Category: Georgia Politics

18
Mar

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

On March 18, 1766, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, which required American colonists to purchase a stamp for every legal or printed document they obtained.  Revenue would be used to support the British army in America.

The Stamp Act led Patrick Henry to denounce King George III, the British Monarch at the time of the passage of the Stamp Act and the ensuing Revolutionary War; Henry’s later “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech to the Virginia Assembly at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, listed by Time magazine as one of the top ten speeches of all time. Henry later opposed adoption of the Constitution, arguing it was incomplete without a Bill of Rights; after the Bill of Rights was adopted, Henry was satisfied.

On March 18, 1939, the State of Georgia ratified the Bill of Rights, which were proposed 150 years earlier in 1789. Georgia initially declined to ratify the Bill of Rights arguing that the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution were unnecessary. Governor E.D. Rivers signed the joint resolution six days later, but under federal court decisions the ratification is marked as of the date the second house of the state legislature adopts the legislation (assuming a bi-cameral state legislature).

On March 18, 1942, the United States government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, created the War Relocation Authority to “Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.” More than 120,000 Japanese Americans, many of them citizens of the United States were moved from the west coast into concentration camps in the western United States.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed entirely of Japanese Americans, many of whose families were interned at the camps, became the most-decorated unit of World War II, with members being awarded 4,667 medals, awards, and citations, including 1 Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 560 Silver Stars; eventually 21 members of the 442nd would be awarded the Medal of Honor. The late United States Senator Daniel Inouye, a member of the 442nd from 1941 to 1947, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton for actions during WWII. First elected to the United States Senate in 1962, Inouye became President Pro Tem in 2010.

On March 18, 1947, Herman Talmadge surrendered the Governor’s office, ending the “Three Governors Affair.” Earlier this year, the General Assembly honored the late Governor Melvin Thompson, who was elected the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and became Governor at the conclusion of the Three Governors Affair.

Over the weekend, I found two old certificates that are often given to political supporters of Georgia’s Governor. Between the, they bear the signatures of all three men who claimed to be Governor during the “Three Governors Affair,” and a total of four Georgia Governors. The one signed by Governor Ellis Arnall (69th Governor of Georgia) also bears the signature of M.E. Thompson, who would later become the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and then elected as the 70th Governor. The one signed by Governor Herman Talmadge (71) was also signed by Ernest Vandiver, Jr., who would later serve as Lt. Governor and then as the 73d Governor of Georgia.

4 governors

On March 18, 1955, the Georgia Educators Association endorsed “equal but separate” schools for the races.

On March 18, 1961, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Gray v. Sanders, which arose from Georgia. Three politically-important results come from the case.

First, the Court held that state regulation of the Democratic Primary made the primary election a state action, not merely that of a private organization; thus, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies.

Second, the Equal Protection Clause requires that every vote be given equal weight in electing officials, often stated as the “one person, one vote” rule. In Georgia at that time, each County had between two and six “county unit votes”. As a result,

“One unit vote in Echols County represented 938 residents, whereas one unit vote in Fulton County represented 92,721 residents. Thus, one resident in Echols County had an influence in the nomination of candidates equivalent to 99 residents of Fulton County.”

Third, because the County Unit System gave the votes of some Georgians greater weight than that of others, it violated the Equal Protection Clause. The “one person, one vote” rule is one benchmark of redistricting.

On March 18, 1976, Governor George Busbee signed legislation recognizing the following official state symbols:

Staurolite – Official Mineral of Georgia
Shark’s Tooth – Official Fossil of Georgia
Clear Quartz – Official Gem of Georgia
Purple Quartz (Amethyst) – Official Gem of Georgia

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Democrat Stacey Abrams says she won the 2018 election for Governor of Georgia, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

At an event Thursday, Abrams was asked by a tracker if she would ever concede to Kemp. She appeared to remain silent, but she said inside that she’d told the tracker “no.”

“I did win my election,” she said, according to ABC News reporter Adam Kelsey. “I just didn’t get to have the job.”

Other prominent Democrats have also claimed the race was stolen from Abrams, although she lost by nearly 55,000 votes and couldn’t get the race to a runoff. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said the evidence suggested the race was stolen by Kemp, and Hillary Clinton and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) made similar claims.

However, it was Clinton who claimed during her 2016 campaign against Donald Trump that he would potentially not accept defeat.

“One of our hallmarks has always been that we accept the outcomes of our elections,” she said.

Abrams claimed Kemp’s office put 53,000 votes “on hold,” but the allegation was deceptive, the Washington Free Beacon reported. They were not purged from voter rolls but rather placed in “pending” status because of violations of state “exact match” laws. Some of those violations appeared to be by a voter-registration group started by Abrams[.]

From the Washington Post:

She also talked about irregularities that occurred during the election. “The vote differential was 54,000 votes,” she said. “I cannot prove empirically that I would have gotten every vote that could have been counted, but I do know that the absence of an effective system robbed me and Georgians of having a fair election where we could say with certainty that what happened was right.”

Asked whether she could make a bigger statement on the issue about which she is passionate by running and winning an election in Georgia or going national, she said, “I think that is a legitimate frame, but it’s not the one I can use. These are jobs. I’m applying for a job, and I should run for office because I want to do that job at that moment. The issue of voter suppression is an existential issue, and no matter what job I have, I’m going to talk about that issue.”

Abrams said she already believes she could do a better job than Trump in the highest office in the land. She could not cite anything the president has done on his own initiative that has been good for the country, and she offered a blistering description of him.

“He is a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobe who has diminished our sense of cohesion as a nation. Regardless of where a president stood on issues, there has always been at least a veiled attempt at some sense of national unity. His intentionality to speak only to a narrow group that he calls his base, his willingness to only administer his office for that population, has diminished the credibility of his time in office.”

Abrams said she does not believe Democrats lost in 2016 because Trump was a superior candidate with superior ideas. “We lost because our organizing method in 2016 did not engage voters who had long been out of the body politic,” she said. “I do not believe in turnout targets. And one thing we demonstrated in our campaign, much to the suspicion and chagrin early on, is that you cannot run a campaign in the 21st century that believes in a base. Every voter is a persuasion target.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM SENATE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 450 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee of Education 406 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 515 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

2:00 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 341 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

HB 35 – Sales and use tax; certain poultry diagnostic and disease monitoring services; create exemption (FIN-50th) Watson-172nd

HB 168 – Sales and use tax; tangible personal property to certain non-profit health centers; extend exemption for five additional years (FIN-8th) Taylor-173rd

HB 185 – Financial institutions; change certain definitions (B&FI-18th) Williamson-115th

HB 192 – Professions and businesses; real estate management companies; change certain provisions (RI&U-51st) Powell-32nd

HB 212 – Banking and finance; retail brokers of manufactured homes or mobile homes and residential contractors from the requirement to obtain a license as a mortgage loan originator, broker, or lender under certain circumstances; exempt (B&FI-18th) Pirkle-155th

HB 223 – Conservation and natural resources; provide for an exception to notification of spills or releases; provide for definitions (NR&E-7th) Dickey-140th

HB 368 – Insurance; division of a domestic insurer into two or more resulting domestic insurers; provide (Substitute)(I&L-9th) Taylor-173rd

HB 374 – Health; administer medications to residents under hospice care pursuant to a physician’s written orders; authorize certified medication aides (H&HS-11th) LaHood-175th

HB 419 – Revenue and taxation; Internal Revenue Code and Internal Revenue Code of 1986; define terms and incorporate certain provisions of federal law into Georgia law (FIN-52nd) Knight-130th

HB 501 – Game and fish; provide for mariculture development (NR&E-3rd) Petrea-166th

Thomasville, Georgia native William Crozer serves in the Trump Administration as a special assistant to the president and deputy director in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, according to the Times-Enterprise.

Crozer served former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and worked on 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign as Georgia political coordinator. He also worked in the Republican National Committee’s finance department during the 2008 election cycle.

Crozer said he had “a lot of good experiences” working with the late Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, while employed by the GOP national committee.

“Our office is the primary liaison between the White House and state and local elected officials,” Crozer said. “In that capacity, we are proactive in terms of building support among state and local elected officials around shared priorities, like combatting the opioid epidemic, and reactive where state and local officials reach out to us with various issues with a federal nexus, such as federal permitting and other matters pertinent to their community.”

Crozer said his position is a political, commissioned appointment. He is the primary liaison between the White House and state and local elected officials.

“We manage those relationships for the White House,” Crozer explained. “We’re that clearinghouse for state and local.

When Hurricane Michael ravaged the southwest Georgia in October 2018, Crozer traveled with the president on Air Force One to tour damaged areas in Georgia and Florida. Crozer reached out to county commission chairmen ito help direct communities to the proper source for help.

District 11 State Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) said Crozer contacted him the day of the hurricane and many times in the following weeks to be sure this area had needed resources and to ask how the White House and federal agencies could help in response efforts.

State Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock) has introduced two bills to keep Georgia from flip-flopping the time, according to WSB-TV.

Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston talked to Cantrell about why he thinks the time change is antiquated and why he’s submitted the bill to keep us on one time.

“Why do we keep doing this? Somebody needs to stand up and say, ‘Hey, this is ridiculous, and let’s do something about it,’” Cantrell told Huddleston. “I think it’s just one of those things we’ve just become accustomed to. It’s a hassle, but that’s they way it is, you know? We just live with it.”

Daylight saving time first started during World War II when President Roosevelt made it official.The goal was to save energy for the troops. Most states never made the switch back to year-round standard time, except Arizona and Hawaii.

“Let’s be a trailblazer,” Cantrell said. “Our state needs to lead, so let’s lead on this.”

Cantrell said his proposal won’t see any action this year, but he is working to get a proposed amendment with three different options on the ballot in 2020. If the majority of voters want to stay on daylight saving time, the state would have to get federal approval. If the public votes to stay on standard time, the change could be made with just voter approval, Cantrell said.

House Bill 628 would keep Georgia state government on Standard Time and does not require federal approval. House Bill 630 would keep Georgia on Daylight Savings Time permanently.

This morning at 8 AM, the Senate Science & Technology Committee will hear House Bill 481, the fetal heartbeat bill. From WSB radio:

Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban most abortions as soon as a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the womb, which is usually about six weeks into a pregnancy. The measure, House Bill 481, has sparked a fierce and emotional debate over the point life begins and the role of government in health care.

The legislation comes at a time when several states are tackling the issue of abortion, from similar measures that would limit access in states such as Kentucky and Tennessee to bills guaranteeing access in Illinois and New York.

Many of the bills that have sought to limit access have run into legal trouble. Every “heartbeat bill” that has passed across the country so far has been overturned in a state or federal court, while in other states the bills were never signed into law.

Hearings on HB 481 have attracted overflow crowds of passionate advocates from both sides. Some told deeply personal stories about their own decisions. Others debated the science.

So fraught has been the debate, that lawmakers had the committee room checked for bombs before Thursday’s Senate committee hearing.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ed Setzler, said he has wanted to push legislation that puts additional limits on access to abortion since he was elected 14 years ago. If a heartbeat is what determines the end of life, he said it should also be considered when life begins.

“It’s so important we act on this,” the Acworth Republican said. “We have to protect children that have heartbeats. We know they’re part of the human community.”

The Georgia Senate is scheduled to debate House Bill 501 by State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), which regulates oyster farming and is opposed by the industry, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“It’s just overly restrictive and there’s no guarantee they’re going to do any of it,” [Oysterman Charlie] Phillips said. “Were afraid it’s going to be so restrictive it is going to be a token oyster industry and not nearly as vibrant as what it could be.”

It’s a bill that’s flipped the script for garnering support. Its sponsor in the house, Savannah Republican state Rep. Jesse Petrea, finds himself in the unusual position of supporting more regulation from the Department of Natural Resources, which wrote the bill. And environmental groups like One Hundred Miles, which typically support regulation, are in the novel position of urging less of it.

There’s also political intrigue in the story. Brunswick state Rep. Jeff Jones, a Republican, has worked on an oyster industry bill since June.

“Prior to my involvement our regulatory agencies have been dinking around with this issue for 15 years and had not moved the ball forward,” Jones told the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

Petrea holds that this bill is better than no bill and that any problems with it can be fixed through DNR’s regulatory process or through the legislative process in the future. He said Jones was “making the perfect the enemy of the good.”

“This is creating an industry in Georgia that does not exist today,” he told the committee Tuesday.

The Rome News Tribune looks at local legislation affecting Floyd County.

House Bill 602 will create the Rome Building Authority. HB 603 will boost the pay of Floyd County Board of Education members to $600 a month from $400 a month.

Legislation that affects only local entities does not have to meet the Crossover Day deadline. Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said bills requested unanimously by the entities involved typically sail through both chambers.

The Rome Building Authority will be able to issue bonds for school construction projects backed by the education local option sales tax.

It was requested by the City Commission and city school board. Members of the authority will be the mayor, city manager and school superintendent.

HB 603 was requested by the county school board. It also includes a provision for reimbursement of their travel expenses outside the county and will be effective the month after it’s signed by the governor.

Lula City Council will consider asking the General Assembly for local legislation creating a development authority, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Lula City Council will vote Monday on whether to move forward in establishing the authority. If the Council agrees to the idea, it will be introduced in the Georgia General Assembly, which will need to approve the proposal before the authority can get to work.

The development authority would cover Lula’s water and sewer service area, reaching outside city limits. Because the authority’s coverage area would go into unincorporated Hall County, the county will appoint two of the authority’s seven members. Lula’s mayor would be an automatic member.

The city already has the Lula Downtown Development Authority, which Mayor Jim Grier chaired for seven years before getting elected.

Gwinnett County‘s decision on the transit referendum tomorrow could have ramifications for the rest of Metro Atlanta, according to CityLab.

If MARTA wins, the vote would build on growing support behind a more expansive transit future for the Atlanta area. That momentum started in 2014, when Clayton County voters approved a penny sales tax to build out bus and rail service and continued when Atlanta area voters agreed to pay the same to improve core MARTA service in 2016. The stakes are high: Success in Gwinnett could trigger Cobb County and other parts of metro Atlanta to get behind MARTA, too.

But if it fails, transit supporters may face a steeper climb in rallying future support in new areas. “Cobb’s leadership would balk at pushing for it,” said Brionte McCorkle, the executive director of Georgia Conservation Voters. “Gwinnett is the domino.”

The vote is likely be close, according to polls; it will all come down to turnout, McCorkle said. The nonprofit she leads is one of many organizations rallying voter support ahead of next week’s special election, which is being pitched as a referendum on the state’s future. The New Georgia Project—the grassroots campaign formed by Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who nearly unseated Republican Brian Kemp in last November’s gubernatorial race—has been pulling out the stops, knocking on 75,000 doors and texting 100,000 voters so far. The “Yes to MARTA” committee, spearheaded by the Georgia Sierra Club, has been doing outreach for 60,000 voters identified as environmentally conscious, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials are sending out mailers to tens of thousands of Latino households in the county.

Unsurprisingly, polling indicates that race and age play a big role in predicting support for the MARTA expansion, said Stacey Mink, a communications director for the Working Families Party. Polls show that people of color under 40 are more likely to support the referendum (they’re also more likely to ride transit), while older white voters are more inclined to less so. “We have to turn out young, diverse voters if we’re going to win on March 19,” she said in an email to CityLab.

But young people of color are statistically less likely to vote than older whites, and they’re even less likely to cast ballots in special elections. “We knew that this would pass during a general election. It was a heartbreaker,” McCorkle said, when [Gwinnett County Republicans] scheduled it for this month, instead.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“I don’t think anybody is expecting a blow out on either side,” Brian Robinson, a spokesman for the pro-MARTA group Go Gwinnett, said. “It’s going to be close.”

Voters will go to their regular voting precincts between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday to decide what to do about the MARTA question. The ballot question does not specifically state the contract is with MARTA or reference how the county’s participation in the transit system would be paid for.

“The vote is for a contract that is as favorable of a deal as Gwinnett County or any other county will ever get,” [Robinson] said. “It maintains local control while also giving Gwinnett three seats on the MARTA board.”

But United Tea Party of Georgia President David Hancock disagrees with the argument that there are benefits to joining MARTA. He said there are a few issues that have to be taken into consideration, including advancing autonomous vehicle technology and data which he said shows transit ridership is declining.

Hancock also said data contradicts the argument that transit would relieve congestion.

“There’s no evidence that increasing money for public transportation reduces congestion,” he said. “Before I did the research, I sort of figured that out on my own because I realized if you’re driving to work and it takes you 30 minutes to get to work and you’re OK with that and then it goes up to 45 minutes, you may say, ‘You know what I’m tired of this. I don’t want to do this anymore.’

The AJC looks at other Metro Atlanta elections taking place tomorrow.

Voters across metro Atlanta will go to the polls Tuesday to decide on an array of ballot questions, from electing a new commissioner for the Cherokee County Commission to extending a SPLOST another five years for Clayton County Schools to a choosing an Atlanta City Council member to serve out of the term of longtime member Ivory Lee Young Jr., who died in November.

Clayton County Schools is hoping voters approve the extension of its newest SPLOST. Continuation of the penny sales tax for the district would raise $280 million over the next five years.

Incumbent city of Hapeville Alderman at Large Michael Rast will square off against candidate Rod Mack in Tuesday’s special election for the seat Rast has held since 2017.

Antonio Molina and Tod Warner are competing for a seat on the Snellville City Council.

In addition, Snellville residents will decide whether to support the Sunday Brunch bill to allow Sunday alcohol sales to begin at 11 a.m.

Whitfield County early voting for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum is up compared to four years ago, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, the last day of early voting, 1,422 people had cast their ballots, according to the Whitfield County elections office. Early voting began Feb. 25 and continued weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Whitfield County Courthouse.

By comparison, 650 people voted during the 2015 SPLOST early voting period. All together, 3,915 people voted in that election, or 10.26 percent of registered voters. By comparison, 8,781 people voted during early voting in November 2018, and 24,937 people voted overall, or 59.57 percent of registered voters. Whitfield County has about 40,000 registered voters.

Whitfield County residents go to the polls on Tuesday to vote on the proposed six-year, 1 percent SPLOST that expects to bring in $100 million. If approved, the SPLOST would begin on July 1 of this year. The current four-year SPLOST expires on June 30 and is on pace to collect $64 million. A SPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax on most goods and services bought in the county.

