Category: Georgia Politics


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

The British Parliament closed the Port of Boston on March 25, 1774, passing the Boston Port Act in retaliation for the destruction of $1 million worth of tea in the Boston Tea Party.

Horton Smith won the first Masters tournament on March 25, 1934.

On March 25, 1937, Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation creating the Georgia Department of Labor; in 1945, the Commissioner of Labor was upgraded from statutory office to Constitutional.

Atlanta Braves Pitcher and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame Tom Glavine celebrates his 53d Birthday today.

Flannery O’Connor was born on March 25, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia. She would come to be recognized as one of the greatest American fiction writers. O’Connor graduated from the Georgia State College for Women, now called Georgia College and State University. She returned to Milledgeville in 1951, living at the family farm, called Andalusia, until her death at age 39 in 1964.

At GCSU, the Flannery O’Connor Room is located in the GC Museum, the Flannery O’Connor Collection includes manuscripts, and the College includes a program in Flannery O’Connor Studies.

O’Connor died of Lupus, which also killed her father.

Savannah’s Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home and Museum held its seventh annual Parade and Street Fair this weekend, honoring O’Connor, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Building a border wall could affect some military construction projects in Georgia, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Seven construction projects across the state were included on a $12.9 billion list by Department of Defense officials that identified potential funding sources for the border projects. The list includes construction projects abroad, at Fort Benning, Robins Air Force Base and in nearly every state of the union that were unawarded at the end of 2018.

That list, however, could change as a set of conditions and stipulations spelled out by the Department of Defense could protect most, if not all, funding for those Georgia projects.

No construction projects that have already been awarded will be affected by the declaration, and no military housing, barracks or dormitory project funds will be reallocated. Funding from construction projects with award dates after Sept. 30, 2019, are the only ones that could be diverted for barriers.

None of the nation’s military construction projects may be affected. The Department of Defense reported in its list that if their 2020 budget is enacted on time, no military construction project would be delayed or canceled even if funds were diverted to fund border work.

Both of Georgia’s Republican U.S. Senators, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, voted against a measure that would have blocked Trump’s emergency declaration.

Isakson, who has been critical of Trump’s recent attacks on former Sen. John McCain, said in a statement that he’s pleased that no funds meant for military housing will be diverted to the barrier projects.

“The president has done great work to restore power and lethality to our military, and a great deal has been invested in our capabilities from cyber security and beyond,” Isakson said. “I will be monitoring this very closely to ensure that our gains in military readiness and lethality are not eroded by the transfer of funds from certain (construction) projects.

United States Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced an additional $3.7 billion dollars in loan guarantees for the two new nuclear reactors being built at Plant Vogtle, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Perry said the administration is determined to see the project finished despite the setbacks. He spoke Friday from the construction site in Waynesboro as a crane lowered a giant dome atop the containment building for housing one of the new reactors.

“The message that gets sent on this plant: America is back in the nuclear energy industry, folks,” Perry told a crowd of workers in hardhats. “We are back. We’re going to be leading the world.”

President Donald Trump has singled out both the country’s nuclear and coal industries for support from his administration, although the more politically influential coal sector has gotten most of the regulatory breaks so far.

The new financial support brings to $12 billion the government’s total loan guarantees for Plant Vogtle, with the initial assistance approved under President Barack Obama. The guarantees make the federal government responsible for covering unpaid debt if the electrical utilities in charge of the project default.

Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers said the first reactor, which had its 1.5 million pound (0.68 million kilogram) containment cap lowered into place Friday, will be 90 percent complete by the end of the year and ready to load nuclear fuel in 2020.

The Augusta Chronicle has photos from the event.

United States Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) was in Atlanta this weekend, according to the AJC.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris became one of the first Democratic presidential candidates to hold a major public campaign event in metro Atlanta, making stops at two historic African-American institutions this weekend: Ebenezer Baptist Church and Morehouse College.

Harris also received her first endorsement from a Georgia elected official, with freshman state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Vinings, putting his support behind her.

Harris began her day sharing a pew with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, the church’s senior pastor, called Harris’ candidacy “the realization of our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

At Morehouse’s Forbes Arena-McAfee Court, all three scoreboards had 20-20 scores glowing in neon to note the year of the presidential election ahead. After enthusiastic introductions from local politicians and officials including U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff and Gwinnett County Board of Education member Everton Blair, Harris took the stage with a hearty “What’s up, Atlanta?” She was greeted by the crowd of about 3,000 with applause, cheers and stomps.

From GPB:

Former candidate for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District Jon Ossoff told the enthusiastic crowd of 3,000 that Harris was in Georgia because she knows Georgia can help elect a Democrat in 2020.

“Georgia has the power to throw Donald Trump out of the White House,” Ossoff said. “Because if we win Georgia, we win it all, folks!”

Democrat Stacey Abrams launched another new fundraising scheme nonprofit focused on the 2020 census, according to the AJC.

The organization, Fair Count, will focus on minorities, non-English speakers, renters and others who are more likely to be skipped in the once-a-decade headcount of the U.S. population. In Georgia, the group said, that could include as much as 20 percent of the state’s population spanning parts of 86 counties.

“Georgians risk missing out on critical federal dollars, business opportunities and may suffer unfair or inaccurate redistricting if we don’t get this count done correctly,” said state Rep. Carolyn Hugley, a close Abrams ally who chairs the new group’s board.

The stakes are high: The data collected from the once-a-decade count of every person living in the U.S. will determine each state’s share of representatives in Congress and nearly $900 billion in federal funding for healthcare, education and other public services.

It’s the latest public policy initiative by Abrams, a potential 2020 candidate who founded the group. Since her narrow defeat in November to Gov. Brian Kemp, she has worked to raise the profile of Fair Fight, a voting rights group she started that has challenged Georgia’s electoral policies in court.

Fair Count will be led by Rebecca DeHart, the former executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia. Jeanine Abrams McLean, an evolutionary biologist and Abrams’ sister, will be the group’s program director.

Along with Hugley, other board members include DuBose Porter, the former lawmaker and chair of the Democratic state party, and Sachin Varghese, a well-known Atlanta attorney and party activist.

Stacey Abrams met with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in New York, according to the Washington Post.

Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who narrowly lost her race for governor in 2018, met Friday with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who is trying to recruit her to run for the Senate next year, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

Georgia has been a reliably Republican state, but shifting demographics there have convinced Democrats that they have a chance of winning a Senate seat. Schumer sees the seat, held by first-term Republican Sen. David Perdue, as a prime opportunity if Abrams were the Democratic candidate.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Abrams met in New York City, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss the session.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) filed a complaint alleging Abrams’s Fair Fight Action violates the law, according to the Patch.

FACT said Fair Fight Action has engaged in overtly political activities to promote Abrams, including:

•  Accepting donations from a “Stacey Abrams Fundraiser”;
•  Bankrolling Abrams’ statewide speaking tour where she told audiences: “I am running for office again.”;
•  Hosted two dozen watch parties, some in early presidential primary voting states, for supporters to “cheer Abrams on” as she delivered the Democrats’ response to President Trump’s State of the Union address;
•  Buying social media ads alleging now-Gov. Brian Kemp “robbed” Abrams of election victory and others simply promoting Abrams;
•  Buying commercial airtime during Super Bowl LII in Atlanta to showcase Abrams to Georgia voters.FACT’s complaint maintains that “by providing support for an individual’s personal political activities, Fair Fight Action is in violation of the requirement that a social welfare organization serve general community purposes rather than provide a private benefit to an individual or political group. The IRS has previously determined that an organization that serves to promote a single individual and that individual’s ‘agenda and platforms’ does not qualify for Section 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 36) House Chamber
1:00 PM HOUSE Academic Support Subcommittee of Education 406 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee of Education 406 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries – Occupational/Professional Licensing Subcommittee 606 CLOB


HB 512 – Agricultural Commodity Commission for Propane; provide (Substitute)(AG&CA-20th) Watson-172nd

HB 31 – General appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2019 -June 30, 2020(Substitute)(APPROP-4th) Ralston-7th

HB 287 – Income tax; certain physicians serving as community basedfaculty physicians; delete deduction (FIN-52nd) Dubnik-29th

HB 483 – Controlled substances; Schedules I, IV, and V; change certain provisions (H&HS-11th) Stephens-164th

SR 24 – United States Congress; amend the allocation of funds collected through federal motor fuel taxes; urge (TRANS-21st)

HB 25 – Contracts; provide military service members civil relief concerning certain contractual obligations due to circumstances of active duty (Substitute)(VM&HS-14th) Belton-112th

HB 63 – Insurance; health benefit plans to establish step therapy protocols; require (Substitute)(I&L-32nd) Cooper-43rd

HB 64 – Parent and child; require child welfare agencies to make efforts to determine whether a parent or guardian of a child who is the subject of abuse allegations is on active duty in the military (JUDY-42nd) Prince-127th

HB 130 – StateBoard of Education; authorize the Georgia Foundation for Public Education to establish a nonprofit corporation to qualify as a public foundation; authorize (ED&Y-8th) Nix-69th

HB 217 – Crimes and offenses; employees and agents of syringe services programs are not subject to certain offenses relating to hypodermic syringes and needles; provide (H&HS-32nd) Gaines-117th

HB 221 – Geo. L. Smith II Georgia World Congress Center; limit on indebtedness; increase (FIN-19th) Rogers-10th

HB 227 – Insurance; discrimination against victims of family violence to include victims of sexual assault; expand prohibitions (I&L-28th) Frye-118th

HB 311 – State government; waiver of sovereign immunity as to actions ex contractu and state tort claims; provisions (Substitute)(JUDY-18th) Welch-110th

The Georgia State Senate passed HB 481, the fetal heartbeat bill, on Friday, according to the LaGrange Daily News.

The bill, backed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, will now go back to the House to approve Senate changes.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A heartbeat can be detected in an embryo as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant.

Georgia lawmakers and GOP-led legislatures in several other states have pushed anti-abortion measures in hopes of getting a case before the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The push comes amid rising optimism among conservatives that the restrictions might prevail in the reconfigured Supreme Court that includes President Donald Trump’s appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest — but only when the woman files a police report first — and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

If signed, the law would take effect January 1, 2020.

From the Newnan Times-Herald:

HB 481 passed the Senate by a vote of 34 to 18 on a party-line vote, and now heads back to the House, because the Senate made several changes to the language of the bill.

The changes to the bill’s language were extensive, including adding a section of definitions and rewording the sections of the bill dealing with the life or health of the mother, but the abortion restrictions and exemptions are essentially the same in both bills.

The Senate version of the bill removed language that required that any abortion performed for a medical emergency or in the case of incest or rape be performed in a manner which provides the best chance for the unborn child to survive.

The House can either agree to the Senate changes, disagree with the Senate changes, or make more changes and send the bill back to the Senate.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the legislation if it wins final passage. He vowed during his 2018 campaign to sign the strictest abortion laws in the country.

In a statement shortly after the vote, Kemp said the Senate “affirmed Georgia’s commitment to life.”

“I applaud the members who supported the heartbeat bill’s passage for protecting the vulnerable and giving a voice to those who cannot yet speak for themselves,” Kemp said.

House Bill 324 to permit production of medical cannabis in Georgia has stalled, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Though House Bill 324 passed the Georgia House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin – 123-40 – officials on the Senate side are considering vastly different options.

According to multiple sources, senators and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan are looking at other options for providing access to cannabis oil. One of those options is setting up agreements with Colorado or other states so that the medical oil could be shipped from Colorado to Georgia for distribution to Georgia patients. The other is putting universities in charge of growing and producing the oil.

HB 324, which followed recommendations made by the Joint Study Commission on Low THC Oil Access, would set up a system of 10 production licenses and 10 distribution licenses. Producers would be authorized to run two dispensaries each, and each distribution license holder could have up to 10 for a total of 60 retail dispensaries in the state.

On Thursday, representatives from the Georgia Sheriff’s Association expressed their opposition to the bill, as did the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Let’s Get Clear Georgia.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition has been sending out postcards asking Georgians to urge their senators to vote against bringing cannabis cultivation to Georgia. Georgia’s Hope, an organization working to advocate for cannabis oil, showed some of the postcards on its Facebook page.

The cards state “Stop Georgia from Going to Pot” and say that the House of Representatives was “prodded by the pot lobby” to pass HB 324. It says the bill will allow the state government to “set up special ‘pot stores’ and choose who can grow marijuana” and that the plan is “an open invitation for corruption, crony capitalism and crime.”

House Bill 445 on shore protection exempted the Sea Island Company at the company’s request, according to the Brunswick News.

Indeed, the Sea Island carve-out, presently listed in lines 84-89, wasn’t part of the bill as it was envisioned at the beginning of the 2019 session.

Documents obtained by The News include a legislation worksheet and emails detailing that staff within DNR’s Coastal Resources Division didn’t intend on putting forward an SPA revision bill like H.B. 271, legislation that died in the Senate in 2018.

[CRD Assistant Director Karl] Burgess analogized the specificity to changes made to the Shore Protection Act’s regulatory sibling, the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act. There’s a section of the CMPA now regarding reclamation of manmade boat slips, which Burgess stated was specific to Hutchinson Island. Hutchinson Island, in the Savannah River, is the location of the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, a Westin resort, a golf course, residential development and other attractions.

Friday, [DNR public affairs director Wes] Robinson said this sort of process is how things go regarding certain bills.

“It’s not our place to necessarily say if it’s good, bad or indifferent,” Robinson said. “It’s a matter of if we can administer it or not, and that’s one of those ones that we would be able to. But, when it’s not an agency bill, they could put whatever (in the legislation).”

The Bulloch County Board of Education will meet Tuesday to discuss the school system’s strategic plan and address capacity issues, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Hall County and plaintiffs suing the county have spent more than $350,000 in a lawsuit over the pension fund, according to the Gainesville Times.

[Plaintiff and Hall County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Brad] Rounds said the plaintiffs have spent more than $33,000 so far in legal fees that have been crowdfunded from employees.

Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said the county has paid $330,400 in legal fees since January 2017, when the case was opened.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners was served with the lawsuit Jan. 12, 2017, in which Rounds and other employees in a proposed class claimed they’d been deprived of millions in retirement benefits.

The plaintiffs filed an open records request for the minutes showing a “properly-called meeting” July 1, 1998, when the board resolution freezing the pension plan was adopted.

“No such minutes were produced by defendant Hall County,” according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs claim the freeze was not properly voted on and that the board resolution “was not a matter of public record disclosed to any plaintiff.”

Those who retired between July 1, 1998, and July 1, 2008 received fully accrued pension benefits without the freeze.

According to the lawsuit’s calculation, Rounds would receive $2,567 monthly without the freeze on his benefits. With the freeze in place, he would receive $389 per month.

A new inland port in Hall County could affect local traffic, according to the Gainesville Times.

Officials estimate 150,000 containers per year could pour into the 104-acre port by way of Norfolk Southern railroad, which cuts through Gateway.

Also adding to the growth is the opening of Lanier Technical College off Howard Road at Ga. 365. The school had been located next to the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus in Oakwood.

The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee, the decision-making arm of the transportation planning agency, voted in February to seek federal money for a traffic study of the area between New Holland and the planned inland port.

“There’s been some great things happening up the Ga. 365 corridor … and we really feel a traffic impact study for this area would be very beneficial and forward-thinking,” said Chris Rotalsky, Gainesville’s public works director.

Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett and Forsyth) discussed transportation funding with the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A heavy rail extension was a key part of plans to bring MARTA into Gwinnett, but U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., said that may not have had much success with federal officials who dole out grants for transit projects.

Woodall told the Daily Post on Friday that the anticipated time frame for extending rail from MARTA’s Doraville station to Jimmy Carter Boulevard would have hurt its chances in Washington. Woodall is a member of committees that deal with transit and money: the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Budget Committee.

“That’s not something that’s going to be in Gwinnett County by next year, even if the vote had passed,” Woodall said. “That’s something that wouldn’t be in Gwinnett County for 15 years, or 20 years or 30 years. There is a lower appetite (in Washington) for those heavy rail systems that take so long to implement.”

Woodall brought up light rail as a possible alternative to heavy rail. He called it the “sweet spot for rail” while he said heavy rail would be “absolutely a hard sell.”

