Category: Georgia Politics


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 18, 2019

On January 18, 1776, James Wright, Royal Governor of Georgia, was arrested by John Habersham, a member of the Provincial Congress.

On January 20, 1788, the First African Baptist Church was established in Savannah, Georgia, one of the first black churches in the United States.

John Marshall was nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States by President John Adams on January 20, 1801.

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807 at his family home, Stratford Hall, Virginia.

Lieutenant William T. Sherman was ordered to Georgia for the first time in his military career on January 21, 1844.

Delegates to the Secession Convention in Milledgeville voted 208-89 in favor of seceding from the United States on January 19, 1861.

On January 19, 1871, Savannah, Georgia became the first city to recognize Robert E. Lee’s Birthday as a public holiday.

L.Q.C. Lamar, born near Eatonton, Georgia, was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court on January 18, 1888.

On January 20, 1920, DeForest Kelley was born in Atlanta and he grew up in Conyers. Kelley sang in the choir of his father’s church and appeared on WSB radio; he graduated from Decatur Boys High School and served in the United States Navy. Kelley became famous as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the original Star Trek series.

On January 20, 1928, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Warm Springs, Georgia for the tenth time, staying through February 11th. During the visit, he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce of Americus and Sumter County, telling them

“In Georgia the movement towards the cities is growing by leaps and bounds and this means the abandonment of the farms or those farms that are not suited to the uses of agriculture. It means that we will have vacant lands but these can and should be used in growing timber.”

January 20th became Inaugural Day in 1937; when the date falls on a Sunday, a private inauguration of the President is held, with a public ceremony the following day. The Twentieth Amendment moved inauguration day from March 4 to January 20. Imagine six additional weeks of a lame duck President.

Roosevelt was sworn-in to a fourth term as President on January 20, 1945 and died in Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.

On January 20, 1939, Paul D. Coverdell was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Coverdell was one of the key figures in the development of the Georgia Republican Party.

On January 20, 1977, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as the 39th President of the United States.

On January 20, 1981, Ronald Wilson Reagan was inaugurated 40th President of the United States.

Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian P. Kemp delivered his first “State of the State” address yesterday in the House Chamber.

From the Statesboro Herald:

Georgia’s newly elected Republican governor announced during his State of the State speech Thursday that he was setting aside $1 million to create a waiver plan that would give the state more flexibility in using federal Medicaid funding.

Gov. Brian Kemp, who has frequently assailed Medicaid expansion — a keystone of his defeated Democratic rival Stacey Abrams’ platform during their 2018 gubernatorial race — said the waiver would “expand access without expanding a broken system that fails to deliver for patients.”

Kemp did not elaborate about what the waiver might include and questions emailed to his office were not answered.

His office instead sent a statement saying that the funding was for a consultant to assist in reviewing options and developing a plan and that the “ultimate goals are lowering costs, increasing choice, and improving quality and access.”

From Georgia Health News:

He also said he will work with the Legislature to grow the rural hospital tax credit program – presumably by raising the credit from $60 million to $100 million – and “tackle the doctor shortage, and build a healthier Georgia.’’

Waivers can take various forms. One past proposal from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce looked a lot like standard Medicaid expansion, and would cover an estimated 500,000 low-income adults in the state. Another waiver proposal has been offered by Grady Health System, which would extend coverage to thousands of people and then manage their medical care.

On another health issue, Kemp said in his Thursday speech that to keep classrooms safe, “we must also address the mental health issues that often lead to school violence.’’

He said that with $8.4 million in additional funding through the APEX program, “we can focus on mental health in Georgia high schools. These professionals will engage with struggling students and provide critical resources to prevent disruptive and aggressive behavior. They will inspire, mentor, and keep our students safe. Together, we will secure our classrooms and protect our state’s most treasured asset – our children.’’

From the Albany Herald:

Advocates for the elderly are praising Gov. Brian Kemp for proposing funding that could make a difference for 1,000 of the 7,000 older Georgians on waiting lists for home and community services.

Georgia Council on Aging officials said Kemp’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal, unveiled Thursday, includes an extra $1.89 million for a state program that helps the elderly stay in their communities. In response to the waiting lists for Meals on Wheels at the aging agencies across the state, Kemp’s budget includes $945,955 for meals for these seniors.

“We are so grateful to the governor for his insight and budget recommendation,” Vicki Johnson, chair of the state Council on Aging, said. “Not only is this the most cost-efficient way of helping our elderly citizens, but it also allows them to stay in their homes where they prefer to be.”

Officials said funds for adult protective service and public guardianship workers, for a total of $1.32 million, are also included in the budget. These public servants meant to help protect Georgia’s vulnerable at-risk adults.

From the Athens Banner-Herald:

Kemp laid out a proposal to permanently increase teacher salaries by $3,000 for all certified Georgia teachers, which he said was a “sizeable down payment” on his campaign promise to raise pay by $5,000.

Kemp also touted plans previously unveiled to allocate money to each Georgia public school for safety measures and an anti-gang task force within the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

He’s seeking $30,000 for each public school in the state — a total cost of $69 million — to enact safety measures determined at the local level. Kemp also said he plans to address mental health within schools and provide extra resources.

Kemp said he wants to put $500,000 in initial funding toward the new GBI anti-gang task force.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

The speech was a chance to look at some of the issues Kemp wants to push during the 2019 legislative session as well as some of his priorities for the state’s 2020 budget. Education, crime and health were key parts of Kemp’s address.

Kemp said he intends to build on Nathan Deal’s criminal justice reform efforts, but he also wants to address gangs in Georgia, saying the gangs are “pawns for the Mexican drug cartels, pushing opioids and drugs.” In addition to drugs, the governor also tied gangs to the issue of sex trafficking.

He told legislators he wants to set aside half a million dollars that will serve as initial funds to set up a gang task force in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to fight gangs and go after drug cartel “kingpins” who are in the state.

“This highly qualified group of experienced law enforcement personnel and prosecutors will work with local district attorneys and law enforcement to stop and dismantle gangs in Georgia,” Kemp said.