The Glynn County Commission will likely continue discussing restrictions on short-term rentals, according to The Brunswick News.

“We’re going to have a meeting with Host Compliance, and we may be finalizing a contract with them, but we’ll have to see how that works out,” said Commissioner Peter Murphy. “They have experience in probably 100 municipalities and counties, and they’ve established a best-practices program where they can monitor activity and ensure compliance with local laws.”

Host Compliance held a teleconference with the commission in July 2018, during which representatives of the company explained their methods for tracking rentals and making sure they adhere to local ordinances.

“We want to level the playing field for all rental properties, we want to ensure safety and occupancy issues are addressed and we want to make sure all rental properties are complying with the (bed) tax as it is written,” Murphy said.

While it would ultimately be up to the rest of the commissioners, Murphy said he hopes to take a vote on whether to enter into a contract with Host Compliance at the Tuesday meeting.

Macon-Bibb County is preparing to close a landfill, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The landfill closure is the second most expensive special purpose local option sales tax project. It falls behind the $40 million budgeted for a major Bibb County courthouse addition.

Even after the landfill shuts down, there will be on-going costs including those associated with 30 years of maintaining and environmental monitoring before it can be re-purposed into something like a park, [interim solid waste department director Pat] Raines said.

Former Bibb County Manager Dale Walker agreed to pay $10,000 fine to the SEC after being charged with fraud involving the county pension plan, according to the Macon Telegraph.

15
Mar

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

On March 15, 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated at a meeting of the Senate.

On March 15, 40 BC, Octavian executed 300 Senators and knights in vengeance for Caesar’s death.

On March 15, 1758, Georgia’s Royal Governor Henry Ellis signed legislation dividing the colony into eight parishes, primarily for religious administration, but with some parishes having secondary government functions.

On March 17, 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City by Irish serving in the British army; the date commemorates the death of St. Patrick in 461. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah, Georgia was held in 1813.

On March 16, 1861, delegates in Savannah unanimously ratified the Confederate Constitution and voted to have a new state constitution drafted.

On March 17, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation granting African-Americans the same rights as whites for contracts, suits, inheritance, property, and punishments for violation of the law.

On March 15, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge negotiated bank loans totalling $2 million dollars to keep the state’s public schools open.

On March 17, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed a joint resolution of the state legislature to place a plaque on the wall of the Georgia Capitol commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Georgia.

On March 15, 1943, Sea Island was officially named as Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation designating the island that had informally been given several different names.

On March 17, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation creating a commission to revise the 1877 Constitution of Georgia.

On March 15, 1980, USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. Vinson was the first Navy ship named after a living American.

On March 16, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Illinois Democratic Primary. His spiritual successor President Barack Obama, from Illinois, would visit Carter’s home state of Georgia on March 16, 2012.

Howard “Bo’ Callaway, the father of the modern Georgia Republican Party, died on March 15, 2014.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the last day of early voting for the Gwinnett County MARTA referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Today is the final day of the three week early voting period for the referendum, in which Gwinnett voters are being asked whether a contract to join MARTA should be approved. Passage of the referendum means 1 percent sales tax would be levied so the county can be a part of the regional transit system.

Voters who doesn’t cast a ballot by 7 p.m. today at the elections headquarters in Lawrenceville or at one of seven satellite voting locations will have to go to their regular assigned polling location Tuesday, which is the referendum date. County officials have previously said no votes can be cast at the elections headquarters on the day of the referendum.

As of Wednesday night, 25,616 Gwinnett voters had cast advance in person ballots during early voting.

Democrat Stacey Abrams met with former Vice President Joe Biden to divide up the spoils discuss the future, according to the Associated Press.

Biden, 76, who served as President Barack Obama’s closest adviser, is on the cusp of deciding whether he’ll make his third run for the presidency. Abrams, 45, narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race last November. She is being heavily recruited to run for the Senate in 2020, but she’s not ruled out making a presidential bid herself. She also could be considered as a vice presidential running mate.

A person close to Abrams confirmed the meeting, saying it was set at Biden’s request. The person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Biden and Abrams represent starkly different identities for a Democratic Party in flux, with one an aging white man who is the consummate Washington politician and the other an up-and-coming black woman from Generation X who has become a national political celebrity even in defeat. Her star climbed higher when she delivered the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last month.

If Abrams doesn’t run or doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, she could be a vice presidential pick, especially if Biden or another white candidate won the nomination. There is wide agreement across the Democratic spectrum that the party will require a 2020 ticket with some racial and gender balance.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan will support legislation term-limiting him, according to the Gainesville Times.

State Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, will propose a constitutional amendment creating a term limit for Georgia’s lieutenant governor position.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said in a statement Thursday that he supports the idea.

“The Office of Lt. Governor is no place for academic tenure,” Duncan said. “Individuals elected to this office should focus solely on serving Georgians, and no Lt. Governor should consider this post a permanent home.”

Georgia Senate plans to take over Hartsfield-Jackson airport could run into obstacles in the Georgia House and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to 11Alive.

Just before the legislative session started in January, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told reporters he saw no need to scrap a management structure that has been running the airport “pretty well.” The Senate bill was assigned to the House Rules Committee rather than the Transportation Committee, where legislation regarding airports is typically referred to, at least initially, Atlanta Business Chronicle reported.

[T]he Federal Aviation Administration would have to approve an ownership transfer.

Under a policy the FAA adopted in 2016 during an effort by the state of North Carolina to take over Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, the federal agency will not consider a transfer application if the local parties involved don’t agree on the plan.

Doug Selby, the city’s bond counsel, told the Senate committee the current lease agreements signed by Delta Air Lines Inc. and other carriers at Hartsfield-Jackson prohibit a transfer of ownership. Delta CEO Ed Bastian has spoken out publicly against the takeover bill. Selby also cited a letter from the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission stating a change in ownership could dampen investment in the revenue bonds that finance airport operations.

House Bill 316 by State Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) passed the Georgia Senate and is headed for Governor Kemp’s desk, according to The Brunswick News.

The Senate approved the legislation by substitute Wednesday, and the House voted to concur with the Senate amendment, eliminating the need for a conference committee and allowing the bill to clear the General Assembly.

State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem and the lead sponsor of the bill, said it had five amendments requested by Democrats that were incorporated into H.B. 316, though several of these just codified what was already expected practice or specified in other rules or instructions.

From the Associated Press:

Republican lawmakers and many county election officials say the electronic ballot marking devices will be the easiest to administer and can accommodate all Georgians, including those with disabilities.

But Democrats and cybersecurity experts say the machines are hackable and that hand-marked paper ballots would be cheaper and more secure.

Systems using electronic ballot markers include touchscreen computers, where voters make their selections and then print a paper ballot. Under the legislation, voters will have a chance to review a summary of selections on their ballot printout before putting it through a scanner, where votes are tallied. Setups from different vendors vary, but many offer ballot printouts that include text summaries as well as barcodes where voter selections are encoded for tabulation.

House Bill 514 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), creating a new Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission, passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, according to Georgia Health News.

The commission would be authorized to take ‘’a very deep dive’’ into the state’s mental health system, said Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), lead sponsor of House Bill 514. He said Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) have all worked on the commission proposal.

The 23-member panel would include “unbiased’’ experts in the mental health and substance abuse fields, Tanner said. He likened it to the criminal justice reform commission launched by former Gov. Nathan Deal.

The House has already approved the bill 152-10.

The Senate panel’s vote for a behavioral health commission came on the same day a House panel canceled a hearing on high-profile legislation to let Gov. Kemp seek federal health care waivers. Such waivers, if granted, would allow Georgia to extend health coverage to more low-income people.

The chairman of the special House committee on health care access, Richard Smith (R-Columbus), told GHN that the panel wasn’t yet ready to take up Senate Bill 106, which has the potential to increase Medicaid enrollment as well as change rules in the state’s health insurance exchange.

House Bill 481 by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Cobb) was heard by the Senate Science & Technology Committee yesterday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A Georgia Senate committee listened to emotional testimony Thursday over a proposal that would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The committee did not take a vote, and it was unclear when they might.

Abortion opponents across the country are hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court — with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will either reverse Roe v. Wade, or uphold specific state laws that could undermine the court’s 1973 ruling establishing the right of women to abort a fetus that can’t survive outside the womb.

Similar “heartbeat” legislation passed the GOP-controlled Ohio Senate on Wednesday and was approved by the Tennessee House last week. Several other states including Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina are also considering similar legislation.

The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest, but only when the woman files a police report first, and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

Some changes have been made since House passage, including to allow a pregnant woman to pursue child support from the father for direct medical and pregnancy expenses.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has come out in favor of the anti-abortion proposal.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission is considering turning over management of the water system to the Macon Water Authority and imposing a new management fee, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Floyd County Superior Court will implement a family accountability court, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“These are some of the hardest cases we have to deal with,” Judge Jack Niedrach said Thursday during a presentation to Rome Rotary Club members on the state of the local judiciary.

“Drug use and mental health are often issues; there’s rarely enough money for two households; and then there are instances of abuse — spousal and child abuse,” he added.

Niedrach said Chief Judge Bryant Durham is working with Judge Kay Ann Wetherington, who was sworn into office in January, to set up a family accountability court. The goal: to find solutions other than incarceration to problems in local homes.

The family court will join the mental health court Niedrach started and the drug court over which Judge Billy Sparks presides. Niedrach said accountability courts — part of the criminal justice reforms spearheaded by former governor Nathan Deal in the past few years — are proving effective.

Lawrenceville City Council member David Still will run for Mayor after incumbent Judy Johnson announced she will not run for reelection, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The first-term councilman and Lawrenceville native has served on the City Council since 2016, but he joined the Downtown Development Authority in 2012 and currently serves on both boards. He also served various duties in the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association from 2006 to 2010.

He was also former Councilman Tony Powell’s campaign manager in 2010.

“I’ve always felt, to be on the council, you needed to be engaged and understand (the city government) in some form as a volunteer and I consider the council position a volunteer position and a servant position,” Still said. “Then, to be mayor, you need to have served some time on the council so you understand how it works.”

The first-term councilman and Lawrenceville native has served on the City Council since 2016, but he joined the Downtown Development Authority in 2012 and currently serves on both boards. He also served various duties in the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association from 2006 to 2010.

He was also former Councilman Tony Powell’s campaign manager in 2010.

“(I want) to just continue to make (the city) healthy, to find a way to create that live, work, play community so that where you work, where go to church, where you go to play, where you live, you’re building community — you have all of those relationships,” Still said.

Thomas Mahoney, III was reppointed Chairman of the Chatham County Board of Elections through 2022, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chairman job functions include acting as the board’s spokesperson and participating in Election Day by visiting polling places and being present in the elections office during the entire tabulation period. The chairman also provides oversight of the elections supervisor and assistant elections supervisor on job duties and responsibilities by spending at least two hours per week in the office. The position pays $600 a month.

The board has attracted increased scrutiny following the Nov. 6 midterm election, with about a dozen speakers at the subsequent meeting complaining about long lines and waiting times, an inadequate amount of voting machines, poorly trained poll workers, and a lack of provisional and sample ballots.

Dozens of residents had also called for the resignation of Mahoney and Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges. Mahoney and Bridges disputed some of the claims as being inaccurate, while acknowledging there were some problems that did occur that day. The complexity of the ballot, which included lengthy amendments many voters had not read ahead of time, a difficulty finding poll workers, and a turnout that rivaled a presidential election was also cited by Bridges as a cause of the long waits.

14
Mar

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

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879.

S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, was born on March 14, 1921.

Elvis Presley played the Fox Theater in Atlanta on March 21, 1956.

The largest traffic accident in Georgia history occurred on March 14, 2001 on I-75 in Catoosa County, involving 125 cars, injuring 39 people and killing 5.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

TBD RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

8:00 AM SENATE FINANCE- TAX EXPENDITURE SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY (NON-CIVIL) 132 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE Insurance Life & Health Subcommittee 415 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 32) House Chamber

12:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- AD VALOREM SUBCOMMITTEE- UPON ADJOURNMENT 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB

2:00 PM – Senate Mystery Committee/Wildcard

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Occupational/Professional Licensing Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 307 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION – CANCELLED 310 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY MEZZ 1

Georgia Exports exceeded $40.5 billion dollars in 2018, according to the Albany Herald.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Wednesday that Georgia’s 2018 international trade numbers set a new record with exports surpassing $40.5 billion. This reflects a 9 percent increase over 2017.

Kemp said total trade between Georgia and the world spanned 223 countries and territories, reaching a new high at $139.3 billion.

“Trade is a vital part of our state’s economy, and it is exciting to see Georgia products in such high demand across the globe,” Kemp said. “I thank Gov. (Sonny) Perdue and Gov. (Nathan) Deal for prioritizing Georgia’s success on the international stage and their commitment to expanding our state’s trade industry. With nearly 90 percent of exporters classified as small businesses, the 2018 trade numbers showcase the strength and diversity of Georgia’s economy.”

Georgia reclaimed its rank last year as the 11th-largest exporting state in the United States, and in the past decade Georgia exports have grown by 71 percent. Companies in Georgia exported to 212 unique countries and territories. The top five markets for Georgia products were Canada, Mexico, China, Germany and Singapore.

The United States Department of Defense included $86 million in its new budget for new hangars near Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“The hangars at Hunter Army Airfield are more than 50 years old and are not in suitable condition to meet the needs of the Army’s aviation units,” said Carter. “In fact, the Army has even rated the hangars at Hunter as a ‘failing facility.’ This is completely unacceptable and it has been a top priority of mine to ensure our military has what it needs to be the most well equipped and well prepared force on the planet.”

The proposed DOD budget also includes $24 million for new hangars at the Air National Guard’s Air Dominance Center off Robert B. Miller Jr. Road.

“A new hangar will help facilitate more training exercises and more units at the Air Dominance Center,” said Carter. “A new hangar is especially necessary to accommodate the fifth-generation fighters that utilize the facility for exercises. The Air Dominance Center is an elite training center and I will continue looking for ways to support their important work.”

The South Carolina State House is considering legislation aiming to stop the lowering of the Savannah River, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

South Carolina legislators are trying to use an amendment to a bill to block lowering the pool of water in the Savannah River through a proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan by keeping a key state agency from issuing a permit to the Corps.

The state’s governor and attorney general are also vowing to fight to keep the pool from being lowered, said Rep. William “Bill” Hixon, R-North Augusta.

The South Carolina House of Representatives passed what is called a proviso to a bill that would essentially prevent S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control from issuing a permit to the Corps if it plans to carry through on a recommended plan to replace New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam with a rock weir fish passage that would leave the pool nearly two feet lower on average at the Fifth Street Bridge by downtown Augusta. Hixon said he is confident the Senate will also pass it and Gov. Henry McMaster will sign it because he has already approved the language in the bill.

House Bill 316 by State Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) passed the State Senate, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The state Senate on Wednesday approved a House plan calling for the statewide purchase of new electronic touchscreen voting machines that print a paper ballot.

The vote, along party lines, comes just months after a highly contentious race for Georgia governor, and amid several lawsuits challenging the state’s handling of elections and a probe by U.S. House Democrats.

A conference committee will be appointed to iron out the differences between the two versions and Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign it into law.

But Robert Brady, Floyd County’s chief elections clerk, said he’s not convinced the new system will be ready to use in the 2020 elections. Brady, a member of the Georgia Elections Officials Association who’s been involved in the testing and discussions, said there’s a lot to get done in a year.

“First they have to pick a system,” he told the county’s board of elections members Tuesday. “There are nine official — seven real — contenders and they haven’t decided which one to buy.”

“The state will pay for the bulk of this,” Brady told his board. “They have about $180 million allocated … But it appears the counties will get stuck with the training for deputies. This is some of the turmoil.”

From The Brunswick News:

The bill is favored by the governor and legislative Republican leadership, though generally opposed by Democrats and even some Republicans — notably the conservative group FreedomWorks — because of a number of factors that include possible corruption, undefined cost to the state and localities, problems with auditing and unreliability of the machines themselves. Opponents frequently point to hand-marked paper ballots as the preferred alternative.

“The audit language itself in this bill is extremely weak,” state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said. “It doesn’t require any risk-limiting audits, except for the pilot program, which is in one county. It doesn’t require them after that. So, all this talk about audits — not only can you not even do them with these machines, the bill doesn’t even say we’re going to have them anyway. What a joke. The pre-certification audit isn’t even a risk-limiting audit in this bill — it’s a tabulation audit, and there is a difference. Shame on any of you who have not bothered to ask that question.”

From the AJC:

The partisan divide over how to best safeguard democracy in Georgia comes after November’s heated race for governor. Democrat Stacey Abrams, who opposes electronic voting, alleged that widespread problems with voting machines caused inaccurate counts, while Kemp said the state’s voting system conclusively showed he won.

Members of both political parties agreed on one thing: Georgia should switch to a voting system that includes a paper ballot to check electronic vote counts. Georgia is one of just four states that relies entirely on electronic voting machines without a verifiable paper trail, along with Delaware, Louisiana and South Carolina.

Georgia would become the first state in the country to rely entirely on ballot-marking devices for every voter on Election Day. Some jurisdictions in 24 states use similar voting systems, often to assist voters with disabilities.

Republican Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis said he fears paper ballots completed with a pen could be used to manipulate election results. He suspected fraud occurred during his campaign for office in 1998, when initial results showed he had won by 23 votes but an additional 151 paper ballots appeared during a recount, handing the election to his opponent.

“Paper ballots are a way to fraud an election. I for one will not stand for that,” said Mullis, who represents the Chickamauga area. “The ballot process should be the most secure place in our voting structure in America.”

House Bill 525 to restructure the Georgia International Maritime Trade Center Authority passed out of the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The bill, which was sponsored by Ron Stephens (R-District 164) and passed the house last Thursday, establishes the Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority. It replaces the local authority with a state authority that provides bonding capacity, as well as a tax-exempt status for the operation of the facility, bringing the Savannah Convention Center’s operation and governance in line with other convention facilities in Georgia.

Stephens previously told the Savannah Morning News that while there is still no guarantee that the project will be funded, the move would at least put the budget request into consideration. Smith echoed those comments on Wednesday.

“We know we’re not going to get any money if we don’t have the proper structure, and the bill creates the proper structure in the governor’s mind, so whether we’ll get money because we have the proper structure is still unknown, but we know we won’t get any if we don’t have the proper structure in place,” Smith said.

