Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 14, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 14, 2020

On February 14, 1779, Lt. Col. Elijah Clarke led a charge against British forces at the Battle of Kettle Creek.

On February 15, 1796, Georgia Governor Jared Irwin and legislators gathered with a crowd for the burning of the “Yazoo Act.”

On February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor, Cuba.

On February 16, 1923, Howard Carter and his archaeology party entered the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen.

The steps led to an ancient sealed doorway bearing the name Tutankhamen. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb’s interior chambers on November 26, they were thrilled to find it virtually intact, with its treasures untouched after more than 3,000 years. The men began exploring the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.

Inside lay a sarcophagus with three coffins nested inside one another. The last coffin, made of solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tut. Among the riches found in the tomb–golden shrines, jewelry, statues, a chariot, weapons, clothing–the perfectly preserved mummy was the most valuable, as it was the first one ever to be discovered. Despite rumors that a curse would befall anyone who disturbed the tomb, its treasures were carefully catalogued, removed and included in a famous traveling exhibition called the “Treasures of Tutankhamen.”

On February 16, 1948, the United States Air Force renamed Robins Air Field to Robins Air Force Base. Robins AFB and the City of Warner Robins are named for Air Force General Augustine Warner Robins.

On February 15, 1952 Gov. Herman Talmadge signed a joint resolution directing the purchase of Stone Mountain for development as a Confederate Memorial.

On February 14, 1956, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation calling for the protection, cleaning and maintenance, and display of historic Confederate flags at the State Capitol.

On February 14, 1958, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution purporting to censure President Dwight D. Eisenhower for using National Guard troops in the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Fidel Castro was sworn-in as Prime Minister of Cuba on February 16, 1959.

On February 16, 1968, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representative Rankin Fite placed the first 911 call from Haleyville City Hall to Congressman Tom Bevill at the Haleyville police station.

On February 14, 1977, the B-52s played their first gig at a Valentine’s Day party in Athens.

Later that year, the group began making regular runs in the Wilson family station wagon up to New York City for gigs at seminal New Wave clubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s. With Kate and Cindy in their mile-high beehive wigs and 60s thrift-shop best, and Fred looking like a gay, demented golf pro, the B-52s made an immediate impression on the New York scene, and their independently produced single, “Rock Lobster,” became an underground smash.

The B-52s are still in business three decades later, minus Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS in 1985. Significantly, their success is widely credited for establishing the viability of the Athens, Georgia, music scene, which would produce many minor successes and one massive one—R.E.M.—in the years immediately following the breakthrough of the B-52′s.

On February 15, 2011, Georgia Congressman John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in the civil rights movement.

On February 14, 2012, we published the first edition of the GaPundit daily political news, featuring dogs. We originally thought that the dogs would be temporary until enough people complained about them that we felt the need to go to once a week. We were surprised that the adoptable dogs have become the signature of GaPundit’s otherwise-political offerings and our greatest success.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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Governor Brian Kemp spoke about raises for teachers in Cobb County, according to the AJC.

After getting the General Assembly to back a raise last year, Kemp is pushing for another $2,000 to complete a 2018 campaign pledge.

But fellow Republican and state House Speaker David Ralston has his own goals for the 2021 budget and has said a raise for teachers may have to wait. The state likely cannot afford both that and an income tax cut that many lawmakers want.

On Thursday, Kemp toured McEachern High School in Cobb County, which has a new nurse prep program. It was a friendly venue to tout his legislative agenda, including the raise.

Under his budget proposal, the state would, for the third year in a row, pay the maximum in the school funding formula. And Kemp is budgeting more than $350 million more “to deliver the promise of the $5,000 pay raise that I campaigned on,” he said during the school visit.

“Those in this room know we have a serious teacher retention problem that requires our immediate attention,” he said. “I believe this well-deserved pay raise will go a long way to incentivizing our best and brightest to stay in the classroom.”

It may not sound like much in a $28 billion budget, but a lot of that money is already spoken for. The overall education allocation alone consumes more than a third of the total, at nearly $11 billion. Health care and other costs consume much of the rest.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark McDonough tendered his resignation after a cheating scandal eliminated an entire class of Georgia State Troopers, according to 11Alive.

Georgia Department of Public Safety commissioner Col. Mark W. McDonough has resigned in the wake of effectively losing an entire Trooper School graduating class to a cheating scandal.

