Category: Georgia Politics

25
Jan

Adjournment Resolution

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25
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 25, 2018

On January 25, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized the first national momument commemorating the Revolutionary War.

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On January 25, 1915, a charter was issued in DeKalb County Superior Court to Emory University.

On January 25, 1943, Georgia Gov. Ellis Arnall signed legislation eliminating the governor as an ex officio member of the State Board of Education, State Board of Regents, Department of Public Safety, and State Housing Authority, as part of a proposal to reduce the Governor’s power over education.

On January 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy held the first live televised press conference.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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“Let Trump Be Trump” authors Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie will appear at the Marietta Fish Market on February 15, 2018 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM in support of their New York Times best-selling book. General Admission tickets are free. For $25 you can get a signed book and $45 gets you a book and photo op.

Governor Nathan Deal appointed John Herbert Cranford Jr. as the new District Attorney for the Coweta Judicial Circuit. The Coweta Circuit comprises Carroll, Troup, Meriwether. & Coweta Counties. Pete Skandalakis retired as Coweta Circuit District Attorney effective January 4, and Monique Kirby served as interim D.A. until Cranford was appointed.

The Senate and House convene today at 10 AM for Legislative Day 10.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

8:00 AM /HOUSE NAT’L RES & ENV’T 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

11:00 AM House Tags and Titles Sub of Motor Veh. 510 CLOB – Upon Adjournment

UPON ADJOURNMENT SENATE RULES 450 CAP

1:30 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 406 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE 125 CAP

2:00 PM JOINT EDUCATION & YOUTH 606 CLOB

2:00 PM< SENATE STATE AND LOCAL GOV’T OPS – CANCELLED

3:00 PM SENATE ETHICS – CANCELED 307 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT – CANCELED 310 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE GOV’T OVERSIGHT 125 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS & MEANS 406 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY – CANCELED 307 CLOB

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle is supporting a move from electronic ballots to some form of paper ballots.

“I think it is important that we have a paper ballot trail that ensures that accuracy is there, and that there are no games that potentially could be played,” Cagle, a Republican candidate for governor, said in an interview with WABE.

Georgia is one of just a few states that exclusively use voting machines without a paper trail. Cybersecurity experts agree it exposes the system to potential doubt, hacks and glitches.

“I’m super excited to have Lt. Gov. Cagle on board,” said Republican Rep. Scot Turner, the lead sponsor of a bi-partisan bill in the House that would require the state move to a paper ballot system, which could be audited.

State Sen. Bruce Thompson, chair of that chamber’s Science and Technology Committee, will sponsor a bill similar to Turner’s.

“It will not be identical to the one that’s in the House, but very, very similar,” Thompson said.

Cagle’s support of Thompson’s legislation means it’s likely to pass the Senate.

“The fact of the matter is our elections are very, very vulnerable,” Thompson said.  “This is our state, we should be able to protect our voting and our process.”

Rome City Commission is urging legislators to ensure that funding source created for a specific purpose are actually dedicated to funding that purpose.

The Rome City Commission is getting behind a push to force state lawmakers to spend specialized fees on the programs they were intended to fund.

Levies such as the $1 tire replacement fee — meant to clean up illegal tire dumps — and super-speeder fines for trauma centers, are often diverted to pay for other services.

Mayor Jamie Doss said the board intends to formally urge passage of House Resolution 158, which would ban the practice except in the case of a financial emergency. The Georgia Municipal Association is asking all its members to do the same.

“It sets up a vote on a constitutional amendment, so fees earmarked for a specific purpose are used for that purpose and don’t go into the general fund,” Doss said.

Rome-based Coosa River Basin Initiative and other members of the Georgia Water Coalition also have renewed their support of the legislation. HR 158 was introduced last year by Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, and co-sponsored by Republican Rep. John Meadows of Calhoun.

It was poised to pass the House in 2017 but supporters couldn’t round up the 120 votes needed by Crossover Day, the deadline for bills to get through at least one chamber or be tabled. This is the final year of the two-year session, however, and if it doesn’t pass this time it will die.

The Senate Rules Committee passed Senate Resolution 587 by Sen. Josh McKoon, which would create a referendum to Amend the Georgia Constitution and designate English as the official language of state government.

By a non-unanimous voice vote, the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday approved Sen. Joshua McKoon’s proposed constitutional amendment to name English as the state’s “official language.” State law already contains that designation, but McKoon, a Columbus Republican, said the law is not being properly enforced and the issue needs to be cleared up by revising the state constitution.

More than 30 states have designated English as their first language, McKoon has said. But only about a third of those states have amended their constitutions to make English their official language.

Constitutional amendments require two-thirds approval in both chambers and voters’ approval in a statewide election.

An identical measure passed the Senate in 2016 but died in the House.

The Georgia State House Medical Cannabis Working Group voted to recommend passage of House Bill 645 by Working Group Chair Allen Peake (R-Macon). From the Macon Telegraph:

Macon Republican state Rep. Allen Peake wants the state to issue up to two licenses to grow cannabis and manufacture a liquid from it. State law allows Georgians who have a doctor’s recommendation and a state medical marijuana card to possess that oil for the treatment of symptoms of any of several diagnoses, including late-stage cancer.

“What we’ve attempted to do in House Bill 645 is do what 30 other states have done, which is enact infrastructure for growing of marijuana for medicinal purposes only,” said Peake, so that the roughly 3,400 Georgians who are registered can get it.

In a unanimous voice vote on Wednesday, the House Medical Cannabis Working Group sent HB 645 to the state House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. Hearings and approval from that committee would be the next step toward a full floor vote.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has endorsed medical marijuana cultivation. But this January, ahead of the session, he recommended a federal strategy.

“I’ve been supportive of the initiatives that have gotten us to this point,” Ralston said, “but at some point we have to sort of confront the realty that as long as federal law is what federal law is, that there’s only so far that we can go. So I’ve encouraged the proponents of medical cannabis oil that maybe it’s time that the emphasis be put on Washington as opposed to the state level and hopefully they will do that.”

House Bill 731 by State Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City) would exempt feminine hygiene products from sales taxes.

The advocacy group, Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us), estimates that the tax paid on those products adds up to $10 million a year.

The bill spells out some of the products to be exempted as “tampons, menstrual pads” and others.

The legislation, House Bill 731, was proposed by Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City. Four of her first five co-sponsors are Republicans, members of the majority party in the General Assembly.

Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he signed on because the products should have been exempted years ago along with groceries and medical devices.

“I think there’s a valid argument that it’s a medical necessity,” Peake said. “There were some constituents of mine who approached me about it, some ladies in my area. The more they explained to me, the more it made sense.”

State legislators are working on a transit bill for Metro Atlanta.

The next “big lift” for the state in terms of transportation is mobility and transit, said state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, speaking to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s State of Transportation breakfast Wednesday.

Tanner is chairing the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding, a closely watched panel put together by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, last year. Ralston has cited a strong economic development argument for efficient transit and possibly state funding toward it.

Tanner said in the next few weeks, he anticipates rollout of major legislation for a regional governance structure for transit, along with “innovative ideas” for local governments to raise money in new ways, and new funding options from the state. Now, the state spends vanishingly little on transit, save a $75 million in bonded projects awarded in 2016.

“I’m also hopeful that we can for the first time in a long time have a significant expansion of our rail service into some other counties in the state,” Tanner said.

The transit commission will work for at least two years, but this session they’ll focus on metro Atlanta, rather than other areas.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen:

“The state traditionally has been probably about fifth lowest in the country for funding transit services in metro areas. We want to change that,” Tanner said to elected officials and business leaders who gathered Wednesday for a panel discussion sponsored by the Georgia Transportation Alliance, which is affiliated with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

The north Georgia lawmaker said a proposal will likely include bonds to pay for transit projects, as well as a push for better coordination among existing transit operators so riders can have a smoother experience.

“One of the things that is important for us is to get away from is silo mentality,” he said, referring to the 11 separate transit systems that exist now in 13 metro Atlanta counties.

But Tanner was mum on other details Wednesday, such as what the cost would be to expand transit and make other improvements.

State Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) is introducing legislation to limit costs borne for construction at Plant Vogtle.

State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, a Republican, introduced what he calls a “reasonable” solution to ease some of the burden customers have felt from the troubled project, which has been delayed by at least five years and could potentially double its initially estimated cost of $14.3 billion.

“This is a very fair bill,” Hufstetler said. “It doesn’t stop Plant Vogtle. It doesn’t stop the overruns from being paid. But it does set some limits on it. I’m hoping that it will be looked at reasonably.”

The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 355, would cause Georgia Power to change the formula it uses to bill customers, which builds in an automatic profit, Hufstetler said. Ratepayers would continue to pay for cost overages, but none of that money could be used to create a profit for the energy company.

“The way things are set up now, the more (Georgia Power is) over budget, the more profit they make,” he said.

Seventeen Georgia Mayors visited the White House to discuss infrastructure, urban development and the opioid crisis.

The mayors of 17 Georgia cities, including Atlanta, Sandy Springs and Loganville were on hand for various outreach events with Trump administration officials throughout the day.

It all culminated in a 15-minute speech from President Donald Trump in the East Wing. Trump previewed his administration’s upcoming infrastructure plan and said his wanted to empower local governments.

“You bring safety, prosperity and hope to our citizens,” Trump said. “My administration will always support local government and listen to leaders who know their communities best, and you know your community best.”

Metro Atlanta mayors who were slated to attend the day’s events included: Boyd Austin of Dallas; Michael Bodker of Johns Creek; Steven Edwards of Sugar Hill; Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta; Rey Martinez of Loganville; Rusty Paul of Sandy Springs; Vanessa Rogers-Fleisch of Peachtree City; and Vince Williams of Union City.

Cherokee County Superior Court Chief Judge Jackson Harris announced he will not run for reelection this year.

Harris, who sat down with Patch Wednesday afternoon in his office at the Cherokee County Justice Center, said he felt it was time to focus on traveling, visiting the country’s National Parks and spending time with his children.

““I knew I would be coming up for re-election this year, so I’ve been pondering the decision,” Judge Harris said when asked why he chose to step aside. “I guess it just came together recently…that this is probably a better path for me. I’ve enjoyed my time here.”

“Everybody who comes to court is here because they really don’t want to be and I think if we treat them all as individuals and not just case numbers, then we are doing our job,” he said. “I’ve also enjoyed working with the people here in the county and in the courthouse.”

One of the most striking changes Harris reflected on is how Cherokee has transitioned from a “rural/suburban court to a suburban/urban court,” a movement that has no signs of slowing down due to the growth. That change, he added, doesn’t particularly show up in the number of cases coming through the system, but in the type of crimes judges and prosecutors are tasked with adjudicating.

Rhonda Barnes, who serves as Executive Legal Assistant to Gov. Deal, will run for Spalding County Clerk of Superior Court.

She’s seeking a post vacated by Marcia Norris, who was suspended by Deal after a state probe found she was “willfully not fulfilling her duties.”

Barnes is a familiar figure under the Gold Dome. She’s been an executive legal assistant for the governor’s office since 2005, and has been the go-to for organizing and processing executive orders and coordinating key records in the office for all of Deal’s tenure.

She kept a tally of the paperwork she’s handled in 13 years in the office: More than 200 judicial appointments, nearly 6,000 executive orders and nearly 1,000 Open Records Act requests handled expeditiously.

Barnes said she’ll bring those skills to the clerk’s office, with plans to clear lengthy backlogs and modernize the county’s outdated computer systems.

“I truly believe that the experience I have gained while working in the Office of the Governor has prepared me to operate the clerk’s office in a manner that will make my friends, family and the citizens of Spalding County proud,” she said in a statement.

Coastal Georgia waters are now closed to shrimping because of low temperatures.

The shrimp harvest means a lot for the economy of the Golden Isles and Coastal Georgia, but the recent record cold had its impact on area shrimp, so officials ordered federal waters off the Georgia coast closed for shrimp trawling.

The state Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division sent out a notice late Tuesday afternoon announcing trawling for brown, pink or white shrimp was no longer allowed in federal waters as of 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.

State waters, which were set to close at the end of 2017, were allowed to remain open through Jan. 15. State waters typically reopen between May 15 and early June, while federal waters tend to remain open all year unless something happens.

The closure, according to officials, was necessary to protect shrimp spawning, and in this case, specifically the white variety.

24
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 24, 2018

Jekyll Island

On January 24, 1915, the first transcontinental telephone call was placed from Jekyll Island, Georgia.

January 24, 1933 saw the first sales tax in Georgia proposed to fund schools and aid for farmers.

On January 24, 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. became co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, sharing the pulpit with his father.

On January 24, 1987, some 12,000 to 20,000 civil rights protesters marched in Forsyth County, a week after a smaller protest. From the New York Times reporting:

CUMMING, Ga., Jan. 24— This small town in Forsyth County was overwhelmed today by civil rights marchers, members of the Ku Klux Klan and their sympathizers and an army of National Guardsmen and law-enforcement officers who kept the opposing groups separated.

Guarded by what a spokesman for the Governor’s office called ”the greatest show of force the state has ever marshalled,” a crowd of marchers estimated at 12,000 to 20,000 funneled slowly into Cumming, where a week earlier counterdemonstrators, throwing stones and bottles, disrupted an interracial ”walk for brotherhood” prompted by the all-white county’s racist legacy.

As the marchers headed into Cumming, which has a little more than 2,000 people, they found waiting for them, behind a stern-faced force of 2,300 guardsmen and police officers, a group of hundreds if not thousands of white, mainly young, rural men and women, repeatedly shouting, “N***er, go home!”

Whatever the final figure, the march was one of the largest civil rights demonstrations since a 1965 rally that followed a march from Selma, Ala. to Montgomery. The rally, led by Dr. King, drew 25,000 people.

Seriously, read the Times report.

On January 24, 2001, the Georgia House of Representatives approved legislation changing the state flag to the Barnes design with the state seal on a blue background and a banner depicting five previous flags that flew over Georgia.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal spoke to the annual Tourism, Hospitality & Arts Day yesterday.

Industry representatives presented Deal with a check representing the $3.1 billion in state and local tax revenue generated by tourism-related expenditures.

“With a record economic impact of $60.8 billion, Georgia’s tourism industry is a powerful economic development tool for local communities and our state as a whole,” said Deal. “This impact goes well beyond direct spending by visitors, as the industry provides job opportunities for more than 450,200 Georgians, accounting for approximately 10.6 percent of the state’s non-farm workforce. As this industry continues to grow, this success reflects our state’s status as a world-class tourism destination and once again affirms that Georgia is on the minds of travelers around the globe.”

Deal also unveiled the cover of the official 2018 state travel guide, which features Georgia-native Jason Aldean, the reigning Academy of Country Music “Entertainer of the Year.” The cover photo was taken in Macon, Aldean’s hometown, at The Big House Museum where original members of The Allman Brothers Band lived and wrote some of their first songs.

“Being from Georgia is something I’m really proud of,” said Aldean. “A lot of my influences as an artist come from its musical history and it will always be a big part of who I am.”

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

8:30 AM SENATE VETERANS, MIL & HOMELAND SEC 307 CLOB

NOON SENATE RULES – UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1 PM SENATE INS & LABOR 310 CLOB

1 PM HOUSE MEDICAL CANNABIS WORKING GROUP 606 CLOB

1:30 PM House Ways & Means Sub Pub. Fin. and Policy 133 CAP

2 PM SENATE TRANS – CANCELED 310 CLOB

2 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

3 PM HOUSE IND & LABOR 506 CLOB

3 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

3 PM SENATE ED & YOUTH – CANCELED

4 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

The AJC Political Insider reports that Gov. Deal will likely name Tricia Pridemore to a vacancy on the Georgia Public Service Commission.

