Category: Georgia Politics


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for July 26, 2019

Slinky Dog Mostly Mutts

Slinky Dog is a young male Shepherd and Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Mostly Mutts in Kennesaw, GA.

Hi there! I’m one adorable pup who is full of energy as well as a sweet love bug! Thankfully I was rescued from animal control at just 5 weeks old along with my siblings. Now we’re all ready to start on a new adventure with our furever families!

Stacey Mostly Mutts

Stacey is a young female Labrador Retriever puppy who is available for adoption from Mostly Mutts in Kennesaw, GA.

I’m one of the ‘Fast Times’ puppies and I just can’t wait to find my furever family to grow up with! I was rescued from animal control and am so happy to be with Mostly Mutts so they can find a great family for me!

Alice Mostly Mutts

Alice is a female Hound and Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Mostly Mutts in Kennesaw, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 26, 2019

On July 26, 1775, the United States Postal Service was created by the Second Continental Congress, may God have mercy on their souls. Benjamin Franklin served as the first Postmaster.

On July 28, 1868, United States Secretary of State William Seward proclaimed that the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution had been ratified and was now part of the Constitution. The first section of the 14th Amendment often forms the basis for litigation and reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Georgia initially rejected the 14th Amendment in 1866, later ratifying it on July 21, 1868 as a condition for readmission.

On July 27, 1974, the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved the first impeachment article against President Richard M. Nixon.

The first such impeachment recommendation in more than a century, it charge[d] President Nixon with unlawful activities that formed a “course of conduct or plan” to obstruct the investigation of the Watergate break-in and to cover up other unlawful activities.

The vote was 27 to 11, with 6 of the committee’s 17 Republicans joining all 21 Democrats in voting to send the article to the House.

The majority included three conservative Southern Democrats and three conservative Republicans.

On July 28, 1978, Animal House was released, instantly becoming one of the greatest films of all time. In case you’ve never seen the film, there is a tiny little bit of adult language in the following clip.

On July 28, 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating “The General” locomotive, which was stolen in 1862 during the Great Locomotive Chase. Today, The General may be viewed at The Southern Museum in Kennesaw.

A bomb exploded at a free concert in Centennial Park in Atlanta on July 27, 1996.

Police were warned of the bombing in advance, but the bomb exploded before the anonymous caller said it would, leading authorities to suspect that the law enforcement officers who descended on the park were indirectly targeted.

Within a few days, Richard Jewell, a security guard at the concert, was charged with the crime. However, evidence against him was dubious at best, and in October he was fully cleared of all responsibility in the bombing.

Former Georgia Governor Zell Miller took the oath of office as United States Senator on July 27, 2000. Miller would go on to win a special election for the remainder of the term in November 2000.

On July 27, 2014, former Braves manager Bobby Cox and pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with former White Sox player Frank Thomas, who was born in Columbus, Georgia.

On July 26, 2015, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first pitcher inducted who had undergone Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.

Smoltz won the 1996 Cy Young award and reached the playoffs 14 times with Atlanta. The Braves won five pennants and the 1995 World Series with Smoltz on the roster. He’s the first pitcher to win more than 200 games and save at least 150 games. He’s also the first player inducted with Tommy John surgery on his resume.

Smoltz understood his debt to John.

“I’m a miracle. I’m a medical miracle,” Smoltz said. “I never took one day for granted.”

Smoltz also heaped praise on former manager Bobby Cox and teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, who were inducted a year ago, and delivered a message to parents of the players of tomorrow as the number of Tommy John surgeries continues to escalate.

“Understand that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 or 15 years old,” Smoltz said to warm applause. “Baseball is not a year-round sport. They’re competing too hard, too early. That’s why we’re having these problems.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp swore in Tyrone Oliver as the new Commissioner for the Department of Juvenile Justice, according to the Gainesville Times.

Gov. Brian Kemp swore in Tyrone Oliver July 25 following Oliver’s approval by the Board of Juvenile Justice. Offenders 21 and younger are served by the DJJ.

“Police Chief Tyrone Oliver has long been a pillar of the Newton County community, both as a career law enforcement official and a strong leader in numerous organizations,” Kemp said. “As commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice, I know that Tyrone will lead with integrity to ensure that Georgians in his care have the right tools to succeed and improve their lives for the better.”

Oliver replaces Niles, a longtime Hall County law enforcement official, who was removed as commissioner after admitting in court proceedings that he gave misleading statements about his education.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg heard arguments in the case seeking to force hand-marked paper ballots in Georgia, according to the Gainesville Times.

Lawyers for election integrity activists grilled Georgia election officials about cybersecurity measures taken to protect the state’s elections infrastructure, seeking Thursday to convince a judge to order an immediate halt to the state’s use of outdated voting machines.

But the plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to order the state to immediately stop using the current system, which it plans to use for special and municipal elections this year and which the plaintiffs fear would be used in 2020 if a new system isn’t implemented in time.

The plaintiffs in this case — the Coalition for Good Governance and individual voters — asked Totenberg last August to force Georgia to use hand-marked paper ballots for the November election. While Totenberg expressed grave concerns about vulnerabilities in the state’s voting system and scolded state officials for being slow to respond to evidence of those problems, she said a switch to paper ballots so close to that election would be too chaotic.

Lawyers for state election officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, argued in court filings that concrete steps have been taken to address the concerns, including arranging for the purchase of new voting technology and adding security measures to existing systems.

They also argued that paper ballots have vulnerabilities and that putting an intermediate system in place while the state is moving to a new voting system would be “an impossible burden” on state and local election officials.

From the AJC:

A packed courtroom listened as U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg considered a request that she immediately put the state’s 17-year-old voting machines out of service for this fall’s local elections, which include votes for the Atlanta school board, the Fulton County Commission and city councils across the state.

Totenberg didn’t signal how she would rule, but she said last fall that Georgia’s direct-recording electronic voting machines create a “concrete risk,” and election officials “had buried their heads in the sand” about vulnerabilities. At the time, she declined to disqualify the state’s voting machines just weeks before November’s high-turnout election for governor.

Those potential vulnerabilities have been addressed, said Merritt Beaver, the chief information officer for the Secretary of State’s Office. The full list of risks hasn’t been released.

“I feel confident in Georgia’s elections system,” said Michael Barnes, the director of the state’s Center for Elections Systems, which creates ballots and distributes them.

Totenberg could rule anytime after the two-day hearing concludes Friday.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture released proposed rules for hemp production, according to The Albany Herald.

This year Georgia, like Florida, joined other states in the production of hemp plants that are used in making CBD products, as well as other products. Earlier this month the Georgia Department of Agriculture released a proposed set of rules related to growing, storing, transporting and processing the plant.

The 2018 U.S Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, where it was listed with marijuana as a Schedule I substance said to have a high risk of abuse and no federally accepted medical use. The law allows the production of hemp containing up to .3 percent THC, the main ingredient in marijuana that produces a “high.”

CDB oils are regulated the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Under the proposed Georgia rules, which must be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, growers must keep records of sampling of plants for THC content exceeding the limit and pesticide use.