Hours later, the department’s deputy commissioner turned in his resignation, too.

Georgia State Patrol confirmed both resignations to 11Alive, saying Gov. Brian Kemp asked for each to step down from their positions. The state Board of Public Safety accepted both, Thursday.

“My family and I thank Colonel McDonough for his dedicated service, leadership, and sacrifice,” Gov. Kemp said in a statement. “We wish him the very best in the years ahead.”

From WSB-TV:

Just moments after resigning McDonough told Gray that Kemp asked for his resignation after eight and a half years at the top of GSP.

“The governor made a clear indication he is moving in the direction of new leadership. That’s what we elected him for,” McDonough said. “He’s my commander in chief, hence you take the action I took. You get out of the way.”

McDonough told the board that a complete internal audit of GSP training is now underway after the cheating scandal.

Gov. Kemp spoke about the budget process, according to GPB News.

Gov. Brian Kemp says he foresees a “great budget” when the second round of budget discussions end this week.

“Things the last couple of days have gone great. I’ve gotten really good feedback from legislators about the presentations they’ve gotten,” he told said after speaking at the Capitol earlier in the week, adding he and his team have remained “open and transparent” to working with legislators.

“Everybody has their priorities. Mine [is] paying teachers more,” Kemp said.

Georgia State House Appropriators have begun voting on specific parts of the proposed budget, according to the AJC.

The House is expected to approve a midyear spending plan next week. The proposal will then move on to the Georgia Senate.

But Thursday was the House’s opening shot at Kemp’s recommendations to cut $200 million this year and $300 million next year. Several more budget subcommittees will vote Tuesday, as will the House Appropriations Committee.

Lawmakers have expressed concerns about spending reductions in a lot of areas, including mental health and substance abuse programs, rural economic development, agricultural research and food inspections, and criminal justice and public defender programs.

After approving the midyear budget, lawmakers will take up the spending plan for 2021, which includes the pay raises for teachers.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and the NAACP held a voter registration drive in the jail, according to the AJC.

According to a statement from the sheriff’s office, 38 inmates filed applications to become registered voters. The NAACP’s voter outreach program with incarcerated individuals has become an annual initiative.

“It is important that every citizen who has the right to vote also has a chance to exercise that right,” DeKalb Sheriff Melody Maddox said in a statement. “Many incarcerated individuals don’t realize that they can still cast absentee ballots in elections while they are in custody, but they must first be registered voters.”

Georgia law states that only convicted felons who are still serving a prison sentence are not eligible to vote. That means that men and women who have been arrested and are in the county jail can cast ballots.

Eight candidates for DeKalb County Sheriff spoke to voters, according to the AJC.

More than 150 residents attended a forum at Redan High School a little over a month before voters will head to the polls for the March 24 special election for sheriff. The election is nonpartisan and will coincide with presidential preference primary.

The candidates in the crowded race, all of whom have law enforcement or military experience, made the case for why they would be best suited to serve as DeKalb’s sheriff. The sheriff’s office is responsible for the county jail, security at the courts and processing warrants.

Fulton County voters can test drive the new voting system before it goes prime time for the Presidential Prefence Primary, according to the AJC.

Fulton County residents can try out new voting machines during a mock election at several locations on Feb. 18, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Registration and elections staff will be on hand to assist voters with the new equipment.

Early voting begins March 2 in advance of the presidential primary election March 24.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan tweeted his support for Republican Jason Anavitarte in the upcoming election for State Senate District 31, which is being vacated by Sen. Bill HEath (R-Bremen).

Senate Bill 313 by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) seeks to rein in prescription drug costs, according to the AJC.

In an effort to attack high drug prices, Georgia lawmakers are focusing on powerful middlemen who negotiate on behalf of insurance companies.

State Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, has introduced a bill that aims to shed light on prices that pharmacy benefits managers negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies, and to ensure that patients are able to get the drugs when they need them. The legislation is Senate Bill 313.

“I really truly believe the state needs more transparency in drug pricing,” Burke said, noting that drugs are the country’s single biggest health expense. “That’s what I’m looking for.”

“SB 313 does absolutely nothing to reduce prescription drug costs and will only increase profits for Georgia’s independent pharmacies,” Greg Lopes, a spokesman for the managers’ industry group, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a piece of special-interest legislation that is not patient-centric.”

But in Georgia and across the U.S., some patients, doctors and pharmacists say benefits managers are now part of the problem.

