Category: Georgia Politics


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 10, 2020

On February 10, 1787, the Georgia House of Assembly named William Few, Abraham Baldwin, William Pierce, George Walton, William Houstoun, and Nathaniel Pendleton to the Constitutional Convention called to revise the Articles of Confederation at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

On February 10, 1861, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi received word that he was chosen as President of the Confederate States of America.

On February 10, 1972, David Bowie made his first appearance as Ziggy Stardust.

On February 10, 2015, on the anniversary of the United States House of Representatives passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation proclaiming February as Black History Month.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today









Governor and First Lady Kemp attended a function at the White House last night, according to his tweets.

Brian Kemp Tweet 02092020

Governor Kemp may have a choice before him after Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney (Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County) announced his resignation effective February 29, according to

District Attorney Ken Mauldin’s announcement last week that he would resign on Feb. 29 rather than retire at the end of his current term in December has scrambled plans for the election of a successor and given Gov. Brian Kemp control over the outcome.

Before that announcement, Deborah Gonzalez and Brian Patterson were contending for the Democratic nomination for district attorney in the May 19 Democratic primary. No one has declared for the Republican Party nomination.

If Kemp makes that appointment by May 3, the state would hold a special election on Nov. 3 to replace Mauldin.

The special election would be without a primary, and Gonzalez, Patterson and any other candidate could run against each other, using the party label she or he chooses.

If Kemp makes the appointment after May 3, the November election would be bypassed, and the district attorney appointed by Kemp would remain in office until an election in November of 2022, when Kemp also is likely to be on the ballot.

If Kemp does not make the appointment by Feb. 29, when Mauldin steps down, Patterson, who currently serves as chief assistant district attorney, would take over the duties of district attorney, according to state law, “u`ntil such official’s successor is appointed or elected and qualified.”

From the Red & Black:

“It was my intent to serve out the remainder of my term, which runs through the end of this year. However, at that time I did not realize the strong pull I would feel to look ahead past my time as District Attorney,” Mauldin said in a Feb. 5 press release. “In the last few months, particularly, I have come to understand that it’s time for this part of my life and career to come to an end and a new chapter to begin.”

In his resignation letter to Gov. Brian Kemp, Mauldin urged the governor to “promptly” appoint a successor in light of the upcoming election for the District Attorney’s office this May.

House Bill 911, part of Gov. Kemp’s legislative package, according to Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

House Bill 911, sponsored by Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, would add “improper sexual contact” by a foster parent with a foster child to a section of the state code that deals with sexual misconduct by an employer with an employee.

Foster parents convicted of the most serious form of the offense could face prison sentences of up to 25 years and fines of up to $100,000.

The bill is part of a legislative package Gov. Brian Kemp is pushing this year aimed at making it easier for Georgians to become foster parents. The package also would triple the state tax credit for foster parents from $2,000 to $6,000 and lower the age requirement for unmarried Georgians to become foster parents from 25 to 21.

“This legislation closes a dangerous loophole and prohibits foster parents from engaging in improper sexual behavior with children in their care,” [First Lady Marty Kemp] said in a prepared statement. “Moving forward, we will continue to devote our efforts to protecting the most vulnerable in our state from sexual misconduct.”

Senate Bill 319, hereby dubbed “the dam bill,” would change standards for dams in Georgia, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Senate Bill 319 would allow for homes and other inhabitable structures to be built in a dam’s inundation zone — the area that would be flooded if the dam fails — without causing the dam to be recategorized and required to meet higher safety standards. The structures would have to be built to withstand a breach of the dam and receive certification from an engineer approved by the state Environmental Protection Division’s Safe Dams Program.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican State Sen. Frank Ginn of Danielsville, said it would protect dam owners from having to choose between taking on costly upgrades or removing a dam. The proposal, passed Tuesday by the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, could soon go to the full state Senate for a vote.

Under current Georgia regulations, any dam with a home or other inhabitable structure in its inundation zone is considered a Category I dam, meaning its failure would result in probable loss of human life.

Category I dams must undergo regular inspections and meet certain requirements. A Category II dam is any dam that does not have inhabitable structures in its inundation zone, meaning that failure would likely not result in loss of human life. Category II dams don’t have to meet any regulatory requirements, though they are re-inventoried once every 5 years to ensure that the dam still exists and is still properly classified, according to the state Environmental Protection Division.

The proposal would essentially allow homes and other inhabitable structures meeting certain standards to be built in the inundation zone of a Category II dam without it needing to be reclassified as a Category I dam.

Gov. Kemp’s proposal to reduce standardized testing is being supported by some local officials, according to the Forsyth County News.

When Gov. Brian Kemp and state Superintendent Richard Woods announced a plan Tuesday to cut five mandatory standardized tests for Georgia public school students, it was a welcome message to Lee Ann Rice [Forsyth County Schools’ director of assessment and accountability].

“I think anything that reduces the stress and anxiety that our students, teachers and families are feeling is a very positive thing,” Rice said.

Kemp and Woods said their plan was aimed at addressing just that, and it would do so by cutting the length of state tests and evaluating local tests that Georgia’s 181 school districts give to measure student progress.

“When you look at the big picture, it’s clear Georgia simply tests too much,” Kemp said at a Tuesday news conference. “On test days it’s making students physically sick because they’re worried they will not do well. That is simply unacceptable in our state.”

Rep. Doug Collins is attacking Sen. Kelly Loeffler in online ads, according to The Hill.

In a 30-second ad posted on Twitter, Collins’s campaign hits Loeffler for donating “nearly $1 million” to Romney when he was a presidential candidate while contributing “NOTHING” to President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

“Loeffler’s big money talks: but it was silent for Donald Trump,” Collins wrote in a tweet accompanying the video.

A spokesman for Loeffler’s campaign pushed back on Collins’s ad, saying, “Desperate, baseless attacks will not distract Senator Loeffler from supporting President Trump’s agenda and fighting for Georgians.”

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) released a list of endorsements in her campaign for the 7th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Rob Woodall, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, recently announced she has received endorsements in the 7th Congressional District race from several high-ranking Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and local Republican heavyweights, such as Sheriff Butch Conway and County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash.

One key takeaway from the list of endorsements, however, is that she has also been endorsed in the race by 13 of Gwinnett’s 16 mayors.

The mayoral endorsements include: Auburn Mayor Linda Blechinger; Braselton Mayor Bill Orr; Buford City Commission Chairman Phillip Beard (City Commission chairman is Buford’s equivalent of a mayor); Dacula Mayor Trey King; Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris; Grayson Mayor Allison Wilkerson; soon-to-be-former Lilburn Mayor Johnny Crist (who is stepping down March 1 to run for a state House seat); Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez; Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason; Rest Haven Mayor Kenneth Waycaster; Snellville Mayor Barbara Bender; Sugar Hill Mayor Steve Edwards; and Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette.

Other endorsements came from Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter; state Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville; and Forsyth County Commissioners Molly Cooper and Cindy Jones-Mills.

Gov. Kemp’s reelection campaign has more than $5 million in the bank, according to the AJC.

Kemp’s campaign reported raising $4.4 million since June 30, spending relatively little and ending the period in strong financial shape.

If Kemp winds up facing Democrat Stacey Abrams again in 2022, he will need the money. The 2018 matchup between the two was the most expensive gubernatorial race in Georgia history.

Abrams’ campaign alone reported spending about $27 million, the most by any gubernatorial candidate in state history.

While Kemp raised most of his money from Georgia, Abrams’ campaign developed a nationwide fundraising machine. That trend has continued, with Abrams’ voting rights group Fair Fight having pulled in almost $20 million since her defeat, largely from out-of-state donors.

From the Atlanta Voice:

However, Kemp’s war chest pails in comparison to his rival, Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams has raised $1.2 million in January, and the political action committee for Fair Fight Action, the organization Abrams started after losing the 2018 governor’s race, now has almost $12 million in the bank, according to disclosures filed Friday.

Fair Fight Action has raised $20 million since its formation in the wake of Abrams’ close loss to Governor Kemp.

Presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $5 million to Fair Fight Action. The biggest donor in January was Tulsa businesswoman and philanthropist Stacy Schusterman, who gave $500,000.

Elsewhere in the AJC:

The political action committee for Fair Fight, the voting rights group that Democrat Stacey Abrams started after losing the governor’s race in 2018, raised $1.2 million in January, continuing to outpace state political candidates and organizations.

The haul left the group, which advocates for fair elections, with almost $12 million in the bank, according to disclosures filed Friday.

Abrams shifted $1 million from her campaign to the group after ending her bid to contest Kemp’s election.

Almost all of the money from those who contributed $100 or more came from outside of Georgia. Fair Fight has received strong support from out-of-state donors, as did Abrams’ campaign.

The Fair Fight PAC also continued donating to Democratic candidates in Georgia in January, continuing a trend from 2019. The group gave nearly $100,000 to Georgia candidates last month.

Rep. Lucy McBath (D-TN GA-6) raised more than $2 million dollars for her reelection, according to the Rome News Tribune.

McBath has reported just over $2.3 million in contributions for her campaign so far, out-fundraising nearest rival Republican and former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, by over a million dollars.

Handel, whom McBath ousted in 2018 by just under 3,000 votes to take the traditionally Republican seat, has reported just over $1 million in campaign contributions to date.

Fort Benning is a finalist for an Army leadership headquarters, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The post was recently selected as a finalist for the Army’s fourth corps headquarters, which is needed to fulfill requirements of the National Defense Strategy, according to a statement from U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s office.

In a letter to Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, both Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler lobbied for the military branch to select Benning, touting its “unmatched training, support, and command facilities and its ability to quickly activate the new headquarters.”

“Fort Benning is a crown jewel of the Army uniquely qualified to host the new corps headquarters,” the senators wrote. “As the home to the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning provides unmatched training, support and command facilities. It includes 26 million square feet of facilities and 102,000 acres of maneuver training areas capable of supporting all manner of maneuver operations, tactics, and training.”

U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta) is seeking federal funding for the Savannah Harbor dredging project, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As work continues on the final phase of the the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, Sen. Kelly Loeffler has requested $93.6 million in funding to be included in the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget.

In a letter to Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney and Acting OMB Director Russell Vought, Loeffler said the requested funding for SHEP, combined with a total investment of $301 million from the state of Georgia and $130.28 million in federal funding from the FY2020 budget, would keep the project on track.

“As one of the largest in the nation, the Port of Savannah plays a crucial role in Georgia’s economy as well as the United States’ overall economy,” said Loeffler. “Maintaining robust funding for this project is imperative to continuing the economic development we have seen as a country throughout the Trump administration. I am grateful to the administration for their contribution to SHEP in 2020, and I look forward to working with the president in making sure this critical project remains a priority not only for Georgia, but for the country.”

Former Sen. Johnny Isakson, whom Loeffler recently replaced following his resignation due to health problems, along with Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter have all pushed to secure full capability funding to keep SHEP on track in past years.

Three Coastal Georgia counties purged inactive voter registrations, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A 2019 purge of the state’s voter registrations removed thousands of voters from the official rolls in Glynn and Camden counties and several hundred from the rolls in McIntosh County.

In Glynn County, 3,231 registrations, or roughly 5 percent of the county’s total, were deleted, leaving the number of registered voters at 62,346.

Of those subtracted from the list in Glynn County, 1,055 had mail returned as undeliverable, 1,500 made no contact with elections officials and 676 moved out of the state.

In McIntosh County, 312 of the county’s 9,680 registrations were removed from the official rolls, or about 3 percent.

According to the state documents, 122 were canceled due to returned mail, 87 for no contact and 103 because of an address change.

According to documents from the office of Georgia Secretary of State, 34,499 Camden residents were registered to vote as of Feb. 1.

With 2,635 Camden voters removed from the rolls last year, the county saw a 7 percent reduction in total registrations.

Of those, 1,473 were the result of returned mail, 635 for no contact and 527 for change of address.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 7, 2020

President Donald Trump suggested he’s looking for a way to defuse the “jungle primary” for the Senate seat held by Sen. Kelly Loeffler, according to the AJC.

The president floated the idea that one of the two could leave the race during a speech at the White House celebrating the defeat of the Democratic-led attempt to remove him from office.

“I know, Kelly, that you’re going to end up liking him a lot,” Trump said of Collins, whom the president called an “unbelievable friend.”

He added: “Something’s going to happen that’s going to be very good. I don’t know; I haven’t figured it out yet.”

The president’s remarks triggered immediate talk in Georgia GOP circles that Collins could be in line for a judgeship or another appointment, or that Loeffler could be tapped for a premier position.

Both Republicans are scrambling to lock up Trump’s support, eager to tout every retweet and every supportive remark from the president as a sign he might be taking sides in their race.

So far, the president has stayed publicly neutral — although Trump privately lobbied Gov. Brian Kemp to tap Collins for the seat on three separate occasions before he appointed Loeffler to succeed retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

The Associated Press writes that tension between Governor Brian Kemp and Speaker David Ralston is a defining part of the 2020 Session.

The conflict between the Republican officials flared again Wednesday, with Ralston telling reporters that House members are still unhappy with the budget information they’re getting from the Kemp administration. Earlier, lawmakers were miffed when Kemp told agency heads not to appear before legislative committees last summer after he announced budget cuts.

“We started asking for this information as far back as last September and were assured that we would have it, and frankly, some of the information we still don’t have,” Ralston said after he pushed through a weeklong timeout from normal legislative business. He wants House members to focus intensely on Kemp’s proposed budget cuts amid a revenue slowdown — cuts that are getting clear pushback from many House Republicans.

Kemp’s spokeswoman fired back Wednesday, criticizing Ralston for attempting to change how Georgia holds special elections. The unsuccessful attempt would likely have boosted the U.S. Senate bid of Doug Collins, a Ralston friend, and undercut Kemp’s appointed choice, Kelly Loeffler.

Tension between a governor and legislators is nothing new — indeed it’s designed into the system. Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed a 2007 budget when House Speaker Glenn Richardson was trying to force through property tax relief, and then vetoed 40 other bills, including 29 by members of the House Appropriations Committee. Lawmakers are also inclined to fight among themselves. When Zell Miller led the Senate as lieutenant governor and Tom Murphy was House speaker, their feuding was notorious.

Ralston himself has said news reporters have “inflated” the rift.

“You know we don’t agree all the time, nobody agrees with me all the time. I wish I could find somebody that did,” Ralston said last week after having breakfast with Kemp. “But no there’s no tension. I mean we do look at the budget differently on some items. I think that’s healthy.”

Georgia Democrats are criticizing some potential cuts in the state budget, according to the AJC.

The Democratic Party of Georgia on Thursday launched a “Don’t Cut Georgia’s Future” campaign that highlighted Kemp’s proposal to cut about $500 million from the state’s budget over two years.

The push includes a website Democrats will use to highlight cuts that slice into Georgia’s mental health programs and criminal justice initiatives.

Party officials say they’ll focus on the “human cost behind these cuts” through the 40-day session and into November. Scott Hogan, the party’s executive director, said it would help hold state leaders “accountable through Election Day.”

Former United States Attorney and state legislator Ed Tarver registered his campaign for the Senate seat held by Sen. Kelly Loeffler, according to the AJC.

Former U.S. attorney Ed Tarver of Augusta has filed statements with the Federal Election Commission registering his candidacy and a campaign committee for the Nov. 3 special U.S. Senate election.

Tarver, who said his public launch will be next week, is one of seven candidates and four Democrats seeking the senate seat held by Johnny Isakson, who retired before the end of his term.

Kim Jackson announced she will run for the State Senate seat currently held by Sen. Steve Henson, according to Decaturish.

According to a campaign announcement, Jackson launched her campaign last July. The announcement notes that Jackson is “an Episcopal priest from the rural South who made Georgia home more than 10 years ago.”

Jackson’s campaign is based on her advocacy for a number of issues, including food security, helping the homeless, finding alternatives to the death penalty, reducing stigma around both reproductive justice and HIV/AIDS and expanding access to quality early childhood education and health care.

“I am honored by the early endorsements, humbled by the team that supports me and excited about the trajectory of the campaign with Chism Strategies on board,” Jackson said in her announcement. “This campaign is about more than me as it is about advocating not only for the people of my district, but for all Georgian’s to have a cleaner, healthier and more just Georgia.”

Superior Court Judge and former State Rep. Mack Crawford will resign his seat on the Griffin Judicial Circuit bench, according to the Daily Report.

