Category: Georgia Politics

15
Jul

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 seaturtle.org. 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.

12
Jul

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.”

11
Jul

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.

10
Jul

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 www.seaturtle.org, 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.

9
Jul

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.

8
Jul

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.

5
Jul

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

On July 5, 1737, James Oglethorpe sailed from England to Georgia with a warship and troop transports carrying a regiment to be stationed at St. Simons Island.

On July 5, 1742, Spanish forces based in Florida sailed past Fort St. Simon, bypassing English forces there. That night, Oglethorpe’s troops left Fort St Simon and fell back to Fort Frederica.

Fort Frederica National National Monument on St. Simons Island

Fort Frederica National National Monument on St. Simons Island

On July 7, 1742, General James Oglethorpe was victorious over the Spanish at the Battle of Bloody Marsh and the Battle of Gully Hole Creek; a week later Gov. Montiano would call off the invasion of Georgia from Florida, leaving Georgia to develop as a British colony.

On July 6, 1775, Congress issued the “Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms” addressed to King George III, stating that they preferred to “to die free men rather than live as slaves.” The document was written by John Dickinson after a draft by Thomas Jefferson.

The Republican Party was formally organized on July 6, 1854.

The party was born of hostility to slavery.

In February [1854] a gathering in Ripon, Wisconsin, resolved to form a new party and a local lawyer named Alvan E. Bovay suggested the name Republican for its echoes of Thomas Jefferson. In Michigan there were meetings in Kalamazoo, Jackson and Detroit, and after the Act had passed in May, the new party was formally founded in Jackson in July. A leading figure was Austin Blair, a Free Soiler lawyer who was prosecuting attorney of Jackson County. He helped to draft the new party’s platform, was elected to the state senate in Republican colours that year and would become governor of Michigan in 1860.

Union cavalry under Gen. Kenner Garrard reached Roswell, Georgia on July 5, 1864, setting the town alight.

On July 6, 1885, Louis Pasteur successfully tested a rabies vaccine on a human subject.

Sliced bread was invented on July 7, 1928 at the Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri.

Happy Birthday to former President George W. Bush who was born July 6, 1946.

On July 7, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act.

The first female cadets enrolled at West Point on July 7, 1976.

Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan on July 7, 1981.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp appointed former Congressman Bob Barr to the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

The Federal Aviation Administration accepted an application for a spaceport in Camden County, Georgia, according to The Brunswick News.

The Federal Aviation Administration has completed its initial review and has initially accepted the county’s spaceport operator license application.

Now, the 180-day review process begins with a license determination made by Dec. 16, according to a news release.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan also expressed his support for the decision.

“My focus as lieutenant governor is to create the best educational opportunities for Georgia students and to make our state a national technology hub. Spaceport Camden checks both of these boxes,” he said.

From the Savannah Morning News:

Kenneth Wong, manager of the FAA Licensing and Evaluation Division, informed the Camden County Commission chairman in a letter dated June 28 that the stalled review had been restarted.

“On Feb. 12, 2019, we determined the application to be ‘not complete enough’ to begin the 180-day review due to four outstanding issues,” Wong wrote. “In our letter, we requested more information concerning the environmental review, mitigation of potential risk of fire, analysis of individual risk, and the ability to account for and manage the population that might be exposed to risk from overflight of a launch vehicle. We received the additional information on June 19, 2019.”

Camden County is planning to build and operate a commercial spaceport where operators would launch liquid-fueled, small to medium-large vehicles. The operation would include up to 12 vertical launches and 12 landings per year. Spaceport Camden would be located on a 12,000-acre brownfield site once occupied by Union Carbide, less than 10 miles from Cumberland Island National Seashore and about five miles from Little Cumberland Island.

“I have proudly supported Spaceport Camden from the first time I heard about this amazing project and all it can do for Georgia,” said Gov., Brian Kemp in the same press release. “Camden County is showing what is possible when local leaders come together, think outside of the traditional box, and find a way to maximize their community’s greatest assets. The state of Georgia is firmly behind Camden County and we encourage the FAA to swiftly approve its launch site operator’s license application.”

Valdosta State University Associate Professor Bernard Tamas won a grant to study election bias, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Election Data and Science Lab awarded nearly $8,000 to Valdosta State University associate professor Bernard Tamas. His was among 11 projects to receive money from the MIT lab.

Valdosta State says in a news release that Tamas will spend the next year compiling data on district-level election results in U.S. House races from 1870 to 2018.

Tamas will use the information to look for historical signs of bias that skewed election results to favor a particular political party.

The Ledger-Enquirer interviewed Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson six months after he took office.

Q: One of the first things you had to accomplish was presenting the 2020 budget. What was that process like?

A: We started in January, and even though I had some experience as a budget chair, it was really a completely different exercise. But we’re actually starting this year’s budget process in August. I think starting in the late third and early fourth quarter is essential to being able to strategize on where you want to go with the budget.

I had about three priorities in that first budget and I was able to meet them. First, I was able to deliver to council a budget balanced without using fund balance. Second, I wanted to do something for the people who take care of the people of Columbus, the employees. And we did, we were able to give a net 2% pay increase.

And the third thing we wanted to do was come up with some way to make a large impact on this community. So we put $1 million in the demolition budget. That was important to me, to do something that will have an impact on crime, poverty, all those things.

Q: What’s one area where you see opportunity for growth in Columbus?

A: One of the things I think we have a tremendous opportunity with is bringing in and engaging with younger people, millennials. We’re building their Columbus, not my Columbus. It seems like over the last several years I’ve seen the young arts scene just completely explode and we’re getting these young, very bright individuals that are engaging now and taking an active role. One of the things we’ve always talked about in Columbus, it’s kind of our secret sauce, is the public-private partnership deal. Right now we should be looking and identifying who’s next man, next woman up, who’s going to replace these individuals who’ve been leaders in this community for so long. Something else I think the younger individuals can do is help guide us on how they want to be communicated to. We do a pretty good job, but we’ve got to get better at telling our story. When people come to Columbus they’re amazed at what they see, because they had no idea.

