Category: Georgia Politics


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2019

Union General Irvin McDowell’s forces engaged Confederates under General Pierre G.T. Beauregard and General Joseph Johnston at the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run on July 21, 1861.

On July 20, 1864, the Battle of Peachtree Creek took place in Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a special online section on the Battle of Atlanta.

General William Tecumseh Sherman gained the upper hand in the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864. Estimated casualties were 12,140 (3,641 Union, 8,499 Confederate).

On July 21, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution as a condition for readmission.

On July 19, 1879, Griffin, Georgia native John Henry “Doc” Holliday killed Mike Gordon after Gordon shot up Holliday’s saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois.

Sir Edmund Hillary was born on July 20, 1919 in Auckland, New Zealand. He and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first to summit Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to set foot on the moon.

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.”

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

On July 22, 1975, the United States House of Representatives voted to restore U.S. Citizenship to General Robert E. Lee posthumously.

Though President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation of amnesty and pardon to the Southern rebels in 1865, it required Lee to apply separately. On Oct. 2, 1865, the same day that Lee was inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Va., he signed the required amnesty oath and filed an application through Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

Nonetheless, neither was Lee pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. After receiving it, Secretary of State William Seward gave Lee’s application to a friend as a souvenir. Meanwhile, State Department officials, apparently with Seward’s approval, pigeonholed the oath.

In 1970, an archivist, examining State Department records at the National Archives, found Lee’s lost oath. That discovery helped set in motion a five-year congressional effort to restore citizenship to the general, who had died stateless in 1870.

President Gerald Ford signed the congressional resolution on July 24, 1975, correcting what he said was a 110-year oversight. The signing ceremony took place at Arlington House in Virginia, the former Lee family home. Several Lee descendants, including Robert E. Lee V, his great-great-grandson, attended.

On July 22, 1977, Elvis Costello released his first album, My Aim is True.

Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton gave the speech nominating Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis for President on July 20, 1988 at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Dukakis accepted the nomination the next day.

Clinton’s performance was widely panned.

[Clinton] bombed so badly that there was speculation it might spoil his political future.

The prime-time speech would be a perfect opportunity for Clinton to regain some of the ground he’d lost to Gore and to reestablish himself as the one to watch from the party’s moderate/Southern wing.

But he blew it. The speech he delivered was long – 33 minutes, or twice the expected length – and mechanical. It only took a few minutes for convention delegates to tune him out, as the din of their conversations began drowning him out on television. Eventually, the broadcast networks began cutting away from his speech, with commentators noting the crowd’s complete lack of interest. The lowlight came when Clinton uttered the words “In closing,” prompting a spontaneous round of sarcastic cheers from the audience. His home state paper summed it up this way:

ATLANTA Gov. Bill Clinton’s big national moment his prime time speech Wednesday night in nomination of Michael Dukakis was an unmitigated disaster.

On July 21, 1988, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis accepted the Democratic nomination for President at the National Convention in Atlanta.

The 1996 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony was held on July 19, 1996 and competition started the next day.

The Georgia State Quarter was released on July 19, 1999.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Qualifying continues today in the House District 71 Special Election, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Thursday was the second day of candidate qualifying, and Republicans Nina Blackwelder and Marcy Sakrison, along with Democrat Jill Prouty, qualified Thursday. Republican Philip Singleton qualified Wednesday. Sam Anders, who had been running for the seat, decided to withdraw and support Sakrison, according to a press release sent Wednesday by Sakrison’s campaign.

Qualifying ends today at 1 p.m.

The seat will be filled in a special election Sept. 3. If a runoff is needed, it will be held Oct. 1. Early voting in the race will likely begin Aug. 12.

The United States Election Assistance Commission ranked Georgia #1 in automated voter registration in its Election Administration and Voting Survey Report for the 2018 elections, according to the Albany Herald.

he United States Election Assistance Commission recently released its Election Administration and Voting Survey Report for the 2018 elections, which named Georgia as the No. 1 state for automated voter registration and showed significantly higher percentages of accepted absentee and provisional ballots compared to previous elections — delivering a blow to claims of voter suppression and inadequate ballot access.

The EAVS report is the comprehensive, biennial national survey required by federal law that collects election data from all 50 states.

“Liberal activists have been desperately trying to advance a false narrative of pervasive voter suppression which, as the EAVS report confirms, has no basis in reality,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. “While these activists peddle falsehoods — apparently as a springboard for higher office or to dupe donors into supporting their nonprofit — my office will continue to aggressively pursue initiatives like automated voter registration, which make Georgia a top state in the nation for voter registration and voter turnout.”

The EAVS data supports the conclusion of a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice that showed that Georgia had a 93.7% increase in registrations because of automated voter registration, more than any other state in the nation.

“The liberal activists who are disparaging our elections in Georgia are really attacking county election officials, but the truth is that these hard-working professionals are dedicated and dependable,” Raffensperger said in a news release. “They handled this increased workload from automated voter registration in stride, and I commend them.”

Since Governor Kemp has been derided for years by the Democratic-Liberal Axis of American Politics, note that the 2018 elections and the systems put in place for them were overseen by then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

A Gwinnett County Democratic Party Vice Chair said someone put a Trump sticker on her already-bestickered car without her permission, according to the AJC.

Sharon Wood walked out of the Publix on Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville on Monday afternoon and found someone had put an “I (heart) Trump” sticker on her car, covering other stickers supporting former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Wood, the first vice-chair of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, has had her car plastered in political bumper stickers for years and had mostly heard positive comments about them. But after she peeled the Trump stickers off her trunk, she heard something different.

“I heard this person yelling from across the parking lot ‘You (expletive) traitor,’ over and over again …,” Wood said.

The Gwinnett County Solicitor General and the Lawrenceville Police Department are both investigating the incident independently and have identified a suspect based on Wood’s description of the van, which carried a Lawrenceville business name. The suspect will be interviewed by police Monday, and the suspect has hired an attorney, said Lt. Jake Parker, a Lawrenceville Police Department spokesman.

After Keaton posted on Facebook about the incident, Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside saw it and got in touch with both women. Based on Wood’s description of the man’s actions, Whiteside said it could result in criminal charges. The solicitor’s office prosecutes misdemeanors.

Lauren Holcomb will become the new Executive Director of the Georgia’s State Charter Schools Commission, according to the AJC.

Holcomb, who was the agency’s communications chief, was selected in a competitive search process, according to a statement from the SCSC Thursday. She was an adviser to Gov. Sonny Perdue and the founding director of the Innovation Fund in the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.

The SCSC was established in 2013 by a constitutional amendment in 2012. It has approved and monitored dozens of schools, including some that closed. The agency has a $4 million administrative budget but distributes tens of millions of other dollars to the 35 schools, serving 33,000 students, currently in its portfolio. It’s been undergoing changes lately, with two new commissioners appointed. Former senator and gubernatorial candidate Hunter Hill was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp and former state Rep. Buzz Brockway was appointed by House Speaker David Ralston.

Savannah City Council needs more time and information on a prospective SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah aldermen decided at their Thursday morning workshop they need another workshop before making a decision on how to spend a potential $156 million in one cent sales tax funds, known as SPLOST.

The council had been expected to vote at its regular meeting Thursday afternoon on an intergovernmental agreement with Chatham County regarding SPLOST.

The agreement is needed for a six-year SPLOST collection.

The SPLOST issue will be on ballots for voters Nov. 5. If approved, collections would begin on Oct. 1, 2020.

Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education members will take more training to comply with the accreditation agency, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The board received a monitoring report in early July from AdvancED, an accreditation and school improvement agency that has been conducting a review of Savannah-Chatham County Public School System since 2017. AdvancED said the board met its expectations for a standard on policies for effectiveness but still “needs improvement” for a standard related to adhering to a code of ethics and functioning within defined roles and responsibilities.

Board member Shawn Kachmar said board training will focus on leadership building and “the core issues facing the board,” he said.

But the board has “made more progress than they’ve given us credit for in the report,” Kachmar said. “I think they misstated some level of progress,” he said, “but I also understand they’re being cautiously optimistic about our forward movement.”

The AdvancED report provided three improvement priorities for the board to address by January 2020, such as a communication protocol, a comprehensive board professional development plan to enhance board performance and organizational effectiveness, and training to build trust and demonstrate respectful behavior.

“We’re now implementing a comprehensive board professional development plan, aimed at individuals and the group of the board as a whole,” he said.

Savannah Council heard the second reading of a proposed comprehensive zoning rewrite, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Bridget Lidy, head of planning and urban design for the city, has said the current complex ordinance does not address 21st century development patterns, or planning best practices, including expansion areas south and west of the city.

The new ordinance is the result of the city and the Metropolitan Planning Commission working together and with the community over the last several years on updating zoning.

NewZO is also the tool used to implement the Chatham County-Savannah Comprehensive Plan, city officials noted.

The updated ordinance is expected to reduce incompatible zoning, reduce the need for variance requests and provide a framework for improving neglected neighborhoods, city officials said.

The Glynn County Commission approved rezonings to the parcels that compose the St Simons Island Airport, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County commissioners voted Thursday to allow additional commercial uses at the McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport.

The county’s Islands Planning Commission voted 4-1 last month to recommend the county commission approve an amendment to the planned development text of all three tracts that comprise the airport property to mirror the general commercial zone, with restrictions.

Uses allowed in general commercial zones include “businesses involving the rendering of a personal service”; retail and wholesale businesses; private or semi-private clubs; places of worship; off-street commercial parking; hotels and motels; commercial trade, vocational or private schools; restaurants; radio or television stations or transmission towers; public utility installations or other essential services; office buildings; some repair garages; newspaper publishing facilities; educational facilities directly related to a hospital or the Glynn County Board of Health; and telecom facilities.

Macon-Bibb County is opening a new recreation center in south Macon, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The center and park will have its share of recreational options: a new weight room, renovated gymnasium, spin cycle classes, sports fields and more, Macon-Bibb County Recreation Director Robert Walker said.

It’ll also be home to a library branch and offer after-school programs on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, or STEAM. A total of $2.8 million from two special purpose

local option sales taxes have been used to get the 1931 Rocky Creek Road facility ready.

The plan is to open next month if some last-minute work is completed by then.

A bridge entering Rome will be closed this weekend, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Drivers coming into Rome from the south on U.S. 411 usually must stay in the left lane to exit onto Turner McCall Boulevard — but a temporary detour will be in place this weekend.

The bridge approaching the Ledbetter Interchange will be closed for construction from Saturday until Monday. Drivers will be directed toward the right, to exit onto Dean Avenue. The road funnels into Turner McCall at East 11th Street.

District GDOT spokesman Mohamed Arafa said the detour will stay in place from 8 a.m. on Saturday, July 20, until 5 a.m. on Monday, July 22.

“This operation is part of a combined project to rehabilitate the bridge in Floyd County and one in Haralson County,” Arafa said.

Hall County Parks & Leisure will open some facilities for free admission this weekend, according to AccessWDUN.

Guests can get in free of charge to use the community centers at North Hall Park, East Hall Park, and Mulberry Creek Park, along with the Splash Pad at Laurel Park and the beach area of River Forks Park.

“We understand what a vital role parks can play in the health and well-being of a community, and we’re excited to show the residents of Hall County what wonderful resources they have at their disposal, right in their own backyards,” said Becky Ruffner, Hall County Parks & Leisure Public Relations Specialist.

Troy University in Brunswick hosted an agritourism workshop yesterday, according to The Brunswick News.

Troy University’s Brunswick site hosted an agritourism workshop on Thursday for socially disadvantaged and minority farmers. The workshop came together in partnership a USDA- funded group called Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education along with the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, Inc., a nonprofit based in Albany.

Patrick Holladay, an associate professor for Troy’s School of Hospitality, Sport and Tourism Management, facilitated the workshop. Nearly 30 farmers traveled from Albany to participate.

Agritourism is a way for farmers to diversify their revenue by bringing visitors to their farm for a variety of kinds of programs, including on-site farmer’s markets, cafés, bed and breakfast homes and more.

Agritourism, Holladay said, is a growing niche in the state’s tourism market, which is the second largest industry in Georgia, bringing in about $63 billion annually. The large industry is agriculture, which brings in about $73.7 billion annually.

“Marrying your two biggest industries together makes a whole lot of sense,” Holladay said.


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

The greatest political journalist to ever put pen to paper, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, was born on July 18, 1929. That makes today “Gonzo Day.” You have been warned.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for a third term at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on July 18, 1940.

President Harry S. Truman signed the second Presidential Succession Act on July 18, 1947

The original succession act designated the Senate president pro tempore as the first in line to succeed the president should he and the vice president die unexpectedly while in office. If he for some reason could not take over the duties, the speaker of the house was placed next in the line of succession. In 1886, during Grover Cleveland‘s administration, Congress removed both the Senate president and the speaker of the house from the line of succession. From that time until 1947, two cabinet officials, (their order in line depended on the order in which the agencies were created) became the next in line to succeed a president should the vice president also become incapacitated or die. The decision was controversial. Many members of Congress felt that those in a position to succeed the president should be elected officials and not, as cabinet members were, political appointees, thereby giving both Republican and Democratic parties a chance at controlling the White House.

In 1945, then-Vice President Truman assumed the presidency after Franklin Roosevelt died of a stroke during his fourth term. As president, Truman advanced the view that the speaker of the house, as an elected official, should be next in line to be president after the vice president. On July 18, 1947, he signed an act that resurrected the original 1792 law, but placed the speaker ahead of the Senate president pro tempore in the hierarchy.

On July 18, 1988, the Democratic National Convention opened at the Omni in Atlanta. That night, actor Rob Lowe would shoot a videotape in a hotel with two hairdressers, one 22 and one 16. Several weeks later, the era of the celebrity sex tape began.

On July 18, 2000, United States Senator Paul Coverdell died of a cerebral hemorrhage. I remember where I was when I heard the news.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp signed an Executive Order suspending Bacon County Sheriff Mark Cothren for twenty days.

Senator Johnny Isakson was hospitalized after falling and breaking several ribs, according to the AJC.

Isakson’s communications director, Amanda Maddox, released details of the hospitalization Wednesday night. She said he was admitted to George Washington University Hospital after the fall.

He has four fractured ribs.

“He is in pain, but resting and doing well,” Maddox said. “Senator Isakson looks forward to fully recovering and getting back to work for Georgians.”

“The Kemp family asks Georgians across our great state to join them in praying for Senator Johnny Isakson’s swift recovery,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement of Facebook after news broke about Isakson’s hospitalization.

Avery Niles was fired as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, according to the Gainesville Times.

“Commissioner Avery Niles submitted his resignation to the Board of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice effective Sept. 1,” reads a statement from the DJJ. “Following an executive session, the board voted not to accept the resignation and voted to remove him from the position of commissioner, effective immediately. Gov. Brian P. Kemp has approved the board’s decision.”

In published reports, Niles recently came under fire when it was revealed that he lied under oath in a deposition related to a lawsuit against the DJJ. Niles claimed he had earned an associate degree in criminal justice that he later admitted he did not possess. It is unclear whether this was the reason his employment with the agency was terminated.

State House District 71 qualifying runs through Friday, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Candidates wishing to run for the house seat, which was vacated by David Stover, qualify at the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office Elections Division, at 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Suite 802, Atlanta.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. The qualifying fee is $400.

The special election will be held Sept. 3. Because it is a special election, all candidates run together, regardless of party, and there is no primary. If a runoff is needed, it will be Oct. 1, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

There were five declared candidates for the seat, but one, Sam Anders, has withdrawn from the race.

The other declared candidates are Republicans Nina Blackwelder, Marcy Sakrison and Philip Singleton and Democrat Jill Prouty.

District 71 encompasses most of the eastern half of Coweta County, except for the Senoia and Haralson areas, as well as a section west of U.S. 29 between Palmetto and Madras. It also includes a sliver of Fayette County in the Kedron area of Peachtree City.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs declined a grant application by Statesboro, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs has denied, at the pre-application stage, the city of Statesboro’s request for $2 million in Community Development Block Grant funding for the Creek on the Blue Mile project.

Statesboro still has the promise of a $5.5 million state direct investment and an up to $15.5 million line of credit for the project, both through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. The $5.5 million would not have to be repaid, but it is meant for engineering and construction of the flood control lagoon. The $15.5 million would have to be repaid in 30 years, although at a very low annual interest rate of 2.25 percent.

“After a review of the pre-application, we do not find that the city’s proposal addresses eligible CDBG activities to directly benefit low- and moderate-income persons; therefore, the city is not being invited to submit a full application,” Georgia DCA Deputy Commissioner Rusty Haygood stated in a June 20 letter to Mayor Jonathan McCollar.

Savannah City Council will consider approval of an Intergovernmental Agreement governing a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) with Chatham County, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The agreement is needed for a new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum that will be on November ballots for voters to approve or deny.

The sales tax, if approved, would begin collections on Oct. 1, 2020.

The city originally asked the county for $225 million from the SPLOST 7 collection.

The county has determined Savannah will receive $156.07 million, according to Pat Monahan, Savannah’s interim city manager.

In May the other municipalities also presented their requests that included, $8.2 million for Bloomingdale; $13.15 million for Garden City; $64.2 million for Pooler; $11 million for Port Wentworth; $5 million for Thunderbolt; $20 million for Tybee Island, and $200,000 for Vernonburg.

The County Commission is expected to call for the election on July 26, which will then set the deadline for finalizing the intergovernmental agreements.

The Athens-Clarke County Commission will meet Thursday to approve a final project list for the upcoming SPLOST 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

Public comment is allowed and expected at the 6 p.m. meeting in Athens City Hall on the “SPLOST 2020” package, pegged at about $330 million. The special purpose local option sales tax is a 1 percent tax governments with voter approval can use to fund construction of buildings, parks and other public projects.

Under Georgia law, a governing body such as the commission can choose to ask voters to approve the tax for a set time such as five or six years, or until it reaches a certain amount. In this case, $330 million, which would extend the tax for about an additional 11 years.

Voters will get the final say in a November referendum.

[Commissioner Melissa] Link said she’s heard opposition from some of her constituents that they might vote against continuing the SPLOST if the arena is on it.

Glynn County is paying more attention to who claims homestead exemptions, according to The Brunswick News.

“I think probably what has brought this to the fore more than anything is the county’s lawsuit … The Coleman class action and the school board. They have over 6,000 people, I think now, eligible for the school board exemption,” said Glynn County Tax Commissioner Jeff Chapman.

In the class-action lawsuit Chapman referred to — originally files as three separate lawsuits in 2012, 2013 and 2014 — county residents alleged the tax commissioner had overcharged on property taxes going back to 2001.