In the Pike County Courthouse where he presided as a judge for nearly a decade, suspended Superior Court Judge Robert “Mack” Crawford pleaded guilty through an Alford plea Thursday to theft by taking. A charge of violating his oath of office and a second theft charge were dismissed.

Superior Court Judge Maureen Gottlieb, on assignment from the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit in Columbus, sentenced Crawford to 12 months of unsupervised, fee exempt probation and granted him first offender status. Crawford’s plea will not be made part of the court record at this time and will be sealed along with the charges, once his probation is complete.

Crawford was charged with abusing his judicial authority to steal $15,675 that belonged to former clients from the Pike County court registry.

As part of a plea agreement with the state attorney general’s office, which did not include an admission of guilt, Crawford agreed to retire and submit his resignation to Gov. Brian Kemp by Friday. The 66-year-old judge, whose term expires in December, also promised he will not seek reelection or apply for, run or serve as a judge in any court while he remains on probation. Crawford has not heard any cases since the state judicial watchdog agency suspended him with pay after his indictment by a Pike County grand jury nearly 16 months ago.

Crawford said he entered the Alford plea and agreed to retire because he decided when he ran in 2012 that it would be his last campaign. He said he also feared his state pension might be jeopardized if a trial led to a felony conviction. “I think I would have prevailed, but I wasn’t going to take the chance,” he said.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 6, 2020

On February 7, 1733, the first Georgia colonists had been here a week and they finished building a hand-operated crane to move heavy supplies and livestock from their boats to the top of the forty-foot high bluff where they were building a settlement.

On February 8, 1751, the first session of the Georgia Provincial Parliament adjourned, having convened on January 15, 1751.

The House of Assembly, Georgia’s legislative body, held its second meeting after statehood on February 6, 1788 in Savannah.

On February 9, 1825, the United States House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams as President of the United States, despite his having received fewer popular votes than Andrew Jackson. Congress voted for the President after no candidate received a majority of electoral votes in the 1824 election.

The 12th Amendment states that if no electoral majority is won, only the three candidates who receive the most popular votes will be considered in the House.

Representative Henry Clay, who was disqualified from the House vote as a fourth-place candidate, agreed to use his influence to have John Quincy Adams elected. Clay and Adams were both members of a loose coalition in Congress that by 1828 became known as the National Republicans, while Jackson’s supporters were later organized into the Democratic Party.

Alexander Stephens was elected Vice President of the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois. In 1980, Reagan would be elected President of the United States, beating incumbent Jimmy Carter. When he was born, his father said, “he looks like a fat little Dutchman.  But who knows, he might grow up to be president some day.”

On February 9, 1926, the Atlanta Board of Education voted to prohibit teaching evolution in the Atlanta Public Schools.

On February 6, 1952, Governor Herman Talmadge signed resolutions of the General Assembly that included:

A resolution calling on Congress to call a convention to propose a constitutional amendment to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment and instead allow a maximum rate of 25 percent on any federal income, transfer, gift, or inheritance tax.

A resolution urging U.S. Senator Richard B. Russell to run for the presidency.

On February 8, 1955, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed a resolution by the General Assembly calling on Congress to require racial segregation in the military.

On February 6, 1956, Governor Marvin Griffin addressed a joint session of  the Georgia General Assembly, asking their support for House Resolution 1185, which introduced the idea of “interposition,” in which the State of Georgia would declare the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 and 1955 Brown v. Board of Education decisions “null and void” in Georgia. That day Griffin also signed a raft of legislation for his “massive resistance” agenda against integration of state schools.

On February 8, 1956, the Georgia State House adopted a resolution purporting to hold the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education null and void.

On February 9, 1964, the Beatles debuted in America on The Ed Sullivan Show.

On February 7, 1980, Pink Floyd opened “The Wall” tour in Los Angeles.

On February 8, 1981, R.E.M. held their first recording session at Bombay Studios in Smyrna, recording “Gardening At Night,” “Radio Free Europe” and “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville,” as well as others.

On February 6, 1985, Reagan gave the State of the Union. During the speech he announced what would be known as the “Reagan Doctrine.”

On February 7, 1990, the Communist Party Central Committee of the Soviet Union agreed to a proposal by Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev that is should give up its political monopoly.

The response from the United States was surprise and cautious optimism. One State Department official commented that, “The whole Soviet world is going down the drainpipe with astonishing speed. It’s mind-boggling.” Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger indicated that he was “personally gratified and astonished that anyone would have the chance to say such things in Moscow without being shot.” President George Bush was more circumspect, merely congratulating President Gorbachev for his “restraint and finesse.”

Ironically, the fact that the Communist Party was willing to accept political challenges to its authority indicated how desperately it was trying to maintain its weakening power over the country. The measures were little help, however–President Gorbachev resigned on December 25, 1991 and the Soviet Union officially ceased to exist on December 31, 1991.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia General Assembly has decided to play hooky today, tomorrow, and next week. From the AJC:

Lawmakers originally had set the calendar through Monday — which would have been the 14th day of the the 40-day legislative session. Instead, lawmakers will take the rest of this week, and all of next week, off from holding floor session in the chambers to hash out the details of meeting Gov. Brian Kemp’s request to trim the state’s budget.

In a letter to House members, Speaker David Ralston told his colleagues to suspend all scheduled committee meetings that aren’t related to the budget over the next week and a half and focus all “time and energies on this important work.”

Lawmakers will return to the chambers Feb. 18, after the federal Presidents Day holiday.

Lawmakers are expected to approve the calendar through the 28th day, March 12 — the Legislature’s self-imposed deadline for bills to make it from one chamber to the next.

Lawmakers will again have to approve a calendar to set the end of the legislative session.

Here’s a look at the legislative calendar through day 28:

Feb. 18-21: legislative days 13-16

Feb. 24-28: legislative days 17-21

March 2-5: legislative days 22-25

March 9-10: legislative days 26-27

March 11: committee work day

March 12: legislative day 28

Under the Gold Dome Today – Maybe








12:30 PM House Hospital and Short Term Care Subcommittee of Behavioral Health Innovation and Reform Commission 415 CLOB

The impromptu Spring Break appears related to escalating tension in the Capitol over the state budget and related processes. From the AJC:

The clash between Gov. Brian Kemp and House Speaker David Ralston reached new heights on Wednesday as state lawmakers abruptly voted to take a break to try to sort out the state’s strained budget situation.

Ralston and his allies said they needed more time to hash out the impact of Kemp’s proposed cuts of $500 million this fiscal year and next, as well as his push for $2,000 in teacher pay hikes that would cost nearly $400 million.

Two of the bigger hang-ups are also two of the biggest-ticket items in the spending plan. Ralston has been skeptical of Kemp’s push to bump teacher pay this year, which would complete the governor’s promise of a $5,000 pay raise in his first term.

The speaker has also led the charge for the second phase of an income tax cut that would decrease the top rate by a quarter-point – at the projected cost of at least $500 million in state revenue.

From the Associated Press via GPB News:

House and Senate leaders announced Wednesday that the chambers will adjourn until Feb. 18. During that time, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England said House budget subcommittees will keep meeting.

“This year, I think the biggest question is ‘What do you cut?’” House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, told members Wednesday. “I don’t think it behooves us as a body to come down here and speed through spending $28 billion in taxpayer dollars.”

The recess underlines Ralston’s earlier statements that the General Assembly’s 2020 session might not wrap up as early as some members running for re-election might have hoped. Lawmakers can’t raise campaign money while they’re in session, and some of them will face a May 19 party primary. Slates won’t be set until March.

“The speaker has made it very plain we’re going to do the job we need to do,” said England, an Auburn Republican, when asked when the session would end.

[I]ncome tax revenues have lagged since the first cut. Lawmakers will get a report of January revenues next week, but England said he’s not hopeful that Kemp will raise the revenue projection that sets the spending limit for lawmakers.

“I don’t know if I could go to him and say ‘You need to adjust it up,’” England said. “It’s still pretty flat.”

From Beau Evans with Capitol Beat News Service:

After the House voted to approve the new session schedule, Ralston told reporters he’s particularly worried about proposed cuts to mental health services, public safety and criminal justice reform initiatives including accountability courts.

Ralston said it was negotiators for the House who convinced Senate leaders of the need to take a break and focus on the budget. He noted that since all spending bills originate in the House, members of the House Appropriations Committee get the first crack at reviewing the budget.

“They have the first real contact with the budget process,” Ralston said. “Department heads and agency heads have come in and said they don’t have the information to give us. … We started asking for this information as far back as late September. Some of the information we still don’t know.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan said the Senate agreed to the break to give lawmakers in the House more time to craft the budget before sending it to the Senate.

“We get one chance to get this right,” said Dugan, R-Carrollton.

The Georgia Senate Agriculture Committee voted to recommend passage of its version of HB 545, the Georgia Right to Farm Act, according to the Albany Herald.

Dubbed the Georgia Right to Farm Act of 2020, the bill would make it more difficult for property owners living in areas zoned for agricultural use to sue nearby agricultural operations such as a chicken house or pig farm for offensive smells or runoff from sludge lagoons.

“We’re just doing our job to protect the family farmers in Georgia,” state Rep. Tom McCall, chairman of the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee, said. McCall sponsored the bill in the House, which passed it last year and sent to the Senate for consideration.

The bill essentially updates a law the General Assembly enacted during the 1980s. Supporters say farmers need greater protection against nuisance lawsuits than the current law provides because rapid suburbanization of Georgia means more non-farming homeowners are encroaching on farmland.

Under the new bill, property owners wishing to file a nuisance suit against an agricultural operation must be located within 5 miles of the source of the alleged nuisance. Lawsuits must be brought within two years after a nuisance occurs, down from four years under the current law.

Sen. Larry Walker III, R-Perry, put together the substitute version of the bill the Senate committee passed on Tuesday. He said he gathered feedback both from agribusiness organizations that supported the bill and environmental groups opposed to it.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee recommended passage of Senate Bill 298 to regulate sales of vaping products, according to the Gainesville Times.

A state Senate panel in Georgia unanimously approved a proposal to restrict vaping products on Tuesday, amid growing concern about health risks and use among children.

Senate Bill 298 would raise the age a person must be to purchase vaping products from 18 to 21, impose licensing requirements on stores selling vaping products, increase penalties for illegal sales and require schools to teach students about the dangers of vaping.

The proposal could soon go to the full Senate for a vote.

Under current state law, retail stores in Georgia are not required to have a license to sell vaping products, according to Sen. Renee Unterman, a Buford Republican who sponsored the bill. Her legislation would require stores selling vaping products to be licensed in the same way that stores selling tobacco are currently licensed.

From the AJC:

The American Medical Association has called for a moratorium on sales, and Massachusetts has become the first state with significant prohibitions on flavor sales. The White House, prodded by the controversy, has imposed a partial ban effective Thursday, but it has so many loopholes that the American Lung Association told the Washington Post recently that it is “a joke.”

In Georgia, the Medical Association of Atlanta is hosting an event at North Atlanta High School Friday evening to warn about medical issues associated with vaping and the effect on youths. And the General Assembly is considering legislation. Senate Bill 298 would establish minor criminal penalties for sales to, and possession by, people under age 21 (the current minimum age is 18). House Bill 864 would introduce a sales tax.

Senate Bill 159 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) to allow local regulation of e-scooters passed the State Senate, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The bill defines an electric scooter in Georgia code as a device weighing less than 100 pounds that is powered by both an electric motor and human power, with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.

Regulating e-scooters is not a “one-size-fits all solution,” Gooch told lawmakers on the floor Tuesday after hearing study committee testimony.

“We want to encourage this new technology. First and last mile transit solutions are a big need in this state,” he said. “We didn’t want to over regulate the industry, we didn’t want to put a lot of barriers in the way; in fact, we want to encourage more development of this kind of technology.”

Left up to local governments, some cities and counties have chosen to promote electric scooters as an alternative means of transportation while some have chosen to ban them from their streets.

The bill gives “total local control” to cities and counties, Gooch said.

A last-minute amendment added to the bill allows local governments to consider imposing liability insurance requirements.

The bill passed in a vote of 47 to 0 and will move to the House of Representatives.

Georgia Senate District 14 voters will return to the polls in a special election runoff, according to WALB.

Carden Summers (R), Jim Quinn (R) and Mary Egler (D) were all vying for the Senate District 13 seat left open after the passing of Senator Greg Kirk in December.

On Tuesday, Summers garnered 43.11 percent of the votes while Quinn received 42.18 percent and Egler took 14.71 percent.

“We thought there was gonna be a runoff and that’s what tonight proved and with three people in the race, it was hard to get 50 percent,” said Quinn. “Go back tomorrow and start over again, knock on more doors, talk to more people and get the word out that I’m the true conservative candidate in this race.”

“I wanna thank everybody who voted for me. I’m grateful that we came out on top with the most votes,” said Summers. “My plan is in the next 30 days, is to reach out and touch everyone I can, touch and share my vision with them and ask them to go back to the polls and vote for me again.”

From the AJC:

The winner will fill the Senate District 13 seat previously held by state Sen. Greg Kirk, a Republican from Americus, who died in December after he was diagnosed with bile duct cancer.

The election was one of the first where voters used Georgia’s new voting system, which combines touchscreens and printed-out ballots. The system was previously tested during local elections in six counties in November and in a state House election last month.

Senate District 13 covers Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Tift, Turner and Worth counties, as well as parts of Sumter and Wilcox counties.

After next month’s runoff, the seat will be on the ballot again for a regularly scheduled election in November.

Former Republican State Rep. Bill Hembree will run for the 14th Congressional District seat being vacated by the retirement of Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger), according to the AJC.

The former state legislator is one of a half-dozen Republicans competing to succeed U.S. Rep. Tom Graves in one of the most conservative House districts in the nation. Graves, the senior-most Republican in Georgia’s delegation, announced late last year he wasn’t running for another term.

“I am excited about the changes happening in our country under President Trump’s leadership, and I will serve as a strong conservative voice for Georgia and a valuable contributor to that change,” said Hembree, who served two stints in the Georgia House before losing a close race to state Sen. Mike Dugan in 2014.

From the Rome News Tribune:

Former state school superintendent and candidate for governor John Barge filed his statement for organization with the Federal Election Commission on Monday.

He’d not sent out a statement or an announcement as of late Wednesday, but several local Republicans said former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston had been reaching out on Barge’s behalf.

Also, Andy Gunther, a retired Army veteran and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector from Bremen, announced he’s running for the post on Wednesday. Gunther is the vice chair of the Haralson County Republican Party.

That makes eight Republican candidates who have said they’re vying for the post.

The Georgia Criminal Street Gang Database is online, according to Valdosta Today.

Through the collaborative efforts of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Department of Community Supervision (DCS), and the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC), the Georgia Criminal Street Gang Database (GCSGD) is now operational.  The GCSGD is a statewide repository and intelligence database that contains information about various criminal street gangs, criminal street gang members, and associates and criminal street gang activities.

The statute for the GCSGD was enacted in 2010.  Under Governor Kemp’s administration, the implementation of this database has been made a priority.   The following agencies participated in the pilot program: DCS, GDC, Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Morrow Police Department, South Fulton Police Department, Cobb County Police Department, Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, and the GBI. The statistics associated with the data remain fluid; but as of today, the system contains over 100 gangs and over 17,000 gang members & associates.

From the Gainesville Times:

The database currently contains more than 100 gangs and more than 17,000 gang members and associates.

According to the Georgia code, the database’s purposes include increasing “officer safety by improving the sharing of information among multiple jurisdictions using computer intelligence database technology” and enhancing “community security through the prosecution of criminal street gangs and their members/associates.

The Georgia Ports Authority announced an expansion at the Port of Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Ports Authority has announced the acquisition of 145 contiguous acres to the Port of Savannah, enough land to accommodate more than 1 million twenty-foot equivalent container units in annual capacity.

“This is the largest addition of container terminal space in Savannah in more than 20 years, and represents a powerful opportunity for Georgia to take on new trade.” [said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch].

In order to improve service, Savannah’s Ocean Terminal will be partially converted to handle containers. Renovations at Ocean Terminal, located just down river from the main container port, will include a new truck gate, upgraded container yards and rubber-tired gantry cranes for container operations.

“The expansion at our deepwater ports in both Savannah and Brunswick is helping to fuel growth, and in turn investment, jobs and increased competitiveness on the global stage,” added GPA Board Chairman Will McKnight.