The bill still has to pass the senate before the governor can sign it into law. It passed the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Wednesday afternoon and now heads to the Senate Rules Committee next week.

Senate Bill 77 by State Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Upper Left Hand Corner) would add protections to public monuments, and passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee, according to The Brunswick News.

Most talk in the House about the legislation occurred in subcommittee Tuesday, which was held in a room that so often has livestreamed meetings that the General Assembly homepage has a link to it — Room 341 in the Capitol, which is also referred to as the Appropriations Room. However, while a lot of work occurs in subcommittees, they’re rarely broadcast. Out of eight meetings held Tuesday in Room 341, to see six of them, you had to actually be physically present.

State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, livestreamed the meeting on Facebook, which may well be the only audio and visual record available to the public as to what occurred. Much of the testimony centered around Confederate monuments, though Mullis made a point of saying the legislation protects all monuments. A leader of the state Sons of Confederate Veterans testified, as did people educated in the contemporary history of when these monuments were erected.

The lead sponsor of Senate Bill 77 — state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga — was in the Senate for the debate on House Bill 316 and was unavailable for the committee meeting, so state Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, presented it. The representatives, in their questions, deftly talked around the the elephant in the room.

Gwinnett County leaders are worried about the early voting demographics in the MARTA referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Depending on who you ask in the group, which spoke at an Atlanta Press Club panel discussion in Atlanta on Monday, the March 19 referendum could — in their opinion — pass by a margin as narrow as 51.5 percent or as wide as 54 percent.

But even as Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, MARTA CEO Jeff Parker, ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker and State Road and Tollway Authority Executive Director Chris Tomlinson made those predictions, there was an undercurrent of concern.

A chief concern was that not enough young people are showing up during early voting to cast their ballots on the issue. People under 50 are believed to make up less than one-quarter of the voter turnout so far during early voting.

“It’s about the turnout,” said Nash, who predicted a 52.75 percent vote in favor of passage. “Right now, we need very much to see younger folks wake up to the fact that there is a referendum and get to the polls. I’m surprised that the younger folks are not recognizing that it’s really their future that we’re talking about with this referendum.”

Opponents of the Camden County Spaceport are speaking up at public hearings, according to The Brunswick News.

David Kyler, director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, was among those who opposed the creation of the authority and spaceport itself, saying the arguments in support of the proposal don’t add up.

“If ever licensed by the Federal Aviation Authority, so-called Spaceport Camden would be the only such facility ever approved that features inhabited areas in the flight path hazard zones where dangerous debris from launches falls to the earth,” he said in an email after the meeting.

Kevin Lang, a lawyer and Little Cumberland Island resident, said county commissioners are intent to create a spaceport, even though it’s unlikely commercial rockets will ever be launched at the site.

In the three public hearings held to discuss the creation of an authority, Lang said 47 people spoke against the spaceport and the creation of an authority, and three spoke in favor of the proposal.

Despite the public opposition expressed at the meetings, Lang predicted the General Assembly will approve the local legislation to allow the county to establish the authority.

“They’re going to approve it,” he said. “If it wasn’t a local bill, I don’t think it could pass. There’s a lot of deference to local legislation.”

Congressman Austin Scott‘s office will make a road trip in March and April, according to the Albany Herald.

staff from Scott’s Tifton and Warner Robins district offices will offer constituents assistance with a number of federal issues, ranging from Medicare and Social Security to veterans’ benefits.

“We encourage those who have questions on various issues to come by during these hours and meet privately with staff,” a news release from Scott’s office said. “Call either Rep. Scott’s Tifton office at (229) 396-5175 or Warner Robins office at (478) 971-1776 for questions regarding an upcoming mobile office.”

The Muscogee County Board of Education is considering docking the pay of elected members who miss meetings, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

District 5 representative Laurie McRae, the board’s vice chairwoman, told the Ledger-Enquirer on Wednesday that her proposals still aren’t in a written draft yet, so they might not be ready in time for the March 18 meeting. Plus, like any policy change, they would have to wait for 30 days before a vote can be taken after they are formally presented. Still, they generated debate during Monday’s work session.

According to current policies, board members are paid $1,000 per month regardless of their attendance, but three consecutive absences not excused by a majority of the board “shall be held to be a resignation” from the board.

At a Georgia School Boards Association conference in December, McRae said, she heard about another school district that pays its board members per the number of meetings they attend.

“I thought that’s a good idea,” McRae said. “… Attendance is the basic responsibility of all board members to the public taxpayers as well as to the school district and other board members. It’s an essential component of a healthy, functioning board.”

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul released his department’s 2018 report, according to the Albany Herald.

The Landings Bird Cam on Skidaway Island allows viewers to watch an osprey family in its nest, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Landings Bird Cam debuted in mid-2014 with internet-connected cameras aimed at what had been an active bald eagle nest. In the next breeding season, though, great horned owls took over and raised two owlets each in 2015 and 2016. Then ospreys moved into the site in 2017, laying eggs that year and last and successfully fledging one chick in 2018.

The camera takes in the sunrise over the marsh and captures a surprising number of other species, including recent visits by a wood stork, eagles, and bluebirds. Attentive volunteer camera operators zoom in on any action.

“From the camera we see so many of them up close and personal,” Lambright said.

13
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 13, 2019

On March 13, 1736, the Spanish Governor of Florida complained to Georgia’s James Oglethorpe about English settlements and forts in areas claimed by Spain.

On March 13, 1868, the first impeachment trial of a United States President began in the Senate. President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House for allegations based on his Reconstruction policies that allegedly violated federal law.

Sworn in as president after Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, President Johnson enacted a lenient Reconstruction policy for the defeated South, including almost total amnesty to ex-Confederates, a program of rapid restoration of U.S.-state status for the seceded states, and the approval of new, local Southern governments, which were able to legislate “black codes” that preserved the system of slavery in all but name. The Republican-dominated Congress greatly opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction program and passed the “Radical Reconstruction” by repeatedly overriding the president’s vetoes. Under the Radical Reconstruction, local Southern governments gave way to federal military rule, and African-American men in the South were granted the constitutional right to vote.

In March 1867, in order further to weaken Johnson’s authority, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over his veto. The act prohibited the president from removing federal office holders, including Cabinet members, who had been confirmed by the Senate, without the consent of the Senate.

On March 13, 1957, Governor Marvin Griffin signed a joint resolution by the Georgia General Assembly purporting to impeach United State Chief Justice Earl Warren and associate justices Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Thomas Clark, Felix Frankfurter, and Stanley Reed, and calling on Congress to impeach the Justices.

On this date in 1992, 25 years ago, “My Cousin Vinny” was released.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Republican James Burchett appears to have won a special runoff election for House District 176, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

He beat Franklin Patten of Lakeland to fill Jason Shaw’s former Georgia House of Representative seat, according to preliminary numbers from the Georgia Secretary of State website.

Burchett will now represent District 176, which covers portions of Lowndes, Lanier, Ware and Atkinson counties.

Shaw was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to serve on the Public Service Commission this year, forcing a special election for his seat on Feb. 12.

Not including provisional ballots, a total of 4,322 ballots were counted on Election Day Tuesday for the runoff.

There are 30,340 registered voters in District 176. Less than 15 percent of voters participated in the runoff election.

Burchett of Waycross garnered the most votes with 59 percent or 2,555 votes. During the special election, he received 1,494 votes.

The race was overwhelmingly determined by Ware County’s turnout. Burchett received 1,575 votes from his home county, which is more than Patten got from every county in the special election. Patten only received 4 percent of the Ware County vote or 73 votes.

Under the  Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – HIGHER EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 31) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

12:30 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary 132 CAP

12:45 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs Election Subcommittee 406 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 406 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE INTERGOVERNMENTAL COORDINATION 506 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 341 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 415 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM 125 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL RULES

3:00 PM HOUSE Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care 341 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 415 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE INTERSTATE COOPERATION 125 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT MEZZ 1

In Congress, Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue joined Congressman Buddy Carter in seeking to name Savannah as home to a new Air National Guard Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Air Force is considering locations to establish an additional AES to meet recommendations by the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Perdue, Isakson and Carter encouraged the Air Force to select the 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Hilton Head Air National Guard Station for the new AES.

“As the Air Force continues with its strategic basing process to establish a new Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron within the Air National Guard, we respectfully request your careful consideration of the 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Hilton Head Air National Guard Station as a top candidate to fulfill basing criteria,” the letter reads.

“It would mean a couple of things for Savannah,” said Carter. “It would mean that we would have emergency personnel located right here and that would make a whole lot of difference. Secondly, this would bring over 100 jobs to our area. It would bring jobs to our citizens. And we’ve got 10 different nursing schools right in this area that they could draw from.”

House Bill 501 by State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) was heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Environment committee, according to The Brunswick News.

Tyler Harper, the state Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee chairman, may have tried to speed along the passage of the oyster mariculture bill — House Bill 501 — by noting it had the same language in Senate Bill 182, which earlier passed the committee and the full Senate.

The discussion lasted for nearly 30 minutes, and included, at times, heated testimony to the committee by Savannah Republican state Rep. Jesse Petrea, the bill’s sponsor, and state Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island. Jones spoke first, giving background as to his experience with the subject and legislation.

“In the remaining 30 seconds that I have here, let me make it clear to this committee, this bill does not have the support of the producers, of the people, this legislation is intended to help,” Jones said. “And so, I would submit to this committee, if this legislation is not supported by those people, the oystermen and the producers and the distributors and the restauranteurs, if they do not support this legislation, I just have to ask then, why are we even considering passage of this legislation?

“If this legislation does not help those that we are working to help, and in fact will work against the growth of the mariculture industry in Georgia, then I submit to you that this bill should not be passed out of committee today.”

The State Senate will consider House Bill 316, the elections bill, today, according to the AJC.

The conflict over election integrity will be a driving force in Wednesday’s state Senate vote to switch Georgia to a $150 million voting system that combines touchscreens and printed-out paper ballots. The state’s current electronic voting machines don’t produce paper ballots.

Voters would pick their candidates on touchscreens that are attached to ballot printers. Then voters could review their printed choices before inserting their ballots into scanning machines.

The Republican majority in the Georgia General Assembly is siding with election officials who want to install the new voting machinery, called ballot-marking devices, in time for next year’s presidential primary election. The measure, House Bill 316, has already passed the state House, and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp supports the voting technology.

Democratic legislators are aligned with cybersecurity experts who prefer paper ballots bubbled in with pens, a voting method that avoids the inherent risks of a computerized system.

The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed House Bill 316, which would change election procedures, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 316 would, among other things, standardize the voting equipment of all Georgia counties, open new avenues for voter registration and change the rules on voting precinct realignments and polling place closures.

The state House of Representatives approved the bill last month, and the Senate plans to take up the discussion today.

Board Chairwoman Patty Gibson asked Channell if the state plans to purchase all the new machines needed or just the touchscreen voting equipment.

“As far as additional expenses, I don’t foresee any because right now we have all those same expenses that we have currently with absentee ballots and provisional ballots,” Channell said.

Gibson responded that she wanted to be absolutely sure before the county gets too deep into the budgeting process for the fiscal year 2019-2020.

The AJC hosted a public forum on Gwinnett County’s MARTA referendum.

With only three days left in early voting, and voting day on March 19 still to come, about 35 county residents who are also subscribers to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution gathered at Gwinnett Technical College on Tuesday evening to hear key players discuss the referendum.

How they vote will be closely watched around the region. Gwinnett County’s MARTA decision could boost momentum for transit expansion in other counties across metro Atlanta. Or it could sidetrack those efforts for years to come. The referendum’s outcome is expected to provide a glimpse of a changing attitude toward MARTA and public transit — a traditionally hard sell outside Fulton and DeKalb counties where the state’s largest transit agency operates. Cobb County officials are aiming to hold a transit referendum in 2022, but no concrete plans have been approved.

If voters approve it, the transit plan between Gwinnett and MARTA would span 30 years and includes a heavy rail connection to MARTA’s Gold Line with a station in Norcross. Bus service would add rapid bus and bus rapid transit and serve riders in most parts of Gwinnett. Current bus routes reach Lawrenceville and the southwest part of the county.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is calling on Atlanta’s business community to oppose House Bill 481, the abortion bill in the state Senate, according to the AJC.

Corporate powers and business groups explode in outrage each time a “religious liberty” measure surfaces in Georgia. Stacey Abrams wants to know why a bill that would outlaw most abortions isn’t triggering the same reaction.

The Democrat on Tuesday called on the powerful coalition to rally against House Bill 481, which would ban most abortions as soon as doctors can detect a heartbeat – as early as six weeks.

“It’s very short-sighted for the business community not to be engaged right now,” said Abrams. “Because once this bill is signed into law, that becomes the reputation of Georgia.”

[B]usiness boosters have said little about the abortion bill, which has earned support from Kemp and other Republican leaders. The governor, for one, said the restrictions preserve the sanctity of life and help uphold his campaign promises.

“I campaigned on signing the toughest abortion bill in the country,” he said, “and this is the toughest one we’ve got in the Legislature now.”

Two candidates are running for a seat on the Lowndes County Board of Education for District 2, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The district, which represents the southeast part of Valdosta, has been vacant since Vanassa Flucas announced her departure during the Aug. 28, 2018, city school board meeting.

Instead of filling it then, the board voted to wait until special elections this month.

Only District 2 residents can vote to fill the seat.

E-SPLOST, a one-cent sales tax that goes toward both city schools and Lowndes County schools, is also on the ballot. If passed, the proposed E-SPLOST would go into effect when the current education special purpose local option sales tax ends.

Early voting for the two races lasts until Friday, March 15, and Election Day is March 19.

Five candidates for Augusta Commission District 5 met voters in a forum, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

As of Tuesday, only 95 people had voted early ahead of the election next week.

Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson announced she will not run for reelection this year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Johnson said she has decided to not seek re-election when her office is up for re-election this fall, meaning nearly a decade of leadership at the top of Lawrenceville’s government will come to and end at the conclusion of 2019.

With several redevelopment projects in the city either underway or in the planning stages, Johnson said she felt it was the right time to step away from life as an elected official. Those projects that are being worked on will ensure whoever the next mayor is will have steady ground to stand on, she said.

But the former mayor — who also spent six years on the City Council from 2003 to 2008 — looked back on what has been accomplished through a partnership between herself, the city council, city staff and community partners and emitted a sense of both satisfaction and pride in her hometown.

Democrat Jasper Wilkins announced he will run again for Gwinnett County Commission District 3, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Grayson resident Jasper Watkins III, who was the Democratic party’s nominee for the seat in 2016 and narrowly missed pushing Commissioner Tommy Hunter into a recount, has confirmed he plans to run for the seat again next year. The retired Army officer said he filed his paperwork earlier this year.

“District 3 is our county’s ‘Last Frontier’ and we’ve got to make some serious changes to ensure our growth and continued prosperity,” Watkins said in a statement. “While I truly believe our county elected officials serve with the best of intentions, our existing commission can be improved upon.

So far, Watkins and Snellville insurance adjuster Derrick Wilson are the only candidates who have publicly announced candidacies for the seat. Hunter, the Republican incumbent, has not yet formally said whether he will seek re-election.

Macon is considering how to reduce pedestrian accidents, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“I found that Macon was leading the state in pedestrian deaths, and it bothered me,” said Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas.

Lucas helped start the Macon-Bibb County Pedestrian Safety Review Board four years ago. The group consists of regular citizens, traffic engineers, public health and education officials, and the Bibb sheriff’s office.

“Macon should not lead the state, and be way up there in the nation for pedestrian deaths, we just shouldn’t be,” she said. “It’s an important health issue, public health issue, public safety issue, and one that we are finding that we can address.”

It’s still a problem. Pedestrian deaths last year in Macon/Bibb County reached 14, the highest total in at least seven years. Three deaths occurred over just one weekend.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is budgeted for $130 million dollars in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga., 1st District), have all pushed to secure full capability funding to keep SHEP on track in fiscal year 2020.

Prior to the administration’s 2020 budget planning, Isakson, Perdue, Carter and the Georgia U.S. House delegation wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, noting the project is getting close to its final stages and asking for $130 million to keep the project on schedule, according to Casey Black, spokesperson for Perdue.

Isakson, Perdue and Carter also met with Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James to discuss the fiscal year 2020 budget request Feb. 14 in Isakson’s Washington office.

Carter, Perdue and Isakson all praised President Trump and his administration for the funding.

“I want to thank President Trump, OMB Director Mulvaney and Acting Director Vought and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James for the highest budget request for SHEP to date,” Carter said. “This again proves their understanding of the critical importance of this project for America and the need to keep it on time and on track. We have fought tirelessly for this federal support and we will continue this work until it becomes a reality. With a benefit to cost ratio of 7.3 to 1, there is no time to waste.”

James said the civil works budget for the Corps reflects the Trump administration’s priorities for water resources infrastructure.

From the Statesboro Herald:

Trump’s budget request for fiscal 2020 would be the federal government’s largest annual expenditure yet on the $976 million Savannah harbor expansion. The figure was contained in the Army Corps of Engineers’ detailed civil works budget Tuesday, the day after the White House released Trump’s broader $4.7 trillion proposed budget.

“That is wonderful, wonderful news,” said Rep. Buddy Carter, the Georgia Republican whose district includes Savannah. “We’re halfway through, but that does us no good. We need to be completely through before we see the benefits. I think the administration has finally caught on to that.”

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia noted in a statement he’s been fighting to deepen the Savannah harbor for his entire two decades in Congress.

“With this announcement, the finish line is finally in sight,” Isakson said.

Trump’s $130 million budget request would put the harbor expansion on target for completion in 2022, GOP Sen. David Perdue of Georgia said in a news release.

Operation Gunsmoke in Georgia and South Carolina netted 26 indictments, allegedly targeting violent gangs, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The investigations were initiated by the Regional Anti-Gang Enforcement Task Force of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Bobby L. Christine, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. According to a news release from Christine’s office, investigations began in 2017 of a member of the Bloods street gang who is alleged to have coordinated criminal activity while being held in the Aiken County Detention Center awaiting retrial for murder in a 2008 drug-related home invasion.

ATF agents in Georgia and South Carolina identified multiple targets in the investigation. Nine were named in 25 criminal charges listed in three indictments by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia, while 17 additional defendants have been indicted in the South Carolina district.