“It is my inclination at this point to appoint Tricia Pridemore, but we’re not at that stage of the game yet,” he said. “We’ll wait and see when the actual opening occurs, but that is my inclination.”

The seat will be vacated by Stan Wise, the PSC chair, who said last week in a letter to Deal that he will step down on Feb. 20. The Cobb County resident had previously announced he won’t be seeking re-election in 2018 after serving 23 years on the commission.

Democrat Doug Stoner, a former state senator, is among the likely candidates for the office.

Democrats hope to gain a foothold in the PSC, which regulates Georgia’s utilities, by highlighting the panel’s unanimous vote to allow construction to continue on two nuclear reactors at Georgia Power’s embattled Plant Vogtle despite billions of dollars in cost overruns.

Former Democratic State Senator Vincent Fort is considering a run for Lieutenant Governor.

The Atlanta Democrat said he’s discussing with advisers whether to jump into the contest to succeed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running for governor.

The statewide race for lieutenant governor would be a much bigger and costlier race for Fort, who struggled to raise cash and gain traction in the mayor’s election.

He also won’t have a clear path. Several Democrats are already in the race, including political newcomer Sarah Riggs Amico, a logistics executive. And three leading Republicans are in the race: Former state Rep. Geoff Duncan, ex-state Sen. Rick Jeffares and state Sen. David Shafer.

And while endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Gov. Roy Barnes helped him raise cash, it couldn’t keep pace with the millions of dollars his rivals collected for their runs. Ditto for his union support, whose force of door-knockers couldn’t overcome other get-out-the-vote machines.

A Fort bid could set up an awkward situation for the party. He’s a critic of another Democrat who is running for a spot on the top of the ticket: Stacey Abrams.

Former Forsyth County Commissioner Brian Tam will run for the State Senate District 27 seat being vacated by the incumbent.

Tam was commissioner of Forsyth County District 2 from 2005-16 and selected as board chairman in 2011.

In February 2016, Tam announced he would not seek re-election for the seat and said the time was a “good stopping point.” On Monday, he said there were still some things he wanted to see happen in the county.

“I think there is work to be done,” Tam said on Monday. “I want to continue the relationship that I built with the Georgia Department of Transportation, as far as getting the necessary funding for our roads in here in Forsyth County, and I want to continue to work toward getting funding for new schools in the county.”

Tam is the second candidate to publicly announce he would run for the seat. Candidate Greg Dolezal — a local businessman who has part of several Forsyth County boards and committees, including planning commission and comprehensive plan steering committee — announced his candidacy for the seat in June 2017.

Democrat Donna McLeod will kickoff her campaign for House District 105, currently represented by Republican Rep. Joyce Chandler.

The Democrat will formally announce she is running again for the seat during the kickoff event, which will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday at Jay’s Caribbean Cuisine, 150 Hurricane Shoals Road in Lawrenceville. McLeod narrowly lost the seat to incumbent Rep. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, in 2016 in a race that was close enough that a recount was needed.

State Sen. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, will host the event. State Reps. Brenda Lopez, D-Norcross; Pedro Marin, D-Duluth; Dewey McClain, D-Lawrenceville, and Sam Park, D-Lawrenceville, are expected to address attendees as well, according to the McLeod campaign.

Savannah-area legislators will introduce legislation to rename the Talmadge Bridge.

Rep. Ron Stephens, the dean of Chatham County’s legislative delegation, informed the Savannah City Council on Monday that he intends to introduce legislation to rename the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge after Savannah native and Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low, as requested by the organization.

Stephens’ support for the change comes after Girl Scout representatives informed the mayor and aldermen earlier this month of their intention to ask state legislators to rename the bridge after Low, who started the Girl Scouts with an inaugural gathering of just 18 girls in Savannah. The Girl Scouts adopted the name change as a national policy at their convention in October and officials said the city would benefit financially by attracting Girl Scouts and their families from around world to the national convention and other events in Savannah.

Named for a former state governor and staunch segregationist, the Talmadge Bridge’s renaming was one of the Savannah City Council priorities Stephens and other state lawmakers discussed with the mayor and aldermen at the state capital during the meeting this week.

The city council had submitted its own resolution to rename the bridge The Savannah Bridge as a way to avoid any more controversies surrounding public figures, but Mayor Eddie DeLoach said he is not opposed to Stephens’ proposal.

“The biggest thing we’re doing is trying to get a name change, so if that’s a fallback that will bring someone along I don’t have a problem with it,” DeLoach said. “Anything but Talmadge.”

Cobb County Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of a resolution to move forward with a sales tax for public safety.

Commissioner Bob Weatherford’s proposal to ask Cobb voters to increase the county’s sales tax from 6 to 7 percent would generate an estimated $130 million a year. After Cobb’s six cities were given a cut of the revenue, the county would be left with $96.2 million to use toward public safety.

That amount would cover the $71 million in public safety expenses paid using the county’s general fund with the exception of the Cobb Sheriff’s Office.

Instituting the new tax requires three steps. First, the county commission will send its resolution to state lawmakers asking for a bill to create a referendum on the issue. Then, the Legislature would need to approve the bill. Lastly, the measure would come before voters for a final say.

Commissioners on Tuesday night approved step one of the process, with Weatherford, County Chairman Mike Boyce and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell in favor of the resolution and commissioners Bob Ott and Lisa Cupid opposed.

Hall County will study the costs of implementing bilingual ballots for local elections.

“We’ve looked at it every which way, and you’re talking signs, duplicate ballots, Spanish-speaking staff,” Bill Moats told The Times in late 2017. “For a large election like we had in 2016, it was north of $150,000.”

On Monday, the county called that figure a “very rough estimate.”

“The Elections Board’s decision to form a committee to further research those costs in greater detail should help give the county a better and more thorough understanding of the costs associated with bilingual ballots,” said Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley.

Craig Lutz, a Republican member of the board, sponsored the vote to scrap bilingual ballots in Hall County. He also moved to create the committee charged with studying the cost of Spanish-language ballots, saying earlier this month that the county needed to research the issue to see what the costs would be and also research whether voters were being disenfranchised with English-only ballots.

Voting rights advocates supporting bilingual ballots have said that county demographics — especially given that more than a quarter of its population is Latino — means it will be forced by the federal government to adopt Spanish-language ballots in the next few years under federal elections law.

Floyd County Commissioners are considering joining a lawsuit by Rome and other local governments against opioid manufacturers.

The board officially labeled the growing effects of overuse as a public nuisance Tuesday in a resolution that points the finger at pharmaceutical companies.

However, commissioners softened the language adopted by the city of Rome Monday to say they may sue, instead of they shall sue. Commissioner Scotty Hancock asked for the change until the medical community can weigh in.

“I feel we need to bring these groups to the table and get feedback before we commit to a lawsuit,” he said.

“We 100-percent agree it is a nuisance, and we need to do something about it,” Commission Chair Rhonda Wallace said.

The discussion followed a presentation from attorneys Bob Finnell and Andy Davis, who are putting together a case for a group of cities and counties in Georgia.

DeKalb County Commissioners are working on a proposal to lower penalties for marijuana possession.

Georgia law gives municipalities the freedom to create local rules for drug-related violations. Now DeKalb wants the General Assembly to give counties the opportunity to create ordinances related to pot possession.

Commissioners said Tuesday that taxpayer dollars are wasted and lives negatively affected when people are prosecuted for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

[Commissioner Mereda] Johnson, a Democrat, received a commitment from fellow Commissioner Nancy Jester, a Republican, to work together on the measure.

Although the full DeKalb commission won’t sign off on the proposal for another two weeks, five of seven members were present at Tuesday’s committee meeting where the proposal received an initial vetting. They directed their lobbyist to float the issue among legislators and law enforcement officials to gauge initial reaction.

As the proposal is written now, any county in Georgia would be allowed to create local rules for possession of less than an ounce of pot. But language could be added to make it applicable only to DeKalb if members of the General Assembly indicate that would be more palatable.

Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak will speak at the 13th annual Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum August 27-28 at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.

Muscogee County School Board members Frank Myers and John Thomas announced jointly that they will not run for reelection.

“To accomplish anything with the school board, there must be five votes,” Thomas wrote. “Frank and I have evaluated our tenure on the board to this point, and looking ahead to the future, we have done the math. We will not have five votes on any of the issues that are most important to us.”

Thomas, an IRS agent, represents District 2. Myers, a self-employed lawyer, represents District 8.

Hall County Board of Education member Brian Sloan announced he will not run for reelection.

“With the wonderful blessing of the rapid growth of the church in which I serve … and the additional responsibilities that come along with hundreds of additional people coming has made me seriously evaluate my time and priorities,” Sloan said.

Sloan is currently serving his third term on the board representing South Hall and was last re-elected in 2014, narrowly defeating Mark Pettitt.

“I think I still have a strong support base and would like to think I would be re-elected if I entered the race,” Sloan said. “However, that is just not the wise thing for my family, Chestnut Mountain Church, the Hall County School District or me. It is my strong belief that there is someone out there who can take this position and give it the time and attention in the next four years that I would not be able to give.”

Three candidates announced plans to run for seats on the Savannah-Chatham County School Board.

Alfreda Goldwire has announced she will run for the District 6 Savannah-Chatham County school board seat.

The seat is currently held by Larry Lower. Lower has announced he will run for board president.

Jolene Byrne currently holds the president’s post. She has not yet indicated if she intends to seek another term.

District 5 board member Irene Hines also announced she will run again.

David Lerch filed a declaration of intention to accept campaign contributions for the school board president post in August of 2017.

The non-partisan general election will be held on May 22. Qualifying begins on March 5.

The Georgia Ports Authority will break ground on its Mason Mega Rail project.

Georgia Ports Authority Board members approved a budget increase this week of $5.8 million for the port’s Mason Mega Rail project. The money will cover work to integrate American parts into large cranes for the project being manufactured in Finland.

GPA was approved in 2016 for a $44 million grant for the overall project cost from the federal government’s FASTLANE program, designed for infrastructure projects supporting growth of the economy and encourages use of American-made products through its Buy America clause.

The federal funds are to be used for design, delivery and commissioning of eight rail-mounted gantry cranes as part of the project that will connect the Mason and Chatham rail yards at the Garden City Terminal. The overall mega rail project cost is $126.7 million.

The mega rail project will double on-dock rail capacity and open service to inland markets, including Chicago. The new rail terminal will allow 10,000-foot trains to be loaded at the terminal with containers double-stacked. Those trains will increase the capacity from 500,000 container lifts per year to 1 million. Eighteen new railroad tracks will also be built, adding 97,000 feet of new rail.

Groundbreaking for the project is expected in February, with an official GPA board event being held in March.

A federal tariff on imported solar panels may slow the industry’s growth in Georgia.

The Trump Administration announced Monday that imported solar panels will be subject to a 30 percent tariff, a result of the recommendation of the International Trade Commission in its decision on a case filed by Georgia-based, foreign-owned Suniva. The trade tariff is expected to go into effect Feb. 6.

The Georgia Solar Energy Association predicts the tariffs will slow the growth of what has been a booming business in Georgia, with utility-scale solar being the hardest hit.

“While these erroneous tariffs may cause short-term headwinds to Georgia’s thriving solar industry, it will only strengthen our resolve to continue moving forward into a clean energy future,” said Don Moreland, chair of the Georgia Solar Energy Association.

Georgia ranks ninth among states with about 1,500 megawatts installed, enough to power about 170,000 homes. The state’s 238 solar companies employ about 4,000 people, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., who supported solar energy when he served in the state legislature, said solar will play an important role in energy independence in the U.S. But he wasn’t ready to praise or condemn the tariff.

“I am still reviewing the administration’s proposal, but President Trump is focusing on America first. He is serious about addressing trade imbalances and market dumping in the international market,” Carter said. “President Trump is working to rebuild and invigorate our manufacturing industry and manufacturing jobs. His goal is to put American workers and companies first, and I absolutely support that.”

The University of Georgia is working with Pulaski County to address healthcare needs in the rural county.

Before the [Taylor Express Care] clinic opened in June 2016, Pulaski County residents had nowhere to go for immediate care except the emergency room at Taylor Regional Healthcare, the local hospital. A Community Health Needs Assessment, or CHNA, facilitated by faculty and students at the University of Georgia showed that the county needed an alternative.

Today, the clinic averages about 15 patients a day and emergency room visits are down almost 23 percent, from nearly 6,000 annually before Taylor Express Care opened to just over 4,600 in the past year.

“It was greatly needed,” said Bailey Lanier, a nurse practitioner on duty during a chilly November morning. “Before you just had the ER, and that was it. We’ve opened doors to people who didn’t have health care, who just didn’t know who to go to.”

Helping with the CHNA, required of all hospitals to receive federal funding, is just one of the many ways that the University of Georgia has helped Pulaski County address critical health care issues, a common problem for rural Georgia communities.

23
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 23, 2018

On January 23, 1775, the Georgia Commons House elected three delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

On January 23, 1861, Georgia’s members of the United States House of Representatives resigned following passage of the Secession Ordinance; her Senators had resigned earlier. The next day, the secession convention in Milledgeville elected ten delegates to a conference of Southern states in Montgomery, Alabama

On January 23, 1923, Georgia ratified the Twentieth Amendment to the US Constitution, which ended Presidential terms on January 20th following an election and those of Congress on January 3d.

On January 23, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon announced that terms had been reached to settle the Vietnam War, a document known as the “Paris Peace Accords.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Senate and House both convene at 10 AM today.

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROP GEN’L GOV’T 341 CAP
9:00 AM HOUSE APPROP PUBLIC SAFETY 415 CLOB
12:00 PM SEN RULES – UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Ad Valorem Sub 133 CAP
2:00 PM SEN SCIENCE AND TECH – CANCELED 307 CLOB
2:00 PM SEN NAT’L RESOURCES AND ENVT – CANCELED 310 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTIL & TELECOM 403 CAP
3:00 PM JOINT HIGHER EDUCATION 406 CLOB
4:00 PM SENATE BANKING AND FIN INST- CANCELLED

Most of Georgia’s Congressional Delegation voted to reopen the federal government.

The compromise to reopen the government was spearheaded by a bipartisan group of nearly two-dozen senators, including Republican U.S. Sen Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

“It’s an agreement to do our jobs,” Isakson said in an interview. “So we’ve got the shutdown out of our system and hopefully we won’t have any others.”

Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue also backed the bill, as did the state’s 10 House Republicans, who framed Monday’s vote as a clear-cut win for the party.

“The House (GOP) did exactly what we said we were going to do. We stayed unified,” said U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the House’s No. 5-ranking Republican.

The state’s two more centrist Democrats, U.S. Reps. David Scott of Atlanta and Sanford Bishop of Albany, supported the proposal, citing the shutdown’s impact on the military and Georgia’s economy more broadly….

“This is something that we have an obligation to take up,” U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, said of language protecting so-called Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. He voted against the proposal, as did Atlanta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a frequent sparring partner of President Donald Trump’s.

Furloughed federal employees reported to work yesterday in order to be formally furloughed.

Thousands of federal employees across the Peach State were sent home Monday morning without pay before the Senate and and then the House both approved the budget deal, which would fund the government through Feb. 8.

Richard Norris got his furlough notice when he reported for work in the morning at Fort Gordon. A tactical satellite instructor living in Augusta, Norris wondered whether he would be able to pay his bills on time and take a long-planned beach vacation in the spring. Then the Senate took its vote early in the afternoon. The U.S. Army veteran saw it as a glimmer of hope. But Norris is still worried he and other federal employees will be right back in the same place next month.