“By utilizing the criminal gang and criminal alien database, which will be funded with existing resources from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, we will track and deport drug cartel kingpins who are terrorizing our communities.”

On the health care front, Kemp said he wants to work with legislators to grow rural hospital tax credit and tackle a shortage of doctors. He also wants to put $1 million in the Department of Community Health’s budget to “craft state flexibility options for Georgia’s Medicaid program”

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston announced the creation of a “Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics,” according to the Saporta Report.

“As we look ahead on transportation, our focus will shift to freight and logistics,” said State House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, addressing something near 2,000 businesspeople and elected officials from across the state, at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs and Issues breakfast on Wednesday morning.

Ralston announced that a “Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics” will soon be outlined in a House bill to be carried by Transportation Committee Chairman Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville.

Ralston said two giant railroads — CSX and Norfolk Southern — will be invaluable partners.

Georgia’s ports are economic engines, said Craig Camuso, regional vice president at CSX.

But as more cargo moves around Georgia — sometimes on trucks — that’s more demand on roads.

“While the trucking industry is so important to the state, it can’t handle everything,” said Camuso. “With the number of people that are on the roads coupled with the number of trucks on the road … there have got to be alternatives. Freight rail provides that alternative.”


Columbus-Muscogee County has issued its legislative wish list, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Columbus’ government wants an interstate highway on the route where U.S. 80 is now, in the name of economic development. What’s called Interstate 14 starts in Texas and is a federal project. There’s little the state Legislature can do to make it happen, but the request is that state legislators support the idea where they can.

And on to what seems like a small thing until somebody abandons a car on your private property and blocks your dumpster. Right now, the local government can’t remove an abandoned car for ordinance violations from private property. Columbus wants a change that says it’s OK to tow off an ordinance-violating abandoned car from private property.

Things to put under “money” have a lot to do with showing hospitality by not taxing hotel guests so much: Columbus wants a repeal of a $5-per-night state hotel tax, on the grounds that Georgians who are in hotels are already being taxed in other ways. A more modest request is for a break from that tax for folks who are fleeing hurricanes or other natural disasters. Another would exempt hotel stays from a local tax.

The county’s endorsing what would be a huge change in voting and how candidates get nominated. Right now, if you go vote in a primary, you can pick a Republican ballot with only GOP choices, a Democrat ballot with only Democrat choices or a nonpartisan ballot. The nonpartisan ballot will only have nonpartisan races, like those for judges. Columbus wants nonpartisan ballots to cover all races. So somebody who wants to vote for a Democrat in one primary race and a Republican in another, could.

Delta awarded a grant to keep the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historical Park in Atlanta open during the federal shutdown, according to CNN.

The National Park Service will use a grant from Delta Air Lines and fee revenues to reopen the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta despite the government shutdown.

Most sites of the park, including the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and King’s birth home, have been closed since the partial government shutdown began on December 22. Travelers missed their chance to relive the civil rights leader’s legacy and many others were worried they could not visit the sites during the upcoming federal holiday honoring King.

The historic park will open Saturday for 16 days to ensure people in Atlanta can celebrate King’s legacy in advance of the holiday on Monday and travelers attending the Super Bowl game on February 3 have a chance to visit the sites, the park service said.

An $83,500 grant from the Delta Air Lines Foundation will cover the cleanup, administration, maintenance and operating costs of employees not covered under recreation fee funds.

Savannah breweries and distillers are seeing problems with approvals for new products due to the federal government shutdown, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“This impacts us pretty significantly as we have all these backlogs of beer labels that have been submitted that have not been reviewed at all,” said Smith Mathews, marketing and sales director of Savannah’s Southbound Brewing Co.

“These are beers we planned on releasing in the next couple of months and throughout this year.”

Breweries must submit a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) to a branch of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for any new beer they plan to sell outside of state lines, and Mathews said Southbound has four or five labels for new beers that they’re waiting to get approved.

Beer brewers do have a little relief during the shutdown since any new brews that contain pre-approved ingredients can still be sold and distributed within state lines, but Mathews estimates that about 20 percent of Southbound’s distribution is out-of-state, and that coupled with customer expectations creates quite a challenge.

Macon-Bibb County will use money earmarked for unfilled positions to cover unfunded holiday pay for employees, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Lowndes County Board of Education voted to put a SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) VI referendum on the March 19 ballot, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Glynn County Commissioners made several appointments to local boards, according to The Brunswick News.

Savannah officials heard from residents about how to deal with special events that have the possibility of disrupting, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Flowery Branch City Council tabled a measure that would request changes to the city charter, according to AccessWDUN.

Members of the Flowery Branch City Council decided to table a resolution at their meeting Thursday evening that affects the way the city deals with council vacancies when council members are unable to complete their entire term in office.

Leslie Jarchow won the job of filling out the remainder of Richard’s term representing Post 3 after a Special Election held simultaneous with the November General Election.  In June a Special Election will be held to fill Jones’ vacant Post 2 seat, but whoever wins that seat will only serve the remainder of Jones’ term, which is set to expire later this year.

They will then need to run again in November if they wish to continue serving.  That would be two elections – supposing no run-offs – in five months.

What may sound like an unusual number of Special Elections is even more so when you factor in that two individuals already on the city council, Joe Anglin and Chris Mundy, both took office as the result of previous Special Elections.  So it’s easy to see why the city wants to find another way of dealing with unfulfilled terms.

Special Elections cost money: both for candidates and their campaigns, and for the city.  Andrew said the city spends $1825 to host a Special Election, an amount which can double if a run-off is needed; candidates could spend much more depending upon the number of contenders vying for the position and the closeness of the race.

Braselton will elect two council members on November 5, according to the Gainesville Times.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 17, 2019

On January 17, 1733, Georgia’s Trustees in London voted to ban Jews from the colony.

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.

Martin Luther King, Jr. began the Chicago civil rights campaign on January 17, 1966.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Senator Johnny Isakson spoke out about the possible consequences of the federal shutdown for the Super Bowl Atlanta hosts next week, according to the AJC.

On Tuesday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian reported that the shutdown will cost his airline $25 million this month in lost revenue.

