Category: Georgia Politics

9
Aug

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

On August 10, 1774, a group calling itself the “Sons of Liberty” met at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah, the first move in Georgia toward what would become the Revolutionary War. The Sons of Liberty adopted eight resolutions, among those one that reads,

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That we apprehend the Parliament of Great Britain hath not, nor ever had, any right to tax his Majesty’s American subjects; for it is evident beyond contradiction, the constitution admits of no taxation without representation; that they are coeval and inseparable; and every demand for the support of government should be by requisition made to the several houses of representatives.

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That we concur with our sister colonies in every constitutional measure to obtain redress of American grievances, and will by every lawful means in our power, maintain those inestimable blessings for which we are indebted to God and the Constitution of our country–a Constitution founded upon reason and justice, and the indelible rights of mankind.

The first copy in Georgia of the Declaration of Independence was read publicly in Savannah on August 10, 1776.

On August 10, 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completed “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”

Missouri was admitted as the 24th State, and the first entirely west of the Mississippi River, on August 10, 1821.

On August 11, 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg declared martial law in Atlanta.

On August 10, 1864, the bombardment of Atlanta by Union force continued, with Sherman writing, ““Let us destroy Atlanta and make it a desolation.”

Sherman-and-Cannon Atlanta

Herman E. Talmadge was born on August 9, 1913, son of Eugene Talmadge, who later served as Governor. Herman Talmadge himself served as Governor and United States Senator from Georgia.

The first Georgia state Motor Fuel Tax was enacted on August 10, 1921, when Governor Thomas Hardwick signed legislation imposing a one-cent per gallon tax.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the summer commencement address at the University of Georgia on August 11, 1938. Later that day, Roosevelt endorsed Lawrence Camp over incumbent Governor Walter F. George, saying George had not been sufficiently supportive of the New Deal.

Japan accepted unconditional surrender on August 10, 1945, one day after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

The Atlanta Braves signed legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige on August 11, 1968.

Red Dawn, the first movie rated PG-13 was released on August 10, 1984.

Wolverines!

On August 11, 1984, Ronald Reagan jokingly announced that he had “signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever…we begin bombing in five minutes,” without knowing he was speaking into a live microphone.

On August 9, 1988, President Ronald Reagan announced his nomination of Dr. Lauro Cavazos as Secretary of Education, succeeding William Bennett. Cavazos was the first Hispanic to serve in a Presidential Cabinet position. Interestingly, he was born on the King Ranch.

On August 9, 1990, voters in the City of Athens and Clarke County chose to unify the two governments into Athens-Clarke County government.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmsley told Savannah Mayoral candidate Anthony Allen Oliver he is not credible, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In his latest run-in with a judge, Oliver appeared before Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmsley on Monday. Oliver entered a formal plea of not guilty to aggravated stalking and related charges and addressed several pre-trial motions.

Walmsley, after a series of questions from the bench, told Oliver that, “Sir, I don’t believe a word you’re saying. You are not a credible witness.”

Oliver announced his candidacy for Savannah mayor on Jan. 17, with a pledge to reduce crime. He has a history of running afoul of federal court judges and has been chastised by two judges in federal court in Savannah.

I believe Mr. Oliver could fulfill his campaign pledge of reducing crime in Savannah by relocating.

Federal agents raided the home of Augusta Commissioner Sammy Sias, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

FBI agents raided the home of Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias on Thursday morning, spending approximately five hours removing boxes of materials and computers from his Sandridge subdivision house.

The city government is the subject of an active FBI criminal investigation of unknown scope. The raid follows recent accusations by Sias’ long-time lover, next-door neighbor Willa Hilton, who sent the city commission a long list of allegations against Sias on July 22. The allegations included theft of government funds intended for Jamestown Community Center, child abuse, sexual harassment and using alcohol and pornography at Jamestown.

The commission referred Hilton’s criminal allegations to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which opened a criminal investigation Friday, and sent the child-abuse claims to the Division of Family and Children Services.

A former Congressional candidate pled guilty to reduced charges in the death of her husband, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Kellie Lynn Collins, 33, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 30 years in jail. In a hearing Thursday, she originally rejected the deal, stating she didn’t have enough time to make a decision on it.

After speaking with her lawyer, she decided to accept the deal. A grand larceny charge was dismissed as part of the deal.

She was facing murder charges in the death of Curt Cain, 41, last summer. Cain and Collins got married a week before he was found dead at his home in the 3000 block of Old Powderhouse Road on Aug. 4, 2018.

The City of Atlanta will ban electric scooters at night, according to the Associated Press.

Atlanta is banning electric scooters in the nighttime hours during what’s been a deadly summer for riders.

In Atlanta, three riders have died since May in crashes that involved a public bus, an SUV and a car. Police in the Atlanta suburb of East Point say a fourth rider was killed there Tuesday in a collision involving his scooter and a truck.

“Sadly, we have seen a pattern in the recent and tragic fatalities involving scooters — they all occurred after sunset,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement Thursday.

City officials on Thursday announced a ban on electric scooters and electric bikes from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. daily. The ban takes effect Friday.

City officials have asked e-scooter vendors to disable the devices during the hours they’re banned, the mayor said. The companies are cooperating, and “I’ve heard no pushback at all,” Keane said.

“We think it’s a reasonable step as a temporary measure while the scooter program is re-examined,” said Nima Daivari, Lime’s community affairs manager for Georgia. San Francisco-based Lime has one of the largest fleets in Atlanta, with an average of about 1,800 available for rent last month. “They see the value here, and Atlanta is a city that’s notorious for traffic congestion.”

Implementing new voting machines in time for the 2020 elections may be a challenge, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Georgia elections officials have no time to spare as they hustle to replace thousands of outdated voting machines statewide while fending off lawsuits in the wake of a much criticized gubernatorial election.

Even if the state manages to implement the $106 million purchase of new voting machines on schedule, some county officials worry the tight timeline could lead to another round of confusion as presidential politics drives high voter turnout.

“There is concern from my board and myself that we won’t have enough time to get our training in for ourselves, our poll workers and the voters,” Elections Supervisor Jennifer Doran of Morgan County said in an interview Wednesday.

Under Raffensperger’s timeline, state and county election officials have less than eight months to follow through on the purchase of 30,000 electronic touchscreen voting machines and 3,500 ballot scanning devices for delivery to polling sites across 159 counties. They’ll need to be certified by the state, programmed and tested, and county election officials and poll workers need to be trained to use them.

“The timeline looks pretty tight for us to even start getting our first round of equipment and get training on it, much less fully implement it by March,” said Doran, whose elections challenges, in a midsize rural county east of Atlanta, are typical for Georgia.

8
Aug

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

The first printed copy of the Declaration of Independence arrived in Savannah on August 8, 1776 and was read publicly for the first time on August 10, 1776.

On August 8, 1863, General Robert E. Lee offered his resignation in a letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, following the Battle of Gettysburg.

On August 8, 1925, Georgia Governor Clifford Walker signed legislation outlawing the brazen act of dancing publicly on Sunday.

On August 8, 1929, Georgia Governor Lamartine Hardman signed legislation placing on the ballot for Fulton and Campbell County voters a merger of the two.

The old Campbell County Courthouse still stands in Fairburn, Georgia.

Campbell County Courthouse Fairburn GA 3

Historic Campbell County Courthouse in Fairburn, GA.

Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew were nominated for President and Vice President by the Republican National Convention on August 8, 1968.

On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned, effective at noon the next day.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp spoke in Columbus yesterday, according to WTVM.

Gov. Kemp first spoke to the Columbus Rotary Club at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center. Following that, he participated in the ribbon-cutting for Global Callcenter Solutions, located at 500 11th St. in Columbus.

Global Callcenter Solutions was first announced to be coming to Columbus in Sept. 2018 by then-Governor Nathan Deal, who said the company would be investing approximately $4.9 million in Muscogee County.

Gov. Kemp is also traveling to Moultrie and Thomasville to participate in similar events.

United States Senator David Perdue (R) is concerned about potential red flag legislation, according to the AJC.

In an attempt to formulate a response to the weekend massacres in Dayton and El Paso, some Republican senators are coalescing around “red flag” legislation that would empower judges to order the seizure of weapons from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

Moving slightly beyond remarks made earlier in the week, the Republican expressed doubts about “red flag” legislation. “I haven’t seen it. Let me take a look at it when we get to see some legislation,” he said. “To say I’m for ‘red flag’ — that would be an overstatement because of concerns I have about due process.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger hosted an election security roundtable, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger hosted a roundtable on election security alongside David Becker, founder and executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research. Joined at the Capitol by more than a dozen experts from organizations including Microsoft, the Department of Homeland Security, and Augusta University, Becker led a wide-ranging discussion on the status of Georgia’s election security.

“Georgia is making great strides in ensuring that elections in the state are more secure than ever before,” Becker, founder and executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, said after the meeting. “I was honored to co-host this roundtable discussion about election cybersecurity with experts from all over the country, including computer science and election technology experts. Our discussions were another step toward protecting Georgia’s voters, along with Georgia’s move in 2020 to paper ballots, with effective audits to confirm the technology counted those ballots properly.”

Becker and his panel of experts were joined at the roundtable by a number of county elections officials, including Bartow County Elections Director Joseph Kirk and Muscogee County Elections Director Nancy Boren.

“The roundtable provided an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about the new devices we will be implementing and the steps I can take to better secure elections in my county,” Boren, Muscogee said.

Chatham County Board of Assessors Vice Chair Tommy Boondry has resigned after he was arrested in November 2018, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Tommy Boondry, 67, was charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of cocaine, possession of drug-related objects, permitting an unlicensed person to drive and open container, during a traffic stop on Nov. 26.

As of the board’s July 28 meeting, Laura Hegstrom was appointed to the position vacated by the resignation of Boondry, according to documents acquired by Savannah Morning News through a Georgia Open Records Act request. The documents did not state the resignation date. Hegstrom’s term will expire on June 27, 2023.

The board voted to appoint Betty Ellington to Hegstrom’s former position. Her term will expire on June 27, 2020.

In the police report, officers wrote, “It should be noted, that while attempting to cuff Boondry, he constantly tensed his muscles, and stated that he “would have my job for this.”

The Board of Assessors is responsible for notifying the public of changes in property tax law.

Clayton County has hired a lawyer to look at whether the Clayton County Ethics Commission acted properly in reprimanding some County Commissioners, according to the AJC.

The Clayton Ethics Board in July ruled that Commissioners Gail Hambrick and Sonna Singleton Gregory and former Commissioner Michael Edmondson erred when they pushed through a Dec. 18 vote for a member of the Clayton Development Authority board.

The vote on the appointment should not have taken place because the question was put on the agenda after the deadline for adding agenda items, the ethics board said.

But a resolution introduced by Gregory on Tuesday argued that the ethics board failed to hold a public meeting on the matter and should have given the accused commissioners an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges.

An Athens man was arrested for violating state law in failing to notify a sexual partner that he is HIV-positive, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

A 52-year-old Athens man with HIV was arrested this month after police said he had sex with a local woman and never informed her that he was HIV positive.

Ernest Buchanan of Baxter Drive is alleged to have had the intimate encounter with the woman in June, according to Athens-Clarke police.

Buchanan was arrested on July 13 on a charge of reckless conduct by a HIV person, which is a felony. HIV is a virus that causes AIDS.

An Associated Press story recently reported that Georgia is one of about 20 states that have laws that make it a crime for people with HIV to have sex without first informing their partner of their infection, regardless of whether they used a condom or were on medication that made transmission of the disease effectively impossible.

I don’t think I knew such a law exists.

Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico‘s political future is in question after the company she leads filed for bankruptcy, according to the AJC.

One of the nation’s biggest car haulers, led by a former candidate for Georgia lieutenant governor, filed for bankruptcy court protection late Tuesday, citing auto industry challenges, steep labor costs and $2 billion in potential pension liabilities.

Sarah Riggs Amico, who ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor last year and is considering running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican David Perdue, is executive chairperson of Jack Cooper Ventures. The trucking company, which delivers vehicles for some of the biggest carmakers in North America, has its executive offices in Kennesaw and headquarters in Kansas City, Mo.

Amico and her family have had voting control of the business. But that looks like it won’t last.

“This is a difficult process but this is also a very good story about how you save jobs and put a company on the right path,” Amico said in an interview.

With the challenges faced by the company, Amico said her focus is on that, not a decision on whether to run for the U.S. Senate.

Amico lost her bid for the lieutenant governor seat against Republican Geoff Duncan. The Georgia Supreme Court is considering a legal challenge that contends tens of thousands of votes may have gone uncounted.

The Democratic Party of Georgia will work with Stacey Abrams’s group Fair Fight PAC to contest state legislative elections next year, according to the AJC.

The Legislative Victory Fund, unveiled on Wednesday, is a joint initiative of the Fair Fight PAC and the state party focused on winning 16 Republican seats in next year’s election. Republicans now hold a 105-75 advantage in the chamber.

The fund also aims to take Republican-held seats in the Georgia Senate, though that chamber is more secure for the GOP. Republicans hold a 35-21 majority and Democrats would have to pull off multiple upsets to flip seven Senate districts.

The organization hired Craig Walters, who was a field organizer for Abrams’ 2018 campaign for governor, to serve as its director.

Abrams said the initiative will work to protect incumbents in swing districts while pushing to elect more Democrats “with an eye on a House majority.”

Democrats are targeting the 16 seats where a Republican won with less than 58% of the vote last year. In addition, Democrats couldn’t afford to lose many of the 11 House seats they picked up last year, including some in districts long represented by conservatives.

The Muscogee County Jail is no longer under federal Department of Justice oversight, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Twenty years have passed since the U.S. Department of Justice sued Muscogee County over jail conditions so unsafe and unsanitary they violated inmates’ constitutional rights.

For two decades the county has worked under Justice Department supervision to correct a multitude of issues threatening the health, safety and security of those housed in the Muscogee County Jail.

In a consent agreement approved this past July, the U.S. District Court dismissed Justice Department claims the jail violates inmates’ constitutional rights, ending the federal monitoring that required twice-yearly inspections to ensure the facility made steady progress in correcting its deficiencies.

“We are in compliance after 20 years, and that’s a very good thing,” said Sheriff Donna Tompkins, who took office in 2017 after serving about 30 years in the sheriff’s department. The sheriff by law is responsible for running the jail.

Richmond County Schools Superintendent Angela Pringle will leave the system to take over Winston-Salem, NC’s public school system, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Statesboro City Council voted to allow the police department to sell 40 seized or forfeited guns to a licensed gun dealer, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Police Department became owner of each of the guns through court orders, Police Chief Mike Broadhead stated in a memo to City Manager Charles Penny. Some had been held in evidence but were never reclaimed and were no longer needed for prosecution. One is a long gun, a Mossberg .22-caliber rifle, but the other 39 are handguns, in other words pistols and revolvers.

In the winning bid, GT Distributors of Georgia, based in Rossville, agreed to prices ranging from $5 each for three handguns – including a Rohm RG-14, the same model of cheap .22-caliber revolver Wikipedia uses as its lead illustration of a “Saturday night special” – up to $185 for a Ruger SR9, a popular 9mm semiautomatic pistol. The rifle brought $35.

Asked Monday by email what choices the Police Department has in getting rid of seized and forfeited guns, Broadhead listed three options: convert them to departmental use, destroy them, or sell them.

“We could auction them off to the highest bidder, but we would rather only sell them to a licensed gun dealer with a Federal Firearms License (FFL),” Broadhead wrote. “That way they can control who owns them in the future (through licensed transactions, background checks, etc.), and we can actually get some use of the items through a store credit.”

Qualifying for municipal elections in Chatham County will open on August 19, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Elections for city offices will be held in Savannah, Port Wentworth, Garden City, Tybee Island and Pooler.

Bloomingdale and Thunderbolt are on different schedules. They will hold their next municipal elections in 2021.

Qualifying for the posts begins on Aug. 19 for all municipalities and runs through Aug. 23 for Savannah, and ends Aug. 22 for Garden City, Tybee Island, and Port Wentworth. The hours vary for each city but all stop accepting candidates at 4:30 p.m. on their final qualifying day.

Qualifying is done in person at the city hall for each city.

Rome and Cave Spring are ready to use paper ballots for municipal elections this year if required by a federal judge, according to the Rome News Tribune.

A federal judge is deciding if she’ll order the use of paper ballots in the municipal elections this fall — and Cave Spring is ready.

“That’s all we’ve ever used,” said City Clerk Judy Dickinson, who’s also the elections supervisor. “We’re fine. We’re fine.”

Rome is also holding elections, although the city contracts with Floyd County to conduct them. Voters there use the electronic machines U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg has called archaic.

However, Elections Clerk Vanessa Waddell said the county purchased a Balotar system in 2016, which prints ballots for absentee voting. The on-demand printer and ballot-scanning equipment could be used for the whole election if necessary.

Cave Spring has about 600 registered voters and the turnout was 50% during the last mayoral election in 2015.

Cave Spring voters will fill the Post 1 and Post 2 City Council seats and choose a mayor this year.

Rome’s Ward 1 and Ward 3 City Commission seats — six of the board’s nine — are on the ballot. Residents also will vote on the “brunch bill,” which would let restaurants serve alcohol as early as 11 a.m. on Sundays.