“With the kind of investment and infrastructure development announced today, Georgia’s ports will undoubtedly stay ahead of the curve and the competition.”

In September 2019, the GPA announced plans for the new Savannah Container Terminal, a nearly 200-acre facility to be built across the Savannah River on Hutchinson Island. The new facility will have a capacity of 2.5 million TEUs when fully developed. Phase I is projected to come online in 2025.

Three new Right Whale calves have been spotted off the coast, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Survey crews with the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found the new calves and their moms, nicknamed Arrow, Echo and Calvin, said Allison Garrett, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries division.

Arrow and her calf were sighted 15 nautical miles off Amelia Island. She is 18 years old and this is her second calf. Her first was born in 2009.

Echo and calf were sighted approximately 10 nautical miles off Atlantic Beach. She is 24 years old and this is her third calf. Her last was born in 2010.

Calvin and her calf were sighted approximately 8 nautical miles off Georgia’s Blackbeard Island. She is 28 years old and this is her fourth calf. Her last calf was born in 2015.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 5, 2020

John and Charles Wesley arrived at Tybee Roads, at the mouth of the Savannah River on February 5, 1736, along with James Oglethorpe and 254 other colonists.

On February 5, 1777, Georgia’s first Constitution was adopted in Savannah, creating the first eight counties. Happy birthday to Wilkes, Richmond, Burke, Effingham, Chatham, Liberty, Glynn, and Camden counties.

The 1777 Constitution was progressive for the time, outlawing primogeniture and entail, English common law doctrines that controlled inheritance of land.

Primogeniture ensured that the eldest son in a family inherited the largest portion of his father’s property upon the father’s death. The practice of entail, guaranteeing that a landed estate remain in the hands of only one male heir, was frequently practiced in conjunction with primogeniture. (Virginia abolished entail in 1776, but permitted primogeniture to persist until 1785.)

Georgians restructured inheritance laws in Article LI of the state’s constitution by abolishing entail in all forms and proclaiming that any person who died without a will would have his or her estate divided equally among their children; the widow shall have a child’s share, or her dower at her option.

The Southern Pacific Railroad completed its “Sunset Route” from New Orleans to California on February 5, 1883, giving the SP a dominant position in transcontinental railroading.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced his “court packing” plan on February 5, 1937. After the United States Supreme Court found some of his “New Deal” legislation unconstitutional, Roosevelt’s proposal would have encouraged the retirement of justices older than 70 and for those who did not retire, appoint an assistant Justice with full voting rights on decisions by the Court.

On February 5, 1945, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation abolishing the poll tax, making Georgia the first Southern state to do so.

Georgia’s 1877 constitution authorized the tax, which limited voter participation among both poor blacks and whites. But most whites got around the provision through exemptions for those whose ancestors fought in the Civil War or who could vote before the war.

In 1937, the U.S. Supreme court upheld Georgia’s poll tax as constitutional. But in 1942, Georgia voters chose Ellis Arnall for governor and the progressive Arnall ushered in a wave of reforms, including abolishing Georgia’s poll tax.

Nigel Tufnel, of the band Spinal Tap, was born on February 5, 1948.

On February 5, 1974, “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe,” by Barry White reached #1 on the charts.

Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” began a 92-week run on the best-seller charts on February 5, 1983. Rock on.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome – LD 12



8:30 AM HOUSE Transportation State Highways Subcommittee 415 CLOB


10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 12) House Chamber






1:30 PM HOUSE Reeves Sub of Judiciary Non-Civil 132 CAP




2:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Sales Tax Subcommittee 133 CAP

2:30 PM HOUSE Setzler Sub of Judiciary Non Civil 132 CAP

2:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Income Tax Subcommittee 133 CAP







3:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Ad Valorem Tax Subcommittee 133 CAP






SB 289 – Ad Valorem Taxation of Property; mobile homes procure permits and procure and display decals; remove the requirement (FIN-53rd)
SB 26 – Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia; prior service as a member of Georgia Defined Contribution Plan; creditable service; provide (RET-3rd)
SB 47 – Retirement Benefits; creditable service for certain military service; provide (RET-8th)
SB 262 – Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia; eligibility of beneficiary to make new retirement election; provide (Substitute) (RET-15th)


Modified Open Rule
HR 326 – Roger C. Dill Transportation Center; Tift County; dedicate (Substitute)(SProp-Houston-170th)
HR 935 – Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics; create (Trans-Tanner-9th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 663 – Georgia Judicial Retirement System; membership for certain persons employed in certain full time positions requiring admission to the State Bar of Georgia as a condition of employment; require (Substitute) (Ret-Efstration-104th)

Twin bills to address surprise healthcare billing will be dropped in the House and Senate as a compromise measure, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Two identical bills are expected to drop in the House and Senate today, backed by lawmakers who have been at odds in past sessions. And they’re co-signed in each chamber by the floor leaders for Gov. Brian Kemp, who’s been involved in the process.

“Whichever one makes it through first is the one we’ll go with,” said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, sponsor of the new Senate bill.

The Finance Committee chairman’s counterpart in the House, Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, is sponsoring the bill in that chamber.

A major sticking point has been the formula that would be used to determine a fair price for a service.

Hufstetler said they lit on a different system with help from three professors from Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, which researches and analyses policies in use across the nation.

“It sets up a method of prompt payment based on the negotiated rates. Then, if either side doesn’t agree with (the price), they can arbitrate it through the (Georgia) Department of Insurance,” Hufstetler said.

Senate Bill 303 by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) attempts to increase price transparency in healthcare, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Senate Bill 303 is part of a general legislative push for greater transparency in medical prices.

The transparency effort includes proposals on what’s known as surprise billing, when a patient receives care from a network hospital but gets an unexpected bill from a non-network provider involved in the care. A bill addressing surprise billing was approved by a House panel Monday.

The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee, at a separate hearing, did not take a vote on Senate Bill 303.

The “Georgia Right to Shop Act″ legislation, as it’s also known, would allow patients to query their insurance company, either online or on the phone, on what out-of-pocket costs they would face if they use a particular medical provider. Consumers would also get data on the quality record a doctor or hospital has in providing that medical service.

“Competition helps us all,″ said Republican Sen. Ben Watson, a Savannah physician who’s the bill’s lead sponsor. “We’re trying to make transparent what the cost is and what the quality is.″

The legislation drew some star power: Atlanta-based consumer advocate Clark Howard testified in favor of the bill.

House Bill 523, which would prevent local governments from regulating short term rentals, passed out of the House Regulated Industries Committee, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia cities and counties would be prohibited from regulating short-term rental properties under legislation that cleared a state House committee Tuesday.

Cities and counties can address such issues through nuisance ordinances and occupancy limits without banning short-term rentals altogether, Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, the bill’s chief sponsor, told members of the House Regulated Industries Committee.

“These bans and overregulation are an attack on private property rights,” he said.

Advocates for local governments oppose the bill as usurping their zoning powers under the Georgia Constitution.

Clint Mueller, legislative director for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, said the state’s one-size-fits-all approach toward short-term rentals won’t work in a state as diverse as Georgia.

“What St. Simons does may be different than what they do in North Fulton or in the mountains,” he said.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, R-Milton, one of three committee members who voted against the bill, said it offers no protection for homeowners who might move into a neighborhood expecting the quality of life that comes with living in a residential area only to find short-term rentals plopped into their midst.

“Are you concerned you’re changing the rules for millions of Georgians?” Jones asked Carpenter.

Republican Don Cole announced he will run for the Second Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany).

For the past two and a half years, I had the honor of serving as the Speechwriter for US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue in President Trump’s administration. I have had the opportunity to learn and develop relationships with leaders and decision makers in Washington and here in Southwest Georgia.

I observed the disconnect between the winning policies of the Trump administration and the whining press releases of Democrats and Sanford Bishop. Sanford Bishop and Democrats steadfastly stand with Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff.

Two times Sanford voted to impeach President Trump. When, yet again, Sanford and Democrats turned their backs on us and cast those votes, I had an irrepressible conviction to put forth a clear and commanding choice for the people of Southwest Georgia.

Southwest Georgia does not have a representative. Sanford Bishop and Democrats have abandoned the people of Southwest Georgia. Sanford made the choice to align with Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and the values of San Francisco and Hollywood.

Sanford Bishop and Democrats long ago abandoned pro-life to align with Planned Parenthood.

Sanford Bishop and Democrats abandoned God’s design for the family of one man and one woman. They aligned themselves with the very loud promoters of a radical Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender agenda.

President Trump’s conservative policies of opportunity and freedom improve lives for everyone. He has instituted these policies in spite of lies and an unprecedented assault by Democrats in Congress.

Our values go deeper than mere demographic make up. The people of the 2nd District are starving for someone to work for us. I promise that no one will work harder or be a bigger cheerleader for Southwest Georgia than I will.

Republican Will Wade announced he will run for the State House District 9 seat being vacated by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), according to Fetch Your News.

“Today, I am announcing my campaign to represent the people of Dawson, Lumpkin, and Forsyth counties in the Georgia House of Representatives,” said Wade. “As a life-long resident of Dawson County, I will fight for our conservative, north Georgia values in the State House.

“I am 100% pro-life, and will stand with Governor Kemp and members of the General Assembly to support the heartbeat bill and legislation that strengthens protections for the innocent unborn.

“As a long time member of the NRA, I know our Second Amendment rights are under assault, and I will stand in the gap to protect the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

“My top legislative priority as your State Representative will always be ensuring Georgia’s education system serves the needs of the Ninth District. As a family, our commitment to public education runs deep. Since 2004, I have been honored to serve on the Dawson County Board of Education as Chair and Vice Chair, and my wife, Jennifer, has devoted her life to educating Lumpkin County students since 2001. By reducing high-stakes testing, advocating for parents and teachers, championing local control, and eliminating Common Core, I will always put our students first.

“My private sector career in community banking spans over twenty years serving the people of the Ninth District. Because of that experience, I know that small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. I look forward to working with Governor Kemp and members of the General Assembly to make Georgia the best state in the nation to start, operate, and grow a small business.

“Finally, if elected, I will never forget the people who send me down to Atlanta every January. The rural communities we call home are changing, and all too often they go ignored. I will continue Representative Kevin Tanner’s legacy as a rock-solid conservative fighter for our community and pick up right where he left off. I will work around the clock to bring good jobs to the Ninth District, expand access to high-speed internet, lower health care costs, and preserve our quality of life.

“With your help, we can continue to make our community and state an even better place to live, work, and raise our families. I am humbly asking for your prayers for Jennifer, the kids, and me as we begin this journey. I will work hard every day to earn your vote in the May 19 th Republican primary.”

Georgia Democrats are planning to flip control of the State House, according to 11Alive.

Sharon Cooper is a busy and respected member of the legislature. This is her 24th year here. It could also be her last.

When Cooper ran for re-election to her Marietta district in 2018, she barely beat a Democrat named Luisa Wakeman by a margin of 3.1 percent, or just 792 votes.

Two years earlier, no Democrat even tried to beat her.

“Our whole state is changing. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Cooper said. “Just like I’ve always done … when you’re elected, you represent everybody.”

Cooper is one of six Republicans in the House of Representatives who won election in 2018 by less than five percent. Setzler, Cheokas, Stephens, Rutledge, Silcox were the others.

This election year, Democrats will target those seats – and more.

In 2018, Republicans in six House seats won by less than five percentage points. So, they’re the most vulnerable this year.

There are six more House seats Republicans won by margins of less than nine percent. If Democrats could flip them, it would give them 12 new seats.

Catoosa County Republicans heard from candidates for the 14th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger), according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

At the local GOP meeting, Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, and Rome-based neurosurgeon John Cowan spoke to local leaders and other candidates for local races about their campaigns.

Cowan said as a political newcomer, it took him a long time to decide to run. Ultimately, he felt like he couldn’t stand on the sidelines any longer.

As a legislator in Washington, Cowan said he would have his constituents’ interests at the forefront. He also said his experience competing as a high school athlete in northwest Georgia will help him in the race.

“I know how fierce that competition is,” he said. “I know the flooring industry. I know the health care industry. All of these things are so important in our district and part of my DNA. And that’s why I feel at this moment in my life that I’m the right person to serve you in Congress.”

Cooke now serves in the state’s House of Representatives in District 18. He is the associate athletic director at Shorter University in Rome, as well as a farmer and small-business owner. Cooke was first elected to office in 2010.

Cooke said he will use his experience as a longtime lawmaker to make change on the national level on behalf of northwest Georgia. He said his road to making allies in the House has not always been easy.

“I learned very quickly that just because you’re a Republican, and just because you’re in a majority, doesn’t mean that your policies in Atlanta line up with what we say we believe here,” Cooke said.

The Floyd County Republican Womens’ Lunch heard from candidates for Superior Court Clerk, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The incumbent, Barbara Penson, has been at the post since 2008 and referred to herself as “not a politician but a public servant.”

Harbor House Executive Director Joe Costolnick spoke of his background in leadership and law enforcement. From 2001 to 2017, he worked for the Rome Police Department and rose to the rank of lieutenant and supervisor of the Criminal Investigation Division.

Murray County Commissioner Greg Hogan declared the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Sole Commissioner Greg Hogan approved a resolution Tuesday declaring that “the citizens of Murray County, Georgia, regard the right of people to keep and bear arms for defense of life, liberty and defense of property as an inalienable right.”

Hogan said it was important to take a stand in support of constitutional rights.

“I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and I intend to do that,” he said. “This may not be an issue in Georgia, but it’s an issue in Virginia. And that’s what scares me right now.”

In Georgia, Habersham, Rabun and Stephens counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, all within the past month.

Hogan said Murray County residents can’t be certain that state officials will always be as friendly to the Second Amendment as they are now.

Members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners said at a work session last week that they expect to vote on a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution soon.

Spalding County Commissioner Donald Hawbaker was arrested after a standoff with law enforcement, according to the AJC.

Deputies went to the Sun City Peachtree by Del Webb living community to serve a warrant to Commissioner Donald Hawbaker for simple assault and disorderly conduct, according to Spalding sheriff’s office spokesman Capt. Dwayne Jones.

While there, the deputies were met with gunfire from the home in the 1100 block of Satilla Court in Griffin, Jones said. No deputies were hit.

Hawbaker, 64, was eventually taken into custody, ending the standoff after more than two hours.

Voting Rights and Wrongs

Governor President Grand Moff Stacey Abrams is giving Iowa some side-eye, but stopped short of calling it “voter suppression.” From The Hill:

Abrams urged Democrats to consider opening the primary contest with states more “representative of the American people as a whole,” an apparent reference to Iowa’s largely white demographics. Iowa’s Democratic electorate was more than 90 percent white during the last presidential election cycle.

She argued that the party could give people of color a greater voice in the process by holding primaries in multiple states on the first day of voting.

“Demographically, it’s not reflective of the U.S. as a whole, certainly not reflective of the Democratic Party, and I believe other states should have their chance,” he said.

Abrams’s critique of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status also extended to its voting system. Regardless of the tech issues, Abrams said that caucuses exclude people “who cannot participate because of work or family obligations.”

“The most democratic process invites all eligible voices, which is why early and mail-in voting and a full Election Day are essential,” she said. “Suppression exists when voices are intentionally silenced AND when no one is willing to admit or fix the problem.”

From the AJC:

“The Iowa Democratic Party has taken responsibility and corrective action, which is the first step to restoring trust,” said Abrams. “The next step is re-examining the caucus process.”

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a schedule for early voting in the March 24 Presidential Preference Primary, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The schedule adopted Tuesday lays out the schedule for early voting in Gwinnett and also addresses the hours for election day voting, which is more of a formality since the date and voting hours are mandated by state law.

“(This) represents a substantial expansion of early voting for presidential primaries for 2020 as compared to 2016,” Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash told her colleagues on the commission.

Under the schedule adopted this week, the first week of early voting will take place only at the county’s elections and voter registration office in Lawrenceville.

Early voting will expand to seven satellite voting sites during the second and third weeks of early voting.

In all, early voting will be available in Gwinnett County every day of the week — including Saturdays and Sundays — at at least one polling location for 19 consecutive days.

Cobb County announced it will change some voting precinct locations, according to the AJC.

Thousands of Cobb voters will cast ballots at new precincts or voting locations when Georgia holds its presidential primary March 24.

The county has split three precincts and moved polling locations for nine others from schools to churches and other buildings. Janine Eveler, Cobb County’s elections and registration director, said 50,063 voters have been affected by the changes.

