Category: Georgia Politics


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

Lyman Hall, one of three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence, was elected Governor on January 8, 1783.

Segregated seating on Atlanta buses was held unconstitutional by a federal court on January 9, 1959.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter arrived in Athens to register at the University of Georgia on January 9, 1961.

After Julian Bond’s election to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, the chamber voted against seating him ostensibly because he had publicly state his opposition to the war in Vietnam. On January 10, 1967, after the United States Supreme Court held the legislature had denied Bond his right to free speech, he was seated as a member of the State House.

On January 8, 2007, R.E.M. was announced as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s REM at their induction into the Rock Hall.

On January 8, 2014, Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were announced as incoming members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Columbus, Georgia native Frank Thomas, a long-time Chicago White Sox outfielder.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor-Elect Brian Kemp announced senior staff hires in the Executive Office of the Governor.

Governor-Elect Brian P. Kemp announced fourteen senior staff appointments who will work in the Governor’s Executive Office after his inauguration on January 14, 2019.

“I am proud of these public servants and their commitment to Georgia’s future,” said Kemp. “Together, we will spur job creation, lower taxes and insurance premiums, strengthen rural Georgia, and keep our families safe. These men and women will work around the clock to put hardworking Georgians first.”

Tim Fleming, Chief of Staff, Hometown: Covington, Georgia

Tim Fleming holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Georgia. Fleming resides in Covington with his wife, Lacey, and three children, Jackson, Colby, and Hannah. Fleming previously served as Deputy Secretary of State within the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office and Campaign Manager for the Kemp for Governor Campaign. A lifelong resident of Covington, Fleming served as a Newton County Commissioner from 2009 to 2013.

Charles Harper, Deputy Chief of Staff, Hometown: Carrollton, Georgia

Charles “Chuck” Harper holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of West Georgia. Harper resides in Carrollton with his wife, Ginger, and four children, Hayden, Greer, Greyson, and Rilyn. Harper is a business owner with companies involved in agriculture and construction, and served in the Georgia General Assembly representing State House District 88 (R – Carrollton) from 2003 to 2005.

Greg Dozier, Chief Financial Officer, Hometown: Covington, Georgia

Greg Dozier holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Georgia State University. Dozier resides in Covington with his wife, Stephanie, and two daughters, Kinsley and Payton. Dozier has extensive background in law enforcement and state government, most recently serving as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections, the fifth largest department of its kind in the United States.

Lorri Smith, Chief Operating Officer, Hometown: Covington, Georgia

Lorri Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Georgia College & State University and a master’s degree in Accounting and Financial Management from the Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University. Smith resides in Covington with her husband, Tim, and their two children, Carson and Riley. Smith previously served as Assistant Deputy Secretary of State in the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Smith will serve as Georgia’s first female Chief Operating Officer for the Governor’s Office.

Cody Whitlock, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Hometown: Gainesville, Georgia

Cody Whitlock holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Georgia. Whitlock resides in Decatur with his wife, Jackie, and dog, June Carter. Whitlock previously served as Government Affairs Liaison and Budget Analyst for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

David Dove, Executive Counsel, Hometown: Athens, Georgia

A proud “Double Dawg,” David Dove holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia. Dove resides with his family in Marietta where he is Chairman of the City’s Ethics Committee. Most recently, Dove worked as an attorney at the Robbins Firm where his practice focused on business litigation, regulatory law, and campaign finance. He was also a founding member of Robbins Government Relations.

Candice Broce, Director of Communications and Deputy Executive Counsel

Hometown: Cartersville, Georgia

Candice Broce holds a bachelor’s degree in Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Juris Doctor from Georgia State University College of Law. Broce resides in Atlanta with her husband, Jason, and toddler son, Beau Walker, along with three rescue dogs. She previously managed communications and served as legal counsel for elections and legislative affairs for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Cody Hall, Press Secretary, Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia

Cody Hall holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Georgia. Hall resides in Dawsonville with his wife, Taylor, and daughter, Vera. Hall previously served as Press Secretary for the Kemp for Governor Campaign.

Patrick Farr, Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning & Budget, Hometown: Martinez, Georgia

Patrick “Kelly” Farr holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Augusta University. Farr resides in Cumming with his wife, Jennifer, and two children, Trey and Sydney. Farr offers significant expertise in business development from his work at Lucent Technologies, Capgemini, and most recently, SAS Institute. In these capacities, Farr worked extensively with various state agencies to implement technological advances and improve constituent service. Farr also previously served as Deputy Secretary of State for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, responsible for budget management and oversight of daily operations.

Mark Hamilton, Director of External Affairs, Hometown: Kingsville, Texas

Mark Hamilton holds a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Business from Texas A&M University. Hamilton resides in Atlanta with his wife, Sandy, and previously served in the Georgia General Assembly representing State House District 24 (R – Cumming) from 2007 to 2015. During this time, Hamilton served as Chairman of the House Industry and Labor Committee.

Stuart Wilkinson, Deputy Director of External Affairs, Hometown: Sandy Springs, Georgia

Stuart Wilkinson holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Georgia College & State University. Wilkinson resides in Brookhaven with his wife, Kathleen. Wilkinson currently serves as Deputy Director of Transition for Governor-Elect Brian Kemp. He previously managed legislative and external affairs for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office after serving six years in Governor Nathan Deal’s Office.

Amelia Hawkins, Director of Executive Operations, Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Amelia Hawkins holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Georgia State University. Hawkins resides in Atlanta with her rescue dog, Milly. She previously served as Campaign Coordinator for the Kemp for Governor Campaign.

Lisa Durden, Director of Appointments & Licensing, Hometown: Jackson, Georgia

Lisa Durden holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Legal Assistance Studies and master’s degree in Public Administration (MPA) from Georgia College & State University. She resides in Jackson with her son, Luke, and two dogs. She previously served as Division Director of the Professional Licensing Boards Division for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Martha Zoller, Director of State Regional Offices, Hometown: Columbus, Georgia

Martha Zoller holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia, and she is currently pursuing a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Political Science, focusing her research on women’s electoral success in the Republican Party, from UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). She resides in Gainesville with her husband, Lin. After working in journalism and media for many years, Zoller worked for U.S. Senator David Perdue and most recently served as Director of Outreach and Surrogates on the Kemp for Governor Campaign.

The Special Election for Georgia State House District 5, vacated by the death of State Rep. John Meadows, is today. From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

There is a special election in most of Gordon and part of Murray County to decide who will join the state House of Representatives. Six candidates have qualified for the run, five Republicans and one Democrat. But because the election comes at an odd time, far away from the political ads and rallies leading up to the November race, the candidates themselves expect a low turnout.

After three weeks of early voting, only 1,307 people cast ballots — 1,281 in Gordon County and 26 in Murray County. In the election for the same seat on Nov. 6, 15,833 people voted, with four out of every five ballots going for the Republican incumbent, state Rep. John Meadows.

Who can participate in Tuesday’s election? Registered voters who live in Murray County’s Southwest precinct, as well as those who live in Gordon County’s Lily Pond, Pine Chapel, Resaca, Sugar Valley, Oostanaula, Plainville, “A County” and “B City” precincts. Some voters in the Sonoraville and Red Bud precincts also will be able to vote.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Anyone hoping to cast a ballot must bring a government-issued voter ID, such as a driver’s license.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission meets today to consider allegations that Executive Director Stefan Ritter misused a work computer, according to the AJC.

Stefan Ritter, who has been the commission’s executive director since 2015, could not be reached for comment. Staffers filed complaints against Ritter to the commission in December, officials told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News.

Jake Evans, who was elected chairman of the five-member panel in December, declined to comment “on individual personnel matters.”

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren wrote a letter supporting President Trump’s attempt to build a border wall, according to the AJC.

Warren’s open letter to the president and Congress, written on Cobb Sheriff’s Office letterhead, came as the partial government shutdown entered its 18th day and Trump intensified his public relations campaign for $5.7 billion in wall funding.

“For more than 20 years, we have been asking Congress to provide funding to stop the flow of illegal immigration and the carnage, trauma, and suffering it brings to our neighborhoods,” Warren wrote. “As one of America’s Sheriffs who is deeply committed to my oath and promise to protect my citizens and legal residents from harm, I am, like most Americans, fed up with Congress’s refusal to do their jobs and fund the border wall.”

Warren wrote that “criminal illegal aliens” were engaged in crime including rape, murder and drug smuggling, citing media reports from across the country.

Democrat Stacey Abrams has set herself a fundraising goal deadline to announce her next run for office, according to the AJC.