And there is the riled-up U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who walked onto the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon and excoriated his colleagues for “not doing a damned thing while the American people are suffering.”

Isakson was a late arrival to Washington this week — he stayed behind in Georgia an extra day to watch Gov. Brian Kemp’s swearing-in. But when passing through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Isakson said he was unable to offer an explanation for the shutdown when constituents, including several Transportation Security Agency workers, approached him.

“We’re just doing the wrong thing, punishing the wrong people, and it’s not right,” he said.

“We’ve got a Super Bowl coming to Atlanta, Ga., in about three weeks. The biggest tourism event in the world this year. What if the largest airport in the world, that’s going to bring people to the largest football game in the world, goes out of business because the TSA strikes?” Isakson asked. “Then you’ve just cost millions of dollars to the United States of America, my home city of Atlanta and others.

Also from the AJC:

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the shutdown is costing the company $25 million in revenue this month as fewer government contractors and employees travel.

“We are seeing some pressure on our business,” Bastian said during an investor conference call Tuesday morning. “We strongly encourage our elected officials to do their very best to resolve their differences and get the government fully open as soon as possible.”

The Transportation Security Administration said wait times at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at their peak were about an hour and a half long on Monday. In PreCheck lanes, the wait times were up to 55 minutes long at the Atlanta airport, TSA said.

A Forsyth County resident has been charged with planning an attack on the White House, according to the Gainesville Times.

Hasher Jallal Taheb, 21, was charged with “attempt to damage by means of an explosive” after the Joint Terrorism Task Force received a tip from the community.

“As articulated in the affidavit supporting the complaint, his alleged intent was to attack the White House and other targets of opportunity in the Washington, D.C. area,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A confidential informant, one undercover agent and Taheb met Wednesday, Jan. 16, in a Buford parking lot to exchange vehicles for weapons, according to the FBI special agent’s affidavit.

In other meetings with FBI informants or undercover agents, Taheb allegedly told them “jihad was an obligation,” that he wanted to do maximum damage and expected to be a “martyr,” according to the affidavit.

He allegedly showed them his plan for attacking the White House’s West Wing in composition book sketches, but Taheb later expanded the plans to the Washington Monument, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and a synagogue, according to the affidavit.

Governor Brian Kemp will present his budget to the General Assembly today, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Gov. Brian Kemp is slated to present his budget today to a joint session of the Georgia House and Senate. He gave a short preview Wednesday at the annual Eggs and Issues breakfast in Atlanta.

“We’ll get down to business next week with budget hearings,” Lumsden said. “We won’t be in session, but we’ll be hearing from all the department heads.”

Governor Kemp spoke about plans to increase school safety funding and teacher pay, according to the AJC.

Increased teacher pay, money to secure schools and growing the ranks of school counselors will all be part of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s strategy to bolster education.

“Investments in education have brought higher graduation rates,” Kemp told a crowd of business and government leaders who gathered at the Georgia World Congress Center Wednesday morning for the state Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues forum. An educated workforce is key to the economy, he added.

The speech echoed Kemp’s commitment while a candidate to raise pay for teachers by $5,000. Given the cost — analysts place it at $700 million or more annually — some have speculated he will break the raise into pieces to be delivered over multiple years.

He said the classroom should be a “safe haven” from would-be shooters, hence his commitment to funding school security improvements. Addressing mental health is also important for safety, he said, which elicited applause. Again, the details will be revealed Thursday, he said.

The Rome News-Tribune spoke to local education officials about Governor Kemp’s proposal to increase school safety.

At the annual Eggs and Issues Breakfast, newly-elected Gov. Brian Kemp told those attending the Georgia chamber of Commerce event his plan to give every public school in the state $30,000 for school security.

“Our first deal for safety is to get resource officers for each school,” Wilson said for Floyd County Schools. “If it does happen, I promise it will go to good use.”

Byars said how Rome City Schools will use the funds depends entirely on how the state appropriates the money. According to Byars, RCS does receive some money marked for school security already, and the system uses it for upgrades or other security-related items. For example, the schools recently updated their security cameras using their security funds he said. Regardless, Rome City Schools will be looking to continually add to their security next year he said.

Another issue discussed with the two superintendents was the piece of legislature submitted by Sen. John Albers, R-Sandy Springs, which would allow for schools to pull funds from ELOST to be “allocated towards the security of schools, including additional staffing, such as specialized mental health counselors.”

“Some districts need that, but I think there are inherent problems with using those funds for mental health,” said Byars. “I would try to not use ELOST funds for that.”

Gov. Kemp’s budget will include $1 million to develop a state waiver application for Medicaid funding, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp will include $1 million in his budget to develop a waiver that he said would give the state more flexibility to use federal Medicaid dollars, an idea he indicated was promoted by former Health Secretary Tom Price.

The Republican, who has long opposed Medicaid expansion, said on WSB’s The Erick Erickson Show that he would outline the plan Thursday in his State of the State address to take a “first step to start moving the needle” on healthcare.

Kemp quickly brought up Price, who he said “knows about how these processes work to get approvals through the executive branch in D.C. to allow you to do some innovative things.”

“We believe this money we’re looking at funding will give us opportunities to figure those things out,” Kemp told Erickson. “This is absolutely an issue we’ve got to work with the Legislature on, and I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston announced the formation of a new House Working Group on Creative Arts & Entertainment, according to the AJC.

The working group could propose legislation to support the entertainment industry, which includes film, TV, music and video game production.

Those businesses employ about 200,000 Georgians and have a $60 billion annual impact on the state’s economy, Ralston said.

“The House Working Group on Creative Arts & Entertainment will work to encourage the growth of these industries and the creative economy,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, at the state Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues forum. “They will work to ensure Georgia has a workforce ready for the jobs these industries are creating throughout our state.”

Four candidates qualified for a Special Election to House District 176, after State Rep. Jason Shaw was appointed to the Georgia Public Service Commission, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Feb. 12 election is to fill the seat for House District 176 vacated by Jason Shaw. The district is made up of portions of Lowndes, Atkinson, Lanier and Ware counties.