Eveler said the county has sent certified letters to 40,514 people who will vote in new locations and to 9,549 assigned to new precincts. Voters will be sent new precinct cards, and residents are urged to verify their registration status and polling location before voting by visiting

The county is moving polling locations because school security measures could affect voters on Election Day, Eveler said.

Gwinnett County opened the Beauty P. Baldwin building that houses the elections office, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Tuesday’s ribbon cutting at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections building is sort of a punctuation on a career in education and civil service that spans nearly 60 years. Baldwin was both the first black person and the first woman named superintendent in Georgia in 1984 when she was hired for the job at Buford City Schools. After her retirement from education, she was appointed to the Board of Elections in 1997 and has served there ever since.

Baldwin, who said she is eying retirement from the Gwinnett County Board of Elections after being a member for 23 years, said she gets fulfillment looking back at the work she and her fellow board members have done to make the democratic process work.

“We tried and make sure we get as much as possible, in accordance to the law, that they want,” Baldwin said. “I think that’s why we’re here.”

Board of Elections member Stephen Day was chairman of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party in 1997 when he appointed Baldwin to serve on the board. Five succeeding chairs thought that was a good idea and continued to appoint her to the board. Although she is an appointee from the Democratic Party, she has earned respect from both sides of the aisle.

During her time on the Board of Elections, Baldwin has helped issue voting policies and procedures that technologically modernize balloting. She’s promoted the development of bilingual voter education in the county and advocated for the establishment of automatic voter registration. It’s fitting the building that bears her name has been remodeled to also ease the democratic process, particularly during early voting.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 4, 2020

On February 4, 1789, George Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College as the first President of the United States; Washington’s runner-up John Adams served as Vice President. Washington would repeat the feat four years later on February 4, 1793.

On February 4, 1801, John Marshall took office as Chief Justice of the United States. Marshall continued to hold the post of Secretary of State until March 4th. In one of American history’s rich ironies, Marshall, who served at the same time in the judicial and legislative branches of the federal government, would write the Court’s opinion in Marbury v. Madison, establishing the supremacy of the Supreme Court in matters of applying the Constitution through judicial review and establishing the doctrine of separation of powers. Marshall would serve during the terms of six Presidents.

On February 4, 1861, the Provisional Confederate Congress convened in Montgomery, Alabama, where it would draft a Constitution for the Confederate States of America, beginning with a near-verbatim copy of the United States Constitution.

On February 4, 1976, the Georgia Senate approved a resolution previously passed by the State House proposing a Constitutional Amendment to allow Governors of Georgia to serve two consecutive terms and voters approved in November 1976. Then-Governor George Busbee won reelection in November 1978, and since then Democrat Roy Barnes is the only Georgia Governor to not win reelection.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – LD 11



10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 11) House Chamber




1:00 PM HOUSE Energy Subcommittee of Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications 606 CLOB

1:30 PM HOUSE Alcohol Tobacco Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 605 CLOB







2:00 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Public Finance and Policy Subcommittee 133 CAP


2:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Tax Expenditure Subcommittee 133 CAP







SB 159 – Motor Vehicles and Traffic; operation of motorized mobility devices; provide (Substitute)(TRANS-51st)

Governor Brian Kemp and State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced a proposal to reduce standardized testing, according to AccessWDUN.

Both Woods and Kemp oppose the current amount of testing, part of a national backlash to a system largely built by Republicans in Georgia.

“By reducing high-stakes testing, we’ll remove heavy burdens in our classroom for our teachers and our students,” Kemp said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We’ll restore parents’ peace of mind about their children’s education, and we’ll let educators focus on what they do best — teaching children.”

The biggest changes would come in high school. Students would no longer have to take tests in geometry, economics, physical science and American literature.

The proposed legislation would also let the state Board of Education drop the high school exams from being considered in course grades. Now, state law requires that exams be included in course grades. The board’s policy requires that a test count for one-fifth of a student’s overall course grade.

For younger students, the plan would drop a fifth-grade social studies test not required by the federal government, but would hang onto an optional eighth grade test in Georgia history.

The Club for Growth announced it will spend $3 million dollars discussing Rep. Doug Collins’s voting record, according to the AJC.

[T]he conservative Club for Growth organization unveiled plans to spend $3 million to clog Georgia’s airwaves with attacks scrutinizing Collins’ voting record. The group has been critical of Collins’ 57% score on its legislative scorecard in the last year.

The four-term congressman, who launched his campaign last week with a promise to support President Donald Trump, swiped back with a digital ad highlighting one of the votes the anti-tax group has slammed him for taking: The U.S. House passage of a sweeping farm package.

“Why team up with a Washington special interest group that’s against Georgia farmers?” a narrator in a digital ad asked, as grainy images of Loeffler splashed on the screen.

“Why team up with that special interest group that tried to defeat Donald Trump and is attacking Doug Collins for defending Donald Trump and voting with Johnny Isakson and David Perdue to save Georgia farmers?”

State Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock) continues the good fight against the scourge that is Daylight Savings Time, according to the AJC.

Under House Bill 709, voters’ options in the [non-binding] referendum would be to keep the annual time change, switch to year-round standard time (marked by winding clocks back an hour in late fall) or to switch to year-round daylight saving time (marked by moving clocks ahead an hour in early spring).

“By and large, people cannot stand the time change,” Cantrell said.

In a Monday meeting of the House State Planning and Community Affairs Committee, Cantrell cited research that has found an increase in car accidents corresponding with daylight saving time changes. Passing HB 709 and setting the referendum for this year’s November election would help the state gauge whether there’s an appetite for stopping the twice-yearly time changes.

If the referendum were to come back with a clear preference for discarding the current system, Cantrell said he would bring a bill adopting the preferred option to the House next year, pending his own re-election. If voters were to choose standard time, Georgia would be able to make the move on its own. But if year-round daylight saving time was the preference, a switch would require approval from the U.S. Congress.

Senate Bill 302 by Sen. John Albers would allow outside auditors for the film production tax credit program, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Senate Bill 302 comes after a scathing set of audits the state Department of Audits and Accounts released last month that found Georgia’s film tax credit has been poorly managed while being touted as having more economic impact on the state than it actually does.

Sponsored by Sen. John Albers, the legislation would let the governor’s budget office contract with outside auditors to scrutinize up to five tax-incentive programs each year, upon request from state lawmakers.

Auditors would dive into the economic pros and cons of the state’s many tax credits, exemptions, rebates, deferrals and other business incentives.

“All the things that each one of us would do if we were investing our money,” Albers, R-Roswell, said Monday of the audit’s scope.

The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Finance Committee and heads to the floor for a vote of the full Senate.

“We can do better here at making sure we’re making the best use of taxpayers’ dollars,” Hufstetler, R-Rome, said Monday.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 302, is sponsored by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. The bill calls for economic analysis of tax benefits upon the request of lawmakers.

Under the bill, chairpersons of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee could request up to five tax benefit audits through the Office of Planning and Budget on or before May 1 of each year.

A new provision, on the terms of Gov. Brian Kemp’s veto, would require contracting independent auditors to complete the reports by Dec. 1 of each year. Each request is limited to one specific exemption, exclusion or deduction from the regular tax rate.

The report would be mandated to include the net change in state revenue, state expenditures and economic activity and — if applicable — the change in public benefit. A fiscal note would also be required to be included and within the year time frame to provide lawmakers relevant information.

The State House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care voted for HB 789, legislation on surprise billing, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A committee the House formed last year to explore ways to increase access to quality health care passed a bill Monday to set up a rating system Georgians could use to determine which physician specialty groups in their insurance plan’s provider network serve a given hospital.

The measure would apply to anesthesiologists, pathologists, radiologists and emergency room doctors, typically specialists responsible for the most incidents of surprise billing, the extra hospital charges that result from procedures performed by out-of-network specialists.

The legislation would strike a blow for transparency in the delivery of health-care services, said Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta, the committee’s chairman and the bill’s chief sponsor.

“If I want to have elective surgery … I don’t know if the anesthesiologist at my hospital is in my network,” he said. “I have no way to find out.”

A Senate bill on surprise billing, in fact, would go further than the House measure. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, would essentially prohibit the practice. Disputes between insurance companies and medical providers would be subject to arbitration conducted by the state Office of Insurance.

Senate Bill 296 by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen) will allow chemical cremation of human bodies, according to the Albany Herald.

Senate Bill 296 would permit crematories to undertake the process of alkaline hydrolysis, which combines water, alkaline chemicals, pressure and heat to liquify most human remains. The dissolving process breaks down fat and tissues into liquid, leaving behind bone fragments.

Alkaline hydrolysis, or “aquamation”, is used as an alternative to traditional fire-burning furnaces or burials in several states, according to the advocacy group Cremation Association of North America. The group describes it as more environmentally friendly, a “gentler process.”

“It has been an accepted process,” [Sen. Heath] said.

“Given the option, a lot of families do find that this is less abrasive than fire,” [funeral home owner Mindy] Miller-Moats said at a Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee meeting last week.

The Georgia Funeral Directors Association backs the bill and alkaline hydrolysis as a more environmentally friendly and efficient cremation process.

Two members of the Georgia Department of Transportation Board were reelected by legislators from the Congressional Districts each represents, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Tim Golden continues serving as chairman of the state transportation board.

Golden of Valdosta, representing the Eighth Congressional District, and Vice Chairman Rudy Bowen of Columbus, representing the Seventh Congressional District, were unanimously reelected to full five-year board terms by a caucus of state representatives and senators from their respective congressional districts, according to state officials.

The new terms begin April 15.

“The Georgia Department of Transportation and the people of Georgia are fortunate to have dedicated individuals like (Chairman )Tim Golden and Rudy Bowen representing them on the transportation board,” said Russell R. McMurry, P.E., Georgia Department of Transportation commissioner. “All 14 state transportation board members perform a vital function in advancing transportation across all of Georgia.”

Dougherty County voters will be able to test drive the new voting system, according to the Albany Herald.

Dougherty County voters can get a look at the new voting machines they will be using multiple times this year during a Thursday presentation. The Dougherty County Voter Registration and Elections office will show a video presentation and have some of the machines on hand for a demonstration.

Some of the confusion may lie in the impression some voters have that they receive a paper copy to keep.

“There’s no receipt,” Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said.

“You get to review your ballot, your choices, on paper, and if you’re happy, you submit that. We want to kind of get our voters out and let them see what they’ll be voting on for the first time.”

The informational meeting starts at 6 p.m. in Room 100 of the Albany-Dougherty Government Center at 222 Pine Ave.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) announced he will run for Congress, according to the Gainesville Times.

“I have spent the last several days praying about the decision and talking it over with my family,” Tanner said in the post. “I have truly enjoyed serving in the State House, but I feel the call to try to make a difference at the national level.”

Georgia’s 9th Congressional district includes all of Banks, Dawson, Elbert, Fannin, Franklin, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Lumpkin, Madison, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White counties and parts of Clarke, Forsyth and Pickens counties.

“I am ready to continue our district’s 27-year history of having conservative leadership in Congress,” he said. “I am ready for the fight to stop the radical left and work alongside President Trump to protect the conservative values that make North Georgia and all of America great.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of working and serving the citizens of Dawson County for 30 years now in various roles from law enforcement to county manager to their state representative,” he said. “I’m proud of where I come from, I love the community that I’ve been blessed to grow up in and to live in and I look forward to having the opportunity to continue to serve them at a different level.”

Dawson County Board of Education member Will Wade is expected to announce a campaign for House District 9, which is being vacated by State Rep. Kevin Tanner, according to FetchYourNews.

Wade is senior vice president and marketing executive at Southern Bank & Trust and a member of the school board since 2004.

Wade has devoted many years to public service and, in 2017, was named to Georgia Trend’s 40 Under 40. He was appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve on the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission in 2010. He was selected vice chairman of Georgia Mountains Workforce Development in 2012, president of the Georgia School Board Association in 2017 and, last year, Gov. Brian Kemp appointed him to the Georgia Student Finance Commission in the 9th district.

Announced candidates for the election include attorney Zack Tumlin and attorney Steven Leibel.

Three Georgia cities and a county are seeking certification of a class action lawsuit against AirBNB, according to AccessWDUN.

In a federal lawsuit filed Friday, the three cities and one county are seeking class-action status to include communities throughout the state as plaintiffs.

They say the allegations in the lawsuit affect more than 100 Georgia counties and hundreds of municipalities.

The suit was filed by lawyers representing Rome, Cartersville, Tybee Island and Hart County. They’re among several Georgia communities with ordinances to collect taxes for short-term rentals.

A new Georgia law is expected to change the way taxes are collected from companies in the online marketplace.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last month signed the new law that’s supposed to facilitate the collection of state and local sales taxes from online providers including Airbnb beginning April 1. It’s unclear what effect the new law will have on the lawsuit.

Salvagers working on the M/V Golden Ray, which is capsized in St Simons Sound, hope to have most of the hulk removed before hurricane season, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The salvage team in charge of removing a cargo ship that overturned on the Georgia coast nearly five months ago wants to surround it with a giant mesh screen to contain any loose debris as the vessel gets cut into pieces.

A document issued by the Army Corps of Engineers said the salvage team’s goal is to have “all large sections” of the South Korean ship Golden Ray removed before hurricane season starts June 1. No timeline was given for complete removal of the hulking ship that measures 656 feet (200 meters) long.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 3, 2020

On February 3, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.

On February 3, 1887, Congress adopted the Electoral Count Act to clarify how Congress was to count electoral votes.

Electoral vote counting is the oldest activity of the national government and among the oldest questions of constitutional law. It was Congress’s first task when a quorum appeared in the nation’s new legislature on April 6, 1789. It has happened every four years since then. Yet, electoral vote counting remains one of the least understood aspects of our constitutional order.

The Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA) lies at the heart of this confusion. In enacting the ECA, Congress drew on lessons learned from its twenty-five previous electoral counts; it sorted through innumerable proposals floated before and after the disastrous presidential election of 1876; and it thrashed out the ECA’s specific provisions over fourteen years of sustained debate. Still, the law invites misinterpretation. The ECA is turgid and repetitious. Its central provisions seem contradictory. Many of its substantive rules are set out in a single sentence that is 275 words long. Proponents of the law admitted it was “not perfect.” Contemporary commentators were less charitable. John Burgess, a leading political scientist in the late nineteenth century, pronounced the law unwise, incomplete, premised on contradictory principles, and expressed in language that was “very confused, almost unintelligible.” At least he thought the law was constitutional; others did not.

Over the nearly 120 years since the ECA’s adoption, the criticisms faded, only to be renewed whenever there was a close presidential election. Our ability to misunderstand the ECA has grown over time. During the 2000 presidential election dispute, politicians, lawyers, commentators, and Supreme Court justices seemed prone to misstate or misinterpret the provisions of the law, even those provisions which were clear to the generation that wrote them. The Supreme Court, for example, mistakenly believed that the Supreme Court of Florida’s erroneous construction of its election code would deny Florida’s electors the ECA’s “safe harbor” protection; Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s hasty submission of his state’s Certificate of Ascertainment was untimely under the Act; and Democratic members of Congress framed their objections to accepting Florida’s electoral vote on the wrong grounds. Even Al Gore, the presidential candidate contesting the election’s outcome, misread the federal deadline for seating Florida’s electors.

Only the United States Congress could so obfuscate a matter as seemingly simple as counting that its Act remained undecipherable for more than one hundred years.

The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by Delaware on February 3, 1913, giving the Amendment the requisite Constitutional supermajority of three-fourths of the states. The text of the Amendment reads, in its entirety,

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

President Woodrow Wilson died on February 3, 1924 in Washington, DC. Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia (pronounced Stan-ton) and spent most of his youth to age 14 in Augusta, Georgia. Wilson started practicing law in Atlanta, Georgia in 1882, leaving the next year to pursue a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University. His wife, Ellen Louise Axson, was from Savannah, and they married in Rome, Ga in 1885.

On February 3, 1959, a chartered Beechcraft Bonanza carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed near Mason City, Iowa, killing all aboard.

Jimi Hendrix recorded Purple Haze on this date in 1967.

A new exhibition at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, GA explores the historic role of African-Americans in the development of railroading.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor President Democrat Stacey Abrams believes America will be ready for her to take the reins in 2040. From Hot Air:

Stacey Abrams did an interview with journalist Clare Malone of FiveThirtyEight on Friday. She has some big plans for herself and shared them.