A grand jury indicted a Savannah man for threatening to kill a United States Attorney, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Kent Allen Crawford, 61, on June 18, “while suggesting the death of Bobby Christine with the purpose of otherwise causing serious public inconvenience threaten to commit any crime of violence to wit: ’i will come to the federal building. When i get there i will come to your office and kill you,” the Chatham County grand jury said in returning a single-count indictment for terroristic threats.

“if you are not there i will murder whichever U.S. attorney is there,” the threat continued, according to the indictment.

An indictment is only a charging document to get a felony case before Chatham County Superior Court for trial or a plea. It is not a finding of guilt.

Christine is U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, headquartered in Savannah.

“The U.S. Attorney has a conflict because he is the target,” Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap said Wednesday. “At this time my office has elected to prosecute the case.”

Leah McGowan withdrew from consideration for appointment to a seat on the Athens-Clarke County Board of Education, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

McGowan’s withdrawal leaves one candidate, UGA marine science professor Patricia Yager, to fill the District 4 seat left empty with the resignation earlier this year of Jared Bybee.

Under state law, a school board is responsible for picking someone to fill an empty seat when a board member steps down before the completion of his or her term. Bybee’s term expires at the end of 2020.

The Clarke school board is scheduled to vote on Bybee’s replacement at its monthly meeting Thursday.

Columbia County public libraries will begin offering tablet computers for one-week checkout, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

“Our main purpose is to get patrons more aware of the services we offer – all the databases and resources we have,” GCHRL director Mary Lin Maner said.

Resources include eBooks, eMagazines, eAudiobooks, research and foreign language databases and a music databases that range from classical to heavy metal. Those services are also available on the library system’s website for those who have a library card through GCHRL. The iPads will allow those who do not have access to a computer or tablet the ability to do so from home.

“We want to see how it works and decide if we want to expand it or add more things to the iPads for patrons to use,” Maner said.

The tablets are available for a one-week check out but are not available for renewal. Patrons must be 18 or older to check out one of the devices. All iPads come with an Otterbox to protect them.

The Lowndes County Commission will meet with the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Two special called meetings have been scheduled to be held jointly between the Lowndes County Commission and the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County on the second floor of the administrative building, in the overflow room, which is right next to the commission chambers, according to a county statement.

The purpose of the meeting is for Lowndes County to help refinance some of the Hospital Authority’s bond debt, which will create a significant savings for the hospital, the county statement said.

In 2011, the Hospital Authority issued revenue certificates, which are similar to bonds, and entered into an intergovernmental contract with the county providing additional security for the 2011 certificates.

To refinance the 2011 certificates, the authority is issuing refunding revenue certificates. This means the hospital will pay a lower interest rate.

7
Aug

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

General George Washington created the Purple Heart on August 7, 1782. Click here for an interesting history of the award.

On August 7, 1790, a delegation of Creeks met with the United States Secretary of War and signed the Treaty of New York, ceding all land between the Ogeechee and Oconee Rivers to Georgia.

Theodore Roosevelt, who served as President from 1901 to 1909, was nominated for President by the Progressive Party, also called the Bull Moose Party, on August 7, 1912.

On August 7, 1942, Marine forces landed at Guadalcanal.

Voters ratified a new version of the State Constitution on August 7, 1945. Among the new features was the establishment of the State Board of Corrections to ensure humane conditions.

The board was directed to be more humane in its treatment of prisoners and abolished whippings, leg irons, and chains. Until 1945, prisoners in Georgia could expect to have heavy steel shackles put on by a blacksmith upon arrival. They were then taken out to work under severe conditions.

The caravan bearing 43 ounces of Dahlonega gold to be used in covering the Georgia State Capitol dome reached the Capitol and delivered it to Governor Marvin Griffin on August 7, 1958.

On August 7, 1964, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which would be used as the legal basis for U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Republicans will grapple with “red flag” legislation, according to the AJC.

President Donald Trump’s support for “red flag” gun laws after twin mass shootings left at least 31 people dead in Ohio and Texas poses a challenge for Georgia Republicans who have long resisted firearm restrictions.

Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday that he was “closely monitoring” discussions in Washington over the legislation after Trump endorsed “extreme risk protection orders” that could let authorities take firearms from a person deemed by a court to be dangerous.

“As we review these proposals, we will solicit input from the law enforcement community, subject-matter experts in behavioral and mental health, and advocacy groups to best inform our analysis,” Kemp said in a statement.

Other Georgia Republicans were noncommittal. U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is running for a second term in 2020, said he hasn’t decided whether he would explore the “red flag” legislation.

“The thing that’s been missing in this issue is really both sides trying to work on it in a bipartisan manner. That’s why I’m encouraged by some of these things that we’re talking about going further,” he said after a speech to the Kiwanis Club in Atlanta. “I still think there’s a lot of work to do here.”

Medical cannabis legislation is stalled over appointments to an oversight board, according to the AJC.

Nearly four months after Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law allowing companies to grow and sell medical marijuana in Georgia for the first time, he and other top politicians still haven’t appointed members of the commission that will hash out the rules for dispensing the drug.

The legislation, House Bill 324, gave the seven-member commission vast oversight over the state’s medical marijuana operation, including picking which businesses can grow the plant and developing the licensing requirements that retailers must meet to sell it.

It’s a cornerstone of legislation that creates a new but limited marijuana industry in Georgia. The legislation was celebrated as a milestone for patients who were previously allowed to use the drug — but had to violate state and federal laws to purchase it.

“I was hoping the commission would be appointed right away, as it will take considerable time to establish the process for granting the licenses,” said Allen Peake, a former Republican lawmaker and the author of the state’s first medical marijuana laws.

The law gives the commission power to license up to six private companies to grow medical marijuana, to develop a list of laboratories to test the drug, to handle state funds and grants linked to the initiative, and to hire an executive director and other staff for the program.

Governor Brian Kemp ordered state agencies to develop plans for trimming budgets, according to the AJC.

It is the first time budget cut proposals have been requested from agencies since the state was hammered by the after-effects of the Great Recession nearly a decade ago.

“The governor is asking agencies to find efficiencies in their organizations and submit budget reduction proposals for amended FY2020 (which ends June 30) of four percent and FY2021 of six percent,” the governor’s budget office instructions said.

State agencies were told to expect to get 4% less to spend in their monthly allocations as of Oct. 1.

“To secure an even brighter future for our state, we must continue to budget conservatively, spend wisely, and put Georgia taxpayers first,” Kemp said in a statement. “That’s why I have instructed all state government offices to reduce expenditures and streamline operations through proactive leadership. By reducing waste and ending duplication in government, we can keep Georgia the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) spoke to the Floyd County Republican Women, according to the Rome News Tribune.

During the question-and-answer period, however, several people drilled in on the weekend massacres in Dayton and El Paso where 31 people were killed and dozens wounded. Trump’s rhetoric and access to guns — two of the issues in the national debate — did not come up. Mental illness and law enforcement did.

Ansley Saville asked if there’s a correlation to the closing of mental institutions, adding that “the homeless population blew up” in Rome when Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital was shuttered.

“There’s a lot of focus on the mental health issue,” Graves said, noting that the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act “emphasized the need for more investment and understanding.”

Emily Matson, who described herself as “a big Second Amendment person,” asked about reports that El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles said law enforcement can’t deal with the number of guns available.

“I haven’t heard any law enforcement say law-abiding gun owners shouldn’t have guns. I’m hearing we need more enforcement of the laws on who can have guns,” Graves said. “That’s not a local responsibility. That’s the (U.S. Department of Justice.)”

Former Atlanta Mayor and Ambassador to the U.N. Andrew Young will join former President Jimmy Carter in teaching Sunday School in Plains, according to the AJC.

“I was a preacher first,” Young said. “When I became a congressman, I saw Congress as my congregation. When I was the mayor, I had a church of 2 million people. The model that I use in all of my work is a pastoral model.”

On Sunday, he’ll bring that model to the pulpit of Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, the church home of Jimmy Carter. He and the former president will co-teach Sunday school class.

Carter and Young, who met in the 1960s, will teach from the 16th chapter of Proverbs: “The plans of the mind belong to mortals, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.”

Six candidates in the 6th and 7th district Congressional races don’t live in the districts they’re running to represent, according to the AJC.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found that at least six candidates running for the two most competitive U.S. House seats in Georgia don’t live in the districts they’re running to represent. Two others moved into the districts shortly before announcing their bids.

The numbers come as a surprise given the blowback against Ossoff for not being able to vote for himself in his 4-point defeat to Republican Karen Handel. And it’s an issue rivals have already highlighted to emphasize their local roots.

It’s not illegal for U.S. House candidates to live outside their districts. The Constitution stipulates only that congressional hopefuls “be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”

An AJC poll ahead of the special election found that 32% of 6th District voters considered Ossoff’s residency a “major factor” in determining their vote, and an additional 19% determined it to be a minor one.

Augusta‘s city government is under active investigation by the FBI, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Augusta Law Department confirmed Tuesday the empaneling of a federal grand jury and an accompanying federal criminal investigation of unknown scope into Augusta government activities.

After the Augusta Commission voted July 30 to refer allegations against Commissioner Sammie Sias to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, The Augusta Chronicle requested copies of all state and federal subpoenas sent to the city since July 23.

The law department said Tuesday that it had not received any GBI subpoenas, but it confirmed the existence of a federal criminal investigation.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis asked Richmond County School Superintendent Angela Pringle to stay after rumors she might resign, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners voted to license a movie theater for alcohol sales, according to the Macon Telegraph.

After previously denying the request, the Macon-Bibb County Commission on Tuesday approved a beer and wine license for AmStar 16 on Zebulon Road.

The vote was 7-2, with Commissioners Elaine Lucas and Bert Bivins opposing. Three commissioners who had previously opposed switched sides, saying they recognized the county did not have the legal standing to deny it.

Opponents had previously cited concerns about selling alcohol where children are present. But others and the movie theater had pointed out there are other establishments in the city that cater to families that also sell alcohol.

Also Tuesday the commission voted 8-1 to override Mayor Robert Reichert’s veto of a one-time $1,000 bonus for each county employee. Commissioner Scotty Shepherd, who voted by phone, cast the only vote against the override.

Reichert began by saying he vetoed the measure primarily because the estimated $2.3 million expense was not in the fiscal-year budget. He also said he thought it would ultimately hurt the chances of giving employees a permanent raise.

The Lowndes County Board of Education adopted a lower property tax millage rate, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

It is reducing from 16.541 in 2018 to 16.384 this year, and this is the third year in a row that Lowndes County Schools has stated it would lower the millage rate.

“That will put us over the last three years as over a half a mill lower than we were then,” said Ken Overman, assistant superintendent. “We’re excited to be able to do that. We’re good where we are with budgeting, so let’s give back to the taxpayers.”

The millage rate was 16.911 in 2016.

Overman said that translates to paying almost $14 less in property taxes than last year if a residence is valued at $200,000.

Lowndes County public schools will be under increased security today after an apparent threat, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Increased security was planned at a school in Lowndes County for Wednesday after the sheriff’s office questioned a teen about online threats, authorities said.

Lowndes County’s 911 service received two calls Monday night from people saying they had seen Instagram posts from someone threatening to shoot up a county school, Sheriff Ashley Paulk said.

Investigators tracked the posts to an eighth-grade boy “about 14-15 years old” and went to his house, the sheriff said.

There are no charges against the boy because the Department of Juvenile Justice, which would have to approve charges, said to turn the boy over to his mother, Paulk said.

“We (the sheriff’s office) filled out a complaint form for the DJJ, but they wouldn’t even evaluate him,” the sheriff said.

Glynn County public schools have improved security for the new school year, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County Schools has invested a significant amount of money and training into school safety efforts and plans to continue doing so.

Staff at all levels, including school resource officers, receptionists, bus drivers and more, have gone through forms of emergency response training.

The school system is also making plans to invest recently acquired grant money into new security for school facilities.

Gov. Brian Kemp pushed for the security grants during this year’s state budgeting process. Each public school in the state will receive $30,000 to put toward improving school safety. The money must be spent on an individual school basis, by June 30, 2020.

“We have to build a budget and define what those requirements are according to the schools,” said Jim Pulos, assistant superintendent for operations and administrative services for Glynn County Schools. “We’re in the process of doing that.”

Harris County School District overtaxed property owners last year and will rollback this year’s property tax rates to make up for the difference, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Harris County School District superintendent Roger Couch is taking responsibility for the mistake that led to overtaxing property owners last year and will result in them paying less in taxes this year.

Couch inadvertently kept the extra property tax of 0.65% in the 2018 budget he presented to the Harris County Board of Education last summer, he told the Ledger-Enquirer in a phone interview Tuesday, after HCSD announced the tax rollback.

The extra tax was supposed to end then because the debt of about $10 million that helped build Creekside School had been paid off, Couch said. That meant Harris County property owners paid a total of $850,106.87 in overcharged taxes, he said.

So to pay back the property owners, the 0.65% extra tax is eliminated and the 2019 property tax millage rate is rolled back by 0.65%. HCSD finance director Kelly Bowen estimated the rollback equals a savings of around $50 for the owner of a $100,000 home compared to 2018.

Dalton Utilities broke ground on an upgrade to their water treatment plant, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Warner Robins Police Chief John Wagner was upgraded from “acting” to permanent chief, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber President and CEO Brian Anderson resigned to accept a job at the Richmond, Virginia Chamber, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Clarkesville City Manager Barbara Kesler has resigned, according to AccessWDUN.

6
Aug

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

On August 6, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia began debating the first draft of the Constitution of the United States.

On August 6, 1958 the wagon train carrying gold from Dahlonega to gild the State Capitol dome reached Atlanta, where city officials were not prepared to receive them.

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act; Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in attendance and was given one of the pens Johnson used to sign the Act. Here is an auction for one of the pens used in the VRA signing.

John Hughes, director of every meaningful teen angst movie of the 1980s (except Say Anything and Better Off Dead) died on August 6, 2009.

Molly Ringwald wrote in The New Yorker about working as a young woman with John Hughes.

On August 5, 2015, the Jeb Bush presidential campaign announced endorsements by Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday ordered flags on state buildings and properties flown at half-staff in honor of those who died in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

GPB News spoke to some of the announced candidates in the Sixth Congressional District and has audio files and transcripts.

Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton) will speak at the Boys and Girls Club Gym in Valdosta on August 15, 2019, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In Gwinnett County, a man is accused of placing a Trump sticker on a Democrat’s car and charged with trespass, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A Lawrenceville man accused of putting “I Love Trump” stickers on a local Democratic Party official’s car while she was grocery shopping, yelling at her and then following her around town has been arrested on at least one charge related to the incident and will likely face more, Gwinnett Solicitor General Brian Whiteside confirmed Friday.

William Thomas Dunaway, 57, was arrested Thursday on a criminal trespass damage charge for putting the stickers on Gwinnett Democratic Party First Vice Chairwoman Sharon Wood’s car in the parking lot of a Lawrenceville Publix in July. The charge is a misdemeanor and Dunaway had been released from jail Thursday on a $650 bond.

“I think it says you shouldn’t follow people around,” Whiteside said. “I don’t think that you should follow a woman around (or) follow anyone around and we’re determined to enforce the laws of Gwinnett County, and the state and the United States of America. (Wood) being a Democrat means nothing. We’re going to enforce the law.”

Whiteside said his office plans to move forward with formal court accusations on charges of simple assault and stalking against Dunaway as well.

Former State Senator and candidate for Governor Michael Williams apologized for running, according to the AJC.

Republican Michael Williams, who finished last place in last year’s gubernatorial primary, said Tuesday he should never have sought higher office and blamed missed “red flags” for mistakes that led to a guilty plea on charges of filing a false report.

The former state senator said he should not have allowed his “public persona to be so drastically changed to something it wasn’t” during a controversial campaign that included a series of ill-fated publicity stunts capped by a “deportation bus tour.”

“I should have found a gubernatorial candidate whom I could support. I should have done what each of you did,” he wrote to supporters. “Instead, I allowed my pride, ego, and bad advice, to persuade me that I had a solid chance in the governor’s race.”

The email did not name his chief strategist, Seth Weathers, who helped devise the publicity stunts. But Williams said his campaign “became solely about doing whatever needed to be done in order to create headlines to build name ID.”

“What does this have to do with the matter at hand?”he wrote. “If I stuck to my standards, followed my gut and not announced until the three prerequisites were met or withdrawn my candidacy when any of the other red flags occurred, the events that transpired that night in May of 2018, never would have happened.”

Candidates for House District 71 will meet in a public forum Wednesday, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

All four candidates for Georgia House District 71 are scheduled to be at Wednesday’s candidate forum, which will be held at the Central Educational Center from 6 to 8 p.m.

The candidates: Nina Blackwelder, Jill Prouty, Marcy Sakrison and Philip Singleton have all confirmed that they will attend, according to Cynthia Bennett, vice president of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the forum.

The HD 71 seat has been vacant since the June resignation of Rep. David Stover. The election to fill Stover’s unexpired term will be held Sept. 3. The seat will be up for election again in 2020, with qualifying for that race in March.