 In a Monday interview with WABE’s Rose Scott, the Democrat said she intends to take the next three months to “really think about the role that I should play” in politics. And she outlined a trio of criteria to help her come to her decision.

“My responsibility is to do three things: One, I need to run for office because I’m the best person for the job, not simply because there’s a job that’s open. No. 2, I need to run because I have ideas and the capacity to win the election and do the job well,” she said.

“And No. 3, I need to make decisions not based on animus or bitterness or sadness, but really based in a pragmatism that says, ‘This is the right thing to do.’ And I’m going to use that calculus and I intend to make a decision about the job I’m going to run for next by the end of March.”

Former Columbus City Council member Skip Henderson has been sworn in as the new Mayor of Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

B. H. “Skip” Henderson III was sworn in as Columbus’ newest mayor Monday morning before a standing-room-only crowd of family, friends, supporters, community leaders and former Columbus mayors.

The installation ceremony at the Citizens Service Center also featured the swearing in of newcomer Charmaine Crabb as a councilor representing council district five, and councilors Jerry “Pops” Barnes (District 1), Bruce Huff (District 3), Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson (District 7), and Judy Thomas (District 9), all who were re-elected.

Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson announced his retirement, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Data sharing across state agencies may be an issue for the 2019 General Assembly, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

“It’s the key to how we can address very specific needs, but we have to break down the silos,” said Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome.

Dempsey and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, co-chaired a joint committee on data-sharing last year but political skirmishes in the run-up to the elections stalled legislation in both chambers.

“I have several allies working with me on data analytics,” Hufstetler said. “We’re still working on where it would be housed, but I expect to introduce that this session.”

Georgia spends billions of dollars a year on health and social programs but there’s no way to determine if residents are getting overlapping services or falling through cracks. That’s because each agency keeps separate case records; each agency is a separate silo.

Sharing data also could help target people at risk for addiction and get them intervention services before it’s too late, she noted.

Republican Mark Pettitt was sworn in to the Hall County Board of Education, according to the Gainesville Times.

Hall County Commissioners will consider expanding hours of alcohol service after a “Brunch Bill” measure was introduced, according to the Gainesville Times.

Restaurants would be allowed to sell alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays, a shift from current law that only allows sales to start at 12:30 p.m. A state law passed in 2018, often called the “brunch bill,” lets counties and municipalities put a referendum on the ballot and let voters decide whether earlier sales should be permitted.

In November, 63 percent of voters in Hall supported the measure. If commissioners approve the change when they cast the final vote Jan. 24, earlier sales would start on Feb. 3.

The Cave Springs City Council will consider setting elections dates at their next meeting, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The board also is scheduled to officially set the city’s election dates and qualifying fees for the coming year. Shoaf’s term of office expires on Dec. 31. The seats held by council members Tom Lindsey and Joyce Mink also will be on the ballot in November.

A special election on liquor sales also is expected to be set for March.

“Petition signed!,”w the mysterious Cave Spring Distilling Co. posted on its Facebook page Friday.

The as-yet unnamed investors want to renovate a vacant historic building on the Square as a distillery with a tasting room and store, to open this summer. But the voters first must approve liquor sales. The city council indicated it would put liquor-by-the-drink and Sunday sales on the ballot but state law requires a petition to add package sales.

Lawrenceville City Council voted unanimously to move forward with a new performing arts center in downtown Lawrenceville, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The plans call for a 59,500-square-foot facility whose entrance will face the Gwinnett County Historic Courthouse and provides spaces for a 500-seat main theater, a cabaret stage and educational space that would be occupied by Georgia Gwinnett College. It will also have a plaza at the entrance facing the Lawrenceville Square.

“This exciting project continues the dynamic transformation of the Downtown area,” Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson said in a statement sent out by the city moments after the vote was taken. “Lawrenceville is the heart of Gwinnett and maintains a central area rich with activity for all generations.

Lawrenceville City Council also gave the Lawrenceville Downtown Development Authority the go-ahead to purse a parternship with Hilton to bring a new parking deck and boutique hotel to downtown, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Qualifying remains open through Wednesday in a Special Election for Lula City Council to be held March 19, 2019, according to AccessWDUN.


Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for January 7, 2019

Cleo Rydal

Cleo is a young female Plott Hound and Boxer mix who is available for adoption from Georgia Pet T.A.I.L.S. Inc. in Rydal, GA.

Cleo is a 2 year old girl, with a lot of fun energy to add to an active family! Cleo loves other dogs and loves to run and play. She wants nothing more than to please her people, so though she is learning basic manners, she will be easily taught training if desired! Poor Cleo has been bounced around (through no fault of her own) due to being in rescue for over a year! She has waited patiently for her turn with a forever home and she is so deserving of one.

Delilah Rydal

Delilah is a young female Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from Georgia Pet T.A.I.L.S. Inc. in Rydal, GA.

Delilah was recently saved at the last minute from a local shelter. . She is a 30lb, wonderful girl with a bubbly personality. She loves anyone she meets! She is currently in a foster home learning some basic manners and responding very well to her new environment.  She is approximately 2 years, and is in a home with another dog and they get along well. However, she comes off a little strong and some dogs don’t always appreciate that. She loves car rides and being with people. She is crate trained and will wait patiently for you while you are at work!

August Rydal

August is a female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Georgia Pet T.A.I.L.S. Inc. in Rydal, GA.

Are you looking for a laid back pup? Look no further! August is a 5 (ish) year old lab mix and is very good mannered. She loves her people and wants to hang with you on the couch. She knows basic commands, is house and crate trained and does well with EVERYONE! She does fine with cats, kids and other dogs. She would be an excellent companion for a young family or anybody looking for love.


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

Georgia voted for George Washington for President on January 7, 1789. Technically, they elected Presidential Electors who would later meet in Augusta and cast their ballots for Washington.

On January 7, 1795, Georgia Governor George Matthews signed the Yazoo Act, passed after four land companies bribed members of the General Assembly to vote for legislation selling more than 35 million acres of land for less than 2 cents per acre.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich (R) was re-elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 7, 1997. In the election for a second term, nine Republicans voted against the incumbent Speaker.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal‘s two terms in office are profiled by Greg Bluestein in the AJC.

He steadied the state’s finances and exponentially boosted its depleted reserve funds as he initiated record spending on infrastructure and new building projects but held the line on some sweeping tax breaks sought by many in his party.

He warred occasionally with both sides of the aisle, taking stances that drove some conservatives to threaten sanctions and payback after controversial vetoes and infuriating Democrats with hard-line approaches on many debates, including his steadfast opposition to Medicaid expansion.

And yet he pushed through most of the key elements of his agenda with overwhelming bipartisan support — sometimes even unanimous — as he rewrote criminal justice initiatives, overhauled workforce training policies and vastly expanded the judicial branch.

At a time of peak polarization, Deal stands out as an anomaly in his final days in office: an understated politician who never lost an election and built a legacy as a consensus-building pragmatist with a record that seems a throwback in the era of Donald Trump.

A Democrat-turned-Republican who ruled the state during eight years of increasing partisanship — but who will leave the Governor’s Mansion with polls that show he’s the state’s most popular politician.

He steadied the state’s finances and exponentially boosted its depleted reserve funds as he initiated record spending on infrastructure and new building projects but held the line on some sweeping tax breaks sought by many in his party.

He warred occasionally with both sides of the aisle, taking stances that drove some conservatives to threaten sanctions and payback after controversial vetoes and infuriating Democrats with hard-line approaches on many debates, including his steadfast opposition to Medicaid expansion.

And yet he pushed through most of the key elements of his agenda with overwhelming bipartisan support — sometimes even unanimous — as he rewrote criminal justice initiatives, overhauled workforce training policies and vastly expanded the judicial branch.

But he won two terms in office, and steered the broad majority of his priorities through the Legislature, by knitting together a coalition of rural conservatives and more moderate suburbanites with a blend of pro-business policies and culturally conservative legislation.

And he leaves office with a raft of new policies embraced by both parties, including vastly expanded tuition-free tech school programs and a redesigned approach to workforce development. In all, his office said, more than 800,000 jobs were created since he took office.

But even his fiercest opponents applauded his consensus-building strategy in the Legislature that started his first year in office with major changes to the HOPE scholarship program. His more inclusive approach was a contrast from that of his predecessor Sonny Perdue, whose aggressive style earned him the disdain of some GOP leaders.“We regarded the Legislature as equal partners with the state. That makes all the difference in terms of the relationship between the legislative and executive branch of government,” Deal said. “If they don’t work together, not very much comes out.”

It’s a very good article that I recommend reading in its entirety.

Bluestein also has an article reviewing Deal’s campaign promises and progress made on fulfilling them.

Governor Deal appointed a surveyor to determine the boundary between Jackson and Hall Counties.