“That heavy rail model, which of course dates back 150 years, is so expensive and so time consuming that the federal government ends up having to choose ‘Are we going to do one heavy rail New Starts or are we going to do five light rail New Starts? Or are we going to do 100 bus rapid transit New Starts?’” Woodall said.

The Federal Transit Administration defines New Starts projects as ones that cost more than $300 million and where more than $100 million in federal funding is being sought. Some examples listed by the FTA include commuter rail, light rail and fixed guideway BRT routes.

Gwinnett County Public Schools‘ proposed FY 2020 budget includes raises for some employees, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

There are three ways that pay increases are expected to be doled out during fiscal year 2020. The first is an expected flat increase in the state’s teacher salary schedule, which covers teachers, media specialists, counselors and local school technology coordinators. State lawmakers are expected to put the raise, which will be for all teachers in the state, in Georgia’s upcoming budget.

Another way is a planned locally funded step increase for all Gwinnett school employees who are on the teacher salary schedule.

The third way is a 2 percent cost-of-living salary increase for employees who are not on the teacher salary schedule, including janitors, administrators and bus drivers.

The pay increases are a big part of GCPS’ proposed $2.31 billion fiscal year 2020 budget. The proposed budget was presented to the board for review Saturday, and tentative adoption is set for April 9, when the board holds its second budget work session at Central Gwinnett High School.

The fiscal year 2020 budget, if adopted by the school board, will be 2.7 percent larger than the current year’s budget. Two public hearings are currently scheduled for May 9 and 16, with final adoption of the budget expected to happen at the May 16 hearing.

Rome City Commission will consider issuing bonds to pay for covered tennis courts for the 2020 ACC Championship, according to the Rome News Tribune.


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

King George III approved of the passage of the Stamp Act legislation on March 22, 1765 designed to pay for some of the costs the UK incurred in protecting the colonies, but it would lead to the movement that culminated in the American Revolution.

Patrick Henry addressed the Virginia Convention in Richmond on March 23, 1775, stating,  “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

On March 23, 1861, the Georgia Secession Convention adopted a new state Constitution to be submitted to a referendum of the voters on the first Tuesday in July and then adjourned

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Beer and Wine Revenue Act on March 22, 1933, allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages, and later that year, the federal Prohibition was ended.

The first Masters golf tournament began on March 22, 1934 in Augusta, Georgia.

The state prohibition on all alcoholic beverages ended on March 22, 1935 with Governor Eugene Talmadge’s signature of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.

Governor E.D. Rivers signed a resolution on March 24, 1939, calling for the return of “General” locomotive made famous in the Great Train Chase from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Georgia. It currently resides in The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia. The other locomotive involved in the chase, The Texas, was displayed at the Atlanta Cyclorama in Grant Park  until 2015, when it was removed for restoration and is now displayed in the Atlanta History Center.

Elvis Presley was inducted into the United States Army on March 24, 1958.

On March 24, 1970, Gov. Lester Maddox signed legislation naming the Largemouth Bass the Official State Fish.

The United States Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment on March 22, 1972; it would fail to garner enough state ratifications.

On March 23, 1972, in the case of Gooding v. Wilson, the United States Supreme Court held that a Georgia statute, OCGA § 26-6303, which provided: “Any person who shall, without provocation, use to or of another, and in his presence . . . opprobrious words or abusive language, tending to cause a breach of the peace . . . shall be guilty of a misdemeanor,” was unconstitutionally vague and violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan called for the development of an anti-missile system that would come to be known as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Pixies released Surfer Rosa on March 21, 1988.

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Atlanta yesterday, according to the AJC.

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday blasted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over her decision last year to bar the city jail from holding federal immigration detainees.

“It is amazing to think the mayor actually said – in her words — she would not be complicit in an immigration policy that intentionally inflicts misery,” said Pence, who met with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials during a stop in Atlanta.

“I would say to the mayor that criminal illegal immigrants – gang members on our streets – are what inflict misery. The flow of illegal drugs like cocaine and meth and fentanyl inflict misery and wreck our families and communities. Human trafficking inflicts misery.”

Flanked by Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, Pence said ICE officials “do not inflict misery. They bring safety and security to the people of Atlanta, and they deserve the respect of every elected official in this country.”

From WSB-TV:

Pence took aim at Bottoms on his way to a campaign fundraiser for Perdue, who is up for re-election next year. Among Perdue’s possible Democratic challengers is Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia House minority leader who narrowly lost the race for governor against Kemp last year. After Bottoms signed her executive order last year, a spokeswoman for Abrams commended the mayor’s “efforts to combat the impact of the administration’s cruel and inhumane family separation policy. Anyone who stands against keeping families together lacks any kind of moral compass.”

Axios reports that advisors to former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden are discussing adding Stacey Abrams to a potential Presidential bid.

The popular Georgia Democrat, who at age 45 is 31 years younger than Biden, would bring diversity and excitement to the ticket — showing voters, in the words of a close source, that Biden “isn’t just another old white guy.”

But the decision poses considerable risk, and some advisers are flatly opposed. Some have pointed out that in a Democratic debate, he could be asked why no one on the stage would be a worthy running mate.

Under the Gold Dome Today

9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP


9:30 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 35) House Chamber




HB 197 – Office of Planning and Budget; provide for the establishment of the Strategic Integrated Data System (S&T-45th) Dempsey-13th

HB 128– Insurance; insurers do not have to notify the Georgia Composite Medical Board of agreements to settle medical malpractice claims against physicians when the settlement resulted in the low payment under a high/low agreement; provide (I&L-18th) Silcox-52nd

HB 196 – Retirement and pensions; each public retirement system trustee to complete appropriate education applicable to his or her fiduciary duties; require (RET-52nd) Benton-31st

HB 405 – Revenue and taxation; Level 1 Freeport Exemption; modify provisions (FIN-52nd) Knight-130th

HB 507 – Ad valorem tax; criteria used by tax assessors to determine the fair market value of real property; revise (FIN-56th) Wilensky-79th

HB 481 – Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act; enact (Substitute)(S&T-45th) Setzler-35th

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has opened an investigation into lost absentee ballot applications, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Democratic Party of Georgia has claimed that at least 4,700 absentee ballot applications were misplaced, preventing voters from getting their absentee ballots.

The investigation will be done by the Investigations Division of the Secretary of State’s Office.

“We look forward to working closely with the Democratic Party of Georgia to examine every piece of evidence related to these allegations,” said Chief Investigator Russell Lewis.

House Bill 481, the fetal heartbeat bill, is scheduled for a vote today in the Georgia Senate, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Legislation that would ban most abortions in Georgia when a fetal heartbeat is detected — as early as six weeks — is slated to go before the Senate this morning.

The measure has already passed the House, with “yes” votes from Floyd County’s delegates, Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome; Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee; and Mitchell Scoggins, R-Cartersville.

HB 481 also includes exceptions for ectopic or medically futile pregnancies, to remove a dead fetus or in cases of medical emergencies — to prevent the death or “substantial and irreversible” damage to a “major bodily function” of a pregnant woman.

Local lawmaker Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, could not be reached for comment Thursday. On Wednesday he said the measure had been heavily amended in the Senate committee and he hadn’t had a chance to read the new version. If approved, it would have to go back to the House for a vote.

Hufstetler is one of 14 Republican senators targeted by opponents trying to stop the legislation. An online flyer names some as holding seats vulnerable in the next election. Hufstetler and several others are listed in the “seen as reasonable” category.

A number of Floyd County Republicans were discussing the possibility of going to the Capitol today in a show of support for passage, although County GOP Chair Diane Lewis said Thursday it’s unclear if a trip can be organized in time.

House Bill 197 by State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) will be on the Senate floor for a vote today, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Rep. Katie Dempsey’s bill creating a state database merging reports from an array of agencies is scheduled for a vote in the Senate this morning.

“It’s first on the calendar, so I’m hoping we can get it wrapped up early,” the Rome Republican said Thursday.

HB 197 would create a central warehouse of information — the Georgia Data Analytic Center — under the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. Reports using aggregate data from all constituent services would be available to lawmakers, state agencies, academic institutions and public and private researchers.

House Bill 511 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) hit a roadblock, according to the AJC.

House Bill 511 would create new programs to aid low-income rural residents and others who need rides. It would pay for those programs by devoting sales taxes on rides for hire to mass transit.

But its most controversial provisions would consolidate state transit functions under a single new agency. Currently, six state agencies have transit programs — a division the bill’s supporters say creates bureaucratic hassles and stifles innovation.

“If it doesn’t fit in a box, then it’s not happening,” state Rep. Kevin Tanner, the bill’s sponsor, told the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry spoke against the consolidation, saying it could have unintended consequences. Among other things, McMurry said it could complicate the financing of some Georgia Department of Transportation road projects.

HB 511 would divide the state outside metro Atlanta into eight zones for the purposes of transit planning. It would allow individual counties to raise sales taxes for transit construction and operations. And it would create state-funded pilot programs to aid low-income workers and companies that subsidize their employees’ transportation to work.

House Bill 471 by State Rep. Steven Sainz passed the Senate and is headed to Governor Kemp, according to the AJC.

Police officers would no longer tell motorists suspected of drunken driving that their refusal to take a breathalyzer test could be used against them in court, according to a bill approved Thursday by the state Senate.

The bill was introduced in response to a Georgia Supreme Court ruling last month that requiring suspects to blow into breathalyzers is a violation of constitutional protections against self-incrimination.

Officers can still mandate blood or urine tests, and they can also ask drivers to voluntarily take breathalyzer tests.

The legislation corrects the language police officers read to drivers when they’re pulled over. Under current Georgia laws, police tell drivers that breath tests could be evidence in their criminal cases, which is no longer the case since the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision.

Gwinnett County is considering how to move forward after rejection of the MARTA contract by voters, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“We’ll be looking what our options are in terms of how we go forward,” county commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. “Transit is such an important issue. I still think we’ve got a good plan (and) we had a good contract so it’s a matter of looking at all of the options and making a decision about how we move forward.”

The defeat of a contract with MARTA means what the future of transit in Gwinnett County looks like is now in the hands of the board governing the newly-formed 13-county Atlanta Transit Link Authority, also known as “The ATL.”

“We’ve got the process that’s been laid out for The ATL, which means that we would submit our projects for consideration into the regional plan and then there would be another referendum as a result of that,” said Nash, who is a member of The ATL’s governing board.

The law that created The ATL also allowed individual counties to hold a vote on 30-year transportation-related special purpose local option sales tax to pay for projects approved by the regional authority for that county. Any heavy rail projects, however, would automatically be run by MARTA under the law.

“Regardless of whether it’s MARTA or the new transit tax or some other mechanism, we’re now under the purview of The ATL in terms of projects,” Nash said.

While it may sound confusing that Gwinnett just had a MARTA vote without waiting for The ATL’s regional plan, there is a reason why they could go ahead with this vote.

“Kind of what we had a waiver on, if you want to call it that, is that if we had a contract in place before The ATL was officially organized as of Dec. 1 of last year, we didn’t have to wait for the regional transit plan to be adopted by the ATL board,” Nash said. “That was really the most important thing allowing us to move forward now (with the MARTA vote).”

Augusta Regional Airport is seeking to provide direct service to the Metro DC region, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta Regional Airport Director Herbert Judon Jr. said during a briefing to the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau that the airport is working on getting non-stop flights to metro D.C. via Baltimore to better serve business travelers heading to major federal installations such as Fort Gordon and Savannah River Site.

“We understand that is a priority for our community, so that is something we are continuing to push very hard on,” Judon said. “I’m very bullish on that and I think we’re trending in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll have a breakthrough in the near future.”

A public hearing on water levels on the Savannah River near Augusta was held yesterday, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

At times indignant and defiant, at times funny or filled with angry shouts from the audience, the cities gathered public comments to send to the Corps as part of its response to its recommended plan that would also lower the pool in the river between the two communities.

The pool of water in the river will drop if the Corps use its plan to remove the lock and dam and replace it with a rock weir that will dam the Savannah at a certain height but also allow fish to migrate over it. The project is mitigation for the impact the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will have on spawning grounds in river near the port, where deepening is projected to allow saltwater to creep father up the river and damage areas now used by endangered shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon and other migratory fish. Removing the lock and dam and putting in the weir would allow those fish to access historic spawning grounds in the Augusta Shoals the Corps believes were blocked when the structure was completed in 1937.

But Corps spokesman Russell Wicke said the drop was 3½ feet at the dam and the river level must be higher than that downtown.

That drastic drop is what spurred homeowners and lawmakers on both sides to come together to fight the plan in what U.S. Rep, Joe Wilson, R-S.C., called a “bi-state and bipartisan” effort. As he spoke, Richmond County Democratic Party Chairman Emeritus Lowell Greenbaum sat directly in front of him nodding in appreciation.

Both Wilson and U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., who was also on hand, contend that the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act in December 2016, requires the Corps to “maintain the pool for water supply and recreational activities that existed on the date of enactment,” which Wilson said is an average of 113.5 to 114.5 above sea level. That is well above what the Corps is proposing and “I believe it is simply not within the law.”

Wilson said U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina want the pool to remain the same. [Augusta Mayor Hardie] Davis said Georgia’s two U.S. senators have been “noticeably absent in this conversation.” But a representative for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he is monitoring the situation with the lock and dam and “working with all stakeholders to find a solution that all stakeholders agree upon. He encourages the community to share its thoughts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the public comment period through April 16.”

The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District seeks new members to serve, according to the Gainesville Times.

The councils provide input by representing the wide variety of stakeholders that rely on the region’s water resources. The Metro Water District will soon begin work on the 2022 update to the Water Resource Management Plan and is looking for voices from diverse interest groups to participate in this process.

Interested citizens are encouraged to apply as well as persons who represent environmental, business, real estate, recreation, neighborhood, agriculture, utility, academic, water resources and other interests.

Individuals must reside within the river basin of the council for which they apply. Members serve two-year terms and may be reappointed for additional terms. Councils hold regular quarterly meetings but may also hold special meetings as needed to provide input on Metro Water District activities and actions.

Statesboro is considering how to link alcohol licenses with the costs of police enforcement, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Statesboro city officials are trying to develop a new range of fees for alcoholic beverage licenses based on the costs of policing different kinds of establishments: bars versus restaurants, for example.

In part to allow more time for the Statesboro Police Department and the city attorney to figure out how much to charge for each category, City Council approved an interim resolution Tuesday evening. As a result, alcohol license holders will receive only a half-year new license or renewal, from July 1 to Dec. 31, with the charge being half of the current full-year rates.

This will also reset the future due dates for Statesboro’s alcohol licenses to Jan. 1, the date used by the Georgia Department of Revenue for state alcohol licenses.

City Attorney Cain Smith and police Capt. James Winskey have had discussions about basing the fees on the average cost of policing each type of business, Smith reported to the mayor and council.

“And at this point …it is conjecture for us to determine what sort of businesses are going to require more allocation of law enforcement resources and which ones won’t,” Smith said.

Glynn County Commissioners are asking the state to provide additional safety measures to prevent suicides from the Sidney Lanier Bridge, according to The Brunswick News.

Former county commissioner Cap Fendig, Kiera Byrd, organizer of the Shine a Light Bridge Walk, and owner of St. Simons Island Ace Hardware Hal Hart presented a resolution to the commission which noted the number of suicides since the bridge was built in 2003 and called on the state delegation and GDOT to take action.

“We’re requesting your approval on a resolution that had to be added to the agenda tonight for our state delegation to take some action concerning the Lanier bridge,” Fendig said. “As you know recently, a young lady jumped to her death. Her body was recently found. She was well-known in the community and well-loved, and it ripped the heart of the community open on a subject that is usually pretty taboo to talk about, and that’s suicide.”

At least 10 people have jumped to their death from the 185-foot-high bridge since it opened in 2003. The most recent was Nicole Wells, owner of Nicole’s Cut Hut on St. Simons Island, who took her own life by jumping off the bridge on Feb. 20.

“The statistics surrounding suicide, particularly from the Sidney Lanier Bridge, are inaccurate at best because it’s something the media doesn’t talk about and something people don’t usually talk about among each other. For instance, there have been more than 18 suicides off the bridge since it was built. Additionally, since Nicole jumped there have been four people talked off the bridge,” Byrd said.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 21, 2019

Lyman Hall was elected to the Continental Congress on March 21, 1775 from St. John’s Parish; the next year he would sign the Declaration of Independence as a representative from Georgia.