Dwight Rice got the same furlough notice Monday at Fort Gordon, where he works as a telecommunications specialist. Like Norris, the Grovetown resident wants Congress to eliminate the uncertainty he and other federal workers are grappling with and pass a budget, not another short-term spending plan.

At Robins Air Force Base, about 4,000 of the military installation’s roughly 12,600 employees were furloughed Monday.

“Employees reported to work Monday morning to carry out orderly shutdown activities,” Robins spokesman Vance “Geoff” Janes said in an email. “These shutdown activities may include receiving and acknowledging furlough notices, completing any required time and attendance, setting email/voicemail out-of-office notifications, securing files, and other activities necessary to preserve the employee’s work.”

Eighteen Georgia Department of Labor staffers were also furloughed Monday. Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said most of his agency’s funding comes from the federal government, and that he warned staffers about the impact Friday. Butler said the 18 staffers do statistical reporting for the agency. Among other things, they compile and report unemployment data.

Meanwhile, the shutdown forced the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cancel training for about 60 officials from Henry County and its various cities. Henry was one of two counties that received a grant to send people to a weeklong integrated emergency management course this week in Emmitsburg, Md. The program helps prepare communities for coordinated attacks.

“We are hoping to get it rescheduled this fiscal year,” Henry County spokeswoman Melissa Robinson said. “That will be up to FEMA and Homeland Security when they want to do that.”

FEMA will reimburse the county for the unused airfare and the prepaid cost for meals, Robinson said, though she did not provide details on those expenses.

Politico asks whether Georgia will turn blue in 2018, proving that they learned nothing from asking the same stupid question in 2014, 2016, and 2017.Continue Reading..

22
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 22, 2018

On January 22, 1733, James Oglethorpe arrived at Yamacraw Bluff, where the colony of Georgia would be founded.

On January 22, 1861, following the passage of Georgia’s Secession Resolution, six delegates, including both from Gwinnett County, signed a statement protesting the decision to secede.

On January 22, 1866, Georgia Governor Charles Jenkins signed a resolution by the legislature asking for federal troops to be removed from Georgia.

On January 22, 1959, Atlanta buses were integrated after a federal court decision.

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued its 7-2 decision in the case known as Roe v. Wade.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal appointed Jennifer E. Carver as Solicitor General for the Bacon County State Court.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS TODAY

9:00 AM HOUSE APPROP PUBLIC SAFETY 415 CLOB
9:00 AM HOUSE APPROP HIGHER EDUCATION 341 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 7) House Chamber
11:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 403 CAP – Upon Adjournment
12:00 PM SENATE RULES – UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP
1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1
1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE AND LABOR 310 CLOB
2:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE APPROP HUMAN RES 341 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE APPROP ECON DEV 506 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Sub. Tax Reform 133 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE APPROP PUBLIC SAFETY 415 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Judiciary (Civil) Fleming Sub 132 CAP
3:00 PM SENATE FINANCE – CANCELED MEZZ 1
3:00 PM HOUSE Judiciary (Civil) Kelley Sub 132 CAP
3:00 PM HOUSE APPROP EDUCATION 406 CLOB
4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB
4:00 PM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS TRANSPORTATION 406 CLOB

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Georgia’s U.S. Senators issued statements on the federal government shutdown:

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., expressed frustration with the process, pointing to the lack of an agreement on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, as an example of the breakdown.

“It’s time to stop the theatrics and get to the business of governing,” Isakson said in a statement. “For too long we have been kicking the can down the road on an operating budget for our government. A continuing resolution is not the path I would choose for good governing.

“Now we can’t even put aside partisan differences and agree to move forward on a continuing resolution under which we all agree on the big, underlying priorities.”

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., also said he was frustrated with the lack of a long-term spending measure. Perdue said Democrats are to blame for the shutdown, though, and called it a “Schumer Shutdown,” a reference to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“It is totally irresponsible for the Democrats to use government funding as a bargaining chip,” Perdue said in a statement. “Democrats have created a false deadline by trying to tie illegal immigration to government funding. As I’ve consistently said, these are two totally different issues and should be dealt with separately.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued guidance on how his department will operate under the federal government shutdown.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service would continue working to ensure meat, poultry and egg products are safe as well as inspect food being slaughtered and processed for humans.

They’ll also still ensure imported products do not bring pests or diseases into the U.S. and furloughed personnel would come back to work immediately in the event of an outbreak.

Also, federal functions to maintain the core programs of the nutrition safety net — including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Child Nutrition Programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) — would continue.

Perdue said those all have funding available to operate through February, and many have funds to continue operations through March, without additional appropriation.

In Middle Georgia, Robins Air Force Base is preparing to comply with the government shutdown.

Robins Air Force Base is “beginning the process for an orderly government shutdown,” according to a Facebook post on Saturday afternoon. More than 21,400 people are employed at Robins Air Force, with 13,300 appropriated-fund civilians, about 5,550 military members and more than 2,500 other employees, said Geoff Janes, with Robins Air Force Base Public Affairs.

It’s not clear how many of these employees will be impacted by the government shutdown, he said. Military and civilian personnel have been instructed to report to work Monday to receive more information and contact their supervisors with questions.

The Museum of Aviation, Airman and Family Readiness Center and the base’s main fitness center will be closed. The Travel Management Office will offer limited services; the Commissary will be open until Wednesday; and the Medical Group will be open but delays are expected.

The visitor center and Earth Lodge at Macon’s Ocmulgee National Monument will be closed, and scheduled programs will be canceled during the shutdown, according to a Facebook post Saturday. Employees will not be able to answer emails or phone calls or monitor social media accounts. Park roads and trails will still be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but visitors use them at their own risk.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia will be open today.

The court will remain open because it has the funds to operate for about three weeks, Chief Judge Clay Land said in an email.

Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) has asked ot have his federal paycheck withheld during the federal shutdown.

Rick Allen Salary

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-Middle Georgia) told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer he hopes for a quick resolution to the shutdown.

“There are a lot of concerns, and I’ve heard from the brass at Fort Benning and I’ve heard from the brass at the Pentagon,” U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., said Saturday. “They do not need this continuous, short-term funding. It’s uncertainty and can’t protect our country. We need to deal with it.”

Bishop, whose district includes Fort Benning and south Columbus, hopes the shutdown is short. “We hope this will be temporary,” he said. “Hopefully, the government will be open by Monday.”

Some state agency employees may be affected by the federal shutdown.

If the shutdown persists, state agencies will have to start making decisions this week about whether they have the money to continue paying state workers whose positions are at least partially funded through federal contracts or grants.

Deal’s budget director, Teresa MacCartney, sent state agencies a memo Friday detailing how state government would deal with the shutdown, letting officials know they would not get additional federal funds to operate their programs. It could mean furloughs of state employees who are paid at least in part with federal funding.

“For federal funds approved under a previous continuing resolution or fiscal year, reimbursements may be slowed as the federal government may be unable to process requests,” she wrote, “As a result, your agency must be prepared to curtail federal activities to meet available funds.

“The state will not be able to advance allotments to offset reduced federal cash flow. Additionally, your agency should not assume that funds expended for federal activities conducted during the shutdown will be reimbursed by the state or the federal government once the budget is enacted.”

The federal government foots the bill for roughly two-thirds of the cost of Medicaid, the health care program for more than 1.5 million of Georgia’s poor, disabled and nursing home residents. Many other state agencies rely on at least some federal funding as well.

Savannah Republicans turned out to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Trump Administration.

“We are all so excited to be here because (President Trump) has set our country on a great track,” said Marolyn Overton, president of SARW. “ He is helping everyone. We are all going to see it and feel it in February in our paychecks because there will be less taxes taken out of our paychecks.”

The rally was organized to celebrate the accomplishment achieved under the Trump administration and galvanize voters to hit the polls during 2018 midterm elections, she said.

“We are trying to present what Donald has done for our country,” she said. “But then we had a little kink put in our plan.”

U.S. representatives Rick Allen, Buddy Carter and Jody Hice were scheduled to speak at the rally but could not attend due to the government shutdown.

“I had every intention of being there with you today but as you know the Senate Democrats have thrown a wrench into things here and have really made a big mistake,” Carter said, eliciting applause from the audience. “What they have done is shut this government down and put illegal immigrants ahead of children’s health and ahead of paying our military. I just think that is despicable. I can’t believe that they have done this.”

Carter commended the president for a job well done on all of his accomplishments, including the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

“I think he has done a wonderful job in his first. Let’s think about what (Trump) accomplished. .. It is just wonderful that we have another conservative in that court to serve us for years to come. Had we not gotten there who knows who we would have on that court. And second, lets look at our economy— it is going through the roof.”

Other Georgians are celebrating the Trumpiversary by running for office against the current administration.

The women’s movement ignited by Donald Trump’s election triggered a wave of political involvement from newly energized activists. But it faces its first true test later this year when Johnson and dozens of other women, many of them first-time candidates, seek elected office.

Trump’s presidential inauguration a year ago sent tens of thousands of women to the streets of Atlanta, filled town hall meetings with upset voters and helped elect a surge of women in last year’s votes. Many of them are Democrats with moderate or liberal views, though last year’s class of newly elected officials also featured several prominent Republican women.

The primary votes in May and general election contests in November offer the chance for bigger gains, with every state legislative seat and state constitutional office up for grabs. And Democrats are furiously recruiting candidates, eager to challenge GOP incumbents who haven’t faced opponents in years.

Georgia Chief Turnaround Officer Eric Thomas spoke to Bibb County Board of Education members.

During Thursday’s Bibb school board meeting, Thomas said the state will not be taking schools over but rather partnering with them to create and implement personalized improvement plans.

“We’re not talking about removing principals, we’re not talking about removing staff. It’s really more of a transformation model, more of a support model,” Thomas said. ”Our role really is to help schools and the district to stay focused on the things they identified they need to stay focused on. …. We’re not here to tell people, ‘This is what you should do in your school.’”

“It’s really about what are the two or three things at the school level or district level that’s going to make the difference and working to make a home run on those two or three things and trying to institutionalize and create a culture around those things,” Thomas said. “And then you bring in the next thing.”

Judge E. Trenton Brown, III of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court will sit by designation on the Georgia Supreme Court today.

Brown has been appointed the designee to replace Justice Michael P. Boggs in hearing the arguments in the state’s High Court.

Designated judges are appointed when a justice must recuse himself or herself from a particular case. The Supreme Court of Georgia maintains a list of judges from around the state that they can select from when the such a need arises, and the High Court subsequently appoints the next judge on the list.

Specifically in the case that Brown and other justices will hear Monday, officials with Georgia Power Company are appealing a recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals that allows a lawsuit brought by some of the utility’s customers to go forward against the utility giant.

Brown also will participate in the court’s decision regarding that particular case, according to a press release from Supreme Court of Georgia Jane Hansen, public information officer.

Tide Gates on the Savannah River were demolished as part of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

The Savannah River behind Hutchinson Island — known as the Back River — is looking like its old self again after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers removed a more than 40-year-old concrete water-control structure called a tide gate.

“The Back River hasn’t looked this fly since bell bottoms were cool (the first time),” the corps tweeted Tuesday.

The $21.3 million demolition, completed by Miami-based DeMoya/Continental Joint Venture, is the latest mitigation feature completed in the nearly $1 billion Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

“By removing the tide gates we restored the Back River to its natural state,” Spencer Davis, Project Manager for the SHEP, said. “This is the first part of the flow re-routing measures in the SHEP, designed to protect freshwater marshes in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge from saltwater intrusion.”

Hall County Commissioners are considering raises for some law enforcement employees.

A proposed 2.5 percent pay increase and pay range adjustments for officers up to the rank of captain is on the table. Commissioners also will consider a $1 per hour increase for staff that work overnight shifts.

“In recent months, vacancies have ranged between 55 and 65 positions on average,” Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a press release Friday. “The vacancy rate and turnover, if unaddressed, will jeopardize our ability to fulfill our constitutional duties and our ability to provide the level of service that Hall County citizens deserve.”

If approved, the cost of the pay increases would be about $377,000 for the current fiscal year.

Albany City Commissioners are considering privatizing operations of the Albany Civic Center.

Cobb County Commissioners may consider a sales tax hike to fund public safety.

Cobb commissioners are expected to consider a resolution that would push forward Commissioner Bob Weatherford’s proposal for a county sales tax increase from 6 to 7 cents on the dollar to fund public safety. The resolution would task Cobb’s legislative delegation to introduce and get passed a bill to create a referendum to be taken to county voters, who would ultimately decide whether they would see creation of the new sales tax, which is being referred to as an Other Local Option Sales Tax or OLOST.

“Everybody gets to vote on it. We’re not trying to impose it — everybody has the opportunity to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay,” Weatherford said. “I feel comfortable that once they see the merits of it and the benefits, they’ll say a ‘penny for public safety’ would be a good thing for Cobb County.”

A penny tax in Cobb collects about $130 million a year. After the county’s six cities were given their cut, the county would be left with $96.2 million — enough, Weatherford previously said, to cover the county’s general fund expense for public safety, minus the Sheriff’s Department, of $71 million.

When asked whether they would support the resolution, most commissioners Friday would not commit to a definitive answer. Chairman Mike Boyce, however, said in principle he was generally supportive of putting such a county matter before voters.

“Without hearing all the commissioners, my general thought is this is something that we would take to the voters as a referendum, and as a matter of policy, I think that’s always the way to go, because then they give us clear guidance as to how they want us to use their money,” Boyce said. “I think the concept has a lot of merit, but I also want to wait to hear the other thoughts from commissioners.”

HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

Twelve Georgians have died during the current flu season, according to Georgia Health News.

Seven more Georgians have died from the flu, bringing the total to 12 deaths across the state this influenza season, Public Health officials said Friday.

There were 40 hospitalizations in metro Atlanta due to influenza infection during the week of Jan. 7 through Jan. 13, the state Department of Public Health said. So far this season, area facilities have seen 404 hospitalizations due to flu.

“We’re seeing about a 50 percent increase every week that goes on,” said Dr. James Yost with Peachtree Immediate Care in Cumming. He explained that when winter storms confine most of the public to their homes or shelters, “people crowd together and more spreading [of flu] goes on.”

The flu impact remains severe across the country. The geographic spread of influenza in Puerto Rico and 49 states (all but Hawaii) was reported as widespread, the CDC said.

Dr. Dan Jernigan, the director of the Influenza Division of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned last week that this flu season was very active and was “probably peaking.” Whether or not it has passed its peak, it remains intense.

Jernigan and CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald attribute the high flu activity to the prevalence of the H3N2 flu.

H3N2 is associated with more severe illness, especially among children and the elderly. Flu seasons during which H3 viruses are prevalent are usually worse and come with more hospitalizations and deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has furloughed about 2/3 of its workers nationwide.

Before the shutdown took place, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the CDC, put out a contingency plan. That plan called for the CDC to keep more than 8,500 of its 13,000-plus staff members at home. That works out 63% of the agency’s employees.  Since the CDC is headquartered here in the metro area, our area is feeling the brunt of those furloughs.

The plan said the CDC would “continue minimal support to protect the health and well-being of U.S. citizens here and abroad.”  But added the shutdown would lead to “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations, processing laboratory samples and maintaining the agency’s 24/7 emergency operations center.”