The rules also allow for state inspection and destruction of plants violating the requirements concerning THC content and improper use of pesticides.

Those who grow, transport and process hemp must be licensed. Processors would be subject to rules involving records and destruction of hemp products deemed in violation of regulations.

The state Agriculture Department is accepting written comments on the proposed rules through Aug. 12. For additional information, visit [the Ag Dept website].

From the AJC:

To grow hemp in Georgia, farmers will have to pay an annual fee, submit to inspections and keep accurate harvest records.

But crops can’t be planted until the state finalizes rules over the hemp program.

Under the rules, an annual hemp grower license would cost $50 per acre, up to a $5,000 maximum. A hemp processor permit would cost $25,000 up-front and $10,000 every year after.

All licensees would have to undergo inspection and sampling of their hemp crops. It any hemp sample exceeds the 0.3% THC limit, the entire crop will be destroyed.

Coweta County Solicitor General Sandy Wisenbaker was named 2019 “Solicitor General of the Year” by the Georgia Association of Solicitors-General, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

District Attorney Herb Cranford Jr. said Wisenbaker has distinguished herself as one of the most highly regarded solicitors in the State of Georgia.

“From the perspective of the District Attorney’s Office, it is great to have a solicitor with whom we can work closely and find mutually beneficial solutions to issues,” Cranford said. “Sandy represents the people of Coweta County well and we are lucky to have her in this important role.”

The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PAC) is the overarching judicial branch government agency supporting Georgia prosecutors and their staff, which includes 49 District Attorney Offices (primarily Felony cases) and 65 Solicitor-General Offices (only Misdemeanor cases).

The Hall County Commission adopted an ordinance governing deployment of new wireless equipment, according to the Gainesville Times.

Under the rules, any new, modified or replaced pole on a right of way zoned residential cannot be more than 50 feet tall. In areas that are not zoned residential, poles must be 50 feet or shorter, or within 10 feet in height of the highest pole within a 500-foot radius, whichever is higher.

The ordinance is a response to Senate Bill 66, a state law that encourages companies to put small cell technology on existing poles. The technology will help deploy broadband access to rural areas and allow for more areas to get 5G technology.

Democrat Derrick Wilson, who is running for Gwinnett County Commission District 3 in 2020, denies a claim that he is a few fries short of a happy meal, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County Commission candidate Derrick Wilson has pushed back against comments a spokesman for Commissioner Tommy Hunter made comparing the candidate to a McDonald’s Happy Meal earlier this week.

In response to the letter, Hunter’s spokesman, Seth Weathers, told the Daily Post in a statement that Wilson “seems to be a few fries short of a Happy Meal.”

“It just appears to me that the people of District 3 need a change,” Wilson said. “I have learned that you are reflective of the company you keep. Mr. Weathers making the comment that I am ‘a few fries short of a happy meal’ provides further insight to the type of person Mr. Hunter is.”

Paulette Chavers announced she will run for Statesboro City Council District 2, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Statesboro City Council District 2 is poised to have an election contest this fall, with Paulette Chavers campaigning for the seat held by incumbent council member Sam Lee Jones, who plans to seek re-election.

Also up for election are the District 3 and District 5 seats, held by incumbent council members Jeff Yawn and Derek Duke, who also plan to run but have no challengers known to the Statesboro Herald at this point. Candidacies for the Nov. 5 nonpartisan city election, which involves only those three districts, won’t become official until qualifying week, Aug. 19-23, when candidates file paperwork and pay the $227 fee at City Hall.

Whitfield County municipalities are nominating members of a committee to reommend projects for an upcoming Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The city councils of Cohutta and Tunnel Hill could decide in the next couple of weeks who will represent them on the advisory committee that will make recommendations for the projects that could be funded from a future Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

Each city will have just one representative on the committee.

The city of Varnell will also have one representative on the committee. The mayor and council of Varnell appointed Paul Wilson to the committee Wednesday night. The other applicants from Varnell were Dan Peeples and Jan Pourquoi. They also applied for the committee from Whitfield County Board of Commissioners District 3 and could be selected for the committee by Commissioner Roger Crossen.

Each of the five county commissioners will appoint two people to the committee from their district. Commission Chairman Lynn Laughter is elected county-wide. The Dalton City Council as a whole will appoint three members. Each of those two bodies will appoint an alternate.

The committee members will advise the elected officials on which projects should be funded by a SPLOST that is expected to be put before county voters in either the May 2020 general primary or the November 2020 general election. The county commissioners will have the final say on what is placed on the ballot.

Qualifying for Lilburn City Council and Mayoral elections has been set, according to the AJC.

Candidates interested in running for one of Lilburn’s open elected official positions may qualify for the Nov. 5 municipal general election 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 19 through Aug. 21 in the city clerk’s office at City Hall, 340 Main St. The qualifying fee for mayor is $150, and for council member is $105.

All voting to elect the mayor and two city council members takes place at Lilburn City Hall, regardless of county polling places.

Advanced (absentee in-person) voting begins 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Oct. 14 through Nov. 1. The polls will be open on Election Day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. If there is a need for a runoff election, the date of this election will be Dec. 3.

Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold have also set qualifying dates for November’s elections, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Qualifying as a candidate is Aug. 19-23. Early voting begins Oct. 14. Final election day is Nov. 5. Run-off election, if necessary, is Dec.3.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division lifted a consent order affecting the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission, according to The Brunswick News.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division placed the utility under a consent order in 2014, when a sewer pump station on St. Simons Island dumped around 100,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into the catch basin and retention pond at Gascoigne Condos.

In the consent order, the JWSC agreed to pay the state $10,000, submit corrective action and inflow and infiltration reduction plans and to monitor the site of the spill for one year. As conditions of the order, the utility had to minimize or eliminate sewer overflow and routinely assess the condition of the sewer system.

“We have met all the conditions of the order, and it has been satisfied,” [Interim Executive Director Andrew] Burroughs said.

The Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division performed necropsies on some pilot whales that beached themselves at St Simons Island, according to The Brunswick News.



Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 25, 2019

On July 25, 1972, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

On July 25, 1974, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Nixon that executive privilege did not allow the White House to refuse to turn over audio recordings that had been subpoenaed by a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States District Court Judge Amy Totenberg will hear arguments on a case seeking to force Georgia to use hand-marked paper ballots, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

A lawsuit filed by election integrity activists argues that the paperless touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are unsecure, vulnerable to hacking and can’t be audited. It seeks statewide use of hand-marked paper ballots.

A law passed this year and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp provides specifications for a new system, which state officials said will be in place for the 2020 presidential election.

But the plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to order the state to immediately stop using the current system, which it plans to use for special and municipal elections this year and which the plaintiffs fear would be used in 2020 if a new system isn’t implemented in time. Totenberg has scheduled a hearing Thursday on those requests.

Lawyers for state election officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, argue concrete steps have been taken to address the concerns, including arranging for the purchase of new voting technology statewide and adding security measures to existing systems.