On March 21, 1941, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed legislation establishing the Eastern Standard Time Zone as the only Time Zone in Georgia. Prior to that, Georgia observed two different time zones.

On March 21, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 3000 protesters in a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.

On March 21, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

Former Georgia Governor and United States Senator Herman Talmadge died on March 21, 2002.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Vice President Mike Pence will visit Atlanta today, according to Fox5Atlanta.

According to the Office of the Vice President, Pence will be visiting the Atlanta ICE Field Office to hear about the work of the local agency and talk about border security issues.

The AJC reports that Pence will also attend a fundraiser for Senator David Perdue.

United States Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will visit Augusta on Friday to speak at Plant Vogtle, according to the Department of Energy.

On Friday March 22, 2019, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will join Southern Company Chairman, President and CEO Tom Fanning; Georgia Power Chairman, President and CEO Paul Bowers; and North America’s Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey to deliver remarks at Vogtle Nuclear Plant. Following the ceremony, Secretary Perry, Tom Fanning, Paul Bowers and Sean McGarvey will participate in a media availability.

Media interested in attending must RSVP no later than Thursday at noon []. Please note that long pants are required, as well as steel-toed boots. If you do not own them, please pass along your shoe size when you RSVP.

So, does that mean that someone will loan steel-toed boots to journalists who don’t have them?

Secretary Perry is expected to announce the finalization of $3.7 billion in loan guarantees by the federal government for construction of the two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. From Bloomberg:

The guarantees, expected to be announced Friday when U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry visits Plant Vogtle alongside Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Southern Chief Executive Officer Tom Fanning, represents a critical lifeline for the project, which is more than five years behind schedule and has doubled in cost to $28 billion.

The additional help also puts taxpayers on the hook for more money if the project were to collapse. Southern and its partners in Plant Vogtle were already recipients of record $8.3 billion in federally-backed loan guarantees from the Obama administration, but asked the Trump administration to come to their aid amid ballooning costs and setbacks caused in part by the bankruptcy of a contractor, Westinghouse Electric Co.

President Donald Trump has made the revival of the coal and nuclear industry a priority. His administration in 2017 announced it would provide a conditional loan guarantee for the Plant Vogtle project.

Under the Gold Dome Today

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 34) House Chamber
1:00 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries Alcohol & Tobacco Subcommittee 415 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE Insurance – Life & Health Subcommittee 415 CLOB


HB 225 – Motor vehicles; reference date to federal regulations regarding the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles and carriers; update (PUB SAF-7th) Rich-97th

HB 246 – Evidence; revise manner by which depositions taken at the instance of state are paid (JUDY-18th) Silcox-52nd

HB 325 – Law enforcement officers and agencies; records of investigation of an officer by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council shall be retained for 30 years; provide (PUB SAF-7th) Clark-147th

HB 387 – Property; liens in favor of private, nonprofit, volunteer fire departments for instances of fire services that are requested by property owners; provide (JUDY-53rd) Lumsden-12th

HB 226 – Courts; additional penalty for violation of traffic laws or ordinances under Joshua’s Law; extend sunset (PUB SAF-17th) LaRiccia-169th

HB 279 – Revenue and taxation; certain law enforcement officers may use department vehicles relative to certain approved off-duty jobs; provide (Substitute)(PUB SAF-29th) Lumsden-12th

HB 300 – Health; redesignate continuing care retirement communities as life plan communities (H&HS-46th)Smith-133rd

HB 471 – Motor vehicles; implied consent notices; revise (PUB SAF-29th) Sainz-180th

HB 514 – Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission; create (Substitute)(H&HS-13th) Tanner-9th


Modified Open Rule

HR 368 – Interstate 14; construction; urge (Trans-Smith-134th)

SB 97 – Self-Service Storage Facilities; limit fees charged and collected by self-service storage facilities for the late payment of rent; provide (Judy-Newton-123rd) Stone-23rd

SB 132 – Insurance; modernization and updates; provide; Commission on the Georgia Health Insurance Risk Pool; repeal Article 2 of Chapter 29A (Substitute)(Ins-Smith-134th) Harbin-16th

SB 133 – Insurance; modernization and updates; provide (Substitute)(Ins-Smith-134th) Harbin-16th

Modified Structured Rule

SB 17 – Public Utilities and Public Transportation; authorize telephone cooperatives and their broadband affiliates; provide broadband services (EU&T-Harrell-106th) Gooch-51st

SB 55 – Retirement; method and manner by which a member of the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia may purchase an annuity; revise (Ret-Lumsden-12th) Hufstetler-52nd

SB 121 – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Data Base; length of time prescription information is retained from two years to five years; increase (JudyNC-Newton-123rd) Walker III-20th

Senate Bill 106 by State Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) passed out of the House Special Committee on Access to Health Care, according to AccessWDUN.

Legislation authorizing Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to pursue a Medicaid waiver was approved by a state House panel Wednesday, potentially giving Georgia more flexibility to use federal funding but also capping who’s covered by an expansion.

The bill allows Kemp to pursue waiver options and gives his office latitude in what the waiver ultimately asks. It caps eligibility for any Medicaid expansion to those at or below the federal poverty level, limiting the number of Georgians who could be covered.

Any waiver plan would need to be approved by the federal government.

Republican Sen. Blake Tillery, who is carrying the legislation for Kemp, said it was a “very simple bill … that could have far reaching effects for health care in Georgia.”

The bill passed the Senate in February, and could soon move to the House floor for a vote.

The Senate Finance Committee yesterday passed legislation reforming the Certificate of Need program for health care facilities, according to Georgia Health News.

The CON overhaul effort was revived in a hearing Wednesday, when some provisions of the unsuccessful bill were attached to different House legislation, and the new bill was adopted by the Senate Finance Committee.

However, the provisions in the new CON bill are considered weaker than those in the original House measure.

The newly reworked House Bill 186 contains some proposals from the original House Bill 198. It would limit the rival health care entities that can object to a CON application to those within a 35-mile radius of the proposed project. Currently there are no geographic restrictions on who can object.

But the amended bill does not contain any provision allowing a sports medicine and training center in Alpharetta, a project that has many high-profile backers in the sports world. And the bill would not let hospital organizations establish standalone ERs, or allow for cardiology ambulatory surgery centers.

State Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin), the lead sponsor of the stronger House bill that was defeated, said Wednesday that ‘we’re trending in the right direction.’’

House Bill 545 addressing lawsuits alleging nuisances, passed out of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, according to The Brunswick News.

On the face of it, House Bill 545 would appear to exist for the purpose of limiting grounds for lawsuits against agricultural operations, though the bill’s lead sponsor, state Rep. Tom McCall, R-Elberton, says that’s not exactly correct.

“If any of y’all are worried about this preventing lawsuits, the trial lawyers (association) are fine with this,” McCall said at the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee hearing. “I have worked with more lawyers on this than anything I can think of, but when the trial lawyers association says that they are fine with this bill, then that ought to say to you that they are not worried about being able to sue somebody for a nuisance.”

This issue comes down to which property owners can sue over an agricultural nuisance — noise, odor, light pollution, for example — and when can those people do it? McCall said the legislation is about protecting farms, farmers and their legacy. He said that if someone’s not going about their business in the right way, they can still be sued for actions that are negligent, illegal and improper.

State Sen. Larry Walker III, R-Perry, said that his feelings about the bill make the situation difficult for him, because of his respect for McCall and friendship with proponents of the legislation.

“Our current statute, the way it’s written now, protects the existing land, existing farm, against changes coming in and on the surrounding property,” Walker said. “In other words, the farm’s there first, a subdivision moves in next door, it provides protection for the existing farm against nuisance lawsuits from changes on the surrounding property.”

Walker said the bill changes all that significantly, changes the whole philosophy of what they’re doing, in allowing the existing farm, if it’s been around a year or more, to significantly change their operation in terms of new technology or the like, and remain immune from a nuisance lawsuit. He said the fear is that some operations could put in a large hydroponic greenhouse with growlights that cause problems for neighboring properties.

The Augusta Chronicle looks at voter turnout in two Augusta-area elections this week.

“Overall, the turnout was typical for an ‘off-year’ special election,” said Nancy Gay, executive director for Columbia County Board of Elections. “While our early voting numbers were impressive, overall we finished with 6.27 turnout, which is just a little higher than four years ago for the same election.”

In 2015, 5.6 percent of the county’s then-77,676 voters turned out to vote in a referendum on whether to reimpose the school system’s one percent special purpose local option sales tax for education. In the Tuesday election, 6,213 of what are now 99,084 registered voters cast ballots, with 83.7 percent in approval of the E-SPLOST. Almost 3,000 voted early, either in person or by mail.

In Augusta, Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said low turnout of 5.9 percent was not unusual for a special election.

In the contest, retired educator Varden “Bobby” Williams avoided a runoff with one of three opponents by capturing 50.87 percent of the 976 ballots cast in the election.

Bailey, who predicted a runoff, said for a single candidate to win outright with more than 50 percent of votes was unusual.

Duluth City Council member Kirkland Carden announced he will run for the County Commission District 1 seat held by Republican Jace Brooks, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Carden revealed on Facebook over the weekend he will run as a Democrat for the county commission District 1 seat currently held by Commissioner Jace Brooks in 2020. A new cover photo revealing his bid for a commission seat was posted on his old city council campaign Facebook page Saturday and a formal announcement was posted the following day.

“I have decided to run for the Board of Commissioners because I care about the future of our community,” Carden said in the statement. “We live in a time of great cha”nge both socially and in terms of technology and politics. In order for Gwinnett to continue to flourish in the future we have to change and adapt with the time.”

Although qualifying for the 2020 county elections is a year away, Democrats have been positioning themselves to run for commission seats. Former state Sen. Curt Thompson is running for commission chairman while Jasper Watkins III and Derrick Wilson have announced candidacies for the District 3 seat currently held by Commissioner Tommy Hunter.

Commission District 1 includes parts of Duluth, Suwanee and Sugar Hill.

Stacey Abrams

The Emory Wheel reports that a student organization chose Democrat Stacey Abrams to speak on campus on May 9th.

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has been selected to speak at Emory’s Class Day on May 9, according to a March 18 University press release. The student-organized event for graduating seniors will include a presentation of the Boisfeuillet Jones Medals and other senior awards.

Abrams spoke at an Emory Law School Democrats meeting in April 2018 where she expressed disapproval over the University’s annexation into Atlanta, citing problems with school district zoning, the Wheel previously reported.

Abrams’s group Fair Fight Action has come into question for its spending, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

It’s a dramatic rise often fueled by the promotional spending of Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit she founded to advance voting rights. The organization has paid for advertisements featuring Abrams and some of her travel and organized national watch parties when she delivered the Democratic rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union.

But spending by Fair Fight Action, which is staffed by former Abrams campaign aides, could prompt questions about whether the nonprofit is inappropriately supporting her political ambitions. Although there is no proof of any illegal activity, some of the organization’s expenditures could pose a problem if Abrams follows through with her pledge to run for office again.

“There is nothing wrong with a nonprofit promoting its charismatic founder,” said Adav Noti, a former Federal Election Commission attorney who now works for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. But, he added, that “if we later learn that the spending was to lay the groundwork for a campaign, retrospectively that could be a violation.”

On Wednesday, a GOP-affiliated group called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT, filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service. The group points to roughly $100,000 worth of Facebook ads featuring Abrams, an advertisement for a “Stacey Abrams Fundraiser” that featured Fair Fight Action’s logo, travel for Abrams’ post-election “thank you” tour of Georgia and a professionally produced “highlight reel” of Abrams footage on the group’s website.

The complaint argues Fair Fight Action is supporting Abrams’ political ambitions, not advocating for voting rights. That’s a violation of tax law that forbids political 501(c)(4) nonprofits from providing a “private benefit” to a particular person or group, according to a copy of the complaint provided to The Associated Press. The group typically files ethics complaints against Democrats but has also targeted some Republicans, including North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 20, 2019

March 20, 1854 saw a meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin that is generally considered the founding of the Republican Party.

[F]ormer members of the Whig Party meet to establish a new party to oppose the spread of slavery into the western territories. The Whig Party, which was formed in 1834 to oppose the “tyranny” of President Andrew Jackson, had shown itself incapable of coping with the national crisis over slavery.

The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the party of the victorious North, and after the war the Republican-dominated Congress forced a “Radical Reconstruction” policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution and the granting of equal rights to all Southern citizens. By 1876, the Republican Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

The Georgia State Capitol was completed on March 20, 1889. Ron Daniels, the Poet Laureate of GaPundit, has written an ode to the Gold Dome:

Well I guess it was back in eighteen eighty nine,
When a couple of boys in Dahlonega went down in a mine,
And found it was slap full of gold.
Then these folks in Atlanta wanted to keep growing,
So they told the legislature the Capitol had to be going,
And so those politicos said “Good Bye Milledgeville! Our attorneys will be in touch.”
Now the Capitol had been moved before,
Savannah, Louisville, and more,
They’d even moved it down to Macon on an overloaded poultry wagon.
Atlanta sure wanted to lend the State a hand,
Giving the legislature plenty of land,
Hammers started swingin’ and, boy howdy, they sure were buildin’.
The architect of this here building was feeling bold,
Covering the building’s dome all in beautiful gold,
Leaving the gold mine empty, and leaving someone with the shaft.
Well, Governor Gordon was slap full of delight,
When his eyes did recognize that impressive sight,
On March 20, 1889, a completed Capitol building.
He grabbed the keys and a few words he spoke,
The words he uttered were no joke,
“Boys when you’re hot, you’re hot! Now thanks a lot.”

On March 20, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation authorizing a referendum to amend the Georgia Constitution and make the Public Service Commission a Constitutional agency.

On March 20, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson notified Alabama Governor George Wallace that Alabama National Guard troops would be called up to maintain order during a third march from Selma to Montgomery. Within five months, the Voting Rights Act would be passed by Congress.

On March 20, 1970, Governor Lester Maddox signed legislation designating the Brown Thrasher the official state bird, and the Bobwhite Quail the official state game bird.

On March 20, 1982, this song was #1 on the Billboard charts:

Happy birthday to Georgia-born actress Holly Hunter (1958) and film director/actor Spike Lee (1957).

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp recognized this week as Agriculture Awareness Week.Continue Reading..


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

On February 19, 1807, Aaron Burr was arrested in the Mississippi Territory, in what is now Alabama. Burr had served as Vice President during the first term of President Thomas Jefferson, leaving the administration after the 1804 election; later Jefferson issued a warrant accusing Burr of treason. Burr spent part of his time on the lam in Georgia.

On March 19, 1916, the first American military air combat mission began in support of an incursion into Mexico under President Woodrow Wilson.

On March 19, 1947, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in Thompson v. Talmadge on the “Three Governors Affair.” The Court held that the Georgia General Assembly lacked authority to elect Herman Talmadge as Governor, and that because of the death of Eugene Talmadge before he took office, no successor to Gov. Ellis Arnall was in place until the newly-elected Lt. Governor Melvin Johnson was sworn in and became Governor, succeeding Arnall.

On March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush announced the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in order to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and eliminate the country’s ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

March 19, 2014 was “Bo Callaway Day” in Georgia and flags flew at half-staff in honor of the late Georgia Congressman and former Secretary of the Army.

“Few individuals throughout our history can match the legacy that Bo Callaway left on Georgia politics,” Deal said. “Bo blazed a trail that led to the dramatic growth of the Georgia GOP, which went from virtually nonexistent when he ran for governor to holding every statewide elected office today. Bo stood up for what he believed in even when the odds and the political system were stacked against him. Georgians are all the better for it. Sandra and I send our deepest sympathies to the Callaway family.”

March 19, 2014 was also the first time I wrote about the lack of an “Official State Dog of Georgia.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

HOUSE RESOLUTION 135 by State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) passed the House, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) sponsored House Resolution 135, which encourages Congress to eliminate the five-month waiting period for disability insurance benefits after patients are diagnosed with ALS, which is currently federal law.