12
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 12, 2019

On March 12, 1739, James Oglethorpe, recognized as the Founder of Georgia, wrote the Georgia Trustees, urging them to continue the ban on slavery in the new colony.

Juliette Gordon Low held the first meeting of the Girl Guides, which would later be renamed the Girl Scouts, in her home in Savannah, Georgia on March 12, 1912.

Gianni Agnelli was born on March 12, 1921 in Turin, Italy, and would come to be the wealthiest man in Italy, head and principal shareholder of Fiat, and recognized as an Italian Senator for Life in 1991. Among those who follow fashion, Agnelli has long been recognized as an archetype of the Italian approach to menswear.

His style was about more than clothes—it was an attitude, a philosophical response to absurdity. Watching him could tell you how to live, how to behave. In Italy, they call it sprezzatura, making the difficult look easy. Americans are gonzo, a spirit personified by Hunter S. Thompson, who defined it as a man who learns to fly by falling out of a plane. Agnelli might look gonzo—especially on nights when he showed up in boots and an ill-fitting tie—but was, in fact, sprezzatura; he knew how to fly all along. “When he was not perfectly dressed, it was contrived,” says Taki Theodoracopulos, the writer, columnist, socialite and son of a Greek shipping tycoon. Taki is one of the few surviving members of Agnelli’s social circle. “The tie askew, the unbuttoned shirt—nothing was an accident. Or, to put it another way, it was meant to be an accident, which made it even more stylish.”

Clarence Thomas, originally from Pin Point, Georgia, was sworn in to the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on March 12, 1990.

R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 12, 2007.

Happy birthday to former Atlanta Braves slugger Dale Murphy.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE Insurance -Admin/Licensing Subcommittee 514 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM 341 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE Powell Subcommittee of Public Safety & Homeland Security 515 CLOB

9:30 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS- AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

9:30 AM HOUSE Environmental Quality Subcommittee of Natural Resources and Environment 606 CLOB

10:00 AM FINANCE MEZZ 1

10:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – INSURANCE & LABOR SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE Kelley Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

11:00 AM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – CRIMINAL JUSTICE & PUBLIC SAFETY SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

11:30 AM HOUSE Governmental Affairs Elections Subcommittee 341 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs State & Local Government Subcommittee 341 CAP

1:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Finance and Policy 132 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENT – CANCELLED 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 506 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 310 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – COMMUNITY HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS 403 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – JUDICIAL SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent the weekend in Georgia at Sea Island, according to The Brunswick News.

In addition to VP Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also attended the American Enterprise Institute’s annual World Forum on Sea Island. The conservative think tank’s yearly gathering of political and economic bigwigs is an extremely discreet affair, and some top members of the Brunswick and Glynn County police departments stepped up to ensure the event was uneventful from a security standpoint.

Members of the two law enforcement agencies provided security escorts for Pence, Pompeo and others from the local airport to Sea Island, said Brunswick Police Chief Kevin Jones. Police SWAT team members from both departments provided round-the-clock security on the private resort island as well, he said. Members of Brunswick’s K9 team also took part providing security.

Pence and Pompeo both flew into the into the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport on Friday and departed late Saturday, Jones said. The local law enforcement officers worked in conjunction with the secret service, department of state and other federal agencies, said Glynn County Police Chief John Powell.

Brunswick and Glynn County SWAT team members were stationed on the island throughout the event, which also drew former Vice President Dick Cheney, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and AOL cofounder Steve Case.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is leaving the door open to a national campaign, according to the AJC.

Stacey Abrams raised the possibility of a White House run Monday in a series of social media posts and public remarks, saying that she once thought the soonest she could campaign for president was 2028 but that a bid next year is now “definitely on the table.”

Abrams had previously refused to rule out a campaign for president, but her comments Monday made clear she’s considering joining the growing Democratic field to challenge President Donald Trump.

“She is taking a look at all options on the table in 2020 and beyond,” [former Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo] said.

“20 years ago, I never thought I’d be ready to run for POTUS before 2028,” she said in the social media post. “But life comes at you fast – as I shared in Q&A w @Yamiche at @sxsw. Now 2020 is definitely on the table…”

Abrams has little incentive to rule out any of her options – White House, Senate or governor – too early. She’s in the middle of a nationwide tour to promote her book and has lined up speaking gigs through the Harry Walker Agency, and the element of mystery adds to the intrigue.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Abrams turned heads Monday with a tweet referencing her book, “Lead from the Outside,” in which she mentioned plans for someday running for president of the United States. In the tweet she said she had mentioned that she’d told an interviewer at the SXSW conference and festivals that she might seek the nation’s highest office far sooner than she’d planned to do so.

Governor Brian Kemp signaled openness to medical cannabis legislation, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp sounded receptive to a measure moving through the Georgia Legislature that would allow medical marijuana oil to be grown, manufactured and sold to registered patients.

The Republican told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was impressed by the “strong vote” earlier this month in the House for the measure, which would allow 60 dispensaries to serve the state’s rising number of medical marijuana patients. House Bill 324 was approved by a 123-40 vote.

“When it passes with a constitutional majority,” quipped Kemp, referring to the two-thirds support behind the bill, “it might not matter what I think.”

“I need to learn more about the bill, see what the Senate has to say,” said Kemp. “And I’m trying to understand that we are probably putting people in violation of federal law.”

Two Georgia Democratic legislators are proposing testicular regulation in response to the fetal heartbeat bill. From the Washington Times:

Men of Georgia … state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick is coming after you with her “Testicular ‘Bill of Rights’ Legislation.”

In a memo to her staff Monday morning, which she also posted on Twitter, the Democrat representing an Atlanta-area district said she wanted a bill drafted to include provisions that she laid out in a series of bullet points:

• “Require men to obtain permission from their sexual partner before they are able to obtain a prescription for Viagra or any erectile dysfunction medication.”

• “Ban vasectomy procedures in Georgia … with the name [sic] punitive measures for performing the procedure that are listed in HB481,” a reference to an anti-abortion bill currently before the Georgia House of Representatives.

• “Make it an ‘aggravated assault’ crime for men to have sex without a condom.”

• “A 24-hour ‘waiting period’ for men to purchase any porn or sex toys in the state of Georgia.”

Ms. Kendrick labeled the importance of her Testicular “Bill of Rights” order to her staff as “high” and she said in an interview with Rolling Stone that she wants the legislation ready this week.

“I’m dead serious,” she told the magazine, though she admitted her bill would have little chance of passing.

From Q Magazine Atlanta:

State Rep. Park Cannon, a Democrat from Atlanta, is gathering co-sponsors for a bill that would require men age 55 and older to “immediately report to the county sheriff or local law enforcement agency” when he “releases sperm from his testicles,” according to the AJC.

Cannon said that a 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention argued that increasing men’s involvement in family planning helps improve women’s health, according to the AJC.

“This bill helps men who are well past reproductive age to self-report when they willfully engage in conception,” she said.

The bills are largely symbolic and have little chance of passing. They’re a reaction to the House passing House Bill 481, a measure that would ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which happens at about six weeks.

State legislators are considering new rules on beachfront development on the Georgia coast, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 445, sponsored by Don Hogan (R-St. Simons island) proposes a 25-foot regulated zone between private beachfront development and either the high tide line on beaches without dunes or the landward reach of the sand dune where dunes exist. It also carves out an exemption for highly vulnerable oceanfront lots near a rock groin on the Sea Island Spit.

Environmentalists are concerned those same exemptions could also apply elsewhere on the coast where rock groins exist, such as on Tybee.

Currently the 40-year-old law defines the state’s jurisdiction by drawing a zigzag line connecting 20-foot native trees to each other and to shorefront buildings erected in 1979 or earlier.

Despite sharp criticism from Rep. Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick) and a minority report opposed to the bill, the house approved the bill Tuesday by a vote of 113-54.

Newnan Republican Lynn Smith, chair of the House Natural Resources & Environment Committee, noted that Georgia’s coastal ecosystem must be well managed because it got a B-plus on its most recent environmental report card, which focuses on human health, fisheries and wildlife. But she didn’t note that the Surfrider Foundation’s more pointed look at states’ policies to protect beaches from coastal erosion, irresponsible beach fill, sea level rise, and poorly planned coastal development gave Georgia an F in December.

House Bill 346 by State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would give tenants more rights in dealing with poor living conditions, according to the Gainesville Times.

Renters are sometimes evicted or have their rents raised when they complain to their landlords or local code enforcement agencies seeking fixes to their residences.

It could be a leaky roof, a broken appliance, rodent or bug infestations, or simply poor construction they seek to have remedied.

But because contractual leases often have stipulations that allow a landlord to evict for most any reason with, typically, a 30- or 60-day notice, renters have little legal recourse.

Georgia does not require a “warranty of habitability” that mandates housing meets basic living and health safety standards, although the warranty is usually considered implied from a legal standpoint.

In Georgia, House Bill 346 would still need to pass the Senate and receive the governor’s signature to become law.

If that happens, it would give tenants the opportunity to prove their eviction is retaliatory and have it stopped, while also placing civil penalties on the landlord.

The Georgia Senate will vote on House Bill 316, the elections bill, on Wednesday, according to The Brunswick News.

Once H.B. 316 passed out of the state House on Feb. 26 with a vote of 101-72, it went to the Senate Ethics Committee’s subcommittee on elections and voting, which is chaired by state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak. H.B. 316 passed both subcommittee and committee last week. Ligon, who also serves as the Senate sponsor for the bill, introduced it Monday to the Senate Rules Committee.

“This is the new elections bill, and it’s going to modernize our method of elections in our state,” Ligon said. “We’ll vote on electronic voting machines that’ll actually produce paper ballots so that you can see how you voted. It’ll be more secure and much better.”

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, noted today is “committee day” and they have a lot of House bills to hear and good ones to pass, but Wednesday would be reserved for H.B. 316 debate.

[Democratic Leader Senator Steve] Henson added he’s glad that will be the only legislation on the Wednesday Rules calendar, so there will be a lot of time to discuss it.

Macon-Bibb County will not have a sales tax referendum this year as legislation stalled in the General Assembly, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The first step toward a referendum would be bipartisan support among at least three of five the state House members who represent Macon-Bibb in Atlanta. But the idea of OLOST referendum — a one-penny “other local option sales tax” — does not have that much support from state lawmakers.

Democratic state Rep. Miriam Paris filed a bill on Tuesday that would have set up a vote in Macon-Bibb. But her bill is not going anywhere, she says.

In line with a request from the Macon-Bibb County Commission, her bill would have set up a public referendum on that penny-on-the-dollar sales tax.

Fellow Democrat James Beverly also signed the bill, but Paris said she wasn’t able to get a third signature. Without at least one other supporter, the bill is dead.

And the Legislature on Thursday passed a deadline that makes it almost impossible to move a bill that hasn’t already passed one chamber.

The Whitfield County Commission adopted an ordinance requiring most pets to be spayed or neutered, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

[C]ommissioners voted 3-1 to require dog and cat owners to have their pets spayed or neutered if they are six months old or older or obtain a breeder’s license from the state Department of Agriculture. Animals will also be exempt from the spay/neuter requirement if the owner provides a letter from a veterinarian saying the animal has a medical condition that would not allow the surgery.

Commissioner Harold Brooker cast the dissenting vote. Commissioner Greg Jones was absent, and board Chairman Lynn Laughter, who typically votes only when there is a tie, voted with the majority on the advice of County Attorney Robert Smalley so the measure would have three votes.

“It isn’t right that people will bring in a litter of puppies to the animal shelter for us to put down and they won’t have their female fixed,” said Commissioner Roger Crossen.

Those who violate the law face a fine of up to $1,000 but the law says any citation for a first offense will be dismissed if the owner provides medical records saying the animal has been spayed or neutered.

“I think it will help,” said Samuel Shatz, executive director of the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia. “I’m sure it won’t be 100 percent effective. No law is. But it will send a message that this is what responsible pet owners should do.”

A mother of special needs children writes about what the state could do to better supports students and families, in the Macon Telegraph.

Public school was a nightmare for my kids. To provide a less stressful environment, I chose to leave my career of 14 years as a public school teacher to home-school.

This choice is a step in the right direction for our family, but we desperately need more support. Georgia lawmakers have a unique opportunity this year to extend a vital lifeline to families like mine — those who’ve not only adopted but chosen kids with special needs.

The reality is that traditional public schools are not a one-size-fits-all solution, particularly for kids with emotional and physical challenges. We need more choices. Thankfully, there are two key ways Georgia lawmakers can empower adoptive families with the help they need this year.

The most significant step comes through Educational Scholarship Accounts. These accounts would enable us to pay for adaptive technology and therapies that we simply can’t afford on our own right now.

Another way that lawmakers can assist families like mine is by updating Georgia’s existing Special Needs Scholarship Program. As it stands, the scholarship (which has an average value of $6,672.14 for each child) allows students who are enrolled in public school for at least one year to transfer to another school (public or private) to better meet their educational needs.

Glynn County is laying the foundation for a 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum next year, according to The Brunswick News.

“I think most of the commissioners are receptive to putting in on the ballot so the voters can decide if they want to keep the SPLOST going,” said Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning. “… Anybody that comes into Glynn County, they spend a dollar they pay the tax. When we have a community of some 80-some-thousand people and we have three million visitors, they spend a lot of money here, they are all paying to finance our infrastructure upgrades, and I just don’t think you get any better than that.”

Commissioners discussed a new SPLOST project at a retreat in late February, where they were presented with a list of 84 items county staff felt were deserving of SPLOST revenue.

Voters approved SPLOST 2016 in November of that year. Tax collection began on April 1, 2017, and will continue through September 30, 2020, or until the tax raises a total of $71,595,000.

“Getting a few extra dollars from who we cater to — tourists, our surrounding counties’ visitors, I-95 travelers — I don’t think there’s an argument,” said Commissioner Bob Coleman.

Commissioners talked about a transportation SPLOST, called a TSPLOST, at their retreat in February, but did not put much stock in the idea.

“At the end of the day we’ve got millions of unmet needs, deferred maintenance and implementation projects and no appetite to raise the revenue to meet those needs,” Murphy said.

Newnan City Council approved an increase in the hotel-motel tax from five percent to eight percent, according to the Newnan Time-Herald.

The current rate of 5 percent will now increase to 8 percent, taking into consideration O.C.G.A. § 48-13-51, which allows county and municipal levies on public accommodations charges for promotion of tourism, conventions, and trade shows. The current rate of 5 percent will now increase to 8 percent, taking into consideration O.C.G.A. § 48-13-51, which allows county and municipal levies on public accommodations charges for promotion of tourism, conventions, and trade shows.

The council adopted a resolution in October 2018 requesting Rep. Lynn Smith to introduce legislation in the General Assembly of the State of Georgia to provide for revisions to the current hotel/motel tax rate.

The majority of the council voted for the tax increase, with Councilmember Dustin Koritko, as the sole no vote. He publicly stated his opposition to the matter back in October as well.

Forsyth County is revising zoning standards to allow micro-breweries and distilleries in some areas, according to AccessWDUN.

11
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for March 11, 2019

On March 11, 1779, Congress created the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

On March 11, 1861, the Confederate Congress, assembled in Montgomery, Alabama, adopted the Constitution of the Confederate States of America. Today the original signed manuscript of the Confederate Constitution is in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries.

On March 11, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur obeyed the President’s order dated February 20, 1942, and left the Philippines.

On March 11, 2005, Brian Nichols shot and killed Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau in the Fulton County Courthouse, leading to a lockdown of the state capitol and a number of nearby buildings. Nichols killed two more before taking a young woman hostage in Duluth; that woman, Ashley Smith, would talk Nichols into surrendering the next day. Nichols was eventually convicted for four murders and is serving consecutive life sentences.

Happy Birthday to former Governor Roy Barnes, who served from 1999-2003, and lost to Republican Sonny Perdue in 2002, and to current Governor Nathan Deal in 2010.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections

President and First Lady Trump arrived at Fort Benning before touring Alabama storm damage, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

President Trump has nominated former Georgia congressman John Linder as U.S. representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The nomination is pending Senate approval but U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., is already praising the choice.

“John has been a public servant, a passionate advocate for tax reform and a good friend of mine for many years” Isakson said in a statement. “In addition to his military service in the U.S. Air Force, John’s 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives will benefit him greatly if confirmed for this new role.”

“As an early member of the House Homeland Security Committee, John has experience working on challenging security issues including prevention of nuclear and biological weapons proliferation,” Isakson said. “He was also a key advocate of expanding our trade relationships with allies in the Asia-Pacific region, supporting Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.”

First Lady Marty Kemp will host a pet adoption day at the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday, March 30th from 9 AM to Noon.

“The Kemps are excited to open our home to promote pet adoption and find forever homes for rescue cats and dogs,” said First Lady Marty Kemp. “Our family has always held a special place in our hearts for animals, so we are thrilled to have so many state and local partners ready to join us in this important initiative.”

Commissioner Gary Black will be with the First Lady at the adoption day. Visitors at the Mansion will also have the opportunity to visit with the Georgia Grown mascot, Georgie, at the event.

“We are excited for this upcoming event and the exposure that it will bring to pets in need of forever homes. The Georgia Department of Agriculture shares the First Lady’s passion for animals, and we are proud to partner with her in this endeavor,” said Commissioner Gary Black.

Anyone can easily register for this adoption event through the First Lady’s website. There are three one-hour time slots offered to visit with the pets available for adoption. All adoption fees and documentation will be handled by the humane societies, shelters, and rescues in attendance. The Atlanta Humane Society and Lowndes County Animal Shelterwill be two of the organizations at the event.

Under the Gold Dome Today

9:00 AM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 30) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- CANCELLED MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

2:00 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Life & Health Subcommittee of Insurance 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE APPROPRATIONS – TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 132 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS-FISCAL MANAGEMENT SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY – CANCELLED 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SR 266 – Georgia High School Association; assessment of its operations and practices; encourage (Substitute) (ED&Y-8th)
HB 166 – Genetic Counselors Act; enact (Substitute) (H&HS-32nd) Silcox-52nd
HR 165 – Property; conveyance of certain state owned real property; authorize (Substitute) (SI&P-15th) Greene-151st

 

 

 

House Bill 353 by State Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) would create a new crime of stagning a vehicle collision, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Kasey Carpenter, would make it a felony offense to either intentionally cause an automobile collision or attempt to manufacture evidence for a wreck that never happened.