Savannah hosted a public reading of the Declaration of Independence yesterday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Gainesville hosted a public reading of the Declaration of Independence, according to the Gainesville Times.

Augusta hosted a ceremony at the Signers Monument, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The 50-foot tall obelisk is located in the center of Greene Street in front of the Municipal Building. Two of the signers from Georgia are buried there. George Walton, whose Meadow Garden home is located in Augusta, and Lyman Hall are interred at the monument, which was dedicated in 1848. The third Georgia signer, Button Gwinnett, was killed in a duel in 1777 in Savannah. Gwinnett is thought to have been buried in Savannah’s Colonial Park Cemetery although the exact location is unknown.

Keith Howard announced he will run as a Republican for Bulloch County Sheriff next year, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Howard, a Republican, admits it might seem a bit early to start campaigning, but he is serious about the county’s future. “Elections may seem far away but it seems like it was New Year’s Eve only yesterday,” he said. “Time flies.”

Official qualifying dates are March 2-6, 2020, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. Howard ran for office before in the 2016 race, which was won by current sheriff Noel Brown.

Lerah Lee announced she will run for the Republican nomination in the 7th Congressional District, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The 7th congressional District seat will be open in 2020 due to U.S. Rob Woodall’s, R-Ga., decision to not seek another term in office. Several Republicans and Democrats have been jumping into race since Woodall announced his plans.

A wildfire continues to burn on Cumberland Island, according to The Brunswick News.

Temperatures in the upper 90s with little chance of rain mean conditions are good for the fire to continue to burn. The biggest concern currently is ensuring the firefighters staged near the wilderness area remain properly hydrated, he said.

The fire, named the Whitney Fire, was first reported by an island resident Saturday night. The fire is believed to have started from a lightning strike in a heavily wooded area that has not burned since 2008m when the last wildfire burned at the north end of the island.

Day visitors and overnight campers are still allowed on the island, but the Land & Legacies tours are only allowed to travel as far north as Plum Orchard mansion instead of taking visitors to the north end to the island.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources stepped up enforcement of boating under the influence laws for the long Independence Day weekend, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Dubbed Operation Dry Water, the enforcement effort will be focused on violators of the boating under the influence laws. The campaign will extend all the way through Sunday. Recreational boaters, paddlers and floaters will see stepped up activity in warden patrols on the waterways.

Cunningham said the rivers that flow through Rome always see more of fishing, tubing and kayaking than motorized recreational boating, though the lower Coosa River does typically get some activity from boaters who come upstream from Weiss Lake, or put in at Brushy Branch.

The warden said he expected to have just as many people out on the water through the weekend as were on duty on Independence Day itself.

In Georgia, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 or higher — the same as it is to operate a vehicle on the roads.

The Georgia DNR will not relocate black bears in Gwinnett County, according to AccessWDUN.

3
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2019

On July 4, 1776, the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826.

On July 4, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly convened for the first time after passage of the Constitution of 1868 with a legislature comprising 186 members, of whom 36 were African-American.

On July 3, 1889, the Georgia General Assembly held its last session at the Kimball Opera House, located at the corner of Marietta and Forsyth Streets in downtown Atlanta before moving into a new Georgia State Capitol. On July 4, 1889, the Georgia State Capitol was dedicated, then housing all three branches of the state government.

Happy birthday to Idaho, which became a state on July 3, 1890.

On July 3, 1913, the Georgia state Senate tabled a motion to allow the Georgia Women’s Suffrage Association to address the chamber.

On July 3, 1970, the Atlanta Pop Festival was held in Byron, Georgia.

Among the artists playing at Byron were the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix.

The Clash played their first live show on July 4, 1976 at The Black Swan in Sheffield, England.

Back to the Future was released on July 3, 1985.

On July 3, 1986, President Ronald Reagan reopened the Statue of Liberty after a two-year restoration.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia State Troopers will be on the roads this weekend across the state, according to the Albany Herald.

With record-setting roadway traffic expected for the Independence Day holiday period, Georgia public safety officials are reminding drivers in the state to stay alert and drive sober.

Last year, five people died in traffic fatalities in Georgia over a short 30-hour holiday period as determined by the Georgia Department of Public Safety.

This year’s holiday driving period is much longer at 102 hours. With the holiday falling on a Thursday, DPS officials count the period from 6 p.m. Wednesday to midnight Sunday.

“With a record number of travelers hitting the roadways this holiday, we want everyone to pack a load of patience for traffic delays and to put safety first by following the posted speed limit, not driving while impaired, making sure all occupants are restrained, and keeping your hands off of your cellphones,” Col. Mark W. McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia DPS, said.

The Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts was affected by a recent cyber attack, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

News outlets report hackers demanding a ransom infected computers with malware at the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts. Agency spokesman Bruce Shaw said Monday officials have “quarantined our servers and shut off our network to the outside.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how many Georgia courts were affected, or to what degree their operations were interrupted. The agency’s website, www.georgiacourts.org, was offline Monday. Websites for the Georgia Supreme Court and court clerks in the state’s larger counties appeared to be operating.

The Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts provides computer applications to some local probate and municipal courts. Shaw said the agency doesn’t store private information aside from what’s in public court documents.

There has been no disruption to services in Lowndes County, said Paige Dukes, Lowndes County clerk and public information officer.

From the Rome News Tribune:

Floyd County’s courts are continuing to function in the wake of a malware attack on the state’s eCourt system, but Court Administrator Phil Hart said Tuesday some operations are on hold.