ALS, which is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive and fatal neuromuscular disease. Each year, Efstration said, approximately 6,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALS, and most patients die within two to five years of receiving a diagnosis.

“I am proud of this bipartisan measure to help those suffering from ALS,” Efstration said. “After diagnosis, patients and their families often face immediate financial strain, made worse by an arbitrary five-month waiting period for disability support.”

HR 135 passed the Georgia House by a vote of 166 to 0, something conservative pundit Todd Rehm said was unique.

“I didn’t think there was such a thing as unanimous passage by the House any more, but HR 135 by Chuck Efstration…passed without opposition,” Rehm said.

Whitfield County voters go to the polls today to decide a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

A current four-year SPLOST expires on June 30 and is on track to collect $64 million. The proposed SPLOST if approved would begin collections on July 1.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A SPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax on most goods purchased in the county and can only fund certain defined projects and items, it can’t be used for general governmental operations.

Supporters say a SPLOST helps keep property taxes down while also being partly paid by individuals from out of town who stop and shop in the county or stay in the county for an extended period of time, such as for a softball tournament or other event, or to visit. The pro-SPLOST Citizens for SPLOST, spearheaded by the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, also believes the 1 percent tax is valuable because of the quality of life projects it would fund that could help lure young professionals to live here, and contends it would continue what the chamber sees as an “undeniable” momentum “with new restaurants, shops and things to do,” as chamber president and CEO Rob Bradham has written.

Opponents, which include a group called Engaged Citizens for Georgia, say many of the SPLOST projects are not needed, that the argument for out-of-town participation has been overstated and that a county that has seen its median household income decline dramatically in recent years can’t afford to have $100 million or a large part of it taken out of its citizens’ pockets through another government tax. They say a SPLOST does not necessarily mean property taxes will stay the same or decrease, as larger buildings often require additional upkeep.

Columbia County votes today on a SPLOST referendum, and some Augusta voters will go to the polls to choose a new Augusta Commissioner, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Advance voting was heavy in Columbia County, with 2,522 people casting early ballots in the referendum. Last week, Board of Elections Executive Director Nancy Gay called the advance turnout “outstanding” for a special election.

In Richmond County, 125 people voted early in the District 5 election out of 16,572 registered voters, according to Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey. She said she expects overall turnout in the single-district election to be between 8 and 12 percent.

Gwinnett County votes today on the MARTA referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, voters will go to their local polling locations to cast ballots for or against a contract between MARTA and Gwinnett County. Passage of the MARTA referendum would mean the regional transit system would take over the provision of transit in the county and the levying of a 1 percent sales tax in the county to pay for that service.

Gwinnett’s Democratic legislators, who have endorsed passage of the referendum, held a press conference in Atlanta on Monday to urge voters to show up to the polls en masse on election day.

County records show 32,182 people cast advance in person ballots at the elections office or one of seven satellite early voting sites from Feb. 25 to this past Friday.

After the release of a digital ad featuring former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Saturday, the Go Gwinnett pro-MARTA group began transitioning to a “get out the vote” mode focused on canvasing, text messaging and calling voters to encourage them to head to the polls on Tuesday.

“We left it all on the field,” Go Gwinnett spokesman Brian Robinson said.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of votes, significantly more votes on Tuesday than there has been in early voting,” Robinson said. “As I’ve always said — I don’t get too cute about this, about what the chances are — ‘Small electorate is good for the ‘Nos’, big electorate is good for the ‘Yes’ (camp).’”

According to, data from the Secretary of State’s office showed 60 percent of the early voters were white and 75 percent of the voters were 50 or older. Newton said that works to the anti-MARTA coalition’s side.

Cave Springs voters will decide today whether to allow liquor sales, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Plans for a micro-distillery downtown hang in the balance.

Elections Supervisor Judy Dickinson, who’s also the clerk, said she’s expecting a relatively strong turnout at the precinct in City Hall, 10 Georgia Ave.

There are four questions on the ballot.

One asks about sales of distilled spirits by the drink. One asks about package sales. Those each cover Monday through Saturday. The other two questions ask about liquor by the drink and by the package on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon to 11:30 p.m. at night.

Only residents of Cave Spring are eligible to vote in today’s election. Dickinson said there are just over 600 on the active list.

Under the Gold Dome Today




10:00 AM HOUSE Academic Support Subcommittee of Education 506 CLOB


11:00 AM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary 132 CAP









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

2:00 PM HOUSE Special Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 506 CLOB








Governor Brian Kemp appointed Rebecca Jackson as Solicitor General of the State Court of Carroll County.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission voted to hire David Emadi, Douglas County Chief Assistant District Attorney, as its new Executive Director, according to the AJC.

Emadi, who also worked briefly as an aide to Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, was offered a $125,000 salary by the commission, which voted 3-1 to hire him.

Commission Chairman Jake Evans said Emadi’s experience as both a prosecutor and former legislative aide helped persuade the panel to offer him the job.

“We wanted some energy, we wanted some experience both on the legislative side and the prosecutorial side,” Evans said. “David is going to come in with that youth, that energy, that inspiration.”

House Bill 481, the fetal heartbeat bill, passed out of the Senate Science & Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 481 would confer legal personhood on a fetus with a detectable heartbeat, essentially outlawing most abortions in Georgia after six weeks. The bill also provides for fetuses to count as people in population surveys and as dependents for tax purposes. Further, health records would be made available to the local district attorney where the abortion occurs or where the woman resides, among other specifications.

H.B. 481 went to the Senate Science and Technology Committee, which is one of the smallest committees in the chamber. With Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, not voting, Republican leadership used the power of the lieutenant governor to put a thumb on the scales. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan subsequently appointed state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, to the panel as an ex-officio member to game the vote, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in its Morning Jolt post Wednesday.

The vote Monday came after a marathon public comment session Thursday that lasted around four hours. Jordan tweeted, following the meeting, to expect the Senate to take up H.B. 481 before the end of the week.

Should the bill make it all the way, a court challenge is expected. Friday, a federal district judge in Kentucky halted the enforcement of that state’s six-week abortion law the day the governor signed it, writing in the temporary restraining order that the plaintiffs demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their 14th Amendment due process challenge to the law, which passed the legislature as Senate Bill 9.

From the Gainesville Times:

The Senate Science and Technology Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote of 3 to 2. The legislation, backed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, has passed the House and now could go quickly to the floor of the GOP-controlled Senate.

Republicans are moving to enact tough abortion restrictions in the state legislatures they control, even though they’re certain to be challenged in court. Similar “heartbeat” bills just passed the Ohio Senate and the Tennessee House, and are advancing in Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina.

They’re hoping the U.S. Supreme Court — with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will uphold state laws that undermine the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing the right of women to abort a fetus that can’t survive outside the womb.

The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest — but only when the woman files a police report first — and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

House Bill 501, the oyster industry bill, passed the Georgia Senate yesterday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

With a vote of 35-19 in the senate, H.B. 501, which passed the house last week, now goes to the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp.

The bill sets up a framework for a fledgling oyster farming industry, giving the state Department of Natural Resources final say in when oysters can be harvested and where oyster seed comes from. Neighboring states already farm oysters year-round but in Georgia, oysters are wild harvested only. The bill also provides for a lottery to allot leases to qualified farmers.

From The Brunswick News:

Barring an unlikely veto by the governor, Georgia will have a new coastal industry by this time next year, despite continued opposition by people who would be expected to grow that industry. The state Senate approved House Bill 501 on oyster mariculture Monday by a vote of 35-19. That comes a little more than two weeks since the chamber passed identical legislation, Senate Bill 182, by a 54-0 vote.

The growth in opposition is thanks to an alliance of those in the seafood industry and environmental advocates who argued for more specifics and less regulation, with a major sticking point being year-round harvesting.

Ligon added that it’s prudent to have some extra oversight at the beginning of an industry to make sure everything’s done right, and once oyster mariculture gets underway, legislators and regulators can revisit the issue to see what needs adjusting.

“There will be an advisory committee where members of the industry will be on that committee, they will provide input to the department on rulemaking,” Ligon said. “This has been very productive for our shrimping and crab and finfish industries in Georgia, so let’s follow that same model with this, let’s see how it goes. If we need to make adjustments, we will, but let’s err on the side of public safety.”

House Bill 217 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee yesterday, according to AccessWDUN.

Programs that give drug users clean needles in exchange for used ones would become legal in Georgia, under a proposal that cleared a Senate committee Monday.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services unanimously approved the bill, sending it to the full Senate. The measure has already cleared the state House.

Republican Rep. Houston Gaines of Athens, the bill’s author, said the proposal will “save lives and money.”

“We don’t want anyone, including those who inject drugs, to contract these infections,” Gaines said, adding that President Donald Trump has said dealing with the HIV epidemic is a priority in his State of the Union speech.

State Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta) introduced House Resolution 533, calling for the creation of a House Study Committee on Innovative Financial Options for Senior Living, according to the Albany Herald.

“Rep. John LaHood’s resolution addresses a big worry,” Vicki Vaughn Johnson, chairwoman of the Georgia Council on Aging, said. “Currently, there’s not enough affordable housing for our seniors. But what’s going to happen in the not-too-distant future, when Georgia’s 65-and-older population is expected to double?”

The resolution from LaHood, the secretary of the House Health and Human Services Committee, calls for the creation of the House Study Committee on Innovative Financial Options for Senior Living. The committee would comprise five House members selected by Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and have until December to complete its work.

LaHood’s resolution states that the problem is a lack of affordable independent living options for seniors who require services and can no longer live in their homes.

Georgia’s 65-and-over population was 1.3 million in 2016 and is expected to rise to 2.9 million by 2040, with the greatest rate of growth in the 85-and-older category, LaHood’s resolution said.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton sat for a Q&A with Georgia Trend.

GT: How do those work experiences inform your work at the state Supreme Court?

Melton: I learned to practice law in the attorney general’s office. I learned how to go into the office, close the door, get the books out and study. There’s no substitute for that. That foundation was there.
I went to the governor’s office not really knowing much about the governor personally. So there was some uncertainty, but that was too much of an opportunity to pass up. That was an opportunity to sit at the table when decisions impacting the state were being discussed, to learn and to grow and to have input in that area. Turns out it was a great move. I enjoyed working with the governor and enjoyed working with the staff he put together.

GT: Is the court political?

Melton: There is some aspect of that. Of course what we try to do is to take the politics out of what we do. We run for re-election, and there is some awareness that we have to get votes to keep our job; but we use that awareness as a calling, as a charge to make sure that even though we have to get votes to keep our jobs, we don’t want to make decisions on that basis. We work hard not to be motivated by politics or personal philosophies or anything along those lines. Just as important, we work hard to convince the bar and the public that we are really trying to call balls and strikes fairly and squarely.

The Muscogee County School District has hired its first police chief, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

In a 8-0 vote during Monday night’s monthly meeting, the nine-member board confirmed Superintendent David Lewis’ choice to lead MCSD’s new agency: Grep Arp, the chief investigator for the district attorney’s office in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit for the past six years.

The MCSD police chief’s position has been vacant for the 10 months since the board established the police agency.

In May 2018, the board upgraded Lewis’ recommendation to establish the police agency. He had recommended boosting MCSD’s current security staff from 17 part-time officers to 10 full-time officers, including one for each high school, seven part-time officers and three additional positions. The board’s majority expanded that recommendation, calling for a full-time officer at each middle school. So the board approved adding $1,692,467, including $892,467 in start-up costs, to MCSD’s current $2,133,871 budget for security.

But no officers have been hired because the department’s police chief hadn’t been hired, Tessin said.


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

On March 18, 1766, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, which required American colonists to purchase a stamp for every legal or printed document they obtained.  Revenue would be used to support the British army in America.

The Stamp Act led Patrick Henry to denounce King George III, the British Monarch at the time of the passage of the Stamp Act and the ensuing Revolutionary War; Henry’s later “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech to the Virginia Assembly at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, listed by Time magazine as one of the top ten speeches of all time. Henry later opposed adoption of the Constitution, arguing it was incomplete without a Bill of Rights; after the Bill of Rights was adopted, Henry was satisfied.

On March 18, 1939, the State of Georgia ratified the Bill of Rights, which were proposed 150 years earlier in 1789. Georgia initially declined to ratify the Bill of Rights arguing that the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution were unnecessary. Governor E.D. Rivers signed the joint resolution six days later, but under federal court decisions the ratification is marked as of the date the second house of the state legislature adopts the legislation (assuming a bi-cameral state legislature).

On March 18, 1942, the United States government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, created the War Relocation Authority to “Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.” More than 120,000 Japanese Americans, many of them citizens of the United States were moved from the west coast into concentration camps in the western United States.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed entirely of Japanese Americans, many of whose families were interned at the camps, became the most-decorated unit of World War II, with members being awarded 4,667 medals, awards, and citations, including 1 Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 560 Silver Stars; eventually 21 members of the 442nd would be awarded the Medal of Honor. The late United States Senator Daniel Inouye, a member of the 442nd from 1941 to 1947, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton for actions during WWII. First elected to the United States Senate in 1962, Inouye became President Pro Tem in 2010.

On March 18, 1947, Herman Talmadge surrendered the Governor’s office, ending the “Three Governors Affair.” Earlier this year, the General Assembly honored the late Governor Melvin Thompson, who was elected the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and became Governor at the conclusion of the Three Governors Affair.

Over the weekend, I found two old certificates that are often given to political supporters of Georgia’s Governor. Between the, they bear the signatures of all three men who claimed to be Governor during the “Three Governors Affair,” and a total of four Georgia Governors. The one signed by Governor Ellis Arnall (69th Governor of Georgia) also bears the signature of M.E. Thompson, who would later become the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and then elected as the 70th Governor. The one signed by Governor Herman Talmadge (71) was also signed by Ernest Vandiver, Jr., who would later serve as Lt. Governor and then as the 73d Governor of Georgia.

4 governors

On March 18, 1955, the Georgia Educators Association endorsed “equal but separate” schools for the races.

On March 18, 1961, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Gray v. Sanders, which arose from Georgia. Three politically-important results come from the case.

First, the Court held that state regulation of the Democratic Primary made the primary election a state action, not merely that of a private organization; thus, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies.

Second, the Equal Protection Clause requires that every vote be given equal weight in electing officials, often stated as the “one person, one vote” rule. In Georgia at that time, each County had between two and six “county unit votes”. As a result,

“One unit vote in Echols County represented 938 residents, whereas one unit vote in Fulton County represented 92,721 residents. Thus, one resident in Echols County had an influence in the nomination of candidates equivalent to 99 residents of Fulton County.”

Third, because the County Unit System gave the votes of some Georgians greater weight than that of others, it violated the Equal Protection Clause. The “one person, one vote” rule is one benchmark of redistricting.

On March 18, 1976, Governor George Busbee signed legislation recognizing the following official state symbols:

Staurolite – Official Mineral of Georgia
Shark’s Tooth – Official Fossil of Georgia
Clear Quartz – Official Gem of Georgia
Purple Quartz (Amethyst) – Official Gem of Georgia

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Democrat Stacey Abrams says she won the 2018 election for Governor of Georgia, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

At an event Thursday, Abrams was asked by a tracker if she would ever concede to Kemp. She appeared to remain silent, but she said inside that she’d told the tracker “no.”

“I did win my election,” she said, according to ABC News reporter Adam Kelsey. “I just didn’t get to have the job.”

Other prominent Democrats have also claimed the race was stolen from Abrams, although she lost by nearly 55,000 votes and couldn’t get the race to a runoff. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said the evidence suggested the race was stolen by Kemp, and Hillary Clinton and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) made similar claims.

However, it was Clinton who claimed during her 2016 campaign against Donald Trump that he would potentially not accept defeat.

“One of our hallmarks has always been that we accept the outcomes of our elections,” she said.

Abrams claimed Kemp’s office put 53,000 votes “on hold,” but the allegation was deceptive, the Washington Free Beacon reported. They were not purged from voter rolls but rather placed in “pending” status because of violations of state “exact match” laws. Some of those violations appeared to be by a voter-registration group started by Abrams[.]

From the Washington Post:

She also talked about irregularities that occurred during the election. “The vote differential was 54,000 votes,” she said. “I cannot prove empirically that I would have gotten every vote that could have been counted, but I do know that the absence of an effective system robbed me and Georgians of having a fair election where we could say with certainty that what happened was right.”