Faking a wreck could land a person in prison for one to five years. But if another person is injured or killed, that could turn into five to 20 years behind bars.

The Dalton Republican said he hopes the measure will deter would-be fraudsters from staging a wreck, saving consumers and businesses money.

“I think this bill will send a message that staging a motor vehicle accident will not be tolerated and, in turn, should reduce car insurance rates for all Georgians,” Carpenter said.

Early votes continue to pour in the Gwinnett MARTA referendum, according to the AJC.

Between Feb. 25 and March 3, the Gwinnett County elections office saw 4,682 votes cast. After satellite voting locations opened in cities across Gwinnett on March 4, the total number of early votes cast in person was 19,118 as of Sunday evening, according to the county.

Gwinnett’s unprecedented three-week early voting period — including keeping polling places open 12 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays — continues through Friday, March 15, and Election Day is March 19. In addition to the county elections office in Lawrenceville, voters can cast ballots at county parks in Buford, Suwanee, Duluth, Norcross, Stone Mountain, Snellville and Dacula.

“The reality is that special elections, standalone issue elections, like this one in the middle of March, have historically had tremendously low turnout,” said state Rep. Brenda Lopez, D-Norcross, at a recent town hall meeting. “If the referendum were not to pass, I would attribute it solely to that reason.”

In the December runoff election for secretary of state and public service commissioner, 103,639, or 19.7 percent, came out to vote. For the current referendum, turnout by the end of Election Day is not expected to exceed 100,000, said Ryan Anderson, the data analyst who runs GeorgiaVotes.com. Gwinnett County currently has about 544,000 registered voters.

“It definitely looks like we’re going to comfortably surpass the runoff early voting totals at this point,” Anderson said. “But the other important point is that over 80 percent of voting in Gwinnett came from day-of voters in the December runoff, versus under 50 percent in the November general.”

Former Georgia Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer is running for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, according to the AJC.

Shafer is the third leading candidate competing to succeed John Watson, who announced shortly after the midterm he wouldn’t run again. Veteran Republican activist Scott Johnson and Bruce Azevedo, a real estate agent who chairs the Ninth District GOP, are also in the race.

A former Georgia GOP executive director, Shafer lost a 1996 bid for secretary of state before winning a 2002 contest to represent his Duluth-based Senate seat. He rose to become the chamber’s president pro tem, one of the most powerful figures in the Capitol.

But his political career was derailed last year when he was defeated by Geoff Duncan in a razor-thin Republican runoff for lieutenant governor.

“The Democratic Party we replaced was a center-right party,” he said. “The Democratic Party seeking to replace us is a radical leftist, Marxist party.”

Democratic former Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves is considering a run for the 7th Congressional District, according to the AJC.

The Democrat filed paperwork over the weekend declaring his candidacy for the 7th District seat soon to be vacated by Republican Rep. Rob Woodall, and he said he’ll formally announce his campaign within days.

Eaves will join a growing field competing for the seat, which last year was home to the closest U.S. House election in the nation. National Democrats see it as one of the juiciest pickup opportunities in next year’s vote.

The runner-up in the 2018 contest, Carolyn Bourdeaux, has already launched another bid. So have Snellville attorney Marqus Coles and Democratic operative Nabilah Islam.

And a trio of Democratic state legislators – Brenda Lopez, Pedro Marin and Sam Park – is considering a run. The Republican side is unsettled, too, though state Sen. Renee Unterman is seen as an early frontrunner if she decides to get in.

Nine County GOP Conventions passed resolutions against House Speaker David Ralston, according to 11Alive.

The counties that passed the resolution to demand Ralston resign included Coweta, Cherokee, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Bartow, Fayette and Camden among others.

Georgia’s timber industry is threatened by storm losses and driver shortages, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

[W]hen Hurricane Michael roared in late last year, it wiped away three-quarters of a billion dollars in timber alone. The state is still counting up the damages from storms last weekend that hit Harris and Talbot counties hard. And then there are other stresses for the industry: it’s hard to find log truck drivers; and insurance, equipment and fuel for them isn’t getting any cheaper.

It takes years just to grow little trees that will be thinned for pulp — maybe two decades or more for the sturdy trees that become, say, telephone poles. In the meantime, there are costs like property taxes to be paid.

An anxious-looking state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black was at the state Capitol in late February, conferring with Gov. Brian Kemp about a proposed federal aid package for areas hit by Hurricane Michael. Those negotiations are still ongoing.

Debbie Buckner, from Junction City, feels for all the people who lost their retirements in Michael. And she’s got more worries about the industry too. She and her family grow timber and her son is a logger.

Buckner is also a Democratic state lawmaker, by the way. She said it might be time to consider some new policies to encourage more people to become drivers, to see what can be done about the insurance rates, about when mills can impose quotas. Especially during times of emergency — when you might have all those trucks-worth of timber on the ground.

Former United States Senator Saxby Chambliss will address local groups in Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Former Sen. Saxby Chambliss will be the center of attention April 5 at the annual legislative lunch, co-hosted by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce, Valdosta Board of Realtors, Home Builders Association of South Georgia and Valdosta Rotary Club.

“Sen. Chambliss brings a wealth of experience from his legislative career,” said John Page, chamber government affairs council chairman. “He served in the U.S. House and Senate, representing our great state. Because of that mindset, combined with his record of service, he can give regular people the deep insight to understand politics and government in a balanced way. A true statesman, Sen. Chambliss is deeply respected by both political parties. He holds his ground when it comes to his deep principles and does not blink.”

Glynn County Board of Elections will hear about progress on HB 316, the voting procedures bill, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 316 would, among other things, standardize the voting equipment of all Georgia counties, open new avenues for voter registration and change the rules on voting precinct realignments and polling place closures.

The state House of Representatives approved the bill last month, and the state Senate gave a favorable report Thursday, meaning it is likely headed to the floor for discussion in the near future. Channell, who visited the capitol recently to discuss legislative issues, said it seems likely the bill will be signed into law.

“(Former Secretary of State, now Gov. Brian) Kemp was very eager to get this new system in place, so I think that was a priority getting it through. I don’t think he’s not going to sign it if the Senate passes it,” Channell said.

If approved, the Georgia Secretary of State would put out a request for proposal, he said. Polling machine vendors would submit their proposal, one of which would be selected by the secretary.

Camden County Schools Superintendent Will Hardin will retire at the end of 2019, according to The Brunswick News.

The City of Statesboro is considering new transit routes, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Concept maps A, B and C were displayed on poster panels during Thursday evening’s open house hosted by city officials and Connetics Transportation Group, or CTG, in the Honey Bowen Building. Only 21 Statesboro-area residents signed in during the two hours. But 80 percent of the 506 responses to the preliminary survey last fall expressed a belief that public transit is needed in Statesboro, reported Dan Nelson, a CTG senior planner and the consulting firm’s project manager for this study.

The second survey, which lets respondents rank suggested routes by how useful each would be to them and people they know, will remain open online through March 24. It can be found through the transit study link at the top of the “Notices” column on the city’s homepage, www.statesboroga.gov.

This 21-question survey also asks people how often they would use the service and at what times of day. Giving options from 50 cents to $3, it asks what one-way fare, if any, you would be willing to pay to ride a regular route, and whether you would accept a tax increase to support the service.

Columbia County high schools include student life centers to provide wraparound services for students, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Leigh Colburn, a former principal of Marietta High School, established a similar center in the metro Atlanta high school in 2015 after years of trying academic intervention to assist students’ education. After organizing the Graduate Marietta Student Success Center and tackling substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence and other issues with community service agencies, the school began to see results, and schools across the state took notice, including those in Columbia County.

The school system hired Rachel Czerepak to serve as the district’s wraparound support program specialist at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year and created student life centers in all five high schools and the alternative center. The goal is to focus on the whole child, not just academics.

“If you’re hungry, if you’re cold, if you spent the entire night in a van – you’re really not going to care about doing well (academically) even if you want to,” Czerepak said.

Prior to Czerepak’s arrival, the school system conducted a student survey asking what services they would be interested in receiving. Mental health, substance abuse, college and career, financial literacy and suicide prevention were among the top requests.

“They didn’t say things like tutoring or different academic courses,” Czerepak said. “They were talking about pretty heavy stuff that schools have not typically gotten into.”

The Dalton Daily Citizen looks as local municipal projects under a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the ballot for Whitfield County.

With Whitfield County officials looking to spend $18.2 million of the county’s share of a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on a new government services building, the city of Cohutta’s plan to spend $50,000 of SPLOST money on a new storage building may not seem that large.

But if the SPLOST passes on March 19, it would fund that storage building and other projects for the county’s smaller cities, something their officials say has sometimes been overlooked in the discussion of the major projects planned by Whitfield County and the city of Dalton.

“In a $100 million SPLOST, our $575,000 may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a big deal to us,” said Tunnel Hill City Manager Blake Griffin.

Whitfield County residents will go to the polls on March 19 to vote on the proposed 1 percent, six-year SPLOST that would be expected to bring in that $100 million. Early voting started on Feb. 25.

The City of Cave Springs is considering revising its alcohol ordinance, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

As Cave Spring voters are casting early ballots on the sale of distilled spirits, City Council members are reviewing alcohol ordinances from across the state.

If the measure passes in the March 19 election, the board plans to meet the next week to discuss the details they want to include when they enact it.

Cave Spring already allows beer and wine sales. Voters are weighing in on four other questions: distilled spirits package sales, distilled spirits by the drink, and extending those sales to include Sundays from 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon to 11:30 p.m. at night.

Early voting runs through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at City Hall. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz announced that the city will create a new “Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” according to the Athens Banner Herald.

MARTA is making a pitch for expansion into Gwinnett County, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“There is a groundswell of support for investing in public (transportation) infrastructure, recognizing the tremendous growth that’s happening in this region,” MARTA CEO Jeff Parker said of looks at transit done in Gwinnett and other metro communities.

“Atlanta has done it, Fulton County has laid out a plan for their expansion, DeKalb is currently undergoing plans for theirs, and Cobb County is just about to begin. There are plenty of opportunities to continue to invest in expanding public transportation infrastructure and that’s going to continue to happen.”

[MARTA Police Chief Wanda] Dunham said the agency has 460 sworn police officers and has been ranked third safest transit system in the nation and recently received an award from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration for its safety and security practices. It has its own 911 center, SWAT Team and bomb squad as well.

One of the arguments made by proponents of MARTA expansion is that they believe it will have economic development benefits for Gwinnett County.

They have pointed to companies such as State Farm and WestRock that located nearby transit lines as examples of why they believe Gwinnett’s economy could benefit from MARTA. State Farm Administrative Services Manager Michelle Pellegrini said the insurance company has seen a benefit from having a rail station right next to the building.

8
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 8, 2018

On March 10, 1734, a group of German immigrants reached the mouth of the Savannah River, from where they would proceed on to Savannah. Today, the Georgia Salzburgers Society works to preserve the Salzburger heritage and traditions in Georgia.

March 8, 1862 saw the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, VA, take ninety-eight hits from Union warships without sinking. Virginia sank USS Cumberland after ramming it, blew up USS Congress, and ran USS Minnesota aground. It was the worst day in US Naval history at that time.

On March 9, 1862, CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, a Union ironclad, fought to a draw in the Chesapeake Bay.

On March 9, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed two pieces of legislation dealing with African-Americans, one recognized their marriages, the other legitimized children born to African-American couples prior to the act and required parents to maintain their children in the same way white were required.

On March 10, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation allowing women to have bank accounts separate from their husbands as long as the balance was less than $2000; an earlier act set the limit at $1000.

On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first speech over his new invention, the telephone.

Thomas B. Murphy was born on March 10, 1924 in Bremen, Georgia and would first be elected to office in the 1950s, winning a seat on the Bremen Board of Education. In 1960, Murphy ran for the State House facing no opposition and was sworn in in 1961. In 1973, he became Speaker Murphy and would hold the post until Bill Heath, a Republican, beat him in the November 2002 General Election.

Murphy held the top House seat for longer than anyone in any American state legislature. He died on December 17, 2007.

Bobby Fischer, the Eleventh World Champion of Chess, was born on March 9, 1943 and is considered by many the greatest player of all time.

Governor Ellis Arnall signed two important pieces of legislation on March 9, 1945. The first created the Georgia Ports Authority, with its first project being the expansion of the Port of Savannah. The second authorized the placement of a referendum to adopt a new state Constitution (in the form of a single Amendment to the Constitution of 1877) on the ballot in a Special Election to be held August 7, 1945.

On March 8, 1946, a conference convened on Wilmington Island, near Savannah, that would lead to the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, commonly called the World Bank.

On March 8, 1946, a special train arrived at Savannah’s Union Station from Washington, holding nearly 300 delegates, government officials, technical experts and reporters from 35 nations. Thousands of Savannahians watched as a 100-car motorcade rolled along flag-bedecked streets to the General Oglethorpe Hotel on Wilmington Island.

Treasury Secretary Fred M. Vinson headed the American delegation; the British were led by John Maynard Keynes, “the father of modern macroeconomics.”

The stakes were enormous.

Two years earlier, as World War II neared its murderous end, the winning Allies pondered the nature of the postwar global economy. The United States was emerging as the leader of the free world, largely supplanting the British Empire, gravely weakened by the war.

The IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (better known as the World Bank) were born at a July 1944 conference in Bretton Woods, N.H., where 44 countries established rules for the global monetary system.

The IMF was intended to promote international economic cooperation and secure global financial stability, providing countries with short-term loans. The World Bank would offer long-term loans to assist developing countries in building dams, roads and other physical capital.

The Bretton Woods agreements were ratified internationally by December 1945. Vinson, seeking a site for the new organizations’ inaugural meetings, sent Treasury agents around the country. “They made some fine reports on Savannah,” he later told the Morning News. He had never visited the city.

On March 9, 1970, Governor Lester Maddox signed legislation setting the Georgia minimum wage at $1.25 per hour.

On March 8, 1982, President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “an evil empire” for the second time, in an address to the National Association of Evangelicals.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT CAP 450

10:00 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 29) House Chamber

House Bill 198 by State Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) failed on a 72-94 vote on the House floor yesterday. From the Dalton Daily Citizen:

A plan to change how Georgia regulates health care services — while also requiring much more transparency from the state’s nonprofit hospitals — was rejected Thursday.

The proposal was backed by several high-profile legislators who sought to update a decades-old program called certificate of need, or CON, which regulates how many health care facilities can pop up in any given area with the goal of controlling health care costs.

“It will be back,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Hatchett, a Republican from Dublin who chairs the majority caucus, said in an interview Thursday evening. “We’ve invested our energy up to this point and we’re going to listen and take up some more parts of the bill and see if we can’t start the process to modernize certificate of need because I really firmly believe in that.”

Certificate of need is seen as a protection from the threat of a new facility swooping in and poaching insured customers seeking more profitable services. In rural areas of state, the program is often seen as vital armor for fragile small-town hospitals.

State lawmakers had originally sought to make sweeping changes to how Georgia regulates health care services. The original proposal would have completely repealed certificate of need and replaced it with a licensing program.

House Bill 481 by State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Cobb) passed the State House, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

During tense debate, several Democratic lawmakers opposed to the bill turned their back to its author, Republican Rep. Ed Setzler. Earlier in the day, some handed out wire coat hangers in reference to unsafe home abortions.

Democratic Rep. Renitta Shannon, speaking against the bill and about her own past abortion, went over time and her microphone was cut off. She refused to yield the floor until colleagues surrounded her and implored her to walk away.

If the measure in Georgia is passed by the state Senate and signed into law, it would almost certainly trigger legal challenges.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion up to 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A fetal heartbeat is generally detectable at around six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

The bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest, but only when the woman files a police report first, as well as when a fetus is deemed not compatible with life.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has endorsed the proposal, and earlier Thursday issued a statement to encourage the House to pass the measure. Kemp campaigned last year on a pledge to sign some of the toughest abortion laws in the country.

HB 481 was assigned to the Senate Committee on Science and Technology.

From the AJC:

Eleven House members either sought to be excused from voting on HB 481, the “heartbeat” bill, or didn’t vote. Eight were Republicans.

Among the excused: Dave Belton of Buckhead, Ga.; Brett Harrell of Snellville; Matt Hatchett of Dublin, the House caucus chairman; Chuck Martin of Alpharetta: Sharon Cooper of Marietta; and Matt Dubnik of Gainesville.

Votes not recorded for Ron Stephens of Savannah and Ed Rynders of Albany.

Republicans voting no: Butch Parrish of Swainsboro; and Deborah Silcox of Sandy Springs.

There were geographic exceptions, but a number of legislators from north metro Atlanta. (One Democrat crossed party lines to vote for the bill: Mack Jackson, a preacher from Sandersville.)

House Bill 84 by State Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) aimed to reduce or eliminate “surprise” medical bills and failed by a 77-78 vote margin on the House floor, according to the AJC.

Surprise billing happens when properly insured patients go to a hospital in their insurance network, for example, but then find out that some doctor or service within that hospital was not in network. Then the patient gets a bill for the full price the out-of-network doctor decides to charge, and the insurance compay may pay little or nothing.

The House bill would have left the burden on patients to find out which doctors in their upcoming procedure were in network. But it would have mandated that when they ask, the information be provided to them. It also would have set up a mediation process.

Responding to a question from the floor on why HB 84 didn’t go further, Smith raised concerns with the constitutionality of bills that force insurance companies to pay a certain amount that they have not contracted to pay. That issue, Smith said, can be heard in a subcommittee of his panel: “We will have a hearing but a hearing only.”

House Bill 525 by State Rep. Ron Stephens would change the governing structure for the Savannah Convention Center, according to the Savannah Morning News.

House Bill 525 sponsored by Ron Stephens (R-District 164), establishes the Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority. It replaces the local authority with a state authority that provides bonding capacity as well as a tax-exempt status for the operation of the facility, bringing the Savannah Convention Center’s operation and governance in line with other convention facilities in Georgia.

The bill gives the governor the power to appoint six of its 12 voting members. Currently, each of six state representatives and two state senators from Chatham County has the ability to appoint a member to the local authority.

Local lawmakers will instead share three appointments to the state authority. Also gone are an appointment each from the Chatham County Commission and the Savannah City Council. The bill retains voting, ex-officio appointments for the president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority and the president of the Savannah Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

H.B. 525 passed the house Thursday, the last day it could do so and stay viable this session. It still has to pass the senate before the governor can sign it into law.