Gov. Deal has appointed State Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland) to the Georgia Public Service Commission, to fill the remainder of the term of former Commissioner Doug Everett.

Voters in parts of Gordon and Murray Counties go to the polls tomorrow to elect a new State Representative for District 5 to fill the vacancy created by the death of State Rep. John Meadows.

Six candidates qualified for the State House District Five special election, according to the Suwannee Democrat.

The five Republican candidates for HD 5 attended a meet-and-greet organized by the Murray County Republican Party, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

The Murray County Republican Party served as the facilitators, with Chairman Kevin Jones as the leader of the introductory event. The five Republicans in the six-candidate race – Matt Barton, Steven Cochran, Larry Massey, Scott Tidwell and Jesse Vaughn – all attended, saying a few words to attendees regarding their campaign, platforms and goals if elected.

Jones, who was pleased with the turnout, was appreciative of those who came out to support candidates who were their family members and friends during the holiday season.

“None of you will be able to fill John Meadows’ shoes,” Jones said, speaking to the legacy of the late representative who chaired the powerful rules committee and was a leader for Northwest Georgia at the Capitol. “But you’ll be starting your next chapter for our district and our community. Thank you for your hard work and willingness to step up. It takes a special man to do that.”

The Chattanooga Times-Free Press also covered the meet-and-greet in HD 5.

Unlike the general election, which featured a heated governor’s race that gained national attention for months, there are no high-profile contests on the ballot to pull people to the polls. Adding to the candidates’ challenge, the heart of the campaign falls during the holiday season. Voters are focused on gifts, travel plans and big family dinners.

Look just south to Bartow and Floyd counties, which held a special election for a Georgia State House District 14 seat Tuesday. There, 3,173 people — or 9 percent of registered voters — turned out.

On top of the low voter turnout, the special election here boasts six candidates. The crowded field makes the race more fractured and, as a result, more unpredictable. The race likely will go to a runoff in February, but the fight to get into the top two could be tight.

The candidates don’t have an antidote for the impending apathy. They plan to take the usual path — work family connections, knock on doors, plant signs, call friends, ask those friends to call their own friends, post on Facebook and pray the right people remember to show up to the polls.

Curt Yeomans of the Gwinnett Daily Post spoke to retiring State Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) about his 26 years at the Capitol.

Coleman served in the House of Representatives for 26 years and the upcoming legislative session will be the first to convene without him since 1992, the same year Bill Clinton was elected to his first term as president.

For a quarter of a century, Coleman has been a mainstay on the House Education, Natural Resources and Environment, and Retirement committees.

“I have mixed emotions (about retiring) because I’ve been very lucky,” Coleman said. “I’ve served on every committee that I asked for and I served on Education the whole time and I chaired Education for the last 16 years.”

Given his background as a retired Gwinnett educator, it’s probably no surprise that the Education Committee was Coleman’s favorite assignment, but he also enjoyed his time on the Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

“Outside of education, that’s probably my second favorite committee because I love the environment, I love natural resource areas because I’m very, very committed to keeping our environment, air, water and all as clean as we can,” he said.

Coleman said the legislation he’s most proud of from his time in the legislature includes bills to do away with the state’s high school graduation test, create the Georgia Public Schools Innovation Fund to help struggling schools, get health insurance for school lunchroom workers, bus drivers and custodians.

Getting full funding for the Quality Basic Education formula at Gov. Nathan Deal’s urging last year is another high point for him.

State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) will file legislation to give law enforcement more tools to fight human trafficking, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Human trafficking is an evil and damaging criminal enterprise, with victims of all ages and backgrounds from every region of our state,” Efstration said in a statement. “I will introduce legislation to give law enforcement the tools needed to identify and prosecute traffickers, as well as the purchasers and enablers who are also culpable for these heinous crimes.”

The Georgia General Assembly’s 2019 legislative session is set to begin Jan. 14. This won’t be the first foray into trafficking legislation for Efstration, an attorney and former prosecutor. He and state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, have teamed up in the past to work on sex trafficking legislation.

The Gainesville Times looks at how legislative recommendations to make medical cannabis available in-state will benefit families.

Lawmakers should pursue licensing a limited number of growers, manufacturers and dispensaries for medical cannabis oil in the 2019 session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Those are the breakthrough recommendations made in late December by the legislative Joint Study Commission on Low THC Medical Oil Access, which convened a number of meetings in 2018 to explore how to open access in Georgia to the drug for thousands of registered patients.

[A]ccess to the drug in Georgia has remained elusive for families in need. The Times has documented the stories of several Hall County families who have trouble obtaining the drug for family members approved for treatment.

The state should offer 10 grow licenses, 10 manufacturing licenses and an adequate number of dispensing licenses, the commission recommends, with half granted to large capital investment firms and half to smaller groups.

“In doing so, the legislature must take into account the number of patients registered under the Low THC Oil Patient Registry that is administered by DPH to ensure demand drives supply and supports competition within the Georgia market,” the commission reports.

The Department of Public Health would retain oversight of the medical marijuana registry, and its budget would need additional funding, the commission suggests, to ensure “uniform product labeling and independent lab testing procedures with minimum standards for product purity and safety.”

The Macon Telegraph looks at the availability of mental health services for children.

The number of children and adolescents diagnosed with mental health disorders is rising, but for many Georgia youth, mental health care is out of reach.

“You have to dig to find what you need,” said Jennifer Giegler, a Bibb County school teacher who lives in Macon with her husband and five adopted children, four of whom have a diagnosed mental health disorder.

Georgia faces a severe shortage of mental health care providers, with only eight youth and adolescent psychiatrists for every 100,000 residents, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Schools also face a shortage of counselors and psychologists across the state.

Floyd County and Rome City school systems discussed school safety with local legislators, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

[State Rep. Eddie] Lumsden, who has served on the House Study Committee on School Security, said securing schools isn’t as big of an issue as mental health. He cited that most of the threats have come within schools, and said a focus on positive school climate must be addressed. At the time there were no school resources to address these issues, he said.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said she and Lumsden served on the committee because of his background in law enforcement and her background in education and mental health. She said school systems statewide were sent additional funds to help with school security before the committee even met. She added it is important to identify behavior that seems unusual and to take it seriously.

FCS Superintendent Jeff Wilson said he would love to have a mental health counselor in every school, however there are deeper issues to mental health which extends into the families as well. He said treating students at school won’t fully work if they are sent back into a dangerous environment. Dr. Melissa Davis, a pediatrician at Harbin Clinic and a RCS board member, added to this comment, saying there needs to be safe, stable and nurturing relationships between schools and their families which cost the school boards nothing.

Floyd County Superior Court Chief Judge Tami Colston, who retires this month, spoke about the importance of drug accountability courts, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

As part of her time on the bench Colston expanded Floyd County’s accountability court to include a drug court. The voluntary program provides treatment and counseling — along with heavy oversight — in lieu of sentencing. Colston sought and was awarded a grant from the state to establish the accountability court in 2017.

The drug court was the county’s second accountability court. Superior Court Judge Jack Niedrach established a mental health court in 2016.

One man described himself as sober, thriving and hopeful and said “I want to thank you, Judge Colston, for standing by me, never giving up on me and making me the man I am today.”

Another man described her as a person who would “fight for me even though I didn’t know how to fight for myself.” Today he’s found faith in himself and strength through his wife and two children.

Judge Billy Sparks will be taking over the drug court when Colston leaves.

Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy will host a Town Hall on St Simons Island on Wednesday, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Board of Elections meets Tuesday to discuss projects to modernize the county voting rolls and whether to hire a new supervisor, according to The Brunswick News.

The first Right Whale calf in two years was spotted off Florida’s coast, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A right whale calf spotted off Neptune Beach, Fla., late last month offers researchers “some glimmer of hope after no calves last year,” said Clay George, a biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

An estimated 410 right whales remain, making them highly endangered. They usually give birth off the coast of Georgia and Florida from about December to April, but last year they didn’t. No calves were spotted in the 2017-18 calving season and the whales also suffered from a higher than usual number of recorded deaths from entanglement in fishing gear, ship strikes and undetermined causes. George said researchers will need to see a lot more calves before they consider this season a success.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 20, 2018


George Washington’s Continental Army entered winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1777.

On December 20, 1864, Confederate forces in Savannah retreated ahead of Sherman’s army, crossing over into South Carolina, four years to the day after South Carolina’s secession.

On December 19, 1868, Congress opened hearings into barriers African-Americans faced to voting in Georgia, which included threats, violence, and death, on

Eugene Talmadge, who was elected four times as Governor of Georgia, in 1932, 1934, 1940, and 1946, died on December 21, 1946, leading to the Three Governors Controversy.