Early voting for the race will begin Aug. 12. Early voting will be Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., through Aug. 30. Early voting is also available Saturday, Aug. 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are two early voting locations: the Coweta Voter Registration Office, at 22 East Broad St., Newnan, and the Central Community Center, 65 Literary Lane, Newnan.

The Atlanta Board of Education voted to increase planned teacher pay raises, according to the AJC.

The Atlanta school board on Monday agreed to give teachers an additional pay increase that will bring the average raise from $2,000 to $3,000.

The Atlanta Public Schools budget for the 2019-2020 school year, as approved in June, had only enough money to provide an average $2,000 increase for teachers. The district said it would need millions more than what APS receives from the state to cover the $3,000 per teacher raise recommended in the state budget and backed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

But after the board approved the budget, APS officials revised local revenue projections based on updated Fulton County property values. The district now expects to receive $7.5 million more in local property tax revenue than it first expected.

On Monday, the school board voted to adjust the budget so that it can provide an average pay raise of $3,000 for teachers, or 4.85%, plus additional compensation for other employees.

A lawsuit claims that Fulton County overtaxed homeowners has been filed, according to the AJC.

A Fulton County homeowner has filed a lawsuit claiming the county missed a crucial deadline to complete thousands of property value appeals and now must accept lower assessed values for those properties — a mistake that could cost the county tens of millions of dollars over several years.

More than 42,000 property owners, representing a combined $5.9 billion in real estate, appealed their appraisals last year when the county assessor’s office increased property values after years of failing to update the tax rolls.

More than 5,000 property owners could be affected by the suit. Many of those property owners have already paid taxes based on the higher assessment, and they would be due refunds if the lawsuit is successful.

A spokesperson for Fulton County declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Atlanta City Council is considering a moratorium on new permits for rental scooters, according to the AJC.

In the aftermath of the city’s third electric scooter fatality, the Atlanta City Council on Monday introduced legislation that affirmed a prohibition on additional permits to the companies deploying the devices.

The proposal appears to be a stop gap measure and is unlikely to have any immediate effect on the number of scooters on city streets.

Currently, there are 9 companies permitted to deploy 12,000 scooters, although only about 5,500 have been deployed, according to city officials.

After another scooter-related death last week, a handful of people at Monday’s Atlanta City Council meeting urged council members to make city streets safer for scooter riders.

Last month, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order prohibiting new permits. The mayor said it would remain in effect until the council’s Monday meeting.

Bottoms also said she would propose legislation to “address the long-term impacts the devices levy against the City’s infrastructure and public safety” in advance of the meeting.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation continues looking at allegations against Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

A week ago, the Augusta Commission referred the allegations against one of its own to the GBI after former center director Willa Hilton made several accusations regarding Sias’ activities at the center.

Among the allegations, Hilton said Sias pocketed sales tax and other funds intended for the center, used alcohol and watched pornography and engaged in child cruelty at the site. The commission referred the child cruelty claim to the Division of Family and Children Services.

Colquitt County Commissioner Al Whittington said that local immigrants are fearful of violence, according to the Albany Herald.

“The Hispanic community is quite large and an absolute necessity,” he said. “They’ve worked in the fields, a lot of them six days, and they go into town on the weekend to buy groceries.”

In October 2005, six Mexican immigrants were killed in Tift County in a crime spree that began in Colquitt County with the rape of a woman and shooting of her husband. The suspects were thought to be part of a group that had carried out more than a dozen home invasions and robberies targeting the Hispanic population in the months leading up to the slayings in Tifton.

Immigrants often do not have the documents needed to open bank accounts, meaning they often carry cash with them.

“I think really that community stays in fear,” said Whittington, a former Colquitt County sheriff who referenced the 2005 crime spree in Colquitt and Tift counties. “They’re afraid as far as robberies. Every time they turn around, it’s something else.”

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission in a lawsuit against Glynn County Schools, according to The Brunswick News.

It all started in 2014 when the school board determined that it could not pay the debt service portion of its water and sewer bill. The JWSC took the school board to court in 2015, over what at the time was roughly $140,000 in unpaid debt service fees.

Since then, however, JWSC officials say that amount has risen to $516,070. Utility legal counsel Charles Dorminy said the two parties will have to go before a superior court judge to have the total, final amount owed determined, however.

Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley ruled in the utility’s favor in 2018. On appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals passed the case up the chain to the Georgia Supreme Court because it involved a constitutional question.

Tybee Island will receive $1.1 in federal grant funding to elevate a dozen private homes in the flood plain on the marsh side of the island, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Per the City’s Floodplain Ordinance, each structure will be elevated two feet above the base flood elevation.

The total cost of raising the homes will be $1,548,318. The federal grant will cover 75% of the cost, at $1,161,238.50. Ten percent of the cost will be covered by the state.

Homeowners will still have to pay 15 percent of the cost to elevate their homes, a process that requires contracting a construction company that specializes in the process.

“So there’s still a burden on them financially, and they’ll be inconvenience while the house is being lifted up, they’ll have to stay at a hotel or a relative’s house,” Buelterman said.

A separate grant request, which has not yet been rewarded, was made to help mitigate the cost of another 49 homes.

“We picked 61 homeowners who live on Tybee who have low-lying homes that were at risk of, or have flooded,” [Mayor Jason] Buelterman said.

Camden County was recertified as a Coast Guard Community, recognizing its support of the local Coast Guard units, according to The Brunswick News.

Bulloch County‘s public school system delayed roll out of a sex ed curriculum previously announced, according to the Statesboro Herald.

As reported in June, lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation were not scheduled to be introduced in ninth grade until 2020–21 or in the seventh and eighth grades until 2021–22.

But that part of the plan is subject to further review with input from the community, and the more basic sex education curriculum slated for 2019–20 will not be taught until second semester and could be delayed until next school year, Superintendent Charles Wilson said last week and this.

“What is being implemented, at this point, is yet to be determined,” Wilson said as students returned to school Aug. 1. “The state puts this very much back to the local community. We have a board policy. Now, we have to develop our own curriculum around this.”

“We have slowed that down because until we get all the feedback we need from the community and from the board, we don’t know for sure what that’s going to look like,” Wilson said Monday. “Right now what we’re doing is getting feedback from teachers, we’re going to get feedback from the board, and until we have all of that figured out it’s hard for us to proceed with a definitive curriculum.”

Under the announced plan, “sexual orientation and gender identity” and “undoing gender stereotypes” were scheduled to be introduced as two one-day topics for the ninth grade unit in 2020–21, not this school year. Beginning in 2021–22, “sexual orientation and gender identity” was slated as a one-day topic for eighth grade, and “talking about sexuality,” as the first-day topic in the seventh grade unit.

These would not become sixth-grade topics even under the original plan.

Hall County Commissioners will likely extend a moratorium on permitting new hookah lounges, according to AccessWDUN.

Hall County commissioners agreed Monday to place the moratorium’s extension on the consent agenda for Wednesday’s commission voting session. The commission will also vote Wednesday on a newly proposed moratorium to prevent the opening of new vape shops or lounges until the same date.

Hall County Planning Director Srikanth Yamala said the county’s planning staff needs more time to examine non-traditional tobacco sales.

“We have completed our initial research, if you will, on some of the regulations that we’ll propose to bring forward as part of the new ordinance,” Yamala said. “We also want to look at every single non-traditional tobacco products, you know, like the vape lounges, vape shops and so forth,” Yamala said.

Floyd County Juvenile Court lost data in a cyber attack, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Superior Court Clerk Barbara Penson said there’s been no word on a resolution from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

“They’ve asked us to not even call,” she said Monday. “The project manager said we’ll hear from them when ‘we are able to stand eCourt up again’ and when the federal investigators release something to them.”

“We’re staying ahead of the new cases by working Saturdays … We’ve figured out a survival route, but it’s temporary. We can’t do this forever,” Penson said.

Floyd County Juvenile Court Judge Greg Price was harder hit. He said Monday that most juvenile court records are not public and they were kept on the Administrative Office of the Courts’ server.

“All our data was maintained by the AOC – up until the time it was corrupted,” Price said. “We lost literally all of our data, historical and current.”

Savannah City Council member Bill Durrence announced he will run for reelection to his seat representing District 2, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Dalton City Council hired the law firm Smith, Welch, Webb & White to represent them in service delivery agreement negotiations with Whitfield County, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Council members voted 4-0 Monday to appoint attorneys from the McDonough law firm Smith, Welch, Webb & White as a special counsel to represent the city in those negotiations. The agreement between the city and Smith, Welch, Webb & White calls for the attorneys to be paid $225 to $300 an hour.

“We want to be thorough in our approach to the agreements,” said Parker. “We refer to it as a service delivery agreement, but it’s actually about 40 to 45 different agreements. It includes every local government service. So we have to agree who is providing which service and at which locations and who is paying the costs of those services. Sometimes in these discussions you can find out there’s a better way to provide that service or to consolidate service delivery.”

By state law, cities and counties must negotiate a new service delivery agreement every 10 years spelling out which services the different governments will provide and how they will be funded. The agreements are aimed at reducing duplication of services.

The current service delivery agreement between the city and county expires Oct. 31 and covers services ranging from fire protection to operations of the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library to building permits.

Andrew J. “Andy” Welch, one of the attorneys the city has appointed as a special counsel, is a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives.

The Macon Bacon will host their first ever playoff game tonight, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Macon Bacon took home a win in one of their most important food fights to date, as they knocked off the Savannah Bananas in the playoff opener.

The Bacon beat their rivals by a score of 7-3 Sunday to eliminate them from contention for the Petitt Cup.

The Bacon will now host their first-ever home playoff game Tuesday night against the Forest City Owls. The Bacon and the Owls met three times in the regular season, with Macon winning two out of three games.

Cave Spring City Council will review proposed new rules to allow golf cart use on some city streets, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Mayor Dennis Shoaf has said he wants to be able to start issuing golf cart permits within a month of adopting the ordinance. Residents will be able to get their vehicles inspected and registered at the police department.

The fee of $15, which is set by the state, pays for a street-legal decal that will be good for up to three years or until the cart is sold. Drivers must be licensed and anyone under 16 will have to have a parent present in the cart.

5
Aug

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

On August 5, 1774, Royal Governor James Wright issued a proclamation banning assemblies to protest British policy.

President Abraham Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax on August 5, 1861 at the rate of 3 percent on all income over $800 per year.

On August 5, 1910, Gov. Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing betting on election outcomes.

Gold from Dahlonega on its way to Atlanta. Photo by Ed Jackson via http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu

The caravan transporting 43 ounces of gold from Dahlonega to the State Capitol to be used in gilding the dome arrived in Roswell/Sandy Springs area on August 5, 1958. At the current price of $1461.80 per ounce, that would be worth $62,857.40.

President Ronald Reagan began the process of firing all striking Air Traffic Controllers on August 5, 1981.

Divers raised the turret of USS Monitor near Cape Hatteras on August 5, 2002.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Atlanta on Friday, according to 11Alive.

Vice President Mike Pence thanked a conservative audience in Buckhead for a “warm Georgia welcome” and rallied supporters to President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign on Friday.

The vice president repeated many of the “promises made, promises kept” themes driving the president’s campaign. That included touting the strength of the economy, recounting the president’s record on appointing conservative judges, and endorsing the president’s immigration policies.

“Let me say the president and I are both grateful for the strong stand for life that Governor Brian Kemp and your legislature has made,” Pence said.

Governor Brian Kemp appointed former State Rep. Joe Wilkinson (R) as Chair of the Jekyll Island Authority. Rep. Wilkinson was the original sponsor of the legislation designating the adoptable dog as the Official State Dog of Georgia.

The author, Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, didn’t want to have to pick a specific breed for the honor, and he wanted to recognize the thousands of dogs currently available for adoption in Georgia’s animal shelters, humane societies and private groups.

Governor Kemp is considering ways to trim state spending, according to the AJC.

With tax collections flagging, Kemp administration officials were concerned in May that the state might not raise enough to fund the state’s $27 billion budget as the end of the fiscal year neared.

On Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp vowed to rein in state spending, cutting back to meet his priorities, such as another teacher pay raise on top of the $3,000 most educators received this year.

Even with a growing economy, state officials face potential revenue headwinds, in part because of the decision lawmakers made last year to cut the state income tax rate.

Kemp said he is exploring a proposal to limit state spending and “start reeling things back,” though it will fall short of his campaign promise to implement a cap on spending to limit growth in the budget.

The governor said he has no timetable for when he would unveil a cap, one of his key campaign promises. But he said the state would soon have to tighten spending “with an economy that’s not expanding as much as it could.”

Gov. Kemp also discussed plans to dismantle the Common Core academic standards in an AJC Op-Ed.

During the most recent legislative session, Republicans and Democrats partnered at the State Capitol to advance a series of reform measures and budget priorities that put Georgia students ahead of politics.

While we are proud of rising graduation rates and assessment scores, there are still serious challenges that cannot be ignored. 44% of Georgia educators leave the profession before five years of employment. This mass exodus of teachers has fostered a shortage and undeniable ‘brain drain’ in school systems throughout our state. Such high turnover rates undermine academic success and put added stress on educators all across Georgia.

To help incentivize the best and brightest to remain in the classroom, we championed – and passed – the largest pay raise for educators, counselors, and specialists in Georgia history. This $3,000 pay raise, which is a down payment on my promise to increase salaries by $5,000 annually, is an investment in Georgia’s future. By boosting retention rates, we can strengthen our workforce, stay competitive, and provide the educational experience and learning opportunities that our students deserve.

In the months to come, we will convene a Citizens Review Committee to analyze the feedback, a Working Committee of Teachers to offer their insight, and an Academic Review Committee to review recommendations that will then be considered by the State School Superintendent and State Board of Education.

This process, while laborious, will help us eliminate the remnants of Common Core and ensure that our students are given the best opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed. We will do the heavy lifting now to ensure a better, brighter tomorrow. We will reject the status quo and put students first.

Tim Tebow will headline the Southeast Georgia FCA’s Spring Fundraising Banquet next February, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Actress Ashley Bratcher, who starred in “Unplanned,” will speak at the 30th annual Haven Health Friends for Life fundraising banquet next month, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“Bratcher was an unplanned baby herself,” Haven Health volunteer Christa Jackson said. “She’s a wonderful speaker to have to share her testimony at this event.”

Haven Health Clinic for Women, 311 Redmond Road, is an organization dedicated to offering free assistance to women during unplanned pregnancies, with no insurance billing and no income requirements.

“Haven gives women the tools they need to make the best decisions about their pregnancy with the goal to either keep the baby or give it up for adoption,” Jackson said.

This year, Haven has seen a sharp increase in the number of women assisted, which means the need for donations has also risen.

“With five months left, Haven has already seen more clients than during all of last year,” Jackson said. “The total from 2018 was 516, and this year we’ve already helped 633. Obviously this brings an increase in operating costs.”

To purchase a table, or for more information, folks can call Haven Health at 706-235-6833. Tables sponsorship levels range from $500 up to $5,000. Two attendees from the first 10 tables sold this year will be able to attend a meet and greet with Bratcher prior to the dinner.

The Floyd County Republican Party will host its annual event at the Tillman Hanger at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is among the announced headliners at the Floyd County Republican Party’s annual rally set for Saturday at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in Rome.

“Basically, we’re jump-starting the 2020 campaign season,” [Floyd GOP public relations chair Mickey] Tuck said. “It will be a pro-conservative, pro-Trump type rally.”

“The Trump bus is going to be there. Even though he’s not going to be there, we’ll have a lot of his representatives,” Tuck said.

In addition to Carr, statewide officials include David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party….

Local officials include Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson, County Commission Chair Scotty Hancock, Tony Daniel, who chairs the county school board, and the state legislative delegation – Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and Reps. Katie Dempsey, Eddie Lumsden and Mitchell Scoggins.

Rockdale County is seeking a new Elections Board Chair, according to the Citizens.

Rockdale County residents who are registered voters can apply through Aug. 9 to be the non-partisan at-large member and chair of the Rockdale County Board of Elections and Voter Registration. The two-year appointment will be made by Chief Superior Court Judge David B. Irwin after he interviews the candidates.

The three-member Board of Elections is made up of one representative each from the local Democrat and Republican parties, and one at-large member who is normally chosen by the representatives. The at-large member also serves as the chair of the board.

Board member responsibilities include the oversight of County elections, discussion of and decisions pertaining to election policies and ongoing communication with the public. Board members are not involved in the day-to-day operations of the Elections Office or in administrative decisions. Georgia Election Code 21-2-70 provides for the powers and duties of the Board of Elections and Registration.

Bartow County may be one of the first to implement Georgia’s new voting system, according to the Daily Tribune News.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Monday that Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems had been selected as the vendor for the State’s new paper ballot system. The news is especially intriguing for the local community, Bartow County Elections Supervisor Joseph Kirk said, since Bartow is on a shortlist to pilot the new equipment later this fall.

“They’ve had to drop that number down from 12 to six, and we’re on the list of 10 counties that are still in contention to do that,” he said.

If Bartow is chosen as a pilot site, the County could have the new system online in time for November’s municipal-level elections. If not, he anticipates the equipment being installed by March, just prior to the presidential primaries.

“I should have at least some piece of equipment here in the next month to start demonstrating,” he said.

An Augusta Commission committee will study whether the procurement process discriminates, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta Compliance Director Treza Edwards said the city has a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program for federally funded projects and a Local Small Business Opportunity Program, but both are race- and gender-neutral.