“We’re keeping a manual record of events and the sort of things we can’t schedule right now …. We can’t schedule hearings — civil, criminal, the whole deal,” Hart said. “We’re optimistic they will be able to recover fairly soon.”

The AOC is working with a range of federal and state experts including the FBI, GBI, Georgia Technology Authority, the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency and the Georgia National Guard Cyber Protection Team.

Hart said Floyd County previously maintained its case management system locally and had a back-up system. The move to the eCourt system — which interfaces with other courts around the state — was completed in February.

The old system was obsolete and voters approved a $500,000 earmark in the 2013 special purpose, local option sales tax package for new software.

A federal lawsuit claims that Georgia’s Department of Driver Services is imposing additional requirements on people moving from Puerto Rico, according to the AJC.

Human rights advocates have filed a lawsuit claiming Georgia illegally discriminates against citizens of Puerto Rican descent who seek driver’s licenses.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, says the state’s Department of Driver Services seizes the identity documents of Puerto Ricans and often fails to award licenses in a timely manner. It also says the department requires Puerto Ricans to take extra driver tests and to answer “trick” questions about Puerto Rico to prove they are from the U.S. territory.

The lawsuit says the Department of Driver Services is violating due process, equal protection and civil rights provisions of federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

Spokeswoman Susan Sports said the Department of Driver Services has not been served with the lawsuit. She said the issuance of all licenses — including those for applicants from Puerto Rico — are handled in accordance with state and federal law.

The lawsuit says Georgia does not afford the same reciprocity to Puerto Rico driver’s licenses that it extends to licenses issued by U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Unlike other out-of-state applicants, they also must successfully pass knowledge and road exams before a license is issued.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education held a meeting on the proposed property tax millage rate, and no members of the public showed up, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is proposing a 19.7-mill maintenance and operation millage rate — which is the rate used to determine how much money a property owner owes the district in property taxes — and a 1.9-mill debt service millage rate.

The proposed rate is slightly lower than the 19.8-mill maintenance and operation rate and the 1.95 debt service millage rate from 2018, but it’s still higher than the 18.434-mill rollback operations rate so three public hearings were scheduled to gather public input.

The only people in the audience at the first of those hearings, however, were a handful of district staff, including Heffron, who made the millage rate presentation to the board.

The school board will hold two more public hearings on the proposed millage rate, both of which will be held July 9 at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center, which is located at 437 Old Peachtree Road NW in Suwanee.

The first of those hearings will be held at 11:45 a.m. and the second one will be held at 6 p.m.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners have conditioned an alcohol sales permit for a convenience store on meeting new criteria, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Macon-Bibb County Commission approved a license for the new owner of Super Gas in Unionville. The license comes with conditions from the county designed to get rid of the troublemakers.

The requirements requested by the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office are:

No loitering signs posted
Alcohol not sold to anyone under 21
No sales of single cigarettes
Functioning security cameras
Adequate lighting

Commissioners are mandating the conditions are met within 30 days or the license will be revoked, said Commissioner Joe Allen.

People are known to gather outside the store for illegal purposes like selling drugs, Col. Henderson Carswell recently told commissioners. He said he doesn’t place blame on the previous owners for all the problems.

Sheriff David Davis said last week that there’s an opportunity for the new owner to change the atmosphere. That owner also told county officials he was willing to make any changes necessary for the license.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis changed his position on the location of a new arena, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis’ decision to reverse course on where to build a new James Brown Arena turned heads Monday but continues to raise questions as a former supporter on the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority, Darren Smith, claims another site remains a viable option.

Nearly two years ago on Aug. 22, 2017, Smith delivered a letter from Davis to the authority suggesting it enter a long-term lease of the vacant Regency Mall, rather than building at the current arena site, prompting four members to vote in favor of building a new arena there.

Davis, who has said little on the matter recently, sent Johnson a letter Monday, copied to commissioners, authority members and the media insisting the authority embrace the current arena site on Seventh Street.

“It is important for the ARCCA to progress beyond impasse and bring the community together around a venue and facility that excites Augustans young and old,” the letter said. “Timely action is imperative to build synergy and to continue to maintain broader regional support for Augusta’s Entertainment Complex,” the mayor wrote.

Savannah City Council accepted a donation of nearly 900 acres, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Power has proposed a rate increase, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As outlined in the company’s filing with the Georgia Public Service Commission late last week, the typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would see an increase of almost $10 per month or $120 per year on their bill. A final decision by the five-member elected PSC is expected in December.

In the filing, the company highlights nearly $18 billion in recent and future investments being made to improve the reliability and resiliency of the state’s electrical system and to comply with federal regulations.

The company is also requesting to rebuild its storm restoration fund after more than 50 severe weather events have impacted its network in recent years, including Hurricanes Michael, Irma, and Matthew, and Ice Storm Pax. These storms not only depleted the storm restoration fund but they also created an additional $450 million in restoration costs not currently covered in rates. The filing also details costs of the company’s environmental compliance programs, including efforts to help protect air and water quality, particularly with its coal-fired power plants.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said the company’s basic service charge has increased only $2.50 over the past 30 years (from $7.50 to $10) and remains among the lowest of all electricity providers in the state.

Georgia Power also noted that its rates are comparatively low, at 16% below the national average. And for nearly 30 years, inflation has outpaced rate increases so that customers pay less today, and will pay less after the requested increase, than they paid in 1990 on an inflation-adjusted basis. Residential customers currently pay less than $1 more per month today than they did in 2011.

The proposed rate hike doesn’t include any of the capital costs for the behind-schedule and over-budget expansion of the nuclear plant Vogtle. The latest cost estimate of $27.5 billion is nearly twice the initial estimate of $14 billion when the two additional reactors were approved in 2009. Georgia Power owns 45.7% the project.

Charles W. Penny is at work as the new City Manager for Statesboro, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The ACLU and Glynn County settled a federal lawsuit over the county’s cash bail system, according to The Brunswick News.