Asked whether she could make a bigger statement on the issue about which she is passionate by running and winning an election in Georgia or going national, she said, “I think that is a legitimate frame, but it’s not the one I can use. These are jobs. I’m applying for a job, and I should run for office because I want to do that job at that moment. The issue of voter suppression is an existential issue, and no matter what job I have, I’m going to talk about that issue.”

Abrams said she already believes she could do a better job than Trump in the highest office in the land. She could not cite anything the president has done on his own initiative that has been good for the country, and she offered a blistering description of him.

“He is a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobe who has diminished our sense of cohesion as a nation. Regardless of where a president stood on issues, there has always been at least a veiled attempt at some sense of national unity. His intentionality to speak only to a narrow group that he calls his base, his willingness to only administer his office for that population, has diminished the credibility of his time in office.”

Abrams said she does not believe Democrats lost in 2016 because Trump was a superior candidate with superior ideas. “We lost because our organizing method in 2016 did not engage voters who had long been out of the body politic,” she said. “I do not believe in turnout targets. And one thing we demonstrated in our campaign, much to the suspicion and chagrin early on, is that you cannot run a campaign in the 21st century that believes in a base. Every voter is a persuasion target.”

Under the Gold Dome Today








1:00 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee of Education 406 CLOB








HB 35 – Sales and use tax; certain poultry diagnostic and disease monitoring services; create exemption (FIN-50th) Watson-172nd

HB 168 – Sales and use tax; tangible personal property to certain non-profit health centers; extend exemption for five additional years (FIN-8th) Taylor-173rd

HB 185 – Financial institutions; change certain definitions (B&FI-18th) Williamson-115th

HB 192 – Professions and businesses; real estate management companies; change certain provisions (RI&U-51st) Powell-32nd

HB 212 – Banking and finance; retail brokers of manufactured homes or mobile homes and residential contractors from the requirement to obtain a license as a mortgage loan originator, broker, or lender under certain circumstances; exempt (B&FI-18th) Pirkle-155th

HB 223 – Conservation and natural resources; provide for an exception to notification of spills or releases; provide for definitions (NR&E-7th) Dickey-140th

HB 368 – Insurance; division of a domestic insurer into two or more resulting domestic insurers; provide (Substitute)(I&L-9th) Taylor-173rd

HB 374 – Health; administer medications to residents under hospice care pursuant to a physician’s written orders; authorize certified medication aides (H&HS-11th) LaHood-175th

HB 419 – Revenue and taxation; Internal Revenue Code and Internal Revenue Code of 1986; define terms and incorporate certain provisions of federal law into Georgia law (FIN-52nd) Knight-130th

HB 501 – Game and fish; provide for mariculture development (NR&E-3rd) Petrea-166th

Thomasville, Georgia native William Crozer serves in the Trump Administration as a special assistant to the president and deputy director in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, according to the Times-Enterprise.

Crozer served former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and worked on 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign as Georgia political coordinator. He also worked in the Republican National Committee’s finance department during the 2008 election cycle.

Crozer said he had “a lot of good experiences” working with the late Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, while employed by the GOP national committee.

“Our office is the primary liaison between the White House and state and local elected officials,” Crozer said. “In that capacity, we are proactive in terms of building support among state and local elected officials around shared priorities, like combatting the opioid epidemic, and reactive where state and local officials reach out to us with various issues with a federal nexus, such as federal permitting and other matters pertinent to their community.”

Crozer said his position is a political, commissioned appointment. He is the primary liaison between the White House and state and local elected officials.

“We manage those relationships for the White House,” Crozer explained. “We’re that clearinghouse for state and local.

When Hurricane Michael ravaged the southwest Georgia in October 2018, Crozer traveled with the president on Air Force One to tour damaged areas in Georgia and Florida. Crozer reached out to county commission chairmen ito help direct communities to the proper source for help.

District 11 State Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) said Crozer contacted him the day of the hurricane and many times in the following weeks to be sure this area had needed resources and to ask how the White House and federal agencies could help in response efforts.

State Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock) has introduced two bills to keep Georgia from flip-flopping the time, according to WSB-TV.

Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston talked to Cantrell about why he thinks the time change is antiquated and why he’s submitted the bill to keep us on one time.

“Why do we keep doing this? Somebody needs to stand up and say, ‘Hey, this is ridiculous, and let’s do something about it,’” Cantrell told Huddleston. “I think it’s just one of those things we’ve just become accustomed to. It’s a hassle, but that’s they way it is, you know? We just live with it.”

Daylight saving time first started during World War II when President Roosevelt made it official.The goal was to save energy for the troops. Most states never made the switch back to year-round standard time, except Arizona and Hawaii.

“Let’s be a trailblazer,” Cantrell said. “Our state needs to lead, so let’s lead on this.”

Cantrell said his proposal won’t see any action this year, but he is working to get a proposed amendment with three different options on the ballot in 2020. If the majority of voters want to stay on daylight saving time, the state would have to get federal approval. If the public votes to stay on standard time, the change could be made with just voter approval, Cantrell said.

House Bill 628 would keep Georgia state government on Standard Time and does not require federal approval. House Bill 630 would keep Georgia on Daylight Savings Time permanently.

This morning at 8 AM, the Senate Science & Technology Committee will hear House Bill 481, the fetal heartbeat bill. From WSB radio:

Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban most abortions as soon as a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the womb, which is usually about six weeks into a pregnancy. The measure, House Bill 481, has sparked a fierce and emotional debate over the point life begins and the role of government in health care.

The legislation comes at a time when several states are tackling the issue of abortion, from similar measures that would limit access in states such as Kentucky and Tennessee to bills guaranteeing access in Illinois and New York.

Many of the bills that have sought to limit access have run into legal trouble. Every “heartbeat bill” that has passed across the country so far has been overturned in a state or federal court, while in other states the bills were never signed into law.

Hearings on HB 481 have attracted overflow crowds of passionate advocates from both sides. Some told deeply personal stories about their own decisions. Others debated the science.

So fraught has been the debate, that lawmakers had the committee room checked for bombs before Thursday’s Senate committee hearing.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ed Setzler, said he has wanted to push legislation that puts additional limits on access to abortion since he was elected 14 years ago. If a heartbeat is what determines the end of life, he said it should also be considered when life begins.

“It’s so important we act on this,” the Acworth Republican said. “We have to protect children that have heartbeats. We know they’re part of the human community.”

The Georgia Senate is scheduled to debate House Bill 501 by State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), which regulates oyster farming and is opposed by the industry, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“It’s just overly restrictive and there’s no guarantee they’re going to do any of it,” [Oysterman Charlie] Phillips said. “Were afraid it’s going to be so restrictive it is going to be a token oyster industry and not nearly as vibrant as what it could be.”

It’s a bill that’s flipped the script for garnering support. Its sponsor in the house, Savannah Republican state Rep. Jesse Petrea, finds himself in the unusual position of supporting more regulation from the Department of Natural Resources, which wrote the bill. And environmental groups like One Hundred Miles, which typically support regulation, are in the novel position of urging less of it.

There’s also political intrigue in the story. Brunswick state Rep. Jeff Jones, a Republican, has worked on an oyster industry bill since June.

“Prior to my involvement our regulatory agencies have been dinking around with this issue for 15 years and had not moved the ball forward,” Jones told the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

Petrea holds that this bill is better than no bill and that any problems with it can be fixed through DNR’s regulatory process or through the legislative process in the future. He said Jones was “making the perfect the enemy of the good.”

“This is creating an industry in Georgia that does not exist today,” he told the committee Tuesday.

The Rome News Tribune looks at local legislation affecting Floyd County.

House Bill 602 will create the Rome Building Authority. HB 603 will boost the pay of Floyd County Board of Education members to $600 a month from $400 a month.

Legislation that affects only local entities does not have to meet the Crossover Day deadline. Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said bills requested unanimously by the entities involved typically sail through both chambers.

The Rome Building Authority will be able to issue bonds for school construction projects backed by the education local option sales tax.

It was requested by the City Commission and city school board. Members of the authority will be the mayor, city manager and school superintendent.

HB 603 was requested by the county school board. It also includes a provision for reimbursement of their travel expenses outside the county and will be effective the month after it’s signed by the governor.

Lula City Council will consider asking the General Assembly for local legislation creating a development authority, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Lula City Council will vote Monday on whether to move forward in establishing the authority. If the Council agrees to the idea, it will be introduced in the Georgia General Assembly, which will need to approve the proposal before the authority can get to work.

The development authority would cover Lula’s water and sewer service area, reaching outside city limits. Because the authority’s coverage area would go into unincorporated Hall County, the county will appoint two of the authority’s seven members. Lula’s mayor would be an automatic member.

The city already has the Lula Downtown Development Authority, which Mayor Jim Grier chaired for seven years before getting elected.

Gwinnett County‘s decision on the transit referendum tomorrow could have ramifications for the rest of Metro Atlanta, according to CityLab.

If MARTA wins, the vote would build on growing support behind a more expansive transit future for the Atlanta area. That momentum started in 2014, when Clayton County voters approved a penny sales tax to build out bus and rail service and continued when Atlanta area voters agreed to pay the same to improve core MARTA service in 2016. The stakes are high: Success in Gwinnett could trigger Cobb County and other parts of metro Atlanta to get behind MARTA, too.

But if it fails, transit supporters may face a steeper climb in rallying future support in new areas. “Cobb’s leadership would balk at pushing for it,” said Brionte McCorkle, the executive director of Georgia Conservation Voters. “Gwinnett is the domino.”

The vote is likely be close, according to polls; it will all come down to turnout, McCorkle said. The nonprofit she leads is one of many organizations rallying voter support ahead of next week’s special election, which is being pitched as a referendum on the state’s future. The New Georgia Project—the grassroots campaign formed by Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who nearly unseated Republican Brian Kemp in last November’s gubernatorial race—has been pulling out the stops, knocking on 75,000 doors and texting 100,000 voters so far. The “Yes to MARTA” committee, spearheaded by the Georgia Sierra Club, has been doing outreach for 60,000 voters identified as environmentally conscious, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials are sending out mailers to tens of thousands of Latino households in the county.

Unsurprisingly, polling indicates that race and age play a big role in predicting support for the MARTA expansion, said Stacey Mink, a communications director for the Working Families Party. Polls show that people of color under 40 are more likely to support the referendum (they’re also more likely to ride transit), while older white voters are more inclined to less so. “We have to turn out young, diverse voters if we’re going to win on March 19,” she said in an email to CityLab.

But young people of color are statistically less likely to vote than older whites, and they’re even less likely to cast ballots in special elections. “We knew that this would pass during a general election. It was a heartbreaker,” McCorkle said, when [Gwinnett County Republicans] scheduled it for this month, instead.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“I don’t think anybody is expecting a blow out on either side,” Brian Robinson, a spokesman for the pro-MARTA group Go Gwinnett, said. “It’s going to be close.”

Voters will go to their regular voting precincts between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday to decide what to do about the MARTA question. The ballot question does not specifically state the contract is with MARTA or reference how the county’s participation in the transit system would be paid for.

“The vote is for a contract that is as favorable of a deal as Gwinnett County or any other county will ever get,” [Robinson] said. “It maintains local control while also giving Gwinnett three seats on the MARTA board.”

But United Tea Party of Georgia President David Hancock disagrees with the argument that there are benefits to joining MARTA. He said there are a few issues that have to be taken into consideration, including advancing autonomous vehicle technology and data which he said shows transit ridership is declining.

Hancock also said data contradicts the argument that transit would relieve congestion.

“There’s no evidence that increasing money for public transportation reduces congestion,” he said. “Before I did the research, I sort of figured that out on my own because I realized if you’re driving to work and it takes you 30 minutes to get to work and you’re OK with that and then it goes up to 45 minutes, you may say, ‘You know what I’m tired of this. I don’t want to do this anymore.’

The AJC looks at other Metro Atlanta elections taking place tomorrow.

Voters across metro Atlanta will go to the polls Tuesday to decide on an array of ballot questions, from electing a new commissioner for the Cherokee County Commission to extending a SPLOST another five years for Clayton County Schools to a choosing an Atlanta City Council member to serve out of the term of longtime member Ivory Lee Young Jr., who died in November.

Clayton County Schools is hoping voters approve the extension of its newest SPLOST. Continuation of the penny sales tax for the district would raise $280 million over the next five years.

Incumbent city of Hapeville Alderman at Large Michael Rast will square off against candidate Rod Mack in Tuesday’s special election for the seat Rast has held since 2017.

Antonio Molina and Tod Warner are competing for a seat on the Snellville City Council.

In addition, Snellville residents will decide whether to support the Sunday Brunch bill to allow Sunday alcohol sales to begin at 11 a.m.

Whitfield County early voting for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum is up compared to four years ago, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, the last day of early voting, 1,422 people had cast their ballots, according to the Whitfield County elections office. Early voting began Feb. 25 and continued weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Whitfield County Courthouse.

By comparison, 650 people voted during the 2015 SPLOST early voting period. All together, 3,915 people voted in that election, or 10.26 percent of registered voters. By comparison, 8,781 people voted during early voting in November 2018, and 24,937 people voted overall, or 59.57 percent of registered voters. Whitfield County has about 40,000 registered voters.

Whitfield County residents go to the polls on Tuesday to vote on the proposed six-year, 1 percent SPLOST that expects to bring in $100 million. If approved, the SPLOST would begin on July 1 of this year. The current four-year SPLOST expires on June 30 and is on pace to collect $64 million. A SPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax on most goods and services bought in the county.

The Glynn County Commission will likely continue discussing restrictions on short-term rentals, according to The Brunswick News.

“We’re going to have a meeting with Host Compliance, and we may be finalizing a contract with them, but we’ll have to see how that works out,” said Commissioner Peter Murphy. “They have experience in probably 100 municipalities and counties, and they’ve established a best-practices program where they can monitor activity and ensure compliance with local laws.”

Host Compliance held a teleconference with the commission in July 2018, during which representatives of the company explained their methods for tracking rentals and making sure they adhere to local ordinances.

“We want to level the playing field for all rental properties, we want to ensure safety and occupancy issues are addressed and we want to make sure all rental properties are complying with the (bed) tax as it is written,” Murphy said.

While it would ultimately be up to the rest of the commissioners, Murphy said he hopes to take a vote on whether to enter into a contract with Host Compliance at the Tuesday meeting.

Macon-Bibb County is preparing to close a landfill, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The landfill closure is the second most expensive special purpose local option sales tax project. It falls behind the $40 million budgeted for a major Bibb County courthouse addition.

Even after the landfill shuts down, there will be on-going costs including those associated with 30 years of maintaining and environmental monitoring before it can be re-purposed into something like a park, [interim solid waste department director Pat] Raines said.

Former Bibb County Manager Dale Walker agreed to pay $10,000 fine to the SEC after being charged with fraud involving the county pension plan, according to the Macon Telegraph.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 15, 2019

On March 15, 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated at a meeting of the Senate.

On March 15, 40 BC, Octavian executed 300 Senators and knights in vengeance for Caesar’s death.

On March 15, 1758, Georgia’s Royal Governor Henry Ellis signed legislation dividing the colony into eight parishes, primarily for religious administration, but with some parishes having secondary government functions.

On March 17, 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City by Irish serving in the British army; the date commemorates the death of St. Patrick in 461. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah, Georgia was held in 1813.

On March 16, 1861, delegates in Savannah unanimously ratified the Confederate Constitution and voted to have a new state constitution drafted.

On March 17, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation granting African-Americans the same rights as whites for contracts, suits, inheritance, property, and punishments for violation of the law.

On March 15, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge negotiated bank loans totalling $2 million dollars to keep the state’s public schools open.

On March 17, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed a joint resolution of the state legislature to place a plaque on the wall of the Georgia Capitol commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Georgia.

On March 15, 1943, Sea Island was officially named as Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation designating the island that had informally been given several different names.

On March 17, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation creating a commission to revise the 1877 Constitution of Georgia.

On March 15, 1980, USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. Vinson was the first Navy ship named after a living American.

On March 16, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Illinois Democratic Primary. His spiritual successor President Barack Obama, from Illinois, would visit Carter’s home state of Georgia on March 16, 2012.