Of course, all of this is happening as the CDC helps fight the current flu outbreak, which is being called one of the worst in years. The shutdown won’t stop those efforts. The CDC plans to continue to monitor the disease by collecting data from states, hospitals, and other agencies. It will also keep reporting any critical information needed to track, prevent and treat the flu.

Piedmont Healthcare is moving forward with the acquisition of Columbus Regional Hospital.

Piedmont has agreed to put a significant financial commitment into Columbus Regional, as well as assume all of the local organization’s debt, according to the terms on file with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.

The organization’s name will change to Piedmont Columbus Regional when the deal is finalized, which is targeted for March 1.

The deal must be approved by Attorney General Chris Carr’s office before it can be completed. Terms of the merger were submitted to the attorney general in late October. They have up to 120 days to review it. Officials from Columbus Regional and Piedmont have met with the attorney general’s office during this process, Columbus Regional Health President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Hill said last week.

 

19
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 19, 2018

On January 20, 1788, the First African Baptist Church was established in Savannah, Georgia, one of the first black churches in the United States.

John Marshall was nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States by President John Adams on January 20, 1801.

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807 at his family home, Stratford Hall, Virginia.

Lieutenant William T. Sherman was ordered to Georgia for the first time in his military career on January 21, 1844.

Delegates to the Secession Convention in Milledgeville voted 208-89 in favor of seceding from the United States on January 19, 1861.

On January 19, 1871, Savannah, Georgia became the first city to recognize Robert E. Lee’s Birthday as a public holiday.

On January 20, 1920, DeForest Kelley was born in Atlanta and he grew up in Conyers. Kelley sang in the choir of his father’s church and appeared on WSB radio; he graduated from Decatur Boys High School and served in the United States Navy. Kelley became famous as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the original Star Trek series.

On January 20, 1928, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Warm Springs, Georgia for the tenth time, staying through February 11th. During the visit, he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce of Americus and Sumter County, telling them

“In Georgia the movement towards the cities is growing by leaps and bounds and this means the abandonment of the farms or those farms that are not suited to the uses of agriculture. It means that we will have vacant lands but these can and should be used in growing timber.”

January 20th became Inaugural Day in 1937; when the date falls on a Sunday, a private inauguration of the President is held, with a public ceremony the following day. The Twentieth Amendment moved inauguration day from March 4 to January 20. Imagine six additional weeks of a lame duck President.

Roosevelt was sworn-in to a fourth term as President on Jauary 20, 1945 and died in Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.

On January 20, 1939, Paul D. Coverdell was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Coverdell was one of the key figures in the development of the Georgia Republican Party.

United States Senator and former Georgia House Speaker and Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. died on January 21, 1971.

On January 20, 1977, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as the 39th President of the United States.

On January 21, 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned draft resistors from the Vietnam War era and urged Americans to conserve energy.

On January 20, 1981, Ronald Wilson Reagan was inaugurated 40th President of the United States.

On January 21, 1978, the Bee Gees Saturday Night Live album hit #1 on the sales charts, where it would stay for 24 weeks.

Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal released a staetment on the passing of former Georgia First Lady Betty Russell Vandiver.

“Sandra and I send our heartfelt prayers to the Vandiver family and mourn with them during this time of loss and remembrance,” said Deal. “As a loving mother of three, a devoted First Lady, and a member of the Senator Richard Russell family, she dedicated much of her efforts to serving the people of Georgia, both during her husband’s term as governor of the state and after their departure from public life. She was instrumental in supporting Milledgeville’s Central State Hospital, Georgia’s first institution for those struggling with mental disabilities. She was also especially helpful to Sandra in the creation of Memories of the Mansion: The Story of Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion, recounting her family’s personal experiences for posterity.”

“Historians and pundits often talk about the sacrifices of a governor, but the truly unsung heroes are the members of the first family, who give of themselves for the betterment of others, often quietly, with dignity, and without the applause they deserve.  Betty was a prime example of such a woman of grace and Southern charm.  We join her family in honoring her contributions to Georgia and in celebrating the fact that she is finally reunited with her beloved husband.”

From a 2013 story in the Franklin County Citizen:

When her husband was lieutenant governor from 1955-59, she said, “Ernest commuted to Atlanta from home, staying in Atlanta only a few days a week.”

Moving into the mansion, Betty said, was a change of address, but not really a change in the family lifestyle.

“We lived at the mansion like we lived at home,” Betty said simply.

While it takes a staff of 26 or more to run the Governor’s Mansion these days, back in 1959, it was Betty and a staff of two.

“We didn’t entertain then like they do now,” Betty said. “Our social life was what we made it. There were not as many meetings. Ernie was home most nights for dinner.”

“I didn’t want the children to think they were different,” Betty said. “I was in a carpool. The state patrol did not take my children to school or pick them up.”

In fact, most of the time, Betty said, her children walked home from the public school they attended – Springstreet School – many times stopping by the local drug store before they got home.

“Atlanta was a lot different then.The traffic was not bad, especially at 3 p.m. when the children came home from school.”

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

[Betty] Vandiver was born in 1927, grew up in Winder and attended the University of Georgia, graduating in 1947 and marrying Ernest Vandiver.

Ernest Vandiver was a Lavonia attorney who got involved in local politics before rising to lieutenant governor, then serving as governor from 1959 to 1963. The couple had three children, who spent some of their early years growing up in the Georgia Governor’s Mansion.

It was a tumultuous time in the nation, and Vandiver, a Democrat who began his political career as a segregationist, oversaw the integration of the University of Georgia. When hard-line segregationist Lester Maddox ran after his term, Vandiver backed the Republican candidate.

Betty Russell Vandiver was from an important political family. She was related to powerful politician Richard B. Russell Jr., a former state  legislator, governor and later a powerful U.S. senator. She was active in her husband’s political campaigns, and also helped raise toys yearly for the mentally ill.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Lavonia First Baptist Church, with a private burial in Lavonia City – Burgess Cemetery.

Under the Gold Dome

Today, the Senate convenes at 10 AM, while the House convenes at 10:30 AM.

The House Appropriations Public Safety Committee meets at 9 AM in Room 341 of the State Capitol. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Juvenile Justice are scheduled to present.

The Georgia Senate yesterday passed House Bill 159, the adoption bill. From Maggie Lee at the Macon Telegraph:

Georgia lawmakers broadly agree that it’s time to update adoption laws so that Georgia children can get into permanent loving homes faster.

But in a 40-13 vote on Thursday, Georgia state Senators approved a version of the so-called “adoption bill” that’s different from what the House sent them last year. And Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has serious concerns about the Senate bill.

“This bill is a clean bill focused solely on child welfare while respecting our state agencies like DFCS,” the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, said its state Senate sponsor, Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro.

[T]he Senate version contains an amendment that would set up a way for people to transfer their child to someone else’s care for up to a year using power of attorney.

It’s meant for parents who temporarily can’t take care of their kids for reasons that might include deployment or going to a drug rehabilitation program.

Deal vetoed a separate bill proposing that last year.

Just after senators voted to resurrect the idea, Deal tweeted that he commends the Senate for taking action on the bill.

“However, I have serious concerns regarding their version of the bill and am hopeful they will be addressed through the legislative process,” he wrote.

From the Gainesville Times:

“The governor doesn’t support the bill in its current form,” [Senate President Pro Tem Butch] Miller said.

But Miller added that he’s confident lawmakers can work with members in the House and the governor to get the adoption bill right this time around.

“We’re going to get it done,” he said.

Proponents have said the bill would make adoptions more efficient by, for example, nixing a six-month residency requirement for adoptive parents; allowing birth mothers working with an adoption agency to receive living expenses; and giving birth mothers the opportunity to waive a 10-day period to regain their child once adopted

From the AJC:

House Speaker David Ralston said he’ll review the Senate’s version of the bill before deciding how to proceed. If the House, which passed its version of HB 159 on a 165-0 vote last year, disagrees with the Senate’s changes, the legislation would head to a conference committee for negotiations.

“We’re making progress,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “I commend them for taking out the language that created problems last year, but I am concerned over putting back in a bill that was vetoed by the governor.”

Even if the adoption bill passes, the battle over religious liberty protections seemed more certain than ever to resume.

State Sen. William Ligon, who added the religious protections to the adoption bill last year, said adoption agencies shouldn’t have to choose between closing down or violating their faith.

“We have removed these distractions from the adoption bill,” said Ligon, R-Brunswick. But when he revives religious liberty legislation, “the people of this state will see exactly where their government stands on this issue.”

State and Local

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) will hold a veterans benefits fair on January 24, 2018 form 3-5 PM at the Brooks Pennington Military Leadership Center, 83 College Circle on the University of North Georgia Dahlonega campus.

Representatives from the Atlanta Regional Veterans Affairs Office, Atlanta Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Georgia National Cemetery, Georgia Department of Veterans Service, Emory Healthcare Veterans Program and Hire Heroes USA will also take part in the event.

U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey Jr. announced he will retire from the bench effective July 1, 2018.

Four candidates qualified for a vacant Richmond County District 7 seat.

Elliott Melvin Brown, Annette Turabi, Sarah Bobrow Williams and Charlie Walker Jr. will be seeking the position to represent Garrett, A. Brian Merry and Warren Road elementary schools, John M. Tutt Middle School and Westside High School. The Richmond County Board of Education seat came open when Frank Dolan resigned in October.

The candidate selected in the March 20 special election will serve the rest of Dolan’s term, which ends Dec. 31. Qualifying for the District 7 seat ended noon Thursday.

The last day for voting by mail and advance voting is March 16. All polling locations in District 7 will be open on Election Day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Qualifying opens on March 5 for three seats on the Decatur County Commission and three seats on the Decatur County Board of Education.

Qualifying will begin that Monday at 9 a.m. and wrap up at noon on Friday, March 9.

The seats open for election on the Board of Education are District 2, currently held by Keith Lyle, District 3, currently held by Winston Rollins, and District 5, currently held by Bobby Barber. These are non-partisan races. Qualifying fees for each of these races is $54.

The seats open for election on the Decatur County Board of Commissioners are District 1, currently held by George Anderson, District 4, currently held by Rusty Davis, and District 6, currently held by Pete Stephens. The qualifying fee for the Board of Commissioners is $216.

The State Court Solicitor General is also open for election. The qualifying fee is $1,498.84.

The Decatur County Board of Commissioner and Solicitor General races are partisan. Candidates will need to decide which party they want to run under.

Hurricane Irma damaged about 30 percent of Georgia’s pecan crop.

Hurricane Irma, downgraded to a tropical storm when it entered the state, damaged about 30 percent of Georgia’s pecan crop, and the storm’s effects could linger into next growing season, according to University of Georgia Cooperative Extension pecan specialist Lenny Wells.

Most of Georgia’s 2017 pecan crop has been harvested, and Wells estimates the state’s yields to be between 90 million and 100 million pounds. The crop looked even better prior to Irma’s arrival in early September 2017, he said, but heavy winds and torrential rain damaged the crop.

“Any time you have quality issues, that tells you those trees were under stress late in the season. We had a good idea, this year, of what that stress was, and it was due to the storm,” Wells said. “That could linger on and affect the crop in the upcoming year. With that being said, I don’t think we’re looking at a really low-yield year.”

Powder Springs City Councilapproved a blight tax.”

The council gave its OK to the creation of a “community redevelopment tax incentive program,” which targets owners of property deemed blighted by raising their city property tax bill seven-fold.

Properties would be deemed blighted and could be hit by the “blight tax” if they met two or more of six criteria, such as having an unsafe structure on the property, occurrences of repeated illegal activity on the premises or maintenance that has not met state, county or city codes for at least one year. It would also have to be considered a health or crime hazard, according to the text of the new city ordinance.

18
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 18, 2018

On January 18, 1776, James Wright, Royal Governor of Georgia, was arrested by John Habersham, a member of the Provincial Congress.

L.Q.C. Lamar, born near Eatonton, Georgia, was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court on January 18, 1888.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced that most state government offices will remain closed today.

Acting on a recommendation from the state Emergency Operations Command, Gov. Nathan Deal today announced state government will remain closed for non-essential personnel tomorrow, Jan. 18, across the 83 counties impacted by winter weather.

“Our top priority is to ensure the safety of Georgians and to allow the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to continue doing its job,” said Deal. “Due to yesterday’s winter weather and continued freezing temperatures, ice continues accumulating on our roadways. GDOT is responsible for the maintenance of more than 17,900 miles of state roads and interstates. Currently, there are more than 12,800 miles remaining to be cleared and treated. In light of this, I urge people to stay home, stay safe and remain off our roadways. We will continue monitoring the weather and will provide updates as necessary.”

Joint Legislative Appropriations Committee Block Grant Hearings, originally scheduled for yesterday, begin at 1 PM today.

The State Senate convenes at 1:30 PM today, while the House of Representatives meets at 2 PM.

The Senate Rules Committee meets today in Room 450 upon adjournment of the Senate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets today in 307-CLOB at 4 PM.

House Judiciary (Non-Civil) meets upon adjournment in Room 132 of the State Capitol.

House Motor Vehicles meets upon adjournment in Room 403 of the Capitol.

Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) and Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) will release a statement on House Bill 159, the adoption bill, upon adjournment of the Senate.

Coweta County and the City of Newnan enacted a curfew prohibiting residents being outside from 5 PM last night through 10 AM today.

Those who have to travel for work requirements are exempt from the curfew. So are emergency personnel. Construction and repair workers are exempt if they are traveling to do repairs related to the weather events.

“This is for nonessential travel – we understand people that have to go to work,” said Coweta Commission Chairman Al Smith.

People were drag-racing down Bullsboro Drive in Mini-Coopers on Wednesday and doing donuts in parking lots while people were trying to shop, said Jay Jones, Coweta Emergency Management Director. While out working to treat roads, Ray Norton of Newnan Public Works was nearly hit by someone driving erratically, Jones said.

“We’re wanting to protect those people who are on the road legitimately.”

“We are erring on the side of caution and safety,” said Smith. If someone gets into an accident because they are out on the roads “doing stuff just because they don’t want to stay home,” then emergency personnel have to respond, and emergency personnel can end up in a slippery situation as well.

“We really don’t want our people going to get you out of a ditch when you’re not going anywhere and you’re not doing anything, you’re just out there because you’re bored and you don’t want to sit home,” Smith said.

Governor Deal has proposed creating a statewide business court that would be created by Constitutional Amendment.

Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is calling for state lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment that, with the approval of voters, would create a new state court system solely to handle business disputes.

Any push from Deal’s administration would set up a rare, but precedented scenario requiring the Republican seek support from Democrats for what appears to be one of the top items on his policy agenda.

Amending the state constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate.

“They’re going to need us at the end of the day,” said Democratic Sen. Jen Jordan, whose victory in a special election last year broke Republican’s two-thirds majority in the state Senate. Republicans already lacked control of a two-thirds majority in the state House.

Gov. Deal and state fiscal economist Ken Heaghney discussed the effect of federal tax reform on the state budget earlier this week.

Ken Heaghney, Georgia’s fiscal economist, told members of the House and Senate budget committees that the state is projecting a 3.7 percent increase in revenue in fiscal 2019, which begins July 1. That’s slower growth than in 2017, but Heaghney said the projections do not take into account the impact of the federal tax changes Congress approved in December.

Heaghney said the changes — which are expected to result in smaller tax withholdings for millions of employees and tax cuts for corporations — could provide a short-term boost to the economy, but the long-term impact isn’t clear.

He said officials must go over more than 200 provisions in the new federal law to figure out how much effect it will have on the state budget, such as whether it will mean more or less revenue — tax money. Once they figure that out, Deal may have to change his revenue estimate — up or down — for the upcoming fiscal year.