They also argue that paper ballots have vulnerabilities and that putting an intermediate system in place while the state is moving to a new voting system “places an impossible burden on both state and local election officials and may result in voter frustration and disaffection from the voting process.”

Operation Southern Shield yielded thousands of traffic tickets in Georgia, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Safety, this year’s operation from July 15-21 yielded 3,258 speeding citations, 326 suspected DUIs and 689 seat belt citations by the Georgia State Patrol, Motor Carrier Compliance Division and Capitol Police. Last year, the same agencies gave out 2,514 speeding citations, 172 suspected DUIs and 752 seat belt violations.

This year, Georgia DPS agencies gave out 7,595 citations statewide, compared to 6,334 citations last year.

The Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation will open an Ellijay office, according to the AJC.

The Ellijay branch of the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation, announced Wednesday, will serve as a government resource for industry-specific assistance, community planning and other efforts to support rural economies.

The satellite office will extend the work of the first Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation, which opened in Tifton in August with a $1.7 million annual budget.

“This center is a direct result of the work of the House Rural Development Council and our continuing efforts to ensure prosperity is accessible to all Georgians — regardless of zip code,” said House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge whose district includes Ellijay.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce held a Rural Prosperity North Georgia Forum at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, according to the Gainesville Times.

Cultivating prosperity in North Georgia rural communities, compared to the state’s larger cities, requires a completely different approach, Republican State Sen. Steve Gooch and State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper believe.

Gooch encourages rural towns to have a relationship with the Georgia Economic Development Association and state agencies to get on developers’ radars.

“I believe the state needs to reach out more in rural areas and do a better job with that,” Gooch said. “We’ve got to work more in partnerships to help advertise and market these rural areas.”

Jasperse, who serves as the chairman of the Georgia House Education Committee, said community members need to put pressure on education leaders to meet workforce needs.

This could entail bringing in more digital learning opportunities and mobile laboratories, which offer science education resources to communities.

Through examining health care in Georgia, Gooch said he doesn’t see anyone addressing the core problem.

“The cost of health care is an issue,” he said. “Access would be more available if people could afford it.”

“Rural hospitals are in trouble and they’re going to continue to suffer,” Gooch said. “But, if we can get some of our universities and some of our agencies involved and try to partner with some of those community hospitals, we may be able to save them.”

Columbus City Council voted to move toward a 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to fund a new government center, among other items, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Council voted unanimously Tuesday night, with District 2 Councilor Glenn Davis absent, to approve a resolution that means the city will work toward getting a list of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects on the ballot for voters on Nov. 3, 2020.

Estimating from current collection rates, that 1% tax could generate a maximum of $350,000,000 over 10 years, according to City Manager Isaiah Hugley.

The current sales tax in Columbus is 8%.

The Muscogee County School District currently has an ESPLOST that expires June 30, 2020. The school board has not decided whether it will ask voters to renew the tax.

The city would borrow money to build the new buildings by issuing bonds, and use the SPLOST income to pay the debt off.

Chatham County released a list of projects for a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County commissioners have released what should be their final project list for a proposed 1-cent sales tax referendum. The list also includes how much of the anticipated revenues will be shared with the county’s municipalities.

If approved by voters this November, the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax would be the seventh SPLOST referendum approved starting in 1985.

Chatham County commissioners are expected to vote on the list and any intergovernmental agreements with municipalities at their regular meeting on Friday. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

The county estimates the six-year collection for SPLOST VII to generate $400 million in revenue.

Savannah City Council voted to adopt the full rollback rate for the property tax millage rate, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Property taxpayers in Savannah will most likely get a break from city taxes in 2019 and 2020.

The city will set the millage rate on Aug. 1 following the first and second reading of the proposal.

The rate will apply to the second installment of property tax bills that will be due in November and the first installment of property tax bills in 2020.

Aldermen and the mayor reached a consensus at a workshop on July 18 to use the rollback millage rate of 12.86 mills, instead of the rate used for 2019 of 13.20.

Chattahoochee Valley Libraries will no longer issue fines for overdue books, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Chattahoochee Valley Libraries will be the first public library system in Georgia to stop fining its borrowers for overdue items when the new policy goes into effect next month.

And on the effective date, Aug. 15, all overdue fines will be cleared from patron accounts, although customers still must pay to replace items not returned after 42 days (six weeks).

The motivation for this change, CVL director Alan Harkness said, is based on the library’s mission to make its collection as accessible as possible to as many folks in the Columbus area as possible — so they use it as often as possible.

“This is a trend nationally,” he said, “and what library systems have found is that … (overdue fines) disproportionately impact children and community members that have the least financial resources. Overdue fines don’t encourage people to bring books back

Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias is accused of a raft of misdeeds related to a summer camp, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Willa Hilton, the former Jamestown director, accused Sias of firing her from her camp job Monday because she reported an alleged July 19 incident of child abuse to the Division of Children and Family Services.

Her response to being fired, obtained by The Chronicle, included the allegations of theft, child cruelty and others, such as reports Sias watched porn and drank alcohol at the center, kept a loaded gun at all times and inflated an air mattress there and asked her for sex.

A retired Army command sergeant major, Sias dismissed all the claims Tuesday as an effort by an ex-lover to embarrass him and threatened legal action against Hilton. He did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert vetoed $1000 dollar bonuses for employees, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Reichert sent a letter to commissioners Thursday informing them of the veto, which would cost $2.3 million.

“I am vetoing this ordinance because I believe our employees deserve to be paid well for the jobs they are currently doing, and spending this money now hampers our ability to give them raises that will benefit them for years, not just once,” said Reichert wrote in the letter.

He urged moving forward with a full pay-scale study.

Overturning the veto would require the support of six of the nine commissioners.

Commissioner Joe Allen, who supports the bonus, said he expects a vote at the next meeting to override the veto, and he believes it will be successful.

The Banks County Board of Education and Banks County Sheriff’s Office created a Heightened Enforcement Response Officer (HERO) Unit to address school security issues, according to AccessWDUN.

“The HERO Unit provides the school system with an instantaneous response by a heavily-armed, highly-trained, proactive protection detail,” says Sheriff Carlton Speed. “Most deputies assigned are longtime law enforcement veterans with a former SWAT or military background. The need for the HERO Unit became an increasingly apparent reality due to the frequency of nationwide school shootings. As with many area schools, our school system, along with the sheriff’s office, has investigated several unsubstantiated threats against our school system after the 2018 Parkland High School incident.”

Asked how the unit got its start, Speed explains it was in response to concerns about how the sheriff’s office could quickly address active threats in the county’s schools efficiently to minimize their impact.

Woodstock Police Chief Calvin Moss was named Outstanding Chief of the Year by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, according to the Tribune Ledger News.

Moss was selected as the 2019 recipient for his proactive contributions to his department, to the GACP and to the state’s law enforcement community. He was presented with the award Tuesday afternoon during the GACP’s training conference in Savannah.

Cynthia George was elected Chair of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission board, according to the Albany Herald.



Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 24, 2019

On July 24, 1778, Georgia ratified the Articles of Confederation.