Augusta is enjoined from implementing a race- and gender-conscious program based on a previous court case but could proceed with a new one with a new disparity study, General Counsel Wayne Brown said.

The study would look at whether there is currently discrimination against minority- and women-owned businesses and whether there is a need for such a program, Edwards said.

The Gainesville Times looks at what local school systems are doing to enhance security.

Whether installing modern security technology or implementing mental health support, each year Hall County and Gainesville school systems continue to find ways to enhance safety for staff and students.

Both systems have renovated vestibules in multiple buildings, routing traffic into these entrance areas to limit access to other parts of the schools.

Adrian Niles, chief operating officer at Gainesville City Schools, said all of the district’s schools and facilities now have card reader checkpoints. This gives employees access to their respective schools when locked.

Hall County is also expanding a card access system at school buildings. Schofield said the doors automatically lock and unlock during certain times of the day, and only staff members can enter.

An updated intercom system is in the works in Hall schools that will be able to send out emergency notifications. If the pilot is successful, Schofield said more may be installed this fall.

Duluth City Councilman Kirkland Carden cordially invites the Gwinnett County Commission to join him in trashing Sheriff Butch Conway, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Duluth City Councilman Kirkland Carden has filed a petition calling for the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners to condemn Sheriff Butch Conway for inviting a “white nationalist and anti-immigration activist” to speak.

D.A. King, president of the Dustin Inman Society, which is labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-immigrant hate group, was one of three pro-287(g) speakers at Wednesday’s meeting. He was joined by Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Shannon Volkodav and U.S. Immigration and Customs Southern Region Communications Director Bryan Cox.

In the petition, Carden, a Democrat who is running for the District 1 commission seat, wrote the meeting was “hijacked by D.A. King.”

“King was elevated into this position as official ‘representative’ for the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office by Sheriff Butch Conway. The Republican Sheriff has avoided accountability on his policy positions for years and refuses to speak with the people whom he serves,” the petition reads. “If the Sheriff is too afraid to defend this policy, then he should either resign or choose a different course. King’s inciting and bigoted rhetoric should never have been given the legitimacy of this platform by Conway’s office, which is funded by taxpayers, in one of the most diverse counties in the nation.”

“We are demanding that the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners pass a measure condemning Sheriff Conway for his actions, and begin investigating correspondence between his office, D.A. King, the Dustin Inman Society, and any other hate groups,” the petition said. “This calls into question the Sheriff Department’s ability to fairly pursue justice. As citizens who are supposedly protected and served by the Sheriff, we have the right to know why he selected King to represent his office.”

Proposed restrictions on free school lunch programs won’t affect Athens public schools, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Trump administration and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue want to tighten restrictions on which children are entitled to receive free or reduced school lunches, but that won’t affect students in Clarke County.The school lunch program cuts could reduce the number of children receiving the lunch benefits by 500,000, according to the government.

The proposed cuts are part of a larger slate of cuts designed to reduce the number of people enrolled in the federal government’s “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ” or food stamps.

Even without the proposed changes, food stamp rolls have shrunk in recent years as unemployment decreased.

Critics have said the new rules would cut 3 million people from the food stamp rolls. A Democratic U.S. representative from Virginia estimated it would eliminate half a million children from automatic eligibility for free or reduced school lunches.

The cuts are part of a plan to eliminate nearly $10 billion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget.

The plan would also roll back a system designed to reduce paperwork, instead requiring people to go through two separate qualification processes rather than one application for both programs.

The school lunch program in Clarke County this year will be the same as it was last year; however, said school district spokeswoman Mary Walsh Wickwire.

The school district doesn’t charge children for lunch or breakfast served in school cafeterias.

Four cities in Bulloch County will hold candidate qualifying this month, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Brooklet and Portal are the two towns in Bulloch County that have mayors up for election this year. Statesboro and Register do not, since their mayors are two years into a four-year term. All four towns have some council seats due to go before voters. But officials can cancel municipal elections, declaring an unopposed winner, if only one candidate qualifies for each seat.

Aug. 19-23 is the qualifying period for Nov. 5 nonpartisan city elections throughout Georgia. However, not all cities extend the qualifying opportunity to all five days.

“The towns can do three days or five days, depending on their charter, and our charter says five days,” Wirth said.

All four of the cities in Bulloch County conduct their own candidate qualifying. But only in Brooklet do city officials conduct the elections, and paper ballots are used there. Register, Portal and Statesboro have the county Board of Elections staff conduct city elections, using the state-issued voting machines, which are slated for replacement next year.

Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason has begun his reelection campaign, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Mason confirmed during his State of the City Address in July that he would run for re-election, but he officially kicked off his campaign with a news release — which referenced his comments at the State of the City Address — that was sent to the media Friday night.

“The State of the City is great,” Mason said. “We’re following our vision and I am committed to stay the course. We’ve made much progress in our 7-year history such as the Town Center, which provides a place for our citizens to make memories with their families.

Mason is the only mayor Peachtree Corners, which turned 7 this year, has ever had. This year, the mayor’s office and City Council Posts 1, 3 and 5 — which are held by Phil Sadd, Alex Wright and Lorri Christopher respectively — are up for election.

“There are key elements of our vision that need to be completed and I intend to see them thru,” Mason said. “I believe this is remarkable progress in seven years, especially from a city with a zero property tax millage rate on citizens and businesses.”

Chatham County has a five-year plan to reduce homelessness, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County’s homeless population grew by 443 people last year, the second increase in as many years, but the local homeless collaborative is already at work on their next five-year plan to combat the problem.

That plan will address, in part, the ongoing lack of affordable housing as the key solution which remains a constant in the conversation.

Cindy Murphy Kelley, now in her sixth year as executive director of the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless, has pitched the need for affordable house as an annual challenge.

Now, she said Friday, Aug. 2, “People are actually paying attention for the first time.”

Authority board member and Savannah alderman Julian Miller cautioned that, “We will never solve the problem, but the idea is to reduce the problem. … At the very least there are people who can be helped and want to be helped and let’s help them.”

Overtime for Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office exceeded $1 million last year, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Despite efforts to reduce costs, the overtime totals for all departments of the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office more than doubled last year to more than $1 million.

Sheriff Noel Brown said pay increases, continued short staffing and a high volume of transportation calls are contributing factors, as well as his opinion that the county has not had adequate staff to keep up with growth in the past 20 years.

Bulloch County commissioners have added three positions since Brown took office, he said; two more were added for fiscal year 2020, bringing the total to five. Brown also switched captains and higher-ranking officers to straight salary pay, thus eliminating some overtime, effective this past January.

During his campaign prior to the 2016 election, Brown promised to try to reduce overtime for the sheriff’s department, but three years into his term, he has been unable to make a significant dent in spite of some changes.

Susan Treadaway will serve as the new Chief Assistant Deputy District Attorney in Cherokee County, according to the Tribune Ledger News.

Superior Court Chief Judge Ellen McElyea will swear in Treadaway at 9 a.m. on Friday in Courtroom 2A.

“I am excited to be back in Cherokee County, where I can be part of law enforcement in a growing community that still has small town charm,” Treadaway said. “I look forward to partnering with law enforcement to ensure justice is served here.”

Treadaway comes to the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office with more than 15 years experience, including 11 years in the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office where she held positions as senior assistant district attorney and, most recently, chief assistant district attorney. During her time in Cobb County, she also served as an assistant supervisor of the Special Victims’ Unit, which prosecuted cases involving physical and sexual abuse against children and sexual abuse against women.

Prior to her work in Cobb County, Treadaway served four years as an assistant district attorney in Cherokee County under District Attorney Garry Moss. Earlier in her career, she worked for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia. She earned her law degree from Georgia State University in 2004.

Brunswick Landing Marina is hoping to expand, according to The Brunswick News.

The Brunswick Landing Marina is seeking permission to expand its dock space and add a concrete sidewalk to provide pedestrian traffic from the north.

The Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources are considering the request and are seeking public comments until Aug. 11.

The proposed dock will extend an estimated 282 feet into the waterway in an area where the waterway is 900 feet wide, according to the notification.

The committee will consider if the project could obstruct or alter the natural flow of water, if it creates harmful or increased erosion, shoaling or stagnant areas of water, and if the granting of the permit could unreasonably interfere with shrimp, fish or other aquatic life or other resources, including water and oxygen supply.

The St Simons Island Turtle Project hosted a public excavation of a sea turtle nest, according to The Brunswick News.

The St. Simons Island Sea Turtle Project hosted its second public nest excavation during the final hours of sunlight Thursday. The event, per usual, attracted many interested beach visitors, all wishing to learn more about the sea turtle nesting process and hoping to see hatchlings.

The purpose of the excavation was to inventory the second and third nests laid this season on St. Simons. Both nests hatched this week. The project team digs up each nest five days after it hatches, to count hatched and unhatched eggs and look for trapped hatchlings.

The St. Simons Island Sea Turtle Project is part of a larger, coast-wide effort called the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative. The goal of the cooperative is to conserve loggerhead turtles in Georgia and the habitats on which the turtles depend.

2
Aug

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

On August 4, 1753, George Washington became a Master Mason at the Masonic Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Georgia delegates Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.

16th Amendment

On August 3, 1910, Georgia became the ninth state to ratify the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allows Congress to levy a tax without apportioning it among the states.

Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President on August 3, 1923 after Warren Harding died in office.

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank, her family, and two others were found by Nazis in a sealed area in an Amsterdam warehouse. They were sent first to a concentration camp in Holland, then most were sent to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot died from Typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March of 1945.

On August 4, 1958, a wagon train left Dahlonega, headed to Atlanta to pay tribute to the mighty General Assembly deliver 43 ounces of gold to be used to coat the dome of the State Capitol.

Gold from Dahlonega on its way to Atlanta. Photo by Ed Jackson via http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu

On August 3, 1982, Michael Hardwick was arrested, setting in motion the prosecution that would eventually lead to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick.

On August 2, 1983, the United States House of Representatives voted to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday on the third monday in January.

The World of Coca-Cola opened on August 3, 1990 between Underground Atlanta and the Georgia State Capitol.

President Barack Obama visited Georgia on August 2, 2010 – his first trip to Atlanta and second to Georgia after his election in November 2008. The occasion of his 2010 trip, like his trip to Atlanta yesterday, was to deliver a speech to the Disabled American Veterans Conference at the Hyatt Regency. From his 2010 speech:

As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.  Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised and on schedule….

As agreed to with the Iraqi government, we will maintain a transitional force until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

At the same time, every American who has ever worn the uniform must also know this: Your country is going to take care of you when you come home. Our nation’s commitment to our veterans, to you and your families, is a sacred trust. And to me and my administration, upholding that trust is a moral obligation. It’s not just politics.

That’s why I’ve charged Secretary Shinseki with building a 21st century VA.  And that includes one of the largest percentage increases to the VA budget in the past 30 years. We are going to cut this deficit that we’ve got, and I’ve proposed a freeze on discretionary domestic spending. But what I have not frozen is the spending we need to keep our military strong, our country safe and our veterans secure. So we’re going to keep on making historic commitments to our veterans.

The City of Atlanta will install new markers next to some historic monuments, according to the Statesboro Herald.

In Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, the 1911 Peace Monument commemorating post-Civil War reconciliation will get context noting that its inscription promotes a narrative centered on white veterans, while ignoring African Americans.

“That mythology claimed that despite defeat, the Confederate cause was morally just,” states the marker to be placed near the Peace Monument.

“This monument should no longer stand as a memorial to white brotherhood; rather, it should be seen as an artifact representing a shared history in which millions of Americans were denied civil and human rights,” it states.

Another of the new Atlanta markers will be placed near a monument erected in 1935 to commemorate the Battle of Peachtree Creek. It notes that the statue’s inscription describes the U.S. after the Civil War as “a perfected nation.”

“This ignores the segregation and disenfranchisement of African Americans and others that still existed in 1935,” the marker states.

Other Atlanta markers will be placed near two monuments in the city’s historic Oakland Cemetery: The “Lion of Atlanta” monument and the Confederate Obelisk.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Macon’s Grand Opera House will screen “The Breakfast Club” Saturday at 7 PM, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“It’s almost a year since we re-opened after remodeling the theater and creating a new lobby and lounges,” he said. “As far as films, we want wide appeal but in our first year also had an eye toward what film buffs would appreciate. Now, we’ve expanded things like showing ‘Kung Fu Panda’ for families on Wednesday before school got going. Ahead are general appeal movies, music and concert films, some cult classics and just a whole lot of great, entertaining movies.”

Coming are more ‘80s-‘90s hits like “Back to the Future” and “Dirty Dancing” as well as a September repeat showing of “Saturday Night in Macon, Ga.,” from the ‘70s. It’s an Allman Brothers Band concert shot by Don Kirshner at the Grand Opera House also featuring the Marshall Tucker Band and Wet Willie. “The Need for Speed,” which was shot in Macon, is scheduled and where last October for Halloween two silent horror classics were shown, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “Nosferatu,” this year the campy-cult-horror favorite “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” will be featured.

Also this weekend, the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth will host “Trains, Trucks and Tractors,” according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The museum will host Trains, Trucks and Tractors this weekend, starting Friday and continuing until Sunday.

“During the event, participants will display a range of antique tractors and vehicles not generally on display at the museum,” officials at the museum said in an announcement.

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

“The special visiting exhibits and other activities are included in regular museum admission, and guests can also purchase rides on the museum’s restored antique handcar,” museum officials said in their announcement.

“Visiting exhibits will arrive and depart at different times throughout the event, and event offerings are contingent upon the weather.”

Vice President Mike Pence arrives in Atlanta today, according to the AJC.

Vice President Mike Pence will be the headline speaker at a conference at a Buckhead hotel organized by conservative pundit Erick Erickson that will also draw Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

A few miles down the road, about 1,000 delegates will gather for the Democratic Socialists of America convention in downtown Atlanta to discuss the group’s future and chart out plans to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 bid.

Pence is set to chat with Erickson shortly before noon at his Resurgent Gathering about President Donald Trump’s re-election plan.

Expect Pence and other speakers to lace their remarks at the Grand Hyatt event with attacks on socialism; Perdue’s campaign wrote an op-ed for attendees this week warning of an “ideological war for the future of our Republic.”

Later Friday, Pence is also expected to headline a fireside chat with his former top aide, Georgia operative Nick Ayers, at the annual Teneo retreat.

Teneo’s mission is to recruit and promote young conservatives, and Ayers’ conversation with Pence will focus on how the vice president became a conservative, the ideas that shaped his worldview and foreign policy issues.

Governor Brian Kemp‘s administration will investigate toxin releases in Cobb County, according to WSB-TV.

Gov. Brian Kemp plans on spearheading a series of public meetings this month to connect government agencies and residents in two metro Atlanta counties as they grapple with revelations tied to the unknown release of carcinogenic toxins from local medical plants.

On Thursday, Kemp’s office confirmed it is working with the EPA, CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health to host question and answer sessions about the medical sterilization facilities with neighbors in Cobb and Newton counties.

Sen. David Perdue’s and Rep. Lucy McBath’s offices are also in contact with the EPA and EPD.

“We will work around the clock to address this situation and keep Georgia families safe,” said the governor’s spokeswoman, Candice Broce, in part of a statement.

Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters ruled in a lawsuit by the Ledger-Enquirer that video of a classroom fight must be made public, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters ruled in favor of the Ledger-Enquirer in the lawsuit filed in January 2018 against MCSD. Peters’ order requires the video to be made available to the L-E within 10 days.On Sept. 12, 2016, a behavior specialist who was contracted to work in the school district allegedly body-slammed Montravious Thomas five times at an alternative school for students with severe discipline violations.

A month later, after unsuccessful surgeries, the 13-year-old had his right leg amputated below his knee, allegedly due to injuries from the confrontation with Bryant Mosley, according to the $25 million lawsuit Montravious’ mother filed in March 2017.

David Hudson represented the L-E in the case. He is the Georgia Press Association’s general counsel and an attorney with the Hull Barrett law firm in Augusta..

“This is a fine open-government victory,” Hudson said via email, “and hats off to the CLE for undertaking the fight in this era of diminished resources to bring cases for access.”

Under the Georgia Open Records Act, the L-E asked the school district for the video in October 2016. MCSD refused to release it, saying that would be an invasion of the student’s personal privacy according to state law, and that the video is an educational record protected from disclosure under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, commonly called FERPA.

Intended to guard student privacy, FERPA says schools may lose federal funding if they have “a policy or practice of releasing education records to unauthorized persons.”

A Columbus Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) would raise the local sales tax to its higher rate ever, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Columbus voters could be asked to approve the highest sales tax in the city’s history on the November 2020 ballot.

Why? In order to replace the decaying Government Center and fund other projects, the Columbus Council wants to raise $350 million over 10 years from the same kind of special sales tax that local schools have relied on for the past two decades.

But that would mean either a new tax on top of the existing one, or Muscogee County School District giving up its tax money, at least temporarily.

The school district’s current 1% special sales tax expires June 30, 2020, and the council is banking on the school board not putting another request on the November ballot to keep the tax rate at the current 8%.