• James Burchett, an attorney from Waycross (Republican);

• Barbara Griffin, a social worker from Waycross (Democrat);

• Franklin Patten, a businessman from Lakeland (Republican);

• Barbara Seidman, a retiree from Waycross (Democrat).

The Gordon County Republican Party hosted Jesse Vaughn and Matt Barton, special runoff election candidates for State House District 5, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Following the results from Election Day on Jan. 8 – where Vaughn finished with 33.72 percent of the votes and Barton received 23.15 percent – a runoff election was set for Feb. 5.

At Thursday’s forum, Barton said he was also in favor of giving teachers raises, keeping taxes low, maintaining religious freedom and against legalizing casino gambling.

“I think (legalizing gambling) is a slippery road and it can increase crime and unwarranted things in the area,” Barton said. “I wouldn’t be in favor of that, at least not at this time.”

Barton views medicinal marijuana in the same light, saying if it’s legalized in the state, it would have to be heavily regulated.

Vaughn is passionate about being pro-life, pro-Georgia and pro-America. The lawyer also said at the forum that he is for religious freedom, for lowering taxes, giving teachers raises and against legalizing casino gambling.

“We need to protect our property owners and our beauty but also help the environment,” Vaughn responded to a question on fracking. “It’s much better to have a thoughtful set of rules in place to say there absolutely can’t be any fracking or have no rules and just let it be the wild west.”

State Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton) was sworn into the General Assembly from a hospital room, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Rep. Tom McCall, R-Elberton, was unopposed for reelection to a 13th term last year. His district, 33, includes part of Columbia County and all of Lincoln County.

McCall was recovering from open heart surgery at Piedmont Athens, Ga., Regional Hospital when he took his oath Monday after watching Gov. Brian Kemp’s inauguration on an iPad, the hospital said in a statement.

Joined by his wife, Jane, and son Alan, McCall was given the oath by longtime friend and colleague, Northern Circuit Superior Court Judge Chris Phelps.

Former State Senator Michael Williams pled not guilty to charges alleging insurance fraud, according to the Gainesville Times.

His attorney A.J. Richman filed the plea with the Superior Court of Hall County on Jan. 8. Williams turned himself in at the Hall County Jail Dec. 26 and left the jail that afternoon.

In May 2018, Williams, a former state senator from Cumming, reported that about $300,000 worth of cryptocurrency servers were missing from his office on Monroe Drive in Gainesville. He had been using the servers for his business, LPW Investments, and running campaign operations out of a separate part of the building.

On Dec. 18, Williams was charged by a Hall County grand jury with three counts for insurance fraud, false report of a crime and making a false statement.

According to his indictment, he is accused of “claiming that computer servers were stolen from his place of business, when in fact they were not” when filing an insurance claim to The Hartford.

The federal shutdown may affect a Valdosta shelter for domestic violence victims, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Haven, which offers a shelter for domestic violence victims as well as a rape crisis center, may have to cut back services or even close due to the sudden cutoff of federal funding, said Michelle Girtman, executive director.

“We received a letter from our state funders” warning that federal funding was unavailable as of Tuesday, she said. About 80 percent of The Haven’s funds come from the U.S. Department of Justice; the money is filtered from the federal level through state agencies to The Haven, Girtman said.

“Anything we spend from (Jan. 15) onward does not get reimbursed until the shutdown’s over,” she said. “As of right now, we’re OK, but everything depends on expenses.”

The Haven is at full capacity with 30 women right now, Girtman said.

An Augusta union will rally members on Saturday in support of federal employees affected by the shutdown, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

April C. Newkirk was sworn in as a new member of the Bullock County Board of Education, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Coast Guard members stationed in Brunswick missed their first paycheck of the federal shutdown, according to The Brunswick News.

Tonya Elrod will serve as the first female Chief of Police for Tallulah Falls, according to AccessWDUN.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 16, 2019

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

Governor Brian Kemp ordered an investigation into the handling of state employee sexual harrassment claims, according to the AJC.

On his first day in office, Gov. Brian Kemp kept a campaign promise, ordering state government to reform the way employees’ sexual harassment claims are handled.

His executive order creates a centralized system with uniform standards to replace a disjointed, haphazard one that left victims seeking justice. But the reforms won’t happen overnight. They will require time to develop new training programs and more money and staff to ensure complaints are thoroughly investigated.

Kemp’s executive order Monday requires every department and agency under his authority to designate “at least two persons, not of the same gender” to investigate complaints and report their findings to the state Office of Inspector General, which will collect and audit investigations from across state government. Sexual harassment investigators will be required to have “standardized investigative training … to ensure consistency among all sexual harassment investigations across the state.”

In addition, Kemp ordered a new sexual harassment prevention training program which every state employee will be required to take when they are first hired and annually after that. The order also bans retaliation against those who file complaints.

The AJC profiles Tim Flemming, Governor Kemp’s new Chief of Staff.

Tim Fleming first worked for Kemp in 2002 during his successful bid for a state Senate seat, held a position for years in the Secretary of State’s Office and was campaign manager in last year’s victorious run for governor.

“I’ve had that role for many years. That comes along with the territory,” he said. “There’s the good and the bad and the ugly for any leadership role. You make tough decisions, but it’s your job to make sure it gets done – and to move in the right direction.”

Fleming comes from a family accustomed to the political glare. His grandfather was a Pierce County Commission chairman. His father was a Newton County Commission chairman. Summers in Covington were spent planting campaign signs and knocking on doors with his dad.

After Fleming graduated in 2005, Kemp turned to be the campaign manager for his biggest race yet: a bid for agriculture commissioner. Kemp fell about 40,000 votes short to Gary Black, who now holds that office, in the Republican runoff.

It wasn’t long before Fleming decided to seek office himself. He ran for an open Newton County Commission seat in 2008 and won by roughly 150 votes, becoming the youngest elected official in county history. In a nod to Kemp’s narrow victory in the governor’s race, he quipped: “I know what it’s like to win by a slim margin.”