The plaintiffs claimed the county had selected the wrong year on which to base their Scarlett Williams homestead exemptions. In a Scarlett Williams exemption, a full-time resident’s property value is “frozen” for tax purposes at the year in which their exemption was approved.

The tax commissioner’s office should have frozen values at the year prior to approval, the Georgia Court of Appeals found. As such, the county had overcharged residents on property taxes going back at least to 2001, according to court filings.

“The county commission and school board both realize how much money is at stake with an incorrect exemption, or someone who’s not eligible and getting it,” Chapman said. “I think they see how much money it is. I think that’s being discussed. It’s thousands of dollars (per incorrect exemption).”

As such, he was encouraged to begin cracking down on all homestead exemptions, an easy target given that, until now, they’ve been policed via “honor system.” In its most recent budget, the county commission increased the staffing in his office to facilitate the effort.

The point at which a short-term rental becomes a lodging business is identified differently by different tax commissioners, but Chapman sees it as a clear, black and white distinction. The bottom line: anyone who rents out their home isn’t eligible for a homestead exemption.

“You can’t have a boarding house or a weekend rental and get the discounts from taxations like a homestead can get,” Chapman said.

Anyone who rents out a portion of their home as an apartment or efficiency could lose their exempt status unless the portion of the property being rented is on a separate tax parcel from the owner’s residence.

The same rule stands for short-term rentals, he said. The amount of time one spends at home or away doesn’t matter. Once rented, it’s no longer a homestead and is therefore not exempt, no matter how long the rental period is.

Floyd County Board of Education set the millage rate for FY 2020, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The board heard the proposed millage rate of 18.25 mills for a third time at 7:30 a.m. Monday. The rate saw no changes from the last two hearings. The millage rate is a combination of a proposed 9.480 mills for county government services and 18.25 mills for the school system.

“Even when times are tight we have been trying to give the taxpayers a break,” Superintendent Jeff Wilson said.

Some Henry County residents spoke against a proposed property tax millage rate hike, according to the Henry Herald.

The county has proposed an increased millage rate of 12.995, which, according to officials, would generate tax revenue of $94,672,038.

If the county declined to increase its millage rate and instead maintain its millage rate of 12.733, the county would generate $92,709,424.

In May, the county passed a $163,045,000 general fund budget, which includes funding for around 20 new law enforcement officers, extra constituent aides for the Board of Commissioners and the county absorbing 100% of health insurance rate increases.

Around $295,000 in the county’s fund balance was used to help balance the general fund budget, which was something county leaders had discouraged commissioners from doing in budget hearings held earlier this year.

The Cherokee County Commission approved the property tax millage rate for 2020, according to the Tribune-Ledger News.

[C]ommissioners unanimously approved a motion to set the tax millage rate at what had been recommended, with a full rollback in millage for both the general fund and the park bond debt service and no rollback on the rates for the fire fund. It was recommended not to roll back the tax mills on the fire fund so that the county could continue pushing toward its goal of having three firefighters per apparatus, which would also help lower the county’s ISO rating to help with insurance rates.

Along with approving the tax millage rates for the county’s general fund, fire fund and park bond debt service, the commissioners approved the 19.45 mills set by the Cherokee County School District for the upcoming year as a formality.

The Augusta Commission approved a new EMS agreement with Gold Cross EMS, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The commission approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Gold Cross by a vote of 6-4, with Commissioners Bill Fennoy, Dennis Williams, Sammie Sias and Ben Hasan voting against it. The terms of the agreement were approved by the commission a month earlier after months of negotiations with Gold Cross, which is the state-designated emergency ambulance provider for Augusta but has been without a contract with the city since the end of 2016.

The agreement pays Gold Cross a $400,000 subsidy for the remainder of the year, a $600,000 subsidy in 2020 and $650,000 in 2021 and 2022. The city will set the billing rates for Gold Cross subject to an annual review of market conditions. Gold Cross will provide eight ambulances around the clock staffed by at least an advanced EMT while Augusta Fire Department will provide three with similar staffing.

Both Sias and Fennoy contended that the agreement ran afoul of the city’s procurement policies.

“This to me is a back door method to get around our Procurement code,” Sias said, an objection that had been made a month earlier when the commission approved the terms. General Counsel Wayne Brown said the agreement did not subvert the code because there was no way the contract could have been competitively bid because Gold Cross is the sole state-designated provider.

McDonough City Council voted to accept a proposed 75/25 split of SPLOST funds with Henry County and its other municipalities, according to the Henry Herald.

The McDonough City Council voted to support the IGA following an executive session at Monday’s meeting, but didn’t explicitly say what the intergovernmental agreement contained.

However, according to agreement documents supplied to the Herald by McDonough City Clerk Janis Price, the IGA explicitly states that 25 percent of SPLOST revenue would be distributed to the four cities for the funding of their own SPLOST projects.

This is a departure from a late-stage proposal brought out by several cities, but most notably the city of Hampton. That proposal would have called for 30 percent of SPLOST revenues distributed between Henry County’s four cities, while the remaining 70 percent would be used by the county for its projects.

Supporters of the 70/30 revenue split argue that the cities would get more of a fair share of the sales tax proceeds since the four cities make up around 30 percent of the county’s population.

The Henry County Commission voted to put a “Brunch Bill” referendum on the November 2019 ballot, according to the Henry Herald.

The board agreed, 5-1, with Johnny Wilson voting against, to put language on the November ballot that would allow restaurants in unincorporated Henry County to sell alcohol by the glass at 11 a.m. on Sundays rather than at 12:30 p.m. as has been custom.

Last year, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 17, which allows for local referendums on the “brunch bill.” The language of the bill states that between 10 and 60 days after a local government approves a resolution allowing a vote to take place, an election superintendent must call an election for the “brunch bill,” which would then take place between 30 and 60 days after it is called.

Valdosta will use most of its receipts from a new SPLOST for infrastructure, if voters approve, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

If the eighth special purpose local option sales tax is approved by Lowndes County voters, about $40 million of the city’s expected $65 million will be used to improve aging infrastructure such as sewer pipes.

City Manager Mark Barber said utility infrastructure impacts every resident in the city, which is why it is taking such a significant part of the SPLOST project list.

At a special called meeting this week, Valdosta City Council and staff broke down the city SPLOST project list for review and approval. The list included how much of the expected SPLOST money would go to which departments and for what purpose.

Voters will decide on the November ballot whether the one-cent tax on items bought inside the county should be approved. Residents are currently paying a similar tax as part of SPLOST VII which is coming to an end.

If the vote comes out against SPLOST, the sales tax will drop from eight to seven cents per dollar, meaning the city would not be able to make up the revenue necessary for utility and other infrastructure improvements, according to city officials.

Elections for Braselton City Council are set for November 5, 2019, according to the Gainesville Times.

Qualifying has been set for Aug. 19-21 to fill the District 1 and District 3 seats on the council, and will take place at Braselton Town Hall, 4982 Highway 53. Fees are $180.

District 1 is currently held by Becky Richardson and District 3, Tony Funari.

Under apparent cyberattack, Henry County took down online systems, according to the Henry Herald.

“At this time there is no access to public records including court documents, building permits, zoning permits, property tax information or business licenses,” the county said in a Facebook post. “At this time county e-mail, internet access and county servers have been taken down by Henry County Technical services in a proactive measure to safeguard county government information and networks.”

The Henry County Technology Services Department, Georgia Technology Authority and FBI are working on the issue, and backup server testing is underway.

Dunwoody Municipal Court is offering an amnesty program for some unpaid fines and warrants, according to the AJC.

For the month of August, the Dunwoody Municipal Court is implementing an “amnesty program” for people with overdue traffic citations or warrants for failing to appear in court, the city said in a statement Wednesday.

Those offenses can sometimes lead to an arrest. But contempt fees or warrants will be cleared for people who visit the court and settle up with city officials next month.

“Some people think this is a trick. It’s definitely not,” Dunwoody Municipal Court Clerk Norlaundra Huntington said in a statement. “We simply want to encourage people to come back to court by easing the financial burden.”

For overdue fines paid in full, the court will waive any extra contempt fees. If an offense requires a court appearance, “the individual will be granted a future court date to appear before a judge, and all warrants will be cleared and warrant fees forgiven,” the city said.

The amnesty program is designed to settle violations and ultimately reduce arrests.

Sandy Springs says its false alarm ordinance is reducing false alarms, according to the AJC.

The Sandy Springs City Council on Tuesday got its first sense from the police department of how the alarm ordinance is doing since the law started June 19: Capt. Dan Nable said false alarms were down 77% from the previous 30 days, when almost every call was false.

“The alarm ordinance is having a desired effect,” Nable said.

After eight years of tweaking the ordinance and traveling to research cities with similar laws, the city says it is now the first in Georgia whose police will not respond to home and business burglary alarms without video, audio or in-person verification that a crime is occurring. The law also includes steep fines on alarm companies for repeated false alarms.

Of the 8,000 alarm calls last year in Sandy Springs, 99% were false alarms, police previously said. That accounted for 17% of all calls to the 911 dispatch center. City leaders said they approved the law in part because false alarms distract police and dispatchers from actual emergencies.


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

On July 17, 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman set up headquarters in Fulton County on Powers Ferry Road near the Chattahoochee River. Late that night, Confederate General Joseph Johnston was replaced by newly-commissioned Gen. John Bell Hood.

For nearly three months, Johnston and Sherman had maneuvered around the rugged corridor from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Although there was constant skirmishing, there were few major battles; Sherman kept trying to outflank Johnston, but his advances were blocked. Though this kept losses to a minimum, there was also a limit to how long Johnston could maintain this strategy as each move brought the armies closer to Atlanta. By July 17, 1864, Johnston was backed into the outskirts of Atlanta. Johnston felt his strategy was the only way to preserve the Army of Tennessee, but Davis felt that he had given up too much territory.

Georgia-born Ty Cobb died on July 17, 1961.

The Beatles premiered The Yellow Submarine on July 17, 1968 in London.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed by Congress on July 17, 1984. From the New York Times:

President Reagan, appealing for cooperation in ending the “’crazy quilt of different states’ drinking laws,” today signed legislation that would deny some Federal highway funds to states that keep their drinking age under 21.

“We know that drinking, plus driving, spell death and disaster,” Mr. Reagan told visitors on a sweltering afternoon. “We know that people in the 18-to-20 age group are more likely to be in alcohol-related accidents than those in any other age group.”

“’It’s a grave national problem, and it touches all our lives,” he added. “With the problem so clear-cut and the proven solution at hand, we have no misgiving about this judicious use of Federal power.”

Under the law Mr. Reagan signed today, the Secretary of Transportation is required to withhold 5 percent of Federal highway construction funds from those states that do not enact a minimum drinking age of 21 by Oct. 1, 1986. The Secretary is required to withhold 10 percent of the funds for states that do not act by Oct. 1, 1987.

The President said he was “convinced” that the legislation would “help persuade state legislators to act in the national interest to save our children’s lives, by raising the drinking age to 21 across the country.”

A senior White House official said after the ceremony that it was not clear that the new law would compel states to raise their drinking ages, even with its incentives and penalties.

He said some states, such as Florida, were proving resistant to the changes because people considered it unfair to allow residents to vote and serve in the armed services at the age of 18 but not to drink in public.

The University of North Georgia Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Dahlonega Science Council will discuss the Apollo 11 moon landing, according to AccessWDUN.

The keynote speaker is NASA aerospace engineer Sabrina Thompson, who works at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Thompson will speak about the historic mission at 7:30 p.m. July 20 in the Health and Natural Sciences (HNS) building at University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega Campus. Thompson said she will share the history of the space program, but she also plans to discuss what’s in the future for space exploration.

Before and after the speech, activities include hands-on projects for children, planetarium shows and solar observations. If the weather is clear, telescopes for observing will be set up at HNS, the observatory, or both.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Drive safely, and remember that the Georgia State Patrol and local authorities will be teaming up for additional traffic enforcement. From the Ledger-Enquirer:

The third annual Operation Southern Shield launched Monday, and is an effort by agencies in [Georgia and Alabama,] plus Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee to enforce speed limits and promote safe driving through midnight July 21.

“The goal of Southern Shield is not to write a lot of tickets, but to show drivers how speeding drastically increases their chances of being in a crash,” said Allen Poole, director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

In 2018, 268 people were killed in speed-related crashes in Georgia, according to preliminary numbers from the Georgia Department of Transportation. That’s an 8% increase from the previous year.

Belinda Jackson, regional program manager with the NHTSA, said there are several groups of drivers who are more likely to be involved in speed-related crashes: young males aged 15-24, people who don’t wear their seatbelts, motorcyclists and impaired drivers.

“During this week’s enforcement blitz, the blue lights will be out there in full force,” Jackson said. “Officers will be vigilant regarding enforcing speed limits but also seat belt, distracted driving and impaired driving violations as well. Our goal with the Southern Shield campaign is simply this: it’s to save lives.”

During the 2018 Southern Shield, law enforcement agencies in Georgia wrote more than 11,000 citations[.]

The Gainesville Times notes that turtles are increasingly crossing roads.

“They’re particularly prevalent during this time of year, especially after a rainstorm,” Gordon said. “People will see them crossing roads and around their homes.”

Gordon said adult eastern box turtles can live as long as 40-60 years in the wild, and exhibit a range of brown, yellow and black shell color variations.

For the past week, Hall County Parks & Leisure has been pushing turtle-related education to the community.

Becky Ruffner, the department’s marketing and public relations specialist, said the idea was inspired by the increased activity of turtles during the summer.

Like Gordon, Ruffner stresses the importance of not taking turtles home. Unbeknownst to many, Ruffner said the eastern box turtle is a protected species under Georgia law, making it illegal to remove one from its habitat.

“Humans are one of the biggest threats to the box turtle population by removing them,” she said. “And that box turtle is probably not going to survive.”

Kathy Church, program coordinator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said out of the approximately 27 species of turtles in Georgia, 13 are protected.

Those that are unprotected, including the common snapping turtle, can be caught and eaten for dinner. Church said people can legally trap up to 10 turtles per session for food purposes.

So, there is a bag limit for turtles. Who knew?

Governor Brian Kemp swore in two new members of the Board of Regents, according to the AJC.

Kemp used the openings to appoint Sam Holmes, a commercial real estate executive with CBRE; and Jose Perez, the retired head of Target Market Trends and a Gwinnett Republican. He also re-appointed Dean Alford, a veteran regents member with ties to the state’s GOP establishment.

They replace Richard Tucker and Don Leebern Jr., who have been mainstays on the board, which oversees 26 institutions including Georgia’s largest colleges and universities and is considered one of the most coveted posts in state government. The 12-month total budget for the University System of Georgia, about $9.6 billion, is about one-third the size of the entire state budget.

The appointees will serve seven-year terms.

Governor Kemp will speak at the ribbon-cutting for PCOM South Georgia, according to the Suwanee Democrat.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has confirmed that he will address attendees as the first four-year medical school in Southwest Georgia opens its doors.

PCOM South Georgia consists of a 75,000-square-foot facility on a 31-acre campus led by 30 faculty and staff members. The campus, located on Tallokas Road in Moultrie, will welcome 55 Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine students to orientation on Aug. 5 with classes starting on Aug. 12.

Jay Feldstein, DO, president and CEO of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) said, “We are very happy to be partnering in the region to bring our 120 years of experience in educating physicians and health sciences professionals to Southwest Georgia.”

Official actions to bring a campus to the Southwest Georgia region began in October of 2016 when a Memorandum of Agreement was signed that laid out a plan to begin the extensive accreditation process with the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), the college’s accrediting agency.

“The impact this medical school will have on the South Georgia region is going to be monumental. Our ability to reduce the physician shortage in rural areas and thereby meet the increasing healthcare needs of this population is going to improve,” said Colquitt Regional President and CEO Jim Matney. “I am just overwhelmingly proud of all of the stakeholders who have come together to make this possible and we are appreciative of PCOM for their willingness to step outside of the norm and place this campus in Southwest Georgia.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is asking for public comments on a proposal to mine heavy minerals near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, according to GPB News.

Twin Pines Minerals has submitted a permit application, seeking permission to mine for heavy minerals in a 2,414-acre area. That would be phase one of the mining. The total proposed area is about 12,000 acres.

The company plans to mine in phases, according to the application, to an average of 50 feet below the land surface. The application proposes to backfill mined areas within 30 days, and replant during the appropriate planting season.

The company estimates 65 acres of wetland and 4,658 linear feet of tributaries will be permanently impacted if the project goes forward.

Spokesman Billy Birdwell stressed that the Corps is seeking new information to inform the permit review process. Public comments, he said, are not a referendum that measures public sentiment.

“Their purpose is to give us information that we don’t have or that the public deems that we really need to consider before we make our decision,” said Birdwell. “And it may lead to something that requires more study. So that’s why we have these public comment periods, and we encourage people to get involved.”

The Georgia Public Service Commission approved Georgia Powers Integrated Resource Plan, according to WABE.

Public Service Commission chairman Bubba McDonald has directed Georgia Power to add more solar power in past integrated resource plans, and continued to do so with this one.

“With our partnership with Georgia Power Company, we have been able to methodically move it forward. Step-by-step, not overdoing it, not underdoing it,” he said. “By doing that, we have stayed with no upward pressure on the ratepayer, and no state subsidies at all. Totally market driven.”

The addition of biomass had not been something that Georgia Power initially proposed, but the Georgia Forestry Commission, among others, encouraged regulators to consider it in an earlier hearing on the long-range plan. Georgia Power already buys some power from biomass companies; now it will issue a request for proposals for a new 50 megawatt biomass facility in Georgia. Biomass is not as economically efficient as other sources of power, and environmental groups say it’s not good for climate change.

Public Service Commissioner Jason Shaw said that will be good for South Georgia’s economy and its tree farmers, even if it is a relatively small power plant.

“It will allow the industry to continue to grow and expand, and I do see that adding resilience to rural communities,” Shaw said.

The Gwinnett County Commission backed away from proposed property tax millage rate hikes, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett county commissioners retreated from a plan to raise the county’s millage rate that had drawn vocal opposition from property owners.

The commission voted 3-2 to keep the millage rate at its 2018 level, with the general fund rate set at 7.209 mills. Commissioners Tommy Hunter and Ben Ku voted against the rate.

Commissioner Jace Brooks, who made the motion to keep the rate the same as last year, said he had been leaning in that direction the entire time and said the public feedback opposed to the rate increase was appreciated.

Since the county’s tax digest grew this year at least partially due to an increase in property values, some residents may still end up paying more in taxes despite the millage rate staying the same. That will depend on what exemptions they have, however.