“There are things in the federal bill that will impact us if we don’t do anything,” Heaghney said. “We want to give the governor a good understanding of what the implications are.”

A vast majority of this year’s budget increase will go to propping up the finances of the teacher pension system, paying for increased enrollment in k-12 schools and colleges, and higher costs for Medicaid, the public health system for the poor, disabled and nursing home residents.

Deal and Heaghney were the lead-off speakers at two days of joint House and Senate budget hearings, which conclude Wednesday. The hearings are on an accelerated schedule this year because some leading lawmakers want an early end to the 2018 session so they can begin campaigning.

Legislators may consider changes in the state tax code to address federal tax reform.

“We clearly are going to have to make some changes to the Georgia tax code,” said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.

The standard deduction is one area of conflict that immediately stands out, he said. State law required taxpayers who take the standard federal deduction to do the same with their state taxes. However, many counted on being able to itemize on their 2017 filing.

“That’s going to put some people in a penalty situation,” Hufstetler said.

There are a number of provisions expected to have an impact on state revenue, although it will be some time before definitive calculations are available. Hufstetler said Wednesday he had hoped to have a report from the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office by now but they’ve asked for a delay.

“It’s a complicated issue,” he noted. “But we want to get that done early and into the tax tables. People need to plan.”

Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Gregory Dozier asked the General Assembly to support legislation banning drone flights over state prison facilities.

“Now we’re combating the drones,” said the Georgia Department of Corrections commissioner at a state budget hearing on Tuesday in Atlanta.

“In [fiscal year] ’18, we had 74 drone sightings,” he said.

He doesn’t want drone delivery to become one of the multitude of ways prisoners get things they’re not supposed to have. No matter how phones get in, for example, he expects to seize about 6,000 contraband phones this year, in line with last year’s numbers.

“I’ll be asking you this year to support a bill that stipulates it’s illegal for a drone to cross a prison’s airspace,” Dozier told lawmakers.

Dozens of reports of drones sighted by corrections officers, obtained by The Telegraph under an open records request, describe prisons put on lockdown while officers count inmates and scour grounds for any drop-offs.

The leader of Georgia Sheriffs’ Association said he thinks sheriffs would be interested in adding county jails to no-fly zones too.

“I have not heard of a complaint from a sheriff about a drone drop. But if it hasn’t happened it’s a matter of time,” said Terry Norris, the GSA’s executive director.

“We’re anxious to see the bill and look forward to working with the Department of Corrections to help them achieve their goals,” said Lewis Massey, whose lobbying firm represents [drone manufacturer] DJI in Georgia.

State Rep. Bubber Epps, (R-Dry Branch) wants the Macon-Bibb County Commission and the Board of Education to come to an agreement on an additional sales tax.

The County Commission voted 7-1 Tuesday in favor of a resolution asking the local legislative delegation to introduce measures tied to the Other Local Option Sales Tax, or OLOST.

A consensus that the school board is behind Macon-Bibb’s efforts would generate more support for any legislation, said state Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, who represents much of Bibb County.

Legislators want to help if a local government wants it, but they don’t want to get in the middle of a local debate, he said. Epps said he’s heard concerns about “equalization.”

Epps said that before the legislative session, lawmakers encouraged the county and the school system to put their heads together to find common ground.

“I think the delegation wants to be of assistance where it can be, but we don’t want to get in the middle of local issues that need to be handled by local governments. I certainly don’t. If our input is needed, then I’d like to see agreement kind of coalesce on a local level before we have to take any action on the state level,” he said.

If it’s approved, half of the new tax would be used to roll back property taxes for county residents.

There would also be a partial “freeze” on property values on residences where the owner has a homestead exemption. The value the homeowner is taxed on could not change more than 2 percent within a year.

Even if the legislation passes through the Legislature, Macon-Bibb officials would have to sign off on adding it to the November election ballot, meaning residents would have the final say so on the extra penny of tax on the dollar.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) will introduce legislation similar to a bill vetoed by Gov. Deal.

Once again, the lead sponsor of the bill is House Judiciary Committee Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, who introduced the prior legislation in response to a Georgia Supreme Court ruling barred a declaratory judgement action against the state.

Since that ruling, the court has continued to reinforce its interpretation of sovereign immunity as an unscalable barrier to virtually any claim against the state, including mandamus actions and petitions for injunctive relief.

The legislation introduced Thursday expands the law governing state tort claims by waiving sovereign immunity for any claim “seeking a declaratory judgment or injunctive relief against the state or any political subdivision,” although it continues to bar actions for money damages unless sovereign immunity was specifically waived.

House Bill 674’s language is identical to that of the legislation that passed unanimously in the Senate and with only two “nays” in the House in 2016.

Deal’s veto statement said the bill’s “sweeping waiver of sovereign immunity would allow unprecedented judicial intervention into daily management decisions entrusted to the executive branch of government,” and posed “unforeseen ramifications that would impede government operations.”  The Board of Regents and then-Attorney General Sam Olens also opposed the legislation, according to the statement.

The state employee head count has dropped over the past decade, while employment at the University System of Georgia has risen.

Deal told House and Senate budget writers this week that the number of state employees dropped from 70,716 in fiscal 2008, just as the Great Recession began hammering government finances, to 58,642 in 2017.

But those figures don’t include the state’s biggest employer — the University System of Georgia.

University System figures show the number of full-time employees at Georgia’s colleges and universities rose 17 percent, from 40,209 to 46,953.

System officials point out that student enrollment on campuses grew 19 percent during that period.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College in Dalton will receive a funding boost in Gov. Deal’s proposed budget.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the percentage of Georgians favoring medical marijuana expansion has risen.

Over three-quarters of those surveyed said Georgia’s medical marijuana program should be expanded, an increase from previous years. This year’s AJC poll showed that 77 percent want greater access to medical marijuana, compared with 71 percent last year and 73 percent in 2016.

Meanwhile, approval of marijuana legalization for recreational use also reached new heights, with 50 percent of respondents backing legalization, compared with 46 percent last year.

Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation this year that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries, which for the first time would give patients a way to buy the drug legally.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said the AJC’s poll results confirm his belief that Georgians need a legal way to provide medical marijuana to patients who are already allowed to use it.

“Citizens want us to act, so why not structure something that’s regulated, restricted and provides a safe product for our citizens?” said Peake, the sponsor of HB 645. “Georgians want us to find a solution.”

The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission is considering a 1-percent local option sales tax (LOST) to pay for some sewer and water projects.

State Rep. Jeff Jones has previously said he was in favor of a tax for the JWSC, but, like Rep. Don Hogan, would prefer for the city of Brunswick and county governments to back a new tax before attempting to create one.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says Georgia set employment records in 2017.

Over the year, Georgia created more than 83,000 new jobs, employed thousands more residents, grew a much larger work force, and drove unemployment down 1.1 percent.

“As we look back at the year, it was impressive,” Butler said. “Over the year every major measurement improved considerably. In fact, we set records in several areas such as jobs, employment and work force.”

In December, Georgia added 5,600 new jobs to end the year with an all-time record high of 4,518,900. The previous high of 4,513,300 was recorded in November. The 1.9 percent growth rate compares favorably with the national growth rate of 1.4 percent.

Job records were also set in educational and health services at 589,300 and leisure and hospitality at 495,900. The previous record highs had been recorded in November.

The state grew jobs in all major employment sectors, except manufacturing where 3,800 jobs were lost.

Congressman John Lewis will deliver the commencement address at the University of California, San Diego in June.

The Fayette County Commission voted to pass a resolution endorsing religious liberty legislation in the state legislature.

Offered up by Commissioner Randy Ognio, a controversial resolution would see the county ask the Congress of the United States (with House Resolution 514) and the state congress (with Senate Bill 233) to protect religious freedom by any means necessary. Four of the five commissioners voted to throw the county’s support behind the bill and make it part of the county’s legislative packet.

The audience was vocal, both in support and opposition of the resolution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), with the crowd in favor asking for help in protecting their freedoms and the opposing crowd questioning the need or reasoning for throwing support behind the bills and saying it opens the door to discrimination.

The item was moved to near the front of the agenda, in part to allow State Senator Marty Harbin to speak and share a short video attempting to explain the importance of the bill.

Harbin relayed a story he had heard earlier in the day about a man planting an apple tree with his grandson. When his grandson asks him why he is planting it since he will be dead before he can enjoy the fruits of his labor, the man explains that he is planting it for his son and for the next generation.

The story, which was told by Governor Nathan Deal during his State of the State Address about the growing prosperity of the state coming out of the recession, symbolized to Harbin the importance of planting things for his children and his grandchildren and thinking about the next generation. Harbin called his bill, Senate Bill 233, a mirror image of federal law where one must “show a compelling government reason for that law to be enforced and violate someone’s deeply-held religious convictions, and that’s really all it does,” he said.

State Representatives Derrick Jackson and Debra Bazemore spoke in opposition to Harbin.

Lucy McBath will run against State Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), and registered her campaign for the Democratic nomination.

As one of the “Mothers of the Movement” and the spiritual outreach leader for Moms Demand Action, McBath has been on the front lines of lobbying and education for sensible gun laws.

As the Huffington Post notes, “McBath’s activism has spearheaded much-needed gun reform.” In Florida, McBath and her fellow volunteers from Moms Demand Action defeated a number of bills that would have permitted guns on school campuses and airports.

Mayor Jeff Ash of Helen took the oath of office, continuing his service that began on the city commission in 1974.

Atlanta Regional Commission Chair Kerry Armstrong spoke about what he considers an opportunity to build-out transit.

Armstrong, whose at-large citizen district on the ARC board is located in Gwinnett, made the remarks during a State of the Region Address to the Gwinnett Chamber at the Sonesta Gwinnett Place Atlanta. During the speech, he pointed to data from the ARC Metro Speaks Survey, which showed support for transit in the metro area.

Ninety-four percent of survey participants said they believed public transit was important to the region’s future, and 56 percent said they were willing to pay more taxes to fund transit, Armstrong said.

“If there’s been a window when something big could happen, it’s right now more than any time ever before,” he said.

He did tell the business leaders to keep an eye on the state Capitol, particularly the Georgia House of Representatives. Developments that have happened there are why he believes there’s a window for transit right now.

“I can tell you that at the statehouse, for the first time in my lifetime, there’s actually some real discussion about this,” Armstrong said. “Regional governance and funding — the House has had a study commission on this that’s met on this and they’ve had a very robust, huge amount of input from a variety of different angles.”

“I think the House will take that up this year.”

Kennesaw will hold a special election to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Council member Yvette Daniel.

For that to happen, the council will need to determine the date of the election, the dates candidates can qualify and the qualifying fee. They will also need to sign a contract authorizing the county to conduct the election for the city, according to Cobb elections director Janine Eveler.

Mayor Derek Easterling indicated at Tuesday night’s council meeting that the council will take that up during their next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 5.

Eveler said the next two available dates for an election are March 20 and May 22. She said her office has recommended the city go with the May 22 date, as that is the date of the primary for all statewide offices, including members of the Legislature, governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state.

Eveler said holding Kennesaw’s election on the same date would mean the additional costs would be minimal.

17
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 17, 2018

On January 17, 1733, Georgia’s Trustees in London voted to ban Jews from the colony.

Martin Luther King, Jr. began the Chicago civil rights campaign on January 17, 1966.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 83 counties beginning last night.

This line extends from Columbus to Macon to Augusta and northward. State government will be closed tomorrow in the impacted areas for non-essential personnel.

“Following the latest update from the National Weather Service, and acting upon the recommendation from the state’s Emergency Operations Command, I’ve issued an executive order closing state government for non-essential personnel tomorrow,” said Deal. “The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) will continue treating our roads and interstates. To ensure people’s safety and to allow GDOT to do its job, I urge people to remain home and off the roads. We will continue monitoring the weather and will provide updates as necessary.”

Read the emergency declaration here.

The Georgia General Assembly‘s Joint Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing (Day 2) scheduled for 9 AM today is cancelled.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is holding a “Digital Learning Day” in lieu of opening schools today.

Gwinnett County is opting for another Digital Learning Day following an announcement by the school system to cancel classes.

GCPS made the announcement earlier Tuesday that it would be concluding all school related activities by 8 p.m. to avoid any winter weather.

This is the second systemwide Digital Learning Day in as many weeks after school was also canceled on Jan. 8 due to the threat of ice.

The “Digital Learning Day” apparently assumes most students will have working broadband internet and a computer at home.

On the day that school has been canceled, teachers will post assignments on their eCLASS C&I course pages. Middle school assignments will be posted by 10 a.m.

Students will use the My eCLASS student portal to log in to their eCLASS C&I course pages where they will access assignments, resources, and other materials. If the power is out, a student may access the teacher’s course page when power returns. If a student does not have access to a computer or device (tablet, smartphone, etc.), the student can get the assignment once school resumes.

Student work will be expected to be turned in to the teacher (either digitally or in person), using a school’s process for turning in work following an absence. For example, if your school allows students to turn in work two days after a missed day the Digital Learning Day assignments would be due two days after classes resume.

Former Secretary of Health & Human Services and Georgia Congressman Tom Price has a new gig.

Jackson Healthcare, a Georgia-based provider of health-care staffing and technology services, said on Tuesday that the former cabinet secretary and Georgia congressman had joined the company’s advisory board.

Jackson Healthcare counts former Florida Governor Jeb Bush among its advisory board members. Price will bring unparalleled knowledge of the U.S. health-care system to the new post, Jackson Healthcare Chief Executive Officer Richard Jackson said in a press release.

Price will “provide feedback on our business plan and advice on business strategy overall,” according to Jackson Healthcare’s director of corporate communications, Jessica Lacy. She declined to provide information about Price’s compensation.

The Georgia Public Service Commission ordered Georgia Power to refund excess revenue to customers.

State regulators have ordered Georgia Power to refund its customers $43.2 million, which the company earned above the approved limits set by the commission in 2013.

In a statement, the commissioners unanimously ordered the utility company to return to its customers two thirds of its earnings for 2016 that were above the set 10.95% Return on Equity (ROE). The company would retain the other third.

The regulators have also ordered the company to provide to the commission by February 20th, the amount the company will save following the recent tax cuts signed into law by president Trump. According to the new law, corporate taxes were slashed from 35% to 21%.

The order by the commission for dollar amounts of the savings the utility expects to make following the tax cuts that came into effect on January 1, follows recent decisions by utility companies in Maryland and Illinois to cut rates for its customers.

Public Service Commission Chair Stan Wise (R-Marietta) will resign from the Commission effective February 20, 2018.

Stan Wise, chairman of the state Public Service Commission, sent word to Gov. Nathan Deal this morning that he’ll resign effective Feb. 20.

Wise, a strong advocate for nuclear power, announced his decision late last year, but said he would only depart after the utlility board had approved Georgia Power’s decision to continue construction on two new nuclear power reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The timing of Wise’ announcement is far from accidental. Qualifying for the May primaries is in March. Also, like other statewide elected officials and state lawmakers, office-holders are barred from raising campaign cash during the session.

Look for Governor Deal to quickly announce a replacement to fill out Wise’ term and gain some advantage from incumbency. Our money is on Tricia Pridemore of Marietta, whom Deal once backed – unsuccessfully – for state GOP chairman.

From the Marietta Daily Journal:

Wise said he’s glad Deal will be responsible for filling his seat on the commission.

“I think a great deal of the governor, and I am confident that he will place a person in that position that is exceptional,” Wise said. “The reason that I like that the governor will appoint is I believe we’re on the same page on energy policy and that I am comfortable that he’ll name someone that is exceptional.”