On December 19, 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors” for lying under oath and obstructing justice by a vote of 228-206.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former Bartow County Probate Judge Mitchell Scoggins was elected this week in a Special Election to succeed Christian Coomer after Coomer was appointed to the Georgia Court of Appeals, according to the Cartersville Daily Tribune News.

Mitchell Scoggins, a former Bartow County probate judge, won Tuesday’s special Republican primary election, securing 2,048 of the 3,173 votes cast in the race for the state’s District 14 House of Representatives seat.

Scoggins secured roughly 64 percent of all ballots, more than enough to prevent the need for a runoff. Kenneth Coomer came in second with 893 votes (28.14 percent), Nickie Leighly third with 155 votes (4.8 percent) and Nathan Wilson finished last with 77 votes (2.4 percent.)

Among Bartow voters, Scoggins won about 70 percent of the vote, securing 1.910 of the 2,709 ballots cast in the county. Coomer (the father of the district’s former representative) had 631 votes (23 percent) in the county, with Leighly and Wilson collecting 109 (4 percent) and 59 (2.1 percent) votes, respectively.

In total, about 9 percent of eligible voters in the district voted in the special election, including almost 11 percent of eligible Bartow voters.

Bartow County Election Supervisor Joseph Kirk said he was mildly surprised the local turnout surpassed 10 percent.


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

The British ship Mayflower landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 18, 1620.


Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley who founded Methodism, and one of the great hymn-writers, was born on December 18, 1707. Wesley accompanied James Oglethorpe to Georgia in 1736.

France formally recognized the United States as an independent nation on December 17, 1777.

The first national day of thanksgiving was observed on December 18, 1777 commemorating the American victory over the British at Saratoga the previous month.

Congress wrote, “It is therefore recommended to the Legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES, to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for solemn THANKSGIVING and PRAISE; That at one Time and with one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor”.

On December 18, 1834, Governor William Lumpkin signed legislation chartering the Georgia Methodists Conference Manual Labor School at Oxford, Georgia, which would later become Emory College in 1836 and Emory University in 1915.

General Ulysses S. Grant expelled all Jews from his military district, which covered parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky on December 17, 1862. President Lincoln ordered Grant to rescind the order.

On December 18, 1865, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward issued a statement verifying the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery in the United States.

The office of Superintendent of Public Education and Georgia Schools was created on December 18, 1866 when Gov. Charles Jenkins signed legislation passed by the General Assembly; on December 18, 1894, Gov. William Atkinson approved a resolution for a Constitutional Amendment to make the State School Commissioner elected statewide.

President William McKinley visited Savannah, Georgia on December 17, 1898. While there, McKinley attended church at Wesley Monumental Methodist Church and visited Georgia Agricultural and Medical College (now Savannah State University) and the Seventh Army.

On December 17, 1902, legislation changed Georgia’s state flag changed to include the coat of arms on the blue band.

Flag_of_the_State_of_Georgia_(1902-1906).svg copy

On December 17, 1944, Major General Henry C. Pratt ordered the end of the imprisonment of American citizens of Japanese descent in prison camps.

WTBS began broadcasting under new call letters on December 17, 1976 and uplinked its programming to satellite to become “America’s Super Station.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Voters in parts of Floyd and Bartow Counties go to the polls today in a Special Election for the State House district formerly held by Christian Coomer, according to the Rome News-Digest.

A week of early voting ended Friday, netting a total of just 696 mailed and in-person ballots. That included 609 from Bartow, where the majority of the district lies, and 87 from Floyd, according to a secretary of state data report.

In comparison, there were a total of 18,677 votes cast in the 2016 election for the seat: 13,166 in Bartow and 5,511 in Floyd.

Tuesday’s election is billed as a Republican primary special election, although Georgia voters don’t register by party so anyone in the district registered by Nov. 27 is eligible to vote in the race.

Robert Brady, Floyd County’s chief elections clerk, said the purpose is to replace Christian Coomer, who was unopposed for re-election but withdrew for a seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals.

“The winner of the Republican primary did not make it to the general election, so a special election is needed to determine a candidate,” Brady explained.

The RN-T also has Q&A with the candidates – Ken Coomer, Nickie Leighly, Mitchell Scoggins and Nathan Wilson.

State Representative Dan Gasaway (R-Homer) has asked for a recount of a re-done election, according to WNEG in Toccoa.

On Monday afternoon, Gasaway asked for a recount of the votes in all three counties of House District 28.

“We decided to go ahead and ask for the recount.  We will have to have our own personal monitor at each location during the recount,” he said. “I’m hoping it will be at different times otherwise I’ll have to hire poll monitors to watch the procedure.”

Under the terms of the recount, the Election Supervisors must also manually review by hand, in plain view of the public and designated officials from both candidates, any optical scan ballots in which an overvote is detected for House District 28.

In the Special Primary, with all votes counted, including provisional ballots, Gasaway lost to Republican challenger Chris Erwin by just two votes.

However, Gasaway claims two provisional ballots that were accepted in Habersham County were illegal.


The Rome News-Tribune spoke to local legislators about the upcoming 2019 session.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and Reps. Katie Dempsey and Eddie Lumsden are slated to attend a joint session of the Rome and Floyd County school boards this morning.

The Republican legislators, all from Floyd County, also heard Friday from the Rome City Commission. Priorities for the board include state action on illegal gaming machines, better accountability of sales tax collected locally and potential re-use of the state-owned Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital property.

The local legislative delegation, however, is one short.

A special election is set for today to fill the state House District 14 seat vacated by Christian Coomer when he accepted an appointment to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the district, which covers the western half of Bartow County and five precincts in Floyd: Barkers, Chulio, Etowah, Howell and part of North Rome.

On the ballot today are Pastor Ken Coomer, who is Christian Coomer’s father; small business owner Nickie Leighly; retired Probate Court Judge Mitchell Scoggins; and Nathan Wilson, owner of Wilson Contracting Co.

Coomer reported taking in over $36,000 in campaign contributions, starting with $2,600 from his son. Other Georgia lawmakers backing him with cash included House Speaker David Ralson, Reps. Jay Powell of Camilla, Butch Miller of Gainesville and several others. Lumsden donated $500.


Floyd County Commissioners are considering supplementing their District Attorney’s pay, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Floyd County Commissioners plan to consider in January a boost to the local supplement paid on top of the state salaries in the district attorney’s office.

“Caseload-wise, we’re off the charts,” County Manager Jamie McCord told the board. “They have the biggest caseloads in the state.”

The Georgia General Assembly sets minimum salaries for elected county officials and certain non-elected officers, usually based on population. Most counties add local supplements to make the pay more competitive.

District Attorney Leigh Patterson’s request for an increase notes that Floyd County’s supplement for assistant district attorneys, set at $8,200 each, has seen little change in more than a decade. It’s now below most comparable judicial circuits.

“She’s trying to hire bar-certified attorneys and (base pay of) $45,000 to $50,000 is not real attractive,” McCord said.

Patterson gets a $13,135 local supplement added to her base pay of $120,072. However, the local supplement for Floyd County superior court judges was increased to $24,000 — on top of the state base rate of $126,265 — and she’s seeking the same level.

Houston County is considering how to expand transit beyond Warner Robins, according to the Macon Telegraph.

That effort, which is in its infancy stage, has several obstacles to be cleared, including getting backing from city and county governments. It would be a transformation to the Warner Robins Transit bus system that currently has two shuttle buses making several dozen stops on weekdays throughout Warner Robins and to the Houston County Galleria in Centerville..

The push to expand the Warner Robins Transit system to areas like Byron and Perry is being led by local nonprofit Educare Center, Inc.

The organization took over the management of the system earlier this year from the Warner Robins and Houston County Housing authorities. Starting in January the nonprofit will have full control over the entity, and its CEO says she’ll be reaching out to government leaders to gauge their interest.

“We want to continue providing public, demand transportation and paratransit for the community but we need your help to expand the current public transportation system to meet the needs of our growing cities in our urban community,” Educare’s CEO Spring Rosati wrote in a letter to the Warner Robins City Council.

Dalton City Council members voted unanimously for a FY 2019 budget that increases spending, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

When the budget proposal was tabled on Nov. 19, council members said they hoped to find savings in the proposed $34.645 million budget, which would have been an increase of 6.87 percent from the $32.5 million in spending in the 2018 budget. Instead, the council members Monday night approved a 2019 budget of $34.72 million.

City resident Cathy Holmes said income data for the area and the City Council’s reluctance to cut spending signal more taxes in the future.