The school board hasn’t decided whether or when it would ask voters for another renewal. But if the city council and school board both seek the 1% special sales taxes next year, or any time before the regional sales tax for transportation expires at the end of 2022, they would be asking voters to accept a total of 9% in sales taxes — the highest in Columbus history.

Anonymous cowards posted white supremacist signs at a Jewish temple in Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Congregants of Columbus’ 1617 Wildwood Ave. synagogue instead were angry that two men wearing masks brazenly walked past notices warning they were on surveillance video and posted flyers for a national white supremacist group on handicapped parking signs, part of the temple building and nearby utility poles, said Rabbi Beth Schwartz.

It happened about 9 p.m. Monday, according to the camera footage.

The temple’s facilities manager found the flyers about 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, and immediately called the police, who retrieved the security video. Officers also took the flyers, which peeled right off, Schwartz said: “There was no damage to our property.”

Police confirmed they are investigating, saying any suspects they find may, at least, be charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass.

Some of the red, white and blue flyers posted at Temple Israel bore images of an eagle grasping arrows in its talons, a shield on its breast and stars arching overhead. “Reclaim America,” those read.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of victory,” read another. “Better dead than red,” said one with a blue arrow through a red hammer and sickle.

Chartered in 1859, Temple Israel built its current facility in 1956, and now serves about 120 families, Schwartz said.

A Cobb County group called “Stronger Together” syas Cobb County schools has racial problems, according to the AJC.

For months, [Mableton Elementary counselor Jennifer Susko] and other members of Stronger Together, a small grassroots organization, have been trying to call attention to what they say are problematic disparities in disciplinary rates for white students and their peers of color. At the same time, they point to lopsided white participation in gifted and talented programs, a disproportion that they believe indicates institutional bias against black and Latino students.

But those statistics don’t tell the whole story, the Stronger Together group says. In some cases, they charge, teachers and students have shown racial insensitivity and hostility toward minorities – concerns that school system administrators have refused to even acknowledge.

Stronger Together wants the district to implement training for teachers and staff on how to identify and correct “implicit bias,” which refers to stereotypes or attitudes that can affect actions unconsciously. Implicit bias can have an effect on how teachers interact with and discipline students, says the group’s co-founder Jillian Ford, a professor of educational equity at Kennesaw State University.

The Cobb County School District is the second largest public school system in the state, behind Gwinnett County. As of March, the district had 111,722 students enrolled. It has 37% of its students identifying as white, 30% as black, 22% as Hispanic, 6% as Asian, 4% as two or more races, and 1% identifying as Pacific Islander or Native American. About 74% of its teachers are white, as are 68% of its principals and 70% of administrators.

Asked by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to respond to Stronger Together’s concerns, the school system issued a statement, saying, “In the Cobb County School District, we strive to provide every student the opportunity to succeed. We only hire the most qualified candidates at each and every position, and our staff is one of the most diverse in the nation. The diversity of thought, experience and race in our community is one of the reasons Cobb was recently named one of the very best places to work in the United States by Forbes magazine.”

AJC writer Mark Niesse says the new Georgia voting system may be problematic.

Any computerized system is vulnerable to malware and hacking, a fact made clear by high-profile hacking of Capital One and Equifax, which compromised personal information of millions of people. Online attacks have also hit governments such as the city of Atlanta and a Georgia courts agency, whose computers were brought offline when they became infected with programs that demanded a ransom payment.

Election officials will have to be on guard against malware, viruses, stolen passwords and Russian interference across tens of thousands of new voting computers. A Russian agent visited websites of two Georgia counties in 2016 but didn’t gain access to election systems, officials said. Elsewhere in the country, Russian hackers targeted voting systems in Florida and Illinois, according to reports from the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.

Georgia election officials will rush to install 30,000 voting machines, 30,000 printers, 3,500 scanners and 8,000 electronic voter registration terminals in time for the March 24 presidential preference primary. The national spotlight will be on Georgia, the only state in the nation with a presidential primary scheduled for that day.

The new voting system will soon be challenged in federal court by voters seeking paper ballots filled out with a pen in elections, arguing that touchscreens and printers could still produce inaccurate results.

Georgia may need to rethink its approach to Medicaid waivers, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Georgia officials working to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income adults got a jolt this week when a key element of Utah’s plan was rejected by the White House.

But Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said he’s hopeful that there’s enough difference in the two plans to make a difference.

“It’s possible that we could be back at the table, but it isn’t the exact plan as Utah’s,” Hufstetler said Thursday. “And I do think there’s a difference in opinion with the federal government and (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).”

Hufstetler said Georgia’s plan would also subsidize private insurance for people earning between 100% and 138% of the poverty level. That could be enough of a difference to net the 90% federal match the state is counting on.

He said he pressed for waivers that would go up to 138% but he’s also happy with the Patients First Act plan.

“Data shows when we get people under preventative care, system costs drop,” Hufstetler said.

Hall County will build more roundabouts, according to the Gainesville Times.

“Roundabouts generally provide a more free-flowing solution to traffic issues, and they also do not require a tie-in to power for traffic signals,” said Katie Crumley, Hall County spokeswoman.

Roundabouts “are fantastic solutions to the problem of (traffic) delay,” DOT district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said. “We have these (projects) going on everywhere in Georgia.”

One of the reasons roundabouts are favored as a project generally is safety.

“In a typical four-way intersection, you’ve got 32 points of (potential collision). Many of them are head-on collisions or angle crashes,” Strickland said. “A roundabout reduces that number to eight … and many of those points are glancing blows. You take away the head-on collision, which contributes to many fatalities.”

Augusta Commissioner Sammy Sias is accused of falsifying invoices, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The invoices Commissioner Sammie Sias is accused of falsifying detail thousands spent on the Jamestown Community Center kitchen, computers, appliances, repairs and extensive heating and air conditioning work.

The Augusta Commission on Tuesday referred complaints made by former Jamestown center manager Willa Hilton to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Division of Children and Family Services and removed Sias from involvement with the center.

Hilton sent an extensive list of allegations against Sias to the commission last week after he fired her from a role at Jamestown summer camp, including that he falsified invoices and pocketed center funds and fees and used porn and alcohol and abused children at the center. Sias is CEO of Sandridge Community Association, which has contracted with the city to operate Jamestown since the late 1990s.

Sias has maintained his innocence and responded last Friday that Hilton was trying to destroy the center to destroy him because he ended their 20-year extramarital affair.

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler reports lower suicide numbers over the last three years, according to the Albany Herald.

[T]he county’s suicide rate has bucked the national trend. Fowler’s office worked 11 suicide cases in 2016, with the number dropping to nine in 2017 and seven in 2018.

Nationally, suicide numbers have been on the rise.

From 1999 to 2016 the national suicide rate increased by 25.4%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate increased in every state, with the exception of Nevada, which saw a decrease of 1%, from a low of 5.9% in Delaware to 48.6% in Vermont.

The increase in Georgia as a whole was 16.2% during that time, according to the agency.

Through Wednesday, there have been four confirmed suicide cases in Dougherty County. Fowler is awaiting the processing of evidence to make a determination on a possible fifth suicide case.

The Georgia Council on Aging and Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly unveiled its legislative priorities for next year, according to the Albany Herald.

Officials with the Georgia Council on Aging and Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly, or CO-AGE, said they will press lawmakers to increase funding for home- and community-based services, such as home-delivered meals and transportation to the doctor.

Officials said about 7,000 Georgia seniors are currently on waiting lists for these services. CO-AGE members also are pushing for funds to launch a two-year pilot program addressing behavioral health needs of older residents in subsidized living communities.

“We are experiencing explosive growth in our older population,” Vicki Johnson, chair of the Georgia Council on Aging, said. “Without more funding and programs, Georgia’s seniors will end up in the less-appealing and more costly option of nursing homes.”

CO-AGE established its 2020 legislative priorities based on voting by its members, including representatives of organizations working with older adults and seniors. GCOA and CO-AGE members will back a Georgia House of Representatives transportation bill addressing the needs of more than 260,000 Georgians age 70 and older who no longer drive.

“Accessible and affordable transportation is one of the most unmet needs seniors have, and the most requested,” Johnson said. “Not having access to transportation can lead to critical social determinants of health, leading to medical problems, social isolation and depression.”

Oconee County will build a new combined public library and county administration building, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

District Attorney Ken Mauldin will not run for reelection in the Western Judicial Circuit, which serves Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Athens attorney Deborah Gonzalez, who served a brief time as a state House representative, announced in July that she intends to run for district attorney.

“I had committed to step down as District attorney if my wife, Allison Mauldin, had been successful last year in her bid to be elected as a Superior Court judge for this circuit. While I had not made the decision about reelection then, it may have been an indicator of what was to come,” he said in a news release.

Mauldin said he will serve through the remainder of his term, which goes through December 2020.

The City of Grantville will hold a public meeting about the proposed property tax millage rate increase, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Earlier this month, City Manager Al Grieshaber recommended raising the property tax millage rate by two mills at the council’s meeting earlier this month.

Three public hearings will be held. The first two will be Monday, Aug. 5, at 9 a.m. and Monday, Aug. 12, at 6:30 p.m. during the council’s work session.

The final public hearing will be held Friday, Aug. 19, at 6:30 p.m.

In a press release from Grieshaber, the tentatively adopted millage rate increase will be 41.51 percent.

This tentative increase will result in a millage rate of 6.945 mills, an increase of 2 mills.

A millage rate of 6.945 mills restores the city to its financial position in 2012, and partially compensates for the increased cost of materials, supplies and labor while providing employee benefits that have been advocated by councilmembers without impacting the general fund, according to the city’s press release.

The City of Flowery Branch has begun demolition of the old police building and city hall, according to AccessWDUN.

The Glynn County public school system will roll out electronic report cards, according to The Brunswick News.

Qualifying will run August 19-21 for seven municipal elections in Coweta County, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

The Coweta County Board of Elections and Registration will handle qualifying for Grantville, Haralson, Moreland, Turin and Sharpsburg, while Newnan and Senoia will handle their own qualifying.

The November ballot will be a busy one for an odd-year election. In addition to the city races, there will be two county-wide ballot questions. Voters will be asked whether to implement a new five-year, 1 percent sales tax for transportation projects, known as the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – TSPLOST. Coweta voters will also be asked if the school system tax breaks for senior citizens should be increased.

Newnan voters will have a “brunch bill” question. Approval of the question means that Newnan restaurants would be able to begin serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays, instead of the current start time of 12:30 p.m.

And Moreland voters will decide whether or not restaurants in the town can serve liquor by the drink.

1
Aug

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

August 1 was a big day for Benjamin Mays – he was born on August 1, 1895 and became President of Morehouse College on August 1, 1936.

PT-109, commanded by LTJG John F. Kennedy was sunk on August 1, 1943.

On August 1, 1982, Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Power has placed the first order in three decades for nuclear fuel for a new nuclear reactor, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Georgia Power said Tuesday it has ordered the first nuclear fuel load for its Plant Vogtle unit 3 reactor under construction south of Augusta.

The order is the first for a new U.S. reactor “in more than 30 years,” the company said in a statement.

The 157 uranium fuel assemblies will be loaded into the unit 3 reactor vessel once it begins operating in late 2021. The 14-foot tall assemblies also will eventually be ordered for unit 4, which is expected to come online in 2022.

Total employment at the units 3 and 4 construction site have reached 8,000 workers, making it the largest construction project in the state, the company said. When complete, the new reactors will create 800 permanent jobs.

The unit 3 containment vessel top was placed earlier this year during a visit from U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and all five members of the Georgia PSC.

Roughly one-third of the reactor fuel in units 3 and 4 will be replaced every 18 months during scheduled refueling and maintenance periods, similar to units 1 and 2.

Georgia Power is the lead owner of the project, which is co-owned by Oglethorpe Power, a supplier of power to electric membership cooperatives; MEAG Power, an electric supplier for city-owned utility companies; and Dalton Utilities, the electric utility for the city of Dalton, Ga.

The AJC writes that Georgia’s hope of a Medicaid waiver has dimmed.

Gov. Brian Kemp is putting together the plan, a “waiver” request to the federal government that might include a limited expansion of Georgia’s Medicaid coverage. A component of that plan had been to request that the federal government fund almost all the cost, 90% of it, as if it were a full Medicaid expansion to all of Georgia’s poor. That’s a big bump from the standard federal funding match of 67% that Georgia normally receives for providing Medicaid coverage.

Georgia had support for the idea at high levels. As late as May, Seema Verma, the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the 90% match for Georgia could be on the table.

The Trump administration this past weekend rejected a conservative proposal for Utah with limits similar to Georgia’s.

“Late Friday the State of Utah received a call from the White House informing state leaders that its most recent Medicaid waiver request, which had yet to be formally submitted, would not be approved,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and legislative leaders said in a joint statement. The Utah leaders said they were “deeply disappointed.”

National reports cited anonymous White House sources saying no state, including Georgia, would receive the 90% match for limited Medicaid expansion.

Democratic Socialists of America are convening in Atlanta this week, according to the AJC.

The DSA and its supporters have long been a favorite punching bag for Republicans, though the attacks have taken a sharper edge as Trump and his allies try to turn anti-socialism into an even more potent political weapon in 2020.

But this year democratic socialists are also enjoying a growing movement buoyed by last year’s midterm elections and a leftward tilt among some top 2020 presidential hopefuls who are embracing liberal issues such as Medicare for All and wiping out student debt.

The DSA, founded in 1982, is trying to capitalize on the newfound interest. Membership soared after Trump’s victory, and organizers say they now count 56,000 members nationally and expect as many as 1,000 delegates for the convention in Atlanta, which runs Thursday to Sunday.

There’s a sense of momentum. The organization scored major victories in the 2018 midterms by sending its first two members to Congress — U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib — and notching wins in lower-level races.

Its highest-profile members in Georgia include Khalid Kamau, a Black Lives Matters organizer who was elected to the South Fulton City Council shortly after Trump’s inauguration. He plans to welcome the delegates Friday with a message focusing on smashing the “electability complex.”

Employees of the Georgia State House of Representatives may soon be eligible for paid family leave, according to the Gainesville Times.

The policy will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, and will apply to employees on the occasion of birth, adoption or foster care placement.

“We are committed to a culture of life in Georgia and that includes giving children the best possible start as they are welcomed into their new families,” said Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said in a statement. “This new policy will also be a valuable employee benefit to help us attract and retain the highest caliber staff to serve Georgia’s citizens. Many of Georgia’s top employers offer similar benefits, and we want to remain competitive in today’s job market.”

Employees need to have worked for the House for at least a year to be eligible and can only take the family leave once a year.

According to a statement from the Georgia Senate, the Senate is also considering changing its policy.

“The Georgia Senate has been vetting its own paid family leave policy, one similar to that which was announced by the House, with a scheduled roll-out planned for January 2020,” the statement reads.

Former Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R) has waited nearly 2 years for Senate confirmation of his appointment to the AMTRAK Board, according to the AJC.

former Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland has waited more than 660 days to join Amtrak’s board of directors due in part to a showdown over passenger rail service in Kansas.

The parochial fight isn’t the only factor that’s slowed the Coweta County Republican’s path to the advisory board: a lack of Senate floor time, scrutiny of Westmoreland’s congressional record and broader mistrust over the Trump administration’s commitment to passenger rail service have also played a role.

It’s unclear when Westmoreland will receive a confirmation vote, but there’s some muted hope senators could approve him as part of a batch of nominees before the chamber adjourns for its August recess.

Kansas’ Jerry Moran has placed a hold on Westmoreland and two of President Donald Trump’s other Amtrak board picks for months, which he’s been using to convince Amtrak to continue operation of the Southwest Chief, a Chicago to Los Angeles route that passes through portions of Kansas.

A Gwinnett County meeting to discuss the 287(g) program went off the rails, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“You’re a white supremacist!” one woman shouted from the back left side of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center auditorium.

“You’re a coward and a sorry little…” a man yelled several minutes later from the opposite back corner, leaving his sentence unfinished.

The comments, which were directed at two separate panelists, gave voice to tensions that, at times, ran high through GJAC’s auditorium Wednesday night during a “community engagement discussion” about the Gwinnett County Jail’s 287(g) program.

Wednesday’s discussion about 287(g), which was organized by Gwinnett County District 4 Commissioner Marlene Fosque and featured six panelists — three from what Fosque called the “benefits,” or pro-287(g) side, and three from the “impact,” or anti-287(g) side, — was intended to foster a dialogue between the program’s supporters and opponents, the commissioner said.

“Our sheriff’s department has participated in the 287(g) program for about 10 years, yet no one has brought the two sides together to decide what are the benefits of 287(g) and decide what is the impact,” Fosque said. “I’m a newly-elected commissioner, so I’m trying to do new things. I pray at the end of this discussion, (attendees) walk away with a different perspective, or at least a new perspective.”

Suicides in Bibb County have reached a higher number this year than for all of 2018, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Coroner Leon Jones said there have been 16 suicides this year, compared to 14 in all of last year. He previously had last year’s number at 15, but one of those was later determined not to be a suicide.

At the current pace, this year’s suicides would exceed the 24 the county had in 2017, which Jones said is the most the county had in his 29 years with the coroner’s office.

Houston County Coroner Danny Galpin said there have been 13 suicides in the county this year, but that’s compared to 27 last year.