Tricia Pridemore, of Marietta, has already announced her intention to run for Wise’s seat and has connections to Deal, having previously served as executive director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development and co-chair of Deal’s inauguration team after his 2014 re-election.

Wise praised Pridemore but stopped short of an official endorsement.

“I think Tricia is a very good candidate and would be a very good public service commissioner,” Wise said, adding, “The thing is that the governor has always let us do our job, and I think this is in his realm. And I believe it’s appropriate that the governor makes the appointment. And I’ll just leave it at that.”

As for Wise’s next act, he says he doesn’t know what he’ll do next.

“I really wanted to stay and not really get out and start to look for other options until we got through these important votes. It was something that I felt was appropriate, and so I really haven’t reached out to see what my next step is,” he said. “I’m hopeful. I believe I have value to add to people on the national stage. I just don’t know who it is or when it will be.”

However, Wise said he will not work for a utility he has worked to regulate during his time on the PSC.

Republican Tricia Pridemore will run for a full-term on the Commission this year, listed on the ballot as an incumbent, assuming Gov. Deal appoints her. The last PSC member to run for election after being appointed by the Governor was David Burgess (D), who lost his seat in a runoff election in 2006.

Democrat Stacey Abrams will open 18 offices across Georgia in her bid for her party’s gubernatorial nomination.

The former House minority leader on Wednesday announced plans to open a Savannah office on Jan. 27. Her campaign will be opening other offices in Albany, Augusta, Columbus, Cobb, Hinesville, Rome, Stockbridge and Sumter County in the next few weeks.

The campaign, which currently has its main operations in DeKalb, said the office space is donated by local supporters. She hopes early outreach to voters, particularly liberal-leaning minorities who rarely cast ballots, will help propel her to victory.

Republican Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle announced his campaign for Governor has raised nearly $7 million dollars.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle reported raising about $6.7 million in donations since he jumped in the race eight months ago, and his campaign will have all but $1 million of that in the bank in the runup to May’s GOP primary.

Cagle reported raising more than $4 million in the disclosure period that will end on Jan. 31 and he has about $5.75 million in cash on hand. He’s likely to set the high bar in the frenzied fundraising race for governor, with help from many well-connected lobbyists and other Capitol veterans.

The reports aren’t due until the end of the month, but Cagle unveiled his figures early for two reasons: He and other sitting state office-holders are restricted from raising cash during the legislative session that started last week. And he wanted to amp up the pressure on his GOP rivals, including several who will spend the next few months raising cash while he’s in the Legislature.

The Hall County Board of Elections voted to rescind a 2017 decision to provide bilingual ballots.

Board members voted Tuesday to rescind an April vote to adopt the new ballots for county and state elections amid heavy opposition from the public.

At the same meeting, the board voted to establish a committee to study the costs, but that committee wouldn’t report its findings until January 2019.

The vote to rescind the ballots was 3-2, with the board’s two Democrats against rescinding, its Republicans in favor and nonpartisan Chairman Tom Smiley also voting in favor of rescinding the 2017 vote.

Craig Lutz, the member of the Elections Board who requested the bilingual ballot issue be reconsidered by the board, said the county didn’t know the cost of bilingual ballots and said having English-only ballots wouldn’t disenfranchise voters.

Lutz also offered the motion to create the committee to study the costs of providing ballots in Spanish. That motion was unanimously approved.

House District 175, vacated by Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) drew four candidates in a special election to be held February 13, 2018.

The candidates are competing to replace former Rep. Amy Carter, R-Valdosta, who resigned from House District 175 in November to take a position with the Technical College System of Georgia. Candidate qualifying for the race ended Friday.

The candidates are Bruce Phelps, a Republican emergency medical technician; Coy Reaves, a Republican who is self-employed; John LaHood, a Republican and CEO of Fellowship Senior Living; and Teva Gear, a Democrat and educator.

Marietta City Council voted to expand Sunday sales by breweries and distillies.

Augusta Commissioners voted to put non-binding referenda on a new James Brown Arena location on the May 22, 2018 Democratic and Republican Primary ballots.

After heated discussion Tuesday and prior to a third Augusta Commission vote on whether to build at the privately owned Regency Mall, commissioners agreed to instead ask voters where they prefer the arena to be built.

Commissioner Sammie Sias’ motion – to ask both political parties to place a nonbinding yes-or-no question about building at Regency, and building at the current James Brown Arena site – passed 9-0 with Commissioner Andrew Jefferson out.

Sias made the motion after Commissioner Ben Hasan withdrew an earlier substitute motion to reject the Regency site outright and ask Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority to look elsewhere.

The ballot questions – which will not appear on the nonpartisan version of the May 22 ballot – will show voters’ preference of a site but won’t require the arena to be built. The May elections include Mayor Hardie Davis’ seat, four commission races and several judgeships and state party primaries.

Savannah City Council is considering an ordinance to regulate shopping carts.

Alderman Julian Miller said abandoned carts can impact the morale and aesthetics of the communities where they are left behind, and residents have been calling for the city to address the problem.

The issue has been one city officials have been trying to resolve for years without success, but Mayor Eddie DeLoach told industry representatives the council is determined to get something done this time.

“We’re not looking for kicking it down the road,” DeLoach said. “So you all have to get with staff and come up with something that satisfies you or we’ll come up with something that might not satisfy you.”

The proposed ordinance requires businesses to submit a shopping cart theft prevention and retrieval plan and establishes a fine of up to $500 for violating the requirements. A $375 retrieval fee would also be assessed if the city has to collect a discarded cart and return it to the business.

To translate for some of my friends, a “shopping cart” is the same thing as a “buggy.”

The Muscogee County Board of Education elected a new Chair and Vice Chair.

After only one round of voting, and without anyone explaining their votes, board chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1 handed the gavel during Tuesday night’s meeting to Kia Chambers, the nine-member board’s lone countywide representative, and Mark Cantrell of District 6 became vice chairman.

The Berrien High School Future Farmers of America sent representatives to the Georgia National Fair Goat Show. This particular event demonstrates why FFA-alumni run the state government – they have the most experience in goat rodeos.

The Jekyll Island Industrial Authority is moving forward toward building a solar farm.

the island authority’s board voted Tuesday to continue down a path that could lead to a 5-6 acre solar farm on the northern end of the island.

The site would be between Bond and Magee avenues, off Old Plantation Road, just northeast of the airport. The solar farm would sit atop a capped landfill, and provide about 1 megawatt of electricity. That would be enough to supply 20-25 residences for a year, but the project is meant more as a supplemental source that would decrease outage times and perhaps help during widespread outages.

The board has not been provided with financial specifics yet, but the company responsible — Radiance Solar — is to work with JIA staff to develop a Georgia Power interconnectivity study, an environmental review, geotechnical assessment and a lease agreement that would be put before the board sometime in late spring or early summer of this year, according to a JIA memo.

Should the board agree to a contract with Radiance, it is anticipated to result in $500,000 in income to the JIA over 25 years, $730,000 over 30 years and $855,000 over 35 years. Those numbers are based on $20,000 in rent through the first four years, and $25,000 in rent per year through the next 30-35 years.

Right whales have not yet made an appearance off the Georgia coast this calving season.

“I went back and looked at that, and this appears to be the longest time that I’m aware of,” said Clay George, who leads right whale efforts for the state Department of Natural Resources. “I was able to look back at the data to 1989, which is when the surveys started down here, systematically, with New England Aquarium doing their surveys in ’89. And since then, the latest date that a calf was seen, actually, was Jan. 1, which was last year.”

“We don’t know if it’s just there aren’t any here, or if they’re somewhere else, or given how poor the weather’s been, that we just have not had a sufficient survey effort yet,” George said.

Whale-spotting flights were underway as of press time Tuesday, by Sea to Shore Alliance — a nonprofit working with DNR — and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Researchers estimate there are roughly 450 right whales in existence. About 100 of those are breeding females, scientists believe. There were 17 right whale deaths recorded in 2017.

“No one’s flown for about a week, because as you know, the weather’s been pretty poor — it’s either been windy or overcast or icy, or what have you,” George said.

Glenn Patterson announced he will run for Fannin County Commission District 2.

Speaking of the incumbent and possible challenger for the Republican nomination, Larry Joe Sosebee, Patterson stated, “I know the incumbent. We went to school together, and I think he is a good man, but I want to offer my services to the county.”

Margaret Williamson will run against Georgia House Speaker David Ralston in the May 22d Republican Primary.

Already having begun the process of running for the House District 7 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, Williamson acknowledged in her statement that she has mailed the “Declaration to Accept Campaign Contributions” form to the Georgia State Transparency & Campaign Finance Committee.

After approval of this form, Williamson’s next step will be to complete the qualifying process held in March of this year. The qualifying will officially make Williamson a candidate in the Republican Primary for Georgia State House Representative, District 7.

Two Aldermen in Guyton must apologize to a resident in a spat over campaign signage.

Magistrate Rhonda Sexton on Jan. 10 denied applications for warrants by Aldermen Michael Johnson and Joseph Lee against Pat McCall.

McCall lives on Central Boulevard, across from the elementary school.

Sexton ordered Johnson and Lee to apologize to McCall in writing by Feb. 13 and apologize to her at the Feb. 13 city council meeting. If they do not apologize, the matter will return to the Magistrate Court docket at 8:45 a.m. Feb. 21.

“Those two guys came into that hearing pretty arrogant and they walked out pretty humble,” said Dennis Dozier, McCall’s attorney.

McCall said she doesn’t understand why Johnson and Lee pursued the case, particularly after the election. She was angry that she had to spend time, effort and about $2,000 to defend herself.

“I was charged with trespassing on my own property,” she said. “It’s like the Twilight Zone.”

She said she would have to go to small claims court to try to collect legal fees from the aldermen, and that would cost her more money.

Johnson and Lee asked that McCall be charged with “removing campaign signs,” which the magistrate construed as asking for a criminal trespass charge that can lead to arrest, Dozier said.

McCall said Johnson and Lee maintained that there is a law in all 50 states that prevents anyone other than candidates from removing campaign signs.

Dozier said he knows of no such laws but he does know of a state law that prevents people from putting signs on someone else’s property without their permission.

The Rome-Floyd County Development Authority is asking local legislators for legislation to forgive debt attached to property of the former Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital.

Coweta County legislators met with local leaders to discuss fighting opioid addiction.

Local lawmakers met with representatives of Coweta’s business, government, medical, law enforcement, addiction recovery and education community on Tuesday to discuss the need for an advisory council to address the alarming rise in drug abuse locally.

“We can fight it with legislation at the federal level, we can fight it with legislation from the state level, but we’re truly not going to fix the problem unless we start at the local level and work from the ground up,” State Sen. Matt Brass told the more than 70 people who attended a breakfast meeting for the Coweta County Opioid Substance Abuse Project at Newnan Utilities. “That’s why we’re here.”

Coweta is one of a group of Georgia counties targeted for drug crisis intervention funded by a $13 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, according to Brass. The State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant will support DBHDD and other community providers combatting opioid addiction through prevention, treatment, and recovery services, according to the DBHDD website.

Coweta County averaged 14 overdose deaths per year from 2012-16, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, which was three times the number from 15 years before. Brass, who co-sponsored the meeting with State Rep. Josh Bonner, said that’s unacceptable.

“This is my home, our home,” Brass said. “I grew up here. I’ve seen families torn apart, friends who have lost wives, children – some of the stories you hear will tear your heart apart.”

16
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 16, 2018

An elected Provincial Assembly first convened in Georgia on January 15, 1751. The Assembly did not have the power to tax or spend money, but was to advise the Trustees.

The state of New Connecticut declared its independence of both Britain and New York on January 15, 1777. In June of that year they would decide on the name Vermont. Vermont would be considered part of New York for a number of years, finally being admitted as the 14th state in 1791.

The donkey was first used as a symbol for the Democratic Party on January 15, 1870 by cartoonist Thomas Nash.

democrat-donkey-cartoon

On January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting alcoholic beverages, when Nebraska became the 36th of the 48 states then in the Union to ratify the Amendment.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.

At 4:30 PM on January 16, 1991, the Persian Gulf War began as air attacks against Iraq launched from US and British aircraft carriers, beginning Operation Desert Storm.

On January 16, 1997, a bomb exploded in a Sandy Springs abortion clinic, later determined to be the work of Eric Rudolph, who also bombed Centennial Olympic Park in 1996, a lesbian bar in Atlanta in February 1997, and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced his administration Floor Leaders, who will be responsible for helping pass legislation supported by the Governor.

Reps. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) and Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville) will continue to serve on the House floor leader team, while Senator-elect Brian Strickland will join Senators P. K. Martin IV (R-Lawrenceville) and Larry Walker III (R-Kathleen) to carry the governor’s bills in the Senate.

The State House and Senate Appropriations Committees will meet in Joint Budget Hearing at 9:45 AM today and continuing tomorrow beginning at 9 AM.

Click here to watch the Joint Budget Hearings online. That’s how I’ll be viewing today, as I try to avoid getting any kind of cold or flu.

Five deaths and more than 300 hospitalizations in Georgia have been attributed to the flu this season.

There have been at least five deaths in Georgia attributed to the flu so far this season, with more than 300 people hospitalized because of it.

In confirming the four deaths, the Georgia Department of Public Health says that number is expected to increase as the widespread outbreak continues.  Georgia is one of 49 states where flu cases are described by the Centers for Disease Control as “widespread.”

The predominant strain of flu circulating in Georgia and around the country is influenza A (H3N2). This strain can be particularly hard on the very young, people over age 65, or those with existing medical conditions, according to health experts. H3N2 is one of the strains contained in this year’s flu vaccine along with two or three others, depending on the vaccine.

“It is not too late to get a flu shot,” says J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., DPH commissioner. “Every individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine – not just for their own protection, but to protect others around them who may be more vulnerable to the flu and its complications.”

Please don’t be offended if I don’t shake your hand or accept a hug until we’re clear of the flu season.

A shortage of IV fluid bags is hindering some hospitals’ efforts to fight the flu.

Emergency rooms nationwide are feeling the effects of the shortage. They’re seeing more flu patients than usual, and those patients are often dehydrated when they arrive.

Because of that, they need a nurse to administer fluids. Without a plentiful supply of IV bags, the process is becoming difficult.

CBS46 talked with officials at Emory who say they’re “coping okay” with the IV bag shortage and that they believe the shortage could be alleviated soon.

Tift Regional Hospital has temporarily banned visitors under 18 year of age due to flu concerns. Navicent Health in middle Georgia had previously announced similar restrictions.

Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital reports 414 flu cases this season.

The Brunswick hospital of the Southeast Georgia Health System has seen 414 reported cases of the flu from Oct.1 to Jan. 15, according to the health system. During that same period last year, 36 cases were reported.

On the Camden campus, 144 flu cases have been reported this year, compared to 42 cases last year.

“The flu can be managed by your primary care doctor or the immediate care center,” [Dr. Steven Mosher] said. “It is not necessary to go to the emergency care center for the flu, and you risk exposure to other illnesses, unless your symptoms are very severe.”

Severe symptoms include a persistent fever of more than 102 degrees, dehydration due to vomiting and/or diarrhea, chest pain, shortness of breath, fever with a rash and sudden dizziness or confusion.

Symptoms such as sore throat, severe cough, body aches and headaches should be treated by a primary care doctor or by visiting the immediate care center.