Georgia’s John Walton was present on July 9, 1778, and signed the document then. Georgia’s other two delegates – Edward Telfair and Edward Langworthy – did not sign until July 24, 1778, which is the date most often used for Georgia’s ratification of the Articles.

An interesting sidenote is that John Walton‘s brother, George Walton, signed the Declaration of Independence on Georgia’s behalf.

At 12:51 EDT, we mark the safe return from the moon of Apollo 11.

The number one song in America on July 24, 1982 was “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, from the Rocky III soundtrack.

On July 24, 2000, former Georgia Governor Zell Miller was appointed to the United States Senate to serve in the seat vacated on the death of Senator Paul Coverdell.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Nearly 40 million opioid pills were delivered to Clarke County from 2007 through 2012, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

That’s about 49 pills per person per year in Athens. Georgia received about 2.3 billion pills in the seven-year period.

A federal judge last week ordered the federal government to release the Drug Enforcement Agency data to two newspapers that had sued for the data. The Washington Post and the parent company of the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail filed suit a year ago to gain access to the information, and last week the Post published a searchable database allowing users to see the numbers for each state and county.

The database shows the number of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills delivered to each state and county during those years. Oxycodone and hydrocodone account for about 75 percent of opioid shipments to pharmacies, the Post reported.

Clarke County’s rate of 49 per person is in the middle range for Georgia, like several other counties in the area, including Madison (48), Jackson (49) and Barrow (49). Two neighboring counties were much lower: Oconee at 19 and Oglethorpe at 21.

The federal information also showed a huge increase nationally in the number of opioid pills prescribed and distributed over the seven years, from 8.4 billion pills in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012.

The so-called opioid epidemic resulted in 100,000 deaths during the seven years, the newspaper reported.

Georgia Supreme Court candidates John Barrow and Sara Doyle have combined to raise more than half-a-million dollars, according to the Daily Report.

Former U.S. Rep. John Barrow and Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Sara Doyle are seeking to win the seat that Justice Robert Benham will leave when he retires at the end of 2020. In the first reporting period that ended June 30, Barrow reported $304,100 raised, and Doyle reported $223,470.

A walk through their reports shows Barrow has more big donors and Doyle has more total contributors thus far.

Barrow’s supporters include some big names in Georgia Democratic politics: former Gov. Roy Barnes of Barnes Law Group, former congressman Buddy Darden of Pope McGlamry, former Attorney General Mike Bowers of Balch & Bingham.

Doyle’s supporters include some well-known trial and appellate lawyers in the state: Marietta plaintiffs’ attorney Lance Cooper—who gave $7,000, as did his wife and his law firm—plus Malone Law Office, the firm of Tommy and Adam Malone.

Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation will speak to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, according to a press release.

Join the Georgia Public Policy Foundation for “Election Integrity: Facts, Fraud and Fiction,” a noon Policy Briefing Luncheon keynoted by Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Fellow Hans von Spakovsky on Tuesday, August 27, at the Georgian Club in Atlanta.

The topic is especially relevant in Georgia, as allegations of impropriety linger over Georgia’s November 2018 elections, and it’s one von Spakovsky is uniquely qualified to tackle.

This event is open to the public but registration is required at Eventbrite. Media who wish to attend must contact Benita Dodd.

President Donald Trump appointed him to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in 2017.

Closer to home, Hans also served as Chairman of the Fulton County Republican Party and on the Fulton County Board of Elections, as well as in the George W. Bush Justice Department.

Abortion advocates are seeking to delay implementation of the state’s heartbeat bill, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

Opponents of a Georgia law that bans most abortions on Tuesday asked a judge to keep it from taking effect while their legal challenge plays out.

The law is set to become enforceable Jan. 1. Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued on behalf of Georgia advocacy groups and abortion providers last month to challenge the measure.

The court filing Tuesday argues that viability, or the likelihood that a fetus can survive outside the womb, doesn’t occur until several months into a pregnancy. That means Georgia’s law directly contradicts the precedent set by the Supreme Court, which “has repeatedly and unequivocally held that a state may not ban abortion at any point prior to viability,” the filing says.

The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta now has a braille flag, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

On Tuesday, a braille U.S. flag was unveiled at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center’s Blind Rehabilitation Center. The rehab center is the second one in the nation to receive such a flag .

“This is a great honor for the VA. We are the first in Georgia to receive a braille flag,” said Herman Jefferson, the assistant chief of the rehab center. “It is quite an honor for Charlie Norwood to have that displayed on one of the walls in the medical center.”

The flag, bronze in color, has the Pledge of Allegiance written on it in braille. It was designed in 2005 by Randolph Cabral, the president of the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute, to honor the memory of his father, who was blind. In 2008, a bill was passed to placed a braille flag at Arlington National Cemetery to honor blind members of the armed forces, veterans and other Americans.

Peters said those who are interested in getting a flag should contact the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute. The flag was donated by Disabled American Veterans through the Blinded Veterans Association.

I’ve never heard of such a thing before, and it’s awesome.

The police report is out in the Erica Thomas Publix affair, and the event still remains a “she said, he said.” From the AJC:

A witness to a heated grocery store encounter between state Rep. Erica Thomas and a man she accused of uttering racist comments told authorities she didn’t hear him make those remarks, according to a Cobb County police report.

A Publix employee told a Cobb County officer that she witnessed part of the conversation and heard Thomas “continuously tell Eric Sparkes to ‘Go back where you came from!’” but did not hear Sparkes utter those words to Thomas.

Cobb authorities, meanwhile, said Tuesday they don’t intend to file criminal charges in the case after what the police department said was a “thorough” investigation into the confrontation.

Rick Thompson, a former Executive Director of the Georgia State Ethics Commission has been appointed to the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission by Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, according to the AJC.

Duncan, who paid Thompson’s company — RTA Strategy — to file his campaign disclosures during his race last year, had a spot to fill on the commission after appointing ethics panel member Allen Yee to the State Road and Tollway Authority.

“Open government is an essential element in fostering confidence in a free, democratic society,” Duncan said in a statement. “Rick Thompson’s expertise and decades of experience will be integral to ensuring Georgians can have faith in our government and its leaders.”

The commission oversees compliance with campaign finance laws as well as lobbyist registrations and expenditures.

The Cobb County Commission adopted a FY 2020 budget and property tax millage rate that increase revenues while keeping the rate the same, according to the AJC.

Cobb Commissioners approved a $475 million general fund budget for 2020 in a split vote Tuesday night.

That’s up five percent from last year, an increase attributed to growth in the tax digest as commissioners kept the property tax rate flat.

The budget includes a four percent raise for non-sworn county employees and a seven percent raise for sworn public safety personnel following months of lobbying by advocates of police, fire and sheriff’s deputies.

Democrat Derrick Wilson wants Governor Brian Kemp to remove Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Derrick Wilson’s campaign said he sent the letter to Kemp on Monday. He is asking the governor to, if not remove Hunter so a special election for his seat could be held in November, to at least suspend him from office.