The Georgia Department of Family and Childrens Services has issued food stamp benefits early due to the federal government shutdown, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Jan. 8, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials made the decision to protect Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants’ access and announced that food stamp recipients will have access to their full benefits for February, even if the partial government shutdown continues. USDA is working with states to load benefits onto recipients’ cards by Jan. 20, under a provision that allows them to award the benefits.

Georgia SNAP, traditionally known as food stamps, recipients can now access their February benefits via their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards and do not have to wait until their regularly-scheduled issuance date for the month.

Georgia DFCS worked over the weekend with its EBT vendor, Conduent, and with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to provide early issuance of February benefits for all SNAP recipients. The move was made in an effort to ensure families are fully prepared to purchase food in the event that the partial government shutdown is not resolved before current funding for the program is exhausted.

“Georgia has worked very closely with the federal USDA staff to prepare for the possible impact of a limited federal shutdown,” said DFCS Chief Deputy Division Director Jon Anderson. “The division is monitoring the situation and continuing to evaluate options as circumstances dictate. We are hopeful the early release of next month’s benefit amount will help families equip themselves appropriately should the partial shutdown continue.”

The Georgia Forest Commission is accepting applications for funds for debris removal after Hurricane Michael, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Georgia Forestry Commission created the Forest Debris Management Program to fund up to 80 percent of debris removal with a maximum payment limit that will be determined after the end of the first application period, according to a news release.

The Georgia Forestry Commission will be accepting applications from Georgia residents who are the legal owners of the property that was damaged during Hurricane Michael in early October.

Benefits are available for parcels of at least 10 acres of forest or a commercial orchard of any size.

You can apply for the money even if the work has been completed, the release stated.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) told the Savannah Morning News that a federal funding compromise is possible.

Carter was asked in an audio interview on Tuesday with the Savannah Morning News about concerns that President Donald Trump would declare a national emergency and take the SHEP funds to build a border wall.

“I don’t think that is going to happen,” Carter said.

Carter did admit, however, he has no assurances that money for any federal projects is safe from presidential use.

“We don’t really have assurances that any money is off limits.”

Carter does believe a compromise is “out there.”

Gwinnett County voters will have three weeks of early voting ahead of the March referendum on transit, according to the AJC.

The Gwinnett County elections board approved Tuesday night the unusually extensive schedule for voting ahead of the March 19 special election.

“I believe that turnout is going to be higher than in a typical special election,” county elections director Lynn Ledford told the board. “If we have the opportunity to provide these additional opportunities, than we should.”

The first day of advance in-person voting will be Feb. 25.

Every day between Feb. 25 and March 15, including Saturdays and Sundays, early voting will be available at the county elections office at 455 Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville. Voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.

During the final pair of weeks, advance voting will also be available at seven satellite locations.

The Glynn County Commission continues working on a proposal to collect a toll on the Torras Causeway to St Simons Island, according to The Brunswick News.

Augusta University has rolled out a new bike sharing program, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The bikes are part of the university’s new bike-sharing program called JagRide, which officially began with a ribbon-cutting outside the Jaguar Student Activities Center at noon. Across Augusta University’s three campuses, there are 18 bikes leased from Gotcha, a mobility company based out of Charleston, S.C.

Six bikes each will be located on the heath sciences campus, the riverfront campus in the new Georgia Cyber Center, and the Summerville campus.

The bikes are available 24 hours every day and can be reserved and paid for with the app SoBi, short for Social Bicycles. The bikes are free for the first 30 minutes and $5 every hour after. That money goes toward Gotcha’s operation costs.

Snellville City Council named Council member Barbara Bender as the new Mayor, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Snellville’s City Council accepted the resignation of embattled former Mayor Tom Witts and picked Councilwoman Barbara Bender to succeed him Monday night.

Bender, who was chosen by her colleagues in a 3-1 vote, will serve the remainder of Witts’ unexpired term, which has just shy of one year left. Councilman Roger Marmol cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he felt the city should have held an election to fill the mayor’s office.

Rome City Commission’s public safety committee recommended changes to the smoking statute, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“The first reading  [of the proposed revisions] will be Jan. 28 and they’ll hold the second reading, not a public hearing, at the first meeting in February,” City Clerk Joe Smith said.

The amendment to the city’s smoking ordinance would prohibit smoking and vaping on all public property along Broad and its side streets, between East First and East Eighth avenues.

It includes sidewalk cafes, the Town Green, the Third Avenue Parking Deck and Bridgepoint Plaza.

Smokers could be fined $50 for the first offense and up to $250 for repeat offenses. Business owners who fail to stop employees or customers from smoking could be hit with penalties ranging from $100 to $500.

Concerns about government overreach have dogged the proposal since discussions began last fall. Downtown property owner and resident Diane Lewis said Tuesday she strongly objects to the enforcement mechanism.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 15, 2019

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.


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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Yesterday, a tractor-trailer carrying 40,000 pounds of frozen chicken caught fire.

Governor Brian P.Kemp issued three Executive Orders yesterday:Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2019

Representatives of three cities in Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders,” the first written Constitution in an American colony and one of the first founding document to cite the authority of “the free consent of the people.”

On January 14, 1733, James Oglethorpe and the rest of the first colonists departed Charles Town harbor for what would become Savannah, and the State of Georgia.

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784. The Treaty was negotiated by John Adams, who would later serve as President, and the delegates voting to ratify it included future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

On January 14, 1835, James M. Wayne took the oath of office as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A Savannah native, Wayne had previously served in the Georgia House of Represestatives, as Mayor of Savannah, on the Supreme Court of Georgia, and in Congress. His sister was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and his home is now known as the Juliette Gordon Low house. When Georgia seceded from the Union, Wayne remained on the Supreme Court.

On January 14, 1860, the Committee of Thirty-Three introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow slavery in the areas it then existed.

Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of eleven African-American Georgians elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. After his election, on January 10, 1966, the State House voted 184-12 not to seat him because of his publicly-stated opposition to the Vietnam War. After his federal lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ordered Bond seated.

True story: Julian Bond was the first Georgia State Senator I ever met, when I was in ninth grade and visited the state Capitol.