“Even though I know you are not proposing a millage rate increase for this year, you are setting the stage for a millage rate increase,” she said. “And we are already the highest taxed city in northwest Georgia, which you know. When you look at the data … it speaks to the fact that our community, unfortunately, is not as wealthy as it used to be, nor as we would like it to be. We are taxing an ever poorer community. Our taxes are the highest, and again I would like to express my disappointment that you could not find any cost reductions for the 2019 budget.”

The Dalton Daily Citizen editorial board is not amused.

Almost four weeks ago when some members of the public and this newspaper called for the Dalton City Council to find cost savings in its ever-escalating 2019 budget, they said they would try.

They couldn’t find any. Actually, councilmembers found a way to increase next year’s budget.

We find it disheartening that the City Council, its department heads and city administrator found no cost savings.

We understand that running a city isn’t cheap, and maintaining a level of service that residents demand requires spending. But with residents facing stagnant wages and rising health costs, many of us are constantly tightening our spending.

We are astonished that the City Council refuses to do the same.

Glynn County Commissioners will consider allowing elected officials to be added to the pension plan, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Commission is expected to discuss on Tuesday allowing elected officials to participate in the county’s pension plan.

“We have some constitutional officers who aren’t county employees but are elected officials who have a retirement plan through the state. Some of them want to get on (the county’s pension) because they think it’s a better deal, I guess,” said county commission Chairman Bill Brunson.

Several elected county officials had signed a letter making the request, including the Glynn County Solicitor General, Sheriff, Tax Commissioner and state and magistrate court judges, he said.

As of Friday, Brunson said the county was still looking into it. Glynn County offers a defined benefit pension plan, which is more costly than most. The commission held multiple meetings to consider changing the plan but ultimately decided to stick with it.

Glynn County is also considering whether to amend the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed the open position of Elections Supervisor, according to The Brunswick News.

he Glynn County Board of Elections held a special-called meeting Monday to discuss a job listing for its recently-vacated supervisor positions.

The board fired former Elections and Registration Supervisor Monica Couch following a discussion in closed session at its regular meeting last week.

Habersham County Commissioners voted to spend up to $60,000 for a new van or bus for the local 4-H, according to

Commission Chairman Victor Anderson pointed out the new vehicle will be a mini-bus to accommodate safe transport of students.

“I did feel strongly about it,” Harper said after the meeting. “We have a van that we are transporting our children in that is 26 years old. The door was being held together with a rope, and it had no air conditioning.

“We ought to be ashamed that we even allowed that to happen, so I am so proud that my fellow commissioners agreed with me tonight to put on some funds so that they can buy a decent van,” Harper said. “They go around the state representing us, winning all sorts of awards and we need to show them how proud we are, but we also need to keep them safe.”

Muscogee County Board of Education members Frank Myers and John Thomas spoke at their last meeting, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Philip Schley, who served 21 years on the board (1972-81 and 1998-2010), including nine as chairman, defeated Myers in May for the District 8 seat.

Mike Edmonson will replace Thomas in the District 2 seat after beating Bart Steed in the July runoff. Thomas didn’t run for re-election.

Thomas said he was honored to serve on the board. He sought a seat on the governing body to advocate for “more transparency and efficiency” in the school district.

“After four years, I did not accomplish any of the goals,” Thomas said. “. . . I appreciate the support of the voters of District 2, and I’m sorry that I could not deliver on the platform that I set.”

Their critics, Myers said, called them “controversial, disruptive, disorderly, negative, all these things, even though John and I vote with this board, just like tonight, about 80 percent of the time.”

Myers lamented that he and Thomas couldn’t “curb the epidemic of good people, especially teachers, leaving this school district in droves, seeking to only find a nontoxic environment where they can do what they love to do, which is to teach young people. And we were never able to convince a majority of this board that it is the job of the board to establish policy and the job of the administration to carry out that policy. That is black-letter law.”

Hall County Board of Education member-elect Mark Pettitt was arrested and charged with DUI, according to the Gainesville Times.

“I regret to share with you that I was charged with driving under the influence this past Saturday,” Pettitt acknowledged in a Facebook post on Monday afternoon, Dec. 17. “While I plan to defend this accusation, I want to convey my respect for law enforcement and the rule of law.”

Pettitt’s attorney, Graham McKinnon, asked that his client be allowed to be “innocent until proven guilty.”

Snellville Mayor Tom Witts pled guilty to eleven charges and will leave his post, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Snellville Mayor Tom Witts maintained his innocence regarding more than five dozen criminal charges lodged against him, but pleaded guilty to 11 of those charges Monday, while promising to resign from office and never again run for a political position.

Witts, who was indicted in Sept. 2017 on 66 charges ranging from tax evasion and theft to lying under oath and abusing his position as an elected official, entered an Alford plea before Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner Monday afternoon, where he was also sentenced for the crimes.

While Witts’ plea and his sentencing will allow the embattled mayor to avoid jail time all together, he will serve 10 years probation, with the first six months on house arrest. He must also pay $40,000 in delinquent taxes immediately.

“It’s been a long time in the making, from the investigation to the resolution,” Porter said Monday. “There have been a lot of turns in the road, the latest being (Witts’) health issues. Initially, I felt like this was a case where, given the number of offenses and the long term offenses, it justified at least some period of incarceration … but all of a sudden, there were the medical issues that are so serious that I didn’t want to put the burden of care onto the state.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 14, 2018

On December 13, 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court organized three regiments of militia to guard against attacks by the Pequot Indians. That day is recognized as the birth of the National Guard.

On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, led by Patriot Sam Adams, boarded three British ships in Boston harbor and threw tea worth $700,000 to $1 million in today’s money into the water in what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

Boston Tea Party

On December 15, 1791, Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights, giving the first ten Amendments a three-quarter majority required to become law.

President George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. Here’s an article about the nation’s mourning for our first President.

The Congress, in session at the capital of Philadelphia when Washington’s death was announced, immediately adjourned. The House of Representatives assembled the next day and resolved to shroud the Speaker’s chair in black and have members wear black during the remainder of the session. On December 23, John Marshall speaking for the joint committee of both houses, presented five points that became the foundation for the United States’ first “state” funeral. Resolutions structured mourning events around public commemorations that fostered unity and a sense of national identity among grieving Americans.

Governor George Towns signed legislation on December 16, 1847 to build a State School for the Deaf and Dumb. The institution now known as the Georgia School for the Deaf was begun with a log cabin, $5000 from the legislature and four students and is still in operation in Cave Spring, Georgia.

Echols County, Georgia was created by the Georgia General Assembly on December 13, 1858.

On December 15, 1859, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing public execution of criminals. The previous day he signed legislation prohibiting slave owners from freeing their slaves on the owner’s death.

On December 16, 1897, Gov. William Atkinson signed legislation recognizing June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, as a state holiday.

President William McKinley addressed the Georgia General Assembly on December 14, 1898.

McKinley_at_Atlanta2 McKinley Atlanta SM

On December 14, 1939, a parade was held through downtown Atlanta with stars from Gone With the Wind and the Junior League held a ball that night. The next day, December 15, 1939, Gone With the Wind held its world premiere at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta. On December 15, 1939, Gone With the Wind held its world premiere at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta.

On December 16, 1944, a German counterattack in the Ardennes region of Belgium created a “bulge” in Allied lines with particularly difficult fighting near the town of Bastogne. During the Battle of the Bulge, 89,000 Americans were wounded and 19,000 killed in the bloodiest battle fought by the U.S. in World War II. National Geographic has an interesting article published for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle.

Former Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall died on December 13, 1992. Arnall served in the State House, as Speaker, Attorney General, and in 1942 at the age of 35, was elected Governor.

Arnall also led the fight to outlaw the poll tax and the white primary, and is noted for making Georgia the first state to allow 18-year-olds to vote. He is further remembered for his role in obtaining a new state constitution for Georgia in 1945.

The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee released a report on December 15, 1998 that recommended impeachment against President Bill Clinton and introduced H.Res. 611.

Al Gore conceded the presidential election to George W. Bush on December 13, 2000.

On December 15, 2016, Republican Tim Echols was sworn in by Gov. Nathan Deal to a second term on the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that Norfolk Southern Corporation will be moving its corporate headquarters to Atlanta.Continue Reading..


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

Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the Constitution on December 12, 1787.

Guglielmo Marconi completed the first transatlantic radio transmission from Cornwall, England to Newfoundland on December 12, 1901.

Jimmy Carter announced he would run for President of the United States on December 12, 1974.

Dickey Betts, guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, was born on December 12, 1943.