House Bill 530 by State Rep. Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon) was revised by the House Juvenile Justice Committee before passing the House, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“This won’t catch every one,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, said during a Juvenile Justice Committee meeting Wednesday, but he said it will be worthwhile if it saves one child. “I don’t believe it’s significant in terms of numbers but if it’s you, it’s pretty significant.”

House Bill 530 is meant to prevent another case like the one in Effingham County, where siblings Mary and Elwyn Crocker Jr. quit attending public school and were found buried behind their family’s house in the Guyton area Dec. 20.

Under the latest version of the bill, local school districts would be notified when the parents of a child who is no longer attending public school have not filed a notice of intent to homeschool.

The schools would refer the matter to the state Division of Family and Children Services, which would conduct an assessment to determine “whether such withdrawal was to avoid educating the child.”

“The purpose of such referral and assessment shall be limited to determining whether such withdrawal was to avoid educating the child,” the bill reads. “Presentation of a copy of such filed declaration shall satisfy the assessment, and (DFCS) shall immediately terminate the assessment under this code section.”

House Bill 454 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) passed the house and would allow cities and counties to regulate electric scooters, according to the AJC.

House Bill 454 would prohibit users of scooter services like Bird and Lime from parking the devices on sidewalks and other places where they would obstruct pedestrians or vehicles. It also would allow anyone who encounters a device parked in a dangerous manner to move it.

The bill, approved on a 133-28 vote, would allow people to ride electric scooters on bike paths, in bike lanes and on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less if no bike lane or path is available.

It also includes provisions that would protect riders. For example, motorists would be required to yield to riders if they’re operating a device in a bike lane.

Senate Bill 131 by Senator Burt Jones (R-Jackson) would move the H/artsfield-Jackson Airport from City of Atlanta control to the state, according to the AJC.

The measure, Senate Bill 131, passed by a 34-22 vote despite stiff opposition from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. City officials say the airport has become the world’s busiest, and one of the most efficient, under Atlanta’s oversight. And they say any takeover attempt will jeopardize the airport’s finances and trigger a wave of litigation.

It now heads to the Georgia House, where it has a more uncertain fate. Gov. Brian Kemp, who has yet to take a formal stance on the measure, said in an interview that he’s monitoring the debate.

“I’m still where I was: I’m watching the process,” Kemp said in an interview. “I’ve spoken with the mayor and I’ve spoken with (the bill’s Senate sponsor) Burt Jones. We’ll wait and see. We’re still doing the due diligence.”

Jones, made his case for the bill as he unfurled a copy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution featuring a front-page article about the indictment of contractor Jeff Jafari.

“Once again another indictment, charge of corruption,” said Jones, a Jackson Republican. “It always has brought me to the conclusion that someone should look into those instances that have been going on there, causing so much… really embarrassment to the state of Georgia as a whole.”

House Bill 426 by State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Gwinnett) passed the House and would be Georgia’s first “hate crimes” legislation, according to The Brunswick News.

 “In 2017, the Douglas County district attorney, a Republican, talked about he desired to charge a criminal offense as a hate crime,” Efstration said. “That’s where 15 individuals were taunting African Americans who were in a park at a child’s birthday party. And as a result of that interaction, a man pointed a shotgun at the party and yelled racial epithets. And the Republican district attorney of Douglas County had to pursue prosecution under the gang statute, because there was no hate crimes statute at the time.”

He pointed to other incidents last year, including swastika graffiti at Centennial High School in Roswell, and mentioned that Gwinnett law enforcement stated there was an increase in “brutal attacks and armed robberies targeted at immigrants.” Efstration recalled one particularly heinous incident involving three men who allegedly attacked Latinos that resulted in one person suffering severe injuries and other — a resident of his district — dying.

“I submit to you that if you honestly search your heart, and you conclude that someone may be more vulnerable to a crime because of being in one of the protected classes where this person could be targeted for an attack, then this bill is needed in Georgia,” Efstration said. “If you honestly search your heart and conclude that hate can be used as a tool for evil in order to undermine the law and order that we take for granted many times in our society, then this bill is absolutely needed.”

Dean of the House Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, said at the outset he enjoyed working with Efstration, crafting the legislation. He also called attention to the speech of former state Rep. Dan Ponder, who made a memorable address in service of the state’s first hate crimes law. The state Supreme Court later found it too broad, and therefore unconstitutional.

“I just think about this — 45 states, 45 states have hate crimes statutes,” Smyre said. “Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Wyoming and Utah (do not). Yesterday, Utah passed it in the Senate, and now it’s in the Utah House. So, I come and ask you very, very strongly to pass House Bill 426.”

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis spoke about downtown parking, the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, and proposed changes to the city charter, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Dougherty County Commission heard from the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, according to the Albany Herald.

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul spoke about the Georgia Supreme Court decision on ankle bracelet monitoring, according to the Albany Herald.

An opinion released on Monday regarding Park v. The State by the Georgia Supreme Court said it affirmed in part and reversed in part the case of Joseph Park, who had been convicted in metro Atlanta of child molestation and sexual exploitation. Park requested an interlocutory appeal to address the constitutionality of OCGA § 42-1-14, which requires, among other things, that a person who is classified as a sexually dangerous predator — but who is no longer in custody or on probation or parole — wear and pay for an electronic monitoring device linked to a global positioning satellite system, or GPS monitoring device, allowing the state to monitor that individual’s location “for the remainder of his or her natural life.”

The high court agreed that it is unconstitutional on its face, as it presented an invasion of privacy issue for someone who has completed his sentence.

The state contended that a lifelong GPS search of an individual classified as a sexually dangerous predator is reasonable because, like a person who is on probation or parole, a sexually dangerous predator has a diminished expectation of privacy with respect to Fourth Amendment searches.

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul said he and his office take a view similar to that of the state, so they plan to see if changes can be made.

“We will work with the General Assembly in fixing this law, or amending it,” Sproul said.

In the meantime, HB 324 has passed the Georgia House of Representatives and is on its way to crossing over into the state Senate. If approved, Georgia would join 31 states that already allow some form of marijuana cultivation so that TCH could be used for medical purposes.

“We have looked at what other states have gone through with this, and recreational marijuana use is (legal in those states),” Sproul said. “We are against that. We may be a year or two away from that (if HB 324 passes). I don’t want to see this happen.

Gwinnett County Public Schools police are working with other law enforcement agencies to determine how explicit photos of a child were circulated, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The photo, which has been shared on Snapchat, depicts lewd acts being done to a young child, according to a Facebook post written by an adult sibling of a Norcross High School student.

The woman wrote on Facebook she saw the image on her sister’s phone and called Gwinnett County Police Department. The Facebook post has been shared nearly 1,000 times.

“Our School Police are working with other law enforcement agencies, trying to identify the Snapchat account holder where this originated, as well as trying to verify the authenticity of the photo and to identify individuals in it,” [GCPS spokesperson Bernard] Watson said. “To my knowledge, no letters have gone home on this. As with any social media issue involving children, we encourage parents to monitor their children’s online activity, talk to their children about concerns, and to be sure that if they see anything that causes concern that they report it to the appropriate authorities and not re-post it.”

Derrick J. Wilson of Snellville is the first announced candidate for Gwinnett County Commission District 3, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Over the years, I’ve sat back and watched how things in our area are just not being taken care of (by) the current county commissioner,” Wilson said. “He’s more of a behind-the-desk kind of leader and doesn’t engage with the community. Most people in my community don’t even know who he is, or if they do know who he is, it’s because of the controversies.

“I just feel like we need more representation in our district, and that goes from Snellville all the way up to Braselton.”

Wilson, who sat down with the Daily Post on Thursday for an exclusive interview to announce his bid for office, said there is a special significance in choosing today to launch his campaign for the District 3 commission seat. It is his mother’s birthday, so he chose to time his announcement to honor that date.

Floyd County Board of Education members and the superintendent visited Washington, according to the Rome News Tribune.

7
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 7, 2019

On March 7, 1861, delegates to the Georgia Secession Convention reconvened in Savannah to adopt a new state Constitution. A resolution offering to host the Confederate Capitol did not pass.

On March 7, 1965, a group of marchers led by Martin Luther King, Jr., met Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

“I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick… I thought I saw death.”

—John Lewis, SNCC leader

John Lewis, now the United States Congressman from the Fifth District was in the front row wearing a light-colored overcoat and backpack.

GaVoice talked to Lewis about what was in his backpack on that day.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A bribery indictment against an Atlanta contractor could affect the legislation to take over Hartsfield Jackson Airport by the state, according to the AJC.

The indictment of the politically-connected Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari spells out the latest charges filed in the Department of Justice’s three-year investigation of Atlanta City Hall corruption, and officially names him as the person who allegedly paid bribes to the city’s former chief purchasing officer, Adam Smith.

Jafari is also accused of paying bribes in 2014 to an unnamed official in DeKalb County. Federal prosecutors last week issued a subpoena to the county seeking various documents related to county contracts and spending. It’s unclear if the the subpoena is related.

Jafari will fight the charges against him, according to defense attorney Steve Sadow, who provided The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with a statement Wednesday.

The indictment comes at a critical moment for the city-run airport. A planned vote is scheduled for Thursday in the Georgia Senate on a potential state takeover of the airport. Pak said the timing of Jafari’s indictment was coincidental.

National Democrats are preparing for 2020 elections in the Atlanta suburbs, according to the AJC.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it’s staffing up in Georgia’s 6th and 7th congressional districts, a notably early investment as the party seeks to defend and expand upon gains made in the midterms.

The DCCC announced the upcoming hires Thursday as part of a new multi-million-dollar campaign called March Forward. The party said it plans to hire nearly 60 grassroots organizers to help build out its infrastructure in key areas across the country long before the 2020 elections.

The party declined to say how many organizers it plans to send to the north Atlanta suburbs, but its move to hire paid field staff represents the DCCC’s biggest on-the-ground investment in Georgia since the 6th District special election in 2017.

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP
9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP
10:00 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 28) House Chamber

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

NOTICE OF MOTION TO RECONSIDER:
SB 173 – “Georgia Educational Scholarship Act” (Substitute) (FIN-27th) ENGROSSED

SB 211 – Advertisement and Sale of Meat; representation of nonanimal products and non-slaughtered animal flesh as meat; render unlawful (AG&CA-7th)
SB 216 – Ad Valorem Taxation; local governments to accept prepayments of ad valorem taxes; allow (FIN-53rd)
SB 200 – Georgia Department of Transportation; procedure for appealing the rejection of a contract bid; require (Substitute) (TRANS-51st)
SR 275 – Joint Innovation and Emerging Technologies Study Committee; create (RULES-45th)
SB 225 – Juvenile Code; in conformity with the federal Social Security Act and the Family First Prevention Services Act; bring provisions (H&HS-20th)
SB 131 – “Georgia Major Airport Authority Act” (Substitute) (TRANS-25th)
SB 190 – Child Custody Intrastate Jurisdiction Act; party may bring a counterclaim for contempt in response to a complaint seeking a change of legal or physical custody; provide (JUDY-18th)
SR 264 – Joint Emergency Medical Services Study Committee; create (RULES-53rd)
SB 108 – Competencies and Core Curriculum; computer science in middle school and high school; require (Substitute) (ED&Y-9th)
SB 2 – Public Utilities and Public Transportation; electric membership corporations and their affiliates; authorize; broadband services; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-51st)
SB 58 – Attorney General; written approval that allows for a private person to bring a civil action regarding false taxpayer claims; eliminate requirement (Substitute) (JUDY-48th)
SB 121 – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Data Base; length of time prescription information is retained from two years to five years; increase (Substitute) (H&HS-20th)
SB 171 – Courts, Primaries and Elections, and Ad Valorem Taxation; compensation of various local government officials; modify (Substitute) (SLGO(G)-50th)
SR 237 – United States Congress; call a convention; limit on the number of terms that a person may be elected; United States House of Representatives; request (RULES-46th)
SB 213 – Campaign Contributions; content of and certain reporting times for certain campaign disclosure reports; revise (Substitute) (ETHICS-31st)
SB 80 – Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority; expired provisions; issuance and review of requests for proposals for a new location, ownership; remove (ED&T-26th)
SB 132 – Insurance; modernization and updates; provide; Commission on the Georgia Health Insurance Risk Pool; repeal Article 2 of Chapter 29A (I&L-16th)
SB 138 – Disabled First Responders; certain benefits; provide (Substitute) (FIN-9th)
SB 162 – Local Government; disaster mitigation improvements and broadband services infrastructure; downtown development authorities; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-28th)
SB 110 – Courts; State-wide Business Court; pursuant to the Constitution of this state; establish (Substitute) (JUDY-23rd)
SB 163 – “Tim Tebow Act” or “Equal Opportunity for Access in Education Act” (Substitute) (ED&Y-14th)
SB 167 – Relative Search by DFCS; foster placement for a child adjudicated as a dependent; determine such child’s permanency plan; provide (JUDY-28th)
SB 177 – General Assembly; requirements for consideration of local legislation revising existing districts or creating new districts; provide (R&R-28th)
SB 186 – Trusts; qualified self-settled spendthrift trusts; establish (Substitute) (B&FI-46th)
SB 195 – “Prescription Drug Benefits Freedom of Information and Consumer Protection Act” (Substitute) (H&HS-52nd)
SB 212 – Department of Driver Services; criteria; authorize certain licensed driver training schools to administer on-the-road driving skills testing; revise (Substitute) (ED&Y-9th)
SB 222 – Criminal Procedure; Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform; create (Substitute) (JUDY-23rd)
SB 214 – Barbers and Cosmetologists; the number of apprenticeship hours required; change (RI&U-9th)
SB 227 – Special License Plates; benefit the Georgia Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, Inc.; establish (RULES-9th)
SB 103 – Air Facilities; airports owned by a county, municipality shall not assess any fee to a veteran for motor vehicle parking; provide (Substitute) (TRANS-44th)
SR 67 – Senator Bill Jackson Interchange; Columbia County; dedicate (Substitute) (TRANS-24th)
SB 209 – Individual Schools and School Systems; star rating for financial efficiency; eliminate (ED&Y-10th)
SB 219 – Education; general educational development (GED) diploma; correctly answer 60 percent questions on the US Citizenship Civics Test; require (Substitute) (ED&Y-6th)
HB 92 – Georgia Municipal Courts Training Council; training hours completed by a municipal court judge in excess of those required may carry over to the following year; provide (SJUDY-28th) Rutledge-109th
SB 178 – Specialized Land Transactions; statements of accounts under “Georgia Condominium Act” and “Georgia Property Owners’ Association Act”; provide (Substitute) (SJUDY-9th)
SB 210 – “Quality Basic Education Act”; recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-53rd)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 118 – Crimes and offenses; transmitting a false alarm; revise offense (Substitute)(PS&HS-Morris-26th)
HB 337 – Georgia Peer-to-Peer Car-Sharing Program Act; enact (Substitute) (RegI-Blackmon-146th)
HB 373 – Labor, Department of; employment security; change certain provisions (I&L-Werkheiser-157th)
HB 458 – Fire protection and safety; use of class B fire-fighting foam for testing purposes if such foam contains a certain class of fluorinated organic chemicals; prohibit (NR&E-Gullett-19th)
HB 512 – Agricultural Commodity Commission for Propane; provide (A&CA-Watson-172nd)
HB 525 – Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center; rename to Savannah Convention Center (ED&T-Stephens-164th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 83 – Quality Basic Education Act; recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five; provide (Substitute)(Ed-Douglas-78th)
HB 91 – Hospitals and health care facilities; Federal Bureau of Investigation to retain fingerprints when an agency or entity is participating in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s program; allow (Judy-Welch-110th)
HB 198 – Health; eliminate certificate of need requirements for all health care facilities except certain long-term care facilities and services (Substitute)(SCQHC-Hatchett-150th)
(Rules Committee Substitute LC 33 7901S)
HB 288 – Superior courts; revise the sums that the clerks are entitled to charge and collect for filing documents and instruments pertaining to real estate or personal property (Substitute)(Judy-Powell-32nd)
HB 296 – Superior Court of Hall County in the Northeastern Circuit; revise term of court (Substitute)(Judy-Hawkins-27th)
HB 307 – Abandoned Motor Vehicle Act; enact (Substitute)(MotV-Powell-32nd)
HB 325 – Law enforcement officers and agencies; records of investigation of an officer by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council shall be retained for 30 years; provide (Substitute (PS&HS-Clark-147th)
HB 332 – Agriculture; service of the Commissioner of Agriculture and the president of the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation as ex officio members; revise provisions (Substitute) (A&CA-Meeks-178th)
HB 353 – Insurance; create the crime of staging a motor vehicle collision (Substitute)(Ins-Carpenter-4th)
HB 444 – Dual Enrollment Act; enact (Substitute)(Ed-Reeves-34th)

Structured Rule
HB 168 – Sales and use tax; tangible personal property to certain non-profit health centers; extend exemption for five additional years (W&M-Taylor-173rd)
HB 311 – State government; waiver of sovereign immunity as to actions ex contractu and state tort claims; provisions (Substitute)(Judy-Welch-110th)
HB 502 – Civil practice; continuances for members of the Board of Regents and the Attorney General; revise (Judy-Welch-110th)
HB 507 – Ad valorem tax; criteria used by tax assessors to determine the fair market value of real property; revise (Substitute)(W&M-Wilensky-79th)

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform is looking into Georgia’s 2018 elections according to AccessWDUN.

The committee has opened an investigation into alleged voter suppression tactics.

Fair Fight Georgia, a group launched by Democrat Stacey Abrams – who narrowly lost the 2018 gubernatorial election-is suing, seeking to overturn some state voting regulations. The group has said it is pleased with the launch of the congressional investigation.

“Democrats are bringing out their full arsenal of weapons to relitigate November’s election in preparation for an upcoming election,” [Congressman Doug] Collins said in his prepared statement. “Elections within the state of Georgia are just that – an issue to be addressed by state and local officials within our state. The fact that a U.S. congressional committee is inserting themselves into a statewide issue squarely outside of their jurisdiction exposes their purely political objectives.”

Collins went on to say that Democrats who claim voter suppression after losing elections is a growing trend.

The Georgia House Health and Human Services Committee passed House Bill 481 by State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), according to the Gainesville Times.

a Georgia House committee approved legislation Wednesday to outlaw abortion after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, which is around the same time many women medically confirm they are pregnant.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion up to 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A heartbeat is generally detectable by medical professionals at around 6 weeks.