Howard “Bo’ Callaway, the father of the modern Georgia Republican Party, died on March 15, 2014.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the last day of early voting for the Gwinnett County MARTA referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Today is the final day of the three week early voting period for the referendum, in which Gwinnett voters are being asked whether a contract to join MARTA should be approved. Passage of the referendum means 1 percent sales tax would be levied so the county can be a part of the regional transit system.

Voters who doesn’t cast a ballot by 7 p.m. today at the elections headquarters in Lawrenceville or at one of seven satellite voting locations will have to go to their regular assigned polling location Tuesday, which is the referendum date. County officials have previously said no votes can be cast at the elections headquarters on the day of the referendum.

As of Wednesday night, 25,616 Gwinnett voters had cast advance in person ballots during early voting.

Democrat Stacey Abrams met with former Vice President Joe Biden to divide up the spoils discuss the future, according to the Associated Press.

Biden, 76, who served as President Barack Obama’s closest adviser, is on the cusp of deciding whether he’ll make his third run for the presidency. Abrams, 45, narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race last November. She is being heavily recruited to run for the Senate in 2020, but she’s not ruled out making a presidential bid herself. She also could be considered as a vice presidential running mate.

A person close to Abrams confirmed the meeting, saying it was set at Biden’s request. The person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Biden and Abrams represent starkly different identities for a Democratic Party in flux, with one an aging white man who is the consummate Washington politician and the other an up-and-coming black woman from Generation X who has become a national political celebrity even in defeat. Her star climbed higher when she delivered the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last month.

If Abrams doesn’t run or doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, she could be a vice presidential pick, especially if Biden or another white candidate won the nomination. There is wide agreement across the Democratic spectrum that the party will require a 2020 ticket with some racial and gender balance.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan will support legislation term-limiting him, according to the Gainesville Times.

State Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, will propose a constitutional amendment creating a term limit for Georgia’s lieutenant governor position.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said in a statement Thursday that he supports the idea.

“The Office of Lt. Governor is no place for academic tenure,” Duncan said. “Individuals elected to this office should focus solely on serving Georgians, and no Lt. Governor should consider this post a permanent home.”

Georgia Senate plans to take over Hartsfield-Jackson airport could run into obstacles in the Georgia House and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to 11Alive.

Just before the legislative session started in January, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told reporters he saw no need to scrap a management structure that has been running the airport “pretty well.” The Senate bill was assigned to the House Rules Committee rather than the Transportation Committee, where legislation regarding airports is typically referred to, at least initially, Atlanta Business Chronicle reported.

[T]he Federal Aviation Administration would have to approve an ownership transfer.

Under a policy the FAA adopted in 2016 during an effort by the state of North Carolina to take over Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, the federal agency will not consider a transfer application if the local parties involved don’t agree on the plan.

Doug Selby, the city’s bond counsel, told the Senate committee the current lease agreements signed by Delta Air Lines Inc. and other carriers at Hartsfield-Jackson prohibit a transfer of ownership. Delta CEO Ed Bastian has spoken out publicly against the takeover bill. Selby also cited a letter from the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission stating a change in ownership could dampen investment in the revenue bonds that finance airport operations.

House Bill 316 by State Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) passed the Georgia Senate and is headed for Governor Kemp’s desk, according to The Brunswick News.

The Senate approved the legislation by substitute Wednesday, and the House voted to concur with the Senate amendment, eliminating the need for a conference committee and allowing the bill to clear the General Assembly.

State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem and the lead sponsor of the bill, said it had five amendments requested by Democrats that were incorporated into H.B. 316, though several of these just codified what was already expected practice or specified in other rules or instructions.

From the Associated Press:

Republican lawmakers and many county election officials say the electronic ballot marking devices will be the easiest to administer and can accommodate all Georgians, including those with disabilities.

But Democrats and cybersecurity experts say the machines are hackable and that hand-marked paper ballots would be cheaper and more secure.

Systems using electronic ballot markers include touchscreen computers, where voters make their selections and then print a paper ballot. Under the legislation, voters will have a chance to review a summary of selections on their ballot printout before putting it through a scanner, where votes are tallied. Setups from different vendors vary, but many offer ballot printouts that include text summaries as well as barcodes where voter selections are encoded for tabulation.

House Bill 514 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), creating a new Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission, passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, according to Georgia Health News.

The commission would be authorized to take ‘’a very deep dive’’ into the state’s mental health system, said Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), lead sponsor of House Bill 514. He said Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) have all worked on the commission proposal.

The 23-member panel would include “unbiased’’ experts in the mental health and substance abuse fields, Tanner said. He likened it to the criminal justice reform commission launched by former Gov. Nathan Deal.

The House has already approved the bill 152-10.

The Senate panel’s vote for a behavioral health commission came on the same day a House panel canceled a hearing on high-profile legislation to let Gov. Kemp seek federal health care waivers. Such waivers, if granted, would allow Georgia to extend health coverage to more low-income people.

The chairman of the special House committee on health care access, Richard Smith (R-Columbus), told GHN that the panel wasn’t yet ready to take up Senate Bill 106, which has the potential to increase Medicaid enrollment as well as change rules in the state’s health insurance exchange.

House Bill 481 by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Cobb) was heard by the Senate Science & Technology Committee yesterday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A Georgia Senate committee listened to emotional testimony Thursday over a proposal that would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The committee did not take a vote, and it was unclear when they might.

Abortion opponents across the country are hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court — with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will either reverse Roe v. Wade, or uphold specific state laws that could undermine the court’s 1973 ruling establishing the right of women to abort a fetus that can’t survive outside the womb.

Similar “heartbeat” legislation passed the GOP-controlled Ohio Senate on Wednesday and was approved by the Tennessee House last week. Several other states including Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina are also considering similar legislation.

The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest, but only when the woman files a police report first, and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

Some changes have been made since House passage, including to allow a pregnant woman to pursue child support from the father for direct medical and pregnancy expenses.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has come out in favor of the anti-abortion proposal.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission is considering turning over management of the water system to the Macon Water Authority and imposing a new management fee, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Floyd County Superior Court will implement a family accountability court, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“These are some of the hardest cases we have to deal with,” Judge Jack Niedrach said Thursday during a presentation to Rome Rotary Club members on the state of the local judiciary.

“Drug use and mental health are often issues; there’s rarely enough money for two households; and then there are instances of abuse — spousal and child abuse,” he added.

Niedrach said Chief Judge Bryant Durham is working with Judge Kay Ann Wetherington, who was sworn into office in January, to set up a family accountability court. The goal: to find solutions other than incarceration to problems in local homes.

The family court will join the mental health court Niedrach started and the drug court over which Judge Billy Sparks presides. Niedrach said accountability courts — part of the criminal justice reforms spearheaded by former governor Nathan Deal in the past few years — are proving effective.

Lawrenceville City Council member David Still will run for Mayor after incumbent Judy Johnson announced she will not run for reelection, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The first-term councilman and Lawrenceville native has served on the City Council since 2016, but he joined the Downtown Development Authority in 2012 and currently serves on both boards. He also served various duties in the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association from 2006 to 2010.

He was also former Councilman Tony Powell’s campaign manager in 2010.

“I’ve always felt, to be on the council, you needed to be engaged and understand (the city government) in some form as a volunteer and I consider the council position a volunteer position and a servant position,” Still said. “Then, to be mayor, you need to have served some time on the council so you understand how it works.”

The first-term councilman and Lawrenceville native has served on the City Council since 2016, but he joined the Downtown Development Authority in 2012 and currently serves on both boards. He also served various duties in the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association from 2006 to 2010.

He was also former Councilman Tony Powell’s campaign manager in 2010.

“(I want) to just continue to make (the city) healthy, to find a way to create that live, work, play community so that where you work, where go to church, where you go to play, where you live, you’re building community — you have all of those relationships,” Still said.

Thomas Mahoney, III was reppointed Chairman of the Chatham County Board of Elections through 2022, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chairman job functions include acting as the board’s spokesperson and participating in Election Day by visiting polling places and being present in the elections office during the entire tabulation period. The chairman also provides oversight of the elections supervisor and assistant elections supervisor on job duties and responsibilities by spending at least two hours per week in the office. The position pays $600 a month.

The board has attracted increased scrutiny following the Nov. 6 midterm election, with about a dozen speakers at the subsequent meeting complaining about long lines and waiting times, an inadequate amount of voting machines, poorly trained poll workers, and a lack of provisional and sample ballots.

Dozens of residents had also called for the resignation of Mahoney and Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges. Mahoney and Bridges disputed some of the claims as being inaccurate, while acknowledging there were some problems that did occur that day. The complexity of the ballot, which included lengthy amendments many voters had not read ahead of time, a difficulty finding poll workers, and a turnout that rivaled a presidential election was also cited by Bridges as a cause of the long waits.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 14, 2019

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879.

S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, was born on March 14, 1921.

Elvis Presley played the Fox Theater in Atlanta on March 21, 1956.

The largest traffic accident in Georgia history occurred on March 14, 2001 on I-75 in Catoosa County, involving 125 cars, injuring 39 people and killing 5.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections




8:00 AM HOUSE Insurance Life & Health Subcommittee 415 CLOB


10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 32) House Chamber







2:00 PM – Senate Mystery Committee/Wildcard





2:00 PM HOUSE Occupational/Professional Licensing Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 515 CLOB





Georgia Exports exceeded $40.5 billion dollars in 2018, according to the Albany Herald.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Wednesday that Georgia’s 2018 international trade numbers set a new record with exports surpassing $40.5 billion. This reflects a 9 percent increase over 2017.

Kemp said total trade between Georgia and the world spanned 223 countries and territories, reaching a new high at $139.3 billion.

“Trade is a vital part of our state’s economy, and it is exciting to see Georgia products in such high demand across the globe,” Kemp said. “I thank Gov. (Sonny) Perdue and Gov. (Nathan) Deal for prioritizing Georgia’s success on the international stage and their commitment to expanding our state’s trade industry. With nearly 90 percent of exporters classified as small businesses, the 2018 trade numbers showcase the strength and diversity of Georgia’s economy.”

Georgia reclaimed its rank last year as the 11th-largest exporting state in the United States, and in the past decade Georgia exports have grown by 71 percent. Companies in Georgia exported to 212 unique countries and territories. The top five markets for Georgia products were Canada, Mexico, China, Germany and Singapore.

The United States Department of Defense included $86 million in its new budget for new hangars near Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“The hangars at Hunter Army Airfield are more than 50 years old and are not in suitable condition to meet the needs of the Army’s aviation units,” said Carter. “In fact, the Army has even rated the hangars at Hunter as a ‘failing facility.’ This is completely unacceptable and it has been a top priority of mine to ensure our military has what it needs to be the most well equipped and well prepared force on the planet.”

The proposed DOD budget also includes $24 million for new hangars at the Air National Guard’s Air Dominance Center off Robert B. Miller Jr. Road.

“A new hangar will help facilitate more training exercises and more units at the Air Dominance Center,” said Carter. “A new hangar is especially necessary to accommodate the fifth-generation fighters that utilize the facility for exercises. The Air Dominance Center is an elite training center and I will continue looking for ways to support their important work.”

The South Carolina State House is considering legislation aiming to stop the lowering of the Savannah River, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

South Carolina legislators are trying to use an amendment to a bill to block lowering the pool of water in the Savannah River through a proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan by keeping a key state agency from issuing a permit to the Corps.

The state’s governor and attorney general are also vowing to fight to keep the pool from being lowered, said Rep. William “Bill” Hixon, R-North Augusta.

The South Carolina House of Representatives passed what is called a proviso to a bill that would essentially prevent S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control from issuing a permit to the Corps if it plans to carry through on a recommended plan to replace New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam with a rock weir fish passage that would leave the pool nearly two feet lower on average at the Fifth Street Bridge by downtown Augusta. Hixon said he is confident the Senate will also pass it and Gov. Henry McMaster will sign it because he has already approved the language in the bill.

House Bill 316 by State Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) passed the State Senate, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The state Senate on Wednesday approved a House plan calling for the statewide purchase of new electronic touchscreen voting machines that print a paper ballot.

The vote, along party lines, comes just months after a highly contentious race for Georgia governor, and amid several lawsuits challenging the state’s handling of elections and a probe by U.S. House Democrats.

A conference committee will be appointed to iron out the differences between the two versions and Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign it into law.

But Robert Brady, Floyd County’s chief elections clerk, said he’s not convinced the new system will be ready to use in the 2020 elections. Brady, a member of the Georgia Elections Officials Association who’s been involved in the testing and discussions, said there’s a lot to get done in a year.

“First they have to pick a system,” he told the county’s board of elections members Tuesday. “There are nine official — seven real — contenders and they haven’t decided which one to buy.”

“The state will pay for the bulk of this,” Brady told his board. “They have about $180 million allocated … But it appears the counties will get stuck with the training for deputies. This is some of the turmoil.”

From The Brunswick News:

The bill is favored by the governor and legislative Republican leadership, though generally opposed by Democrats and even some Republicans — notably the conservative group FreedomWorks — because of a number of factors that include possible corruption, undefined cost to the state and localities, problems with auditing and unreliability of the machines themselves. Opponents frequently point to hand-marked paper ballots as the preferred alternative.

“The audit language itself in this bill is extremely weak,” state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said. “It doesn’t require any risk-limiting audits, except for the pilot program, which is in one county. It doesn’t require them after that. So, all this talk about audits — not only can you not even do them with these machines, the bill doesn’t even say we’re going to have them anyway. What a joke. The pre-certification audit isn’t even a risk-limiting audit in this bill — it’s a tabulation audit, and there is a difference. Shame on any of you who have not bothered to ask that question.”

From the AJC:

The partisan divide over how to best safeguard democracy in Georgia comes after November’s heated race for governor. Democrat Stacey Abrams, who opposes electronic voting, alleged that widespread problems with voting machines caused inaccurate counts, while Kemp said the state’s voting system conclusively showed he won.

Members of both political parties agreed on one thing: Georgia should switch to a voting system that includes a paper ballot to check electronic vote counts. Georgia is one of just four states that relies entirely on electronic voting machines without a verifiable paper trail, along with Delaware, Louisiana and South Carolina.

Georgia would become the first state in the country to rely entirely on ballot-marking devices for every voter on Election Day. Some jurisdictions in 24 states use similar voting systems, often to assist voters with disabilities.

Republican Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis said he fears paper ballots completed with a pen could be used to manipulate election results. He suspected fraud occurred during his campaign for office in 1998, when initial results showed he had won by 23 votes but an additional 151 paper ballots appeared during a recount, handing the election to his opponent.

“Paper ballots are a way to fraud an election. I for one will not stand for that,” said Mullis, who represents the Chickamauga area. “The ballot process should be the most secure place in our voting structure in America.”

House Bill 525 to restructure the Georgia International Maritime Trade Center Authority passed out of the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The bill, which was sponsored by Ron Stephens (R-District 164) and passed the house last Thursday, establishes the Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority. It replaces the local authority with a state authority that provides bonding capacity, as well as a tax-exempt status for the operation of the facility, bringing the Savannah Convention Center’s operation and governance in line with other convention facilities in Georgia.

Stephens previously told the Savannah Morning News that while there is still no guarantee that the project will be funded, the move would at least put the budget request into consideration. Smith echoed those comments on Wednesday.

“We know we’re not going to get any money if we don’t have the proper structure, and the bill creates the proper structure in the governor’s mind, so whether we’ll get money because we have the proper structure is still unknown, but we know we won’t get any if we don’t have the proper structure in place,” Smith said.

The bill still has to pass the senate before the governor can sign it into law. It passed the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Wednesday afternoon and now heads to the Senate Rules Committee next week.

Senate Bill 77 by State Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Upper Left Hand Corner) would add protections to public monuments, and passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee, according to The Brunswick News.

Most talk in the House about the legislation occurred in subcommittee Tuesday, which was held in a room that so often has livestreamed meetings that the General Assembly homepage has a link to it — Room 341 in the Capitol, which is also referred to as the Appropriations Room. However, while a lot of work occurs in subcommittees, they’re rarely broadcast. Out of eight meetings held Tuesday in Room 341, to see six of them, you had to actually be physically present.