The United States Supreme Court released its decision in Bush v. Gore on December 12, 2000, stopping manual recounts of contested ballots in Florida.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor-elect Brian Kemp addressed state legislators yesterday at the Biennial Institute in Athens, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

Governor-elect Brian Kemp called for unity and outlined some of his legislative agenda in his first major speech since winning the close gubernatorial election over Democrat Stacey Abrams last month.

“But the campaign is over and it’s time to put politics behind us,” he said. “It’s time to shed the labels and work together as Georgians. It’s time to stand up for our communities, and our values, and our people.”

Kemp was the final speaker at the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s three-day Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, held in election years just after elections for state offices and just before the newly elected state Legislature convenes in January.

Kemp praised the track records of his Republican predecessors in the governor’s mansion, Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal, and also outlined what some of his first legislative goals will be. He noted recent accomplishments of the Legislature and outgoing Deal, including a public education system now “fully funded” and the addition of 800,000 jobs during Deal’s two terms.

“Governor Deal transformed the criminal justice system, reducing costs, strengthening families, and keeping our communities safe,” Kemp said, indicating he will build on those reforms.

“My plan for Georgia’s future begins with our economy and continued job growth,” Kemp said. “As a small business guy I know the impact that taxes, regulation and government red tape can have on investment, expansion and hiring. That’s why on day one I will create the Georgians First Committee, led by business leaders, not bureaucrats, to identify things that frustrate our small business owners.”

“Let’s raise the rural hospital tax credit, tackle the rural doctor shortage, improve teacher retention through pay raises, and champion an early learning initiative that improves outcomes for Georgia students,” he said. “Let’s use innovation to lower health care costs, insurance premiums and prescription drug prices, while improving access to quality health care.”

From Jill Nolin with CNHI:

“The rising tide in Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah has not lifted our rural communities. Some continue to struggle and in some areas it feels like they’re still in the Great Recession,” he said.

“We know that mental health is the root of school violence. Let’s address this before the tragedy strikes,” Kemp said. “Our classrooms are for raising the next generation of Georgia leaders, not a hunting ground for school shooters.”

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, said he was encouraged by the focus on teacher pay, but said the $5,000 salary bumps that Kemp proposed during his campaign isn’t enough.

Likewise, Henson said expanding the rural hospital tax credit, which enables eligible hospitals to raise up to $4 million a year in donations, fails to address the high number of uninsured and under insured patients straining these hospitals. He said talk of a Medicaid waiver might progress with Kemp.

From the AJC:

In the speech, Kemp didn’t announce a departure from his stance on issues such as his vow to expand gun rights and pledge to sign a “religious liberty” measure. But he sought to take a more conciliatory approach to the lawmakers he’ll need to pass his agenda.

He repeated previous campaign promises, such as an increase in teacher pay and a boost in rural hospital tax credits. And he outlined a new group, dubbed the Georgians First Committee, that will hash out ways to reduce regulations and boost small businesses.

State House Speaker David Ralston also discussed his priorities, according to the AJC.

House members, led by Ralston, had already laid out their own agenda. Last week, finishing up two years of work, the House Rural Development Council offered up a package of legislation intended to help rescue a rural Georgia bereft of jobs, health care, and – increasingly – young people.

It proposes a rewriting of Georgia’s “certificate of need” process, through which the state regulates the construction of hospitals and the services they offer. House members also proposed lowering – but also broadening – a tax on communication services, so that it includes services like satellite TV and livestreaming purchases. Think Netflix and Hulu.

That cash would be used to extend high-speed service to Georgia’s broadband deserts.

Other initiatives: Tax credits would be extended to employers who create jobs five and 10 at a time, rather than 50. Farm-based wineries would be able to sell as much as 24,000 gallons of their product without running afoul of Georgia’s arcane alcohol laws.

Insider: How does “certificate of need” fit into rural development?

Ralston: Anything that breaks down the barriers to access to quality health care in rural Georgia, or creates barriers, I think is fair game. And there’s a feeling by many that we couldn’t talk about the whole issue of rural hospitals and ignore that issue. So I think it has to be part of the discussion.

Insider: I didn’t see any reference to Medicaid waivers. (Note: Democrats speak of expanding Medicaid coverage for those who can’t afford health insurance. Some red states have pursued separate deals with the federal government, allowing them more control over how the money is spent, under the name of “waivers.”)

Ralston: There’s some discussion out there. I think Governor-elect Kemp talked about that in the campaign. I’m willing to have a discussion about that. I just don’t think we can fix our health care system on the promises of the federal government. That’s been my concern with Medicaid expansion. Waivers are a different kind of thing.

Whitfield County legislative delegation members want to know public opinion before deciding whether to support changing term limits for county commissioners, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, said he would “have a struggle” with supporting local legislation to abolish term limits on commissioners since it wasn’t supported by all board members.

“I’ll take a look at it, but it has been the precedent, well before I came to the Legislature, that a request for local legislation be unanimous,” he said.

“Most of the calls I’ve been getting have been against changing term limits,” he said. “If there are people who support removing term limits, I want to hear from them and find out what their reasons are.”

State Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton, said he wants commissioners to place a question on an election ballot asking if voters support removing term limits before he decides whether he could support a law ending those term limits

“Because it isn’t a unanimous vote, before we take legislation down there, we need to make sure this is what the community wants. If the people want to do away with term limits for county commissioners, I’ll be happy to introduce that bill,” he said.

Payne said he wants to make sure he’s acting in the interests of the majority and not a few.

Brad Freeman will be sworn-in as Sheriff of Monroe County on Thursday, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and District 5 Council member Mike Baker attended their last meeting of city council, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Tomlinson, 53, is wrapping up almost eight years as the 69th mayor of Columbus while Baker, 61, has served his district for three terms, nearly 12 years. Both were presented a real clock from the 10-member council and separate resolutions thanking them for their service to a government with a $275.3 million budget.

The mayor, an attorney, is set to join the law office of Hall Booth Smith P.C., after leaving early next month while also looking at pursuing a higher political office.

One of her biggest defeats as mayor was a vote to “Thaw the Freeze” on property taxes, which failed by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin in November 2016. The same proposal failed by an even larger margin in a previous referendum.

“We were not able to overcome the tax system, which is very controversial in this community, the property tax freeze,” the mayor said. “I know this. We made up 20 points in favor of doing something in adopting another system. I also know that young people cannot and will not tolerate the current tax system we have. They, from a generational perspective, understand the strain it puts on our growth and prosperity.”

The Glynn County Board of Elections fired Elections and Registration Supervisor Monica Couch, according to The Brunswick News.

Assistant supervisor Chris Channell will serve as interim supervisor while the board searches for a permanent replacement. Chairwoman Patricia Gibson had no comment on the decision to fire Couch when reached by phone Tuesday afternoon. She did say the board had been in touch with human resources to start the process of posting the job and hiring a new supervisor.

Before going into executive session, the board discussed, among other things, two temporary employees who will be responsible for scanning physical voter registration cards into a physical database.

Jim Sells was sworn-in to the Grantville City Council, representing District 1, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Last month, Councilman Willie Kee resigned from his council post and requested the city council appoint Sells, who won the council seat by one vote, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. City Manager Al Grieshaber said the council will decide whether or not to appoint Sells at its Dec. 17 meeting. The swearing in was the only order of business that could be completed because of the lack of a quorum.

Environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit in Charleston, SC, challenging plans for seismic testing off the east coast, according to The Brunswick News.

Alice Keyes, vice president for One Hundred Miles, said one of the reasons OHM is part of the suit is because they “believe our federal government is unlawfully and unjustifiably threatening marine species and taking it one step closer to offshore drilling. This is an industrial development that will transform Georgia’s working waterfront, our beaches and our pristine marshes.”

She said seismic testing poses a danger to the entire food chain, but especially to North Atlantic right whales. Keyes referenced a letter signed by 28 right whale experts and sent to the Obama administration in 2016 that suggested seismic testing off the Atlantic coast could provide a tipping point to the right whales’ path toward extinction.

The CDC confirmed a fourth case of acute flaccid myelitis in Georgia, according to Georgia Health News.

The Georgia Department of Public Health did not give identifying information about the fourth patient with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), but said Monday that the person is a child.

There is no known single cause of AFM, whose symptoms include weakness in the arms or legs, and sometimes paralysis.

The condition affects the nervous system, specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter. It causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak or even paralyzed. Cases of acute flaccid myelitis are characterized by a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes.

Acute flaccid myelitis’s symptoms are likened to those caused by polio, which was once a major public health threat in the United States. But polio was eradicated in this country thanks to the polio vaccine, and the CDC recently emphasized that none of the children who developed AFM symptoms had the polio virus.