From the Albany Herald:

Senate Bill 313 would require pharmacy benefits manager companies to adhere closely to national average drug prices set by the federal government when reimbursing local pharmacies. The state Department of Insurance would monitor those reimbursement amounts.

The bill would also prohibit PBMs from charging extra fees or causing delays when requests are made for lower-priced drugs. Benefits managers also would have to distribute all rebates from drug makers to patients, rather than keeping a portion for themselves.

The bill follows legislation the General Assembly passed last year that prevents benefits-manager companies from steering patients to associated pharmacies with potentially higher costs.

“When it gets to [patients], there’s been so many convolutions it’s really hard to understand the process,” said Burke, R-Bainbridge. “What we’re trying to do is shine a little light on that.”

Hospital and pharmacy groups have praised the bill, describing it as a means to peel back a layer of the already complicated prescription drug marketplace. They say scaling down the role of third-party companies also could keep smaller pharmacies in Georgia from going out of business amid increasing drug costs.

Subpoenas from the State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to Stacey Abrams-linked organizations came before a judge, according to the AJC.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick said she will rule soon on whether Abrams’ campaign and several nonprofit organizations must produce additional documents sought by the state ethics commission, which is investigating whether they illegally coordinated efforts.

The agency asked Barwick to order Abrams’ campaign to comply with a subpoena for more documents that could show whether Abrams and the groups worked together to promote her candidacy. Georgia law prohibits independent groups from coordinating with candidates.

An attorney for the ethics commission said it needs an explanation for spending by the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group founded by Abrams, and an affiliated organization, the New Georgia Project Action Fund.

Festivus comes early to Savannah as some elected officials began the airing of the grievances, according to the Savannah Morning News.

An acrimonious dispute broke out between members of Savannah’s city council at their Thursday workshop meeting, following a Wednesday night town hall that was ostensibly organized to discuss city-owned fairgrounds property, but which turned into a forum for four alderwomen to air perceived grievances.

Hosted by Alderwoman/Mayor Pro Tem Estella Shabazz on Feb. 12 at the Liberty City Community Center, the town hall was promoted as an update on the former Coastal Empire Fair site in District 5, with Alderwomen Alicia Blakely, Kesha Gibson-Carter, and Bernetta Lanier in attendance. Shabazz said that she encouraged all other aldermanic representatives to join the town hall but intentionally declined to invite Mayor Van Johnson.

“It is February 12, 2020, and it doesn’t feel good in city council,” Shabazz said, raising concern over what she termed as “an extremely disturbing item” on the agenda for city council’s Feb. 13 meeting, regarding the adoption of rules of council.

The other three alderwomen also spoke out on what they saw as efforts to diminish their influence in municipal governance.

“Since we have been in office, we have been treated as if we have a strong-mayor system,” Gibson-Carter said. “They have deceived us. They have overwhelmed us.”

“There are still four of us who are in our right minds,” Shabazz said, referring to herself and the three other alderwomen at the town hall.

Augusta government has a large appetite for SPLOST funds, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta department heads, agencies and a few non-government agencies say they need $886.6 million for capital improvements from the next special purpose, local option sales tax.

With a referendum on SPLOST 8 set to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot, some Augusta commissioners were taken aback Thursday by the size of the list, while others had projects they want to add.

Augusta’s current one-percent sales tax, an optional funding stream that must be approved by voters, is expected to reach its target of around $360 million toward the end of next year.

The commission must OK the list by early July – 90 days prior to the election — to get it on the ballot.

It is expected to take up the list again March 3.

Twin Pines Minerals released studies of their proposal to mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, according to the Albany Herald.

Twin Pines Minerals, an industry-leading minerals and mining company, has announced the results of geologic and hydrogeologic studies to determine the viability of its plan to mine titanium and zirconium from the layers of sand and soil on its Charlton County property.

In advance of the initiative, the company is spending millions of dollars to ensure its investment in the project is sound, which it can only be if the Okefenokee Swamp, adjoining streams and environs are protected and mining work complies with all federal and state regulations.

“I am elated that the study has confirmed the viability of our project,” said Steve Ingle, president of Twin Pines Minerals. “Protecting the swamp and the region’s environment is of paramount importance to us, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because failing to meet the strictest state and federal standards could result in regulatory action that would jeopardize a $300 million investment.”

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