On January 14, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring Japanese-Americans, including American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as Italians and Germans to register with the federal Department of Justice. The next month, Roosevelt would have Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections


Republican Brian P. Kemp will take office today as Governor of Georgia.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 11, 2019

On January 13, 1733, the ship Ann (sometimes spelled “Anne”) sailed into Charles Town harbor and was met by South Carolina Governor Robert Johnson and the Speaker of the Commons House of Assembly. Aboard the ship were James Oglethorpe and the first 114 colonists of what would become Georgia. Later that year they would land at a high bluff on the Savannah River and found the city of Savannah.

On January 11, 1765, Francis Salvador of South Carolina became the first Jewish elected official in America when he took a seat in the South Carolina Provincial Congress. Salvador’s grandfather was one of 42 Jews who emigrated to Georgia in 1733. Salvador later became the first Jewish soldier to die in the American Revolution.

On January 12, 1775, St. Andrews Parish on the Georgia coast passed a series of resolutions that included approving the actions of patriots in Massachusetts, three resolutions critical of British government actions, and a renunciation of slavery. The resolutions also appointed delegates to a provincial legislature at Savannah and urging that Georgia send two delegates to the Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia the next year.

On January 11, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument.

“Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Marvin Griffin of Bainbridge was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 11, 1955.

Marvin Griffin Monument

On January 13, 1959, Ernest Vandiver was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia.

On January 13, 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed Robert C. Weaver head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), making Weaver the first African-American cabinet secretary in U.S. History.

Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971.

On January 13, 1982, Hank Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

The first inauguration of Governor Joe Frank Harris was held on January 11, 1983; his second inauguration was January 13, 1987.

On January 13, 1998, Governor Zell Miller presented his $12.5 billion FY1999 budget to the Georgia General Assembly, including $105,000 to provide CDs of classical music for every baby born in the state. According to the New York Times,

“No one questions that listening to music at a very early age affects the spatial, temporal reasoning that underlies math and engineering and even chess,” the Governor said[]. “Having that infant listen to soothing music helps those trillions of brain connections to develop.”

Mr. Miller said he became intrigued by the connection between music and child development at a series of recent seminars sponsored by the Education Commission of the States. As a great-grandfather and the author of “They Hear Georgia Singing” (Mercer University Press, 1983), an encyclopedia of the state’s musical history, Mr. Miller said his fascination came naturally.

He said that he had a stack of research on the subject, but also that his experiences growing up in the mountains of north Georgia had proved convincing.

“Musicians were folks that not only could play a fiddle but they also were good mechanics,” he said. “They could fix your car.”

Legislators, as is their wont, have ideas of their own.

“I asked about the possibility of some Charlie Daniels or something like that,” said Representative Homer M. (Buddy) DeLoach, a Republican from Hinesville, “but they said they thought the classical music has a greater positive impact.”

“Having never studied those impacts too much,” Mr. DeLoach added, “I guess I’ll just have to take their word for that at the moment.”

In 2003, on January 13 at the Georgia Dome, Sonny Perdue took the oath of office as Georgia’s second Republican Governor, the first since Reconstruction.

A little over five years ago, on January 10, 2014, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released a poll of the Georgia Governor’s race that showed Nathan Deal with 47 percent to 38 percent for Jason Carter. The nine-point Deal advantage was as close as the AJC polling firm would come all year to correctly predicting the point spread in the General Election.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Elect Brian Kemp rallied with campaign supporters in Fort Valley yesterday, according to 41NBC.Continue Reading..


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 10, 2019

Bonnie Madison

Bonnie is a young female Plott Hound mix who is available for adoption from the Madison Oglethorpe Animal Shelter in Danielsville, GA.

Aspen Bogart

Aspen is an adult female Hound and Boxer mix who is available for adoption from Helping Paws Rescue in Bogart, GA.

Lobo Bogart

Lobo is a young adult male German Shepherd Dog & Husky mix who is available for adoption from Helping Paws Rescue in Bogart, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 10, 2019

On January 10, 1868, the Georgia Equal Rights Association was formed in Augusta.

On January 10, 1870, the Georgia General Assembly convened and seated African-American legislators who had been expelled in 1868.

Eugene Talmadge was sworn-in to his first term as Governor of Georgia on January 10, 1933.

Talmadge fired elected officials who resisted his authority. Others were thrown out of their offices. Literally.

After Julian Bond’s election to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, the chamber voted against seating him ostensibly because he had publicly state his opposition to the war in Vietnam. On January 10, 1967, after the United States Supreme Court held the legislature had denied Bond his right to free speech, he was seated as a member of the State House.

Governor Nathan Deal was sworn-in as the 82d Governor of Georgia on January 10, 2011 while snow shut down the planned public Inaugural.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor-Elect Brian Kemp announced a raft of appointments:Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 9, 2019

The first modern circus was held in London on January 9, 1768.

Thomas Paine published a pamphlet titled, “Common Sense” on January 9, 1776. The pamphlet is considered to have united colonists to the cause of American independence.

Herman Talmadge was sworn-in to his second term as Governor of Georgia on January 9, 1951.

Segregated seating on Atlanta buses was held unconstitutional by a federal court on January 9, 1959.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter arrived in Athens to register at the University of Georgia on January 9, 1961.

Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, debuted the iPhone on January 9, 2007.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor-Elect Brian Kemp begins a victory lap “thank you tour” of Georgia today, according to WGAU in Athens.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 8, 2019

Lyman Hall, one of three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence, was elected Governor on January 8, 1783.

Segregated seating on Atlanta buses was held unconstitutional by a federal court on January 9, 1959.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter arrived in Athens to register at the University of Georgia on January 9, 1961.

After Julian Bond’s election to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, the chamber voted against seating him ostensibly because he had publicly state his opposition to the war in Vietnam. On January 10, 1967, after the United States Supreme Court held the legislature had denied Bond his right to free speech, he was seated as a member of the State House.

On January 8, 2007, R.E.M. was announced as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s REM at their induction into the Rock Hall.