The plaintiffs and the defense filed a joint stipulation of dismissal with the federal court June 18, coming a full month after Glynn County commissioners voted May 16 to settle the matter.

Commissioner Bob Coleman, in making the motion at that meeting, said, “I motion the board of commissioners approve the settlement agreement and release of claims in Mock v. Glynn County … which includes a payment of $62,500 and affirmative policy changes to the standing bail order issued by the state court.”

According to the ACLU of Georgia statement on the settlement, the county agreed to bail hearings held at least four times a week with none more than 48 hours apart, “prompt judicial evaluations of bail amounts using an improved financial hardship/indigency affidavit and considering what amount of money the person who is arrested is ‘currently able to pay,’” improved notice to arrestees of the bail process and contact information for the public defender, along with a term of independent monitoring to make sure these changes go into place.

 

2
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2019

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution by Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) calling for independence from Britain. The delegations of twelve colonies voted in favor, while New York’s abstained, not knowing how their constituents would wish them to vote.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

On July 2, 1861, Georgia voters approved a new state Constitution, which had been adopted by the state’s Secession Convention.

July 2, 1863 saw day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg, with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacking Meade’s Army of the Potomac.

On July 2, 1898, the first pot of delicious Brunswick Stew was made in Brunswick, Georgia. I think I’ll celebrate with a bowl for lunch today.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1864. Major provisions included outlawing discriminatory application of voting laws, prohibiting racial discrimination in public accomodations, allowing the Attorney General to join lawsuits against states operating segregated public schools, and prohibiting discrimination by state and local governments or agencies receiving federal funds.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a witness to Johnson’s signature, standing behind the President in the Oval Office. Johnson presented King with one of the 72 pens used in signing the legislation.

Occasionally, pens from the Civil Rights Act signing come onto the collectors’ market. A collection of 50 pens used to sign legislation by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson went across the block in November 2013. This pen went unsold.

As a student of Dr. Merle Black in the political science department at Emory, we began our study of Southern politics from the premise that race relations and the legacy of racial discrimination shaped Southern politics. One book we read every year was The Longest Debate: A Legislative History of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of American politics, political history, and legislative process.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp appointed and swore in John King as Insurance Commissioner. From the AJC:

Georgia has a state insurance commissioner again, seven weeks after the elected one, Jim Beck, was accused in a 38-count indictment of scheming to steal $2 million from his former employer, in part to fund his election campaign.

John King, the longtime Doraville police chief, was sworn in as Beck’s at-least-temporary replacement by Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday at a Statehouse ceremony.

“I will work hard, lead with integrity, and always put Georgia families and consumers ahead of politics and special interests,” King said. “I will partner with the governor to lower insurance premiums and health care costs. We will work to address car insurance premiums that have crippled Georgia families. I will lead the effort to make the department transparent, accountable and effective.”

“General King will partner with us to implement health care reforms that lower costs, reduce premiums, enhance access and put patients first,” the governor said. “He will root out corruption, tackle car insurance rates that are the highest in the country and put special interests in their place.”

King will replace Beck pending adjudication of his case. King said he will run for a full term in 2022, when Kemp will also be on the ballot seeking re-election. Kemp’s aides wanted to narrow his choice to candidates willing to be on the ticket that year.

Atlanta City Council adopted a broad prohibition on smoking and vaping in public places, according to the AJC.

Council members voted 13-2 in favor of the ordinance, which if signed by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms would prohibit smoking and vaping in bars, restaurants, places of employment, hotel and motel rooms and other enclosed public areas starting Jan. 2, 2020. The prohibition would cover cigarettes, cigars and electronic cigarettes.

Advocates said they want to reduce health risks to nonsmokers, and that smoke-free policies can reduce smoking rates and prevent young people from starting to smoke.

Smoking was already restricted by a Georgia law passed in 2005, which prohibited smoking in restaurants and bars unless people under 18 are prohibited or if smoking areas are in enclosed private rooms with independent air-flow systems, or outdoors.

The new city of Atlanta ordinance would be more restrictive by prohibiting smoking and vaping in bars and restaurants across the board and closing those loopholes — although the legislation was amended just before the final vote to allow smoking in outdoor seating and serving areas of restaurants and bars.

Former mayoral press aide Jenna Garland rejected a plea deal on charges of Open Records Act violations, according to the AJC.

Garland made her first appearance Monday in a Fulton County courtroom and declined a plea offer from state Attorney General Chris Carr’s office. Garland, who was press secretary during Reed’s second term, is accused of ordering a subordinate in the city’s watershed department in March 2017 to delay handing over public records to Channel 2 Action News that contained information damaging to Reed, his brother and other city officials.

She was charged in February with two misdemeanors.

Terms of the proposed plea were not disclosed, though jail time is unlikely. Violations of the Georgia Open Records Act are punishable by fines of up to $1,000, however Morrison said Garland could face fines of up to $2,500 because she faces more than one citation.

Carr ordered a GBI investigation of the Reed administration’s handling of open records after reporting by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 showed Garland instructed a watershed official to delay production of water bills to Channel 2.

Honey bee population losses could affect Georgia’s agriculture industry, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Honey bee colonies across the United States, including Georgia, have been in decline since the mid 2000s. However, more bee colonies died this winter than in any other year in the previous decade, according to a new study done by Bee Informed Partnership with Auburn University and University of Maryland.

“Threats to pollination services could translate to food security issues, particularly among specialty crops that rely on honey bees,” said Geoff Williams, Auburn assistant professor of entomology and apiology. “At the moment, we have not seen noticeable effects of increased colony mortality on human food production.”

Several Georgia and Middle Georgia crops including watermelon, blueberries and peaches depend on pollinators like honey bees. Those are the three crops with the highest economic values of pollination, according to research done by Keith Delaplane, the director of University of Georgia’s Honey Bee Program, and colleagues, which was published in 2015.