The proposed increase in the rate to 7.4 mills drew pushback from residents in recent weeks over the increased money they’d have to spend in taxes. Some residents also called on county leaders to tighten the county’s belt on spending.

Ku said he voted against keeping the rate at the same level as last year because he “didn’t think that was the best direction for the county” because the county has to dip into reserves to cover a gap between tax revenues and expenditures.

Two things I note: first, keeping the same millage rate as last year if the property digest increased means higher county revenues and some would say that is a tax increase (see also, Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights); second, does Commissioner Ku’s comment mean he would have preferred the higher property tax rates? I think that’s what he’s saying, but it’s unclear.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter (R) and State Rep. Donna McLeod, (D-Lawrenceville) had an exchange of ideas, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County commissioners usually do not respond to people who address them at commission meetings, but Commissioner Tommy Hunter broke with that tradition Tuesday and criticized a state legislator who had criticized him during her remarks to the board.

State Rep. Donna McLeod, D-Lawrenceville, stood before the board at its business meeting Tuesday and took the opportunity to address Hunter over, among other things, a $5 million federal lawsuit he has filed against his fellow commissioners over a written reprimand issued against him in 2017 for calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig.”

“You need to act like a representative, ma’am,” Hunter said.

Hunter’s response to McLeod prompted an intercession from commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who immediately told him “let’s not engage here.”

The Dalton City Council accepted an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Whitfield County Commission governing use of encrypted radios, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The Dalton City Council voted 4-0 on Monday to approve the agreement, which says the radios can only be used for public safety purposes. The county Board of Commissioners approved the agreement last week.

The agreement also says each government is responsible for paying the subscriber fee for each of the radios it is assigned to the Tennessee Valley Regional Communication System, codifying what had been the practice. The city of Dalton has 402 handheld and vehicle-mounted radios and its annual subscriber fees total $45,285.

Whitfield County adopted a new digital emergency radio system in 2017, replacing the 40-year-old analog technology the county had been using. The system, which cost some $12 million, was the top priority under the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in 2015. It serves all county first responders as well as those in the cities of Dalton, Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell.

The new agreement says the cities can’t give or sell the radios to anyone else.

The Floyd County Board of Education heard about school safety and security, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The system will be rolling out the Raptor Visitor Management Program, which will cross reference every visitor and volunteer with the U.S. National Sex Offenders Public Registry. The system will be implemented at every front office across the system, Flanigen said.

“This way we will have an electronic database of who is in that school,” he said.

Visitors and volunteers will be required to insert their driver’s license or government issued ID card into a card reader which will alert front office staff if a registered sex offender is trying to enter the building. According to Superintendent Jeff Wilson, the system will be paid for with help of federal grant money marked for security and will cost around $1,000 per school. The system will be ready to roll by the first day of school, he said.

The system will not perform a background check on the visitors, Flanigen said. Only the sex offender registry will be checked since it is public record. Other public records such as active warrants will not be checked by the system, he said.

The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center is criticized in a new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The report, based largely on anonymous complaints, [] is the latest mark against the Augusta center. It came under fire in 2013 for being part of a nationwide VA backlog of patient consults, with some veterans dying while they waited for an appointment. In 2016, Augusta VA supervisor Cathedral Henderson was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for falsely reporting that veteran requests for care had been fulfilled to address the backlog.

In the new report, investigators said they were repeatedly told hiring at the Augusta VA is inefficient and takes months. Those interviewed called it “awful,” “extremely difficult” and “exquisitely problematic.” with an average hiring action held up by one of several procedural step for nearly 58 days.

Though an early 2018 VA report found staffing levels to be adequate, in February both CCU and RN staffing was “substantially below” authorized levels, with 11 of 53 CCU nursing positions vacant and six of 36 ER nurse slots open.

“Staff absences frequently impacted the facility’s ability to maintain safe CCU staffing levels and that unit managers failed to consistently use the available administrative actions to address unexcused staff absences,” the report said.

The Gwinnett County Board of Elections named an interim director, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The county’s Board of Registrations and Elections voted Tuesday night to appoint county Voter Registration and Elections division Deputy Director Kristi Royston as the acting elections supervisor. She will replace Lynn Ledford, the longtime supervisor who began her new position in a special projects-oriented division director Tuesday.

“I just wanted to make sure we have someone who knows what they’re doing and she’s been here for a long time and she’s very good at her job,” said elections board member Beauty Baldwin, who made the motion to appoint Royston to the position.

She comes into the interim position with plenty of experience with elections. Ledford said she has been with Gwinnett’s Voter Registration and Elections Division for about a decade. She served as the division’s deputy director for that entire time.

“I think she’ll be fantastic,” Ledford said.

Prior to coming to work for Gwinnett, Royston worked for the Secretary of State’s Office when Cathy Cox held that office, then as a clerk in Athens-Clarke County’s elections office and then as elections director for Barrow County, according to Ledford.

Agricultural Education is increasingly available in Georgia public schools, according to the Associated Press, via the Statesboro Herald.

The program will begin with 20 Georgia elementary schools that will roll out the agricultural education courses.

Agricultural education is offered in middle and high schools in metro Atlanta, the newspaper reported. But this new effort makes the first time it is being offered by the state to students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“Even if you’re not a farmer, the agriculture umbrella covers so many other opportunities. We want to make sure kids understand that,” Steinkamp said.

The Georgia Legislature approved the agricultural education curriculum for elementary schools during the 2018 legislative session. Teachers across the state are now working with the Georgia Department of Education to finalize lesson plans for the 2019-2020 school year.

State Sen. John Wilkinson, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee and is co-chair of the education committee, said the lessons will prepare students for careers in agriculture and give young people a greater respect for the food they eat.

“There was a time where the majority of people were involved in farms,” said Wilkinson, R-Toccoa. “As we get farther and farther away from the farm, a lot of our young people think food comes from a grocery store. We thought it would be good for all our students to at least have an idea of where their food comes from and what it takes to produce it. A lot of times, we take our food for granted. It’s really easy to do.”

Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will offer a new four-year degree in Agricultural Technology and Systems Management, according to the Albany Herald.

ABAC President David Bridges said he believes a new ABAC major in Agricultural Technology and Systems Management will quench the thirst of those students who want the AET background but need a four-year degree for their chosen profession.

“Jobs are available for students who complete this major,” Bridges said.

“These are the type of employees that companies are looking for. These graduates have applied skills. They have been in the shops. They can solve problems in the field.

“Control systems, guidance systems, irrigation equipment. These graduates are all over that type of thing. I think farm equipment dealers such as John Deere, Caterpillar, R.W. Griffin and Kelley Manufacturing Company will be looking for these graduates.”

A deal to build a hotel at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry cratered between The Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority and a private company, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority in January approved a preliminary agreement with Bran Hospitality to build the hotel, but final terms could not be reached.

Stephen Shimp, executive director of the fairgrounds, said a key sticking point was a requirement for a performance bond. That forced the developer to put up a bond guaranteeing the hotel would get built. Shimp said it was an extra cost the developer did not anticipate.

The deal for the hotel is identical to what the state uses to build hotels on Jekyll Island, which the state owns, Shimp said. The performance bond is part of the Jekyll Island projects as well.

Shimp said a new request for proposals will be sought from developers. Bran Hospitality, based in Perry and owner of 13 hotels, made the only offer when the state sought proposals last year, but Shimp said he is optimistic a new developer will step up.

Corina Newsome, a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, will present on how climate change is affecting seaside sparrows, according to The Brunswick News.

Her talk is part of an ongoing Georgia Sea Turtle Center Seminar Series hosted at the center, which is part of the Jekyll Island Authority. David Steen, a research ecologist at the center, began the series in 2018 to provide opportunities for researchers to share their work with the center staff and JIA employees, as well as the local community.

“I think it’s really useful for the folks working at JIA and the GSTC in particular to understand that we are part of a large scientific community and see how our research projects are informed by the latest science,” Steen said. “I also think meeting new researchers and learning about how they conduct their research programs is valuable professional development for our staff and AmeriCorps members.”

Newsome’s talk will take place at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Mosaic Classroom at the center. Newsome’s presentation is titled “Climate Change and the Salty Sparrow: Understanding Seaside Sparrow Nest-Predation Threat in a Variable Landscape.”

Her research right now focuses on the conservation of the seaside sparrow, which is a species that is particularly threatened by climate change due to sea level rise.

Glynn County is considering regulating businesses operating on public beaches, according to The Brunswick News.

Existing county regulations don’t say much about selling services on the beach, [County Community Development Director] Thompson said. Businesses selling products, however, are subject to regulations. Sunset Slush, which sells frozen treats from a cart on East Beach, must contract with the county and pay upwards of $15,000 in taxes and fees.

Seven other businesses currently operating on the beach do pay taxes, but she said it isn’t a requirement. Both she and Gurganus said they believed regulating other types of business would be fair.

Also, the lack of oversight led to something of a kerfuffle earlier this month when a paraglider — which is classified as an ultralight aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration — started operating on the beach.

In particular, [Recreation and Parks Manager Lisa Gurganus] pointed the commissioners to Walton County, Fla., and Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

Both require beach-based businesses to hold permits and maintain liability insurance.

In Senoia, City Council is considering a new ordinance permitting food trucks, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Two restaurant owners expressed concerns to the Senoia City Council Monday night, as the council prepared to approve the second and final reading of a new ordinance that would allow food trucks in certain areas, under certain circumstances.

The new ordinance will allow food trucks on Mondays from 5 to 10 p.m. from May to October. Food trucks would only be allowed downtown in the area on Monday between Johnson and Seavy streets, and in the parking lot behind city hall. They could also be allowed in the Seavy Street and Marimac Lakes parks with a special permit, said Community Development Director Dina Rimi. There will be a $50 application fee.

Scott Tigchelaar is part owner of Nic and Norman’s. “We love food trucks,” Tigchelaar said. “We’ve talked about them from a landlord perspective, from a tenant restaurant perspective and from a restaurant owner perspective.”

“As a restaurant owner, I don’t know that we are ready in Senoia. We’ve got a lot of restaurants in town and they’re not as busy as they could be,” he said.

Jim White is owner of Jimmy Pomodoro’s and Bistro Hilary.

Food trucks don’t have to pay rent or have to have a full-time staff. “It’s a lot cheaper for them to operate, obviously. It’s the complete opposite of what we do downtown,” White said.

“The restaurant industry is one of the hardest around and to add something like that, as much as we love them… I think a Monday night addition could very much hurt the restaurant business downtown,” White said.

The Hall County Public Schools system is looking at $500 million dollars in school upgrades, according to the Gainesville Times.

Most of the district’s elementary schools are, on average, about 25-30 years old, officials said.

School security improvements, even at the elementary level, have become obvious needs with the growing frequency of mass shootings on campuses across the nation, but they were not primary concerns when these decades-old schools were constructed.

But in working toward developing a 10-year facilities plan to upgrade, renovate and develop new schools, [Board Chair Nath] Morris said it is critical that officials consider how to make schools more efficient and sustainable.

Matt Cox, executive director of facilities and construction, said Hall County Schools currently has about $537 million worth of project and maintenance needs identified among its 37 schools.

St Simons beachgoers saw dozens of pilot whales beach themselves, according to AccessWDUN.

State Department of Natural Resources whale biologist Clay George said the DNR planned to euthanize two incapacitated whales. The DNR says they will be autopsied.

George says the whales were likely confused as they normally stay more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) offshore. The American Cetacean Society says pilot whales are often involved in mass strandings partly due to their social nature.

From the AJC:

Glynn County EMA and Homeland Security officials reported all whales were back in the ocean as of 7:40 p.m. Tuesday.

According to the Wildlife Resources Division from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, while some animals were successfully pushed back out, two pilot whales died and were taken in for a necropsy.

“The remaining whales were last seen swimming in the sound, and it is hoped they will continue to keep moving out to sea,” officials said.


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

On July 16, 1790, Congress declared Washington, DC the new capital city.

Georgia Congressman Carl Vinson set a new record for longevity in office on July 16, 1963, having served 48 years, 8 months, and 12 days since his election in 1914. Vinson’s record held until 1992 and his tenure is now sixth-longest.

On July 16, 1914, Asa Griggs Candler, retired President of Coca-Cola, wrote his brother Warren, who was a Bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, a letter offering one million dollars and 72 acres of land in Atlanta for the church to establish a new university in the East.

The United States performed the first test of an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at the Trinity site in New Mexico.

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the project, watched the mushroom cloud rise into the New Mexico sky. “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” he uttered, reciting a passage from an ancient Hindu text.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday announced Walt Davis as the State Business Court Judge, according to GPB News.

Walt Davis, a partner at Atlanta firm Jones Day, has been tapped to head up the new statewide business court. Georgia voters approved the court last November and the legislature codified it with bipartisan support.

Davis’ bio says that he specializes in “securities litigation, shareholder disputes, and corporate governance matters and regularly counsels boards of directors and senior management in connection with governmental and internal investigations.” It goes on to tout “significant experience” handling insider trading, accounting, and corporate complaince.

Kemp said that Davis stood out from the many recommendations he received for this position.

“His name was the one that I kept hearing from people that are most trusted in this field,” Kemp said. “And with over 30 years in the private sector, I know firsthand how important a business friendly legal environment is to the prosperity of any business.”

From the AJC:

Davis said he wants to model Georgia’s initiative after Delaware and others with similar courts.

“I see this as an opportunity to be a litigants’ judge,” he said in an interview. “I know the demands of big-ticket litigation. The electronic discovery involved. All of this results in stress for the lawyers and a lot of time and money for the clients. I see this as a real opportunity to help.”

Under the law, the state court will launch in January but won’t start taking cases until August 2020. It would handle some of the state’s more serious business matters but will leave smaller disputes, such as lawsuits over landlord-tenant relations and foreclosures, to local courts.

“My job is to primarily call balls and strikes, to be fair and impartial. The outcome of a particular case can so often be tied to how a case is handled day in and day out,” he said. “We have the opportunity to help the lawyers get past some of those smaller grievances that tend to bog us down.”

The idea for a state business court was long pushed by former Gov. Nathan Deal and his advisory council to quickly resolve complicated business cases through a dedicated court. Supporters also said it could help entice more large corporations to set up shop in Georgia.

Davis said the court would help Georgia “fix a hole in our swing” by giving businesses, particularly those outside of Atlanta, a new outlet to resolve disputes. That was also a focus for Kemp, whose campaign hinged on huge support from outside metro Atlanta.

Former United States Senator Sam Nunn (D) has endorsed Carolyn Bordeaux in the Democratic Primary for the 7th Congressional District, according to 11Alive.

Bourdeaux, the 7th District Democratic nominee in 2018, came within a hair’s breadth of winning that district in the last race, losing by only 419 votes against four-term Republican incumbent Rob Woodall.

Following his victory, Woodall announced in February 2019 that he would not be seeking another term in Congress, leaving the field wide open for the 2020 race. As of this point, at least five other Democrats and nine Republicans have made announcements about running for the seat.

“I applaud your determination to bring your ideas, your energy and your values to the governance arena. Washington needs leaders with fresh ideas who reject the hyper-partisan environment – in which many campaigns – in one way or another curse the darkness rather than light a candle,” Nunn said.

Nunn’s support comes on top of other notable Georgia residents who have endorsed Bourdeaux’s bid, including current U.S. representatives John Lewis (D-5th) and Hank Johnson (D-4th), former Ambassador Andrew Young, former Gov. Roy Barnes, former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, and former Democratic Congressional nominee in the 6th District, Jon Ossoff.

Democrat Sarah Griggs Amico has formed a committee to explore a campaign for United States Senate, according to the AJC.

The logistics executive, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2018, launched her exploratory committee as she lines up strategists and makes other behind-the-scenes move to prepare for her bid.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported she’s in talks with pollster Cornell Belcher and the Perkins Coie law firm to advise her potential campaign. She is also likely to hire several former Stacey Abrams aides.

Democrats consider Georgia a must-win to flip control of the U.S. Senate, but the field has been slow to develop. Abrams and other high-profile Democrats have passed on a run, leaving only two candidates so far in the race: Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry.

While Abrams has said she’ll stay out of the race, Amico would likely use her 2018 strategy as a blueprint if she runs. That means a focus on healthcare and voting rights – and a concerted effort to appeal to minorities and first-time voters.

The Democratic Party of Georgia will aim to win municipal seats this year, according to the AJC.

The party is devoting more resources to contest municipal races this year even though those contests are nonpartisan. It plans to target elections in at least 50 counties and 100 cities across the state.

State Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the state Democratic party, announced the initiative at a town hall meeting last week.

Her reasoning: Candidates might not have a D or R by their name, she said, but locals often know “who is a Democrat and who is not.”

“And we’re not going to support Republicans,” said Williams, “because they use these as stepping stones.”

“Contest every race,” said Williams. “We’re doing a pitch to get Democrats to run for municipal races. You don’t have to have a D or an R beside your name. When I walk into a grocery store, I don’t have a D by my name, but I carry my Democratic values with me.”

State Rep. Bill Werkhiser (R-Glennville) continues working on legislation to bring transparency to the EMS selection process, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

A push to require more transparency from ambulance providers in Georgia stalled earlier this year but the measure’s last-minute collapse has drawn renewed attention to what proponents say is a broken emergency medical services system.

“In what other world can you be a provider and then sit on a board that chooses the provider?” Werkheiser said.

Werkheiser is pushing for changes that would make clear the 10 regional EMS councils and their subcommittees must abide by the Georgia Open Meetings Act and require the local panels to publish data showing how long patients had to wait for help to arrive. Vendors would also have to register as lobbyists.

Werkheiser said he hopes to address the issue of long wait times – or, in some cases, no response at all – in some communities by requiring increased transparency and accountability within the system.

He said he has tried to weigh proponents’ demands for change against the providers’ patient privacy concerns and their pursuit of efficiency, which often means having to take non-emergency calls that may leave a crew tied up when an emergency call comes in.

The Rome News Tribune looks at the campaign disclosures of local elected officials.

Financial disclosure reports were filed last week by the Floyd County delegation: Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome; and Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, and Mitchell Scoggins, R-Cartersville.

• Hufstetler reported one contribution, $2,800, from the Georgia Medical Political Action Committee. He paid out $6,229 in expenses, leaving a cash balance of $162,329 in his account.

• Dempsey reported $9,650 in contributions and $11,706 in expenditures, leaving $54,424 in her campaign account.

• Scoggins was sworn in Jan. 14 following a hotly contested special election to fill the House District 14 seat. His latest report shows he paid off the remaining $11,256 of his campaign debt.