“If someone isn’t able to get an appointment with their physician, we have three immediate care centers in Glynn County that can treat patients for flu,” Mosher said. “Patients will experience a much shorter wait time by visiting the immediate care center instead of the Emergency Care Center. The cost is much lower as well.”

From the Rome News-Tribune:

An outbreak of influenza is apparently peaking in the Rome area which has prompted Redmond Regional Medical Center, Floyd Medical Center and Polk Medical Center to restrict visitors to the hospitals.

All three hospitals are restricting  visitors to immediate family members and no one under the age of 13.

The Rome News-Tribune spoke to their local legislators about budget priorities.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on human resources. She said she tries to sit through all the presentations or listen in from her office.

“But we’ll be getting more details in our subcommittees later,” she noted.

This year she said she’ll be looking for funding for more early intervention programs that pinpoint mental health needs such as medication, counseling, education and family support groups.

“If we can take advantage of best practices early, the outcome for a child is so different,” she said. “Especially with autism. Depending on where they are on the spectrum, it’s possible to rewire their brain.”

Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, is starting his first session as chairman of the House Human Resources and Aging Committee. He also sits on the Appropriations subcommittees for public safety and education.

“We’ll be having separate hearings during the appropriations process,” he noted.

Lumsden was briefed last week on a pilot program through Emory University that has four Alzheimer’s diagnosis clinics set up around the state. Initial results sound promising, he said.

“About 75 percent of cases are diagnoses of dementia in general, but a better understanding of the specific disease leads to more effective treatment options,” he said.

Some legislators hope a federal broadband initiative will benefit rural Georgia.

State Sen. William Ligon, R-Waverly, said the state needed to make a good start of providing the same broadband access to thinly populated areas that larger counties and municipalities enjoy.

“It’s like bricks in a wall. It’s just one of the components we need to help rural Georgia,” Ligon said of broadband access.

But Monday, Donald Trump landed in Atlanta to watch Georgia and Alabama play for a national championship in football and he brought a load of bricks.

While he was in Atlanta, Trump signed an executive order to streamline and expedite requests for local broadband facilities to, among other things, “accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America.”

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., said he is glad to see Trump make the investment and that he already had been working with members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Rural Broadband Working Group to increase access.

“We have been working to increase access to telemedicine, make sure families have the internet access they need and ensure small businesses are connected so they are able to thrive and grow,” Carter told the Times-Union.

Ligon said he hopes the result of Trump’s executive order will be block grants that typically require some matching money from states. “The idea is to be able to take advantage of whatever is available to help our our state,” he said. “We believe we’ve got money to get off to a modest but good start.”

Echols County Administrator Latrice Bennett said even the phone service is bad in the community of 4,020 residents. “Most of the time, it’s up and down,” she said.

Echols County doesn’t have the wherewithal to begin making improvements on its own.The county seat is in Statenville, an unincorporated town with one red light.

“Less that half of residents pay taxes. It’s all we can do to keep our county office doors open,” she said. “Little counties just have so many issues every day, we can’t tackle the big ones.”

From the Gainesville Times:

In the second round of capital funding for telecommunications growth, the Federal Communication Commission allocated $1.7 billion nationwide to fund internet expansion in targeted areas with the Connect America Fund. The money went to just 10 large telecommunications companies, groups like AT&T, Verizon and Windstream.

In North Georgia, the FCC shows $221,162 in available funding to improve internet service in Dawson County, $282,730 for Lumpkin County, $413,980 in Union County and millions more throughout the rest of the region.

Almost all of that money has gone to Windstream.

State lawmakers, through rural development commissioners studying the issue, have identified rural internet speeds as a bottleneck for growing businesses, health care providers and improvements in education.

This legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly is expected to take up the cause of rural broadband. A study from 2013 shows the state collects $33 million in taxes from sales of telecommunications each year. A proposal to exempt that equipment from sales taxes as an incentive has been considered leading up to the 2018 session.

State House Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith, (R-Columbus) continues working on a bill to address surprise medical bills.

“You go to a hospital and have a scheduled procedure and you think your insurance covers everything and then all of the sudden you get a bill in the mail for $500, $5,000, $10,000,” said state House Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith, R-Columbus. “There was a guy in Columbus who got a bill for $15,000. This should not be happening. The cost of health care is killing us,” he said.

Smith’s new House Bill 678 would require that patients scheduling a procedure receive a list ahead of time showing exactly which doctors they’ll see, what insurance would cover, and what the balance charge would be.

With that list, a patient could decide to shop around if there are more providers. Or if not, at least the bill would not be a surprise.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) passed last session and was assigned to Rep. Smith’s Committee, where it lingers.

Legislators are also considering how to raise the pay of local law enforcement officers.

While the state General Assembly may begin looking at ways to increase law enforcement pay and benefits, local leaders are trying to take a quicker route to stem force retention issues.

“We’re requiring these individuals to protect us, to keep us safe, to patrol and to put themselves in harm’s way, and as a result of that, they’re putting their lives on the line each and every day … It’s incumbent upon, I think, everyone to ensure that these individuals can take care of their families,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said.

“We will be creating a grant program that they could use to fill the gap as it pertains to compensation for local government officers,” he said.

Cagle said legislators would pursue a $7 million fund from existing state resources for the grant process.

State Rep. David Casas (R-Lilburn) joins the exodus of state legislators who are not running for reelection.

One of the longest-serving Hispanic members of the Georgia General Assembly is planning to retire from the legislature after this year’s legislative session.

State Rep. David Casas, R-Lilburn, told the Daily Post about his plans to not seek re-election Monday night. He was one of the few Hispanic elected officials in state government — and the only one elected as a Republican — and his decision to not seek another term means the small Hispanic caucus in the Georgia General Assembly will lose one of its members.

It also means another seat in Gwinnett’s legislative delegation will be open and up for grabs this year.

“I wish to spend more time with my wife and my teenage children,” Casas said in an email. “In addition to my private sector responsibilities as a college professor and administrator, I want to focus more attention to writing and invest more time in my church family.”

Casas remains the only Republican Hispanic to ever be elected to an office in Georgia’s state government.

“It has been a privilege for me to have served the people of Lilburn, Lawrenceville and Snellville for the past sixteen years and to have had the honor to help Georgia’s families,” he said. “I made a promise in my first campaign to ‘put Georgia families first,’ and I am thankful for the opportunities to have done just that.”

Gwinnett’s legislative delegation is also losing state Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, and Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, who are both seeking higher office this year.

State Rep. Ed Setzer (R-Acworth) has an announced opponent for the General Election.

Attorney General Chris Carr announced that his campaign has raised more than $1 million dollars for his retention campaign.

Carr reported $466,000 in donations on the last campaign finance disclosure date, June 30, 2017. His campaign announced Friday he has raised more than $538,000 since the last report. The campaign said it now holds $700,000 cash on hand heading into the November election.

“Since I took office as Georgia’s Attorney General, I have remained committed to upholding the Constitution and protecting Georgians by building relationships based on common ground and building trust with anyone willing to come to the table,” Carr said in the news release. “I am grateful that so many Georgians are supporting our campaign. We have much to accomplish together in the months—and hopefully years—ahead.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R-Athens) blamed poor management at Kennesaw State University for wiping a server used in a recent election.

Kemp, a candidate for governor making a campaign stop in Gainesville to talk to the Hall County Republican Party, said the decision to wipe a server critical to an elections-related lawsuit against the secretary of state and his office was made by the school and was “really incompetence on their part that we had no knowledge of.”

Election reform advocates filed a suit against the secretary of state last July 3. Four days later, server managers at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University wiped the server holding information critical to the lawsuit, which was filed over the state’s aging elections equipment.

In October, the school told The Associated Press that the server wipe was “standard operating procedure,” while Kemp’s office said at the time that the action was caused by “undeniable ineptitude.”

Kemp doubled down on that argument Saturday, saying the school was aware its systems had been proven vulnerable to attack and never shared that information with the state.

“It was their server, and they just wouldn’t talk to us about it,” Kemp said. “I think it was handled very poorly by Kennesaw State. They weren’t very transparent, and I think there’s been a lot of fallout from that.”

The Hall County Board of Elections will vote today on whether to continue using bilingual ballots for local elections.

The Hall County Elections Board is set to vote Tuesday on whether to reverse its decision to adopt bilingual ballots — a move opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

The vote to provide Spanish ballots for county and state elections passed in April 2017 on party lines, and the board at that time was missing one Republican member. That meant Democrats Kim Copeland and Gala Sheats had a lock on all action taken by the board.

The ACLU announced on Friday it had sent a letter opposing a reversal of the policy.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners didn’t provide any funding for bilingual ballots in its fiscal year 2018 budget.

“I think it needs to be studied,” [Elections Board member Craig] Lutz said. “I think we need to take a look at what is the actual cost? Are we actually disenfranchising anybody? What is actually being done? I don’t think this should be an emotional issue on either side.”

More than a quarter of Hall County’s population is Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and about the same percent speaks a language other than English at home.

A section of the Voting Rights Act mandates providing bilingual ballots if more than 5 percent or 10,000 citizens of voting age in a particular jurisdiction are members of a single-language minority where English fluency is not common. Hall County’s attorney, Bill Blalock, has said the county voter rolls and election history show it doesn’t cross these thresholds.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader will receive the Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service next month.

Hurricane Irma created a new small island off the Georgia coast.

Georgia now has a new coastal island, thanks to the powerful storm.

The new island formed when the storm shifted the channel of Blackbeard Creek and blew out part of a narrow finger of land that extended from Blackbeard Island south toward Sapelo Island, explained Marguerite Madden, head of the University of Georgia’s Center for Geospatial Studies.

The new island is small — about 100 acres, estimated Fred Hay, Sapelo Island manager for the state Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

They’re calling the little island Little Blackbeard, since it was formed from federally-owned and protected Blackbeard Island. Blackbeard Island is about 5,600 acres, and Sapelo is nearly 16,500 acres.

As the process of erosion and accretion continues on the barrier islands, the little island might eventually attach to Sapelo, Madden told scientists at the recent Southern Forestry and Natural Resource Management GIS Conference in Athens.

Little Blackbeard also might just disappear, Hay said.

12
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 12, 2018

On January 14, 1639, representatives of three cities in Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders,” the first written Constitution in an American colony and one of the first founding document to cite the authority of “the free consent of the people.”

On January 13, 1733, the ship Ann (sometimes spelled “Anne”) sailed into Charles Town harbor and was met by South Carolina Governor Robert Johnson and the Speaker of the Commons House of Assembly. Aboard the ship were James Oglethorpe and the first 114 colonists of what would become Georgia. Later that year they would land at a high bluff on the Savannah River and found the city of Savannah. On January 14, 1733, James Oglethorpe and the rest of the first colonists departed Charles Town harbor for what would become Savannah, and the State of Georgia.

On January 12, 1775, St. Andrews Parish on the Georgia coast passed a series of resolutions that included approving the actions of patriots in Massachusetts, three resolutions critical of British government actions, and a renunciation of slavery. The resolutions also appointed delegates to a provincial legislature at Savannah and urging that Georgia send two delegates to the Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia the next year.

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784. The Treaty was negotiated by John Adams, who would later serve as President, and the delegates voting to ratify it included future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

On January 14, 1835, James M. Wayne took the oath of office as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A Savannah native, Wayne had previously served in the Georgia House of Representatives, as Mayor of Savannah, on the Supreme Court of Georgia, and in Congress. His sister was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and his home is now known as the Juliette Gordon Low house. When Georgia seceded from the Union, Wayne remained on the Supreme Court.

On January 14, 1860, the Committee of Thirty-Three introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow slavery in the areas it then existed.

On January 12, 1906, the American Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee legalized the forward pass. Some credit Georgia Tech coach John Heisman as having popularized the idea of making the forward pass legal after seeing it in a game between Georgia and North Carolina.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was elected the first Commissioner of Baseball on January 12, 1921. Judge Landis was named after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, where his father was wounded fighting for the Union.

Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of eleven African-American Georgians elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. After his election, on January 10, 1966, the State House voted 184-12 not to seat him because of his publicly-stated opposition to the Vietnam War. After his federal lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ordered Bond seated.

True story: Julian Bond was the first Georgia State Senator I ever met, when I was in ninth grade and visited the state Capitol.

On January 14, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring Japanese-Americans, including American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as Italians and Germans to register with the federal Department of Justice. The next month, Roosevelt would have Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

On January 13, 1959, Ernest Vandiver was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia.

On January 13, 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed Robert C. Weaver head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), making Weaver the first African-American cabinet secretary in U.S. History.

Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971.

On January 13, 1982, Hank Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

January 13, 1987 saw the inauguration of Governor Joe Frank Harris to his second term in office.

On January 13, 1998, Governor Zell Miller presented his $12.5 billion FY1999 budget to the Georgia General Assembly, including $105,000 to provide CDs of classical music for every baby born in the state. According to the New York Times,

“No one questions that listening to music at a very early age affects the spatial, temporal reasoning that underlies math and engineering and even chess,” the Governor said[]. “Having that infant listen to soothing music helps those trillions of brain connections to develop.”

Mr. Miller said he became intrigued by the connection between music and child development at a series of recent seminars sponsored by the Education Commission of the States. As a great-grandfather and the author of “They Hear Georgia Singing” (Mercer University Press, 1983), an encyclopedia of the state’s musical history, Mr. Miller said his fascination came naturally.

He said that he had a stack of research on the subject, but also that his experiences growing up in the mountains of north Georgia had proved convincing.

“Musicians were folks that not only could play a fiddle but they also were good mechanics,” he said. “They could fix your car.”

Legislators, as is their wont, have ideas of their own.

“I asked about the possibility of some Charlie Daniels or something like that,” said Representative Homer M. (Buddy) DeLoach, a Republican from Hinesville, “but they said they thought the classical music has a greater positive impact.”

“Having never studied those impacts too much,” Mr. DeLoach added, “I guess I’ll just have to take their word for that at the moment.”

In 2003, on January 13 at the Georgia Dome, Sonny Perdue took the oath of office as Georgia’s second Republican Governor, the first since Reconstruction.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Click here for the full text of Gov. Deal’s address. A couple of excerpts:

This marks the eighth and final time that I come before you to report on the state of our state. In preparing to do so, I thought back on all the challenges we have faced over the better part of this past decade and all the successes we have achieved together. I considered the plans we have set into motion that will carry us well into the next decade and beyond.

I looked back on where we started in 2011, when only 111 of the 236 legislators here today were serving in this General Assembly, and was very pleased to see just how far we have come. And now, as we embark on a year of transition and set our gaze to what the future will hold, I am reminded of a parable of sorts passed down from the times of ancient Israel – one that each new generation and many different civilizations have adopted over the centuries.

As the story goes, there was once an older man who went out one day and planted a tree in his yard. A neighbor passing by saw what he was doing, stopped, shook his head, began to laugh, and said, “Old man, you are a fool. What good will it do you to plant a tree now that you are so old? You will not live long enough to be able to sit under the shade of that tree or enjoy its fruit.”

The old man rose from his knees, looked at his neighbor and replied, “I am not planting this tree for me. I am planting it for those who come after me. Some day, they will come here during the heat of the day and be cooled by the shade of this tree. When I was a small child, I could eat fruit because those who came before me had planted trees. Am I not required to do the same for the next generation?”

Seven years ago, Georgia’s unemployment rate stood at 10.4 percent. Since then, we have created roughly 675,000 new, private sector jobs and our unemployment rate is at its lowest level in over 10 years at just 4.3 percent. And on top of it all, we have been named the No. 1 state in which to do business for the fifth consecutive year.