Navicent Health moved closer to a merger with South Carolina-based Atrium Health, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Navicent Health Board of Directors and the Atrium Health Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the strategic combination Tuesday. The Georgia Attorney General’s Office has already authorized the proposed deal, which the two parties will finalize over the next several weeks.

“We believe this strategic combination between Atrium Health and Navicent Health will have a significant and positive impact on the communities we are privileged to serve, and we look forward to expanding access to quality healthcare while reducing disparities,” the health care systems wrote in a joint statement Tuesday.

“By working together, Atrium Health and Navicent Health can implement innovative treatment models like virtual care and telepsychiatry throughout central and south Georgia, creating the next generation of healthcare that is better for all we serve.”

Georgia Power is accepting proposals for up to 540 megawatts of renewable energy, according to the AJC.

The purchases, through Georgia Power’s Renewable Energy Development Initiative (REDI), will be the final action to fulfill a 2016 deal approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission to provide 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy through multiple projects.

The company, the largest electric provider in the state serving more than 2.5 million customers, will be receiving proposals from interested companies until noon January 15, 2019.

“We are eager to receive, review and select projects from this RFP that will provide significant long-term value,” said Mallard.

The company, which currently has 976 megawatts of solar power online, expects to grow its renewable resources by an additional 1,600 megawatts by 2021.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 11, 2018

On December 11, 1777, during their movement to Valley Forge for the winter, Washington’s colonial forces engaged British troops under General Cornwallis as the Americans were crossing the Schuylkill River.

Indiana became the 19th State on December 11, 1816.

Governor Charles McDonald signed legislation on December 11, 1841 to prevent a person from having his or her testimony excluded in court because of the individual’s religious beliefs.

The first use of nitrous oxide as a dental anesthetic took place on December 11, 1844.

On December 11, 1872, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback took office in Louisiana as the first black Governor in the United States.

A memorial service for Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederate States of America, was held in the Georgia State Capitol on December 11, 1889 while his funeral was that day in New Orleans.

On December 11, 1941, Germany declared war on the United States.

On December 11, 1960, a civil rights demonstration including 8000 African-American citizens was held in Atlanta as part of the movement to boycott stores that remained segregated.

The Libertarian Party was founded on December 11, 1971 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced yesterday that state government offices will delay opening today.

Acting on the latest forecast from the National Weather Service, Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that state government will delay opening until 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11. The National Weather Service has warned that counties basically north of I-20 may have black ice on roads as temperatures drop below freezing overnight.

“Out of an abundance of caution and following the latest update from the National Weather Service, state government will delay opening for non-essential personnel until 10 a.m. tomorrow,” said Deal. “Our top priorities are to ensure the safety of Georgians and to allow the Georgia Department of Transportation to keep our roads as safe as possible. I encourage those in affected areas to remain off of the roads early tomorrow morning. We will continue monitoring the weather and will provide updates as necessary.”

Gwinnett County government offices will also delay opening, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett schools and colleges, trials and hearings in the county and state government offices will operate on a two-hour delay on Tuesday out of concerns that potential black ice may form overnight on roads in north Georgia.

County spokesman Joe Sorenson said trials and hearings in the county will be delayed until 10 a.m. as well.

Meanwhile, Buford City Schools and Gwinnett County Public Schools announced their schools will also open two hours later than usual.

“Morning buses will run two hours later than the regularly scheduled pick-up time,” Gwinnett schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said. “This means if your bus usually comes at 6:30 a.m. it will be at the stop at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow. All schools will end and release at their normally scheduled time.

“All after school and evening activities on Tuesday will be held as scheduled,” she added.

Some of Gwinnett’s cities have already announced morning delays or cancellations. Officials in Duluth and Loganville announced Monday night that they will delay opening their respective city offices until 10 a.m., and Suwanee announced its 9 a.m. municipal court session has been cancelled. Cases scheduled for that session will be rescheduled for Jan. 22, according to announcement the city’s Facebook page.

Governor-elect Brian Kemp and Lieutenant Governor-elect Geoff Duncan will address the Biennial Institute in Athens today. From the AJC:

The Republican is set to address lawmakers Tuesday at the legislative biennial in Athens, and he’s likely to strike a vastly different tone than he did during the divisive race against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Kemp’s allies say he won’t depart from his stance on key policy debates, from guns to “religious liberty,” but that he’ll signal a more conciliatory approach to the lawmakers he’ll need to corral to pass his agenda.

Several Democratic lawmakers have pledged to boycott the event, saying they won’t forget his “hateful” rhetoric during the campaign and don’t want to lend legitimacy to him by attending his first address.

United States Senator David Perdue spoke to the Golden Isles Republican Women on Monday, according to The Brunswick News.

Lunch attendees asked him a number of questions, including about the recently-announced closure of four U.S. General Motors manufacturing plants.

He referenced investments the U.S. government made in car manufacturers from in 2008 to 2010. Bailing out the automakers just prolonged the inevitable, he said.

“I know what those factories looked like in the 1970s when every small town in South Georgia had an operator plant that had 200 operators in it … We don’t have those anymore. I don’t know how to bring those back, frankly, when you’re dealing with $3 an hour labor in China,” Perdue said.

One member of the Republican women asked him if a border wall along America’s border with Mexico has a chance of receiving funding before Christmas.

Perdue said around $1.6 billion for the project is included in one of the final U.S. Senate appropriations bills of the year, but that he wasn’t sure it would get the votes necessary to pass.

Whitfield County Board of Commission Chairman Lynn Laughter was surprised by a move to remove term limits for county commissioners, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

In a move that Whitfield County Board of Commission Chairman Lynn Laughter said “completely blindsided” her, the other four members of the commission voted Monday night to ask local state legislators to remove term limits on county commissioners.

Local resident Ed Painter presented a plan to the board in November to allow a commissioner on the board to run for a fourth term in office if that fourth term would be served as the commission chairman. Commissioners currently can serve only three consecutive, full four-year terms.

But at Monday’s meeting, Painter recommended the board do away with term limits completely.

Commissioners are term-limited by state law, which was put in place in 1993. Only the Legislature can change that state law, and Monday’s vote is only asking local legislators to propose new legislation in the upcoming session.

Lowndes County Board of Elections meets today at 4:30 PM, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Buford City Schools is searching for a new superintendent, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Gainesville Times looks at when changes in brunch service laws will go into effect.

Oakwood City Council tweaked its alcohol ordinance Monday night to reflect voters’ Nov. 6 OK of earlier Sunday alcohol sales at restaurants.

Voters in Hall County, Gainesville, Flowery Branch and Oakwood approved allowing sales to begin at 11 a.m. instead of 12:30 p.m.

Moving forward, the cities and county “are looking at the implementation date” of Feb. 3, City Manager Stan Brown told the council at its Dec. 10 meeting.

“We’re just trying to eliminate confusion between different jurisdictions,” he said.

The Augusta Commission will consider appointing an interim District 5 commissioner, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Last week, three commissioners’ nominations for an interim commissioner to replace Andrew Jefferson, who died Nov. 4, each failed to garner six supporting votes. The interim will serve until a March special election but would appear on the ballot as the incumbent if he or she chooses to run.


Floyd County Commissioners meet today to discuss the county budget, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Floyd County Commissioners will hold a public hearing this morning on the proposed 2019 operating and capital projects budgets.

The board also is expected to elect the chair and vice chair for the coming year.

Commissioners are scheduled to caucus at 9 a.m. and start their regular meeting at 10 a.m. in the County Administration Building, 12 E. Fourth Ave. Both sessions are open.

The board normally meets at 6 p.m. but moved today’s meeting to the morning when it looked like the Rome Wolves would be playing in the GHSA state football championship in Atlanta. The Wolves lost in the semi-finals, but it was too late to change the public notice time.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 10, 2018

Solomon’s Masonic Lodge, the first in Georgia, was organized on December 10, 1735. Upon his return to the colony, James Oglethorpe would join the group.

Patriots captured liberated Virginia on December 9, 1775 as militias from Virginia and North Carolina defeated the redcoats at Great Bridge.

John Jay was elected President of the Continental Congress on December 10, 1778.

On December 7, 1801, Georgia’s United States Senator Abraham Baldwin was elected President Pro Tem of the Senate.

Emory College was incorporated on December 10, 1836, as Governor William Schley signed legislation chartering the school.

On December 10, 1850, a special convention met in Milledgeville to determine the state’s reaction to the Compromise of 1850, a series of five bills passed in Congress attempting to deal with issues between slave states and free states.