The freshman legislator took in $2,350 in contributions and ended the reporting period with $4,662 in the bank. The next round of reports run through Dec. 31.

• Lumsden spent slightly more than he took in during what was essentially a three month period. His contributions totaled $5,202 and expenses were $4,134. He ended the reporting period with $37,297 on hand.

Democrat Jill Prouty joined the race for State House District 71 in a special election, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

The special election to fill Stover’s unexpired term will be Sept. 3. As a special election, there will be no party primary and all candidates will run together. Qualifying dates for the election will be set by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Prouty joins four Republican candidates: Sam Anders, Nina Blackwelder, Marcy Sakrison and Philip Singleton.

Prouty has spent over 20 years working at the Peachtree City Library. “Librarianship is a rewarding career. I get to serve people from all walks of life every single day,” Prouty said. “Public libraries are truly the great equalizer in our society.”

Prouty is an advocate for issues related to mental health and suicide prevention. As a survivor of suicide (her mother’s) Prouty said she understands the struggle of families whose loved ones suffer from mental illness and sees a desperate need for in-patient mental health services in the Coweta/Fayette area.

If elected, Prouty said she pledges to work for Certificate of Need reform to help bring additional mental health and addiction resources to the district.

Georgia State Transportation Board Chair Ann R. Purcell spoke in Statesboro last week, according to the Statesboro Herald.

State Transportation Board Chair Ann R. Purcell, in Statesboro last week, predicted a possible fall groundbreaking for a $260 million project that will replace the Interstate 16 interchange on I-95 and widen both sides of I-16 from there to Savannah.

“I’m hoping that maybe in September or October we will have the big groundbreaking on that,” Purcell said. “That will be a lighted interchange, the gateway to the rural area, the gateway for economic development.”

She has served since 2013 as one of the 14 members of the Transportation Board, elected from each of Georgia’s congressional districts by members of the state Legislature. The board oversees the work of the Georgia Department of Transportation, which has more than 4,000 employees, through Transportation Commissioner Russell R. McMurray, who was hired by the board in January 2015.

“When I have a groundbreaking, this fall, or the latter part of that, in wintertime, it’s going to be when I have some backhoes behind me, because I want you, the public, to see action that is going on at I-16 and I-95, when we clear those old-timey cloverleaf ramps in that interchange there, and we’re going to have a first of its kind. It’s going to be a turbine-look.”

The Dougherty County Commission has proposed higher property tax rates, according to the Albany Herald.

The Dougherty County Commission tentatively approved on Monday in a 5-1 vote a measure to increase the property taxes it will levy this year by .59% over the rollback millage rate for the countywide district.

Commissioners also announced their intention, also by a 5-1 vote, to increase the property taxes they will levy this year by .13% over the rollback millage rate for the special services district in the unincorporated part of Dougherty County.

District 5 Commissioner Gloria Gaines was the dissenter on both measures. District 6 Commissioner Anthony Jones was absent.

While the rates are unchanged, the county is still expected to advertise a tax increase.

“The valuation of the taxable real property in Dougherty County has increased due to reassessments,” officials said in a statement about the increase. “Because of the increase, the County Commission is required by state law to advertise it as a ‘tax increase,’ even when the millage rate is the same.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis will participate in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The program helps mayors advance critical priorities in their cities. Davis will join the third cohort of 40 mayors invited from around the world to participate in a three-day training session with the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School and Bloomberg Philanthropies, according to a city release.

“This program is about leadership, innovation and synergy,” Davis said in the release. “Augusta has all the elements. I’m excited to learn how to bring focus and shine a light on a path that creates better opportunities for all our residents through job creation, housing and transportation.”

The yearlong program helps guide mayors through a series of courses to foster innovation and collaboration, increase positive public engagement and use data to drive decision-making, according to the city. The experience has been beneficial for past participants to understand complex issues and implement solutions in their communities, according to the Bloomberg Harvard Program.

Statesboro will welcome new City Manager Charles Penny with a meet-and-greet this afternoon, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Sixty local residents have applied to serve on the committee overseeing the Whitfield County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners and the Dalton City Council have daunting tasks.

Together, they have received approximately 60 applications from individuals hoping to represent them on an advisory committee that will make recommendations for the projects that would be funded from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that is expected to be put before county voters in either the May 2020 general primary or the November 2020 general election. They will have to narrow that down to 13 committee members and two alternates — 10 members from the county and three from the city — before the committee’s first meeting, which is planned for August on a date that hasn’t been determined. The committee will have a total of 16 members and the two alternates.

Each of the five county commissioners will appoint two committee members. The City Council as a whole will appoint three. Each of those bodies will appoint one alternate. Each of the county’s small cities — Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell — will appoint one person each.

The Floyd County Elections Board announced changes in the voter rolls, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Floyd County has 54,794 active registered voters this month – 400 fewer than in June.

But the decrease is “statistically insignificant,” according to Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady.

“School’s out, people are moving. We expect to see an increase in September,” Brady told members of the Floyd County Board of Elections.

Brady said 3,144 “no-contact notices” went out to Floyd County voters in the latest review and 1,055 came back as undeliverable to the address on file. While state law prohibits the post office from forwarding election information, 299 of the returned cards had change-of-address stickers on them.

The Habersham County Commission voted unanimously to place a $31.7 million dollar jail bond referendum on the November 5, 2019 ballot, according to AccessWDUN.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin opened this morning, according to AccessWDUN.

“This hospital first opened in 1976 and experienced ups and downs throughout the years,” said Dr. Donna Whitfield, chief of Medical Staff at NGMC Lumpkin. “When it closed last year, however, we lost an invaluable healthcare resource. I’m overjoyed to see it open again, and so are my patients. People in Lumpkin County and the surrounding areas now have a hospital they can be proud of and trust again.”

NGMC Lumpkin offers an emergency department, inpatient care and supporting imaging, pharmacy, lab and other services, according to press information from NGMC. Complete emergency services are provided 24/7/365 by the same group of physicians that care for emergency patients at other NGMC hospitals in Gainesville, Braselton and Winder. The new hospital hosted a Community Open House last Saturday offering the public a chance to tour the facilities.

“It took close partnership between Northeast Georgia Health System, the Board of Regents, the University of North Georgia and our local elected officials to save this hospital from the fate of other rural hospitals across the nation,” said state Senator Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega resident and former executive director of Lumpkin County’s Development Authority. “I’ve supported this effort from the beginning, and I look forward to working alongside NGHS to build a better future for our community.”

“Having NGHS step in to protect our hometown hospital is a true blessing that will save lives in Lumpkin County,” said J.B. Jones, Lumpkin County’s sole commissioner from 1973 to 1996 and a driving force behind the original hospital opening in 1976. “I want to encourage people to come to the hospital for care when they need it because the more we use the hospital – the more likely it is to grow and thrive.”

Opportunity Brunswick, an economic development program, enters its second stage, according to The Brunswick News.

Travis Stegall, director of the Brunswick Economic and Community Development Department, said that a website has been created to provide valuable information for citizens and potential investors.

Stegall made the presentation at a special called planning meeting to learn about the status of Opportunity Brunswick and to discuss what city commissioners learned at the recent Georgia Municipal Association convention in Savannah.

He described the website as a “one-stop shop” for people to get data about the city and look a different locations in the city waiting for development.

Stegall said the city is working hard to get its share of a pool of money to help victims of Hurricane Irma to repair their homes. The city plans to bring in a third-party dedicated to helping residents with disaster relief once the funds have been released to the city.

The Garden City Empowerment Center opened on Monday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Empowerment Center marries efforts by state Rep. Carl Gilliard, D-Garden City, and St. Joseph’s/Candler in a partnership to help working families out of poverty and put them on a path to sustainability.

Gilliard, who founded the Feed the Hungry program in 2009, said the center and its partners were “giving poverty a pink slip.”

“We’re going to change the narrative on poverty,” he told an audience at the Augusta Road site. “Our focus is sustainability.”

“We see a lot of sick patients at St. Joseph’s and Candler hospitals,” he said, calling those folks “trailing indicators for other things that have happened in their lives… and it could happen to any of us.”

As part pf the system’s commitment, St. Joseph’s/Candler is providing and renovating space for the center located next door to the system’s Good Samaritan Clinic. Gilliard will bring a number of different local and state agencies that can help people gain skills or find resources to help with employment, education or certificates.

Chatham County Mosquito Control announced that mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus have been identified, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The announcement came after several samples of mosquitoes from a midtown location —defined as the area from Victory to DeRenne and from Interstate 516 to Wilmington Island — tested positive for the virus last week.

“Once the virus is present in our local mosquito population, we know it’s just a matter of time before the activity becomes more widespread,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, Health Director of the Coastal Health District in a press release.

Chatham County Mosquito Control Director Ture Carlson told the Chatham County Commission Friday that the 27 positive samples collected by the end of June far outstripped the 10 positives seen at the same time in 2011, which was a very active year that resulted in 10 human cases of the virus in Chatham County.

“It’s pretty widespread from north to south, east to west,” Carlson said in a subsequent phone interview. “Everybody needs to take precautions now.”


Twin Pines Minerals, an Alabama company, wants to mine for heavy metals in a 2400-acre parcel in Charlton County, near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, according to GPB News.

The proposal from Twin Pines Minerals called for mining on more than 2,414 acres of land in Charlton County. The land is home to gopher tortoises and frogs, which are endangered, but Twin Pines said it’ll move them.

The application from the company said about 522 acres of wetland could be temporarily impacted as the company would have to dig and excavate for draglines. Officials have said they would put dirt back and replant if their proposal gets approved.

Another 65 acres could be permanently destroyed as new structures would be built on the wetlands.

From the Savannah Morning News:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted a joint public notice with the state of Georgia on Friday indicating it had received a Clean Water Act permit application from Birmingham, Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals. The corps is asking for public comments on the permit.

In the application, the company indicated it plans to extract “high quality heavy mineral reserves” for “export by truck, rail and eventual barge to national and international customers.”

“Mineral sand-derived products, particularly those containing titanium dioxide and zirconium, are in high demand worldwide in the pigment, aerospace, medical, foundry, and other industrial products,” the document states. “Elemental components, chiefly titanium, are used as the white pigments. Titanium dioxide is nontoxic and has replaced lead as the predominant pigment in paints and coatings.”

Twin Pines is proposing to operate its mining facility in stages on about 19 square miles along a ridge of land bordering the refuge, digging to variable depths that will average 50 feet below the land surface on two of the three tracts and 25 feet below the surface on the third. The company is proposing to backfill and grade the mined land within about 30 days following excavation with replanting during the appropriate planting season.


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

On July 15, 1864, Sherman’s army began crossing the Chattahoochee River and would take the better part of three days to complete the crossing. Georgia Public Broadcasting has a series on Sherman’s Georgia campaign, and you can watch this week’s episode here.

Major General George Stoneman’s cavalry had come to the area south of Atlanta. On July 15, 1864, Stoneman wrote from camp near Villa Rica, Georgia.

As I indicated to you in my last note, we completed the bridge (Moore’s), and were ready to cross at daybreak yesterday morning, but before we essayed it a report came from Major Buck, in command of a battalion seven miles above, that the enemy had been crossing above him on a boat or a bridge, and that his pickets had been cut off.

Colonel Biddle, who was left with his brigade at Campbellton, reports the enemy quite strong at that point, with two guns of long range in each of the two redoubts on the opposite bluff, which are opened upon him whenever any of his men show themselves.

I was very anxious to strike the railroad from personal as well as other considerations, but I became convinced that to attempt it would incur risks inadequate to the results, and unless we could hold the bridge, as well as penetrate into the country, the risk of capture or dispersion, with loss of animals (as I could hear of no ford), was almost certain.

On July 15, 1870, Georgia was readmitted to the United States, with the signature by President Ulysses Grant of the “Georgia Bill” by the U.S. Congress.

On July 15, 1948, President Harry Truman was nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago to run for a full term as President of the United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp appointed Jeffery O. Monroe as a Judge for the Superior Court of Macon County through December 31, 2020. Gov. Kemp also appointed Jeffrey A. Watkins as a Judge for the Superior Court of the Cherokee Judicial Circuit for the same term. Kemp appointed former Democratic State Rep. Margaret Kaiser to the Board of Juvenile Justice for the Fifth Congressional District.

Governor Kemp will announce at 3 PM today at the State Capitol his first appointment to a new state business court, according to AccessWDUN.

Governor Brian Kemp plans to announce his nominee for the first statewide business court judgeship during a ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol Monday afternoon.

In a press release the governor’s office said the new judgeship is part of Amendment 2, passed by Georgia voters during the general election in November, 2018.

The release explained that the language for the amendment was codified during the 2019 General Assembly, where it received bi-partisan support.

Kemp’s nominee will need to be approved by both chambers of the state legislature.

Gov. Kemp spoke Sunday at the the 45th annual Georgia Association of Educational Leaders summer conference at Jekyll Island, according to The Brunswick News.

Kemp gave the opening address for the conference, which is taking place at the Jekyll Island Convention Center until Wednesday.

“Folks, we have never ever had anybody who spoke up for public eduction the way that Brian Kemp does,” said Jimmy Stokes, outgoing executive director of GAEL.

Kemp emphasized education priorities throughout his campaign for governor, and he has made good on several proposed changes since taking office. His team led legislative efforts that resulted in a $3,000 pay raise for teachers across the state, as well as $30,000 grants for every public school to put toward campus safety and security.

While campaigning, he also heard many concerns, he said, about state standards that teachers are required to use. Kemp said he plans to soon name a citizens review panel that will participate in the standards review process.

“This will help put education back in the hands of the teachers and the parents,” he said

A teacher shortage crisis is another growing concern among education leaders across the state, Kemp said.

“We’ve heard all the daunting statistics,” he said. “In Georgia, 44 percent of our educators are leaving the profession within the first five years of teaching.”

The Washington Post ranks David Perdue’s U.S. Senate seat as the 8th most likely to flip in 2020, according to the Roanoke Times.

Georgia is another traditionally Republican state where a star Democratic candidate recently reshaped strategists’ views. Even though she didn’t win, Stacey Abrams’s gubernatorial race revealed the partisan makeup of Georgia, shifting it slightly less red. In addition to winning a majority of younger and nonwhite voters, Abrams won a majority of women.

Democrats tried and failed to recruit Abrams to run for Senate. As such, Republican Sen. David Perdue has a long list of Democrats vying to challenge him for in his first Senate reelection campaign. Perdue raised nearly $2 million this spring while one top Democratic candidate, former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, raised just half a million.

The Federal Aviation Administration will decide whether to accept the Camden Spaceport’s application by December 16, 2019, according to the AJC.

“We are now at T-minus 1, a final decision by the FAA is the only outstanding item,” said Steve Howard, Spaceport Camden’s project lead and the county’s administrator. “When we submitted our application to the FAA earlier this year, we were optimistic about a licensing determination in 2019, with (this) news we anticipate achieving that goal.”

Camden County is pursuing the development of the spaceport on a 12,000-acre facility in Kingsland. Camden officials have spent the past few years trying to secure a license from the FAA to move forward with the project.

Camden officials were expecting the FAA to determine by the end of last year whether it would give the project the launch site operator license it needs to continue with the project.

Glynn County Commissioners will hear about a new tourism improvement district and additional taxes, according to The Brunswick News.

Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau President Scott McQuade said that proceeds from a tourism improvement district could go to pay for various infrastructure improvements, signage, gateways and beautification in specific areas of the county.

“In the past, we’ve considered the bed tax may be the only way to fund these improvements, but what I’m going to talk about Tuesday is the opportunity to look at the tourism improvement district as another potentially viable source for funding some infrastructure improvements, and specifically some tourism infrastructure improvements,” McQuade said.

Similar to a tax allocation district, in a tourism improvement district tax money is collected from specific types of businesses in a limited area and used for improvements only within that area.

“That district assesses itself and uses its funds to beautify main street or something along those lines,” McQuade said. “It’s very similar to that, but it works specifically for tourism improvements and would be something that’s levied upon a specific category of business. In other words, not all businesses have to join the assessment. It could be specifically hoteliers for instance.”

“The primary reason (to use the tax district over increasing the bed tax) would be because there’s a lot more resources specifically for infrastructure improvements, where the bed tax tops out at a pretty shallow funding level for improvements,” McQuade said.

The Floyd County Commission asked staff to recommend regulations for “tiny houses,” according to the Rome News Tribune.

Tiny homes are single-family residences that are usually 400 to 600 square feet in size. Some are built as recreational vehicles while others follow the building codes for homes.

“Give us the pros and cons on it. Look at it the same way you’re looking at hobby farms and wedding venues,” Commission Chair Scotty Hancock told Rome-Floyd Planning Director Artagus Newell.

None of the land-uses Hancock cited are currently allowed in residential areas, although there numerous lots of more than 20 acres outside the city of Rome.

“Some areas would like to see a tiny home on a lot than maybe a mobile home,” Commissioner Rhonda Wallace said.

Newell said interest has been growing in tiny homes over the past decade and the structures could help address the affordable housing shortage. Many elements, however, are prohibited by the Unified Land Development Code.

Cherokee County and its municipalities will enter mediation in August over a Service Delivery Strategy Agreement, according to the Tribune Ledger News.

Service Delivery Strategy, or SDS, is a set of agreements designed to make sure residents aren’t overtaxed for a duplication of county and city services. Georgia requires counties and cities to form these agreements once every 10 years.

Negotiations between the cities and county started early last year, but they missed an initial state deadline of Oct. 31 to reach agreement, and requested an extension from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The local governments received an extension through June 30, and are in non-compliance while another extension request is pending.

The cities, represented by attorney Andy Welch of Smith, Welch, Webb and White, argue that the current strategy has many city residents paying too much in county property taxes for services that primarily benefit unincorporated county residents, citing reports Cherokee County has submitted to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

A mediation, which will be a public meeting with elected officials from Cherokee County, Canton, Holly Springs, Mountain Park, Waleska and Woodstock, is scheduled for Aug. 6, though a time and location haven’t been set yet. Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher is to serve as the mediator.

City and county officials were optimistic about the mediation.

“I’m positive that at least we’re making some steps toward an agreement, whatever that means,” said Holly Springs City Manager Rob Logan.

Dr. Richard McCormick is running for the 7th District Congressional seat in the Republican Primary, according to the Forsyth County News.

McCormick, an emergency medicine physician at Gwinnett Medical Center, is one of nine Republicans who have declared their intention to run for the seat in 2020 and is promising to bring his conservative beliefs to the campaign trail.

On the issues, McCormick has said he supports the FairTax initiative, the Second Amendment and is pro-life.