Jones said he has no explanation as to why suicides are up this year in Bibb. Ages range from 27 to 70, and causes vary. But he said the most common factor is domestic issues, usually involving relationships falling apart.

Among the common signs of people who may be at risk of suicide are social withdrawal and loss of interest in things that the person once cared about. But often, mental health experts say, there are no signs.

Anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Bibb County school bus cameras led to more than 8000 traffic tickets, according to the Macon Telegraph.

A majority of crashes involving buses are the fault of the other driver, according to data from the Georgia Department of Education.

In 2017, Bibb County contracted with a company that agreed to outfit each of the district’s buses with $10,000 camera systems at no cost to the district. In return, the company, called Force Multiplier Solutions, would keep 70% of revenue from citations. The remaining 30% would be split evenly among the State Court of Bibb County, Bibb schools and the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.

So far, the camera systems have been installed on only 75 of the district’s 200 buses.

BusPatrol so far has collected $1,269,441 from citations, Jackson said. Citations were $300 until July 1, 2018, when the law changed and reduced them to $250 a piece.

Bibb State Court Solicitor-General Rebecca Grist said about 500 tickets have been contested. If a ticket is unpaid, BusPatrol “has civil remedies it can pursue,” she said.

More than 75 seniors gathered in Statesboro to begin pushing for property tax relief, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Enacting a school property tax exemption for Bulloch County senior citizens will take a while — if the Board of Education first supports it — Rep. Jan Tankersley told interested seniors Monday.

Between 75 and 80 people, most qualifying as seniors, filled the community building at Luetta Moore Park in Statesboro to talk about the topic. It was an organizational meeting as the group prepares to address the Bulloch County Board of Education during its 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 regular session.

Besides being the state representative whose district includes the largest portion of Bulloch County and the only one who resides in the county, Tankersley, R-Brooklet, chairs the House Intergovernmental Coordination Committee. It handles legislation specific to a county or city.

“My part actually would start if the Board of Education listens to you at your meeting and they make a motion and it passes that they are willing to give senior citizens — whatever age that is determined to be — a tax exemption,” Tankersley said. “From that point, that’s where it comes up to us, and it comes up to the House of Representatives, and it is considered a piece of local legislation.”

Some of the leaders had suggested age 70 as the minimum qualifying age for the proposed exemption. By the end of Monday’s gathering, the thinking had shifted to 65 as the general qualifying age, but with no firm conclusion, Bowen and Branch said Tuesday.

Regulations on oyster farming are still being developed, according to The Brunswick News.

NOAA Sea Grant and the National Sea Grant Law Center — with Georgia Sea Grant and the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government — conducted a seminar Wednesday going over new shellfish law. As observers may be aware and no doubt expected, there is a fair amount of permitting involved.

“Until the 1930s, we actually led the country with 13 canneries,” said Shana Jones, director of the Georgia Sea Grant Law program. “That has changed, obviously. Overharvesting and market changes led to a decline. And while the clumped oysters are wonderful to steam and they’re great to eat, and great for canning, tastes have changed. People don’t eat as much canned oysters as they used to, they eat them on the half-shell.”

“This is probably straight-ahead in most places, but first you have to be in approved shellfish water under the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, you have to have a right to harvest those oysters, you have to qualify for a master harvester permit, and then you have a series of licenses to get,” Jones said.

These approved waters are the responsibility of the state Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division.

CRD is in the process of detailing the areas of the state where oyster farming will be allowed, and give notice when that occurs. There are legal considerations state regulators must take into account including navigation, fishing, swimming and other recreation.

The City of Hahira is considering a property tax increase, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

It’s millage season, the City of Hahira is recommending $27,207 in increased property tax collections for the next fiscal year.

Though the digest appreciated and the state calls this a tax increase, Jonathan Sumner, city manager, said the millage rate for Hahira will remain the same at 4.75.

“The digest has increased, according to assessors,” Sumner said.

Two public hearings will be held, one at noon and the next at 6 p.m., Aug. 22. The final and third hearing will be held during a special called meeting at 6 p.m., Aug. 29.

Rome City Schools will pay $1.2 million dollars for a 32-acre parcel of land to use for school bus parking, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The school system was forced to begin separating from the Rome Transit Department in February of this year after an audit determined the shared use violated Federal Transit Administration grant regulations. City students had been using RTD buses for over 30 years at that time and Rome City Schools did not have a transportation program in place.

After much planning and discussion, the board of education for RCS approved the purchase of 35 new school buses for $3.2 million. The school system has since received word that they will receive a rebate of around $77,000 for one of the school buses through a state program.

After the bus purchase was made, city school officials began to discuss where the buses will be parked.

Since the RTD facility receives federal dollars the system could not use city facilities for their bus storage and had to make other arrangements.

31
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 31, 2019

On July 31, 1777, the Marquis de LaFayette was commissioned a Major General in the Continental Army, serving without pay.

The cornerstone for the first United States Mint was laid in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 31, 1792, becoming the first building constructed by the federal government under the Constitution.

Former President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded President Lincoln upon his assassination and oversaw much of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, died of a stroke in Tennessee on July 31, 1875.

On July 31, 1906, a bill to place a Constitutional Amendment on the November election for voters to decide whether to create an intermediate-level Georgia Court of Appeals was approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

On July 31, 1962, the one-millionth immigrant was welcomed into Israel.

On July 31, 1987, “The Lost Boys” was released. From the New York Times:

“The Lost Boys” is to horror movies what “Late Night With David Letterman” is to television; it laughs at the form it embraces, adds a rock-and-roll soundtrack and, if you share its serious-satiric attitude, manages to be very funny.

Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in major league baseball history, won his 300th career game on July 31, 1990. During eight innings, Ryan threw 146 pitches, while today, many pitchers are pulled at around the 100-pitch count.

“In the old days throwing that many pitches was a normal game,” said Nolan Ryan, who tossed a record seven no-hitters and is the all-time leader in strikeouts, fifth in innings pitched.

Ryan, currently the Rangers’ team president, is an outspoken detractor of the recent trend toward monitoring pitch counts. In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Ryan expressed his belief that today’s pitchers are “pampered” and that there is no reason why today’s pitchers cannot pitch as much as he and his colleagues did back in the day. As a result, Ryan is pushing his team’s pitchers to throw deeper into games and extend their arms further, emphasizing conditioning over what some would call coddling.

As Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux told SI: “This generation of players has become a creature of the pitch count. Their ceiling has been lowered. It’s up to us to jack it back up.”

Although I think that time he whipped Robin Ventura should count as a win.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

An Atlanta outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease may be the largest in U.S. history, according to Georgia Health News.

Newly released state figures on Legionnaires’ cases linked to an Atlanta hotel suggest that the outbreak could become among the biggest in U.S. history.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said that in addition to the 11 confirmed Legionnaires’ disease cases, there are 55 “probable’’ cases.

The latter represent people who had illness consistent with Legionnaires’ disease, including pneumonia diagnosed by a clinician or chest X-ray, but have not received laboratory confirmation, Public Health said Monday. The number of probable cases can change based on additional testing and lab results.

Earlier this year, GHN reported that cases of Legionnaires’ disease have quadrupled in Georgia over the past 10 years.

That increase mirrors a national trend, with U.S. cases up fivefold since 2000. About 80 percent of Georgia outbreaks have occurred in health care facilities, Cherie Drenzek, state epidemiologist, said in February.

GPB News spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) about the new voting system to be implemented.

First of all, there’ll be a new electronic poll book. And that electronic poll book has been shown to actually move voters, to get them ready to vote in 30 to 35 seconds. So, we’re expecting to see shorter lines just on the front end. Flow management is going to be really improved, and that’s a great thing to see.

Then, once you are ready to vote and get your ballot, you’re going to go over to the new voting machine. When you look at all your selections, you’re going to look at all that touchscreen technology and going to press them similar to what you do right now.

But when you press that button it won’t be to cast your ballot, it’ll be to print the ballot. And then you’ll need to review all your selections. You then take that ballot once you confirm that’s what you wanted to vote for over to an optical scanner. When it goes to the scanner it makes an optical scan, like an electronic image of your ballot.

So that’s been recorded, then it records the vote that you have and that drops into a box.

We will now be able to do physical recounts and will also be to do audits.

When you have these elections, even if it’s an 80-20 election, but particularly when you have that 51-49 election, you’ll be able to do to an audit, to say “This really was a 51-49 race, we’ve done an audit of that.”

Governor Brian Kemp (R) joined the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance to issue a Buy From Georgia Month proclamation, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Training children and adults about the importance of buying locally manufactured goods can change the future,” Kemp said in the proclamation. “When consumers buy Georgia’s manufactured goods, they further our local economy, protect manufacturing jobs and ultimately contribute to a greater sense of community in this state that we call home.”

This year marked the sixth time a sitting governor has issued a Buy From Georgia Month proclamation, although this was the first time Kemp, who took office in January, was the person issuing it.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua ruled that Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office has no conflict of interest on some Open Records matters, according to the AJC.

“Under the Georgia Constitution and governing Georgia law, the AG’s Office has a constitutional and statutory obligation to represent and defend the agencies of the State of Georgia,” Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua wrote.

Atlanta attorney Gordon Joyner raised the issue as part of a lawsuit he filed against the State Accounting Office last November alleging violations of the Open Records Act. In his suit, he said that agency didn’t provide any records he had requested until he filed his lawsuit, and that the Attorney General’s office provided only limited help when he reached out.

Joyner wanted the Attorney General’s office disqualified from representing the State Accounting Office in the lawsuit.

Georgia farmers received $62 million from the federal government in light of the trade war, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The federal government has paid Georgia farms $62 million under a special program meant to help them survive the Trump administration’s trade war, according to data compiled by The Idaho Statesman.

Countries like China and Mexico retaliated against the administration’s tariffs by placing their own tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports.

As a result, Georgia farmers faced financial uncertainly, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The Augusta Commission asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations against Commissioner Sammie Sias, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta Commission referred one of its own to law enforcement Tuesday, requesting that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation look into allegations that Commissioner Sammie Sias misspent funds intended for Jamestown Community Center. The commission also referred allegations of child abuse at Jamestown to the Division of Family and Children Services.

After more than three hours behind closed doors, the commission voted 7-2-1 on a four-part motion to request the investigations, with commissioners Bill Fennoy and Dennis Williams opposed. Sias, who did not attend the closed-door meeting, abstained from voting.

The motion included changing the locks at Jamestown and banning Sias from its management, operations and maintenance until the investigations are complete.

In addition, the commission vote removed Sias as an ex-officio member of the Augusta Aviation Commission, the board that manages Augusta Regional Airport, as well as his designee Willa Hilton, who brought the allegations against Sias to the commission and was currently the aviation commission’s chairwoman.

Former Cherokee County Commissioner J.J. Biello died on Sunday, according to the Tribune Ledger News.

Former colleagues remembered him Monday not only as a dedicated public servant, but as a friend.

Prior to coming to Cherokee County, Biello served as an officer with the Atlanta Police Department. On April 15, 1987, Biello was wounded and paralyzed in the line of duty when responding to a robbery call.

Along with his time on the board of commissioners, Biello served the people of Cherokee County by taking a position on the Cherokee Recreation and Parks Authority Board until 2010. Biello also served in a statewide capacity, being appointed by Gov. Roy Barnes to the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission in 2002 and was reappointed to the commission by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2006 and 2010, serving as its chairman for much of his tenure.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission will hold  a candidate workshop on Friday, according to the AJC.

Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission are hosting a candidate workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. that day in room 220 of city hall, 38 Hill St.

The workshop shows current public officials, candidates and residents interested in the Campaign Finance Act how the law works.

The Roswell City Council on Monday unanimously approved a $375,000 contract with Fulton County to have the county run the city’s election on Nov. 5 and, if needed, a runoff on Dec. 3.

Bulloch County Board of Education members discussed policies on Sheriff’s deputies in schools, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The proposed intergovernmental agreement presented last Thursday between the school system on one side and the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners and Sheriff Noel Brown on the other would be unlike previous agreements that, when they were in writing at all, dealt mostly with funding.

“The intent of school resource officers, by definition, is not to be a police officer in the school that is, you know, being aggressive with students,” Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson said to school board members.

“An SRO by nature and role is to establish relationships. …,” Wilson continued. “But they are a law enforcement officer, and as you know our SROs report to, in this case, the sheriff’s department.”

A paragraph in the proposed agreement states: “All school related activity must be coordinated by each SRO with the principal’s office. When an SRO perceives that law enforcement action is required at a school, he/she shall take such action and then notify the principal of the actions taken as soon as reasonably possible thereafter.”

However, Wilson said he does not think the school system can go further and require an officer to notify the principal or other administrators first, before taking a law enforcement action in regard to a student. He said he had consulted the school system’s legal counsel, the district attorney’s office and others.

“Basically what that would mean is us trying to prevent a law enforcement officer from exercising their responsibilities and requirements under state law, and the sheriff’s expectations as well,” Wilson told the board.

The Dougherty County Board of Education will pilot a program to use an alternative to the Georgia Milestones testing regime, according to WALB.

The Dougherty County School System is currently using the Georgia Milestones Test. It’s a one time, end of the year, standardized test. But school leaders are hoping by this time next year, they’ll be using a different method of testing.

[Dougherty County School System Superintendent Kenneth] Dyer said the school district is apart of an innovative assessment pilot the State Board of Education is putting on.

Dyer wants to start using a test called NAVVY. Rather than testing students one time at the end of the year, NAVVY is a series of tests throughout the school year.

The district is one out of nine school systems chosen to be apart of this pilot assessment.

Columbus City Council passed an ordinance allowing retail beer and wine outlets to also serve by the drink, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Thanks to a local ordinance change approved by Columbus Council on Tuesday, Maltitude and other beer and wine retail stores in the city can apply for a license to sell those beverages by the drink, in addition to their normal take-home sales.

The change does not apply to stores that sell liquor.

Maltitude, a small boutique-style bottle shop, is celebrating its sixth anniversary next month. The shop sells craft beer by the can, bottle and growler along with a curated selection of wine.

Co-owner Miles Greathouse told council July 23 that many craft beer retailers have recently had to “pivot” to keep up with a booming market that’s become saturated with craft beverages.

“We know of at least 10 retail stores similar to ours here in the state of Georgia that have added on-premises consumption in communities like Macon, Warner Robins, Smyrna, Snellville and Decatur that stayed in business, and we know of at least 15 others that have failed to do so and closed their doors,” Greathouse said.

Greathouse said Tuesday following the vote that the additional revenue stream created by by-the-drink sales will help the store stay relevant, and he commended Columbus Council’s recognition and assistance in helping Maltitude do what it needs to thrive.

Savannah added a southbound bike lane, doubling the mileage of its improved bike lanes, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Dalton City Council named its representatives to a Whitfield County SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) committee, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Brunswick area businesses may be eligible for loans and grants under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America program, according to The Brunswick News.

Lance Young, a renewable energy coordinator for the USDA in this part of Georgia, described the program Tuesday at one of the Georgia Coastal Management Program’s Brownbag Presentations.

Young pointed out that between 2009 and 2017, 58 percent of program funds went to energy efficiency projects, but 41 percent went to renewable energy systems.

“And by the way, that section is where solar falls into…,” Young said. “What I’m seeing now is because of the pickup in solar business here in South Georgia, I’m seeing more parity between these two. What I mean by that, in the last couple years, we’re picking up more solar applications than we are the energy efficiency category.”

“The purpose of our REAP program is to provide grants and guaranteed loan funding for renewable energy system installations and energy- efficient improvements for agricultural producers and rural small businesses,” Young said.

To qualify, you either have to be an agricultural producer or a rural small business. To be an ag producer, the business must have more than 51 percent of its annual income over three years from crops, livestock, aquaculture, forestry, nurseries or dairies. There’s no location requirement.

Small businesses have to be in a rural, non-metro area with a population less than 50,000.

The Port of Savannah set another monthly record for container throughput, according to a press release from the Georgia Ports Authority.

The Port of Savannah moved a record 4.5 million twenty-foot equivalent container units in the fiscal year that ended June 30, an increase of more than 305,000 TEUs, or 7.3 percent.

“Our ports are firing on all cylinders,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “This success is a testament to the men and women who work throughout our entire supply chain and make a difference for Georgia and the nation every day. Because of their commitment, our factories, farms and logistics providers are creating opportunity and prosperity in every corner of our state.”

For the first time ever, GPA handled more than half a million container lifts to rail, growing that number by more than 72,000, or 16.6 percent. The 506,707 intermodal boxes constituted more than 20 percent of total containers, another record.

“The Authority’s investment in the Mason Mega Rail project is coming just in time for our capacity to stay ahead of demand, ensuring the free flow of intermodal cargo,” said Will McKnight, GPA’s Board Chairman. “The first phase of the project will be complete this year, cutting rail transit time to Midwestern markets by 24 hours.”

The Mason Mega Rail project, which will double Savannah’s rail capacity and create the largest on-terminal intermodal facility in North America, is 40 percent complete. By 2021, the new facility will be able to handle 1 million containers per year.

“Our team on the terminal – GPA employees, the International Longshoremen’s Association, and our two Class 1 rail providers, CSX and Norfolk Southern – are moving more freight faster and more efficiently than ever before in our history,” said Griff Lynch, GPA’s Executive Director. “Rail cargo is expanding at twice the rate of our overall container trade, reducing congestion on our highways and increasing Georgia’s reach to a mid-American arc of cities, including Chicago, St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio.”