On January 8, 2014, Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were announced as incoming members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Columbus, Georgia native Frank Thomas, a long-time Chicago White Sox outfielder.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor-Elect Brian Kemp announced senior staff hires in the Executive Office of the Governor.

Governor-Elect Brian P. Kemp announced fourteen senior staff appointments who will work in the Governor’s Executive Office after his inauguration on January 14, 2019.

“I am proud of these public servants and their commitment to Georgia’s future,” said Kemp. “Together, we will spur job creation, lower taxes and insurance premiums, strengthen rural Georgia, and keep our families safe. These men and women will work around the clock to put hardworking Georgians first.”

Tim Fleming, Chief of Staff, Hometown: Covington, Georgia

Tim Fleming holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Georgia. Fleming resides in Covington with his wife, Lacey, and three children, Jackson, Colby, and Hannah. Fleming previously served as Deputy Secretary of State within the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office and Campaign Manager for the Kemp for Governor Campaign. A lifelong resident of Covington, Fleming served as a Newton County Commissioner from 2009 to 2013.

Charles Harper, Deputy Chief of Staff, Hometown: Carrollton, Georgia

Charles “Chuck” Harper holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of West Georgia. Harper resides in Carrollton with his wife, Ginger, and four children, Hayden, Greer, Greyson, and Rilyn. Harper is a business owner with companies involved in agriculture and construction, and served in the Georgia General Assembly representing State House District 88 (R – Carrollton) from 2003 to 2005.

Greg Dozier, Chief Financial Officer, Hometown: Covington, Georgia

Greg Dozier holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Georgia State University. Dozier resides in Covington with his wife, Stephanie, and two daughters, Kinsley and Payton. Dozier has extensive background in law enforcement and state government, most recently serving as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections, the fifth largest department of its kind in the United States.

Lorri Smith, Chief Operating Officer, Hometown: Covington, Georgia

Lorri Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Georgia College & State University and a master’s degree in Accounting and Financial Management from the Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University. Smith resides in Covington with her husband, Tim, and their two children, Carson and Riley. Smith previously served as Assistant Deputy Secretary of State in the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Smith will serve as Georgia’s first female Chief Operating Officer for the Governor’s Office.

Cody Whitlock, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Hometown: Gainesville, Georgia

Cody Whitlock holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Georgia. Whitlock resides in Decatur with his wife, Jackie, and dog, June Carter. Whitlock previously served as Government Affairs Liaison and Budget Analyst for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

David Dove, Executive Counsel, Hometown: Athens, Georgia

A proud “Double Dawg,” David Dove holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia. Dove resides with his family in Marietta where he is Chairman of the City’s Ethics Committee. Most recently, Dove worked as an attorney at the Robbins Firm where his practice focused on business litigation, regulatory law, and campaign finance. He was also a founding member of Robbins Government Relations.

Candice Broce, Director of Communications and Deputy Executive Counsel

Hometown: Cartersville, Georgia

Candice Broce holds a bachelor’s degree in Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Juris Doctor from Georgia State University College of Law. Broce resides in Atlanta with her husband, Jason, and toddler son, Beau Walker, along with three rescue dogs. She previously managed communications and served as legal counsel for elections and legislative affairs for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Cody Hall, Press Secretary, Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia

Cody Hall holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Georgia. Hall resides in Dawsonville with his wife, Taylor, and daughter, Vera. Hall previously served as Press Secretary for the Kemp for Governor Campaign.

Patrick Farr, Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning & Budget, Hometown: Martinez, Georgia

Patrick “Kelly” Farr holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Augusta University. Farr resides in Cumming with his wife, Jennifer, and two children, Trey and Sydney. Farr offers significant expertise in business development from his work at Lucent Technologies, Capgemini, and most recently, SAS Institute. In these capacities, Farr worked extensively with various state agencies to implement technological advances and improve constituent service. Farr also previously served as Deputy Secretary of State for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, responsible for budget management and oversight of daily operations.

Mark Hamilton, Director of External Affairs, Hometown: Kingsville, Texas

Mark Hamilton holds a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Business from Texas A&M University. Hamilton resides in Atlanta with his wife, Sandy, and previously served in the Georgia General Assembly representing State House District 24 (R – Cumming) from 2007 to 2015. During this time, Hamilton served as Chairman of the House Industry and Labor Committee.

Stuart Wilkinson, Deputy Director of External Affairs, Hometown: Sandy Springs, Georgia

Stuart Wilkinson holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Georgia College & State University. Wilkinson resides in Brookhaven with his wife, Kathleen. Wilkinson currently serves as Deputy Director of Transition for Governor-Elect Brian Kemp. He previously managed legislative and external affairs for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office after serving six years in Governor Nathan Deal’s Office.

Amelia Hawkins, Director of Executive Operations, Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Amelia Hawkins holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Georgia State University. Hawkins resides in Atlanta with her rescue dog, Milly. She previously served as Campaign Coordinator for the Kemp for Governor Campaign.

Lisa Durden, Director of Appointments & Licensing, Hometown: Jackson, Georgia

Lisa Durden holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Legal Assistance Studies and master’s degree in Public Administration (MPA) from Georgia College & State University. She resides in Jackson with her son, Luke, and two dogs. She previously served as Division Director of the Professional Licensing Boards Division for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Martha Zoller, Director of State Regional Offices, Hometown: Columbus, Georgia

Martha Zoller holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia, and she is currently pursuing a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Political Science, focusing her research on women’s electoral success in the Republican Party, from UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). She resides in Gainesville with her husband, Lin. After working in journalism and media for many years, Zoller worked for U.S. Senator David Perdue and most recently served as Director of Outreach and Surrogates on the Kemp for Governor Campaign.

The Special Election for Georgia State House District 5, vacated by the death of State Rep. John Meadows, is today. From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

There is a special election in most of Gordon and part of Murray County to decide who will join the state House of Representatives. Six candidates have qualified for the run, five Republicans and one Democrat. But because the election comes at an odd time, far away from the political ads and rallies leading up to the November race, the candidates themselves expect a low turnout.