Abrams even predicted the outcome of a presidential election twenty years in the future. She will be the winner because America will be ready to elect a black woman and it will be her. That’s a pretty bold prediction, right? Who knew Abrams possesses psychic powers?

Clare Malone teed it up for Abrams. She asked if America will be ready to elect a black woman as president and Abrams said yes. Malone asked a follow-up question – “Do you think they’ll elect you?” Abrams’ response was “Yes. I do. That’s my plan. And I’m very pragmatic.”

Under the Gold Dome Today – LD 10

1:00 PM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 10) House Chamber












3:00 PM HOUSE Welch Sub Judiciary Civil 132 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE Regulatory Sub Regulated Ind 415 CLOB




SB 296 – Funeral Directors and Embalmers; alternative cremation process; provide (RI&U-31st)

SR 554 – Iran; protest the hostile actions of the Iranian regime without subjection to violent retaliation; support the rights of the people of Iran (RULES-45th)

SR 538 – U.S. Congress; pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump; condemn (RULES-51st)


Tobacco taxes might be under upward pressure this year due to legislative budget issues, according to Dave Williams of Capitol Beat News Service, via the Ledger-Enquirer.

The legislature passed a bill early in the 2020 session to tax online purchases made through such “marketplace facilitators” as Amazon and Google. Supporters cited the need for more revenue to help offset sluggish state tax collections threatening to force painful spending cuts.

The revenue grab could move next to tobacco products. Legislation before the Georgia House of Representatives would increase the state’s tobacco tax, the nation’s third lowest, from 37 cents per pack of cigarettes to $1.87.

That higher rate, which would move Georgia’s tobacco tax above the national average, would generate $425.2 million a year in new revenue for the state, said Andy Freeman, government relations director for the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

“Resolving the budget deficit and addressing the highest tobacco use rate in 20 years … would mark a major health and fiscal win for our state,” Freeman said.

Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, the bill’s sponsor, said reducing demand for tobacco products by raising the tax also would yield huge savings.

“We’re spending half a billion dollars a year in Georgia to treat smoking-related illnesses,” Stephens said. “That’s coming out of taxpayers.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said human error caused the only glitches seen in the House District 171 Special Election, according to the Albany Herald.

“The new secure paper-ballot system continued to function well in this special election as it had during the November pilot and December runoff,” Raffensperger said. “The types of small human errors that occurred are the kinds of miscues that occur in every election, no matter the type of equipment.”

“The transition to any new system will inevitably trigger some human error, and we experienced some minor ones. Our challenge is to scale up this success to more than 2,000 polling places in March for the Presidential Preference Primary. That’s a lot of new users and a lot of opportunity for these types of minor errors.”

It is the first election in Mitchell and Colquitt counties using Georgia’s new secure paper-ballot system, but it is the second in Decatur, which participated in a pilot with five other counties during the November municipal elections.

Early voting continues in nine other southwest Georgia counties for the special election in Senate District 13 caused by the death of Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus.” Election Day for that contest is Tuesday.

Every county will use the new system statewide for the March 24 Presidential Preference Primary.

Secretary Raffensperger called for study of possible results before changing election rules further, according to the Gainesville Times.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday that he believes the state should hold party primaries to select nominees before special elections, instead of letting all candidates run against each other regardless of party affiliation. But he wants to study the issue and make no changes now.

The issue arose after House Bill 757 began advancing in the chamber. The legislation would require party primaries be held in advance of a special election to the U.S. Senate this year. That race, which features appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, the Rev. Raphael Warnock and others, will determine who serves the final two years of a U.S. Senate term after Johnny Isakson resigned.

The House bill was seen as a way to help Collins defeat Loeffler in the Republican primary. It had drawn a veto threat from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler and is backing her. Democrats were supporting the bill too, hoping to consolidate support behind Warnock and prevent a January runoff, which would follow if no one won a majority.

Opponents of domestic violence will rally at the State Capitol tomorrow, according to the Albany Herald.

House Bill 545 would restrict property owners rights to sue agricultural producers for alleged nuisance conditions, according to the Gainesville Times.

Neighbors could no longer formally complain about the smell of a chicken house, noise of a tractor or any other alleged nuisance on farms in Georgia that have been operating for at least a year under a bill proposed in the state House.

Legislators are looking to balance the needs of the state’s top industry with the concerns of property owners who may be negatively affected by living near a farm.

Under House Bill 545, property owners would lose the right to bring a nuisance suit, or a legal complaint about noise, odor or a similar issue, against an agricultural operation if the agricultural business has been operating for at least a year.

The bill has gained support from many farming groups, such as the Georgia Farm Bureau and Georgia Poultry Federation, but has some environmental groups concerned about impacts on neighboring properties.

Agriculture remains Georgia’s No. 1 industry, and according to the text of the bill, legislators want to protect farmers who lose resources when nuisance suits arise.

“Agricultural operations and facilities, including support facilities and forest land, are often the subject of nuisance actions when nonagricultural land uses are also located in agricultural areas,” the bill reads. “As a result, such facilities are sometimes forced to cease operations. … It is the purpose of this Code section to reduce losses of the state’s agricultural and forest land resources by limiting the circumstances under which agricultural facilities and operations or agricultural support facilities may be deemed to be a nuisance.”

The bill passed the Georgia House of Representatives last year, gaining the support of Hall County’s delegation. Now, the bill is being reviewed by the Senate’s Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, which held a hearing on the changes on Tuesday, Jan. 28. That committee is chaired by state Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, who represents part of East Hall.

I’ve been following that bill, and I believe the authors and stakeholders are working on a new version. It’s hard to be sure that any article written about the bill correctly conveys what’s in the bill at the moment.

Democrat Ed Tarver, a former United States Attorney and state senator, will announce his campaign for the United States Senate seat held by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta), according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta attorney and former Democratic state senator is running in the Nov. 3 special election to complete the term of former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, he confirmed Jan 10. The special election will pit eight announced candidates – three Republicans and five Democrats – against each other, with the two top finishers going to a runoff.

The Thursday announcement by Atlanta Pastor Raphael Warnock – who was immediately endorsed by Democrat Stacey Abrams and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee – left Tarver unfazed.

“My primary focus is on preparing to launch my campaign for the U.S. Senate,” he said Friday. Endorsements aside, “the bottom line is voters will have their chance to make a decision.”

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Tadia Whitner kicks off her campaign later this month to retain the seat Gov. Kemp appointed her to, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Whitner was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp last summer to replace Judge Melodie Snell Conner, who resigned last year. Although Whitner just joined the bench in 2019, she was always going to have to run for her seat this year.

Whitner will officially kick off her campaign Feb. 20 at the 1818 Club, which is located in the Gwinnett Chamber building at 6500 Sugarloaf Parkway in unincorporated Duluth, according to a Facebook event posting. The event will be held from 5:30 until 8 p.m.

Attendees are asked to RSVP in advance of the event. Details are available on the Facebook event announcement,, and on Whitner’s campaign website,

The nonpartisan judicial election will be held in May.


The Augusta Chronicle looks at fundraising by candidates for Augusta Commission.

Only two of the five candidates seeking the District 1 seat had any reported contributions, including Jordan Johnson, the head of the Richmond County Democratic Party, whose $10,155 came from widely varied sources.

Johnson, who Stacey Abrams made an appearance for Friday, reported a maximum $2,800 contribution from Abrams’ voting rights group, Fair Fight Inc., in addition to $1,000 from Paul King, the Democratic Party headquarters landlord. He received $500 from government contractor Infrastructure Systems Management, owned by former Augusta engineering director Abie Ladson and $3,325 in contributions of less than $100 each.

The Fair Fight contribution irked former Commissioner Moses Todd, who supports candidate Von Pouncey. Todd said that Fair Fight is “using money that I gave to the political action committee against me if I don’t support that candidate” and that “Atlanta should stay out of local elections.”

The City of Port Wentworth has suspended its city manager with pay, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Mayor Gary Norton confirmed Davis’ suspension, but declined to offer any details.

“We can not discuss personnel items outside of the executive session,” Norton said.

The city will try again to conduct business with a meeting set for Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 6:30 p.m.

The stop in council action began in November when four council members surprised the mayor and two council members by voting to hire Davis as city administrator. They also voted to change then city administrator Phil Jones from his job to one as a consultant for Davis. Jones has worked part-time as city administrator since June of 2018.

The city has a six-member council which requires four members present to constitute a quorum and allow for voting. The mayor, however, legally can hold a meeting without a quorum as long as no votes are taken.

Cook County Probate Court Judge Chase Daughtrey announced his court will dismiss speeding tickets and refund fines attributable to a Georgia State Patrol Trooper who was fired for alleged cheating, according to Valdosta Today.

“The Georgia State Patrol informed us yesterday that a trooper assigned to Post 13 in Tifton was accused of cheating on an exam for the Speed Detection Operator component of the trooper school curriculum. Based on this information and a review of court citations, I am announcing the speeding citations issued by the former Post 13 Trooper will be dismissed and fines will be refunded to the defendants. All other cases involving this Trooper will be reviewed by the Solicitor and decisions regarding prosecution will be made on a case by case basis,” [said Judge Daughtrey].

Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy will hold a Town Hall meeting Wednesday, according to The Brunswick News.

Hall County Commissioners approved qualifying dates and fees for local offices, according to the Gainesville Times.

Qualifying for the May 19 General Election primaries will be held March 2-6.

The Rome News Tribune profiles new Georgia Board of Education member Phenna Petty.

Petty, who was named to represent the 14th Congressional District — comprised of 12 counties in north Georgia, including Whitfield and Murray — said state Board of Education members are from various walks of life, including attorneys, entrepreneurs and county commissioners, so “there’s not a singular vision,” and she’ll bring yet another perspective based on her background.

Petty became director of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education for Murray County Schools in 2002, and that area remains “close to my heart,” she said. “There is a skills gap in the world — not just here (locally) — and there are always job openings that are high-paying for highly-skilled (positions).”

“A farmer, diesel mechanic or welder may not wear a suit and tie, but that is (the look) of success, too,” she said. “If we don’t have the skilled workforce, we’re going to get left behind” on a national and international scale.

The writer of that article and their editor are each docked two points for incorrect use of the work “comprise.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 31, 2020

On January 31, 1733, six boats carried Georgia’s first colonists to Trench’s Island, now called Hilton Head Island, where they spent the night before continuing on to land in Georgia at Yamacraw Bluff on February 1, 1733.

The United States Supreme Court held its first session in New York City, Chief Justice John Jay presiding, on February 1, 1790.

On January 31, 1865, Robert E. Lee began service as Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate armies.

On January 31, 1865, Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery.

The first recorded reference to Groundhog Day was in 1841; the first Punxsutawney observance was in 1870.

The first recorded reference to Groundhog Day was in 1841; the first Punxsutawney observance was in 1870.

Atlanta City Council met for the first time on February 2, 1848.

On February 1, 1861, Texas seceded from the Union.

On February 2, 1870, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

On February 1, 1871, Jefferson Franklin Long of Macon, Georgia became the first black Member of Congress to speak on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Long was born into slavery and taught himself to read and write. Long was a prominent member of the Republican Party, speaking on its behalf in Georgia and other Southern states. He helped elect 37 African-American members to the 1867 Georgia Constitutional Convention and 32 members of the state legislature; Long continued after his term in Congress as a delegate to Republican National Conventions through 1880. In 1880, Long’s support of Governor Alfred Colquitt showed that African-Americans could be an electoral force in Georgia politics.

General William Tecumseh Sherman visited Kimball Opera House in Atlanta on January 31, 1879, which was then serving as State Capitol, fifteen years after burning the city.

On January 31, 1893, the trademark for “Coca-Cola” was filed.

On February 2, 1932, Al Capone was sent to federal prison in Atlanta.

On February 1, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived in Selma, Alabama, where he was arrested.

Richard M. Nixon announced his candidacy for President of the United States on Feburary 1, 1968.

On February 2, 1988, the Georgia Senate ratified the 22d Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that pay raises for Members of Congress shall not go into effect until the next term.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was suspended on January 31, 2000 for remarks made to ESPN.

On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome – LD



9:30 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 9) House Chamber


Governor Brian Kemp appointed James Prine, II as a Judge on the Superior Court for the Southern Judicial Circuit, which serves Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Lowndes, and Thomas Counties.

Governor Kemp is not amused after the Georgia State Patrol fired an entire class of troopers, according to WSB-TV.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant broke the news Wednesday that 31 state troopers were fired this week for cheating at the state’s training academy.

Diamant spoke one-on-one with Kemp on Thursday about the public safety impact the scandal could have.

“Well, it’s very disappointing,” Kemp said.

“What is your expectation of that agency?” Diamant asked.

“Well, I certainly am going to make sure we get to the complete bottom of what’s going on and be transparent as we do that,” Kemp said.

Gov. Kemp signed legislation clarifying the responsibility of online retailers to collect and remit Georgia sales tax, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The tax is projected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars annually in Georgia.

Lawmakers in Georgia’s House and Senate hashed out a compromise measure early in this year’s legislative session to collect the tax from so-called “marketplace facilitators,” which allow third-party companies to conduct business on their websites.

The measure, House Bill 276, stalled in the Senate last year amid pushback from ride-share companies like Uber, which wanted a tax exemption. Lawmakers involved in negotiating the compromise bill expect separate legislation to be filed that would give Uber an exemption or require them to pay a fee.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said state revenue experts estimate the tax could raise $10 million a month — though he thinks that’s a conservative estimate.

“It’s great for cities, counties, schools and Georgia businesses that the playing field will be more level now,” Hufstetler said Thursday.

Governor Kemp’s proposal for anti-gang measures is drawing praise and criticism, according to the AJC.

The Nicholas Sheffey Act, named for the Chamblee boy who was killed in a 2010 drive-by shooting, would give judges the option to add drastically more prison time for convicted gang members than current law allows and let prosecutors seek the death penalty more often.

“We will send a clear message,” Kemp said, “to those who want to prey upon our families, our communities and our young people, that their actions will have big consequences.”

For defendants convicted of multiple crimes in a gang case, the bill would let judges sentence them to an additional five to 15 years in prison for each count, instead of five to 15 years for the whole case. That could easily leave more convicted gang members facing the rest of their lives behind bars, as is the case with the man who killed Nicholas.

In a lengthy statement, the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said the state’s gang laws and sentencing guidelines are already strict — as evidenced by the sentence for Nicholas’ killer. The legislation also has defense attorneys on edge because the governor has proposed decreasing funding for public defenders and increasing funding for prosecutors and the GBI.

Nicholas’ mother is most thankful for another part of the proposal: the bill would make defendants in gang-related murder cases automatically eligible for the death penalty. The death penalty can already be used in a wide range of cases that could include gang incidents, although capital punishment has become far less common in recent years as life without parole has become more common.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

As part of his anti-gang push, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday said he wants prosecutors to be able to charge crimes across multiple counties and to be able to seek the death penalty for murders committed during gang activity.

“Criminal street gangs are plaguing our communities with violence, drugs, weapons and fear,” Kemp told reporters, with more than two dozen lawmakers standing behind him. “They’re responsible for the most violent crime in our state.”

Allowing prosecutors in one county to charge crimes in other counties is also something the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had asked for earlier. Merchant said she feared that could lead to prosecutors seeking to bring cases in “tough-on-crime” counties.

Murders committed during gang activity would be added to the list of other crimes tied to a murder that make a convicted killer eligible for execution, such as rape, armed robbery, kidnapping, murder-for-hire or killing a law enforcement officer.

One bill would also expand the state’s power to seize property and put people who commit sex crimes as part of gang activity onto Georgia’s sexual offender registry.

A second bill would create a legal division at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and allow those GBI lawyers to serve as special prosecutors for gang crimes when requested. Currently, the GBI only investigates crimes. Kemp said he saw no reason to fear prosecutors working for an investigative agency instead of having independence, and said having them in an agency under his control underlined gang prosecutions as one of his priorities.

From Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Georgia has more than 71,000 gang members at large plus another roughly 30,000 in prison or on parole, according to Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds. It’s likely the actual number of gang members is higher, he said.

“This is the major issue facing law enforcement today,” Reynolds told a joint hearing of the House and Senate Public Safety committees on Monday.

Kemp’s budget calls for nearly $1.6 million this fiscal year and next to add seven agents and analysts to the gang task force, more than doubling its current staff. He launched the new task force last year under the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The budget would also pump $420,000 into a gang database created in 2010 that has gone unfunded. The database would allow local sheriff’s offices and city police departments to better share information on gang activity in the state, officials say.