“Hunter must be held accountable for his actions,” Wilson said in the letter. “The frivolous lawsuits against the county and his colleagues, for repercussions to his prior outbursts, are a waste of time and valuable county resources.

“It has also made working relationships more strenuous for both his colleagues and the public.”

Wilson is one of a few Democrats who have announced plans to run for Hunter’s seat in 2020.

Political grandstanding, nothing more.

Floyd County Commissioners adopted the same property tax millage rate for the upcoming fiscal year as for the current year, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Floyd County commissioners approved their 2019 tax levy at the same rate as was imposed a year ago. The end result though, is likely to be a slight increase in taxes for most property owners because value of most properties was increased this year.

The county school’s rate was set at 18.25 mills, which is a decline of 0.05 mills. The county government maintenance and operation levy remains at 9.48 mills, the fire protection levy was set at 1.65 mills and the solid waste fund levy was set at 0.656, bringing the total levy to 30.036 mills or $30.03 per thousand dollars of value.

The real property digest was up 6.6%, however several other areas went down, resulting in an across the board increase that averaged out to 2.17%.

Savannah City Council approved an intergovernmental agreement with Chatham County to split proceeds of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The vote approved Mayor Eddie DeLoach’s suggested projects for the special purpose local option sales tax, known as SPLOST.

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

The agreement calls for the city of Savannah to receive $156 million of a potential $400 million in revenue from the SPLOST VII collections. That amount includes a separate line item for the Eastside Early Learning Center of $3.125 million. The county has agreed to pay the same amount for the project.

SPLOST is a county tax and the county is the only government that can call for the referendum.

Monday’s council vote followed a tense discussion on July 18 that ended with only an agreement for council to meet again.

Valdosta City Council will consider two requests by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Airport Authority to accept federal grants, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The City of Hahira will consider voting changes to address an increasing population, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Dalton City Board of Education Chair Rick Fromm will resign his chairmanship and will not run for reelection, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The board seats of Fromm, Tulley Johnson and Pablo Perez are up for election this year. Evans and board member Palmer Griffin were elected in 2017.

I believe Mr. Fromm will retain his seat on the Board of Education through the remaineder of his term, but will not continue as the Chair, which is elected by fellow BOE members.

Albany City Commissioner Roger Marietta will announce he is running for reelection for Ward IV, according to the Albany Herald.

Glynn County has issued a water quality warning for beaches on St Simons Island and Jekyll Island, according to The Brunswick News.

The Deputy Director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynn County discussed the Center’s role in law enforcement, according to The Brunswick News.

Fallon explained at a St. Simons Island Rotary Club meeting on Tuesday how the training center has evolved over time to now be under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security.

The center’s mission statement says its role is to prepare “the federal law enforcement community to safeguard the American people, our homeland and our values.”

Fallon said the training center is world renowned with no comparison. At any given time, the center has as many as 3,000 employees and anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 students training.

The good news is Fallon said the center in Brunswick had its best year of federal funding in nearly two decades. The extra funding will be used to build more housing at the center. He predicted the center will continue to have a long presence in Brunswick.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources tranquilized and relocated a bear from Gwinnett County, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

On Monday, Duluth Police Department officers were called out to “several homes” on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard by River Green Parkway after residents reported a bear, which was likely the same one that was spotted last month, was climbing fences to get food.

Duluth police said in a social media post on Tuesday that the bear returned Monday night to “munch on more apples,” which is when the Georgia Department of Natural Resources was called.

DNR tranquilized the bear then relocated it, police said.

Duluth police previously said residents should not feed bears and should make sure their food, garbage and recycling is secured. They should also remove bird feeders, never leave pet food outdoors and clean stoves and store grills to avoid unwanted bear visits.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 23, 2019

On July 23, 1864, Union and Confederate forces in and around Atlanta gathered the dead and worked to save the wounded. Union artillery began bombarding Atlanta. On July 23, 2014, Republicans did the same in the aftermath of the Primary Runoff Elections the previous day. Democratic artillery advertising would soon fill the air.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885.

The Cleveland Metropolitan Park District was established on July 23, 1917 and currently has a set of beautiful parks winding through the city. If you’re going to be in Cleveland for the 2016 Republican National Convention, take some time to tour the city, including the parks.

John Smoltz started his first game as a major league pitcher on July 23, 1988, as the Braves took a win over the New York Mets.

Erratum: yesterday, I misstated the court that handed down the July 22, 1964 Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States decision. The trial court decision was by a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, over which 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Elbert Tuttle presided.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Dawn Alford, who served as Public Policy Director for the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, died yesterday. I knew her from the State Capitol, where she worked tirelessly to promote public policy for disabled Georgians. She was especially hard to miss, as she was accompanied everywhere by her faithful service dog, KAB.

Dawn was also a friend to my late wife, whose ALS was related to Dawn’s own condition. I am personally grateful for the example every day that Dawn set for keeping her Christian faith strong and in the forefront of her life despite her challenges. It was poignant to see her face her problems with her faith in Jesus, and it helped me and Stephanie to remain strong. I’ll miss her.

Dawn Alford Canine AssistantsEarlier this week, Dawn posted to her Facebook page a fundraiser for Canine Assistants, a Georgia-based 501c3 that provides assistance dogs to people in need. I hope you’ll consider a donation to this excellent organization, either through Dawn’s Facebook Fundraiser, or directly to the organization.

State Rep. Erica Thomas (D-Austell) took to Twitter to decry what she referred to as “a white man” who “verbally assaulted” her in Publix.

State Rep Erica Thomas Twitter1

From Fox News:

Thomas herself acknowledged in an interview with local media on Saturday that she did not recall exactly what the man, Eric Sparkes, had said to her.

“He said, ‘go back,’ you know, those types of words,” Thomas said on Saturday. “I don’t wanna say he said ‘go back to your country,’ or ‘go back to where you came from,’ but he was making those types of references, is what I remember.”

“So, you don’t remember exactly what he said?” a reporter pressed.

Thomas answered: “No, no, definitely not. But I know it was ‘go back,’ because I know I told him to ‘go back.’”

When Rep. Thomas held a press conference, the man showed up too.

State Rep Erica Thomas Twitter2

From the AJC:

A confrontation at a grocery store between a black state legislator and a man she accused of demanding that she “go back” to where she came from has led to barbed attacks from partisan leaders, calls for her to resign and threats of litigation.

State Rep. Erica Thomas and her lawyer held a press conference Monday where she maintained that the white man, Eric Sparkes, used hateful language that echoed President Donald Trump’s recent tweets — despite a TV interview where she appeared to backtrack. She also said she had the witnesses to prove it, though one who spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said he didn’t hear Sparkes use that phrase.

Meanwhile, Sparkes accused her Monday of trying to turn his crude remarks — he admitted to calling her an expletive for having too many items in a Publix express lane — into a “national case about race overnight.” He added that he’s exploring a defamation lawsuit against her.

A day later, Thomas’ story came under scrutiny when she arrived at the Publix to speak with television reporters — and Sparkes arrived, too, eager to respond. He said he called her a “selfish little (expletive)” when he noticed she was skirting the express lane’s rules.