Just this past fiscal year alone, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Global Commerce team helped to generate $6.33 billion in investment.

That outstanding growth is a result of 377 expansions and locations that cover every region of the state. Many people think that economic development projects are only happening in the Metro Atlanta region, but in fact, 80 percent of fiscal year 2017 locations took place outside the Metro Atlanta region. Our dedication is to the whole state, and the results of our top-ranked Department of Economic Development bear that out.

Today, I can say with great authority that the State of our State is not just strong, it is exceptional!

I close with the words from my first Inaugural Address in 2011:

“Let us refocus State Government on its core responsibilities and relieve our taxpayers of the burden of unnecessary programs. Let us be frugal and wise. Let us restore the confidence of our citizens in a government that is limited and efficient.  Together, let us make Georgia the brightest star in the constellation of these United States.”

As we stand beneath the trees and orchards of opportunity we have planted and look up to the heavens, we see that the light of our star now shines brightest of all, and that light will endure and not fade away…

From Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph:

The draft $26 billion budget his office published just afterward, too, was more about spending on programs that Georgia has already set up, rather than new items.

His draft budget for next year is about $1 billion more than the budget for the year that ends in June. But that difference is pretty much due to higher growth-mandated spending, the sorts of expenses that rise because a population goes up, like K-12 spending .

“There’s not a lot of discretionary funds in there,” said Chris Riley, Deal’s chief of staff. One of the biggest costs will be a new $361.7 million to shore up the pension fund for teachers. Those jumps in payments won’t go away in future budget years.

“As long as we require this rich of a program with our retirement system, we will always be required to shore it up, to infuse it with money,” said Riley.

The state will also spend a new $255.9 million to fund Medicaid growth and to offset the loss of federal funds and funds from a civil court settlement with a hospital company.

From Jill Nolin for the Dalton Daily Citizen:

Nearly $23 million is proposed for children’s mental health, with a big chunk of it going toward crisis services. About $1.1 million will go toward suicide prevention.

Nearly $800,000 is planned for children’s opioid prevention and intervention. Elsewhere, $5 million was added to continue to grow the state’s accountability courts, which offers those struggling with addiction a chance to avoid prison.

Deal’s chief of staff, Chris Riley, indicated the governor may be open to adding more funding. The governor’s office would continue to work with both chambers to identify “best practices” for combating the crisis, he said.

“We don’t necessarily have the best answer there and so, therefore, we want to work with the General Assembly in terms of that,” Riley said during a budget briefing with reporters. “So at this point you won’t see a large chunk of money there.”

From James Salzer of the AJC:

Because of the December [Federal] tax plan, Deal doesn’t know for sure how much revenue the state will collect to fund his budget because federal changes could mean Georgia will take in less money.

Because Congress has not approved a long-term renewal of the federally funded health insurance program for children, and still might cut Medicaid and other public health programs, the state doesn’t know whether it will be receiving hundreds of millions of dollars less in federal funding.

And then there’s the possibility, at some point, that Amazon will pick Atlanta as a finalist to be home to the company’s second headquarters, and the state will suddenly have to come up with a pricey incentive package.

So Deal and lawmakers start the 2018 session less certain than in most years about where the state will stand financially come spring.

“It will be very fluid,” predicted Chris Riley, the governor’s chief of staff.

Riley said the Deal administration hopes to have some kind of idea fairly soon about how much less money the state of Georgia would take in because of the federal tax law, which will cut taxes for millions of individuals and businesses.

Deal and lawmakers may try to adjust the state tax code so that the federal law doesn’t have a big impact on Georgia finances.

From the Rome News-Tribune:

Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, said he was struck by the emphasis Deal put on “planting seeds” to benefit the next generation.

“He was being reflective, putting into perspective some of the things he put into effect,” Lumsden said. “And he gave homage to his wife (Sandra Deal) and the services she performed for Georgia.”

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on Health and Human Services. She said they expect to expand some early intervention services, which she touted as the most effective way to combat larger problems — such as suicides, crime and homelessness — that can accompany mental illness in adults.

“We’ll know more after the budget hearings next week what we can possibly add … but I’m very grateful there was such a strong emphasis on his part,” Dempsey said.

She and Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, also praised Deal’s spotlight on the Technical College System of Georgia and the economic opportunities it’s creating.

From Andy Miller at Georgia Health News:

[A]bsent from the governor’s framework is money to bolster rural health care, a big legislative focus over the past year.

A group of influential lawmakers,  the House Rural Development Council, introduced in December a series of proposals to boost health care in rural Georgia. They included requiring nursing homes to have telemedicine capability, and allowing expanded responsibility for health care providers who are not physicians. The council also made recommendations to improve broadband Internet access

Another council proposal on health care was to develop a demonstration “waiver’’ program to explore extending medical coverage to more Georgians who currently have none. And the group backed a bold revamp of the state’s certificate of need (CON) laws, which govern where health care facilities can be built and what services they can offer.

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) said Thursday that she is concerned about the potential for a CON reform to put safety-net hospitals at a disadvantage.

If CON changes allow other facilities to “cherry-pick’’ privately insured patients, “then you’re creating a critical imbalance,’’ Unterman, a nurse with a longtime interest in health care policy, said at an event sponsored by the consumer group Georgians for a Healthy Future.

[U]nlike the previous year, there was no money allocated to reduce the number of people on waiting lists for home- and community-based services. More than 12,000 Georgians are on these lists.

“We are disappointed that the budget proposal does not include additional funding for older adults,” said Vicki Johnson, chair of the Georgia Council on Aging. “We will work with committees in the Georgia House and Senate to try to get additional funding included in the final budget.”

 Gov. Deal has also raised concerns over a federal proposal to allow offshore drilling in the Atlantic.

The governor’s office said in a statement Wednesday that Deal has “some concerns with opening up Georgia’s pristine coastlines which he will convey to the congressional delegation.”

The U.S. Interior Department announced the changes last week, opening up more than 90 percent of the country’s outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration and development beginning in 2019. That includes Georgia’s roughly 100 miles of coastline.

Dozens of Atlantic coastal communities, including Brunswick, Savannah and St. Marys, have signed resolutions in past years opposing exploration due to environmental, tourism and fishing concerns.

Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman, whose beachside town was ravaged by storms last year, joined the chorus of local officials who urged Deal to appeal to Trump’s White House for an exemption.

Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who lives on Sea Island, said energy independence is of prime concern to him but that officials need to make sure the returns for drilling in the Atlantic are worth the expense.

“The question is, is there anything out there? We don’t really know that yet,” he said Thursday, “and eventually we’re going to have to know that, in my opinion.”

From The Brunswick News:

Leading Georgia Republicans, typically allied with administration policy, opened up the possibility of trying to pull the Peach State from the proposal as well, or at the very least working out an independent deal with the Interior Department.

“We are reviewing the details of the administration’s latest proposal,” Amanda Maddox, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, said Wednesday. “Sen. Isakson supports American energy independence and is open to potential drilling off the Georgia coast as long as it is environmentally sound. He also wants to make sure all stakeholders, including Gov. (Nathan) Deal, industry, tourism and economic development, are properly consulted and any concerns are appropriately addressed.”

Jen Talaber Ryan, Deal’s deputy chief of staff for communications, said the governor had yet to develop a firm position.

“The governor has some concerns regarding opening up Georgia’s pristine coast and will communicate those concerns with our congressional delegation,” Ryan said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, who represents Glynn County, said in a statement that if he feels the plan will not be satisfactory, he is willing to craft a Florida-style deal with the federal government.

“At this time, I believe it makes sense to simply see what resources are available off the coasts of the United States,” Carter said. “If sufficient resources are found that will help lower energy costs and move America closer to energy independence, we then need to ensure any actions do not harm our beautiful coastline.”

Deal addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s version of the House adoption bill:

A Georgia Senate committee passed a bill this week to make the adoption process in Georgia faster and easier – and without a controversial “religious liberty” provision that Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston considered toxic.

But as [the AJC] noted yesterday, the version passed out of the committee was infused with the contents of a House measure that which the governor vetoed last year. And Deal said after his State of the State address that the changes may be too bitter of a pill to swallow.

“We’re going to continue to work with them on that,” he said. “With regard to the basic adoption bill itself, it’s far from meeting my definition of clean.”

Deal added: “We have to be certain that the amendments they added do not put us back in the situation where we don’t have unnecessary impediments or delays of preventing children that need homes from being able to have them.”

The United States Senate voted 92-0 to confirm Michael Brown as a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia.

“Michael Brown is a great lawyer, federal prosecutor and outstanding citizen of our state whose experience will serve him well on the federal bench,”  Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, said in a news release Thursday, applauding Brown’s confirmation. “I gave him my highest recommendation at his confirmation hearing, and I applaud him and the Senate on his confirmation.”

Isakson told the Senate before the vote that the courts need Brown’s life experience as a business litigator both with Alston & Bird and King & Spalding.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called him one of the great lawyers in the United States of America,” Isakson said.

Former United States Congressman Doug Barnard, Jr.(D-Augusta) has died.

A successful banker, Barnard became the first U.S. Congressman from Augusta in 72 years when he beat south Augusta politician Mike Padgett for the post in 1977. Barnard served eight terms before stepping down in 1993.

In a 2007 interview, Barnard said rescuing Georgia water projects from cutbacks being made by President Jimmy Carter was one of his crowning achievements. In 1990 he secured $15 million in federal funds to extend St. Sebastian Way, and a banking bill he introduced changed the industry when it finally passed in 1999, he said.

Barnard was a lifelong friend of former Georgia Gov. Carl Sanders, who died in 2014. Doug Barnard Jr. Parkway was named for him in 1994. Another honor was the Doug Barnard Olympic Coin bill that passed in 1996.

Former Augusta Mayor Bob Young said Barnard offered “great wisdom” when he sought the mayor’s office and remembered him fondly.

“He was a great asset to this community, a true statesman,” Young said. “He cared deeply about our city and the people who lived here.”

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis announced that the city will file suit against opioid manufacturers.

Mayor Hardie Davis announced Thursday that Augusta has filed suit against five of the largest manufacturers of opioids and the country’s three largest wholesale drug distributors, saying the firms “failed in their legal obligation to notify the Drug Enforcement Administration of suspicious orders, even as the number of pills flowing into our county rose and rose.”

The suit is not yet filed, said Burton LeBlanc, attorney with Dallas-based Baron and Budd, the lead of 10 law firms including Augusta-based Enoch Tarver retained by the Augusta Commission on Tuesday in the case. Once it’s drafted, the attorneys plan to file the suit in federal district court in Augusta, LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc, whose firm is representing nearly 185 cities and counties around the U.S., said Augusta’s suit will likely target opioid manufacturer Perdue Pharma along with distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, which account for 85 percent of the drug distribution market.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics showing opioid prescribing rates in Augusta are above the national average of 66.5 per 100 people. In 2016, the rate was 86.8 prescriptions per 100 people in Augusta while in neighboring Columbia County, the 2016 rate was 81 prescriptions per 100 people.

Damages Augusta will seek may cover the added cost of law enforcement, medical care and treatment for addiction, emergency medical care for overdoses and other expenses resulting from opioid abuse, LeBlanc said.

Monique Walker announced she will run for a seat on Richmond County State Court.

Walker, the daughter of former Georgia Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker, is seeking the judgeship held by Robert “Bo” Hunter in the May 22 nonpartisan election.

The campaign is Walker’s second run for state court. In 2016 she lost a three-way contest to complete the term of John Flythe, who resigned to run for judge of superior court.

Rey Martinez was sworn in as the first Hispanic Mayor of Loganville.

Martinez, who was born in Puerto Rico to Cuban parents, became the first Hispanic mayor of a city in either Gwinnett or Walton counties — Loganville straddles the line between both. He is also believed to be the first Hispanic mayor of any city in Georgia.

“I have to pinch myself,” Martinez said. “Who would have thought 10 years ago, five years ago, even a year ago that I would be standing here — a young man who came to the States at the age of 8 with English as my second language?”

Loganville’s history-making night was a big draw. Not only were several residents in attendance, but several mayors, city council members and county officials from Gwinnett and Walton counties, state Rep. Tom Kirby, former state legislator Melvin Everson, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp were in attendance.

Martinez is a retired member of the U.S. Navy who has lived in Loganville for 10 years and served on the City Council from 2011-17. He was the city’s vice mayor in 2015, and served as chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee from 2012-17, and chairman of its Public Works Committee from 2011-12.

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him to serve on the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity in 2015, and he served as the head of Hispanics for Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter is threatening a $5 million dollar lawsuit against the county.

Nearly a year after Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter sparked controversy by calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” on Facebook, a document has emerged showing that his lawyer threatened to file a $5 million lawsuit against other commissioners for sanctioning him over the remarks.

Attorney Dwight Thomas sent the Ante Litem Notice to county attorneys in November, informing them that Hunter would be filing a federal lawsuit over the written reprimand county commissioners leveled against the District III commissioner last June. Hunter’s lawyer said the reprimand caused ongoing and permanent economic and non-economic damage to Hunter.

“Free speech and political expression under the Georgia and Federal Constitution is a clearly established right,” Thomas wrote in the notice. “My client intends to bring an action for damages against the Gwinnett County commission, individually and officially, for violation and continued violation of his constitution rights pursuant to the first, fifth, sixth, eighth and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution and state law claims per the Georgia Constitution and the laws of Georgia.”

The notice sent to county officials said Hunter would seek a settlement for damages of “not less than” $5 million. Although the notice was dated Nov. 13, no lawsuit could be found in the online federal court case system.

Attorney Ken Jarrard, who sent the county’s response to Thomas notice denied Hunter had any basis for a lawsuit over the reprimand, and asserted the commissioner was not retaliated against for his actions.

Jarrard said the Board of Commissioners also had free speech protections under the First Amendment, which allowed it to issue the reprimand.

Chatham County broke ground on construction of a new Memorial Stadium.

Cobb County Commission Chair Mike Boyce will deliver the State of the County address on January 22.

Joe Hunt announced he will run for Congress in the 10th District as a Republican, against incumbent Rep. Jody Hice.

As the current Vice President of Franchise Relations, Hunt is responsible for improving the quality of relationships between the corporate entity of Zaxby’s Franchising, LLC, and its individual franchise operators.

Earlier this year, Hunt announced that he would run as a Republican Candidate for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District in the upcoming election for the U.S. House of Representatives, against the incumbent, Jody Hice.

“I’m running because I feel there are people on both sides of our political system who hold radical views and have hijacked both parties in Washington,” Hunt said. “However, I believe that most Americans, like our neighbors here in Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, are reasonable people who share a mix of social and political views, and simply want to see both parties act.”

“I’m running because my family and I deserve more sensible, more logical, and more practical representation in Washington, and so do my fellow residents in Georgia,” Hunt said. “The citizens are the ones who lose when policy becomes about winning rather than helping. I plan to use my experience building and nurturing relationships to promote and fight for solutions that benefit the greater good. I want to be the voice that introduces new, sensible ideas that move the country forward and promote fiscal responsibility and social accountability.”

The City of Hampton has suspended official social media posting until a policy is adopted to govern social media use.

Social media pages for the city of Hampton have been suspended pending the approval of a city social media policy.

Interim City Manager Derrick Austin said during Tuesday’s meeting the decision came after a recent lawsuit threat against the Henry County Police Department for its alleged misuse of Facebook.

The letter indicated the HCPD had blocked more than 220 people and demanded that the HCPD restore posting privileges of each of the people that the offices “wrongfully blocked and have restored the commenting privileges to all of those whom government officials unlawfully blocked.”