Those additional funds come as Kemp has proposed budget cuts for several criminal justice areas like alternative-sentencing courts and the Georgia Public Defender Council.

Legislation to change the “jungle” election for the Senate seat held by Republican Kelly Loeffler is less likely to pass, according to the AJC.

House Speaker David Ralston says a bill to end free-for-all special elections in Georgia probably wouldn’t affect this year’s upcoming election for the U.S. Senate.

Ralston told News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB that it’s unlikely the bill would have an impact on the U.S. Senate special election, which under current Georgia law will include all candidates from multiple political parties on the same ballot in November.

“It was never directed at this special election,” Ralston said of House Bill 757. “This special election was not to be singled out. I think jungle primaries are bad policy. We’re just trying to change the policy moving forward.”

State appropriators will take a hatchet scalpel to Governor Kemp’s proposed budget, according to the AJC.

“It’s pretty obvious we’re not excited about these cuts,” state Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro, told the head of one state agency during testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee on health funding.

House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, said “the brunt of the cuts” appear targeted at some of the General Assembly’s most recent work, such as efforts over several years to alleviate the shortage of health care workers in rural Georgia.

Proposed cuts of particular interest to rural lawmakers include funding for county health departments, which stand to lose $6.4 million this year and $9.24 million next year.

That’s a significant blow, said House Appropriations Vice Chairman Clay Pirkle, who called the departments “the front line of health care in rural Georgia.”

“There are many counties in this great state that don’t have a doctor,” the Republican from Ashburn said, “but every one of them has a county health department.”

Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta will run for the United States Senate seat currently held by Republican Kelly Loeffler, according to The Epoch Times.

Warnock, who became the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church at the age of 35 in 2005, released a campaign announcement video highlighting his family and upbringing, saying his parents taught him and his 11 siblings the value of hard work.

Responding to those who might wonder why a pastor would run for Senate, Warnock told viewers: “I’ve always thought that my impact doesn’t stop at the church door; that’s actually where it starts. I love this country. I believe that what makes America so great, is that we’ve always had a path to make it greater.”

Warnock is vying for a seat that was vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), 75. Kelly Loeffler, a 49-year-old business executive, was selected to fill the seat temporarily by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican. The seat is up for grabs in the 2020 election, as is the seat held by Sen. David Purdue (R-Ga.), who is running for reelection.

Warnock is the third Democrat to join the race. Also running are Ed Tarver, a former federal prosecutor who served as U.S. attorney for Georgia’s Southern District under President Barack Obama; and Matt Lieberman, the son of former senator and vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.

Governor Stacey Abrams will appoint support Warnock for Senate, according to the AJC.

Stacey Abrams endorsed the Rev. Raphael Warnock’s bid for U.S. Senate on Thursday hours after the pastor of the famed Atlanta church entered the race, calling him a “proven leader” as she pledged to help him appeal to voters on the campaign trail.

“Wherever there is need, Reverend Warnock can be found on the front lines. And that’s where we need him at this moment. On the front lines of the battle for the soul of America,” Abrams wrote to supporters.

“So today, as he kicks off his campaign, I am proud to endorse Reverend Raphael Warnock for the U.S. Senate because Georgia must have a leader who sees all of us and serves all of us.”

United States Senator David Perdue (R-Sea Island) will report raising $2.5 million this quarter, according to the AJC.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue raised $2.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, including $1.8 million that went directly into his campaign account, his team announced today.

That leaves the Republican incumbent with $7.8 million in cash on hand for his reelection campaign this year.

“Georgians are proud of Senator Perdue’s record as a bipartisan leader and political outsider who gets results for our families,” campaign manager Ben Fry said in a statement. “Their early investment in his campaign shows they are not taking this election for granted and they are grateful that Senator Perdue is leading the way to grow our economy and keep Americans safe.”

State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) announced via Facebook that he will run for the Ninth Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Doug Collins.

Today I made an official announcement. I am running for United States Congress to fill the seat Doug Collins is vacating to run for Senate.

I have spent the last several days praying about the decision and talking it over with my family. I have truly enjoyed serving in the State House, but I feel the call to try to make a difference at the national level.

We will be sending out a lot of official posts as we move forward, but tonight I wanted to ask my friends to just remember me in prayer.

Will Wade, a Dawson County Board of Education member, told the Dawson News he’s considering running for Tanner’s seat in the State House.

Should Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) announce his decision to run for Georgia’s 9th Congressional District seat, longtime Dawson County Board of Education member Will Wade will likely run to fill Tanner’s seat in the state house of representatives, the education official announced on Thursday.

“Serving the Dawson County citizens and students over the past almost 16 years on the school board has been truly an honor,” Wade said in a statement to the Dawson County News. “Given the recent possibility of Kevin Tanner running for Congress I have had lots of phone calls and nudges from friends and customers to consider running for this house seat.”

Wade said he will likely make his announcement following Tanner’s decision.

“I believe in service and love Dawson County and this district. I know I have a heart and passion for my neighbors, this community and this region of the state,” Wade said. “Given my deep roots in Dawson, Lumpkin and Forsyth County both personally and professionally I am seriously considering running for State House to continue the next chapter in the call to serve.”

Georgia’s District 9 represents Lumpkin County and parts of Dawson and Forsyth counties. Tanner has held the state house position since 2013.

Brunswick lawyer Keith Higgins will run as an independent for Glynn County District Attorney, according to The Brunswick News.

Brunswick attorney Keith Higgins is looking to change those facts as he launches his campaign to unseat incumbent District Attorney Jackie Johnson. Higgins, who is running as an independent, discussed his entry into the race Wednesday with local news media at Brunswick Country Club.

Higgins, who worked as a prosecutor in the circuit for more than 20 years and as a defense attorney for nearly a decade more, said he feels the office is a calling. He also said he feels it’s time for a change — that some things need to be conducted differently to provide fairness for everyone in the system.

By running as an independent, Higgins needs the signatures of 5 percent of the number of registered voters in the circuit as of the 2016 general election. He has until July 14 to file his nomination petition with at least 4,991 verified signatures of voters in the counties of Glynn, Camden, Appling, Jeff Davis and Wayne.

Higgins’ candidacy is a bit of a surprise for more than one reason. In the past 28 years, there was primary opposition only three times to the person who won in November, and the last general election showdown had Republican nominee Stephen Kelly, now a superior court judge, defeating Democratic nominee John Johnson 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent — an ultimate difference of a little more than 4,000 votes.

Jackie Johnson’s run opposed in each of the past three general elections since receiving appointment to fill the end of Kelley’s term in 2010. However, Jonathan Miller, who worked as a local assistant district attorney from 2005 to 2012, challenged Johnson in the Republican primary. He lost in a rout, 68.57-31.43 percent, a difference of more than 10,000 votes out of more than 27,800 cast.

Nicole Love Hendrickson will run for Chair of the Gwinnett County Commission, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Longtime Gwinnett County outreach director Nicole Love Hendrickson announced she will step down from that position on Feb. 28 to run for chairman. She said she will run as a Democrat.

“I am uniquely qualified for this position because I have the proven experience in local government and understand the tough decisions that have to be made in order to balance the needs of the community with being a steward of our tax dollars,” Hendrickson said in a statement. “But most importantly, I have the heart to serve.”

“It gives me so much pride to look back on all I’ve accomplished in this short tenure,” Hendrickson said. “Community outreach started out as a concept, but has now evolved into an award-winning program that has motivated countless residents to volunteer in their communities, seek other opportunities to be more knowledgeable about their county government and even run for office.

Mitch Taylor announced he will run for Hall County Sheriff, according to the Gainesville Times.

Mitch Taylor joined the Hall County Sheriff’s Office in 1991 and retired in October 2013.

Following a stint as the Athens Technical College assistant police chief, Taylor has been a police officer with Braselton Police since September 2017.

“First, my campaign’s platform is based on integrity and trust. The sheriff is employed by the people of Hall County and must be visible and involved in the community as well as his agency. Second, loyalty and respect must be earned, and respecting the person behind the Sheriff title is a true mark of great leadership. Third, my proactive focus on the current and future needs of our community is critical,” Taylor said in a statement announcing his candidacy.

Kris Hall also announced a campaign for Hall County Sheriff, according to the Gainesville Times.

Habersham County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Kris Hall has entered the race for Hall County Sheriff.

Hall started his law enforcement career in 1996 following his service in the U.S. Army.

A graduate of Forsyth Central High School, Hall holds a criminal justice degree from Columbia Southern University and more than 3,200 hours of training through the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.

He currently supervises the traffic unit and part of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic unit.

The Bulloch County Board of Elections is hosting demos of the new voting system, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Bulloch County Board of Elections and Registration staff has a room set up until Feb. 27 to demonstrate the all-new voting equipment to civic and faith groups who call and schedule a time.

To make a group appointment, call (912) 764-6502. The demonstration should take about an hour, said Election Supervisor Patricia Lanier Jones.

Georgia’s new voting equipment, combining touchscreen digital voting and a printed-out paper ballot, amounts not so much to a single type of new voting machine as a set of different machines with which voters will interact.

Bibb County School District is soliciting parent input on a plan to increase parent involvement, according to WGXA.

WMAZ-13, The Macon Telegraph and GPB will hold listening sessions ahead of this year’s Macon elections, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Four Columbus schools went on lockdown yesterday morning, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 30, 2020

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)

Today’s historical moments below combine to show some of the major influences on Georgia politics and governance since her founding, and how the same conflicts have played out across the world, from Northern Ireland to India, to stages of rock and roll shows.

On January 30, 1788, the Georgia legislature passed a resolution calling for a state Constitutional Convention in Augusta to adopt a state Constitution that conformed to the new Constitution of the United States.

On January 30, 1862, the United States launced its first ironclad warship, USS Monitor.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York. In 1942, Roosevelt ordered Japanese-Americans on the west coast of the United States into concentration camps, leaving German and Italian Americans free.

On January 30, 1935, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. protested segregated elevators at the Fulton County Courthouse.

On January 30, 1948, Mohandas K. Gandhi was assassinated.

1920 Georgia Flag

On January 30, 1956, six members of the Georgia State House of Representatives introduced House Bill 98 to replace the red and white stripes on Georgia’s flag (above) with a Confederate battle flag (below). That same day, a bomb was thrown at the Birmingham, AL home of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1956 Georgia Flag

January 30, 1972 is remembered as Bloody Sunday in commemoration of the shooting of 26 civilians by British troops in Northern Ireland.

On January 30, 2001, the Georgia State Senate passed a house bill changing the state flag from the 1956 version to one that aggregated the State Seal and five former state flags, pictured below.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Congressman Doug Collins announced on Fox News that he will run for the United States Senate seat held by Kelly Loeffler. From FoxNews:

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., confirmed on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday morning that he will run for U.S. Senate in a November special election, challenging incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler — a move that drew a stunning rebuke from the organization tasked with defending the Republican Senate majority.

“We’re in for the Georgia Senate race down here. I’ve still got a lot of work left to do to help this president finish this impeachment out, and we’re going to make a bigger announcement down here in Georgia,” he told the “Fox & Friends” hosts.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, however, slammed Collins for what it said was an ill-advised and self-centered bid for higher office.

“The shortsightedness in this decision is stunning,” NRSC Executive Director Kevin McLaughlin said in a statement. “Doug Collins’ selfishness will hurt David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come. All he has done is put two senate seats, multiple house seats, and Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in play. The NRSC stands firmly behind Sen. Kelly Loeffler and urges anyone who wants to re-elect President Trump, hold the GOP senate majority, and stop socialism to do the same.”

Collins’ entrance into the race makes a runoff far more likely, which could potentially decide the balance of the Senate in a vote held in January, a month when most people are not accustomed to going to the polls.

From Fox5Atlanta:

“Anyone is welcome to run for the United States Senate,” said [Loeffler] Press Secretary Caitlin O’Dea. “Kelly Loeffler grew up on a farm, worked her way through college, and built a successful career in business. She’s a conservative outsider, not a career politician, who is willing to challenge Washington’s wasteful ways to keep our state and country moving in the right direction [...] Kelly Loeffler remains unapologetically supportive of President Trump and his policies to Keep America Great. Already she’s delivering conservative results for hardworking families in the Peach State. And that’s exactly what she’s going to keep doing.”

Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia’s Legislative Luncheon Wednesday, Governor Kemp reaffirmed his support for Loeffler.

“We need somebody fighting for us every single day,” said Kemp. “I said, ‘you go up there and do that and I will be with you fighting to make sure that we keep you as our U.S. Senator.’ And Marty, the girls, and I look forward to being on the campaign trail with her over the next few months.”

From the AJC:

Now that U.S. Rep. Doug Collins has made his Senate run official, other Georgia GOP members in the House have a difficult decision to make.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter said Collins’ decision to challenge Loeffler for the seat creates an “awkward situation.”

U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point, described Collins and Loeffler as “two absolutely great candidates” who each would reliably support conservative causes in Washington.

State Senator John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) announced yesterday that he will run for the Ninth Congressional District seat being vacated by Collins. From WGAU:

“This is a critical time for our country, and we need an experienced, conservative voice willing to stand up for the values that residents of North Georgia hold dear”, said Wilkinson. “For the past eight years in Atlanta, I have fought to eliminate useless red tape and regulation of business, defended the sanctity of all life, and fought for our constitutional rights guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment. I look forward to continuing that fight in Washington.”

A native of Toccoa and graduate of Stephens County High School, Wilkinson earned degrees in agriculture and education from the University of Georgia. He has experience as a classroom teacher and served on the State Agricultural Education staff for 26 years. He has served as State Advisor to the Georgia FFA Association, as well as the Georgia Young Farmer Association. He was recognized as the Outstanding Member of the National Association of Supervisors of Agricultural Education in 2006. He and his wife Debbie have two children and five grandchildren. John and Debbie are active members of Tates Creek Baptist Church.

Senator Wilkinson has served as Chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee in the Senate for the past eight years. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the Education and Youth Committee, as well as a member of the Natural Resources and the Environment, Appropriations and Rules Committees. He has served as Secretary of the Senate Majority Caucus for the past 6 years.

The Ninth Congressional District includes all of Banks, Dawson, Elbert, Fannin, Franklin, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Lumpkin, Madison, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, White and parts of Clarke, Forsyth and Pickens counties. To learn more about Senator John Wilkinson, please visit

Habersham County Commission Chair Stacy Hall announced via Facebook that he will run for the State Senate seat being vacated by Wilkinson.

I am truly grateful and humbled by the overwhelming support and encouragement throughout the district to run for the State Senate seat currently held by John K. Wilkinson. After much prayer and speaking with many individuals across the district, along with the encouragement of my wife Ivy Copeland Hall and our children, I have decided to run for Georgia Senate District 50. If elected, I plan to represent you in fighting for our North Georgia values and Constitutional Rights.

I am asking for your prayers and support as we start this campaign.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) is also mulling a run for Congress, according to the Gainesville Times.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) says he is weighing a run for Georgia’s 9th Congressional district seat.

The 9th District, which includes a large swath of northeast Georgia, including Dawson, Hall, Lumpkin and many other counties, has been held by Collins since 2013.

In a statement to the Dawson County News on Wednesday, Tanner said that he has received a tremendous amount of support from constituents and colleagues, who have urged him to consider running for the seat.

“Well it’s unexpected and not something I was ever really planning,” he said. “But I’m definitely considering it.”

After much prayer and time spent talking with people in the 9th District, Tanner says he will likely make a decision one way or another in the next few days.

Under the Gold Dome Today – LD7




10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD8) House Chamber



1:00 PM SENATE JOINT House Education and Senate Education and Youth 606 CLOB





1:00 PM HOUSE Powell Public Safety and Homeland Security Subcommittee CANCELLED 415 CLOB












The State Senate Transportation Committee will not regulate electric scooters, but laid the groundwork for local governments to do so, according to AccessWDUN.

The Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a new version of Senate Bill 159, which would define electric scooters in state law. But it would do nothing else, leaving other regulations up to local governments.

State Sen. Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega Republican, told committee members Tuesday that’s how the scooter companies and local governments both want it.

“Local governments should be doing backflips and cartwheels,” Gooch said. “They’re getting everything they asked for.’”