At the Port of Brunswick, 613,680 autos and machinery units crossed the docks at Colonel’s Island Terminal, GPA’s main port for the import-export of cars, trucks and tractors. Roll-on/Roll-off cargo grew by 4 percent at Colonel’s Island in FY2019.

“Brunswick’s proximity to dealerships across the region, the ease of doing business in Georgia and the room to grow at Colonel’s Island are a winning combination,” Lynch said. “No other Ro/Ro port in the nation can match Brunswick’s 400 acres of expansion space.”

Ocean Terminal in Savannah added another 35,884 vehicles for a total of nearly 650,000 units moved through Georgia’s ports.

At East River Terminal in Brunswick, terminal operator Logistec moved 1.2 million tons of bulk cargo in FY2019, an increase of 203,000 tons, or 20 percent. The improvement was largely associated with an increase in wood pellets, peanut pellets and perlite.

30
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 30, 2019

July 30th could be celebrated as the birthday of democracy in America, as the Virginia House of Burgesses became the first legislative body in the New World on July 30, 1619.

 Its first law, which, like all of its laws, would have to be approved by the London Company, required tobacco to be sold for at least three shillings per pound. Other laws passed during its first six-day session included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness, and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath observance mandatory.

On July 30, 1931, Georgia Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. signed legislation merging Milton and Fulton Counties if voters in each county approved a referendum. Fulton had earlier merged with Campbell County, to the south.

Actor Laurence Fishburn was born in Augusta, Georgia on July 30, 1961.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare, for seniors, and Medicaid for some low-income people on July 30, 1965.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced the selection of a vendor for new voting equipment.

After a competitive selection process, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger selects Dominion Voting Systems to implement its new verified paper ballot system. Implementation of the new secure voting system will start immediately and be in place and fully operational for the March 24, 2020 Presidential Preference Primary.

“Elections security is my top priority,” said Raffensperger. “We look forward to working with national and local elections security experts to institute best practices and continue to safeguard all aspects of physical and cyber-security in an ever-changing threat environment.”

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has already partnered with the Department of Homeland Security and private cyber-security companies to provide network monitoring, cyber-hygiene scanning, and cyber-security assessments. Many Georgia counties have also partnered with DHS to provide physical security assessments of their election offices.

“We are honored to partner with the State of Georgia to deliver a best-in-class system that is fully adaptable to state needs,” said Dominion CEO John Poulos. “Election officials and voters alike can be assured they are using the most modern, accessible and security-focused system on the market today, with paper ballots for every vote cast to ease auditing and ensure confidence in results.”

“As Election Director my job is to make sure every voter has a positive experience,” said Rockdale County Elections Supervisor, Cynthia Willingham. “We are grateful to the Secretary of State for the new system and will ensure every voter is able to efficiently and accurately cast their ballot.”

From GPB News:

The new $90 million system will include an electronic poll book where voters check in, an ImageCast X Ballot-Marking Device, where voters will touch their selections which are then printed on a paper ballot and an ImageCast Precinct Polling Place Scanner which will scan and store the voter’s paper ballot for counting.

Dominion says its BMD paper ballots include a barcode that is scanned as well as an image of the complete ballot, but it also produces a human-readable summary of contests and your choices that voters can verify.

Any recounts or audits that are done would be conducted with the actual text of a voter’s selection, not the barcode.

A federal judge is currently weighing a motion to block the state from using the outdated DRE system and switch to hand-marked paper ballots for hundred municipal elections happening across the state this fall.

In a two-day hearing last week, Judge Amy Totenberg heard concerns from Georgia voters, elections officials and cybersecurity experts about the state’s current system and the feasability of switching to an interim system. It is unclear whether the state’s decision today will have an impact on her ruling.

Up to six Georgia counties will pilot the new Dominion system in this November’s local elections before being rolled out in time for the Presidential primary March 24, 2020.

From the Newnan Times-Herald:

Coweta Elections Supervisor Jane Scoggins said she saw a demonstration of the Dominion system, as well as several other types of ballot marking devices, at the annual conference of the Georgia Election Officials Association and Institute of Voter Registrars of Georgia, held in March.

“There are several things I like about it,” Scoggins said. The system includes an electronic poll book that will create the voter certificate electronically when a voter’s driver’s license is scanned, she said. Currently, voters fill out the paper certificate as the first step when voting.

The marked ballots that are printed out look similar to a paper absentee ballot, Scoggins said. They don’t look like the receipt tapes that the current machines print out at the end of the night.

Coweta is set to receive some of the new equipment in August for training. “We will start in-house training with a few people,” Scoggins said. The rest of the equipment will arrive later.

The new equipment will arrive while the Coweta Election and Voter Registration is in the midst of working on a special election Sept. 3 for Georgia House District 71, and the November election with county-wide ballot questions and municipal council races.

Some Georgia counties will be using the new machines in November as a pilot project. Scoggins said Coweta probably would have been part of the pilot project if it weren’t for the county-wide sales tax and property tax questions on the ballot.

Carroll County will be using the new machines for city elections, and some Coweta elections officials will travel to Carroll County to observe poll worker training and testing, as well as observe early voting.

From the Brunswick News:

At the Glynn County Board of Elections, officials are still waiting on more information on how the switch to the new machines will impact local elections boards.

“We’ll have them probably before the November election, but we’re not scheduled to use them until the presidential preference primary,” said Chris Channell, elections and registration supervisor.

It was something of a surprise when he heard the state selected Dominion to provide the new voting machines, Channell said. The state has used ES&S machines since 2001, and Dominion’s machines are the only ones among those that bid for the state contract that didn’t integrate the touchscreen voting machine and the paper ballot printer into a single device.

“This is going to be a different one than we’re used to,” Channell said.

From the Gainesville Times:

Lori Wurtz, Hall County’s elections director, said she supports the new system.

“We believe the new voting machines will be a welcomed enhancement to the voters of Hall County. The new system produces a paper ballot for auditing purposes, which will create an added level of security for our voters,” she said. “We will continue to provide voters with top-notch service when they cast their ballots in Hall County.”

All of Hall County’s delegation supported the law.

“There’s no stray pencil marks, there’s no erasures, there’s no X’s or O’s or anything that would confuse and invalidate a ballot,” State Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said in February. “And once it comes out of the machine with a marked ballot, you get to review that ballot.”

And State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said he would like to see verifiable paper ballots, rather than just printed ones with a barcode, although he liked the idea of marking ballots with a machine.

“I want it to print out my ballot and be able to see what I voted for, just like it shows up on the screen at the end of the process today,” Miller said in February.

From the AJC:

Like Georgia’s existing machines, voters will make their choices on touchscreen machines. But after picking their candidates, instead of tapping a button that says “cast ballot,” they’ll click on a button that says “print your ballot.” The printer attached to the machine will then print a ballot on a full sheet of paper, which voters can then review for accuracy before inserting into a scanner for tabulation. The paper ballots will be locked in a ballot box for retrieval as needed for audits or recounts.

Critics of these new voting machines, called ballot-marking devices, said they fail to guarantee that votes are counted correctly. They prefer paper ballots filled out with a pen, not by a computer printer.

“We have seen how fragile our digital voting system is. The replacement of ES&S is a critical step toward creating greater transparency and security in our elections,” said state Sen. Gloria Butler, a Democrat from Stone Mountain. “I cannot overemphasize the importance of providing complete public education about the new machines. There needs to be sufficient time for voters to see, touch and operate the machines.”

The AJC notes that the Democratic Primary for United States Senate in 2020 has no African-American candidates yet.

Months after Stacey Abrams narrowly lost her bid to become the state’s first black governor, some Democrats are eyeing the growing U.S. Senate field in Georgia with a concern: There are no African American contenders in the running yet for the state’s biggest prize in 2020.

The five Democratic candidates in the race or known to be seriously considering a challenge to Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue are all white. The two that have launched campaigns, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, are tailoring their appeals to energize black voters.

Still, it can seem incongruous that Georgia lacks a top-tier African American candidate at a time when the black electorate in the state is as powerful as ever. Turnout among black voters surged last year, helping Abrams clobber a primary opponent and nearly defeat Brian Kemp.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we don’t have any black candidates, especially since we have so many qualified black leaders in the state. But the field cleared for Stacey and she took longer than people expected, and it may be that people are now playing catch-up,” said state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, a black legislator not interested in a statewide run next year.

Kendrick added that she’s “not shouting for joy, as I think a black leader would motivate the Democratic base. I would have loved to see a black leader, but it’s a good, solid field.”

Abortion numbers in Georgia have fallen over the last 25 years, according to the AJC.

While Georgia’s population has ballooned in recent decades, the number of abortions dropped 19 percent in 23 years, according to state records, much of it due to increased access to birth control, experts say.

In 1994, the earliest year data was available on the Georgia Department of Public Health’s vital statistics database, there were 33,516 abortions reported — a rate of about 13.7 abortions per 1,000 Georgia females between the ages of 10 and 55. There were 27,453 abortions reported in 2017, the most recent data available, at a rate of 8.3 per 1,000 females.

According to U.S. Census figures, Georgia had a population of about 7 million in 1994. In 2017, there were about 10.4 million people living in Georgia.

In Georgia, there was a decline in the number of abortions after the [Affordable Care Act] contraceptive mandate went into effect in August 2012, dropping by about 3,000 reported abortions between 2011 and 2014.

A study of polls by Gallup found that 33% of Americans considered themselves to be “pro life” while 56% identified as “pro choice,” or as an abortion rights advocate. In 2019, 49% of Americans identified as “pro life” and 46% considered themselves to be “pro choice.”

Vice President Mike Pence will speak in Atlanta on Friday, according to the AJC.

Vice President Mike Pence is set to speak Friday at a conference in Atlanta organized by conservative pundit Erick Erickson.

Pence is one of several high-profile Republicans who will speak at the event, which will also feature Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

Pence’s arrival will make Georgia a curious political crossroads. Even as Republicans gather at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead, the Democratic Socialists of America will hold a weekend convention at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) raised more money in the last reporting period than any previous quarter, according to The Brunswick News.

Even following the 2018 contest, in which Democratic nominee Lisa Ring posted the best performance by a Democrat since 1992, Carter not only won by 15.48 percent — 38,799 votes out of 250,683 cast — he ended the campaign with more than $1.17 million in the bank.

During the last reporting period, which covered April-June 2019, Carter raised the most money in the short history of his congressional account, a hefty $560,117.75. And while spending more than $105,000, Carter closed the period with more than $1.54 million in hand.

The Macon Telegraph examines how many hands-free driving citations were issued in the first year of the new law.

Statewide, Georgia State Patrol troopers wrote 24,862 citations related to the hands-free law in the first year. Most of those — 20,060 — were related to holding a cellphone will driving. Other citations may include watching video while driving or texting.

Bibb County Sheriff’s Capt. Brad Wolfe, who supervises traffic enforcement, said deputies wrote 117 citations related to the hand-free law in the first year, along with issuing many more warnings. He said more motorists are aware of the law now but compliance is still an issue.

Houston County Sheriff’s Cpl. Will Mitchelson said deputies there wrote approximately 350 tickets in the first year of the law, and that’s after writing only warnings in the first month.

A ticket is $50 on the first offense and 1 point on a driver’s record.

New dental standards for pain relief aim to cut down on the opioid epidemic, according to the Savannah Morning News.

For dental surgery patients, [Savannah dentist Rod] Strickland still prescribes opioids, but new prescribing standards from the American Dental Association have reduced the recommended dosage and the number of days of opioids.

“Quite honestly, ibuprofen is more effective than opioids because it’s got a great anti-inflammatory property,” said Strickland, who uses procaine and local anesthetics during many common dental procedures.

While experts say dentists were among the top medical specialists prescribing opioid-prescription writing, the painkillers also were given generously by physicians and other specialists. Surgeries, back aches, broken bones and dental pain are just a few of the painful injuries and ailments the drugs were prescribed for to keep patients comfortable.

But the dental profession has responded more quickly to the opioid crisis than many other fields of medicine, said Dr. Martha Somerman, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, who spoke May 30-31 at the NIDCR conference.

[AMA President Dr. Patrice] Harris said personal accounts of people addicted to opioids have spurred physicians to take seriously the epidemic, and American Dental Association President Jeffrey Cole spoke of dentists and people related to them affected by opioid addiction as one reason the association revised its opioid policy for dentists in 2018, according to a news article on ADA.org.

The revised policy limits opioid dosages and says they shouldn’t exceed seven days of use, which supports Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. It also supports mandatory continuing education for dentists on opioids and other controlled substances, and it asks dentists to use prescription drug monitoring programs to deter opioid misuse and abuse.

Bryan County is also fighting the opioid epidemic, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A higher opioid prescribing rate in Bryan County has spurred grassroots efforts to educate, prevent and support families about opioid addiction. Besides the Nar-Anon group that meets weekly in Richmond Hill, the Bryan County Opioid Prevention Project is in its third year of offering education.

“Our overall is prevention,” said Wendy Dauphinee, program coordinator of the Bryan County Opioid Prevention Project at Bryan Prevention and Recovery. It promotes Take Back days with the Drug Enforcement Administration where people can drop off unused medication at the Richmond Hill and Pembroke police departments. The project’s website, bryanprevention.com, provides information about proper disposal and Bryan County locations that take back unused medications. A DEA website, takebackday.dea.gov, lists locations in the Savannah area where people can take unused medication.

Dauphinee said she isn’t sure why Bryan County has a higher opioid prescribing rate. Opioid prescribing rates for Bryan County of 82.3 prescriptions per 100 people in 2017 exceeded the 77.6 rate per 100 people in Chatham County, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate in Effingham County was 72.3 prescriptions for 100 people, while Liberty County had 52.9 prescriptions per 100 people.

The Bryan County project also provides questions for people to ask their doctors about opioids and other information on its website, bryanprevention.com. A grant from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities supports the opioid prevention project at Bryan Prevention and Recovery.

The Muscogee County Jail needs more resources for inmates with mental health and addiction issues, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Muscogee County Jail is now the largest mental hospital in Columbus, housing around 450 inmates diagnosed with some mental illness.

That puts it beyond West Central Georgia Regional Hospital on Schatulga Road, which has around 200 beds, said Judge Gil McBride, chief judge of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.

“It’s surprising to me that running a jail is very much like running a hospital,” Sheriff Donna Tompkins said in an interview Wednesday. The sheriff’s office runs the county jail.

With a capacity of 1,069, the jail on Wednesday had 1,170, Tompkins said. “That’s actually down,” she added. The most overcrowded she recalls it during her term is 1,214.

The day she took office in 2017, it was 995, she said.

The population fluctuates, but lately it has increased even with jail and court programs aimed at getting misdemeanor offenders out of the system, and at resolving the simplest cases first.

Those programs are working, court officials say, closing around 25-27% of all the Superior Court criminal cases here. But lately the jail has been deluged with new inmates: 10,402 went through the complex in 2017, and 12,954 in 2018, the sheriff said.

Columbia County will delay the opening of a new Performing Arts Center, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Rain has been one of several factors delaying the project. The initial completion date was February 2020, but that has now been moved back to November, according to SPLOST Project Manager Steven Prather, who joined the project in December. When completion on the Plaza at Evans Towne Center was delayed, the start date on the Performing Arts Center was also delayed.

Since its groundbreaking in February 2018, the project has seen multiple unforeseen issues. According to the National Weather Service, the Augusta area saw 17.5 inches of rain from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, the third-highest amount on record. Gary Judy, Columbia County’s senior field project manager, said crews ran into rock and water where the orchestra pit will be located.

Three Richmond County schools will no longer provide free meals, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Until Monday, all schools were covered by the Community Eligibility Provision, which allows students to eat meals at no cost. The Richmond County School Nutrition Department covers the cost of meals and is reimbursed at $3.39 for lunch and $2.41 for breakfast, and $0.39 for lunch and $0.31 for breakfast for students who pay for their meals.

The decision to remove Freedom Park School, John S. Davidson Magnet School and C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School came after the state determined Thursday that a lower percentage of students are directly certified to receive free meals in the county. Students are directly certified if their family is part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

While recertification of schools typically occurs every four years, the process must occur every year that a new school is opened. With the opening of Richmond Hill K-8 on Aug. 6, the state looked at the number of students who receive SNAP or TANF to create a claiming percentage. That percentage is the amount that schools receive full reimbursment for free meals served.

“Our school nutrition workers go through and look at our enrolled students and they compare that to students that are in the school district and we can look at their addresses and we can look in the system and see does that household qualify for SNAP or TANF,” said Bobby Smith, the school system’s chief financial officer.

Gwinnett County hopes a private developer will redevelop the former Olympic tennis facility near Stone Mountain, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett leaders acquired the site in late 2016 in a land swap with the Stone Mountain Memorial Association and have since then demolished the stadium, which was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics but rarely used afterwards.

“This RFI [request for information] will be used to explore potential strategies and approaches for leveraging existing assets for the redevelopment of the Stone Mountain Tennis Center site, approximately twenty-six cleared acres that once held the 1996 Olympic Tennis Venue,” county officials wrote in the RFI.

