s impressed by the four-term congressman’s “against all odds” fight against President Donald Trump’s impeachment in the Democratic-led U.S. House.

“He unflinchingly has stood up to the Trump-hating Democrats in the House and the Trump-hating media,” he said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Doug didn’t become pro-life to be elected. His commitment to the worth and dignity of every human life is not a political calculation, but a deep spiritual conviction. His ability to articulate a heartfelt conservative position with uncanny clarity impressed me from the first time I heard him speak.”

“It’s not just that he says the right things. Doug Collins does the right things because he truly believes in the right things,” said Huckabee, who added he has “nothing against” Loeffler but that he saw the congressman as someone who has “led the charge” in Washington for conservative values.

Banks County is now a Second Amendment sanctuary, according to AccessWDUN.

Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper said social media had taken a lot of issue with the word “sanctuary” over the past week.

“We’re not going to be a sanctuary county for aliens,” Hooper told the audience. “We’re not going to be a sanctuary county for immigrants. We’re not going to be a sanctuary county for drug dealers.”

Instead, Hooper said the resolution adopted shows the county government is united in its stance that it will uphold the U.S. Constitution.

“Part of the Constitution of the United States of America is the Second Amendment, which assures us and guarantees us the ability to bear arms,” Hooper said. “We’re going to say as a group that we would never do anything that would take away anyone’s rights to the Second Amendment.

On Jan. 13, Habersham County became the first in Georgia to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.

Since that time, Stephens County, Rabun County, Franklin County and several others have adopted a resolution declaring themselves as a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.

Barrow County also voted Tuesday to join the ranks as a Second Amendment County.

The Stonecrest City Council seeks to boot a member for unexcused absences, according to the AJC.

During an hour-long special called meeting Monday afternoon, elected officials and city staff in Stonecrest debated whether Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble’s two absences last year mean she should be removed from the council. But due to several ambiguities in the city’s laws, the city plans to ask a judge to make a ruling on the status of Cobble’s position.

Cobble did not attend council meetings on Sept. 23 and Oct. 14, the city said in a statement after Monday’s meeting. Officials said that may have violated the city charter, which states that a seat becomes vacant if a council member fails “to attend one-third of the regular meetings of the council in a three-month period without being excused by the council.” Stonecrest holds council meetings about once every two weeks, meaning about six every three months.

The city plans to ask a Superior Court judge to decide whether Cobble must vacate her seat.

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