The study committee, which Gooch chaired, recommended regulating impounds and encouraging safer scooter designs and docks to alleviate the problem of scooters being strewn on sidewalks. However, it also said the state “should be careful not to overregulate the micromobility industry.” Gooch says he hopes cities don’t ban scooters.

“We believe scooters are a good solution to the first- and last-mile transit problem,” Gooch said, saying they help people reach buses and trains.

The State Senate Agriculture Committee heard a proposed new version of House Bill 545, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Georgia Right to Farm Act of 2020, now before the state Senate, would make it more difficult for property owners living in areas zoned for agriculture to sue nearby agricultural operations such as poultry houses or cattle ranches for offensive smells or runoff from sludge lagoons.

In order to sue, property owners would have to be located within five miles of the source of the alleged nuisance. The bill also would require lawsuits to be brought within two years after a nuisance occurs, compared to four years in the current law.

Supporters told members of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Tuesday farmers need more protection against nuisance lawsuits as Georgia’s growing population brings more people who don’t farm for a living into closer proximity to agricultural operations.

“Agribusiness often comes with smells, sights, and dust,” said Will Bentley, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council. “We have to decide whether to protect the state’s No.-1 industry.”

Sen. Zahra Karinshak, D-Duluth, said the proposed changes to the law would make existing owners of farm properties more vulnerable to large agricultural polluters that move into their neighborhoods. She questioned the need to change the law when there’s no data showing whether there has been an outbreak of nuisance lawsuits in Georgia.

From the Georgia Recorder:

The so-called “Right to Farm” bill would add new limitations for when nuisance complaints can be filed against farmers. A new iteration unveiled Tuesday afternoon softened some of the proposed changes from last year, but environmentalists and Democrats still argue the current law is working just fine.

There may not be widespread nuisance complaints being filed against farmers statewide, but successful lawsuits against the hog industry in North Carolina were enough to send chills across the country in recent years. The bill is considered a top priority for the agricultural industry this session.

The current law grants a four-year window for someone to pursue a nuisance complaint. The new proposal would allow for two years, which is a year longer than last year’s bill. It also requires the aggrieved to be a property owner who lives within five miles of their gripe’s target. The Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee did not vote on the measure Tuesday.

Opponents, like Damon Mullis with the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, argued that these changes and others disrupt the balance that the current law provides and hurt long-time residents of rural Georgia. He noted that the proposal now appears to nix protections against urban sprawl – one of the concerns driving the original law.

“For over 30 years, the ‘Right to Farm’ law has worked to protect farmers and rural property owners and now for some reason we’re trying to fix a problem that I don’t think really exists,” Mullis said.

Former Governor Nathan Deal toured the judicial building that now bears his name, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Deal, Georgia Supreme Court Justices and several others visited the building Wednesday morning for a tour. They also heard from a former prison inmate, William Rutledge, and saw some of the furniture in the building made by inmates from three Georgia Department of Corrections facilities.

At $130 million, the building is intended to last 100 years, which was Deal’s vision when he secured the funding and won the legislature’s support for it. The building is now owned and managed by the Georgia Building Authority, though different courts lease it.

The building came in $1 million under budget, but what helps it stand out is that a number of pieces of furniture were designed and constructed by Georgia prison inmates through Georgia Correctional Industries.

“I think this is emblematic of all of those reforms that we worked for while I was governor,” Deal said. “I have so many people to thank and certainly Justice Michael Boggs is one of those because he was the consistent co-chair of the Criminal Justice Reform Commission from its very inception. He and many other have worked really hard to get those reforms passed … and I can’t think of a better illustration of all of that coming together than in this facility.”

A federal judge has drawn new districts and ordered elections in Sumter County, according to the AJC.

U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands created four districts in Sumter County where more than 60% of the voting population is made up of African Americans, giving them a better chance to win a majority on the seven-member school board.

Sands also eliminated two at-large districts that were elected countywide and are held by white school board members.

The judge found that the school districts had disempowered black voters and violated the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 law that prohibits racial discrimination in elections.

“This ruling is a victory for the parents and children of Sumter County who want an equal say in their education,” said Sean Young, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “At-large districts have traditionally been a racist tool for preventing black voters from electing candidates of their choice. The court today has eliminated those at-large seats.”

An attorney defending the Sumter County elections board said he plans to appeal Sands’ ruling.

The Special Election for State House in southwest Georgia exposed some growing pains with the new voting system, according to the AJC.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Georgia’s new voting system performed well during a special election Tuesday, saying voters experienced “just two minor issues.”

But poll watchers said they observed more problems, including scanners that wouldn’t initially accept ballots and a lack of voter privacy when they made their choices on touchscreens.

Raffensperger said several voter access cards, used to activate ballots on the touchscreens, weren’t working because a poll worker had been inserting them the wrong way in the computer that encodes them.

In addition, 13 ballots had to placed in an emergency ballot box when a ballot scanner lost power. A technician found that the scanner wasn’t plugged in.

“The transition to any new system will inevitably trigger some human error, and we experienced some minor ones Tuesday,” Raffensperger said in a statement Wednesday. “Our challenge is to scale up this success to more than 2,000 polling places in March for the presidential preference primary.”

The problems didn’t prevent anyone from voting or delay precincts from opening on time, he said.

The election for DeKalb Commission Super District 6 is gaining candidates after incumbent Kathie Gannon announced she will not seek reelection. From the Champion:

Gannon made her announcement Jan. 24 stating: “It is time for the next generation to move on up, to provide the energy, initiative and new ideas to build upon what we have started to continue progressive movement forward in DeKalb County.”

Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry announced Jan. 27 that he will soon resign his role as mayor to run for the District 6 DeKalb County commission seat and realtor Robert Murphy also started his campaign for the seat. Digital media executive Emily Halevy announced her intent one day prior to Gannon’s announcement.

Gannon, whose term is set to expire Dec. 31, has endorsed Halevy to take over as the District 6 representative upon her departure.

“Please take the time to get to know any candidates for District 6 to make sure they are sincere about public service and serving you; that they are accessible and that they can work with the board of commissioners,” Gannon stated. “I am thrilled to present to you for your consideration the person I will support as my District 6 County Commissioner, Emily Halevy.”

DeKalb County Super District 6 includes portions of the city of Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, and Dunwoody.

Candidates may officially qualify for the seat March 2, ahead of the May 19 General Election Primary.

The Macon-Bibb County Mayoral race has lost candidates, according to 41 NBC.

harles Olson announced he’s dropping out of the Macon-Bibb mayoral race Tuesday.

Now, a second candidate has decided to drop out of the race as well. Michael McKeever announced that he’s ending his campaign Wednesday at the Board of Elections Office. McKeever thanked everyone who contributed to his campaign and, and says he will endorse Stanley Stewart.

A proposed mining facility near the Okefenokee Swamp is drawing more opposition, according to The Brunswick News.

Opposition is mounting against the proposed titanium mine by Twin Pines Minerals near the south end of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

State Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, has joined more than 25 regional, state and national organizations to express concerns about the proposed mining project.

In a letter written to Col. Daniel Hibner, with the Army Corps of Engineers office in Savannah, Ligon said the 12,000-acre heavy mineral sands mine could impact many of his constituents.

“The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was designated in 1937 and enjoys over 600,000 visitors annually,” Ligon said in his letter. “I join more than 20,000 citizens, businesses and organizations, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Georgia Environmental Protection Division to express my concern for the long-term impacts that may result from the proposed mine.”

Jill Biden, wife of former Vice President Joe Biden, will speak in Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

She will be the keynote speaker at the 35th annual Black History Month Observance Breakfast in the Columbus Convention and Trade Center on Feb. 17, starting at 7 a.m.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 29, 2020

On January 29, 1779, British forces captured Augusta, Georgia.

Walter F George Vienna Georgia

Walter F. George was born on January 29, 1878 in Preston, the county seat for Webster County, Georgia. Ron Daniels has a brief bio of the United States Senator who gave his name to a Law School, a courthouse, and a lake. The photo above is a bust in the town square of Vienna, Georgia, in Dooly County, where George made his home.

On January 29, 1892, the Coca Cola Company was incorporated in Georgia in Fulton County Superior Court.

On January 29, 1955, Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin signed legislation granting the power to take land needed for the Stone Mountain Park through condemnation if negotiations to buy it fell through.

On January 29, 1977, Congressman Andrew Young resigned his seat to accept the nomination by President Carter as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

On January 29, 1998, a bomb exploded in a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic, killing a police officer. Eric Rudolph would later admit to setting that bomb, along with the Centennial Park bombing in 1996, and the bombing of a Sandy Springs abortion clinic and an Atlanta bar in 1997.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Joe Campbell of Camilla won the Special Election for House District 171, according to WALB.

Joe Campbell (R) has been elected in the special election to fill the seat after the sudden death of [State Rep. Jay] Powell. He will now represent Colquitt, Decatur and Mitchell counties in the Georgia House.

Campbell was running against fellow Republican, Tommy Akridge, and Democrat Jewell Howard.

Howard garnered 33.35 percent of the votes while Akridge managed 8.38 percent, leaving Campbell with 58.27 percent and a strong victory over the other two candidates.

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway announced he will not run for reelection this year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Conway, a Republican, was Gwinnett County’s longest-tenured sheriff. He was first elected to the post as a Republican in 1996 and was continually re-elected after that. There had been uncertainty for months, however, as to whether he would seek re-election this year.

“My decision to not seek re-election was not made easily, but I have reached a point in my life where I desire to pursue other opportunities which will afford me more time with my family, who recently suffered a great loss,” Conway said in a statement.

His son-in law, Chris Clay, recently died after a long battle with brain cancer.

“That’s been a big loss,” he said in a press conference Tuesday. “… It’s affected our family and I’ve got a daughter I want to help now. That’s not the only reason (I chose to not run for re-election). I still want to pursue business. I’ve always been a businessman at heart. I got out of law enforcement in the ’80s – didn’t plan on going back in but it’s just the way things happened.”

So far, there are five Democrats seeking the party’s nomination for sheriff, including Curtis Clemons, Keybo Taylor, Ben Haynes, Floyd Scott and Jerry Ramos-Acre. Recent election cycles have seen Gwinnett increasingly go for Democrats, including Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 and Stacey Abrams for governor in 2018.

Democrats also flipped two county commission seats, a school board seat, the solicitor general’s office and several state legislative seats in the county in 2018.

“In the sheriff’s office, a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ doesn’t really mean anything because the job is to prosecute people that violate the laws in the state of Georgia or the United States,” he said. “That’s not a big effect on the sheriff.”

In his statement, Conway said he hired Chief Deputy Lou Solis two years ago with the intention of preparing him to succeed him, though he didn’t know it would be so soon. Conway endorsed him for sheriff on Tuesday due to his work ethic, abilities and commitment, he said.

“Chief Deputy Solis has worked exhaustively over the past two years to familiarize himself with our operations,” Conway said. “His work ethic is unparalleled and his contributions to our office are great. He has demonstrated outstanding leadership time and time again.”

Under the Gold Dome – LD 7


10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 7) House Chamber







2:00 PM SENATE DOT Board Election- 7th Cong. District Senate Chamber

2:00 PM HOUSE Ad Valorem Tax Subcommittee of Ways & Means 133 CAP

2:30 PM HOUSE Energy Subcommittee of Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications 415 CLOB


3:00 PM SENATE DOT Board Election- 8th Cong. District Senate Chamber







Vacation plans for legislators and lobbyists may have to wait for a longer than usual legislative session. From the AJC:

The intense budget fight brewing between Kemp and Ralston, over both the extent of cuts needed and where the knife should slice, already has lobbyists and lawmakers advising each other to prepare for a legislative session that could drag on through mid-April.

On Monday, both Ralston and the governor appeared before members of the Georgia Municipal Association at a gathering near the state Capitol. The House speaker sought allies.

“In weddings, they tell you to speak now or forever hold your peace,” Ralston told the mayors. “I’m telling you much the same this morning. Because soon it will be too late.”

State budget cut decisions on health care will be controversial, according to the AJC.

Legislators writing the Georgia budget said they will push back at cuts to health care funding proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

“It’s pretty obvious we’re not excited about these cuts,” state Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro, told the head of one state agency testifying Tuesday before a House Appropriations subcommittee on health funding. He said the Legislature had spent years trying to understand and fight key health care problems in the state, especially in rural areas, and finally had programs hitting the ground to do that.

“It appears that the cuts are all the new programs that we have added over the last few years,” Parrish said. “And we’re going to take a long hard look at that.”

State Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said it was “painful” to see cuts to a program that subsidizes doctors and other professionals in rural areas in order to persuade them to keep working there. Half of Georgia’s counties have no ob/gyn, and a handful have no doctor at all.

The program is already subsidizing 37 doctors, but the state funded an additional 13. Doctors applied for the slots, but then the recent budget proposal would cut the program back to 37. The same with nurses and physician’s assistants, which went back from 25 slots each to 20.

“It’s sort of a yo-yo effect,” Hawkins said. “They make plans based on what we’re telling them we’re going to do. And then we say, ‘Well never mind,’ you know? … If we can find some money to fix this, we’re going to look for it I think.”

Parrish, the subcommittee chairman, said changes were coming to Kemp’s budget, no matter that the governor wields the veto pen.

“It’s my understanding that he recommends and the General Assembly appropriates,” Parrish said.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is asking for additional budgeting to cover defending the state against election-related lawsuits, according to the AJC.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is asking state budget writers to approve an additional $200,000 to help the state defend itself against mounting elections lawsuits.

The money would pay for attorneys and legal costs associated with the rising expense of court cases, including one alleging that the state’s election laws create obstacles to voting and that voting machines aren’t secure.

“Recently our state’s election laws have become a central focus of litigation,” Carr told a House Appropriations subcommittee. “The fiscal impact that this litigation will have on the state in the coming months and years is significant.”

Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget would transfer nearly $200,000 from the secretary of state’s office to the attorney general’s budget for “legal services to support election litigation and cyber security” in fiscal 2020 and 2021.

Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin warned that cuts to funding for accountability courts may prevent new courts from being established, according to the AJC.

Accountability courts, the centerpiece of Nathan Deal’s efforts to overhaul the state’s criminal justice system when he was governor, take in drug addicts, the mentally ill, veterans and those charged with DUI. The 18- to 24-month-long programs allow participants to avoid jail and prison time if they stay sober, get treatment, get an education and hold a job.

Over the past eight years, with increased funding and incentives, the number of such courts statewide has increased from 72 to 163, with the number of participants growing from about 3,000 to more than 12,000.

The cost savings can be enormous, Gosselin said, noting that housing an inmate in prison costs taxpayers about $18,000 a year, while the cost for an accountability court participant is about $3,600.

The judge added that the cuts would have more of a detrimental effect on accountability courts in rural areas, where local counties are unable to provide as much additional funding support as those in metro areas. Startup courts will also suffer, largely for the same reason, Gosselin said.

The Georgia State Senate adopted House Bill 444, which changes dual enrollment eligibility, according to the AJC.

House Bill 444 would restrict students to a total of 30 college credit hours, and would mainly limit courses to 11th and 12th grade students, with some exceptions. Currently, they can take up to 15 credit hours a semester.

Students who want to take more than 30 credit hours would have to pay for additional classes. The legislation has a grandfather clause for current dual enrollment students.

Proponents say the legislation is needed to reduce the rising costs of the state’s dual enrollment program, once known as Move On When Ready, which began in 1992. A 2018 state audit found general fund spending for the dual enrollment program increased by more than 325% over the prior five years. The 2019 fiscal year budget was about $105 million.

The bill’s critics questioned whether a thorough analysis was done to determine program costs. They also raised concerns that it would discourage some lower-income students from seeking a college degree since they may have to pay for some dual enrollment courses.

The State Senate Regulated Industries Committee herad Senate Bill 298 to regulate vaping by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), according to AccessWDUN.

Georgia lawmakers considering restrictions on vaping products heard from doctors and students Tuesday who said e-cigarette use is prevalent among children and poses serious risks to their health.

More than 2,600 people nationwide have been diagnosed with a vaping-related lung illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dozens of people have died.

A bill before the Georgia Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities committee would raise the minimum age to purchase vaping products in the state from 18 to 21, increase penalties for selling them to minors and restrict packaging that appeals to young people. It would also require schools to teach students about the dangers of vaping.

“My biggest concern is those marketing schemes of where they’re trying to appeal to a younger and younger audience,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said.

The State House Governmental Affairs Committee recommended passage of legislation that would change this year’s election for the Isakson Senate seat from a jungle election to a primary process, according to the AJC.