“The annual economic value of pollination in Georgia alone is over $360 million dollars a year. $360 million. So it’s a pretty significant contribution to our local state’s economy,” Delaplane said in an interview with The Telegraph last week.

In Middle Georgia, the economic value of pollination in Peach County alone was between $10 million and $25 million in 2009, according to Delaplane’s research, which is the latest data available. This means that if all honey bees in Georgia were to disappear, Peach County farms could suffer an economic loss of up to $25 million.

Fort Stewart is the likely home of M1A1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles moved to Washington for display on the Fourth of July, according to the Savannah Morning News.

[President Trump] said Monday that a display of U.S. military tanks will be part of a special event he’s headlining July 4 in Washington — and an Associated Press photographer saw at least two M1A1 Abrams tanks and four other military vehicles on a flatcar in a railyard at the southeastern edge of Washington.

The Abrams tanks weigh more than 60 tons apiece and would have been shipped, likely on railroad freight cars, from Fort Stewart, the nearest Army base that has them. The Pentagon declined to answer questions about the armored vehicles, including where they came from, and referred all questions to the White House. The White House declined to release more specific information.

“We have some incredible equipment, military equipment on display — brand new,” Trump said. “And we’re very proud of it. You know we’re making a lot of new tanks right now. We’re building a lot of new tanks in Lima, Ohio — our great tank factory that people wanted to close down until I got elected and I stopped it from being closed down, and now it’s a very productive facility.”

Trump plans to deliver a speech at the Lincoln Memorial during his “Salute to America,” which has been added to the regular schedule of Independence Day events in the nation’s capital. The annual fireworks display will go off closer to the Lincoln Memorial instead of the Washington Monument, as has been the long-standing tradition.

Georgia’s “hands-free” law has not had the intended effect, according to the Gainesville Times.

“When the law was passed last year, we were very hopeful that that was going to be the silver bullet for a lot of our traffic problems, because we attribute a lot of our crashes to distracted driving. Unfortunately, what it looks like is rather than obeying the new law or changing their behavior to comply with that, what a lot of folks have done is change their behavior to get around it,” [Gainesville Police Sgt. Justin Martin] said.

The Georgia Hands-Free Law prohibits drivers from holding a cellphone. Exceptions were made for voice-to-text capabilities, navigational applications and streaming music, but the user cannot touch the phone while driving.

From July 1, 2018 to May of this year, Georgia State Patrol has written 22,327 citations related to the hands-free law.

As of June 21, there had been 666 traffic fatalities compared to 686 at that time the year before. That’s only a 3% decrease after ramped-up media campaigns and awareness surrounding cellphone usage behind the wheel.

The first conviction under the law results in a $50 fine and a point on the driver’s license. The charge can be dropped for first-time offenders who show they have purchased hands-free technology.

Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard said a majority of first-time offenders do attempt to resolve it by proving they have installed the hands-free technology.

The Houston County Board of Education is considering keeping last year’s property tax millage rate; a rising property tax digest means it must be advertised as a tax increase, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Melissa Kendrick will serve as the new President of Economic Development for the Rome Floyd-County Development Authority, according to the Rome News Tribune.

A wildfire is burning on Cumberland Island, according to The Brunswick News.

As of 6 p.m. Sunday, the fire had burned an estimated 102 acres in the wilderness area, said Nick Roll, a park ranger. No structures are currently threatened by the blaze.

The fire, named the Whitney Fire, was first reported by an island resident on Saturday night, he said. Park Service officials responded with added personnel from Georgia Forestry Commission and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Roll said heavy thunderstorms dumped nearly a half inch of water Sunday afternoon, but the fire was still active on Monday. The hot, dry weather could mean the fire activity will pick up in coming days.

Roll said the last time the area burned was in 2008, when lightning sparked a wildfire. Since then, the undergrowth has grown back, leaving plenty of fuel, including palmettos, oak scrub and pond pines.

The fire will be allowed to burn in the wilderness area because fire is a part of the natural ecosystem on the island. Firefighters will be staged in suppression zones prepared to battle any blazes that threaten structures.

Former Democratic Congressional candidate (12th District) Francys Johnson was named to the Board of the Georgia State Bar, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Dougherty County Commission Chair Chris Cohilas spoke about a recent trip to Washington, according to the Albany Herald.

Cohilas said an executive summary is expected from Cornerstone, which is lobbying on Dougherty County’s behalf. He said Georgia is the first state to have reached an agreement with U.S. Housing and Urban Development, which is expected to provide a boost for ongoing storm recovery.

The commission chairman said $600 million has been earmarked for the U.S. Economic Development Administration for Hurricane Michael recovery, with $200 million expected for the EDA’s regional office in Atlanta.

It is not yet clear what types of projects will be eligible for the funding. Cohilas said Dougherty officials would meet with representatives from the Atlanta office to get them engaged in the community’s needs.

Cohilas said there were some discussions with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to talk about methods for overall economic development, to which he said the techniques being used in southwest Georgia are not dissimilar to what other areas are doing.

The Floyd County Board of Education has held two of three required meetings on the adoption of a FY 2020 budget, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Floyd County Schools met twice Monday to hold public hearings for the 2019 millage rate which the board is proposing to lower by .05 mills.

Superintendent Jeff Wilson said although the decrease is small, he and the board wanted to show the tax payers of Floyd County that even though the system is tight on money they are still looking to lower taxes.

The millage rate is a combination of a proposed 9.480 mills for county government services and 18.25 mills for the school system.

The third and final hearing for the 2019 millage rate will be held at 7:30 a.m. on July 15 before the system’s monthly board meeting and caucus at 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

Phillip Singleton announced he will run for the House District 71 seat being vacated by State Rep. David Stover, according to the Newnan Times Herald.