McCormick served for more than 20 years in the Marine Corps and Navy as a pilot and emergency medicine physician, serving in combat zones in Africa, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan.

He is a graduate of Morehouse School of Medicine, completed his residency in emergency medicine through Emory University while training at Grady Hospital and received an MCA from National University.

McCormick will face longtime state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich, former Atlanta Falcons player Joe Profit, Air Force veteran Ben Bullock, businessman Mark Gonsalves, co-founder of the Conservative Diversity Alliance Jacqueline Tseng, former education executive Lerah Lee and former college professor Lisa Noel Babbage.

State Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta) received the Outstanding Legislator of the Year award from the Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly, according to the Albany Herald.

“Rep. LaHood has proven he’s a devoted, knowledgeable and effective advocate for Georgia seniors,” Vicki Vaughn Johnson, chairwoman of the Georgia Council on Aging, said. “We are so pleased to be able to recognize him for his efforts.”

LaHood, a senior living owner and operator, received the Legislator of the Year award before a crowd of about 120 during CO-AGE’s annual meeting in Macon.

Sea turtles continue to break nesting records on the Georgia coast, according to The Brunswick News.

Several days ago, Georgia topped its all-time nesting record, and as of late Friday afternoon, there were 3,550 nests. That’s 259 more than the 2016 record.

And hatchlings are already heading out into the ocean.

“It’s been a really hot summer so far, so we have a lot of nests that are actually emerging quite a bit quicker than that right now,” said Mark Dodd, head of the state Department of Natural Resources sea turtle program. He was speaking at one of One Hundred Miles’ Naturalist 101 presentations. “The sex of the hatchling is actually determined by the temperature of incubation. Sea turtles don’t have sex chromosomes — or, at least, we haven’t found them — and so their sex is determined by temperature.”

Different areas across the state are in the process of breaking their individual nesting records. Cumberland eclipsed its highest number Wednesday with the discovery of nest No. 868, according to the data on At press time Friday, there were 892 nests. Little Cumberland had 106 nests in 2016, and as of Thursday was as 123. Jekyll Island had 182 nests as of Friday, topping 2016’s 170. And it’s not over yet.

“They generally lay between one and eight nests a season — the average is about five and a half or six nests a season,” Dodd said. “They’re like clockwork — every 12 days, they’re on the beach, once they start nesting. They lay approximately 115 eggs per nest, but can be variable — the most I’ve seen this year is 185 a nest, and the lowest about 55.”

“They’re really one of the iconic species of the coast,” Dodd said. “They define who we are, they’re a part of who we are. If we lose them, which we were really concerned we were going to do in 2004, we lose a part of ourselves.”

From the Statesboro Herald:

So far this year, researchers and volunteers in those three states have cataloged more than 12,200 nests left by loggerheads, a threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act. That’s already far ahead of the 11,321 nests in the previous highest count three years ago.

Loggerhead nesting along Georgia’s 100-mile (161-kilometer) coast hit its low point in 2004 with fewer than 400 nests.

So far this year, more than 3,500 loggerhead nests have been recorded on Georgia’s beaches, surpassing the state’s 2016 record of 3,289. Mark Dodd, the state biologist who heads Georgia’s sea turtle recovery program, said he expects the final count to reach 4,000 nests by the end of August.

The busiest U.S. state for sea turtle nesting by far is Florida, which had a record 122,707 loggerhead nests in 2016. The numbers are so large that Florida doesn’t keep a running count during the nesting season. Final counts are typically completed in the fall.


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

John Percival, an Irish Member of Parliament who served as a Georgia Trustee, was born on July 12, 1733.

In the British House of Commons, Percival served on the committee on jails with a young member named James Oglethorpe, who shared his idea about a new colony in North America for the deserving poor. Percival, like Oglethorpe became a Georgia Trustee, and during Georgia’s first decade, with Oglethorpe in America, Percival worked harder than anyone to champion Georgia’s cause and secure its future.

On July 13, 1787, Congress enacted the Northwest Ordinance, in which states ceded some claims to the west, and a process was set up for admitting new states.

Happy Birthday to the French, who on Sunday celebrate the anniversary of Bastille Day, 14 July 1789, when citizens stormed the Bastille, a prison in Paris.

On July 14, 1798, the Alien and Sedition Act became federal law.

The first three acts took aim at the rights of immigrants. The period of residency required before immigrants could apply for citizenship was extended from five to 14 years, and the president gained the power to detain and deport those he deemed enemies. President Adams never took advantage of his newfound ability to deny rights to immigrants. However, the fourth act, the Sedition Act, was put into practice and became a black mark on the nation’s reputation. In direct violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech, the Sedition Act permitted the prosecution of individuals who voiced or printed what the government deemed to be malicious remarks about the president or government of the United States. Fourteen Republicans, mainly journalists, were prosecuted, and some imprisoned, under the act.

The United States Army Medal of Honor was created on July 12, 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation authorizing the award.

The first U.S. Army soldiers to receive what would become the nation’s highest military honor were six members of a Union raiding party who in 1862 penetrated deep into Confederate territory to destroy bridges and railroad tracks between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia.

On July 14, 1864, General Sherman issued Special Field Order 35, outlining the plan for the Battle of Atlanta.

On July 13, 1865, James Johnson as provisional Governor of Georgia, issued a proclamation freeing slaves and calling an election in October of that year to elect delegates to a state Consitutional Convention. Johnson had previously opposed Georgia’s secession and after the war was appointed Governor by President Andrew Johnson.

Savannah, Georgia-born John C. Fremont, who was the first Presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 1856, died in New York City on July 13, 1890.

Lt. Frank Reasoner of Kellogg, Idaho died in action on July 12, 1965 and was later posthumously awarded the first Medal of Honor to a United States Marines.

On July 14, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination for President at the Democratic National Convention.

On July 12, 1984, Congresswoman Geradine Ferraro (R-NY) joined the Democratic ticket with Presidential nominee Walter Mondale. Ferraro was the first woman and first Italian-American woman nominated for Vice President. Mondale and Ferraro lost the General Election in the largest ever Republican landslide to Republican President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon announced he will not run for another term, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Max Bacon, who has served as Smyrna’s mayor for 34 years, will not seek another term — that’s the bombshell news with which Bacon ended what will be his final annual State of the City address.

“Sometimes it’s just got to come to an end, and when to pick that time is tough, but I’m good — I’m good with it,” Bacon said through tears at the close of his address. “(This choice) is for myself and the folks of Smyrna. I want them to have the best, the best leadership. … I’m OK with it.”

Qualifying for the Nov. 5 election begins Aug. 19 and ends Sept. 4.

The Democratic National Committee is training field operatives in Atlanta, according to The Atlantic.

[I]nside a university building on Luckie Street, 300 college juniors were learning how to listen.

The lesson, called “Getting to Know the Community,” is part of a new training program from the Democratic National Committee that teaches young people, mostly people of color, how to be campaign organizers. Called Organizing Corps 2020, the eight-week course is designed to school 1,000 college juniors from seven battleground states across the country. The DNC has high hopes for the student trainees: Come summer 2020, it hopes to put them to work for the eventual Democratic presidential nominee.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez has suggested that the party has learned its lesson from 2016, especially when it comes to black voters, whom critics allege the DNC has undervalued and underinvested in. “We lost elections not only in November 2016, but we lost elections in the run-up because we stopped organizing,” Perez told a mostly black crowd at a fundraiser in July 2018 for the DNC’s I Will Vote initiative, which focuses on registering new voters. “African Americans—our most loyal constituency—we all too frequently took for granted. That is a shame on us, folks, and for that I apologize. And for that I say, It will never happen again!”

Organizing Corps, then, could have two uses for the DNC: It could help demonstrate to voters and future leaders of color that the party values them, while benefiting the party’s candidate in the short term. The program, which is run in conjunction with the Collective PAC, an organization working to elect black candidates, and 270 Strategies, a progressive consulting firm, has recruited students from a dozen cities in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and Georgia—all swing states with sizable minority populations that Democrats think they can flip from Trump next year. All of the students will be paid $4,200 for the eight-week training, with the expectation that, after they graduate in 2020, they’ll return to their home region to work on behalf of the Democratic nominee.

These face-to-face, community-based conversations—what campaign operatives call “relational organizing”—are what the DNC says it wants to promote with the Organizing Corps program. Its goals, especially its intentional recruiting of young people of color, have won the support of many of the party’s emerging leaders, including the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, whose nonprofit organization is working to sign up more than 800,000 unregistered voters in the state, and Andrew Gillum, the former Florida gubernatorial candidate, who told me in an interview that the training is “long overdue.”

The New Georgia Project – one of Democrat Stacey Abrams’s political organizations – is holding a “game night” in Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The group founded by former Democratic governor candidate Stacey Abrams has a goal of increasing the number of 18- and 19-year-old registered voters by 18,000 as part of its “Agenda for Young Georgians,” according to news releases.

The New Georgia Project “wants to underscore the importance of the upcoming 2020 election, especially with young voters in all areas of Georgia.” The Augusta event will be its first game night outside of Atlanta, a release said.

Former Fulton County Commissioner Gordon Joyner says the Attorney General’s Office has a conflict of interest, according to the AJC.

An Atlanta lawyer spent more than a year trying to get public records from a state agency, turning to the attorney general’s office for help enforcing the Open Records Act.

Now, the lawyer is suing the state agency for not complying with the law and the attorneys on the other side of the courtroom are the same people he went to for help: the attorney general’s office.

That’s a conflict of interest and should disqualify the attorney general from representing the agency in the dispute, Gordon Joyner, former head of the state Commission on Equal Opportunity, told a judge on Thursday.

The attorney general’s office argued Thursday that the state has given Joyner all the records it has left that were responsive to his request.

FreedomWorks sent a letter to Governor Brian Kemp asking him to continue the Criminal Justice Reform Commission instituted by former Governor Nathan Deal, according to the AJC.

The letter from FreedomWorks, signed by 10 state and national conservative leaders, urges Kemp to “keep Georgia at the forefront of criminal justice reform” by asking the Legislature to re-up the Council on Criminal Justice Reform next year.

The council was key to former Gov. Nathan Deal’s eight-year overhaul of Georgia’s costly and famously tough criminal justice system.

Those changes have saved taxpayers in prison spending, reduced the number of black inmates to historic lows, and expanded treatment programs for nonviolent offenders.

“The benefit to public safety speaks for itself,” read the letter, which noted that violent offenders now represent 67% of the state’s prison population, up from 58% in 2008. “This means that Georgia is focusing its resources on incarcerating dangerous criminals, as it should.”

Valdosta City Schools will attempt to engage more families of students, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Family Engagement Plan, per federal regulation for Title I districts, is the only truly amended item in the Code of Student Conduct for the 2019-20 school year, and it’s because of parent input, said Dan Altman, city schools federal program director.

The goal of the program, which is funded using Title I funds, is to get families more involved in their childrens’ education.

“Ultimately it boils down to increasing and improving student achievement,” Altman said. “When families are involved in the schools and support the child’s efforts at the school, that increases student achievement and success.”

Former Byron Fire Chief Rachel Mosby alleges in a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that city officials harrassed her for being transgender, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The city fired Mosby on June 4 citing failing job performance, but her attorney charged that the action was discriminatory based on her gender identity. Mosby, 51, had served as the city’s fire chief for more than 11 years.

In the EEOC complaint, Mosby alleges that she was subjected to harassment and a hostile work environment and was intentionally discriminated against and fired in part because of her sex and gender identity. The complaint was provided to The Telegraph by Mosby’s attorney.

“Her termination didn’t have anything to do with her transgender status,” said Byron Mayor Pro Tem Michael Chidester, who is also an attorney. “It had to do with the dissatisfaction overall with her performance as the fire chief (and) her inability to take proper direction as to the desires of council.”

Mosby identifies as a transgender female. She alleges in the complaint that the alleged discriminatory treatment of her began after she informed city leaders and began to present herself at work as a transgender female in January 2018.

Heard Elementary School in Bibb County will be one of 20 statewide to pilot a new agriculture education program, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“A lot of (students) come from subdivisions and complexes and don’t have any kind of ag,” [ag teacher Carol] Dunn said. “From what I can tell from around here, these kids are anywhere from three to five generations removed from a family farm.”

Agriculture is a subject that “ties into every single thing you teach,” she said. “I can get it into math, science, reading and history.”

Heard Elementary Principal Carole H. Coté said the school applied to the state to be one of the elementary schools to offer the pilot agriculture curriculum.

Rutland Middle School Principal Keith Groeper said the school is on its way to becoming an agriculture STEM-certified school, meaning the Georgia Department of Education would recognize it as a school focused on science, technology, engineering and math involved in agriculture.

Today’s farmers must be able to plot farmland and acreage, fly drones and plot GPS points among other technical skills, he said.

“It’s no longer two farmers fighting over what’s the best cow at an auction,” Groeper said. “It’s now there’s science on which actually is the best cow at the market.”

Glynn County’s Courthouse Space Needs Assessment Committee met with County Commissioners and a Superior Court Judge to begin their work, according to The Brunswick News.

Former Glynn County sheriff Wayne Bennett, general contractor Billy Lawrence, former banker Jack Hartman, architect John Tuten and Ralph Basham, former director of FLETC — the five members of the newly-created Courthouse Space Needs Assessment Committee — met with four county commissioners and Glynn County Superior Court Judge Steven Scarlett on Thursday to get started on the task.

“We have a propensity in Glynn County to do things according to how much money we have, not what we need to do to do it the right way,” said county commission vice chairman Bill Brunson. “I think the courthouse and maybe the 911 Center and some other things are products of that. We said ‘Well, we don’t have enough money so let’s cut this corner and kick the can down the road,’ and here we are.”

County commission chairman Mike Browning said the commission will decide how to proceed based on the committee’s findings — how much to spend on it and whether to include the courthouse expansion on the next special-purpose, local-option sales tax, include it in a later SPLOST or pay for it some other way.

This may be a long-term project, Browning said. It may not be possible to get the whole thing done in one pass and may require multiple SPLOSTs or a bond issue — although he said a bond issue was unlikely.

Red Snapper season begins today in Georgia, according to The Brunswick News.

Today marks the first day of the 2019 red snapper mini-season, which lasts through Sunday, then goes again July 19-20. As part of the opening of this highly desired recreational fishery, the state Department of Natural Resources is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to, the hope is, get a better idea as to the size of the red snapper population in the South Atlantic.

For this mini-season, there is no size limit, but the bag limit is one fish per angler per day.

The Veterans Curation Program seeks to help veterans find a place in the civilian workforce, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The lab, which opened in 2009, is one of six around the country that help veterans transition into the civilian workforce by teaching them job skills by curating archeological collections owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. New South Associates operates three full service curation programs, including the one in Augusta.

During the five-month program, veterans learn skills such as data entry, photography and other archeological and general skills.

“We hire them and we train them to work here in the lab,” David Howe, artifacts lab manager, said. “During their time here, we help them resume build and network around the city of Augusta and find jobs and cater the resumes to positions and careers they’ll like to do.”

Kelly Brown, lab manager, said the program helps transition veterans just getting out of the military who are not sure what they want to do. A total of 505 have participated in or are currently part of the program, with 89 percent of veterans getting jobs or enrolling in colleges, universities and certified programs after leaving, according to the program.

Operation Southern Shield, a cooperative effort between the Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies, begins July 15, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The third annual speed enforcement campaign is a collaboration between Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies to crack down on speeders.

Officers in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee will target drivers on interstates and other major highways who endanger the safety of others on the road by driving at speeds well above the legally posted limit.

“The mission for us is the same in our neighboring states and that is to save lives on our roads by preventing traffic crashes,” Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Allen Poole said. “Working together in ‘Operation Southern Shield’ has saved lives and we want everyone who is traveling in the southeast to know that if you are driving over the speed limit, you’re more than likely going to get pulled over and handed a ticket.”

State and local officers with 224 law enforcement agencies in Georgia wrote more than 11,000 citations during last year’s Southern Shield and 75% of the citations were issued for speeding. Officers wrote 8,435 speeding citations, 3,070 seat belt citations, 624 distracted driving citations and took 566 suspected DUI drivers off the road in a seven-day period.

The Floyd County Magistrate Court ended a program of appointing Constables, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Floyd County Magistrate Court will end its longstanding tradition of using constables and rely on the sheriff’s office to handle security, warrants, writs and evictions.

Chief Magistrate Gene Richardson signed an order late Tuesday abolishing the three constable positions in his court, effective Sept. 1.

As a constitutional officer, the decision is his by law.

Richardson said Thursday that few Georgia counties the size of Floyd still use constables and he wants to focus solely on judicial matters.

“I’ve been looking at it for about a year,” Richardson said. “The sheriff’s office is a law enforcement agency trained to do all that. We’re a court. The citizens are going to get better protective service this way.”


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

On July 11, 1782, British colonists including British Royal Governor Sir James Wright, fled Georgia.

Wright had been the only colonial governor and Georgia the only colony to successfully implement the Stamp Act in 1765. As revolutionary fervor grew elsewhere in the colonies, Georgia remained the most loyal colony, declining to send delegates to the Continental Congress in 1774.

Congress ordered the creation of the United States Marine Corps on July 11, 1798, after the Corps was inactive for a period following the Revolutionary War. From 1799 to 1921, Marine Corps Day was observed on July 11, but is now celebrated on November 10, the date of it’s Revolutionary War establishment.

On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. Burr was the sitting Vice President of the United States and Hamilton a former Secretary of the Treasury.

After he shot Hamilton, Aaron Burr quickly fled the nation’s capitol, making his way to St. Simons Island, Georgia, spending a month as a guest of Pierce Butler at Hampton Plantation.

Burr was a fugitive, but his killing Hamilton in a duel held a certain justifiable reasoning since dueling was not illegal, though morally questionable, to be sure. According to H. S. Parmet and M. B. Hecht in their Aaron Burr: Portrait of an Ambitious Man, after the duel, he immediately completed, by mid-August, plans which he had already initiated, to go to St. Simons, “an island off the coast of Georgia, one mile below the town of Darien.”

Jonathan Daniels’ “Ordeal of Ambition” handles the situation this way: “With Samuel Swartwout and a slave named Peter (‘the most intelligent and best disposed black I have ever known’), Burr secretly embarked for Georgia. There on St. Simons Island at the Hampton Plantation of his friend, rich former Senator Pierce Butler, he found refuge…” As Georgia Historian Bernice McCullar, author of “Georgia” puts it, Burr was “fleeing the ghost of Alexander Hamilton” when he arrived on the Georgia island.