The House Health and Human Services Committee approved the anti-abortion measure on a party-line vote of 17 to 14. Thirteen Republican men and four Republican women voted for it. Seven Democratic men and seven Democratic women voted against.

The committee approval means the bill could soon move to a vote before the full House, but timing is tight.

Thursday marks a Georgia legislative deadline by which bill must generally pass one house or the other. Any passage in the full House would send it to the Senate.  Gov. Brian Kemp pledged during his recent campaign for governor to sign the “toughest abortion laws in the country”. Kemp’s campaign website says he supports “a ‘Heartbeat Bill’ that outlaws abortions after six weeks.”

From the AJC:

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ed Setzler, told a House panel that the bill represented Georgians’ beliefs.

“I believe in the common sense of Georgians,” Setzler said. “They recognize that science tells us a living, distinct whole human being with a heartbeat living in the womb is worthy of protection.”

One amendment that did make it came at the personal behest to the committee by Cooper, who asked members to “trust” her. Over the objections of witnesses, the committee voted to preserve the ability of women to abort fetuses that doctors say are incompatible with life.

Cooper presented the image of a woman carrying an anencephalic fetus, whose malformed head leaves brain tissue simply hanging in a sac. For some women, being forced to carry that baby through visible late-term pregnancy “would literally put them under psychiatric care,” Cooper said.

House Bill 198 to reform Certificate of Need, will receive a vote in the House today, according to Georgia Health News.

The state House on Thursday will consider a somewhat trimmed-down version of its originally proposed overhaul of the state’s certificate-of-need (CON) laws. The highly anticipated vote on House Bill 198 is expected to be close, experts say.

CON regulates how health care facilities function in Georgia. A provider must get a “certificate of need” from the state to proceed with a major project, such as building or expanding a medical facility or changing what services are available to patients.

Leading hospital groups oppose a broad CON revamp, saying it would hurt existing hospitals, including those in rural Georgia. Proponents say it would spark competition, increase access to services, and reduce health care costs.

The Senate’s version of the CON overhaul has stalled without a committee vote. But the House bill is still alive, and a new version passed the House special committee on health care access on Friday.

The legislation also would provide more rules for the rural hospital tax credit program, which the latest proposal maintains at $60 million, rather than the original bill’s $100 million.

House Bill 316 on elections, passed out of the Senate Ethics Committee, according to the AJC.

On a 7-5 vote in the Senate Ethics Committee, Republicans supported the bill to convert the state to a $150 million voting system that combines touchscreens and computer-printed ballots. Democrats opposed the measure, saying ballots bubbled in with a pen would be more secure from hacking and more accurately reflect voters’ choices.

The legislation was introduced Feb. 14, passed the state House last week and now is set for a vote in the full state Senate.

The legislation now ensures that voters will be able to review their printed ballots before they’re counted and requires audits of election results to be in place in time for the November 2020 presidential election.

House Bill 302 passed out of the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee yesterday, according to The Brunswick News.

The state House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee took a second crack Wednesday at a bill that’s created a significant amount of political heat between localities and homebuilders. House Bill 302 would prevent a number of specifications localities currently have the ability to impose regarding the look of one- and two-family dwellings.

“The way I look at that, and the way the bill’s drawn now — we went back and made a couple of amendments,” said state Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain and the bill’s lead sponsor. “We put zoning back just as it was in the very beginning. We’re not touching zoning, and never were touching zoning, we were just trying to clarify, but we put it back.”

“We also created the overlay districts, which you can go in and lay out that overlay district, have the people in that area of the overlay sign a petition — if you have 50 percent plus one, they do what they want to do in that district. We didn’t touch HOAs or historical.”

Committee Vice-Chairwoman Susan Holmes, R-Monticello, said she wanted local control, and worried that this legislation if enacted would have a detrimental effect on communities, especially rural ones.

“I’m just so disturbed by this, y’all,” Holmes said. “Having been in local government for 12 years, I have been there. I have been from a little city that was absolutely pitiful and dying and dreadful looking, to having those guidelines which were very reasonable, that our local government voted for. See, it makes such a difference in my little city of Monticello, and I’ve also seen what has happened in Madison, Thomasville, Gainesville — cities around the state — Jackson. Cities in my area are just so upset by this, I just get calls and texts and emails about, ‘Please don’t let this bill pass.’”

The bill passed by a vote of 9-7 and moves on to the House Rules Committee. Today is the crossover deadline, however, and it was not on the initial Rules calendar. There is a Rules meeting at 9 a.m. and supplemental Rules calendars can be expected. If H.B. 302 does not pass the chamber today, it will not have the possibility of moving again until next year.

State Rep. Jeff Jones (R-St Simons) said his opposition to the Speaker may have cost his community an appropriation, according to The Brunswick News.

Jones fears his name may have cost McIntosh County a $400,000 allocation for a new visitors center.

Late in February, Jones joined nine other House members in urging Speaker David Ralston to resign after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Ralston, a lawyer, had used his legislative position to stall court actions in cases involving his clients.

Jones believed he had secured a $400,000 special allocation to help McIntosh County remodel a former restaurant into a visitor center in the southwest corner of Exit 49 off Interstate 95. Since he joined the resolution addressing Ralston’s court delays, he has heard no more about his request for the money.

Jones asked for $750,000 and believes there was $400,000 in the budget for the project. He acknowledged Monday night, he can’t say for certain whether the funding was approved before he signed onto the resolution Feb. 28 calling for Ralston to vacate his seat.

Had the sponsor of the resolution on Ralston waited until after Crossover Day, the McIntosh County funding measure would already have passed safely from the House to the Senate. Crossover Day is the point in the legislative session when bills and resolutions must be approved in one chamber to give the other time to act. The Georgia General Assembly has not yet hit that date.

The Dalton City Schools FY 2020 budget contains no tax increase in its first draft, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Spending would increase by just over $2 million but the local property tax rate would remain the same under the first draft of a fiscal year 2020 Dalton Public Schools budget the board of education recently reviewed.

Chief Financial Office Theresa Perry said the “predominate factor” in that increase is a permanent $3,000 a year pay increase for teachers proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp. The budget passed by the state House of Representatives last week lowered that pay raise to $2,775 but also expanded it to school counselors and other staff certified by the state.

The school system budget draft anticipates that salaries would increase to $46.613 million from $44.961 million. But Perry says the majority of that increase should be covered by additional state funding.

“It isn’t completely clear how much they will be funding, but based on the information I have, I expect it will be about 70 percent,” she said.

The Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education approved a new $118 million dollar school, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Statesboro City Council asked the city attorney to draft a “blight tax” ordinance for consideration, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discussed plans for the dam and locks on the Savannah River near Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Corps meeting was part of a 60-day comment period that ends April 16 on the agency’s draft recommendation to replace the lock and dam with a rock weir allowing fish passage but would lower the average pool in the Savannah River at Augusta and North Augusta, as a Corps simulation in February dramatically showed.

6
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 6, 2019

On March 6, 1857, the United States Supreme Court published its opinion in Sanford v. Dred Scott.

the Court held that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court,and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States. Dred Scott, an African American slave who had been taken by his owners to free states and territories, attempted to sue for his freedom. In a 7–2 decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Court denied Scott’s request and in doing so, ruled an Act of Congress in this case—the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which prohibited slavery north of the parallel 36°30′ north—to be unconstitutional for the second time in its history.

The decision would prove to be an indirect catalyst for the American Civil War and was functionally superseded by the post-war Reconstruction Amendments. It is now widely regarded as the worst decision ever made by the Supreme Court.

One member of the Court that decided Dred Scott was Associate Justice James M Wayne, who was born in Savannah and served in Congress from Georgia from 1829 to 1835.

On March 6, 1946, the Fifth Circuit United States Court of Appeals ruled in King v. Chapman that Georgia’s all white Democratic Primary violated the 14th, 15th, and 17th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Primus E. King of Columbus, Georgia brought the lawsuit against the Muscogee County Democratic Party Executive Committee Chair Joseph E. Chapman.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS 403 CAP

9:00 AM DOT BOARD ELECTIONS- DISTRICT 6 SENATE CHAMBER

9:00 AM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 415 CLOB

10:00 AM SENATE ETHICS 307 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 415 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY – CANCELED MEZZ 1

1:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY (NON-CIVIL) 415 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

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

2:30 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM – CANCELED 125 CAP

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

3:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT – CANCELED MEZZ 1

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY – CANCELED 307 CLOB

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck is asking the insurance industry to exercise leniency for policyholders affected by storms in south Georgia, according to the Albany Herald.

Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Jim Beck has issued a directive to all licensed insurance companies in the state of Georgia, urging them to exercise leniency to Georgia policyholders who are late with their premium payments due to disruption of services resulting from the severe weather in Grady, Harris and Talbot counties on Sunday.

In addition, Beck urged insurers to consider the nature of Act of God claims when renewing impacted policies.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Georgia, as well as our great neighbors in Alabama, who were hit Sunday night by these storms,” Beck said in a news release. “As we recover, it is essential that we show patience and understanding to those impacted by this tragedy. I urge all insurance companies in Georgia to factor in the circumstances of this severe weather event when processing any tardy premium payments.”

Senate Bill 56 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) aims to reduce “surprise medical billing” by insurance companies, and passed the Senate, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said his SB 56 is designed to keep the consumer out of the mix when there is a price dispute between an insurance company and an out-of-network medical service provider. Currently, the balance is charged to the patient, who could end up thousands of dollars in debt.

“What this bill does is, it gives transparency to consumers,” he said Tuesday in presenting the legislation on the Senate floor.

Hufstetler said 90 percent of surprise bills stem from emergency care — for a trauma or sudden onset of a medical condition that appears to require immediate treatment. A formula in the bill would determine what the insurer must pay the provider, with the patient’s share limited to the in-network cost.

“For those (instances) that aren’t part of emergency situations, it sets up a dispute resolution process,” he explained.

The Georgia State House passed House Bill 324 by State Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Paulding), by a 123-40 vote, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Medical cannabis could be grown and produced in Georgia under a measure that cleared the House in spite of stiff opposition from sheriffs and some in the faith community who decried the move as a step toward recreational use.

The proposal would allow 10 companies to grow and produce medical cannabis oil and as many as 60 dispensaries across the state to sell it. It passed Tuesday with a vote of 123 to 40.

The measure, which would prohibit the oil from being vaped, also calls for a tracking system that follows the product from the time it’s planted to the time it’s sold.

“I’m not asking for this state to endeavor for anything more than to give the people in this state – those who are registered – a safe oil,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Micah Gravley, who is a Republican from Douglasville, said to his colleagues Tuesday.

“These aren’t people who are seeking a recreational high,” he said. “These aren’t people who are seeking to use illicit drugs. These are people who have tried and failed with opioids. These are people who simply want their children to experience less seizures, a loved one to be eased in the pain of cancer.”

From the AJC:

“It was hypocritical to me to pass bills to let this substance be available to the sickest folks that needed it, the worst, and yet we didn’t give them the access to get it,” said Regulated Industries Chairman Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell. “There’s nothing in this bill that will encourage recreational use.”

This year’s legislation proposes that the state license a total of 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, split between large growers and distributors, smaller-scale companies and stand-alone retailers.

Initial licenses would cost $150,000 for large companies, $37,500 for smaller companies and $30,000 for retailers. Businesses would also have to pay annual license renewal fees ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

Licenses would be approved by Jan. 1, and state-sanctioned medical marijuana products would be available to patients within 12 months of the license date.

The oyster industry and environmentalists raised issues with House Bill 501 by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) and Senate Bill 182 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), according to the Savannah Morning News.

[G]rowers say neighboring states manage to comply with less interference from regulators.

Scott Stradley is a managing member of the Great Georgia Oyster Co., a business formed by four military veterans based in Georgia but working at oyster farms in South Carolina. He and his colleagues are frustrated with what they see as unnecessary hurdles in the bills, including a lottery for leases on the state-owned waters to be farmed.

“The lottery is horrible,” he said. “How many businesses start off with a lottery? By the time you get thousands of dollars of licenses and certificates to apply for the lottery, you’re still not certain you’re going to get it.”

Another showstopper for Stradley is that the bills, developed by the Coastal Resources Division of the DNR, don’t guarantee a 12-month harvest that farmers need to be profitable, instead leaving summer harvest at the discretion of the DNR.

“A 12-month harvest is a huge thing,” said Stradley, who spoke at a house committee meeting on the subject Thursday. “There’s already a system in place for public safety with time and cooling requirements in the summer months.”

The house passed H.B. 501 on Tuesday.

The senate passed S.B. 182 on Friday and the house gave it a first read Monday.

From The Brunswick News:

“This bill creates an entire new industry in Georgia — the mariculture of shellfish, or, the farming of oysters,” said state Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, the bill’s lead sponsor. “In Georgia we have about a $1.7 million industry today in wild harvest of oysters and clams, but we do not have the ability today to farm oysters. This bill, very simply, creates the ability for people to farm oysters in the subtidal zones of our estuaries in cages that they will float off the bottom in leased areas off our estuaries that will be determined by the department. It allows a lottery system, where we approve of vetted individuals that will compete for those leases to grow oysters.”

Petrea said the leases would go through a lottery system to make sure Georgia residents and those who already have experience have the opportunity and access to the farming, and that it’s not dominated by large companies from out of state that could outbid local people.

“I can say unequivocally that the bill, H.B. 501, and its companion coming out of the Senate, S.B. 182, do not have industry support,” [State Rep. Jeff] Jones said. “Those two bills do not have the support of the environmental community. Those bills are not good bills, and in fact if we pass that — what I call bad legislation, with so many problems inherent to that legislation — the opportunity for us to open up that code section at a later date is going to be very, very difficult.”

Jones filed H.B. 565 Monday, which he said contains the specifics that should have been in H.B. 501, and was told by people in the industry that they’d rather not see anything pass this year — if it was to be H.B. 501 or S.B. 182 — and instead take another look and pursue a different path with better legislation at another time.

House Bill 346 by State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would protect tenants who report complaints about property owners, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The problem is slum lords, negligent owners who fail to maintain decent conditions in their rental properties, Cooper said. Tenants who face unhealthy conditions often don’t have the money to go to a lawyer. And eventually, the landlord can move another family into the hazardous home, she added.

Susan Reif, an attorney with Georgia Legal Services Program, told lawmakers, “We tell clients that you have to weigh the risk of calling code enforcement, against the possibility of eviction.″

Under House Bill 346, if a tenant were to complain about unsafe conditions, and suffer a rental increase or eviction as a consequence, a retaliatory eviction could be halted, and the landlord could face civil penalties.

The State Senate and House passed separate measures to fix an issue with the “implied consent” provisions of DUI law, according to the AJC.

The Senate voted 46-4 to approve changes to the state “implied consent” DUI law that would allow law enforcement to use a person’s refusal to submit to a blood or urine test against them as evidence at a trial.

The state Supreme Court ruled that a driver’s refusal to take a breathalyzer test cannot be held against them in criminal court.

The Georgia House on Tuesday passed similar legislation, House Bill 471, which would also apply to people accused of hunting or operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The City of Gainesville wants to annex Lake Lanier Olympic Park and take over operations, according to the Gainesville Times.

Mayor Danny Dunagan said Tuesday that the city is willing to take on a greater role in park operations while the county steps back. The park must be annexed in to the city for the city to take on this role, and the state legislature must approve that annexation, he said.

If the annexation is approved, Lake Lanier Olympic Park would become a city park. Dunagan said the Lake Lanier Olympic Park Foundation has developed a master plan that includes several updates to the park, which was built for the 1996 Olympics. The park is north of the city off Clarks Bridge Road.

County spokeswoman Katie Crumley told The Times in an email: “Hall County is working with the City of Gainesville to do what is in the best interest of the future of the Lake Lanier Olympic Rowing venue, which includes annexing the property into the City of Gainesville.”

The Lowndes County Board of Education registered its opposition to House Bill 301, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The board is even calling its representatives and sending a letter stating its position on Georgia House Bill 301, which is an “education scholarship account” that would provide state funds for children to attend private schools or do homeschooling.

It is like a “voucher,” which other states are using. It was introduced Feb. 13.

“(Parents) would be able to access that money for private school tuition or to purchase homeschool curriculum,” Lowndes County School Superintendent Wes Taylor said.

“The money carries over from one year to the next. Upon graduation, if it hasn’t been expended, they could even apply it to college tuition.”

The biggest issue, Taylor said, is it would take away from public school funding.

According to the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, public school districts would lose out on more than $5,500 — what the state pays on average for each general education student — per voucher student.

Lowndes County has a rising homeless population, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Whitfield County Chief Magistrate Haynes Townsend is resigning at the end of the month, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Townsend’s resignation will open up a second vacancy in April on the four-person court. Judge Shana Vinyard has been on “voluntary paid leave” since October of last year and recently submitted her resignation to Gov. Brian Kemp, effective April 1.

Vinyard had been under investigation by the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC), and Townsend said her resignation effectively ends that investigation. Even though he is the chief judge of the court, Townsend has no authority to remove Vinyard from office. The state Supreme Court can remove, suspend, censure or enforce retirement on a judge based on recommendations from the JQC.

The selection of new judges to fill the terms of Townsend and Vinyard rests upon a majority decision of the four Superior Court judges: Chief Judge William T. Boyett, Scott Minter, Cindy Morris and Jim Wilbanks. Court Administrator Brad Butler said his office is accepting résumés through March 15 at 5 p.m.

The only qualifications to serve as a magistrate judge are at least one year of residency in the county, the individual must be at least 25 years old and must have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

John Wagner has been named acting police chief for Warner Robins, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Warner Robins police assistant chief John Wagner was named Tuesday as the agency’s acting chief in the wake of the sudden retirement of Brett Evans.

Mayor Randy Toms said he exercised his authority as mayor to make the appointment, which he expects will be followed by a vote of council and Wagner serving as both assistant and acting chief for six months.

Evans, who has served the Warner Robins Police Department for more than 30 years, is on paid administrative leave until his official retirement date of April 19. Evans could not be reached for comment.

Rob Lewis will serve as Interim Police Chief for Harlem, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The City of Savannah is working toward a cleaner St. Patrick’s Day, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The city is banning Styrofoam coolers, as well as tables and tents, in an attempt to reduce littering and underage drinking at the square, where such issues have been a problem during past parades.