Stover, who was elected to the seat in a 2013 special election, announced his resignation on June 25.

Under state law, Gov. Brian Kemp will call for a special election to fill the seat. Kemp can call for the special election at any time, but the election must be held at least 60 days before the Nov. 5 general election, which means it would be held in early September, or earlier. A request for comment from the governor’s office had not been answered by Monday evening.

The seat will be filled in a special election with no party primary. All candidates, regardless of party, will run together, and if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held between the top two vote getters.

District 71 covers most of Coweta County east of Interstate 85, with the exception of the Senoia and Haralson areas. It also includes a northwestern section of the county up to Madras, and a sliver of Fayette County.

“This special election comes at a tumultuous time in Georgia politics,” Singleton said in a press release. With the 2020 presidential election right around the corner, it is vitally important for the Republican Party “to not lose an inch in the legislature.” he said. “I am committed to defending and expanding the gains we have made towards protecting unborn life, and I look forward to helping move Georgia toward constitutional carry and better care for my fellow veterans.”

Jeremy Stone announced he will run for an at-large seat on Valdosta City Council, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Stone is looking to take the seat of Councilman Ben Norton, who has held the at-large position since 2010.

The City of Valdosta will distribute free school supplies at the Second Annual Back-to-School Community Block Party, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Jann Joseph took office as the new President of Georgia Gwinnett College, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Joseph recently served as interim chancellor at Indiana University South Bend. Joseph is Georgia Gwinnett College’s third president since the school was founded in 2005. She takes over for the previous president Stanley C. “Stas” Preczewski, who retired in January.

“Dr. Joseph has certainly hit the ground running, which fits right in with GGC’s culture,” said Judy Awong-Taylor, professor of biology and chair of the college’s presidential search committee. “I think she will align very well with our mission and vision, and our commitment to student success.”

Dr. Anne A. Skleder took office as the first female President of Brenau College, according to the Gainesville Times.

Skleder is the tenth president of the university and joins the ranks of nine male presidents of the university, including immediate past-President Ed Schrader, Jack Burd, James Rogers, William Clark, Josiah Crudup, Thomas J. Simmons, H.J. Pearce, Sr., Azor Van Hoose, and founder Rev. W.C. Wilkes.

“I like to focus on the fact that it’s an incredible privilege to be the president of Brenau University,” she said. “Second to that, I have the opportunity to be a role model and create the visual for women to see the possibilities of leadership. Third, I have the incredible opportunity to work with both the historic women’s college at Brenau, but also the very innovative and dynamic comprehensive university,” said Skleder. She added she couldn’t be here in this role without what came before her.

Katrina Keefer takes the reins as the new CEO for Augusta University Health System, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

“Katrina comes to us with an impressive track record of effective financial leadership within a premier health system,” AU President Brooks Keel said in the release. “I am confident that her background in health system strategy and finance will ensure our financial health and sustainability, as well as improve the patient experience for everyone who enters our doors.”

Keefer will oversee AU Medical Center, the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, Roosevelt Warm Springs Rehabilitation and Specialty Hospitals, Georgia Correctional Healthcare, the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home and more than 80 outpatient clinics and ambulatory sites, according to the release.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 1, 2019

The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on July 1, 1776 to debate a resolution by Richard Henry Lee that the colonies declare their independence of Britain.

The first U.S. Postage stamps were issued on July 1, 1847 in New York City.

The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1, 1863. July 2, 1863 saw day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg, with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacking Meade’s Army of the Potomac.

Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders charged San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War on July 1, 1898.

Coca-Cola marketed its current formula for the first time on July 1, 1916.

On July 1, 1956, a new Georgia flag bearing the state seal and a version of the Confederate Battle Flag became effective after being adopted by the Georgia General Assembly in the 1956 Session.

The current Georgia Constitution became effective on July 1, 1983 after its approval in a referendum during the November 1982 General Election.

Georgia native Clarence Thomas was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush on July 1, 1991.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The threshold for online retailers to collect Georgia sales tax changes today from $250k per year to $100k, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Gainesville Times looks at 14 new pieces of legislation that go into effect today.

House Bill 217: Exempts syringe services programs from certain criminal liability for possession, distribution or exchange of hypodermic syringes, regardless of knowledge of drug-related use.

House Bill 218: Extends the time period of HOPE scholarship eligibility to 10 years for students who receive the scholarship after July 1, 2019, and denotes rules for continued eligibility.

Senate Bill 9: Establishes definitions and penalties for people who commit sexual assault while supervising or caring for others, such as inmates or people under psychiatric care. Also establishes new rules prohibiting sexual extortion crimes, such as threatening to reveal a nude photo online.

Senate Bill 18: Allows physicians to provide health care to a patient through a direct agreement without being subject to insurance regulations.

Senate Bill 158: Authorizes DFCS to care for child victims of human trafficking and expands prohibitions against trafficking for labor or sexual servitude.

From the AJC:

Medical marijuana — House Bill 324

After approving the use of medical marijuana by registered patients in 2015, the General Assembly this year approved a way for the drug to be dispensed.

Still, the unique distribution system for medical marijuana could force patients to wait months or years before they’re legally able to obtain medical marijuana oil in Georgia.

Under the law, six private companies can grow medical marijuana, but no dispensaries will be allowed until a state board licenses them.

Pharmacies can provide medical marijuana oil to patients, but few pharmacies are likely to participate because doing so could jeopardize their federal permission to sell other drugs. And two proposed university-run marijuana programs will be dependent on federal approval.

Georgia’s “hands-free” driving law has saved lives, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

“It has raised awareness about the dangerous habit of people being on their smartphones while driving,” said Robert Hydrick, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety’s communications director.

Under the law that went into effect July 1, 2018, no text-based communication is allowed on the devices while driving, but drivers are still able to use a phone for directions, and calls are allowed if a car is equipped with a hands-free device or Bluetooth.