“Major Pierce Butler,” she relates, “had fought in the British army and remained in America after the war.” He had married a South Carolina heiress, Miss Polly Middleton, and acquired two Georgia Coastal plantations, which he ran like a general storming after the troops. In fact, he was so strict that none of his slaves could associate with any of the others. He also required anyone who visited his plantations to give his or her name at the gate. With this tight security, Burr should have felt safe..

Actually, Butler’s invitation to visit the island fitted the escapee’s plans nicely. Not only was the Hamilton affair a bother, but also Burr needed to get away from a lady by the name of Celeste; however, the real reason, aside from being near his daughter, who was also in the South, was the nearness of the Floridas. No real purpose is given why the Vice-President wanted to spend “five or six weeks on this hazardous and arduous undertaking.”

Daniels underscores that from this St. Simons point Burr could “make any forays into Florida he wished to make. He traveled under the name ‘Roswell King.” After his Florida odyssey, he planned to meet his South Carolina son-in-law “at any healthy point.”

Parts of the Hampton Plantation survive in the form of tabby ruins on St Simons.

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0549 copy

Tabby Hampton Plantation TMR_0524 copy

A house in St. Marys, Georgia bears a plaque stating that Aaron Burr visited there in 1804.

Clark lived in the home from 1804 until his death in 1848. He was appointed in 1807 by then-President Thomas Jefferson as customs collector for the Port of St. Marys, a position he held until his death. The year Clark bought the house, he is said to have provided a temporary hideout to Aaron Burr, who was traveling in the South to evade federal authorities holding a warrant for his arrest after he killed Alexander Hamilton in their infamous duel in July 1804.

Verification of Burr’s stay in St. Marys is hard to come by. But it is confirmed that he stayed on St. Simons Island and Cumberland Island late in the summer after he killed Hamilton. That Burr knew Clark is not disputed. The two attended law school together in Litchfield, Conn., but there is no mention in either man’s records that Burr stayed in the home.

St Marys Aaron Burr Plaque TMR_1465

Aaron Burr House St Marys GA Front Side TMR_1470

Aaron Burr House St Marys GA Front

On July 11, 1877, a Constitutional Convention convened in the Kimball Opera House in Atlanta to replace the 1868 Reconstruction Constitution.

On July 11, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act, establishing a federal program of paying for highway development.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the Democratic nomination for a fourth term on July 11, 1944.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was nominated for President by the Republican National Convention on July 11, 1952.

July 11, 1969 was an epic day in rock and roll history, with David Bowie releasing “Space Oddity” and the Rolling Stones releasing “Honky Tonk Women.”

On July 11, 1985, Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan became the first major league player to strike out 4000 batters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Flags on Georgia state buildings are at half-staff today in honor of Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon, at the order of Governor Brian Kemp.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg ruled that Georgia must turn over electronic copies of voting information in a lawsuit, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The ruling came Tuesday in the lawsuit filed by election integrity advocates and voters that challenges Georgia’s election system and seeks statewide use of hand-marked paper ballots.

The plaintiffs’ experts had said inspection of the databases was necessary to begin to evaluate security vulnerabilities and flaws.

Lawyers for the state had argued disclosure of sensitive information in the databases could jeopardize the security of the election system. Totenberg wrote that they provided no evidence of that.

From the AJC:

The review of election management databases is needed to understand what caused problems during November’s heated race for governor between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, said Bruce Brown, an attorney for some of the plaintiffs.

Voters reported that voting machines failed to record their choices, flipped their votes from one candidate to another and produced questionable results.

“We can see the system malfunctioning, and everybody knows it is intrinsically vulnerable,” said Brown, who represents the Coalition for Good Governance, a Colorado-based organization focused on election accountability. “We’re trying to learn more about the exact causes of the particular problems we’re seeing in Georgia.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s attorneys objected to allowing a review of election databases, which have a variety of information including candidate names, party affiliations, ballot layouts and vote counts for each precinct. The databases don’t contain confidential information, Totenberg wrote.

“We are disappointed that Judge Totenberg has ordered us to give sensitive election infrastructure to those who seek to disrupt Georgia’s elections,” said Tess Hammock, a spokeswoman for Raffensperger. “There is no evidence that Georgia’s voting machines have ever been hacked or that the vote count has ever been manipulated.”

Georgia State Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson (D-DeKalb) will not run for reelection, according to the AJC.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, the only white male Democrat in the chamber, said Wednesday that he would not seek re-election to his suburban Atlanta seat in 2020.

Henson survived a primary scare in 2018, when he finished 111 votes ahead of an unknown Democratic challenger, Sabrina McKenzie.

“I’m over 60 now, and I have to attend to some personal matters and my real business. Plus, as minority leader, I need to focus this next year on making sure Democrats pick up seats. And I don’t want to be distracted by my own election,” he said in an interview.

Senate District 41 includes the cities of Stone Mountain and Clarkston in DeKalb County, but also stretches into Gwinnett County, which has experienced a tumultuous change in voting patterns in recent years.

Hispanic voter turnout “surged” in 2018, according to the AJC.

[Univision] found that 135,000 Hispanics voted in the 2018 election, which was headlined by the gubernatorial race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. About 56,000 Hispanic voters cast ballots in 2014, according to Univision.

The data suggest Hispanic voters could play a larger role in state politics in the 2020 race. It found turnout increases among Hispanic voters far outpaced those of non-Hispanic voters, particularly among younger voters and independents.

A vigil in Statesboro will highlight concerns for refugees, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The nonpartisan, peaceful gathering is set for 9 to 10 p.m. Friday on the Bulloch County Courthouse lawn, said organizer Cynthia Stewart.

“You read these things (reports on refugee camp conditions) and want to know what you can do,” she said. ”We all feel helpless and want to do something.”

Eduardo Delgado will serve as facilitator for the vigil.

“This is just to pay respect to the children in detention centers, separated from their families,” he said, reiterating, again, that the Statesboro event will be nonpartisan. “We are hoping we can bring people from both sides of the issue.”
Also, the vigil is to remember those whose lives have been lost in their quest to come to the United States, albeit often illegally, he said.

Columbus area local officials are considering how to make the Chattahoochee River safer, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Mayor Skip Henderson on Tuesday convened a task force of public safety officials on both sides of the river to brainstorm suggestions to help prevent another tragedy. Last week, a boy slipped while playing on the rocks at Waveshaper Island the along RushSouth Whitewater Park and fell into the class IV whitewater rapids.

Leaders of Uptown Columbus, Safe Kids Columbus and Whitewater Express made suggestions that sparked debate centered around safety versus business and recreation.

Henderson started the meeting with this caution: “The No. 1 objective from my perspective is not to react in a way that’s so reactionary that we end up over-legislating or doing something that doesn’t really achieve the desired effect.”

Halfway through this year, three water-related deaths have occurred during 2019 in the Columbus/Phenix City section of the Chattahoochee River, between Lake Oliver and Rotary Park, according to the DNR: two drownings and one fatal boating incident with drowning ruled as the cause of death.

There were five water-related deaths there last year, three in 2017, one in 2016, four in 2015, two in 2014 and one in 2013, when the whitewater course opened.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will consider removing an underwater feature from the Savannah River near Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Known as “the training wall,” it is a nearly two-mile wall in the river channel closer to North Augusta that was designed to keep the water deeper on the Georgia side when Augusta operated a port downtown. Installed in 1902, it runs from near Eighth Street in downtown to 1,800 feet past the Boathouse.

The wall made a startling appearance in February when the Corps was simulating likely conditions that would result from replacing the downstream New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam with a rock weir fish passage, an idea the agency is still mulling. The simulation dropped the river level a few feet, and the top of the training wall was visible just beneath the surface, causing some to view it as a potential hazard should the river drop that low again.

That sentiment was echoed in a news release from the Corps’ Savannah District.

″(M)any point out that it is an impediment to navigation and that its presence increases the risks to water-borne activities for its nearly 2-mile-long length of the river in the downtown Augusta area,” said Beth Williams, the district’s chief of hydraulics and hydrology.

Bulloch County will open a new senior center by the end of the year, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools is moving forward with a bus hub system, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools is moving forward with plans for a hub transportation program for choice and charter high school students that would eliminate regular door-to-door school bus service for them a year from this fall and require the students to catch the school bus at the nearest regular high school.

The students or their parents would have to drive to the hub stop if they wanted to take the school bus the rest of the way to their choice or charter school. Some students could take the CAT bus to the hub if they chose to.

The presentation was a follow-up to one earlier this year, where the hub plan was discussed as a way to cut about $923,000 from the district’s $627 million annual budget. It also could reduce the number of school buses and drivers the district relies on. A similar plan discussed several years ago was turned down by the school board then after parents complained about the inconvenience.

In February, the school board approved by a 6 to 3 vote the plan to require high school students attending choice and charter schools to meet at a central location, most likely the attendance-zone high school nearest to them, if they wanted to ride a school bus to their schools.

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools Police Chief Terry Enoch says that security at local schools is improving, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah-Chatham County Public School System is continuing to invest in security measures with new spending on technology and capital improvements.

But human resources in the form of trained school resource officers are at the core of the district’s safety and security program, Terry Enoch, chief of police for the Savannah-Chatham County board of education, said Wednesday in an informal presentation to the school board.

“We’re taking every step we can to make sure our schools are secure and our staff is safe,” Enoch said. “It’s evolved and it’s getting better.”

The district hired and trained 30 school safety officers and 25 school resource officers. About seven vacancies remain, according to Enoch’s presentation.

Macon-Bibb County employees may receive a $1000 bonus, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The proposed $1,000 bonus comes at a time when County Commissioners have wrangled over whether to implement a small property tax increase to cover raises for employees. In this instance, however, the $2.2 million for the bonuses would come from the county’s reserve fund, which is expected to bounce back after taking a severe hit in recent years.

The bonus ordinance will be on next week’s County Commission meeting agenda. It was approved Tuesday by the Operations and Finance Committee.

Employees who have worked at least 30 days for the county would get the bonus on Dec. 20.

Ryan Earnest was elected to chair the Development Authority of Floyd County, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Rome News Tribune looks at fundraising totals in the 2020 race for Floyd County Sheriff.

Tom Caldwell, Ronnie Kilgo and Dave Roberson are vying to replace Sheriff Tim Burkhalter, who is not running for reelection. Monday was the deadline for candidates to file campaign finance disclosure reports through June 30.

Roberson reported $18,284 in his war chest. Caldwell had $32,290, including a $20,000 loan. Kilgo’s net balance was $4,273 as of Jan. 31.

The qualifying period isn’t until the first week of March 2020, so more candidates may emerge.

The Lee County Road Committee discussed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funding and projects, according to the Albany Herald.

“(The T-SPLOST) money is starting to come in, and it looks like about $200,000 a month,” District 2 Commissioner Luke Singletary said. “We’re allocating those funds as they come in to different road projects, whether it be resurfacing or whether that be paving new roads.”

Henry County Commissioners approved a 75/25 split of SPLOST revenues with local municipalities in advance of a referendum, according to the Henry Herald.

The Henry County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the 75/25 revenue split for the proposed SPLOST V referendum at Tuesday’s meeting, but the cities are not on board.

The motion made by Commissioner Dee Clemmons and passed 4-2 by the board called for the 75/25 split and required cities to present their project lists to the county within 10 days.

The 75/25 split would mean the county would receive 75% of the revenue from the SPLOST program, while the four cities — McDonough, Stockbridge, Hampton and Locust Grove — would split the remaining 25% of the revenue.

Based off comments made by city officials from three of the four cities, those cities are not in favor of the 75/25 split.

Hampton City Council voted against merging municipal election polling places with Henry County, according to the Henry Herald.

At a recent Hampton City Council meeting, Tina Lunsford, the director of elections for Henry County, suggested moving Hampton’s polling place from the Fortson Library to Cavalry Baptist Church for those on the north side of town and Berea Christian Church for those on the south side of town.

The council voted 3-3, with Mayor Steve Hutchison casting the tiebreaker vote against the proposal. Errol Mitchell, Ann Tarpley and Willie Turner voted to keep the polling places separate, while Henry Byrd, Stephanie Bodie and Elton Brown voted to align the city’s polling places with the county’s.

The rationale behind the proposal was to prevent confusion between polling places, as both the county and the cities will have elections this year. Henry County will hold an election for voters to decide if they want the SPLOST V sales tax, while the cities will vote on members of their respective city councils.

With the vote cast by the Hampton City Council, Hampton voters will cast their ballots at two separate locations on election day. For the city elections, all voters will cast their vote at the Fortson Library, while voters will cast their ballot for the county referendum at either the Cavalry Baptist Church or the Berea Christian Church, depending on where they live.


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

Millard Fillmore was sworn in as the 13th President of the United States on July 10, 1850, following the death of President Zachary Taylor.

On July 10, 1864, Conferderate forces retreated south across the Chattahoochee and burned the bridge behind them. General Sherman wrote later of the day,

General Garrard Moved rapidly on Roswell, and destroyed the factories which had supplied the rebel armies with cloth for years.

Over General Garrard was then ordered to secure the shallow ford at Roswell and hold it until he could be relieved by infantry, and as I contemplated transferring the Army of the Tennessee from the extreme right to the left, I ordered General Thomas to send a division of his infantry that was nearest up to Roswell to hold the ford until General McPherson could send up a corps from the neighborhood of Nickajack.

General Newton’s division was sent and held the ford until the arrival of General Dodge’s corps, which was soon followed by General McPherson’s whole army.

The Scopes “Monkey Trial” began on July 10, 1925, in which a Tennessee public school teacher was tried for teaching evolution, against state law. Three-time Democratic candidate for President William Jennings Bryan volunteered to help the prosecution, and famed lawyer Clarence Darrow defended John Thomas Scopes.

On July 10, 1985, “Classic“ Coke returned, joining the new formula on store shelves.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games broke ground for Atlanta Olympic Stadium on July 10, 1993; after the Olympics, the stadium was modified for baseball and became Turner Field.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A funeral for Hall County Deputy Sheriff Nicolas Dixon is planned for 11 AM Thursday at Free Chapel Worship Center in Gainesville, according to the Associated Press.

Authorities said 28-year-old Hall County Deputy Nicolas Dixon was killed exchanging gunfire with people who crashed a stolen car Sunday night in Gainesville.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office charged 17-year-old Hector Garcia Solis, who authorities identified as the shooter, with felony murder.

The sheriff says three other suspects have all been charged with being a party to a crime of felony murder.

A candlelight vigil in memory of Deputy Dixon was held last night, according to AccessWDUN.

Nearly 600 people stood quietly Tuesday evening before the main entrance to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office as tribute was made to slain Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon.

The candlelight vigil wasn’t something planned by the Sheriff’s Office, Public Information Officer Derreck Booth told the subdued gathering; it just happened. “We’d like to thank ‘Gwinnett Backs the Blue’ Facebook group. This was a complete surprise to our agency and our community, and we determined late this afternoon that they were indeed the ones that spearheaded this.”

Booth and Sheriff Gerald Couch spoke of the overwhelming show of support arising from the local community, and said it was only appropriate to allow those affected by the death of Dixon an opportunity to gather and celebrate Dixon’s life.

Couch spoke of how Dixon made a big impact on those with whom he worked, and never hesitated to confront danger when the need arose. “Blane was the type of individual that always was the first in line, and he ran towards danger, and he wanted to stamp out evil. That’s what he did that night.”

Dixon’s father, Freddie, told the crowd that law enforcement had been his son’s lifelong dream. “When he was little…he was always trying to look out for somebody, always trying to find somebody to protect. When he decided to join Hall County…I started saying, ‘Chase your dream.’, and this was his dream job.”

Governor Brian Kemp toured the new Georgia Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Pooler, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“It’s pretty impressive. I think it’s going to help us market the whole area,” Kemp said of the 50,000-sqaure-foot facility, which provides local manufacturers with customized workforce training.

Operated by Quick Start, a division of the Technical College System of Georgia, the center is equipped for a wide range of training, including control systems, networked wireless systems, and automation and robotics.

“… I think this facility just continues to give us something else to talk about and promote that we can offer to really any kind of company that would want to come do advanced manufacturing in Georgia, that this would be a site where we could do the training right here, great logistics and it’s a great site, as well,” Kemp said.

The Pooler center is the fourth Quick Start training facility in the state. Other locations include West Point at the site of the Kia Motors assembly plant. The second is located in Athens, site of a Caterpillar manufacturing facility, and is focused on welding, industrial technology and automation. The third center, in Social Circle, is dedicated to biosciences.

Kemp said the facility is a good thing for smaller companies not only in Chatham County, but the state, who might not have the ability or financial means to send employees long distances to receive the workforce training they need.

“I think it’s a great asset for our state, not just for the (Savannah) area, but the state as a whole,” he said.

Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry announced he will run for the Democratic nomination to lose to Senator David Perdue for United States Senate in 2020, according to GPB News.

The millennial mayor of one of Georgia’s most diverse cities is promising to “bring courage back to Washington” if elected to the U.S. Senate.

Ted Terry has been the mayor of Clarkston, just east of Atlanta in DeKalb County, since 2013 and serves as the state director for the Sierra Club. He has pushed a number of progressive policies, including a $15 minimum wage for city employees, decriminalization of simple marijuana possession and a push to have the city run on 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

“Division is the tool of cowards, and we should reject the politicians who play on our worst fears and turn us against one another,” he said on his campaign website.

While those in Georgia politics may know Terry for his leadership of what’s called “the most diverse square mile in America,” he also made headlines for his appearance on Netflix’s “Queer Eye” show.

I just wonder if the makeover on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” constitutes an in-kind donation.

From the AJC:

The 36-year-old Democrat, known to supporters as the “millennial mayor,” said he would use his leadership of Clarkston as a template for his Senate platform: He supports higher minimum wages, stricter clean energy standards, decriminalizing marijuana and more welcoming immigration policies.

“Campaigns are ways we can move the needle on policies,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And I’m going to set the marker on what being a progressive in Georgia stands for. I won’t be surprised if the others follow suit.”

Terry is likely to push the field to the left on issues ranging from environmental policy to criminal justice – using polices he’s staked as leader of Clarkston, a DeKalb County town of about 13,000 people that’s so diverse it’s been described as the “Ellis Island of the South.”

Outside of Georgia political circles, he may be better known for recent role on Netflix’s “Queer Eye” show, including a memorable segment when stylists made him shave his unruly “Resistance Beard” – which he started growing after Trump’s victory.

On his appearance in ‘Queer Eye’:

“With being on a reality show, you put yourself in a vulnerable position. If people want to know who I am, watch that 55-minute episode of Queer Eye.”