State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, livestreamed the meeting on Facebook, which may well be the only audio and visual record available to the public as to what occurred. Much of the testimony centered around Confederate monuments, though Mullis made a point of saying the legislation protects all monuments. A leader of the state Sons of Confederate Veterans testified, as did people educated in the contemporary history of when these monuments were erected.

The lead sponsor of Senate Bill 77 — state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga — was in the Senate for the debate on House Bill 316 and was unavailable for the committee meeting, so state Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, presented it. The representatives, in their questions, deftly talked around the the elephant in the room.

Gwinnett County leaders are worried about the early voting demographics in the MARTA referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Depending on who you ask in the group, which spoke at an Atlanta Press Club panel discussion in Atlanta on Monday, the March 19 referendum could — in their opinion — pass by a margin as narrow as 51.5 percent or as wide as 54 percent.

But even as Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, MARTA CEO Jeff Parker, ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker and State Road and Tollway Authority Executive Director Chris Tomlinson made those predictions, there was an undercurrent of concern.

A chief concern was that not enough young people are showing up during early voting to cast their ballots on the issue. People under 50 are believed to make up less than one-quarter of the voter turnout so far during early voting.

“It’s about the turnout,” said Nash, who predicted a 52.75 percent vote in favor of passage. “Right now, we need very much to see younger folks wake up to the fact that there is a referendum and get to the polls. I’m surprised that the younger folks are not recognizing that it’s really their future that we’re talking about with this referendum.”

Opponents of the Camden County Spaceport are speaking up at public hearings, according to The Brunswick News.

David Kyler, director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, was among those who opposed the creation of the authority and spaceport itself, saying the arguments in support of the proposal don’t add up.

“If ever licensed by the Federal Aviation Authority, so-called Spaceport Camden would be the only such facility ever approved that features inhabited areas in the flight path hazard zones where dangerous debris from launches falls to the earth,” he said in an email after the meeting.

Kevin Lang, a lawyer and Little Cumberland Island resident, said county commissioners are intent to create a spaceport, even though it’s unlikely commercial rockets will ever be launched at the site.

In the three public hearings held to discuss the creation of an authority, Lang said 47 people spoke against the spaceport and the creation of an authority, and three spoke in favor of the proposal.

Despite the public opposition expressed at the meetings, Lang predicted the General Assembly will approve the local legislation to allow the county to establish the authority.

“They’re going to approve it,” he said. “If it wasn’t a local bill, I don’t think it could pass. There’s a lot of deference to local legislation.”

Congressman Austin Scott‘s office will make a road trip in March and April, according to the Albany Herald.

staff from Scott’s Tifton and Warner Robins district offices will offer constituents assistance with a number of federal issues, ranging from Medicare and Social Security to veterans’ benefits.

“We encourage those who have questions on various issues to come by during these hours and meet privately with staff,” a news release from Scott’s office said. “Call either Rep. Scott’s Tifton office at (229) 396-5175 or Warner Robins office at (478) 971-1776 for questions regarding an upcoming mobile office.”

The Muscogee County Board of Education is considering docking the pay of elected members who miss meetings, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

District 5 representative Laurie McRae, the board’s vice chairwoman, told the Ledger-Enquirer on Wednesday that her proposals still aren’t in a written draft yet, so they might not be ready in time for the March 18 meeting. Plus, like any policy change, they would have to wait for 30 days before a vote can be taken after they are formally presented. Still, they generated debate during Monday’s work session.

According to current policies, board members are paid $1,000 per month regardless of their attendance, but three consecutive absences not excused by a majority of the board “shall be held to be a resignation” from the board.

At a Georgia School Boards Association conference in December, McRae said, she heard about another school district that pays its board members per the number of meetings they attend.

“I thought that’s a good idea,” McRae said. “… Attendance is the basic responsibility of all board members to the public taxpayers as well as to the school district and other board members. It’s an essential component of a healthy, functioning board.”

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul released his department’s 2018 report, according to the Albany Herald.

The Landings Bird Cam on Skidaway Island allows viewers to watch an osprey family in its nest, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Landings Bird Cam debuted in mid-2014 with internet-connected cameras aimed at what had been an active bald eagle nest. In the next breeding season, though, great horned owls took over and raised two owlets each in 2015 and 2016. Then ospreys moved into the site in 2017, laying eggs that year and last and successfully fledging one chick in 2018.

The camera takes in the sunrise over the marsh and captures a surprising number of other species, including recent visits by a wood stork, eagles, and bluebirds. Attentive volunteer camera operators zoom in on any action.

“From the camera we see so many of them up close and personal,” Lambright said.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 13, 2019

On March 13, 1736, the Spanish Governor of Florida complained to Georgia’s James Oglethorpe about English settlements and forts in areas claimed by Spain.

On March 13, 1868, the first impeachment trial of a United States President began in the Senate. President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House for allegations based on his Reconstruction policies that allegedly violated federal law.

Sworn in as president after Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, President Johnson enacted a lenient Reconstruction policy for the defeated South, including almost total amnesty to ex-Confederates, a program of rapid restoration of U.S.-state status for the seceded states, and the approval of new, local Southern governments, which were able to legislate “black codes” that preserved the system of slavery in all but name. The Republican-dominated Congress greatly opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction program and passed the “Radical Reconstruction” by repeatedly overriding the president’s vetoes. Under the Radical Reconstruction, local Southern governments gave way to federal military rule, and African-American men in the South were granted the constitutional right to vote.

In March 1867, in order further to weaken Johnson’s authority, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over his veto. The act prohibited the president from removing federal office holders, including Cabinet members, who had been confirmed by the Senate, without the consent of the Senate.

On March 13, 1957, Governor Marvin Griffin signed a joint resolution by the Georgia General Assembly purporting to impeach United State Chief Justice Earl Warren and associate justices Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Thomas Clark, Felix Frankfurter, and Stanley Reed, and calling on Congress to impeach the Justices.

On this date in 1992, 25 years ago, “My Cousin Vinny” was released.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Republican James Burchett appears to have won a special runoff election for House District 176, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

He beat Franklin Patten of Lakeland to fill Jason Shaw’s former Georgia House of Representative seat, according to preliminary numbers from the Georgia Secretary of State website.

Burchett will now represent District 176, which covers portions of Lowndes, Lanier, Ware and Atkinson counties.

Shaw was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to serve on the Public Service Commission this year, forcing a special election for his seat on Feb. 12.

Not including provisional ballots, a total of 4,322 ballots were counted on Election Day Tuesday for the runoff.

There are 30,340 registered voters in District 176. Less than 15 percent of voters participated in the runoff election.

Burchett of Waycross garnered the most votes with 59 percent or 2,555 votes. During the special election, he received 1,494 votes.

The race was overwhelmingly determined by Ware County’s turnout. Burchett received 1,575 votes from his home county, which is more than Patten got from every county in the special election. Patten only received 4 percent of the Ware County vote or 73 votes.

Under the  Gold Dome Today




10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 31) House Chamber


12:30 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary 132 CAP

12:45 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs Election Subcommittee 406 CLOB







2:00 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 415 CLOB




3:00 PM HOUSE Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care 341 CAP


3:00 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 415 CLOB




In Congress, Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue joined Congressman Buddy Carter in seeking to name Savannah as home to a new Air National Guard Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Air Force is considering locations to establish an additional AES to meet recommendations by the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Perdue, Isakson and Carter encouraged the Air Force to select the 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Hilton Head Air National Guard Station for the new AES.

“As the Air Force continues with its strategic basing process to establish a new Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron within the Air National Guard, we respectfully request your careful consideration of the 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Hilton Head Air National Guard Station as a top candidate to fulfill basing criteria,” the letter reads.

“It would mean a couple of things for Savannah,” said Carter. “It would mean that we would have emergency personnel located right here and that would make a whole lot of difference. Secondly, this would bring over 100 jobs to our area. It would bring jobs to our citizens. And we’ve got 10 different nursing schools right in this area that they could draw from.”

House Bill 501 by State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) was heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Environment committee, according to The Brunswick News.

Tyler Harper, the state Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee chairman, may have tried to speed along the passage of the oyster mariculture bill — House Bill 501 — by noting it had the same language in Senate Bill 182, which earlier passed the committee and the full Senate.

The discussion lasted for nearly 30 minutes, and included, at times, heated testimony to the committee by Savannah Republican state Rep. Jesse Petrea, the bill’s sponsor, and state Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island. Jones spoke first, giving background as to his experience with the subject and legislation.

“In the remaining 30 seconds that I have here, let me make it clear to this committee, this bill does not have the support of the producers, of the people, this legislation is intended to help,” Jones said. “And so, I would submit to this committee, if this legislation is not supported by those people, the oystermen and the producers and the distributors and the restauranteurs, if they do not support this legislation, I just have to ask then, why are we even considering passage of this legislation?

“If this legislation does not help those that we are working to help, and in fact will work against the growth of the mariculture industry in Georgia, then I submit to you that this bill should not be passed out of committee today.”

The State Senate will consider House Bill 316, the elections bill, today, according to the AJC.

The conflict over election integrity will be a driving force in Wednesday’s state Senate vote to switch Georgia to a $150 million voting system that combines touchscreens and printed-out paper ballots. The state’s current electronic voting machines don’t produce paper ballots.

Voters would pick their candidates on touchscreens that are attached to ballot printers. Then voters could review their printed choices before inserting their ballots into scanning machines.

The Republican majority in the Georgia General Assembly is siding with election officials who want to install the new voting machinery, called ballot-marking devices, in time for next year’s presidential primary election. The measure, House Bill 316, has already passed the state House, and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp supports the voting technology.

Democratic legislators are aligned with cybersecurity experts who prefer paper ballots bubbled in with pens, a voting method that avoids the inherent risks of a computerized system.

The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed House Bill 316, which would change election procedures, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 316 would, among other things, standardize the voting equipment of all Georgia counties, open new avenues for voter registration and change the rules on voting precinct realignments and polling place closures.

The state House of Representatives approved the bill last month, and the Senate plans to take up the discussion today.

Board Chairwoman Patty Gibson asked Channell if the state plans to purchase all the new machines needed or just the touchscreen voting equipment.

“As far as additional expenses, I don’t foresee any because right now we have all those same expenses that we have currently with absentee ballots and provisional ballots,” Channell said.

Gibson responded that she wanted to be absolutely sure before the county gets too deep into the budgeting process for the fiscal year 2019-2020.

The AJC hosted a public forum on Gwinnett County’s MARTA referendum.

With only three days left in early voting, and voting day on March 19 still to come, about 35 county residents who are also subscribers to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution gathered at Gwinnett Technical College on Tuesday evening to hear key players discuss the referendum.

How they vote will be closely watched around the region. Gwinnett County’s MARTA decision could boost momentum for transit expansion in other counties across metro Atlanta. Or it could sidetrack those efforts for years to come. The referendum’s outcome is expected to provide a glimpse of a changing attitude toward MARTA and public transit — a traditionally hard sell outside Fulton and DeKalb counties where the state’s largest transit agency operates. Cobb County officials are aiming to hold a transit referendum in 2022, but no concrete plans have been approved.

If voters approve it, the transit plan between Gwinnett and MARTA would span 30 years and includes a heavy rail connection to MARTA’s Gold Line with a station in Norcross. Bus service would add rapid bus and bus rapid transit and serve riders in most parts of Gwinnett. Current bus routes reach Lawrenceville and the southwest part of the county.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is calling on Atlanta’s business community to oppose House Bill 481, the abortion bill in the state Senate, according to the AJC.

Corporate powers and business groups explode in outrage each time a “religious liberty” measure surfaces in Georgia. Stacey Abrams wants to know why a bill that would outlaw most abortions isn’t triggering the same reaction.

The Democrat on Tuesday called on the powerful coalition to rally against House Bill 481, which would ban most abortions as soon as doctors can detect a heartbeat – as early as six weeks.

“It’s very short-sighted for the business community not to be engaged right now,” said Abrams. “Because once this bill is signed into law, that becomes the reputation of Georgia.”

[B]usiness boosters have said little about the abortion bill, which has earned support from Kemp and other Republican leaders. The governor, for one, said the restrictions preserve the sanctity of life and help uphold his campaign promises.

“I campaigned on signing the toughest abortion bill in the country,” he said, “and this is the toughest one we’ve got in the Legislature now.”

Two candidates are running for a seat on the Lowndes County Board of Education for District 2, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The district, which represents the southeast part of Valdosta, has been vacant since Vanassa Flucas announced her departure during the Aug. 28, 2018, city school board meeting.

Instead of filling it then, the board voted to wait until special elections this month.

Only District 2 residents can vote to fill the seat.

E-SPLOST, a one-cent sales tax that goes toward both city schools and Lowndes County schools, is also on the ballot. If passed, the proposed E-SPLOST would go into effect when the current education special purpose local option sales tax ends.

Early voting for the two races lasts until Friday, March 15, and Election Day is March 19.

Five candidates for Augusta Commission District 5 met voters in a forum, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

As of Tuesday, only 95 people had voted early ahead of the election next week.

Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson announced she will not run for reelection this year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Johnson said she has decided to not seek re-election when her office is up for re-election this fall, meaning nearly a decade of leadership at the top of Lawrenceville’s government will come to and end at the conclusion of 2019.

With several redevelopment projects in the city either underway or in the planning stages, Johnson said she felt it was the right time to step away from life as an elected official. Those projects that are being worked on will ensure whoever the next mayor is will have steady ground to stand on, she said.

But the former mayor — who also spent six years on the City Council from 2003 to 2008 — looked back on what has been accomplished through a partnership between herself, the city council, city staff and community partners and emitted a sense of both satisfaction and pride in her hometown.

Democrat Jasper Wilkins announced he will run again for Gwinnett County Commission District 3, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Grayson resident Jasper Watkins III, who was the Democratic party’s nominee for the seat in 2016 and narrowly missed pushing Commissioner Tommy Hunter into a recount, has confirmed he plans to run for the seat again next year. The retired Army officer said he filed his paperwork earlier this year.

“District 3 is our county’s ‘Last Frontier’ and we’ve got to make some serious changes to ensure our growth and continued prosperity,” Watkins said in a statement. “While I truly believe our county elected officials serve with the best of intentions, our existing commission can be improved upon.

So far, Watkins and Snellville insurance adjuster Derrick Wilson are the only candidates who have publicly announced candidacies for the seat. Hunter, the Republican incumbent, has not yet formally said whether he will seek re-election.

Macon is considering how to reduce pedestrian accidents, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“I found that Macon was leading the state in pedestrian deaths, and it bothered me,” said Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas.

Lucas helped start the Macon-Bibb County Pedestrian Safety Review Board four years ago. The group consists of regular citizens, traffic engineers, public health and education officials, and the Bibb sheriff’s office.

“Macon should not lead the state, and be way up there in the nation for pedestrian deaths, we just shouldn’t be,” she said. “It’s an important health issue, public health issue, public safety issue, and one that we are finding that we can address.”

It’s still a problem. Pedestrian deaths last year in Macon/Bibb County reached 14, the highest total in at least seven years. Three deaths occurred over just one weekend.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is budgeted for $130 million dollars in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga., 1st District), have all pushed to secure full capability funding to keep SHEP on track in fiscal year 2020.

Prior to the administration’s 2020 budget planning, Isakson, Perdue, Carter and the Georgia U.S. House delegation wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, noting the project is getting close to its final stages and asking for $130 million to keep the project on schedule, according to Casey Black, spokesperson for Perdue.

Isakson, Perdue and Carter also met with Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James to discuss the fiscal year 2020 budget request Feb. 14 in Isakson’s Washington office.

Carter, Perdue and Isakson all praised President Trump and his administration for the funding.

“I want to thank President Trump, OMB Director Mulvaney and Acting Director Vought and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James for the highest budget request for SHEP to date,” Carter said. “This again proves their understanding of the critical importance of this project for America and the need to keep it on time and on track. We have fought tirelessly for this federal support and we will continue this work until it becomes a reality. With a benefit to cost ratio of 7.3 to 1, there is no time to waste.”

James said the civil works budget for the Corps reflects the Trump administration’s priorities for water resources infrastructure.