“Throughout the city, we are asking people to step back and say, ‘Is this what we really want our community and event to look like?’ and I don’t think anyone would say yes,” Special Events, Film & Tourism Director Susan Broker said during a press conference Tuesday.

“The sanitation department is going to have 60 to 70 employees out here at 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday [March 16-17],” said John Denion of the city’s sanitation department. “We’re also urging people this year to bring your own trash bags and clean up after yourselves, whether you’re on the parade route, in Chippewa Square or any of the squares.”

“Our main focus this year is to make sure our businesses are in compliance with local ordinances, state and federal laws,” [Savannah Police Lieutenant Shanita Young] said. “We will have help from our Georgia tobacco and alcohol division. Those agents will be coming down from Atlanta and surrounding counties in order to assist the Savannah Police Department.”

5
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 5, 2019

On March 5, 1735, James Oglethorpe presented a budget to the trustees of Georgia and proposed seeking an appropriation from Parliament, thus beginning the addiction of the Georgia government to Other People’s Money.

On March 5, 1869, the United States Congress refused to seat Georgia’s elected members of the House and Senate.

On March 5, 1977, President Jimmy Carter held the first “Dial-A-President” radio broadcast in which he fielded questions from radio listeners.

Ron Daniels brings you more on the Presidential Q&A from 1977.

Regardless of Carter’s policy positions and his answers to questions, “Ask President Carter” was a truly historic broadcast. Never before had the President been accessible via telephone on a live radio broadcast. And the questions presented to the President weren’t confined to one or two issues that he had been prepared to handle. One can argue that the American people were also fascinated with the concept of calling and speaking directly to Carter; nine million people called into the broadcast trying to reach him.

The President seemed to enjoy the broadcast as well, remarking: “[t]he questions that come in from people all over the country are the kind that you would never get in a press conference. The news people would never raise them, like the Ottawa Indian question. And I think it’s very good for me to understand directly from the American people what they are concerned about and questions that have never been asked of me and reported through the news media.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp toured storm damaged areas yesterday, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

After viewing storm damage of Harris and Talbot counties by helicopter Monday morning, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp did an on-the-ground tour of the damage caused by a tornado in Talbotton and declared a state of emergency for Harris, Talbot and Grady counties.

At the press conference in Talbotton, Kemp said, “The response from the local community from their neighbors down here has been fantastic — everyone pulling together.”

Leigh Ann Erenheim, director of the Talbot County Emergency Management Agency, said on Monday morning there were no reported fatalities for the county and seven injuries associated with the tornado.

“I do consider us very blessed with what we have, unlike Alabama and the things that happened to them, so I consider that the Lord had his hand on us, watching out for us,” Erenheim said.

Under the Gold Dome Today

7:30 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 415 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY (NON-CIVIL) 132 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 406 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS EDUCATION 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT 606 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

8:30 AM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 415 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION(LD 27) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Judiciary Non – Civil Subcommittee 415 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 515 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS – CANCELED MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES – CANCELLED 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS – CANCELED MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT – CANCELLED 310 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE CODE REVISION 341 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

5:00 PM SENATE REAPPORTIONMENT AND REDISTRICTING – CANCELLED 310 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 92 – Professional Licensing Boards; refuse to issue a license; borrower in default under an educational loan issued through the Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation; prohibit (Substitute) (H ED-21st)
SB 207 – Georgia Board for Physician Workforce; change name; board’s membership; revise (H&HS-11th)
SB 56 – “Consumer Coverage and Protection for Out-of Network Medical Care Act” (Substitute) (I&L-52nd)
SB 173 – “Georgia Educational Scholarship Act” (Substitute) (FIN-27th)
SB 95 – Local Government; terms for contracts for utility services; change (Substitute) (RI&U-29th)
SB 104 – Resuscitation; parental requirement for consent; revise (Substitute) (JUDY-54th)
SB 122 – Motor Vehicle Franchise Practices; protection of certain consumer data in motor vehicle sales or lease transactions; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-18th)
SB 29 – Waiver of Immunity for Motor Vehicle Claims; definition to clarify sheriff, deputy sheriff, other agent, servant, or employee of sheriff’s office; include (Substitute) (SJUDY-22nd)
SB 135 – Workers’ Compensation; certain provisions; change (JUDY-20th)
SB 77 – State Flag, Seal, and other Symbols; additional protections for government statues; provide (Substitute) (GvtO-53rd)
SB 144 – Taxes on Tobacco Products; issuance of special event tobacco permits; authorizing off-premise sales of certain tobacco products; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-24th)
SB 146 – Alcoholic Beverages; retail package liquor stores conduct tasting events; samples of alcoholic beverages may be served; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-47th)
SB 9 – Invasion of Privacy; sexual extortion; prohibit; definitions; elements of the crime; provide (Substitute) (JUDY-22nd)
SB 161 – Education; weighted scores for certain coursework for purposes of determining HOPE scholarship and Zell Miller scholarship eligibility; provide (Substitute) (H ED-37th)
SB 175 – Teachers Retirement System of Georgia; certain public employers to make employer and employee contributions; require (RET-8th)
SB 176 – Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia; certain public employers; make employer and employee contribution on behalf of retired members; require (Substitute) (RET-8th)
SB 183 – Revenue and Taxation; each person that files FORM 1099-K with the Internal Revenue Service shall also file electronically to the state revenue commissioner on or before federal deadline; provide (FIN-52nd)
SB 184 – State Employees’ Health Insurance Plan; services covered and furnished by a federally qualified health center are reimbursed at no less than the Medicare maximum; provide (Substitute) (H&HS-13th)
SB 188 – Reinsurance of Risks; adequate regulation of reinsurers; incorporation of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners reinsurance model into the Georgia Insurance Code; provide (I&L-20th)
SB 109 – Advanced Practice Registered Nurse; delegation by a physician; order radiographic imaging tests in non-life-threatening situations; authorize (Substitute) (H&HS-20th)
SB 192 – Captive Insurance Companies; definitions; use of a registered agent to receive service of process; letters of credit; provide (I&L-25th)
SB 202 – Title Insurance; lender’s security interest; personal property taken by the lender as collateral for a commercial loan; allow (I&L-3rd)
SB 208 – Drivers Licenses; implied consent notices; revise (PUB SAF-29th)
HR 182 – Property; granting of non-exclusive easements; authorize (Substitute) (SI&P-15th) Greene-151st

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 239 – Georgia Business Court; establish (Substitute)(Judy-Efstration-104th)
HB 253 – Professions and businesses; occupational therapists; update and revise various provisions (Substitute)(RegI-Hawkins-27th)
HB 456 – Local government; elect an annual report in lieu of a biennial audit; increase expenditure amount (B&FAO-Tankersley-160th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 227 – Insurance; discrimination against victims of family violence to include victims of sexual assault; expand prohibitions (Substitute)(Ins-Frye-118th)
HB 367 – Corporate Governance Annual Disclosure Act; enact (Ins-Taylor-173rd)
HB 368 – Insurance; division of a domestic insurer into two or more resulting domestic insurers; provide (Substitute)(Ins-Taylor-173rd)
HB 491 – Insurance; regulation of insurance company holding systems; update (Ins-Taylor-173rd)

Structured Rule
HB 314 – Georgia Uniform Certificate of Title for Vessels Act; enact (Substitute)(W&M-Stephens-164th)
HB 365 – Alternative ad valorem tax; motor vehicles; lower tax rate imposed (Substitute)(W&M-Blackmon-146th)

 

House Bill 324 by State Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Paulding) would allow regulated cultivation of cannabis in Georgia, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

House Bill 324 passed out of the House Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee Friday and the Rules Committee Monday. It was sent back to the Rules Committee before coming to a vote, according to Georgia’s Hope, an organization advocating for medical cannabis oil in Georgia.

In the Rules Committee, “it will hopefully be amended and go back to the floor tomorrow,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post.

The bill, known as the Georgia’s Hope Act, allows up to 10 licenses to be issued to companies that would cultivate marijuana and use it to produce a medical oil that contains up to 5 percent THC, as well as other components of marijuana, including CBD.

The bill allows for up to 60 dispensaries around the state, which would be able to sell the oil to Georgians who hold a medical card issued by the state. Currently, about 8,000 Georgians have the cards, but there is no legal way to obtain the oil, which has been legal for several years.

Additionally, some powerful organizations are lobbying hard against the bill, Wooton said. That includes the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

Thursday is “Crossover Day,” and bills must pass either the House or Senate by Crossover Day to have a chance to become law during the current session. However, wording from bills that don’t make it, sometimes is added onto other bills that have passed.

Senate Bill 221 by State Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) is unlikely to advance this session, according to The Brunswick News.

State Sen. Marty Harbin, R- Tyrone, submitted Senate Bill 221 on Wednesday. By the time it came around to a hearing Monday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the meeting — scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. — was already creeping into the afternoon with nearly two hours spent on other legislation.

“For three years or more, we have been dealing with the issue, and my presentation this morning — or this afternoon, as you would tell me — is probably 20-25 minutes to really deal with the comparison of the federal law versus the state law of RFRA,” Harbin said.

Committee Chairman Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, told Harbin there was still a substantial audience at the hearing, but Harbin said a number of people had already left, and that he would like to work to see if there was another opportunity to present the bill.

“I can’t tell you — as Indiana Jones said, ‘I’m making it up as I go,’” Harbin said. “I’m going to find a way, if I can, to try to make it happen.”

From the AJC:

“I’m going to find a way if I can and try to make it happen,” said state Sen. Marty Harbin, a Republican from Tyrone who introduced Senate Bill 221. “I believe in miracles, sir, and that’s what I’m going to try to do” to get the bill passed.

Harbin acknowledged that it might take until next year for the bill to move through the legislative process, but he said he hoped the bill can at least pass the state Senate this year.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has said he would sign a religious rights bill only if it’s a “mirror image” of a federal religious freedom law passed in 1993.

SB 221 includes the same language as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but it also adds a provision that would allow plaintiffs who win lawsuits against the government to recover their legal costs in religious cases.

The Georgia DOT Board opposes House Bill 511 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner, according to the AJC.

HB 511 would generate tens of millions of dollars for transit by replacing the state sales tax on rides for hire with a 50-cent flat fee for taxi, limousine and ride-hailing rides and a 25-cent fee for shared rides. It also would divide Georgia outside of metro Atlanta into eight zones for the purposes of transit funding and planning.

On Monday, the ride-hailing company Uber issued a statement supporting the legislation.

But the State Transportation Board — which oversees the Georgia Department of Transportation — objected to provisions in the bill that would consolidate state transit operations in a single new agency, the Georgia Department of Mobility and Innovation. Those operations are currently split among six agencies, including GDOT, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Community Health.

On Monday, the State Transportation Board approved a resolution asking lawmakers to keep transit and the SRTA under GDOT’s purview.

The Gainesville Times Editorial Board writes in opposition to state legislation that would limit local governments’ ability to zone properties.

House Bill 302, which has won initial committee approval but has yet to be considered by the full House, would restrict local governments in their ability to mandate certain “building design elements” for one or two-family residential dwellings.

If the bill is passed — and considering the considerable political clout of the governing agencies that oppose it there is no certainty that it will be — cities and counties would no longer be able to dictate that new homes have a certain size, or be made of a certain material, or fit a certain architectural design.

The bill brings to the forefront a couple of different serious philosophical questions about the role of government: How involved should any governing body be in dictating to the public what they can and can’t build; and, should local communities have the right to set their own standards above and beyond minimum building codes set by the state?

It is scary to think that a simple majority of a city council can enact building design mandates on a whim, create havoc with the local housing market and economy, and then change things again after the next election cycle when new members are elected. And yet, we firmly believe that the best government is that which is closest to home, and if local voters are willing to allow that sort of authority to their representatives, shouldn’t they have the ability to do so?

Let’s leave the authority to make community decisions at the local level, then work to make sure local decision-makers, and voters, understand the impact their actions related to home building can have.

This morning, the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee tabled HB 302.

Electric scooters may be a target for state regulation, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

One bill proposed in the General Assembly would ban users from parking the devices on sidewalks and in other places where they could obstruct pedestrians, cars and trucks.

A separate proposal would allow electric bikes capable of traveling no more than 20 mph to use bike paths, but it would ban faster ones from those paths.

The proposed state regulations are being considered as some Georgia cities and counties are attempting to reign in electric scooters and bikes.

Athens-Clarke County commissioners voted late last year to temporarily ban electric scooters.

“All this technology has come out over the last few months,” said state Rep. Kevin Tanner, a Dawsonville Republican. “This may be something we’ll need to address on a regular basis.”

The Georgia Supreme Court held unconstitutional lifetime GPS monitoring of convicted “sexually dangerous predators,” according to AccessWDUN.

The unanimous Georgia Supreme Court opinion published Monday says that violates the Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The opinion says the law amounts to warrantless searches to find evidence of possible criminal behavior after people have completed their sentences and regained their privacy rights, which is “patently unreasonable.”

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is “all in” on working with the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“As the representative for the entire coast of Georgia, Buddy is already at the forefront of this issue,” [House GOP Leader Kevin] McCarthy said in a press release. “Buddy also serves on the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, and I am confident he will provide a knowledgeable voice to the committee.”

In a phone interview Monday, Carter said he accepts the scientific conclusion that climate change is real and that industrial activity contributes to it, though he sidestepped a question about how much humans are to blame.

“Regardless of whether it’s mostly or not, it has to be addressed,” Carter said. “We know that we’ve got to address climate change so it’s just one of those things that has to be addressed regardless of whether it is the primary reason for it or not. Everything is on the table and everything has got to be addressed.”

“You know of all the things we can do in the world, we still can’t control the weather,” he said. “And I’ve never bought into the climate change. I’m not naive enough to believe that we don’t have some impact on it, but to think that we have enough of an impact to really change what is happening naturally, I’m not one of those who has really bought into that.”

“I want to do the very best that I can and I’ve heard from constituents and this is real and this concerns them and it’s something we need to address,” he said. “It’s important to us in Coastal Georgia and I get it and I understand that. Climate change is real and the need to address it is real. So I’m all in.”

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway has endorsed the county’s MARTA Referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“I’ve devoted my life to promoting the safety of Gwinnett’s families, and that’s one of many reasons I’m voting yes on the transit referendum on March 19,” Conway said. “I hope my friends and neighbors here will join me in doing the right thing for Gwinnett’s future.”

Conway’s endorsement comes on the heels of a plea from former Gov. Nathan Deal to voters for a vote in favor of adoption of the plan. State Sen. Brandon Beach, who is chairman of the Georgia Senate’s Transportation Committee, also encouraged voters to cast ‘Yes’ votes during a transit forum in Peachtree Corners on Monday.

But Conway’s endorsement stands out among those others because he is from Gwinnett, has been the county’s sheriff for more than 20 years and is a high profile Republican — which means his endorsement may hold some sway with conservative voters who have not traditionally embraced transit.

“The much-needed transit expansion will take thousands of vehicles off our roads every day, which will lead to fewer wrecks, fewer traffic jams and fewer fatalities,” said Conway. “Studies clearly show that an increase in transit ridership increases road safety.

Dalton City Council voted to require a license for outdoor donation boxes, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

“The city of Dalton always has and will continue to support the generosity of its citizens giving to others,” said council member Annalee Harlan. “But these (boxes) should not be used as a space to dispose of household items.”

To receive a license, an organization must provide the city with information on how to contact the organization, and detail how and how often items will be removed from the bins and how many times the boxes will be checked for “general cleanliness, graffiti and litter or other rubbish.” The donation boxes can only be placed in commercially-zoned areas, and can’t be put on empty or abandoned properties. The property owner must certify that permission has been granted to place the box there.

The license fee will be based on what city officials believe it will cost to process the paperwork and City Administrator Jason Parker said that will probably be $25.

Those who violate the law can be fined up to $1,000 and will have their license suspended for up to 60 days. A second violation within a year will bring license suspension of up to 180 days, and three strikes within five years can cause a violator to lose its license for up to five years.

Augusta’s Planning Commission voted against an expansion of a drug treatment center, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Hale House Foundation’s plan to open a drug treatment center in the Green Meadows subdivision found support from Commissioner Bill Fennoy, who said he needed similar services 30 years ago, but the city’s planning commission voted Monday to deny the application.

Supporters and opponents of the proposal filled nearly half the seats in the Augusta Commission chamber at a hearing on an application by Hale House for a special exception to open the center.

Lenn Wood was sworn in as Sheriff of Coweta County, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Floyd County will study its space needs in advance of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax coming online, according to the Rome News Tribune.

County Manager Jamie McCord has been reviewing proposals from consultants who want to lay out the best use of the space going into the future. He said Monday that he hopes to have a recommendation for the County Commission at its March 12 meeting.

An $8 million agricultural center is a cornerstone of the 2017 special purpose, local option sales tax package. There’s also $2,450,000 for a new public works building at the Black’s Bluff Road complex and $5 million for renovations at the Historic County Courthouse.

The county’s projecting revenue of just over $8.2 million a year, but officials could opt to do some projects earlier by issuing SPLOST-backed bonds. The comprehensive space utilization study could help them decide.

“This will give us a perspective on how we prioritize our renovations and new facilities … as well as plan for future expansions, specifically in the Judicial Building,” McCord said.

The City of Marietta may consider allowing open alcohol containers on the downtown square, according to the AJC.

Some Marietta Square business owners would like for the City Council to reexamine the idea. If it passed, it would be the fifth city in Cobb County to have an open container ordinance. Smyrna, Acworth and Kennesaw have open container ordinances, and the Powder Springs City Council is poised to approve its own version.

Open-container districts, also referred to by some cities as entertainment districts, allow patrons to carry out open alcoholic drinks from restaurants operating with a designated area.

Marietta City Council member Cheryl Richardson, a member of the council’s Judicial Legislative Committee that reviewed and rejected the proposal in July 2018, said she isn’t surprised the issue is back in the spotlight, as other cities have made the move to allow residents to sip alcoholic beverages while taking in the sights.

“It would just make sense that it would come back up in Marietta,” Richardson said.

“I think we need to listen to what people want,” she said. “We don’t necessarily need to say ‘no.’”

Richardson said the proposal could come back before the council committee as early as its March 26 meeting. If it gets the blessing of its members, the ordinance will go before the entire City Council at its April 10 meeting.