A political issue for Terry involves two of his potential constituencies in the Democratic Primary. Terry is a former Campaign Director for the Georgia AFL-CIO and current Georgia State Director of the Sierra Club. As far as I know, Georgia’s major unions support the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, but the Sierra Club opposes them.

DeKalb County homeowners should see lower property tax bills, according to the AJC.

Various factors in DeKalb County are offsetting the impact that rising property values have on homeowners’ tax bills. They include credits resulting from the new EHOST sales tax and lower property tax rates, which work together to lower the amount residents will have to pay later this year.

Last year was the first year of EHOST, but it was implemented in April so 2019 is the first time this credit reflects a full year of the impact of residents paying more in sales tax to receive a break on property taxes.

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond said EHOST will especially benefit elderly residents in older neighborhoods that are rising in popular[it]y and experiencing skyrocketing property values.

The EHOST 1% sales tax [on] everything except food and drugs will result in $119 million in revenue passed on the homeowners. On average, DeKalb residents with homes valued at $250,000 will receive an $889 credit.

Commissioner Nancy Jester, who usually votes “no” on the budget, praised the process that resulted in the EHOST credits and declining tax rates.

Federal authorities seized $80,000 dollars from the campaign account of indicted Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, according to the AJC.

Federal officials seized $80,000 from the campaign account of suspended Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, who is accused of stealing from his employer in part to fund his race for office in 2018.

That seizure was contained in a campaign finance report Beck filed Monday with the state ethics commission, paperwork that also showed he was raising big money from insurance interests days before he was indicted.

The seizure is being contested by Beck’s lawyers, and the feds did not close out his campaign account. According to his disclosure, Beck still had $171,000 left in his account as of June 30.

Two lawsuits over absentee ballots in Georgia’s 2018 election have been settled, according to the AJC.

A new Georgia law that prevents absentee ballot rejections has resolved two federal lawsuits over last fall’s election.

The law prohibits election officials from disqualifying absentee ballots because of a signature mismatch or a missing birth year and address. These protections for absentee voting led to the lawsuits’ dismissal.

“The parties agree that the above-cited provisions make further litigation of this matter unnecessary,” according to a joint stipulation for dismissal last month.

[T]he Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 316 in March, a broad elections bill that replaces the state’s voting machines and makes many other changes to elections.

A Special Election for Fulton County Commission District 6 drew 9 candidates, according to the AJC.

Six of the nine candidates for the District 6 seat on the Fulton County Commission participated in a forum Monday night, where the legacy of Emma Darnell, who held the seat since 1992 and died in May, was a prominent theme.

Joe Carn, Yoshiba Colbert-Bradford, Dr. Sonia Francis-Rolle, Warren C. Head, Rafer Johnson, and Gordon Joyner attended the event sponsored by the South Metro Democratic Women’s Council.

District 6 comprises East Point, College Park, Fairburn, South Fulton, Palmetto, Union City, Hapeville, Chatahoochee Hills and parts of Atlanta.

The election will be Sept. 17. The next District 6 commissioner will serve the remainder of the term and there will be a new race in 2020. The next forum is Aug. 14 at the Cascade United Methodist Church.

I award +3 points to AJC reporter Ayana R. Archie for correct usage of “comprise.”

Four candidates have announced for the September 3 Special Election for State House District 71, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

The dates for candidates qualifying will be set by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, according to Coweta Elections Supervisor Jane Scoggins.

The race will be held as special election, which means it will be non-partisan, with no party primary.

There are now four declared candidates for the District 71 seat, all Republicans. Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison and Nina Blackwelder have joined Philip Singleton and Sam Anders in the race.

Sakrison is the daughter of former State and U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and the wife of Coweta County Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison.

“The conservative values of this community make this one of the greatest places in Georgia to live, work and raise a family,” Sakrison said. “I’m ready to fight in the Georgia House to keep our community great. For most of my life, my family has worked in the trenches to build and keep a Republican majority, and our state is thriving under conservative leadership. With liberals from around the country trying to fund a Democratic takeover of Georgia, I can’t stand on the sidelines as they seek to impose failed socialist policies on our state. I’m running because I care about the future of our state, our community and my family. If conservatives don’t step up to keep moving us forward, Democrats will take us backward.”

Sakrison said that she will defend Georgia’s pro-life policies and strong Second Amendment rights and will work for less spending, lower taxes, world-class schools and more transportation mobility. Sakrison said she will demand serious efforts to stop the illegal immigration that burdens the state’s taxpayers.

“Between now and Sept. 3, I’ll work tirelessly to earn the votes of my neighbors in this community,” Sakrison said. “I will tell them where I stand, and I’ll listen to their thoughts so that I’m able represent them to the best of my ability in the General Assembly. I’ve watched in horror and disbelief as the national media has given Stacey Abrams a platform to smear our state’s good name with empty claims that are reported as fact. I will stand with Gov. Kemp to defend our state’s well-earned reputation and continue the pro-jobs policies that keep us No. 1 for business and put more money in the pockets of families.”

Floyd County courts will use their old administration system as the statewide computer system remains down, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Ten days after a hacker attack hobbled Georgia’s eCourt case management network, there’s no relief in sight for Floyd County and other jurisdictions that depend on the system.

“Since our IT team still is unable to give us a timeline for eCourt’s restoration, we have advised them to go to a paper system for the time being,” said Bruce Shaw, spokesman for the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.

Floyd County officials know they’re at the epicenter. Clerk of Courts Barbara Penson said her office had just finished transferring all records to the eCourt system on Feb. 2. The new software, equipment and training was provided free from the state in exchange for being one of the pilot agencies.

“All of a sudden, wham,” Penson said Tuesday. “We came in that Monday morning, the first of July, and nobody could log in … When I finally got in touch with them, the project manager said ‘It’s not good.’”

Penson said her office has started transferring five months worth of case files back to the old, late 1990s-era, Sustain system.

Columbia County Public Schools is recommending the Board of Education continue the same property tax millage rate as last year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Columbia County School District on Tuesday recommended holding its millage rate at 18.3 mills, where it has remained for the past four years.

That doesn’t mean some residents will not see an increase in their property taxes. According to Superintendent Sandra Carraway, some residents might see an increase in property values depending on the tax assessor’s office. With the average home in Columbia County currently valued at $200,000, the estimated increase would be approximately $24 per year.

While the state granted funding for $3,000 raises to certified employees and 2% raises to non-certified employees, some district employees including paraprofessionals and some secretaries and custodians did not qualify. The district opted to pay raises for them out of its general budget. Approximately 90% of the district’s budget is allocated for personnel expenses.

The school board heard the second presentation of the millage rate Tuesday evening. The final presentation and vote will be July 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the board of education office during its regularly scheduled meeting.

The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted to move forward with a downtown location for a new arena, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Ending almost two years of stalemate, the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted 5-1 on Tuesday to proceed with conceptual design and community outreach on a plan to build a new James Brown Arena on authority property downtown.

“I am very excited that we are going to be able to move forward,” authority Chairman Cedric Johnson said. “We’ve been in a holding pattern for about two years, and that’s a lot of time we’ve wasted by not going forward.”

The project has no funding source and would likely require the authority to borrow in excess of $100 million or draw heavily from sales taxes.

The largest number of voters [in a non-binding August 2017 referendum], 57 percent, voted “yes” for the current downtown site, although Davis later said the results were subject to interpretation.

The Albany Herald looks at local government attitudes toward a citizenship question on the next census.

Vegetable production in Colquitt and Tift counties has drawn an influx of Hispanic residents — both permanent and migrant — over several decades, and a potential undercount of that population concerns elected officials. They fear that if a question about citizenship reduces that community’s participation in the process, they could miss out on federal dollars.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that, as of July 2018, almost 20% of Colquitt County’s population of 45,592 was of Hispanic or Latino origin, and 12% of in Tift County’s population of 40,571. Dougherty County’s Hispanic or Latino population was estimated at 2.9%.

Population drives the distribution of federal funds to state and local governments, so cities and counties with large numbers of Hispanic residents would be most affected if Hispanic participation in the Census declines.

“You could end up being shorted money,” Colquitt County Commissioner Paul Nagy said in a Tuesday telephone interview. “At the same time, you’ve got to provide services. There’s good and bad (with the question). It’s bad because you have people who end up being undercounted.”

Blueberries are the largest cash crop in Georgia now, according to the Gainesville Times.

“July is national blueberry month but that’s not the only reason to celebrate,” says Carin Booth, family and consumer science extension agent for Hall County. “Aside from being naturally low in calories and fat, blueberries are high in Vitamin C and fiber. They’re a great source of potassium and iron, plus they are high in antioxidants.

“Even the berries you see in grocery stores are most likely grown in Georgia,” Carin says. “Just look on the label and you’ll see that most of them have the Georgia Grown logo and are from places in South Georgia like Alma, which is considered the blueberry capital of Georgia.”

South Georgia has the ideal climate and soil conditions for blueberries, but its easy to grow your own back yard berries here in Northeast Georgia. “Blueberries like acidic soil that’s well-drained,” says Nathan Eason, agricultural extension coordinator with White County. “The best approach is to find a sunny spot and then do a soil test to find out whether you need to add fertilizer or other elements specifically to grow blueberries successfully.” The University of Georgia Extension local offices have soil test bags and instructions about how take soil samples. Then the office will send the bag to UGA to be analyzed. You’ll receive a detailed report about the condition of your soil. A general soil test costs between $6 and $8 and the results will be returned in a couple of weeks.

Columbus city government continues considering how to deal with the Government Center, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Columbus mayor Skip Henderson said Tuesday in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer that he hopes the four options currently being considered for the city’s decaying government center can be cut down to two by the end of July.

“I think you’ll see the city manager’s officer — along with my office — he and I will sit down and review the information that people have given us during these public meetings and probably come in with a couple of recommendations trying to whittle it down to two,” he said. “I’d like for it to.”

Henderson has previously expressed his support for funding the new center through a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). He said in previous interviews that the council has expressed interest in asking the public for a new SPLOST when the current education SPLOST ends.

Larry Miller is leading in fundraising for the 2020 election for Mayor of Macon-Bibb County, according to 13 WMAZ.

With the election still nearly 11 months away, Miller, a Macon attorney and school board president, has raised more than $196,000 in cash and has $151,000 on hand.

Larry Schlesinger, a rabbi and county commissioner, has raised more than $76,000 and has around $57,000 on hand.

That’s according to records filed with the Macon-Bibb Board of Elections that cover the first half of 2019.

The report from WMAZ does a nice job of analyzing the campaign finance reports.

In Glynn County, the Brunswick News looks at local candidate disclosures.

Following a pattern from previous elections, District Attorney Jackie Johnson took out a new $125,000 loan Jan. 31, which — outside of congressional or statewide contests — is a staggering amount of money. According to the January 2019 report, she paid $98,984.12 off a previous loan, and per the June 2019 report, earned $127.96 in interest on her campaign account to end the cycle with $125,127.95 on hand.

Glynn County’s superior court judges Robert Guy, Anthony Harrison, Stephen Kelly and Stephen Scarlett are up for re-election next year. Harrison, Kelley and Scarlett all have similar financial activity over the last six months, with is to say barely any. Harrison has more than $7,000 on hand, while Kelley has more than $1,100 and Scarlett has close to $2,900.

That brings us to Guy, who went fundraising at the end of last year and brought in the incredible haul of $82,004. Guy raised more money than any other Glynn County elected official — including state legislators — and has by far has the most on hand, excluding the DA.

Early on, it appears a rematch is in the works in District 179, with 2018 Democratic nominee Julie Jordan mounting a second attempt at unseating state Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island. Jordan matched and then beat Hogan in fundraising ability, with the vast majority of those dollars coming from St. Simons Island women.

State Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, ended 2018 with $21,748.45 in the bank, and that ebbed and flowed a little over the last six months before closing out at $18,244.39 on hand. During this period, and despite being one of the House Republican public opponents of Speaker David Ralston, state industry associations have kept up with contributions that tend to go to allied incumbents.

The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed early voting for upcoming elections, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed opening the early voting polls after regular business hours or on a single Sunday in future elections.

Board Chairwoman Patricia Gibson said voter advocacy group Women’s Voices of Glynn requested the board open the polls on at least one Sunday during early voting to increase access for those who work multiple jobs.

Currently, early voting runs for the 16 days preceding each election day, 15 weekdays and one Saturday.

“We don’t have to make a decision today, though we certainly can if the board chooses, but I wanted to put this on the agenda for us to give some consideration for future elections so we can give staff some direction as they’re planning for early voting,” Gibson said.

Loggerhead turtles set a new record for nesting site on the Georgia coast, according to the Savannah Morning News.

By the time the dawn patrols that scour Georgia’s beaches daily had logged in Tuesday’s numbers, the count was up to 3,405 nests, blowing past the previous season high of 3,289 nests set in 2016.

And they’re not done yet, with nesting that began in late April expected to continue into August. Georgia Sea Turtle Coordinator Mark Dodd, a biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources, previously predicted the final season count could be as high as 4,500.

Loggerheads, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, are the most common species of sea turtles in Georgia. Weighing over 300 pounds, the adult females nest every second or third season near the area where they hatched, emerging at night to dig a nest above the high water line or up into the dune face. They lay an average of 120 eggs per nest, making about four attempts each in a nesting year. Hatching occurs after approximately 60 days of incubation, beginning in mid-July and continuing through early October.

On Wassaw, volunteers with the Caretta Research Project have recorded 431 loggerhead nests, almost a third more than the previous high number of 333. Project Director Kris Williams is rethinking her impression that Wassaw’s nesting was tapering off.

Across the coast hatchlings have begun emerging from their nests. They typically incubate 50-70 days. The web site, which tracks nesting numbers and related statistics indicated that 1,479 hatchlings had emerged by Tuesday.

The Fonz actor Henry Winkler will speak in Statesboro at the 13th annual Kids and Community Gala on September 19th, according to the Statesboro Herald.


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

On July 9, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read aloud to General George Washington’s troops at the parade grounds in Manhattan.

President Zachary Taylor died of cholera on July 9, 1850 and was succeeded in office by Millard Fillmore.

On July 9, 1864, Confederate troops retreated across the Chattahoochee River from Cobb County into Fulton County. Upriver, Sherman’s troops had already crossed and moved toward Atlanta.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued a Writ of Election setting a September 3, 2019 Special Election for House District 71, after the resignation of State Rep. David Stover.

Governor Kemp toured Augusta University yesterday, according to WDRW.

He talked today about the roles of the cyber and cancer centers here in Augusta.

One of the big topics Kemp hit on healthcare, along with a few others affecting the CSRA.

“I think it’s tremendous to be able to connect the researchers with the doctors and also have the students having access to that in one place,” said Kemp.

Improving healthcare is one of Kemp’s main priorities. His goal is to put patients first, which he is taking steps towards with the Patient’s First Act.

“Allow us to do a couple of different waivers for Medicaid and also to Obama care that’ll help us lower costs, increase accessibility, that’s a lot of what’s going on here on this campus,” said Kemp.

“I know that some of our rural communities around the CSRA and others are very interested in that because they know their economic viability is dependent on a lot of what is going on here and how we can collaborate really as a region, so I’m very supportive and focused on that in the future,” said Kemp.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Kemp signed legislation earlier this year – the Patients First Act – allowing the state to pursue two types of waiver plans to the federal government’s Affordable Care Act. One allows the state to modify federal Medicaid rules; the other lets it modify rules related to the federal health care marketplace.

“I think what our plan is is to poach from any state that is being successful in lowering costs and making the access more accessible,” he said following a roundtable discussion on health care at Christ Community Health’s Olde Town clinic. “The ability we have here is to come up with a Georgia-based solution, and I’m not worried about what they’re doing in Texas or what they’re doing in another state. We’ve got to focus on what will work in Georgia.”

Georgia’s amended 2019 budget provides for $1.6 million – along with $1 million in federal matching funds – to hire consultants to develop low-cost policy recommendations that increase health care access and quality for low-income residents and the uninsured.

Kemp’s chief health care policy adviser, Ryan Loke, told the room of more than two-dozen local elected officials and area health providers that the study’s first phase will be completed this week. Draft versions of a policy could be ready for public review in October.

“The total project timeline is to have submitted both waivers by the end of this calendar year – which is incredibly aggressive – but with the governor’s commitment and a whole bunch of people on our team not sleeping, we’re going to be able to get it done,” Loke said.

Gov. Kemp also made a stop in Thomson, in McDuffie County, according to WJBF.

Kemp was also in Thomson, a town hard hit by job losses when a plant was destroyed by fire. Governor Kemp mentioned the Georgia Pacific plant and also spoke about a variety of issues facing the state of Georgia during his stop at the Belle Meade Country Club.

The governor also talked about the transformation of rural Georgia.

At today’s Coffee with Kemp event, Governor Kemp spoke about labor loss concerns and how lawmakers can help bring more jobs to the state.

Governor Kemp said he wants to keep future generations from moving away from their rural communities by helping them to find work.

From WFXG, discussing the Thomson event:

“We’re trying to find opportunities for those who live here that have not been able to be moved or found a replacement job just yet.” Gov. Kemp says his office will continue to stay focused on the area from a regional and local perspective.

Patsy Spear is with the Farm Bureau. “That’s a lot of jobs that are being lost in this county so it has a big impact on the county so to know that he’s concerned about it and is going to do some help for us, it’s a very good situation for us.”

McDuffie County is one of the 11 counties Senator Jesse Stone represents. He says the governor is a business man who understands what this area needs; and one thing is jobs. “Worker shortage is probably as big a problem as internet connections because incentives bring industry to communities but a good workforce keeps industry in communities.”

In the meantime, Gov. Kemp reported raising more than $700k dollars for his reelection campaign, according to the AJC.

Kemp reported Monday that his campaign had raised $726,000 between the end of the 2019 General Assembly session in April and June 30.

As of last week, his campaign for re-election had $1.27 million socked away for a possible rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams, who has yet to indicate whether she’ll have another go at the Republican in 3 1/2 years.

In her end-of-the-year report, Abrams’ campaign said she spent $27.4 million, the most any candidate has ever spent to run for governor in Georgia. Kemp wasn’t far behind at $21.4 million.

Democrat Stacey Abrams, unencumbered by the responsibilities of actually serving as Governor, raised nearly $4 million for her Fair Fight Action political committee, according to the AJC.

The political action committee for Fair Fight Action, the voting rights groups started by Stacey Abrams last year after she narrowly lost the governor’s race, raised $3.9 million during the first six months of the year.