Varnell City Council member Ashlee Godfrey is currently living outside the city limits while building a new house, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

City Attorney Terry Miller said Godfrey came to him two weeks ago to discuss her situation, noting she had sold a house.

“She had been living for, I think, two or three weeks in a condominium nearby but outside the city limits,” he said. “She felt very much this was transitional and had acquired a lot inside the city limits to build a house.”

Miller said a similar situation had come up several years ago so he had already researched it.

“Based on Georgia case law, and, I believe, a (state) attorney general’s opinion, in these transitional living situations, a temporary sojourn — the wording in the case law — does not disqualify an officeholder from continuing to serve where the charter they serve under requires that they maintain residency within the jurisdiction,” he said.

Miller said the law does say the elected official has to show he or she is making an active effort to move back into their district such as with construction contracts.

Thomasville Mayor Greg Hobbs has been reinstated from a suspension, according to WCTV.

Thomasville officials said Monday that it is their “understanding that Mayor Hobbs was reinstated by virtue of the plea agreement reached Friday.”

Hobbs reached a plea deal Friday a few days before he was set to go to trial. Hobbs pled no contest to false report of a crime and making a false statement.

He was set to go to trial for false report of a crime, three counts of violation of oath of public office, and two counts of making a false statement.

Because of the plea agreement, Hobbs will only be sentenced for two counts. The other four counts will be dismissed.

The Federal Aviation Administration will decide in December whether to grant a license to the proposed Camden County spaceport, according to The Brunswick News.

Stacey Zee, an official with the Federal Aviation Administration, said in an email that a decision will be made on a launch site operator’s license by Dec. 16.

The ongoing environmental impact statement, or EIS, is scheduled for completion in November, followed by Record of Decision by the end of the year. An exact date for the final EIS release will be set at a later time.

Supporters, including the business community and prominent local, state and federal elected officials, say a spaceport will generate high-tech jobs, improve STEM education programs locally and help local economies throughout the region.

Opponents say the FAA will never approve launches because of the risk to residents living on Cumberland and Little Cumberland islands, where rockets would have to fly over to reach orbit.

29
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 29, 2019

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his eighth visit to Warm Springs, Georgia on July 29, 1927.

Congress passed legislation establishing the National Aeronautic and Space Admininistration (NASA) on July 29, 1958.

The Doors’ “Light My Fire” became their first #1 hit on July 29, 1967.

Carl Lewis won his fourth consecutive gold medal in the long jump at the Atlanta Olympics on July 29, 1996.

https://youtu.be/JuD1OdoXe9Q

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Senator Johnny Isakson was released from inpatient rehab after a fall, according to the AJC.

The three-term Republican “is making good progress in his recovery” and will continue endurance work with his doctors on an outpatient basis, his office said in a statement.

“I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and will remain focused on making a full recovery so I can get back to work,” Isakson said.

The 74-year-old spent six days in an inpatient rehabilitation program at Marietta’s WellStar Kennestone Hospital after being hospitalized in Washington on July 16.

Isakson’s office said the Republican plans to return to Washington when the chamber reconvenes after Labor Day. In the meantime, his team will assess his condition week by week to determine when he can get back to work in Georgia.

Georgia election officials were accused of destroying evidence in a lawsuit aiming to force the retirment of the state’s current voting machines, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

Election integrity advocates and individual Georgia voters sued election officials in 2017 alleging that the touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are unsecure and vulnerable to hacking. In a court filing Thursday, they said state officials began destroying evidence within days of the suit’s filing and continued to do so as the case moved forward.

“The evidence strongly suggests that the State’s amateurish protection of critical election infrastructure placed Georgia’s election system at risk, and the State Defendants now appear to be desperate to cover-up the effects of their misfeasance — to the point of destroying evidence,” the filing says.

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections, denied the allegations.

The brief was filed Thursday as U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg was holding a hearing on requests by the plaintiffs that she order the state to immediately stop using its current voting machines and switch to hand-marked paper ballots. That hearing is set to continue Friday.

From GPB News:

After hearing two long days of testimony, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg expressed concern about balancing security issues with the outdated direct-recording electronic voting machines with the state’s existing planned transition to touchscreen ballot-marking devices with a paper ballot component by next year.

Lawyers for the state and Fulton County say that switching to hand-marked paper ballots would strain city and county budgets, create voter confusion and disrupt the state’s procurement process for implementing a new ballot-marking system in time for the March 24 presidential primaries.

“In 2019, it’s too late to enter an injunction,” Fulton County lawyer Kaye Burwell told the court during closing arguments.

Jennifer Doran runs elections for Morgan County just south of Athens. She told the court her election budget was about $30,000 in total, and it would cost several thousand more dollars if she had to purchase enough ballot scanners to run three municipal elections this fall.

Judge Totenberg called the task ahead of her “very daunting,” and said that while the integrity of elections systems must be front and center, she was wary of chaos and running amok in the state’s election process.

“These are very difficult issues,” she said. “I’m going to wrestle with them the best that I can, but these are not simple issues.”

From the AJC:

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg said Georgians could be “sitting ducks” because of hacking vulnerabilities in the state’s electronic voting system.

But Totenberg appeared reluctant to throw out the state’s 17-year-old voting machines this close to November’s elections.

She said “it might be extra challenging” to change to hand-marked paper ballots, then go through another transition to the state’s new voting system before the presidential primary election March 24, 2020. Georgia’s upcoming voting system combines touchscreen voting machines that print out paper ballots.

Totenberg’s forthcoming ruling will only apply to Georgia’s current electronic voting machines — not the state’s future hybrid computer-and-paper voting system.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will announce in “a matter of days” which company’s voting system the state will buy, said Bryan Tyson, an attorney for the state. The General Assembly budgeted $150 million for the system.

The Chatham County Board of Elections said that new precincts in Pooler may not be ready in time for 2019 municipal elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County Board of Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges came before Pooler’s City Council in June to showcase the proposed boundaries for the new precincts, which divided two of Pooler’s existing precincts.

Tom Mahoney, chairman of the Chatham County Board of Elections, said there are still a few concerns to be addressed before the new precincts can become a reality — and that may not happen until 2020.

Mahoney said council’s concerns include Chatham County Commission’s approval of the changes, having ample time to inform residents of polling location changes, assuring the proposed precincts have polling locations, and that the changes take into account future population growth.

Mahoney said one of the biggest obstacles has been the search for a polling place in one of the new precincts.

All those who live within Pooler city limits south of Interstate 16 would be in the proposed 7-16 precinct. Bridges told council Shepherd Living was “committed” as the polling location for the new precinct at the June 17 meeting.

There is not yet a firm polling location for district 8-16, as a prospective location denied their request in early June, Bridges said at the June 17 meeting

The Macon Telegraph looks at how peach growers are tapping into agritourism.

Dickey Farms in Musella also has a similar operation for its peach packing house, on a road less traveled and with a more old timey feel. It drew more than 50,000 visitors last year, said Lee Dickey, vice president of Dickey Farms.

Jessie Boyd was at Dickey Farms recently with a group of 23 from Atlanta Bible Baptist Church, who made the trip down specifically to visit the packing house. He enjoyed watching the peaches getting cleaned, sorted and packed.

“That’s quite an impressive operation,” he said. “We may make this an annual event.”

Dickey credits his mom, Cynde Dickey, with turning the packing house into a tourist operation. Until about 10 years ago they only had a small stand to sell peaches. But they updated the packing machinery and moved it to the rear of the building, constructed in 1936 and the oldest continuously operating peach packing house in Georgia. They weren’t sure what to do with all the space they now had up front, but Cynde Dickey had an idea.

She had learned about how agritourism was growing in the North, and she wanted to use the newly cleared space for that. They put out a row of rocking chairs, started making peach ice cream, and added a wide range of products, including locally grown produce.

“I think people have wanted more of a connection with the farm itself and where their food comes from,” Lee Dickey said. “A lot of the growers have catered to that.”

Will McGehee does marketing for all of the Middle Georgia peach growers. He said the state has put a lot of money into promoting agritourism and peaches are particularly good for it.

“Most of agriculture tourism is the peach business,” he said. “People are willing to drive a couple hours south of Atlanta to tour the packing house.”

The Savannah Morning News looks at how their local medical community is dealing with the opioid crisis.

Physicians on the front line are responding. “It’s an opportunity to really curb our narcotic-prescribing habits and curb this issue,” said Dr. Jay Goldstein, medical director of the Department of Emergency and Trauma Center at Memorial Health University Medical Center, a Trauma 1 center serving the greater Savannah area.

“I do think the United States is one of the largest prescribers of narcotics,” Goldstein said.

As a pharmacist, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter said he is aware of the issue and would like to see pharmaceutical manufacturers step up and develop new pain medications that aren’t as strong as opioid narcotics but provide more pain relief than Tylenol. “I’ve been on the pharmaceutical manufacturers saying you guys through research and development, you all need to get us another option,” Carter said.

In Georgia, opioid deaths climbed steadily to 1,043 in 2017, the latest year for which data is available from the Georgia Department of Public Health. The number represented a 145% increase from 426 deaths in 2010. Opioid deaths accounted for about 64% of all drug deaths in 2017.

In Chatham County, 29 people died from opioid-related overdoses in 2017, while 45 were hospitalized and 61 visited the emergency department. That’s more than the numbers in Bryan, Effingham and Liberty counties combined.

But to Goldstein, the county numbers seem low. “We see it a good bit. I see a lot of addiction,” he said.

While Goldstein said most overdose deaths are from illegal opioids, such as heroin or synthetic fentanyl, research suggests many people start taking pain management when it’s prescribed by a physician. But opioid’s addictive pull has led many to seek more or stronger drugs on the street, such as heroin or synthetic fentanyl, research suggests.

The epidemic affects people of all ages. Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health indicates over 2.2 million Georgians used prescription opioids in 2017, from infants to the elderly, and more women than men were opioid patients.

The Savannah Morning News also talked to legislators about the opioid crisis.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter said he supports new pharmaceutical innovation, but not recreational marijuana. “I am adamantly opposed to the recreational use of marijuana. I think it is nothing more than a gateway drug,” he said.

ut State Rep. Ron Stephens said legalized marijuana used for medical purposes could provide an alternative to opioids. He also supports alternatives like nerve blocks used for surgery, mindfulness or massage therapy. “We need to be moving in that direction. It is about moving away from long-term extremely addictive drugs and looking for other alternatives,” he said.

Stephens said it’s too soon to predict how Georgia’s new law legalizing marijuana, which takes effect Jan. 1, will play out. “It’s not chemically addictive, but it can be psychologically addictive,” Stephens said.

Complying with federal law also presents a problem. “Until the feds move it out of that class with narcotics, it’s going to be a problem no matter what law we pass, because we’re breaking federal law,” Stephens said.

DeKalb County Assistant District Attorney Kim Bourroughs Debrow is running for a seat on the Court of Appeals that will be vacated by Judge Sara Doyle, according to The Brunswick News.

“While I thought that opportunity would come around much later, looking at the bench now, I decided my years as a prosecutor and an appellate attorney could serve the court well,” said Debrow during a trip to Brunswick last week. “Rarely will you have an open seat where candidates can run for it on the court of appeals. I wanted to seize that opportunity.”

“Out of 15 judges, there is room and opportunity to add diversity as well,” Debrow said. “More importantly as a prosecutor and having practiced as an appellate attorney, that’s the skill set the court could use right now.”

“Our court of appeals has a two-term rule, and that means all direct appeals must be decided in two terms of the court,” Debrow said. “That is a very fast turnaround time. That’s why the court had more seats added to it because it is one of our country’s busiest appellate courts. Since that is where the majority of our state’s cases end, I think Georgians need to know more about this race. One of my goals has been to promote the public’s awareness of how important this court is.

“No judge is going to come to the bench with a full, comprehensive understanding of every area of the law, but most of their case docket contains criminal cases. That’s where most criminal cases are being appealed to unless you are talking about capital cases. I think we need more judges on the bench that can be efficient and get the job done within that two terms.”

“Those decisions will affect all of Georgia,” Debrow said. “The Court of Appeals race is a very important one that the community and the voters should be engaged in because that panel of three judges at a time are going to be making decisions in cases that affect not just every person here in Georgia, it is going to create law that will affect cases that come afterward.”

Augusta received results of an audit of city government, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Miller Edwards of Mauldin & Jenkins said the firm does a lot of local government work, including other consolidated communities such as Athens-Clarke County and Macon-Bibb County, and that relatively speaking Augusta has done well, particularly in some areas. The city has $2 billion in total assets, including $1.4 billion in buildings, infrastructure and its vehicle fleet, and $900 million in liabilities.

Last year, the city took in $470 million in revenue, including $54.6 million in property taxes and nearly $61 million in other taxes such as sales tax, and had $433 million in expenses, Edwards said. With depreciation and other debts added in, the city ended up with a $15 million bottom line last year, about 3% of total revenue, which is “a good place to be,” Edwards said.

“Augusta had a good year, nothing to brag about, but you’re going in the right direction,” he said.

Revenues have exceeded expenses the past four years, and the city had a fund balance of $35.7 million at the end of last year, or the equivalent of 90 days’ worth of operating funds, he said.

“Three months is a healthy place to be,” Edwards said.

Seniors in Bulloch County are organizing to seek a property tax break, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County taxpayers seeking a local exemption for senior citizens from the portion of property tax that funds the public schools will meet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday in the community building at Luetta Moore Park.

Leaders in the effort say Monday’s gathering will be an organizational meeting for their group. They also plan to decide details of the exemption request as they prepare to address the Bulloch County Board of Education, probably at its Thursday, Aug. 8, regular session.

“There are counties in Georgia that do have a sunset on public education’s part of the ad valorem tax, so we’re saying we’ve got a rather prosperous county, and forward-looking, so why can’t we join them?” said Roger Branch, Ph.D.

“I’ve paid tax all 49 years, but there are some in the group who have paid a lot longer,” he said. “One woman said she’s paid for 70 years.”

The idea has been brought up in previous years, but increases in property assessments, which without a millage rollback would result in higher taxes, spurred new interest in 2019.

“My main concern is there are just a lot of senior citizens … and I know for some people it creates a burden,” [Carolyn] Akins said. “When we had the meeting with the Bulloch County commissioners, somebody spoke that their mother had to choose between paying taxes and buying food. I mean, some people are living on a very limited senior’s income, and it creates a hardship.”

The Hall County Tax Assessor’s Office is working on property tax valuations, according to the Gainesville Times.

It’s a yearlong process to assess the 78,500 properties in Hall. Tax assessments are sent out in the spring, the deadline to appeal was May 28, and tax bills are issued in the fall.

It’s also an ever-changing market, but the office is required to set values as close as possible to what properties are selling for, which requires both watching sales and keeping up with improvements or changes made to properties.

The county has six residential appraisers and two appraisers for commercial and industrial properties. Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services, an appraisal contractor, also does some work for the county, so people may see a GMASS vehicle in their neighborhood.

Values are based on numerous criteria, including square footage, improvements and sales of similar properties in the area. If there have not been recent sales nearby, the county can use sales of comparable homes that are in the same general area of the county, Watson said.

Buford City Schools opened a new Buford High School, according to the Gainesville Times.

A Lithonia man was convicted of piloting a drone to deliver contraband into a prison, according to the Albany Herald.

A Georgia man who was illegally operating an unmanned aircraft system to drop contraband into Autry State Prison has pleaded guilty to the crime, Middle District of Georgia U.S. Attorney Charles Peeler said.

Eric Lee Brown, 35, of Lithonia, pleaded guilty to one count of operating an aircraft eligible for registration knowing that the aircraft is not registered to facilitate a controlled substance offense before U.S. Senior District Court Judge Louis Sands last week.

“We are pleased to see justice being served on this individual, and we hope that his actions, and subsequent prosecution in the first-known criminal prosecution under this drone registration law, will serve as a warning to others considering introducing contraband into our facilities,” Timothy C. Ward, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections, said.

“Mr. Brown’s guilty plea should be a very clear warning to anyone who chooses to illegally operate unmanned aircraft systems for unintended purposes,” Todd Damiani, Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General regional special agent in charge, said. “DOT OIG special agents, along with our federal, state, and prosecutorial law enforcement partners, will actively pursue those who unlawfully use federally-regulated modes of transportation for the distribution of controlled substances or contraband.”

“Working with state, local and federal authorities, our office will aggressively prosecute those who choose to smuggle cellphones, drugs or any other contraband into our state prisons,” Peeler said. “The use of drones is regulated by federal criminal statutes, and our office will not hesitate to use those statutes in the fight against prison contraband.”

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division released a new Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations Guide, according to The Brunswick News.

The University of North Georgia will open a Blue Ridge campus for fall semester 2020, according to AccessWDUN.

Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston helped secure $5.5 million in state funds for the new Blue Ridge Campus in the 2019 fiscal year budget. Ralston, a UNG alumnus, represents Georgia District 7, including Fannin County, in the General Assembly.

“I’m excited to see this important project move forward. UNG’s new Blue Ridge Campus will make permanent the availability of a world-class college education in our community,” Ralston said. “As one of the region’s top public universities — and consistently ranked as one of the best values in higher education — UNG will afford students better job prospects and attract new businesses to our north Georgia mountains for generations to come.”