Sgt. Mark Chestang, with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office’s traffic safety division, said there have been a lot less violations compared with the first couple of weeks last year. He said officers see more hands-free devices on windshields and people obeying the law.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Safety, there have been 22,327 citations issued statewide from July 1 to May 31. A total of 8,389 citations were written from July 1 to Dec. 31 last year.

Hydrick said preliminary numbers show the traffic fatality rate for 2019 is down about 2% to 3% than this time last year, But he cautioned that it will take years of data to determine how effective the law has been in reducing such deaths.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the state has had nearly 700 traffic fatalities this year. There were 1,514 traffic fatalities in 2018.

U.S. Representative Buddy Carter‘s votes don’t match his statement on opposing offshore drilling, according to the Savannah Morning News.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter pleased anti-drilling advocates in April when he pivoted from a long-held stance and formally requested that Georgia be excluded from federal offshore energy plans. But those same advocates are disappointed after recent votes in which the coastal Republican once again supported offshore exploration and drilling.

Carter said in an email that he hasn’t rescinded his request to exclude Georgia from offshore activities, but he still supports drilling elsewhere.

“After the Georgia House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing offshore energy exploration earlier this year, I sent a request to the Department of the Interior asking them to exclude Georgia from offshore energy plans until the concerns of the legislature are addressed. This request still stands,” Carter wrote in an email response to the Savannah Morning News. “The Democratic amendments to the funding bill are broad and will have wide-reaching impacts on states beyond Georgia. While I don’t believe we should move forward with offshore energy exploration off the coast of Georgia until the concerns of the Georgia State Legislature are addressed, I will not tie the hands of other states. I’m in Congress to represent the First District, and that is my focus.”

Seventeen local governments in Georgia, mostly coastal municipalities from Tybee Island to St. Marys, have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling and/or seismic testing. As Carter noted, state lawmakers followed suit in the last legislative session.

“Elected representatives of Georgia have voted, and I believe that the federal government should respect the people of Georgia to make this critical decision for themselves,” Carter wrote in April to the Department of the Interior. “That is why I write today to request that Georgia be excluded from offshore energy plans until the concerns of the legislature are addressed.”

Bulloch County State Court Judge Gary L. Mikell will retire September 1, 2019, according to the Statesboro Herald.

After 19 years as the judge of the Bulloch County State Court, which followed four years as its solicitor general, Judge Gary L. Mikell will retire Sept. 1.

That, he said, will be one day after his potential return on investment in the state judicial retirement system reaches its maximum, with 24 years creditable service, and by then he will be 65.

“A couple of years ago I started putting people in jail who were not born when I started this job,” Mikell said in an interview last week. “That’s when you start thinking, well, maybe my shelf life is starting to expire.”

His current four-year term would expire at the end of 2020. So, the Judicial Nominating Commission of Georgia recently sent notices to lawyers – members of the state bar – in Bulloch County seeking applicants to fill the unexpired term. Friday was the deadline for nominations from citizens, but July 10 is the deadline for completed applications from nominated lawyers.

The Glynn County Commission and the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission both canceled meetings scheduled for Thursday, July 4, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County 2016 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) Oversight Committee released a progress report, according to The Brunswick News.

Voters approved the penny sales tax at the ballot during the 2016 election. The tax will run for four and a half years or until the total target amount, $71,595,000, is collected.

Of that, Glynn County will see about $40.5 million and the city of Brunswick $13.8 million.

Chatham County Commissioners approved a FY 2020 budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Commissioners approved a 11.543 millage rate for the general fund. While the millage rate is the same as last year, the rate is an increase over the last budget cycle.

This year’s tax digest increased in value, meaning it will take a lower millage — a rollback rate — to produce the same revenue as produced last year. The tax digest is a total of the assessed value of all property in a county.

This rollback rate for the general fund this year is 11.267 mills, .276 mills or 2.45% lower than the approved millage rate.

The $203 million budget was revised from its original presentation including adding $15,000 for the District Attorney’s office, $54,364 for the public defender’s office, almost $477,000 for Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care for indigent health visits, $36,205 for the probate court, $10,000 for the Summer Bonanza program and $100,000 for the Greenbrier Children’s Center. An amount equal to the budget additions was subtracted from the contingency line item, making the budget total the same as previously discussed.

Gwinnett County Commissioners are preparing to raise the property tax millage rate, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

County commissioners are planning to raise the county government’s general fund millage rate from 7.209 mills to 7.4 mills. A public notice was scheduled to run in the Sunday edition of the Daily Post and three public hearings will be held later this month.

Commissioners had recently heard a presentation which showed the impact of leaving the rate at its 2018 level or reducing it to its rollback rate of 6.876 mills, but they were to make the ultimate decision on what the rate should be set at, including whether to instead raise it.

“Whenever possible, the county has reduced the General Fund millage rate and has done so three out of the last five years,” county commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in a statement. “However, the demand for services and the cost of providing them to our residents and businesses continue to grow. This proposed millage rate will allow us to maintain our current service levels and meet increased demand.”

The public hearings on the proposed rate will be held at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. July 8, and at 6:30 p.m. July 15 in the auditorium at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which is located at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

Commissioners will vote on adopting the proposed millage rate at their 2 p.m. meeting July 16.

Lee Thompson announced he will run for the Democratic nomination for County Commission Chair, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

He serves as attorney to the cities of Lawrenceville, Duluth, Sugar Hill and Grayson as well as the Gwinnett County Board of Education.

“Within the next decade our county will grow to more than one million residents and be one of the most diverse counties in the country,” Thompson said in a statement.

“We now need new leaders with the vision and imagination to equip Gwinnett County to lead the nation in regional transportation planning, creative redevelopment, creation of green jobs, protection of our natural resources and inclusion of all members of our community in decision making.”