Abrams shifted $1 million from her campaign to the group after ending her bid to contest Brian Kemp’s election, and since then Fair Fight PAC has continued to raise big money nationally, with a vast majority of the group’s contributions coming from outside of Georgia.

Over $1 million alone came from Palo Alto, Calf. physician and philanthropist Karla Jurvetson.

The group’s political action committee reported about $1.1. million on hand as of June 30 after spending $3 million, much of it on contributions to several groups and candidates, consultants and staff.

Some Gwinnett property owners expressed their thoughts about proposed property tax increases, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

One by one, Gwinnett residents got up in front of their county commissioners Monday and asked them not to do it.

Don’t raise the millage rate, which would mean an increase in property taxes, they said.

“From the outside, and my point of view, maybe you need to prioritize how things are being spent,” Grayson resident Maria Mangum said. “Maybe figure out if we’re spending too much on this, then maybe we can make it better.”

County commissioners are expected to vote on the proposed general fund millage rate of 7.4 mills at their 2 p.m. business meeting July 16. There will be one more public hearing before that vote.

That hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. July 15 at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which is located at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

“A decision has not been made about what te millage rate will be,” [Commission Chair Charlotte Nash] told residents at the second of two hearings held Monday. “There’s some differences of opinions and I think people’s minds are open to listening to the comments that we’re hearing.”

The Savannah Morning News looks at how the heartbeat abortion bill may affect the local film industry.

The Savannah industry has been posting gains each year, providing hundreds of well-paying jobs and numerous opportunities for local businesses, but with production companies and others threatening to boycott the state should Georgia House Bill 481, also known as the Heartbeat Bill, take effect next year, the industry could be facing a slowdown. Officially called Georgia Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act, it goes into affect Jan. 1, pending decisions on law suits opposing the law.

Savannah Regional Film Commission Executive Director Beth Nelson said there’s a misconception that the controversy surrounding the legislation is all about Hollywood, but in reality it’s working class Georgians who support the state’s film industry that will be most affected.

“We’re just rolling along, rolling along, (having) some great conversations with some companies that are talking to us about building a sound stage, which we really need (in Savannah), but all of that now is just kind of stopped, so I feel like we’ve been going, going, going and now we’re just in limbo waiting for this to be figured out so we can hopefully pick up again and move forward,” she said.

“We’ve been so successful in Georgia and we’ve taken a lot of business from California and other places and been successful, so I think that makes us a target, the target for this,” she said.

“We’re kind of taking the brunt of it because we do have such a great industry here.”

Whitfield County Commissioners gave 2% raises, effective July 1, for county employees, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The pay increase was not on the agenda released to the public on Friday. Board members unanimously voted at the start of Monday’s meeting to amend the agenda to include an item called “county employee pay adjustment.” There was little discussion of the increase before the vote, but after the meeting, commissioners said they thought it is deserved.

“They (the employees) haven’t had an increase in two years,” said Commission Roger Crossen. “I’m glad it was put on the agenda.”

“They haven’t had a raise in two years, and we felt like they deserve one,” said Commissioner Greg Jones.

Commissioners hadn’t discussed a pay increase in their recent work sessions, but board Chairman Lynn Laughter said they discussed a pay increase during their budget meetings last year.

Whitfield County and its municipalities have reached a new intergovernmental agreement governing the use of encrypted radios for public safety, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The Hall County Commission will vote on an intergovernmental agreement covering recycling that has already been approved by the Gainesville City Council, according to AccessWDUN.

The Brunswick City Commission will hold a planning meeting on Monday, July 15th, according to The Brunswick News.

Qualifying for two Brunswick City Commission seats opens next month, according to The Brunswick News.

Commissioner Julie Martin, who has held the South Ward seat the past eight years, said she plans to seek a third, four-year term in the at-large election because there is still more she wants to accomplish on behalf of the city.

Commissioner Johnny Cason’s term is also expiring. Cason, who could not be reached for comment on Monday, has served two terms as the South Ward commissioner.

All registered voters in the city are eligible to vote for the candidate of their choice in both seats. Both seats are non-partisan.

The first day for candidates to qualify at the Glynn County Board of Elections Office is Aug. 19 and the period ends Aug. 23. The candidates who qualify will face each other in the Nov. 5 elections.

Voters have until Oct. 7 to register for the general election. Early voting begins Oct. 14.

Bryan Thomas Johnson has raised $32,000 in his campaign as the only candidate so far to replace retiring Floyd County Superior Court Judge J. Bryant Durham, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Durham, who was appointed to the bench in 2003 and elected to four full terms, said in mid-May he would not seek a fifth term in the May 19, 2020, nonpartisan election. He listed no money in his campaign coffers in his latest report, filed July 3 with the State Ethics Commission.

Monday was the deadline for elected officials and active candidates to disclose their campaign financial activities between Feb. 1 and June 30.

Johnson reported contributions totaling $31,920 and expenses of $257 – mainly website hosting fees – which left him with $31,663 in the bank. The next reporting period runs through Jan. 31, 2020.

In the most recent Superior Court judge race, in 2018, Kay Ann Wetherington spent about $80,000 to win the open seat over Emily Matson, who spent about $57,000.

The Clarke County Board of Education has a vacancy for District 4, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Clarke County Board of Education is looking for someone to fill its vacant District 4 seat.

The person chosen will fill the unexpired term of Jared Bybee, which ends Dec. 31, 2020.

Bybee, who was also the board’s president, resigned in May after his wife accepted a job as a law professor at a California school. The board last month elected LaKeisha Gantt to replace Bybee in the president’s role.

The board established an Aug. 1 deadline at 4:30 p.m. to receive applications in person or by mail.


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

On July 8, 1776, the bell now known as the Liberty Bell rang in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall, to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together and to summon people for special announcements and events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as King George III’s 1761 ascension to the British throne and, in 1765, to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in April 1775, the bell was rung to announce the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its most famous tolling, however, was on July 8, 1776, when it summoned Philadelphia citizens for the first reading of the Declaration of Independence.

The Liberty Bell inscription includes a reference to Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

The first of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops, under Major General Schofield, crossed the Chattahoochee River between Powers Ferry and Johnson Ferry on July 8, 1864.

Former United States Senator from Texas Phil Gramm (R) was born on July 8, 1942 in Columbus, Georgia, where his father was stationed at Fort Benning.

On July 8, 1975, President Gerald Ford announced his candidacy for President in the 1976 elections.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Gainesville Times spoke to UGA Political Science Professor Charles Bullock about Georgia’s political future.

“For the past 20 years, we’ve been perceived as being a solidly Republican state, so while candidates would come and campaign in our presidential primary in the spring, after that we never really saw them on the campaign trail,” Bullock said. “They might fly in to Atlanta, take a motorcade down to a hotel, have a fundraiser and then leave. I think come 2020, we might actually see them going to places like Gainesville.”

Bullock noted the narrowness of President Donald Trump’s and Gov. Brian Kemp’s victories in Georgia — Trump got 51.3% of the vote in Georgia in 2016, while Kemp got 50.2% of the vote in 2018.

“There’s the potential on the Democratic side to get a few more Democratic voters to turn out and they might win the state for their nominee,” Bullock said. “On the other hand, Republicans, I think now are aware that the comfortable margin they enjoyed in the state for many years has largely evaporated. They’re going to have to work harder to keep the state in their column.”

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of change in Hall County. It remains a jurisdiction in which Republicans get about three-fourths of the vote. The Ninth District, of which Gainesville is the biggest city, is one of the most Republican congressional districts,” he said. “The change that’s occurring is occurring in suburban areas. While that’s reaching out toward Hall County and up into Forsyth County, it hasn’t gotten to Hall County yet. In time, it may very well.”

U.S. Senator David Perdue disclosed havig raised $2 million, with a total of $5 million in the bank for his 2020 reelection, according to the AJC.

The first-term Georgia Republican is set to report that he raised about $1.9 million during the latest reporting period, which spans from April to June. He has roughly $4.9 million in cash on hand.

Perdue’s top strategist, Derrick Dickey, said the haul shows that Perdue “is an outsider with a proven record of results that will be hard to beat.”

“Still,” he added, “Georgia is a top target for Democrats, and they have shown they will do whatever it takes to defeat Senator Perdue and President Trump in 2020.”

So far, only one major Democratic contender is in the race: Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who reported over the weekend that she’s raised about $520,000 since she entered the race in April. She also loaned her campaign another $30,000.

Governor Brian Kemp announced that state tax receipts for June were up 7.4% over the previous June.

Georgia’s June net tax collections totaled roughly $2.12 billion for an increase of $146 million, or 7.4%, compared to June 2018 when net tax collections totaled nearly $1.98 billion. Net tax collections for the fiscal year (FY) ended on June 30, 2019 and totaled $23.79 billion, which was an increase of nearly $1.09 billion, or 4.8%, compared to FY 2018 when net tax revenues totaled almost $22.71 billion.

GBI Director Vic Reynolds spoke about his new job, according to the AJC.

“My sole focus and purpose is not to lock people up,” he said.

“The truth is, some people need to be there. Some people don’t need to exist in the society that you and I do every day, but not everyone. As I tell young agents when we hire them, your function is to seek justice. It’s not a belt-notching contest. It’s to seek justice and to protect the rights of every individual involved. Our victims, and yes, the defendants as well.”

Reynolds cited Scripture and the words of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John F. Kennedy.

“It’s impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible,” the nation’s first president said. Reynolds said he has relied on his faith in his current role and his past one, as Cobb County’s district attorney.

“I discovered very quickly that I could not do the job that I was elected or appointed to do without a faith-based existence,” he said. “I’m not smart enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m certainly not wise enough to make the decisions I have to make without asking for help. Prayer is extremely important in this business.”

A three-judge panel of the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the General Assembly is exempt from the Open Records Act, according to the AJC.

At the Court of Appeals, two of the three judges on the panel concurred with the Fulton judge’s decision to dismiss the case.

“If the General Assembly had wanted to include itself in the set of (state) departments, agencies, or offices subject to the Act, it could have done so expressly,” Appeals Court Judge Stephen S. Goss wrote.

But Chief Judge Christopher J. McFadden dissented, saying the act applied to “every state office,” which should include offices of the General Assembly.

“The General Assembly has the authority to decide whether to subject itself or its offices to the Open Records Act,” he wrote. “The clear and unmistakable language of the statutes before us does subject legislative offices to the Act.”

On the open records exemption, lawmakers have said they don’t want correspondence made public that contains sensitive information from constituents. But that also allows lawmakers to shield the frequent contact they have with lobbyists or other special interests seeking legislation or state funding.

Georgia State House Bill 448 could result in taxes levied on some Augusta area rentals for the Masters golf tournament, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Two bills pending in the Georgia House threaten to do what the federal government gave up in the 1970s: tax Masters Tournament rental income.

House Bill 448, sponsored by Rep. Matt Dollar, R-Marietta, expands the definition of “innkeeper” to include anyone who facilitates a lodging rental and adds a $5 nightly excise tax to the stay.

The bill’s sponsors include Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta, who said the House study committee on short-term rentals headed by Dollar last year opposed taxing rentals of fewer than 15 days, mirroring federal law, but somehow the language didn’t make it to the bill.

“In the original version there was a plan to exclude short-term rentals of your own personal residence,” Newton said. “That’s why I opposed the current substitute version from the Ways and Means Committee, and we also made sure it didn’t come to the House floor.”

The bill is intended to capitalize on the growth in large cities of online housing brokers such as Airbnb, but its authors neglected to exclude Augusta and Athens, where homeowners rent during University of Georgia football games, Newton said.

House Bill 276, sponsored by Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, goes a step further and charges a 4% sales tax to all “marketplace sellers and marketplace facilitators,” which includes rental brokers, ride-sharing services such as Uber, and online auction companies such as eBay.

Both bills stalled this spring and will be taken up in the next session. HB 276 was withdrawn when the House opposed the Senate’s version of the bill, which passed with support from the area’s Republican lawmakers.

Newton said he will not accept any version of the bills that doesn’t adopt the 15-day exemption.

Brooke Griffiths announced she will run as a Democrat for State Senate District 21 against incumbent Republican Greg Dolezal, according to the Forsyth County News.

District 27 makes up the majority of Forsyth County except a northeast corner of the county across Hwy. 53.

“As a wife, mother of three, and the survivor of a devastating brain tumor, I’m running to focus on issues important to Forsyth’s women and children – and the people who love them. Issues including public schools, affordable healthcare, and reproductive rights,” she said in a news release.

For healthcare, she favors Medicaid expansion in the state.

“Georgia’s healthcare crisis also includes a horrifying maternal mortality rate, particularly for women of color,” Griffiths said on her campaign site. “Expanding Medicaid would mean we can better support our state’s women and children. We could save lives that needn’t be lost through lack of medical access.

She is also in favor of drug reform through decriminalizing the possession of recreation amounts of marijuana, expansion of access to medical marijuana and elimination of mandatory minimums and cash bail. Griffiths also wants to implement required safety training and licensing, background checks and prohibitions for domestic abusers for gun ownership.

“I vow to support Georgia’s women. I will make sure my votes are based on facts and not on a political gamble,” Griffiths said. “And as more women in Georgia are elected, we will see the terrible, irresponsible HB481 overturned.”

The Forsyth County Commission will hold the first of three required public meetings on the proposed property tax millage rate, according to AccessWDUN.

Included is a proposed increase in the county’s Maintenance & Operating and Fire tax rates. The Bond Rate is advertised to be reduced.

According to a news release from the county, due to the growth in the tax digest, Maintenance & Operating property taxes levied by the county this year will increase by a net 7.42% over the rollback millage rate. The proposed county net Maintenance & Operations rate increased to 4.791 mills. The proposed Fire rate increased to 2.175 mills. The proposed Bond rate will be reduced to 0.970 mills.

The public hearings will be held as follows:

Thursday, July 11 at 11 a.m.
Thursday, July 11 at 5 p.m.
Thursday, July 18 at 6 p.m.

All will be held at the Forsyth County Administration Building. Adoption of the millage rate is slated for July 18 at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting.

The Floyd County Commission will hear proposed changes to zoning to regulate some special event venues and hobby farms, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The city of Rome has already adopted language governing venues for weddings, reunions and other special events. The county has typically allowed them on a case-by-case basis.

Commissioner Larry Maxey, the board’s representative to the planning commission, said basic considerations should be codified — including the type of events, hours of operation, proximity to neighboring homes and emergency vehicle access.

Newell said he’s looking at what other rural counties do regarding both wedding venues and hobby farms. A hobby farm is a broad term for residential tracts where the homeowners keep a few horses, goats, chickens or other nontraditional pets.

“We’ve had a lot of requests … Some people have two acres, some have 35 acres. We need some rules,” Maxey said during the planning commission’s June 24 special called meeting.

The Bulloch County Board of Education is expected to release the calendar for the next school year soon, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edwards, Jr. was elected Secretary of the National Sheriffs’ Association, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Glynn County Board of Elections is planning on how to educate voters on use of new voting machines once they are chosen, according to The Brunswick News.

“We don’t know which voting machines (the state legislature will select), but when we do the board’s intention is to have a roll-out of the new machines to introduce them to the public and how to use them,” said Chris Channell, elections and registration supervisor.

To give them some options and help set them on a course to reach as many members of the public as possible, the board plans to call in the county’s public information officer, Matthew Kent.

Video is likely the best way to go, Kent said on Friday.

“I think that’s the best way,” Kent said. “It shouldn’t be too difficult (to use the machines), but if you don’t see it you can’t always tell how it works. If someone tries to explain it in text, people don’t always know how it works.”

Video packages promoted through social media, local media outlets and community groups will probably have the longest reach, he said.

The board will also consider opening early voting polls on one or more Sundays in future elections.

A Town Hall for Veterans will be held in Brunswick, according to The Brunswick News.

The meeting, scheduled at 6 p.m. on July 19 at the American Legion Post 9, will be the first town hall for area veterans in about three years, said Bennie Williams, post commander and senior vice commander of the 8th American Legion district.

Health care will be among the subjects discussed at the town hall, including a new federal law called the Mission Act that enables veterans to go to an outside network for some of their health care needs if they can’t get a timely appointment to a VA hospital.

“We will be addressing the Mission Act that was recently signed into law by President Trump,” Williams said. “This act is an improvement over the Choice program for access to private health care.”

Glynn County appointed a Courthouse Space Needs Assessment Committee to address complaints of courthouse overcrowding, according to The Brunswick News.

“Do we need another building, can we add to the side of the courthouse, that sort of thing,” [Glynn County Commission Chair Mike] Browning said.

Five people from business, security, law enforcement, architecture and construction backgrounds will round out of the committee, said Browning, who appointed the committee members.

“I think these gentlemen are so well experienced with what they’ve done all their lives that they can look at what the judges need and the space requirements and give us good recommendations for going forward,” Browning said.

Browning said[,] “We’re going to explain to them that we’re into planning ahead for SPLOST 2020, and one of the requests that have come up is from the Superior Court judges to look at space needs in the courthouse.”

Actor Sonny Shroyer, who played Enos on The Dukes of Hazzard, was given the key to the City of Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“This key, from the City of Valdosta, is hereby presented to Sonny Shroyer for his accomplishments and time as an actor and for his dedication and support of the film industry in the state of Georgia,” said Valdosta City Councilman Andrew Gibbs, who presented Shroyer with the key.

The key presentation, along with a plaque from Gov. Brian Kemp commending Shroyer and all that he has done for Georgia and Valdosta, was planned in advance and to Shroyer’s knowledge.

He was, however, surprised on the old Valdosta High School — his high school alma mater — Performing Arts Center stage with an acrylic art plaque from CBS in honor of “The Dukes of Hazzard’s” 40th anniversary.

Plant Vogtle hit several milestones in the construction of two new nuclear reactors, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The site now has about 8,000 workers, which represents a record high for the project to install two new nuclear reactors. More than 400 craft workers were added in June, the company states.

The middle containment vessel ring was placed for Unit 4, one of the two new reactors. The 2.4 million-pound, 51-foot containment ring is part of the structure that houses the reactor vessel.

The middle ring is the second of three containment vessel rings to be set for Unit 4. The construction team installed over 400 electrical and piping supports inside of the middle ring before it was placed, according to the company.

Additionally, a placement of more than 930 cubic yards of concrete was completed inside the shield building for Unit 3, the other new reactor. That shield building is now more than 80 percent complete as the construction team moves closer to completion of the protective barrier that surrounds the Unit 3 containment vessel.

Scheduled completion for the project is November 2021 for Unit 3 and November 2022 for Unit 4. Georgia Power owns 45.7 percent of the project, and the other co-owners are Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, and Dalton Utilities.