“I did say that. That’s all I said after that, and I walked out of Publix,” Sparkes said. “Her words stating on Twitter, and her video, stating I told her she needs to go back where she came from are untrue. I am Cuban.”

I checked the man’s voting record on the Political Data Systems Georgia voter database, and it turns out he’s a constituent of hers. Oops.

Democrat Teresa Tomlinson has endorsed the legalization of recreational marijuana, according to the AJC.

In a first batch of detailed policy positions this morning, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate will endorse the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. From her website:

“It is time we address at the federal level the decriminalization, legalization, and regulation of marijuana as a medicinal and recreational substance.”

Qualifying ended for the Special Election in District 71, according to the Newan Times-Herald.

Candidate qualifying for the Sept. 3 election ended Friday afternoon, and four candidates qualified: Democrat Jill Prouty and Republicans Nina Blackwelder, Marcy Sakrison and Philip Singleton.

The candidate forum, hosted by the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, will be held at the Central Educational Center and will be from 6 to 8 p.m. The forum is free and open to the public, and chamber members can submit questions for the forum to .

The voter registration deadline to be eligible to vote in the election is Aug. 5, and early voting is set to begin Aug. 12, as long as ballots are ready.

The special election is nonpartisan, and all candidates run on one ballot. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes, a runoff will be held Oct. 1. The winner will be up for re-election in 2020.

Georgia may subsidize high-speed internet access in some rural areas, according to WSB Radio.

Georgia recently finalized a plan to spend the public’s money on subsidies for high-speed internet lines, laying the foundation for broadband expansion in rural areas.

In addition, the government will require internet providers to match state money with their own, a hefty private investment.

Left unsaid in the public comments is that government funding for internet construction doesn’t exist yet. State lawmakers will consider appropriating money for subsidies during next year’s legislative session.

The OneGeorgia Authority, a rural development fund that hands out millions of dollars annually, approved the broadband subsidy rules June 17 after reviewing public comments submitted by internet providers, trade associations and local governments.

House Rules Chairman Jay Powell said government funding is needed because internet service is essential to businesses, schools and hospitals. Without subsidies, internet companies often can’t justify spending money to build internet lines in rural areas with a small numbers of potential customers.

Just as the government invested in electricity, phone and water services, it now must prioritize internet, said Powell, a Republican from Camilla.

“The information highway is no less of a highway than the other highways we’re building throughout Georgia to facilitate rural development,” Powell said. “Internet is as much a necessity in rural Georgia now as all those other services were 100 years ago.”

The Dougherty County Democratic Committee was scheduled to elect new leadership on Monday, according to the Albany Herald.

Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap (R) was named 2019 District Attorney of the Year, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap on Sunday was named Georgia’s 2019 District Attorney of the Year by her peers in the state’s district attorney’s association.

The award was presented during the group’s annual conference at Jekyll Island and was based on nominations by her colleagues and community leaders.

And D. Victor Reynolds, Georgia Bureau of Investigation director, said, Heap “is the epitome of what a prosecutor should be. She is driven by serving justice in each case, not by wins or loses. Meg is ethical, principled and bent on doing what is right. … Meg is blessed with a moral compass which serves her well as the district attorney.”

Heap started out as the volunteer coordinator for the Chatham County Victim Witness Assistance Program in 1986. After law school, she worked as an assistant district attorney in the Blue Ridge Circuit and returned home to the Chatham County D.A.’s office in 1995.

Currently she is urging legislation in the 2020 General Assembly to push parole as a reward for good behavior rather than essentially awarding parole as a virtual right. Heap also serves on the executive board of the National District Attorneys Association. There she will chair the Best Practices Committee seeking innovations for D.A. offices nationwide.

Catherine Smith McKnight is considering running for the Augusta Commission District 3 seat after the death of her father, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

After losing her father, Grady Smith, last year, Catherine Smith McKnight said she is grateful she decided against running a few months earlier for his Super District 10 seat on the Augusta Commission.

“I’m glad now that I did not run for his seat with everything that happened,” she said. “Those would have been some tough shoes to fill if I had won Super District 10.”

Smith was term-limited and McKnight considered trying to succeed him, but she changed her mind en route to the elections office, leaving John Clarke to defeat Lori Myles for the seat. Clarke was sworn in early after Smith died in office Oct. 16.

McKnight said Monday that she’s got her eye on the District 3 commission seat held by Mary Davis, who will complete her second consecutive term next year. McKnight is the only candidate to have filed notice of plans to run in the District 3 election next May. Super District 10 spans districts 3, 7, 8 and 10.

Hall County voters will decide in November whether to levy a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to replace the expiring SPLOST VII, which went into effect after a 2015 referendum, according to the Gainesville Times.

Plans are moving forward for SPLOST VIII, a sales tax that is set to go before voters in November and would be in effect July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2026.

The tax would be used to fund capital projects for Hall County and its municipalities, with the largest percentage of the money going toward road improvements.

Zach Propes, the county’s financial services director, updated the county’s municipalities on SPLOST, the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, at a meeting of Hall County’s Joint Municipal Association Monday evening.

The tax, if approved, is projected to bring in about $217 million.

The county’s municipalities are set to sign an agreement for SPLOST VIII by Aug. 21. The referendum would go to voters on Nov. 5.

A list of America’s most-segregated cities includes both Columbus and Macon. From the Macon Telegraph:

The list is a made up of 25 cities across the country, and Macon came in at No. 11.

The cities were selected based off of the black population, the percentage of blacks living in black neighborhoods, the black poverty rate, the white poverty rate and education.

In Macon, nearly 45% of the population is black, more than 40% of the black population lives in majority-black neighborhoods, 33% of blacks live in poverty and less than 12% of whites live in poverty.

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

In Columbus, nearly 41% of the population is black, more than 36% of the black population lives in majority-black neighborhoods, 28% of blacks live in poverty and less than 12% of whites live in poverty.

85% of heads of household in white Columbus neighborhoods own their homes, while 48% of heads of household in black neighborhoods do. This is one of the largest homeownership gaps nationwide, according to 24/7 Wall St.

Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason delivered his State of the City address, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Floyd County Commissioners will transfer constable functions from the Magistrate Court to the Sheriff’s Office, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Chief Magistrate Gene Richardson signed an order earlier this month abolishing his constables effective Sept. 1. Constables serve papers such as warrants, subpoenas and writs, oversee evictions and provide security for the small-claims court.

Richardson is an elected constitutional officer with full control of his court, but the County Commission handles the budget and personnel.

The board is slated to approve the elimination of the three constable positions in the Magistrate Court and create three new deputy positions in the Sheriff’s Office.

The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office will work with the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad to address opioid abuse, according to the Tribune Ledger News.

“This partnership is ideal because much of our illegal drug activity travels the Interstate 575 and Georgia 515 corridor and surrounding areas,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Monday. “Through the partnership, we will be able to investigate drug activity more efficiently, as well as augment personnel and resources.”