He is at least the third Democrat to announce plans to run for the seat. Also running are former state Sen. Curt Thompson, also an attorney, and Art Sheldon.

The Macon Telegraph looks at Middle Georgia local government preparedness for cyber attacks.

Cybersecurity involves training, testing, developing policies and teaching employees how to detect various types of malware like bots, bugs and viruses that can infect electronic devices and spread to others, officials said.

One of the people working on the front line of cybersecurity for Macon-Bibb is Don Moody, the systems and network manager for the IT Department.

“Your weakest link in cybersecurity is between the keyboard and the seat,” he said. “Your people are the weakest link because they get in a hurry. People have work to do and they’re trying to process that work so fast, they get an email and just immediately click on it.”

An attack on Savannah government in 2018 is believed to have started when an employee opened an email that had a virus that infiltrated other computers, according to WSAV.com.

Atlanta’s cyberattack in 2018 had a widespread impact ranging from damaging City Hall and court computers, to wiping out some of the Atlanta police dash cam videos and preventing people from paying water bills online. The cost to recover from the breach was projected at $17 million, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The Dalton Daily Citizen notes that local sales tax rates should go down since the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) expired.

After four years, Whitfield County’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) came to an end at midnight Sunday. Starting at 12:01 a.m. today, the sales tax on many goods sold in the county falls from 7% to 6%. But some local officials say customers might want to make sure that’s what they are actually paying.

Business owners who collect sales tax should be well aware it has changed, Whitfield County Tax Commissioner Danny Sane said.

“The (Georgia Department of Revenue) sales tax division sends every business owner who collects the tax a notice to make sure they are reducing it to the proper amount,” he said. “They send that notice one month before prior to the change, and it is also on the form that they fill out to collect the tax and send it in.”

Still, Sane suggests that customers keep an eye on their receipts.

In March 2015, Whitfield County voters easily approved a new SPLOST by a 67.26% to 32.74% vote. In March of this year Whitfield County voters defeated a referendum that would have extended the SPLOST for six more years. That SPLOST, which was projected to raise $100 million, was rejected by a 57.94% to 42.06% vote.

Ron Johnson, the newest member of the Dalton City Board of Education, is interviewed by the Dalton Daily Citizen.

A Whitfield County grand jury on Thursday named Ronald “Ron” Johnson to fill the unexpired term of the late Thomas Barton, the District 1 representative on the school board who passed away in May. District 1 represents parts of south Whitfield County. Johnson must be sworn into the position before he officially becomes the next school board member. Superintendent Judy Gilreath says she isn’t sure when Johnson will be sworn in as District Attorney Bert Poston must file paperwork with the governor’s office in Atlanta.

Barton passed away unexpectedly on May 17 at the age of 61. He had served on the school board since 2008. The term ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

Michael Kinsey, Charles Oliver and Nicky Starling also applied for the seat. The grand jury interviewed all four last week.

“They asked really good questions,” Johnson said about the grand jury. “We talked about finance. We talked about curriculum and extracurricular activities. They took it very seriously.”

The Gulfstream G600 received its FAA certification, according to a press release.

General Dynamics announced today the all-new Gulfstream G600 earned both its type and production certificates from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The certifications clear the way for the first completed G600 deliveries to customers as scheduled this year.

“Getting both authorizations on the same day is evidence of the maturity of our G600 production processes and speaks to the safety and reliability of the aircraft’s design,” said Gulfstream president Mark Burns. “Even more remarkable is the fact that we achieved these simultaneous certifications less than a year after completing another major program, certifying and delivering the Gulfstream G500, another testament to the engineering expertise and manufacturing excellence that are hallmarks of Gulfstream. The hard work by our team, including nearly 100,000 hours of flying in our labs and more than 3,200 hours of flying in the air, shows our dedication to safety and our customers.”

“These rigorous and thorough certification processes ensure we deliver a first-rate aircraft that exceeds expectations. We can’t wait to put the newest member of our aircraft family – one that spectacularly combines performance, efficiency, technology and comfort that are second to none – into the hands of our worldwide customers.”

The Ledger-Enquirer looks at the cleanest and dirtiest public schools.

MCSD inspectors use a standardized system to evaluate the condition of the schools each month. Downtown’s average score on the 100-point scale during the 2018-19 school year was 99.2, an increase of 2.8 points from the 2017-18 ratings.

[F]or the third straight year, no MCSD school is in the 70s. Two were at that level in 2015-16, the first year the district released such scores: Rigdon Road Elementary School was at 78.2 then but is at 90.4 now; Rothschild Leadership Academy, a middle school, was at 79.9 then but is at 89.8 now.

Robert “Mr. Bob” Dickey is the state’s oldest peach grower, (and father of State Rep. Robert Dickey) according to the Macon Telegraph.

At 91 years old, Robert “Bob” Dickey still gets to work at 7 a.m. sharp every day.

He is the oldest peach-grower in Georgia and the patriarch of the state’s oldest continuously operating peach-packing house, Dickey Farms.

The Dickey peach-packing house in Musella was built by his grandfather from trees cut down on the property and hewn into lumber. Dickey remembers watching it get built and how his grandfather hired neighboring farmers to help.

Dickey said one of the best advances for the peach industry was the creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron. For decades, the Elberta peach was the standard for Georgia, but Dickey said the lab developed many new and better varieties that extended the season. The peach season at one time lasted from around early June to mid-July, he said, but now it goes from mid-May to mid-August.

“He just taught me so much,” said state Rep. Robert Dickey. “He loves peaches. He loves planting new trees and loves seeing the harvest.”

Right Whale researchers say six recent deaths points to problems for the state’s official marine mammal, according to GPB News.

Researchers estimate that just 411 North Atlantic right whales remain, so six of them dying is significant.

“This is devastating for these animals, and really reduces the potential that this population can recover,” she said.