The House Governmental Affairs Committee approved the legislation that would replace a planned free-for-all special election in November with a partisan primary election in May. Then the Republican and Democratic nominees would compete head-to-head in a November election.

The Republican-led committee and its Democratic minority joined forces in support of the proposal, with only one no vote from a Republican representative.

The bill sets up a clash between Republicans who support Collins and Loeffler. Meanwhile, Democrats backing the proposal are seeking to unify around one Senate candidate. So far, entrepreneur Matt Lieberman and former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver are seeking the Senate seat, while the Rev. Raphael Warnock of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church is considering a run.

“If you trust the primary process and if you trust the voters and want to give them the max opportunity to weigh in as members of parties that are an integral part of our process, I would ask you to vote in favor of this bill,” said committee Chairman Shaw Blackmon, a Republican from Bonaire.

From the Albany Herald:

Congressman Doug Collins, a Gainesville Republican who is among President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies, will likely enter the race to complete former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term, several media outlets reported Monday night. Isakson resigned at year’s end due to health complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Collins’ path to compete against Loeffler, an Atlanta businesswoman, could be made easier by legislation aimed at overhauling rules governing the special election in Georgia to fill Isakson’s seat. Kemp, who picked Loeffler last month to hold the seat until a November election, has said he would veto the bill if it clears the Georgia General Assembly.

If passed, the special-election bill moving through the state legislature would greatly reduce chances for a runoff in a jungle primary, which likely would result in votes being split between several strong candidates all competing at once. The top candidate in the free-for-all format would need more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff with the second-highest vote getter.

The State House Retirement Committee adopted a measure (HB 757) that would increase legislative pensions, according to the AJC.

The House Retirement Committee backed a bill Tuesday that it has approved in the past to raise what for most lawmakers are relatively small retirement payments.

Under House Bill 67, sponsored by Retirement Chairman Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, lawmakers would be eligible to receive 38% of their highest salary or $50 per month per year of service as a pension, whichever is higher. It would also increase the contribution lawmakers make into the system to help pay for the higher pension.

At $50 per month, per year, a lawmaker serving 20 years would receive $1,000 a month as his or her pension.

Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, a member of the committee, said the optics were poor considering that the House is holding budget hearings this week on Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to cut $200 million in spending from state agencies this fiscal year and $300 million next year. In some cases, employees have been laid off, but many of the cuts involve eliminating or not filling vacant positions.

“At a time of budget cuts, I don’t think it sends the right message that legislators are giving themselves an increase in their retirement benefit,” Wilkerson said. “I’d say bring it back next year when we have a better budget situation and we can discuss it then.”

United States Senator David Perdue announced his statewide campaign leadership team, according to WALB.

“Georgians sent me to the Senate to tackle tough challenges and find solutions. Since day one, I have been focused on breaking through the gridlock and getting things done. I am forever grateful for the support of so many people from across the state who have stepped forward to join my leadership team,” Perdue said. “Serving the people of Georgia in the United States Senate continues to be the greatest honor of my life and I cannot do it without your help. That’s why I am committed to keeping up the fight for conservative principles and getting results for families across our state from growing our economy, creating opportunity for our kids, and keeping all Americans safe.”

Click here for the full list.

State Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) and radio host Martha Zoller are unlikely to join the race for the Ninth Congressional District seat expected to become vacant due to Rep. Doug Collins running for the Isakson Senate seat. From AccessWDUN:

“I am certainly going to consider running for this position, but I, at this time, am leaning toward not running,” Zoller, host of WDUN’s weekday political talk show “Morning Talk,” said.

Miller was more adamant that he wouldn’t be a candidate.

“I am not planning on being a candidate for the congressional race,” Miller said. “I will be serving the 49th senate district and continuing my role as president pro tem of the state senate. I feel very gratified doing that and I feel that’s where I should be.”

Besides Miller and Zoller, other candidates who are being mentioned as possible candidates for the U.S. House are Chris Riley, former chief of staff for Gov. Nathan Deal; state Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega; state Sen. John Wilkinson of Toccoa, whose current district includes a portion of Hall County; and former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, who now lives in Towns County.

The Port of Savannah set new records for yearly throughput, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Last year proved to be another record year for the Port of Savannah with 4.6 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) moving through the port during the Calendar Year 2019, which was an increase of nearly 250,000 TEUs or 5.6% compared to the previous year.

“It was a record year and the fourth consecutive year in a row that we’ve achieved record status,” Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch said Tuesday, Jan. 28, during the authority’s monthly board meeting.

On the container side, Lynch attributes the growth to the expansion of the Panama Canal and larger ships.

“We’re still enjoying the fruits of that and the expansion of the vessels; up sizing is still happening,” he said.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 28, 2020

On January 28, 1733, Georgia’s first colonists celebrated a day of thanksgiving for their safe arrival in Savannah and Chief Tomochichi’s granting them permission to settle on the Yamacraw Bluff.

On January 28, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed a joint resolution of the Georgia House and Senate amending the Georgia Constitution to make the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia a constitutional board and reduce the power of the Governor over the Regents.

The movement to a constitutional board came after the loss of accreditation of all Georgia state higher education institutions for white people. The previous Governor, Eugene Talmadge, had engineered the firing of UGA’s Dean of the College of Education; after the Board of Regents initially refused to fire the Dean, Talmadge dismissed three members, and replaced them with new appointees who voted for the firing. Talmadge lost the 1942 election to Arnall.

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff as many Americans watched on live television. President Ronald Reagan addressed the loss of seven astronauts.

Reagan had originally been scheduled to give his State of the Union that evening, but cancelled the speech. His address on the Challenger disaster was written by Peggy Noonan. The speech written by Noonan and delivered by Reagan is ranked as one of the top ten political speeches of the 20th Century.

Happy birthday today to Northwestern University (1851), Yale Daily News (1878), the first daily college newspaper in the country, the United States Coast Guard (1915), and the Lego brick, which was patented on January 28, 1958.

Elvis Presley made his first appearance on television on January 28, 1956 on the Stage Show on CBS.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – LD6



8:00 AM CANCELLED Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics 506 CLOB

10:00 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 6) House Chamber





1:30 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 132 CAP






2:00 PM HOUSE Public Finance and Policy Subcommittee of Ways and Means 133 CAP

2:30 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 132 CAP









Governor Brian Kemp made clear that changes to House Bill 757, legislation on qualifying for the “Jungle Primary” Senate election would not be viewed favorably, according to the AJC.

 At 3 p.m. [Mondy], a lowly House subcommittee will take up House Bill 757, a measure intended to clarify the right of the secretary of state to set an early March qualifying date for candidates — Democrats and Republicans — who want to challenge U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the November special election.

Late Sunday, Gov. Brian Kemp sent word that the bill is not to be tinkered with. In essence, the governor confirmed the existence of rebellious GOP sentiment in the state Capitol to challenge his December appointment of Loeffler to the seat vacated by the retiring Johnny Isakson.

Last week, we were the first to tell you that House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville, was searching for Republican partners to amend HB 757, so that the all-comers special election would be converted to the more traditional cycle of a May primary, followed by a November general election.

Kemp has promised a veto of the measure if it becomes an attack on Loeffler. But in their public opposition, aides aren’t admitting any vulnerability on the new senator’s part. Rather, they argue that a change in the calendar risks voter confusion and more court challenges from voting rights groups already seeking vast changes to the election system.

The House Governmental Affairs Elections Subcommittee took the bait, according to the AJC.

A panel of Georgia representatives voted Monday in favor of creating a partisan primary in the state’s upcoming U.S. Senate election, introducing a new challenge to Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s candidacy despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s veto threat.

The coalition of Republicans and Democrats on an elections subcommittee voted 8-2 to approve the fast-moving legislation before this year’s elections. The bill could receive a committee vote Tuesday as it races toward the full House.

Under current Georgia law, both Republicans and Democrats would meet in a free-for-all election in November. The measure that advanced Monday, House Bill 757, would require a special primary May 19, the same date as regularly scheduled primary elections for offices besides the president. Georgia’s presidential primary is March 24.

“It boils down to whether you believe in the party process and whether you believe those voices should be heard,” said House Governmental Affairs Chairman Shaw Blackmon, a Republican from Bonaire, speaking in support of the bill pending before his committee. “It benefits Georgians. It benefits the party process, which is an integral part of our elections process.”

Kemp sent a message Sunday that the legislation for a special primary election is dead on arrival if it reaches his desk.

“You don’t change the rules at halftime to benefit one team over another,” said Candice Broce, Kemp’s spokeswoman. “People are sick and tired of it. The governor will veto any bill that attempts to undermine the rule of law for perceived political gain.”

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

House Minority Leader Robert Trammell, D-Luthersville, said eliminating the jungle primary would make the special election less confusing for voters.

“Anytime you have a general election with one candidate for each party, it provides voters with a clear opportunity to evaluate the candidates and a clear contrast between the candidates,” he said.

Speaking of which, Rep. Doug Collins is expected to announce his campaign for the Isakson Senate seat, according to the New York Times.

Representative Doug Collins, one of the faces of President Trump’s impeachment defense, plans to challenge Senator Kelly Loeffler in this fall’s special election for one of Georgia’s Senate seats, people familiar with his intentions said on Monday.

Mr. Collins’s long-expected decision sets the stage for a brutal Republican-on-Republican fight that will put a prominent House conservative known for his defenses of Mr. Trump against a wealthy businesswoman appointed in recent weeks to fill the state’s vacant Senate seat. Democrats also see the contest as a potential opportunity to pick up a seat in November.

Mr. Collins is expected to announce his campaign on Tuesday, according to the people familiar with his plans, who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Mr. Collins’s decision to abandon his House seat will also have implications in that chamber. Two close allies of Mr. Trump, Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and John Ratcliffe of Texas, are the leading contenders to replace him as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, a coveted post. Both men helped lead Mr. Trump’s impeachment defense in the House.

From the Hill:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the news.

The development could make it tougher for the GOP to hold onto the traditionally red Senate seat in 2020. The pair of Republicans will now be spending millions of dollars bashing each other in a state that recently has become a key battleground.

In 2018, Republican Brian Kemp narrowly edged out Democrat Stacey Abrams in the Georgia governor’s race 50.2 percent to 48.8 percent.

From WSB-TV:

Collins, who is set to be at the Georgia Statehouse on Tuesday, has started to line up campaign staff and call politicians and supporters to inform them of his decision to enter the race, according to several people who received the calls but requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.

With Collins’ decision, Kemp’s hopes of unifying Republicans behind his Senate appointment are dashed at a time when the GOP can’t afford much discord. Democrats have circled Georgia as a top 2020 target, eager to flip Georgia’s two Senate seats and upend the GOP’s 53-47 control of the chamber.

The prospect of multiple well-funded Republicans slicing into each other’s base on a November ballot raises the likelihood of a January 2021 runoff if no candidate gets a majority of the vote – and the possibility that a Democrat who consolidates party support can win the contest outright.

From the AJC:

Another U.S. House seat in Georgia will be up for grabs now that Rep. Doug Collins is preparing to challenge Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and an eclectic cast of characters will soon be jockeying for the deeply-conservative seat he’s held since his 2012 election.

Among the possible contenders for the north Georgia district are a well-known radio host, a few powerful state lawmakers and a former congressman who once unsuccessfully challenged Collins.

One of the more likely candidates is former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, who once represented portions of the district in Congress before redistricting in 2012. Broun ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2014 and was trounced by Collins in a 2016 primary.

Another former Collins rival, radio commentator Martha Zoller, could also seek the seat. After she was defeated by Collins in a 2012 runoff, Zoller has worked for both U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Gov. Brian Kemp, and recently launched a new Gainesville-based radio show.

It’s the third open U.S. House seat in Georgia on the November ballot. U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall said he wouldn’t stand for another term after winning the tightest House race in the nation in 2018, and more than a dozen candidates from both parties are running for his Gwinnet-based seat.

And U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, the senior-most Republican in the state’s delegation, announced his retirement late last year, triggering a wide-open race to represent the solidly Republican district.

Governor Brian Kemp‘s administration is asking for new legislation to combat criminal gangs, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds, Attorney General Chris Carr and others told a House-Senate panel Monday that gangs are a serious problem needing further action.

GBI wants to strengthen a state law it already touts as the nation’s strongest. Perhaps most controversially, GBI wants the power to begin investigating gang crimes without an invitation from local officials, as is needed now. Reynolds told The Associated Press that he anticipates “open discussions” with sheriffs and others who might be hesitant over that authority.

Reynolds said he also wants changes that would clarify that each separate act listed in the state’s 2010 anti-gang law could be prosecuted as a separate offense, allowing prosecutors to load up charges with hefty potential prison sentences for gang members.

Kemp and his officials have called for a gang database that investigators could use to share information. They’ve also proposed a public gang registry that would function like the current public sex offender registry, publicizing the names and residences of convicted offenders. Officials want to enshrine Georgia’s current gang task force in law, and allow prosecutors to consolidate criminal cases across county lines, instead of prosecuting individual offenses separately in individual counties.

Georgia and Florida have 45 days to reply to a ruling in the decades-long water lawsuit, according to the Gainesville Times.

The U.S. Supreme Court is giving Georgia and Florida 45 days to file briefs responding to a Dec. 11 report issued by a special master who ruled against Florida.

The court’s notice is indicated on a docket listing proceedings and orders in the case dating to September 2013.

In the latest litigation, Florida has claimed it has suffered economic and ecological harm from Georgia’s “overconsumption of water” in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which straddles Georgia, Florida and Alabama and has Lake Lanier as its headwaters.

In his 81-page ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. recommended that the Supreme Court not grant Florida’s request for an equitable apportioning of waters in the ACF.

The Supreme Court will decide whether to accept Kelly’s recommendation.

The Gwinnett County Ethics Board ruled on a complaint by D.A. King against County Commissioner Marlene Fosque, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A Gwinnett County ethics board assembled to hear Dustin Inman Society founder D.A. King’s ethics complaint against county Commissioner Marlene Fosque decided Monday that she did commit two of the six allegations made against her and is recommending she receive a written warning from her colleagues.

“While the overwhelming majority of Commissioner Fosque’s actions in conceiving, planning, salvaging and conducting the forum are highly commendable and reflect a welcomed commitment to the county and its residents, her (Aug. 6, 2019) comments fall short of the ‘earnest effort and best thought’ required by (the ethics code’s) Section 54-24(4) and amount to ‘conduct … unbecoming to a member [of the Board of Commissioners]‘ within the meaning of Section 54-24(11),” the ethics board said in its decision.

The complaint itself was over Fosque’s remarks at the Aug. 6 Board of Commissioners meeting, in which she said “I rebuke, denounce, deplore, and condemn” King’s participation in the 287(g) forum.

Whitfield County Commissioners may consider declaring the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

During their work session Monday, commissioners heard from Whitfield County resident Tyler Martin, who started a petition asking commissioners to commit to the Second Amendment sanctuary movement. The petition had more than 2,600 signatures Monday night.

Some members of the commission said they believe they will take action on Martin’s request.

“It’s my understanding that (County Administrator) Mark Gibson and (County Attorney) Robert Smalley are looking into this,” said Commissioner Barry Robbins. “I’ll have to see the final proposal, but it certainly sounds reasonable.”

“I think we’ll support the Second Amendment,” said Commissioner Greg Jones.

Commissioner Roger Crossen also expressed support for the idea.

More than 200 counties across the United States have declared themselves to be Second Amendment sanctuaries in the last two months, spurred by controversial gun control measures passed by the Virginia state legislature, according to The Hill website.

The Whitfield County Commission voted to put a $66 million dollar Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the November ballot, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The county Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 on Monday to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Dalton that will determine how the SPLOST dollars are spent as well as a referendum to place the measure on the May ballot. The Dalton City Council voted last week to approve the intergovernmental agreement.

“We don’t need an intergovernmental agreement, but it’s better if we do,” said board Chairman Lynn Laughter. “It makes for a more orderly process.”

County Attorney Robert Smalley said one of the advantages of the agreement is that it allows the smaller cities of Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell to get their share of the SPLOST “towards the front” rather than get a small share each month of the SPLOST.

A SPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county that can be used for capital projects and some other items but not operating expenses.

Democrat Stacey Abrams will speak to the Brooks County NAACP Branch #5173 at their 10th annual Freedom Fund Banquet next month, according to ValdostaToday.