“Partnering with CMANS is a wonderful opportunity for the Pickens Sheriff’s Office to continue the partnership with Cherokee County,” [Pickens County Sheriff Donnie] Craig said. “We have previously developed partnerships in the multi-agency SWAT team, and we have joined forces in hostage negotiations as well. We are very excited to work closely with their team to expand the available resources necessary to make a difference in the enforcement of drug cases.”

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

A wildfire burning in the wilderness area of Cumberland Island National Seashore for nearly a month has now consumed more than 440 acres.

The fire was ignited by a lightning strike on June 29. In response, as many as 70 firefighters were assigned to monitor the fire while it burned in the wilderness area. A crew of 10 firefighters and a Type 6 engine are currently on the island.

Wildfires are allowed to burn in wilderness areas on the island, which is why firefighters only plan to engage the flames if they threaten to cross North Cut Road.

Depending on the conditions, fire activity continues to spread. Last week, another 22 acres burned in a day.

The fire is also good for wildlife on the island. Endangered gopher tortoises will be among the first animals to move into the burned area to dig new burrows. The underbrush was too dense to attract many tortoises before the area burned.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 22, 2019

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

On July 22, 1964, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia released their opinion in the case Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States. The court held that the Commerce Clause gave the federal government the ability to order private businesses to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

Notwithstanding such states’ rights–based challenges, the Court in the Heart of Atlanta Motel and McClung cases unanimously held that the sweeping antidiscrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were a proper exercise of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. In effect, the Court reasoned that race discrimination by even very localized businesses, when viewed in the aggregate, had such far-reaching negative effects on the interstate movement of people and products that Congress could remove these impediments to commerce whether or not its true motives centered on a moral condemnation of racism.

Ensuing enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 led to the dismantling of many of the most overt forms of racial discrimination, which in turn contributed to the emergence of the “New South” and the explosion of economic activity that spread throughout the region in ensuing decades.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The AJC’s Greg Bluestein points to three polls showing statewide Republicans in good shape.

The first, conducted by Morning Consult, showed both Gov. Brian Kemp and Sen. David Perdue – who is seeking another term next year – hovering just above or just below the 50-percent mark. In today’s political climate, that’s tolerably good shape.

Then came a poll of 602 voters from left-leaning Public Policy Polls which showed President Donald Trump slightly underwater: A 45% approval rating and 49% disapproval. No margin of error was provided. In a head-to-head matchup with a generic Democrat, Trump trailed 50-46.

We got even more nuance from an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll that offered a few key findings.

• this poll had Trump’s approval rating at 48%, four percentage points higher than the same surveyors had him a year ago.

• though it didn’t include a question on Perdue, the poll found Kemp earned a 61% approval rating (30% of those voters “strongly” approve), while 37% disapprove.

The NBC News poll found about 60% of Georgia voters oppose “completely” overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, slightly fewer than a similar question in an April AJC poll.

Delta Air Lines will stock Narcan on flights, according to the AJC.

Delta Air Lines plans to stock its on-board emergency medical kits with Narcan, which can reverse the effects of opioid overdose, starting this fall.

Narcan is a brand name of the medication naloxone. The Association of Flight Attendants has called for the Federal Aviation Administration to require airlines to stock naloxone on all commercial flights and to train flight attendants to administer it.

Meanwhile, Emory University has displaced Delta as the largest employer in metro Atlanta, according to a press release by the University.

Emory University is the largest employer in metro Atlanta, according to a new list published today by The Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Emory University President Claire E. Sterk told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that “the size and quality of Emory’s diverse faculty and staff reflects record demand among students from around the world to learn and live in our city, historic growth in research awards, and increasing demand from the community for the highest quality healthcare.”

According to Patsy Conn, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s research director, Emory’s trajectory has been on the upswing. A decade ago, Emory was 5th among all metro employers; the university had been 2nd to Delta since 2013. The publication reports Emory has 31,214 full-time employees in the 20-county metro Atlanta region as of Dec. 21, 2018. Altogether, Emory employs a full-time workforce of 37,716 and directly or indirectly supports nearly 77,400 jobs statewide.

As its workforce has grown, so has Emory’s effectiveness, says Sterk. “Bolstered by the contributions of the more than 44,000 alumni who live in Atlanta, Emory has a profound economic impact upon the region — $11.4 billion in 2018 — as we create thousands of jobs, generate millions in tax revenues, undertake capital investment, and contribute to communities through service, health care, research, and civic engagement.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that proposed mining near the Okefenokee will negatively impact the environment, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The written comments from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were provided to The Associated Press on Friday by the Army Corps of Engineers, which disclosed last week that it is considering a permit request by the mining company Twin Pines Minerals LLC of Birmingham, Alabama.

“We have concerns that the proposed project poses substantial risks for significant affect to the environment,” the Fish and Wildlife Service wrote in a five-page response to the Army Corps dated Feb. 20. “Should impacts occur they may not be able to be reversed, repaired, or mitigated for.”

Steve Ingle, president of Twin Pines Minerals, said Friday the company first met with the Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies last year.

“We really took their questions and comments to heart and tried to incorporate their comments and concerns in our program,” Ingle said.

He added the company has since conducted environmental studies that it believes will “prove that during mining, and after mining, we will be very much environmentally friendly.”

Judge Tadia Whitner has taken the bench as the first African-American on the Gwinnett Superior Court, according to the AJC.

Weeks after Kemp announced he was appointing Whitner to the Gwinnett Superior Court seat vacated by the resignation of Judge Melodie Snell Conner, he swore her in at the State Capitol as her family and friends looked on.

The historical aspect of the event comes from the fact that she will be the first black Superior Court judge in Gwinnett’s 200-year history. For Whitner, however, it was the people who supported her throughout her life that were forefront in her mind rather than the history-making nature of the proceedings.

“Thank you Gov. Kemp for allowing me to continue serving my county and the state of Georgia,” Whitner said after she was sworn in. “I especially want to thank my family, (husband) Brian (and children) Xander and Jade. They are the most supportive people. They believe in me when I don’t even believe in myself.”

The swearing in drew a high profile group of jurists, including U.S. District Court Judge William “Billy” Ray, Georgia Supreme Court justices and judges from the Georgia Court of Appeals. Several current and retired Gwinnett judges also attended the swearing in.

“Tadia (has brought) an invaluable leadership and legal expertise to her work as a prosecutor, private attorney and judge for the municipal and juvenile court,” Kemp told attendees at the swearing in. “It is truly an honor to appoint her to the Gwinnett judicial circuit Superior Court where I am confident the she will govern her courtroom with the utmost integrity and impartiality.”

Gwinnett State Court Judge Carla Brown introduced Whitner at the swearing in. Brown said Whitner is the daughter of an airline pilot and lived in various states while she was growing up, and later graduated from Howard University.

Georgia State Senator Renee Unterman leads the field in fundraising in the Seventh Congressional District, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Recently filed second quarter fundraising figures show Unterman’s campaign reported about $677,494 in revenues for the quarter. That was higher than any another candidate — Republican or Democrat — for the quarter.