From the Statesboro Herald:

Trump’s budget request for fiscal 2020 would be the federal government’s largest annual expenditure yet on the $976 million Savannah harbor expansion. The figure was contained in the Army Corps of Engineers’ detailed civil works budget Tuesday, the day after the White House released Trump’s broader $4.7 trillion proposed budget.

“That is wonderful, wonderful news,” said Rep. Buddy Carter, the Georgia Republican whose district includes Savannah. “We’re halfway through, but that does us no good. We need to be completely through before we see the benefits. I think the administration has finally caught on to that.”

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia noted in a statement he’s been fighting to deepen the Savannah harbor for his entire two decades in Congress.

“With this announcement, the finish line is finally in sight,” Isakson said.

Trump’s $130 million budget request would put the harbor expansion on target for completion in 2022, GOP Sen. David Perdue of Georgia said in a news release.

Operation Gunsmoke in Georgia and South Carolina netted 26 indictments, allegedly targeting violent gangs, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The investigations were initiated by the Regional Anti-Gang Enforcement Task Force of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Bobby L. Christine, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. According to a news release from Christine’s office, investigations began in 2017 of a member of the Bloods street gang who is alleged to have coordinated criminal activity while being held in the Aiken County Detention Center awaiting retrial for murder in a 2008 drug-related home invasion.

ATF agents in Georgia and South Carolina identified multiple targets in the investigation. Nine were named in 25 criminal charges listed in three indictments by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia, while 17 additional defendants have been indicted in the South Carolina district.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 12, 2019

On March 12, 1739, James Oglethorpe, recognized as the Founder of Georgia, wrote the Georgia Trustees, urging them to continue the ban on slavery in the new colony.

Juliette Gordon Low held the first meeting of the Girl Guides, which would later be renamed the Girl Scouts, in her home in Savannah, Georgia on March 12, 1912.

Gianni Agnelli was born on March 12, 1921 in Turin, Italy, and would come to be the wealthiest man in Italy, head and principal shareholder of Fiat, and recognized as an Italian Senator for Life in 1991. Among those who follow fashion, Agnelli has long been recognized as an archetype of the Italian approach to menswear.

His style was about more than clothes—it was an attitude, a philosophical response to absurdity. Watching him could tell you how to live, how to behave. In Italy, they call it sprezzatura, making the difficult look easy. Americans are gonzo, a spirit personified by Hunter S. Thompson, who defined it as a man who learns to fly by falling out of a plane. Agnelli might look gonzo—especially on nights when he showed up in boots and an ill-fitting tie—but was, in fact, sprezzatura; he knew how to fly all along. “When he was not perfectly dressed, it was contrived,” says Taki Theodoracopulos, the writer, columnist, socialite and son of a Greek shipping tycoon. Taki is one of the few surviving members of Agnelli’s social circle. “The tie askew, the unbuttoned shirt—nothing was an accident. Or, to put it another way, it was meant to be an accident, which made it even more stylish.”

Clarence Thomas, originally from Pin Point, Georgia, was sworn in to the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on March 12, 1990.

R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 12, 2007.

Happy birthday to former Atlanta Braves slugger Dale Murphy.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today



9:00 AM HOUSE Insurance -Admin/Licensing Subcommittee 514 CLOB


9:00 AM HOUSE Powell Subcommittee of Public Safety & Homeland Security 515 CLOB


9:30 AM HOUSE Environmental Quality Subcommittee of Natural Resources and Environment 606 CLOB



10:00 AM HOUSE Kelley Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP


11:30 AM HOUSE Governmental Affairs Elections Subcommittee 341 CAP


1:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs State & Local Government Subcommittee 341 CAP

1:30 PM HOUSE Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Finance and Policy 132 CAP













Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent the weekend in Georgia at Sea Island, according to The Brunswick News.

In addition to VP Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also attended the American Enterprise Institute’s annual World Forum on Sea Island. The conservative think tank’s yearly gathering of political and economic bigwigs is an extremely discreet affair, and some top members of the Brunswick and Glynn County police departments stepped up to ensure the event was uneventful from a security standpoint.

Members of the two law enforcement agencies provided security escorts for Pence, Pompeo and others from the local airport to Sea Island, said Brunswick Police Chief Kevin Jones. Police SWAT team members from both departments provided round-the-clock security on the private resort island as well, he said. Members of Brunswick’s K9 team also took part providing security.

Pence and Pompeo both flew into the into the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport on Friday and departed late Saturday, Jones said. The local law enforcement officers worked in conjunction with the secret service, department of state and other federal agencies, said Glynn County Police Chief John Powell.

Brunswick and Glynn County SWAT team members were stationed on the island throughout the event, which also drew former Vice President Dick Cheney, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and AOL cofounder Steve Case.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is leaving the door open to a national campaign, according to the AJC.

Stacey Abrams raised the possibility of a White House run Monday in a series of social media posts and public remarks, saying that she once thought the soonest she could campaign for president was 2028 but that a bid next year is now “definitely on the table.”

Abrams had previously refused to rule out a campaign for president, but her comments Monday made clear she’s considering joining the growing Democratic field to challenge President Donald Trump.

“She is taking a look at all options on the table in 2020 and beyond,” [former Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo] said.

“20 years ago, I never thought I’d be ready to run for POTUS before 2028,” she said in the social media post. “But life comes at you fast – as I shared in Q&A w @Yamiche at @sxsw. Now 2020 is definitely on the table…”

Abrams has little incentive to rule out any of her options – White House, Senate or governor – too early. She’s in the middle of a nationwide tour to promote her book and has lined up speaking gigs through the Harry Walker Agency, and the element of mystery adds to the intrigue.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Abrams turned heads Monday with a tweet referencing her book, “Lead from the Outside,” in which she mentioned plans for someday running for president of the United States. In the tweet she said she had mentioned that she’d told an interviewer at the SXSW conference and festivals that she might seek the nation’s highest office far sooner than she’d planned to do so.

Governor Brian Kemp signaled openness to medical cannabis legislation, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp sounded receptive to a measure moving through the Georgia Legislature that would allow medical marijuana oil to be grown, manufactured and sold to registered patients.

The Republican told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was impressed by the “strong vote” earlier this month in the House for the measure, which would allow 60 dispensaries to serve the state’s rising number of medical marijuana patients. House Bill 324 was approved by a 123-40 vote.

“When it passes with a constitutional majority,” quipped Kemp, referring to the two-thirds support behind the bill, “it might not matter what I think.”

“I need to learn more about the bill, see what the Senate has to say,” said Kemp. “And I’m trying to understand that we are probably putting people in violation of federal law.”

Two Georgia Democratic legislators are proposing testicular regulation in response to the fetal heartbeat bill. From the Washington Times:

Men of Georgia … state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick is coming after you with her “Testicular ‘Bill of Rights’ Legislation.”

In a memo to her staff Monday morning, which she also posted on Twitter, the Democrat representing an Atlanta-area district said she wanted a bill drafted to include provisions that she laid out in a series of bullet points:

• “Require men to obtain permission from their sexual partner before they are able to obtain a prescription for Viagra or any erectile dysfunction medication.”

• “Ban vasectomy procedures in Georgia … with the name [sic] punitive measures for performing the procedure that are listed in HB481,” a reference to an anti-abortion bill currently before the Georgia House of Representatives.

• “Make it an ‘aggravated assault’ crime for men to have sex without a condom.”

• “A 24-hour ‘waiting period’ for men to purchase any porn or sex toys in the state of Georgia.”

Ms. Kendrick labeled the importance of her Testicular “Bill of Rights” order to her staff as “high” and she said in an interview with Rolling Stone that she wants the legislation ready this week.

“I’m dead serious,” she told the magazine, though she admitted her bill would have little chance of passing.

From Q Magazine Atlanta:

State Rep. Park Cannon, a Democrat from Atlanta, is gathering co-sponsors for a bill that would require men age 55 and older to “immediately report to the county sheriff or local law enforcement agency” when he “releases sperm from his testicles,” according to the AJC.

Cannon said that a 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention argued that increasing men’s involvement in family planning helps improve women’s health, according to the AJC.

“This bill helps men who are well past reproductive age to self-report when they willfully engage in conception,” she said.

The bills are largely symbolic and have little chance of passing. They’re a reaction to the House passing House Bill 481, a measure that would ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which happens at about six weeks.

State legislators are considering new rules on beachfront development on the Georgia coast, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 445, sponsored by Don Hogan (R-St. Simons island) proposes a 25-foot regulated zone between private beachfront development and either the high tide line on beaches without dunes or the landward reach of the sand dune where dunes exist. It also carves out an exemption for highly vulnerable oceanfront lots near a rock groin on the Sea Island Spit.

Environmentalists are concerned those same exemptions could also apply elsewhere on the coast where rock groins exist, such as on Tybee.

Currently the 40-year-old law defines the state’s jurisdiction by drawing a zigzag line connecting 20-foot native trees to each other and to shorefront buildings erected in 1979 or earlier.

Despite sharp criticism from Rep. Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick) and a minority report opposed to the bill, the house approved the bill Tuesday by a vote of 113-54.

Newnan Republican Lynn Smith, chair of the House Natural Resources & Environment Committee, noted that Georgia’s coastal ecosystem must be well managed because it got a B-plus on its most recent environmental report card, which focuses on human health, fisheries and wildlife. But she didn’t note that the Surfrider Foundation’s more pointed look at states’ policies to protect beaches from coastal erosion, irresponsible beach fill, sea level rise, and poorly planned coastal development gave Georgia an F in December.

House Bill 346 by State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would give tenants more rights in dealing with poor living conditions, according to the Gainesville Times.

Renters are sometimes evicted or have their rents raised when they complain to their landlords or local code enforcement agencies seeking fixes to their residences.

It could be a leaky roof, a broken appliance, rodent or bug infestations, or simply poor construction they seek to have remedied.

But because contractual leases often have stipulations that allow a landlord to evict for most any reason with, typically, a 30- or 60-day notice, renters have little legal recourse.

Georgia does not require a “warranty of habitability” that mandates housing meets basic living and health safety standards, although the warranty is usually considered implied from a legal standpoint.

In Georgia, House Bill 346 would still need to pass the Senate and receive the governor’s signature to become law.

If that happens, it would give tenants the opportunity to prove their eviction is retaliatory and have it stopped, while also placing civil penalties on the landlord.

The Georgia Senate will vote on House Bill 316, the elections bill, on Wednesday, according to The Brunswick News.

Once H.B. 316 passed out of the state House on Feb. 26 with a vote of 101-72, it went to the Senate Ethics Committee’s subcommittee on elections and voting, which is chaired by state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak. H.B. 316 passed both subcommittee and committee last week. Ligon, who also serves as the Senate sponsor for the bill, introduced it Monday to the Senate Rules Committee.

“This is the new elections bill, and it’s going to modernize our method of elections in our state,” Ligon said. “We’ll vote on electronic voting machines that’ll actually produce paper ballots so that you can see how you voted. It’ll be more secure and much better.”

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, noted today is “committee day” and they have a lot of House bills to hear and good ones to pass, but Wednesday would be reserved for H.B. 316 debate.

[Democratic Leader Senator Steve] Henson added he’s glad that will be the only legislation on the Wednesday Rules calendar, so there will be a lot of time to discuss it.

Macon-Bibb County will not have a sales tax referendum this year as legislation stalled in the General Assembly, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The first step toward a referendum would be bipartisan support among at least three of five the state House members who represent Macon-Bibb in Atlanta. But the idea of OLOST referendum — a one-penny “other local option sales tax” — does not have that much support from state lawmakers.

Democratic state Rep. Miriam Paris filed a bill on Tuesday that would have set up a vote in Macon-Bibb. But her bill is not going anywhere, she says.

In line with a request from the Macon-Bibb County Commission, her bill would have set up a public referendum on that penny-on-the-dollar sales tax.

Fellow Democrat James Beverly also signed the bill, but Paris said she wasn’t able to get a third signature. Without at least one other supporter, the bill is dead.

And the Legislature on Thursday passed a deadline that makes it almost impossible to move a bill that hasn’t already passed one chamber.

The Whitfield County Commission adopted an ordinance requiring most pets to be spayed or neutered, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

[C]ommissioners voted 3-1 to require dog and cat owners to have their pets spayed or neutered if they are six months old or older or obtain a breeder’s license from the state Department of Agriculture. Animals will also be exempt from the spay/neuter requirement if the owner provides a letter from a veterinarian saying the animal has a medical condition that would not allow the surgery.

Commissioner Harold Brooker cast the dissenting vote. Commissioner Greg Jones was absent, and board Chairman Lynn Laughter, who typically votes only when there is a tie, voted with the majority on the advice of County Attorney Robert Smalley so the measure would have three votes.

“It isn’t right that people will bring in a litter of puppies to the animal shelter for us to put down and they won’t have their female fixed,” said Commissioner Roger Crossen.

Those who violate the law face a fine of up to $1,000 but the law says any citation for a first offense will be dismissed if the owner provides medical records saying the animal has been spayed or neutered.

“I think it will help,” said Samuel Shatz, executive director of the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia. “I’m sure it won’t be 100 percent effective. No law is. But it will send a message that this is what responsible pet owners should do.”

A mother of special needs children writes about what the state could do to better supports students and families, in the Macon Telegraph.

Public school was a nightmare for my kids. To provide a less stressful environment, I chose to leave my career of 14 years as a public school teacher to home-school.

This choice is a step in the right direction for our family, but we desperately need more support. Georgia lawmakers have a unique opportunity this year to extend a vital lifeline to families like mine — those who’ve not only adopted but chosen kids with special needs.

The reality is that traditional public schools are not a one-size-fits-all solution, particularly for kids with emotional and physical challenges. We need more choices. Thankfully, there are two key ways Georgia lawmakers can empower adoptive families with the help they need this year.

The most significant step comes through Educational Scholarship Accounts. These accounts would enable us to pay for adaptive technology and therapies that we simply can’t afford on our own right now.

Another way that lawmakers can assist families like mine is by updating Georgia’s existing Special Needs Scholarship Program. As it stands, the scholarship (which has an average value of $6,672.14 for each child) allows students who are enrolled in public school for at least one year to transfer to another school (public or private) to better meet their educational needs.

Glynn County is laying the foundation for a 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum next year, according to The Brunswick News.

“I think most of the commissioners are receptive to putting in on the ballot so the voters can decide if they want to keep the SPLOST going,” said Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning. “… Anybody that comes into Glynn County, they spend a dollar they pay the tax. When we have a community of some 80-some-thousand people and we have three million visitors, they spend a lot of money here, they are all paying to finance our infrastructure upgrades, and I just don’t think you get any better than that.”

Commissioners discussed a new SPLOST project at a retreat in late February, where they were presented with a list of 84 items county staff felt were deserving of SPLOST revenue.

Voters approved SPLOST 2016 in November of that year. Tax collection began on April 1, 2017, and will continue through September 30, 2020, or until the tax raises a total of $71,595,000.

“Getting a few extra dollars from who we cater to — tourists, our surrounding counties’ visitors, I-95 travelers — I don’t think there’s an argument,” said Commissioner Bob Coleman.

Commissioners talked about a transportation SPLOST, called a TSPLOST, at their retreat in February, but did not put much stock in the idea.

“At the end of the day we’ve got millions of unmet needs, deferred maintenance and implementation projects and no appetite to raise the revenue to meet those needs,” Murphy said.

Newnan City Council approved an increase in the hotel-motel tax from five percent to eight percent, according to the Newnan Time-Herald.

The current rate of 5 percent will now increase to 8 percent, taking into consideration O.C.G.A. § 48-13-51, which allows county and municipal levies on public accommodations charges for promotion of tourism, conventions, and trade shows. The current rate of 5 percent will now increase to 8 percent, taking into consideration O.C.G.A. § 48-13-51, which allows county and municipal levies on public accommodations charges for promotion of tourism, conventions, and trade shows.

The council adopted a resolution in October 2018 requesting Rep. Lynn Smith to introduce legislation in the General Assembly of the State of Georgia to provide for revisions to the current hotel/motel tax rate.

The majority of the council voted for the tax increase, with Councilmember Dustin Koritko, as the sole no vote. He publicly stated his opposition to the matter back in October as well.

Forsyth County is revising zoning standards to allow micro-breweries and distilleries in some areas, according to AccessWDUN.