After three weeks of early voting, only 1,307 people cast ballots — 1,281 in Gordon County and 26 in Murray County. In the election for the same seat on Nov. 6, 15,833 people voted, with four out of every five ballots going for the Republican incumbent, state Rep. John Meadows.

Who can participate in Tuesday’s election? Registered voters who live in Murray County’s Southwest precinct, as well as those who live in Gordon County’s Lily Pond, Pine Chapel, Resaca, Sugar Valley, Oostanaula, Plainville, “A County” and “B City” precincts. Some voters in the Sonoraville and Red Bud precincts also will be able to vote.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Anyone hoping to cast a ballot must bring a government-issued voter ID, such as a driver’s license.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission meets today to consider allegations that Executive Director Stefan Ritter misused a work computer, according to the AJC.

Stefan Ritter, who has been the commission’s executive director since 2015, could not be reached for comment. Staffers filed complaints against Ritter to the commission in December, officials told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News.

Jake Evans, who was elected chairman of the five-member panel in December, declined to comment “on individual personnel matters.”

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren wrote a letter supporting President Trump’s attempt to build a border wall, according to the AJC.

Warren’s open letter to the president and Congress, written on Cobb Sheriff’s Office letterhead, came as the partial government shutdown entered its 18th day and Trump intensified his public relations campaign for $5.7 billion in wall funding.

“For more than 20 years, we have been asking Congress to provide funding to stop the flow of illegal immigration and the carnage, trauma, and suffering it brings to our neighborhoods,” Warren wrote. “As one of America’s Sheriffs who is deeply committed to my oath and promise to protect my citizens and legal residents from harm, I am, like most Americans, fed up with Congress’s refusal to do their jobs and fund the border wall.”

Warren wrote that “criminal illegal aliens” were engaged in crime including rape, murder and drug smuggling, citing media reports from across the country.

Democrat Stacey Abrams has set herself a fundraising goal deadline to announce her next run for office, according to the AJC.

 In a Monday interview with WABE’s Rose Scott, the Democrat said she intends to take the next three months to “really think about the role that I should play” in politics. And she outlined a trio of criteria to help her come to her decision.

“My responsibility is to do three things: One, I need to run for office because I’m the best person for the job, not simply because there’s a job that’s open. No. 2, I need to run because I have ideas and the capacity to win the election and do the job well,” she said.

“And No. 3, I need to make decisions not based on animus or bitterness or sadness, but really based in a pragmatism that says, ‘This is the right thing to do.’ And I’m going to use that calculus and I intend to make a decision about the job I’m going to run for next by the end of March.”

Former Columbus City Council member Skip Henderson has been sworn in as the new Mayor of Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

B. H. “Skip” Henderson III was sworn in as Columbus’ newest mayor Monday morning before a standing-room-only crowd of family, friends, supporters, community leaders and former Columbus mayors.

The installation ceremony at the Citizens Service Center also featured the swearing in of newcomer Charmaine Crabb as a councilor representing council district five, and councilors Jerry “Pops” Barnes (District 1), Bruce Huff (District 3), Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson (District 7), and Judy Thomas (District 9), all who were re-elected.

Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson announced his retirement, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Data sharing across state agencies may be an issue for the 2019 General Assembly, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

“It’s the key to how we can address very specific needs, but we have to break down the silos,” said Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome.

Dempsey and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, co-chaired a joint committee on data-sharing last year but political skirmishes in the run-up to the elections stalled legislation in both chambers.

“I have several allies working with me on data analytics,” Hufstetler said. “We’re still working on where it would be housed, but I expect to introduce that this session.”

Georgia spends billions of dollars a year on health and social programs but there’s no way to determine if residents are getting overlapping services or falling through cracks. That’s because each agency keeps separate case records; each agency is a separate silo.

Sharing data also could help target people at risk for addiction and get them intervention services before it’s too late, she noted.

Republican Mark Pettitt was sworn in to the Hall County Board of Education, according to the Gainesville Times.

Hall County Commissioners will consider expanding hours of alcohol service after a “Brunch Bill” measure was introduced, according to the Gainesville Times.

Restaurants would be allowed to sell alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays, a shift from current law that only allows sales to start at 12:30 p.m. A state law passed in 2018, often called the “brunch bill,” lets counties and municipalities put a referendum on the ballot and let voters decide whether earlier sales should be permitted.

In November, 63 percent of voters in Hall supported the measure. If commissioners approve the change when they cast the final vote Jan. 24, earlier sales would start on Feb. 3.

The Cave Springs City Council will consider setting elections dates at their next meeting, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The board also is scheduled to officially set the city’s election dates and qualifying fees for the coming year. Shoaf’s term of office expires on Dec. 31. The seats held by council members Tom Lindsey and Joyce Mink also will be on the ballot in November.

A special election on liquor sales also is expected to be set for March.

“Petition signed!,”w the mysterious Cave Spring Distilling Co. posted on its Facebook page Friday.

The as-yet unnamed investors want to renovate a vacant historic building on the Square as a distillery with a tasting room and store, to open this summer. But the voters first must approve liquor sales. The city council indicated it would put liquor-by-the-drink and Sunday sales on the ballot but state law requires a petition to add package sales.

Lawrenceville City Council voted unanimously to move forward with a new performing arts center in downtown Lawrenceville, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The plans call for a 59,500-square-foot facility whose entrance will face the Gwinnett County Historic Courthouse and provides spaces for a 500-seat main theater, a cabaret stage and educational space that would be occupied by Georgia Gwinnett College. It will also have a plaza at the entrance facing the Lawrenceville Square.

“This exciting project continues the dynamic transformation of the Downtown area,” Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson said in a statement sent out by the city moments after the vote was taken. “Lawrenceville is the heart of Gwinnett and maintains a central area rich with activity for all generations.

Lawrenceville City Council also gave the Lawrenceville Downtown Development Authority the go-ahead to purse a parternship with Hilton to bring a new parking deck and boutique hotel to downtown, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Qualifying remains open through Wednesday in a Special Election for Lula City Council to be held March 19, 2019, according to AccessWDUN.