Unterman is just ahead of the $654,195 in receipts which the Federal Elections Commission’s wesbite says has been reported by Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux since she officially launched her campaign in January. Bourdeaux reported about $282,657 in receipts during the second quarter reporting period, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

Following Unterman in second quarter fundraising, according to FEC records, were Republicans Lynn Homrich (about $500,321) and Richard McCormick (about $314,125). Bourdeaux was fourth, followed by Republicans Benjamin Bullock (about $147,143) and Mark Gonsalves (about $123,103), Democrats Nabilah Islam (about $108,247), Brenda Lopez Romero (about $72,040), John Eaves ($70,179) and Marqus Cole ($24,748) and Republican Lerah Lee ($8,650).

While Unterman leads the field in total dollars raised so far in the race, the FEC website shows there was a $602,840.89 loan listed among the Unterman campaign’s revenues.

Coweta County Commissioners voted to place a T-SPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) on the November ballot, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

If approved by voters, the 1 percent tax would be collected beginning April 1, 2020, and would last five years. The new tax would bring Coweta’s total sales tax rate to 8 percent. Some products –particularly gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel – are not subject to the TSPLOST.

The commissioners also voted to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the county’s municipalities for the division of the TSPLOST funds.

The tax is expected to raise between $100 and $125 million over five years, and the money will be used for transportation projects through the county and its cities.

The money will be divided among the cities and the county, with the county retaining 66 percent of the total. The city of Newnan will get approximately 27 percent. Senoia will get roughly 3 percent, Grantville will get 2.2 percent, and the smaller cities will get between 0.13 and 0.35 percent.

The agreement also gives the county and cities the ability to issue bonds, to be repaid with TSPLOST proceeds, that can allow projects to be completed more quickly.

Former Hall County Commissioner Jerry Carpenter died Saturday, according to the Gainesville Times.

A store owned by Savannah Alderman Tony Thomas was evicted from their space in the Savannah Mall, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham County Sheriff’s deputies [] had served an eviction notice for Savannah Alderman Tony Thomas’ business, Stuff Stores, Inc. at the Savannah Mall.

Inside the mall, signs were posted on the store windows about the eviction and notices telling shoppers to not enter.

Thomas has 24 hours to pick up the items from the four spaces he had at the mall, or they will be disposed of, according to a deputy.

Savannah Mall Realty Holding, LLC filed suit against Thomas in November of 2018 regarding his contract and account.

“We did close in January and have been fighting with them for several months,” Thomas said. “At this time we are consulting with attorneys about future remedies.”

Columbus City Council will consider an ordinance to allow e-scooters, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Scooter rental company Lime proposed placing 300 scooters in the Uptown area for a period of 90 days. That way, city officials and the business owners can measure the success of the personal transportation devices.

Council must first approve an ordinance to place a moratorium on the use of shared electric scooters. A first reading will be held at 5:30 p.m. July 23, and a vote could come at the August 13 meeting at 9 a.m.

Creating an ordinance to regulate similar businesses would be the goal for the city, while Lime would be gauging if there is enough interest and usage by the citizens of Columbus to make placing the scooters here permanently a smart business investment.

Chamblee City Council will consider decriminalizing marijuana possession, according to the AJC.

“Take away the criminal aspect. Take away the pipeline of sending people to jail,” said Brian Mock, the Chamblee City Councilman who introduced the ordinance.

The city currently defaults to state law for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, which is classified as a misdemeanor. Punishment can include one year of jail time or a $1,000 fine. An ounce of marijuana can make about 40 joints, according to online resources.

Chamblee’s proposal would treat the offense more like a traffic ticket that is handled in municipal court, with no jail time and a fine of either $75 or $150. Officials are still working out the details of the ordinance and plan to continue discussing it next month.

It would be the ninth local jurisdiction in Georgia with the reduced penalty, following large cities like Atlanta, Savannah and Macon-Bibb County, as well as smaller ones like South Fulton and Forest Park.

Life jackets placed near the Columbus River Walk have been removed, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The donated life jacket stand has been removed from next to the downtown Columbus whitewater, where a 6-year-old boy drowned three weekends ago in the Chattahoochee River after slipping off the rocks.

Uptown Columbus president Ross Horner cited safety as the reason he removed the approximately 20 life jackets Friday morning after consulting with other officials. His nonprofit is the sole member of Whitewater Management LLC, which contracts with Whitewater Express and leases the Waveshaper Island property from the city.

Public safety officials were concerned, Horner said, that people were using the life jackets to swim in the rapids, which is prohibited, and that the life jackets aren’t designed to be used in whitewater.

Horner told the Ledger-Enquirer, “In this instance, we’ve had Ms. Peavey and other individuals who have done something really good to try to prevent something, and this good deed has had unintended consequences. We’ve leaned on the experts, and when the experts have told us that they need to be removed, … we’ve made that decision to ensure that people aren’t going to misuse these life jackets.”

Rome City Council will adopt a property tax rate for FY 2020 that is unchanged, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The 2019 property tax rate is broken down into 17.45 mills for the Rome City Schools system, 1.935 mills for city capital projects and 8.151 mills for the city’s maintenance and operations budget.

The city M&O rate was calculated at 13.254 mills, but the permanent 1-cent local option sales tax produced enough revenue to offset that by 5.103 mills, equal to $5.103 per $1,000 of value.

Property taxes are due by Nov. 15. A late penalty of 7.5% will be assessed on the balance due and another 5% interest fee will be levied after 120 days.

Three Coastal Georgia organizations will receive $439,000 in grants to fight homelessness, according to The Brunswick News.

Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority, Inc. was awarded two grants, collectively worth $90,000, for homeless prevention and rapid rehousing.

Gateway Behavioral Health Service was awarded four grants worth more than $129,000 to help support rapid rehousing, street outreach, shelter plus care support services/harm reduction programs.

Safe Harbor Children’s Shelter, Inc. was awarded five grants worth over $220,000 to help support emergency shelter, street outreach, hotel motel voucher, Emergency Solutions Grants support services and Georgia Homeless Management Information System programs.

The grants awarded by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs were announced Wednesday by state Sen. William Ligon, R-St. Simons Island.

Three Statesboro City Council members announced they will run for reelection, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Three Statesboro City Council seats are up for election Nov. 5, and the incumbents – District 2 Councilman Sam Lee Jones, District 3 Councilman Jeff Yawn and District 5 Councilman Derek Duke – all plan to seek re-election.

As with other nonpartisan city elections throughout Georgia, candidates must file their paperwork and pay their fees the week of Aug. 19-23. In Statesboro, candidate qualifying will be overseen by City Clerk Sue Starling at City Hall between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. those five days. The qualifying fee, 3 percent of a council member’s salary, is $227.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clinton’s performance was widely panned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

Qualifying ends today at 1 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

He has four fractured ribs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voters will get the final say in a November referendum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gainesville Times notes that turtles are increasingly crossing roads.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The appointees will serve seven-year terms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the AJC:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

From the AJC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

From the Savannah Morning News:

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

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

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

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