The [Georgia] platform established Georgia’s conditional acceptance of the Compromise of 1850. Much of the document followed a draft written by Charles Jones Jenkins and represented a collaboration between Georgia Whigs and moderate Democrats dedicated to preserving the Union. In effect, the proclamation accepted the measures of the compromise so long as the North complied with the Fugitive Slave Act and would no longer attempt to ban the expansion of slavery into new territories and states. Northern contempt for these conditions, the platform warned, would make secession inevitable.

This qualified endorsement of the Compromise of 1850 essentially undermined the movement for immediate secession throughout the South. Newspapers across the nation credited Georgia with saving the Union.

President Abraham Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction on December 8, 1863.

First, it allowed for a full pardon for and restoration of property to all engaged in the rebellion with the exception of the highest Confederate officials and military leaders.

Second, it allowed for a new state government to be formed when 10 percent of the eligible voters had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States.

Third, the Southern states admitted in this fashion were encouraged to enact plans to deal with the freed slaves so long as their freedom was not compromised.

On December 9, 1867, a Constitutional Convention to draft a new state document convened in Atlanta. Among the 166 to 169 delegates elected to the Constitutional Convention were 33 or 37 African-American members – accounts vary.

The Atlanta City Council appointed the first Board of Education on December 10, 1869.

The Spanish-American War was ended on December 10, 1898, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

On December 8, 1899, Georgia Governor Allen Candler signed legislation to levy a tax on all dogs older than four months.

On December 7, 1941, Japanese carrier-launched planes attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The United States declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941. Montana Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin, the first female elected to the United States House of Representatives, cast the sole dissenting vote.

GeorgiaInfo has the reactions of Georgia leaders to the Pearl Harbor attack,

U.S. Sen. Walter F. George stated: “Japan’s deed is an act of desperation by a war-mad people. The attack on Hawaii is a deliberate act of the Japanese government. I am utterly amazed. It is unthinkable… . An open declaration of war will give us greater freedom of action.” Noting the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, George optimistically predicted that “it may take two or three years to fight this war to the end.”

U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell responded to the attack by stating: “Japan has committed national hari-kari. I cannot conceive of any member of Congress voting against a declaration of war in view of the unpardonable, unprovoked attack on us. I am utterly astounded.”

U.S. Rep. Carl Vinson, chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee, added: “Of course we will have to declare war. There is nothing else for Congress to do. This is a concerted action by the Axis Powers, but I am confident our Navy is ready and will render a glorious account of itself. It probably means we will be drawn into the world conflict on both oceans.”

Chief Boatswain’s Mate Joseph L. George was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with V device for valor for his actions aboard USS Vestal at Pearl Harbor.

George, a second class petty officer at the time, saved the lives of several sailors from the battleship USS Arizona. He survived the war and retired from the Navy in 1955 but passed away in 1996.

The Bronze Star Medal will be presented by Rear Adm. Matthew J. Carter, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, to George’s daughter, Joe Ann Taylor, today during a 4:30 p.m. (Hawaii-Aleutian time) ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.

“The presentation of the medals is not only appropriate but simply the right thing to do,” Spencer said in a release sent out by the Navy. “One of my highest priorities is to honor the service and sacrifice of our sailors, Marines, civilians, and family members. It is clear that Lt. (Aloysious H.) Schmitt and Chief George are heroes whose service and sacrifice will stand as an example for current and future service members.”

In addition to George’s Bronze Star, the secretary also awarded the Silver Star Medal to Lt. j.g. Schmitt for action at Pearl Harbor while serving on the battleship USS Oklahoma.

The Augusta Chronicle profiles the last known Pearl Harbor veteran in the area.

[Alvin] Mays, an Army veteran, had been assigned to the 21st infantry, 24th Division, at Schofield Barracks when the attack occurred. He reflected Monday on the Japanese fighter planes that flew overhead, spraying those below with bullets, following the bombing of the U.S. naval base, located near Honolulu, Hawaii.

“I just had walked out of the mess hall that morning and heard all the bombing and everything sounding off at a distance,” Mays said . “Just minutes after that we began to see the planes flying over. They came in striking the 21st infantry at treetop level and lucky for us we did not have any casualties that morning.”

Mays, who served as a mechanic, was assigned to the base after enlisting in 1941. He was 18. Following the Pearl Harbor attack, Mays deployed to Australia, then to the Philippines where he fought on the front lines before being ordered back to the States.

“When I got to Hawaii, I didn’t take any basic training,” he said. “That was very unusual, but they were just motorizing their infantry at that time. I went straight into the motor pool and that’s where I stayed until MacArthur signed the treaty.”

From the Ledger-Enquirer on the role played by Georgia Congressman Carl Vinson in building the U.S. Navy before the attack at Pearl Harbor.

For nearly a decade before Pearl Harbor, Vinson had schemed and politicked in brilliant fashion to ensure that America was building a two-ocean navy larger than all the major navies of the world combined.

Vinson had assumed in the mid-1930s that fascist Japan and Germany posed existential threats to the United States. For America to survive, he saw that America would need mastery of the seas to transport its armies across the Pacific and Atlantic.

From 1934 to 1940, Vinson pushed through Congress four major naval appropriations bills. The result was that the U.S. Pacific Fleet which Japan thought it had almost destroyed in December 1941 was already slated to be replaced by a far larger and updated armada.

A little more than seven months after Pearl Harbor, the USS Essex — the finest carrier in the world — was launched. Essex was the first of 24 such state-of-the-art fleet carriers of its class to be built during the war.

Vinson’s various prewar naval construction bills also ensured the launching of hundreds of modern battleships, cruisers, destroyers and submarines. As bombs fell at Pearl Harbor, ships of the new American fleet were soon to be deployed, under construction or already authorized.

Vinson’s foresight would save thousands of American lives in the Atlantic and Pacific. American naval power quickly allowed the U.S. to fight a two-front war against Japan, Germany and Italy.

Vinson, a rural Georgian, was an unlikely advocate of global naval supremacy.

On December 7, 1946, the Winecoff Hotel in downtown Atlanta, previously considered fireproof, burned in the worst hotel fire to date.

Gregg Allman was born December 8, 1947 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1964 in Oslo, Norway, becoming the youngest recipient of the award.

John Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment building in New York City on December 8, 1980.

Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2002.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced that November tax revenues were down by .7 percent over last year.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 6, 2018

On December 6, 1847, Dr. William White spoke to a group of Atlanta residents about a proposal to move the state capital to Atlanta and was met with cheers.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on December 6, 1865, when Georgia ratified the Amendment outlawing slavery.

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The Washington Monument was completed on December 6, 1884.

On December 6, 1932, the legislation repealing Prohibition was introduced by Senator John Blaine of Wisconsin. It was ratified on December 5, 1933. Georgia never took action on the Amendment.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal addressed the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, according to the Albany Herald.

Tuesday night the Albany Area Chamber honored Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal for their steadfast leadership of Georgia during the chamber’s inaugural Governor’s Dinner.

It was only fitting that the governor touched upon Hurricane Michael in his opening remarks.

“As you all know, Dougherty County was included in the original state of emergency issued on Oct. 9 in response to Hurricane Michael. That state of emergency lasted until Nov. 21, though for some, the recovery process is ongoing,” Deal said. “A generation of planters, growers, and producers has been deeply impacted — perhaps more than at any other time in the last century. Within the agriculture and timber industries alone, more than $2.5 billion were lost, shorn away by the bitter winds and drowned by the thundering rains of the storm. That type of loss can take a generation to recuperate. These are the families who put food on our tables and shirts on our backs through the fruits of their hard labor.”

Deal reminded the crowd he had called for a special session of the General Assembly to provide relief funding and spur economic recovery for areas most heavily affected by Hurricane Michael.

“That special session ran from Nov. 13 through 17, and I signed legislation to amend the Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations Act and add $270 million in emergency funding for state agencies and local governments,” the governor said. “I also signed legislation to create a tax credit for taxpayers in southwest Georgia’s timber industry who incurred significant expenses as a result of the hurricane.”

“As I conclude, and as we head further into this Christmas season wherein we reflect on the blessings of this past year, the hopes for the coming year, and that which is closest to our hearts, I ask you to keep all of southwest Georgia in your prayers,” he said. “This will be a difficult Christmas for many Georgians, and we should choose this season, especially, to adhere to the Lord’s great command and love our neighbors as ourselves. In time, together, we will ensure those families see joyful Christmases once again.”

“Together, we will rebuild, replant and regrow the livelihood of an entire region. Together, we will make southwest Georgia, and all of our state not just whole again, but even greater than it already was before the storm.”

Lowndes County voters sided with the GOP candidate for Secretary of State, according to the Valdosta Daily News.

Brad Raffensperger, a state lawmaker from suburban Atlanta, defeated former Democratic congressman John Barrow to become Georgia’s top elections official, the office vacated by Gov.-elect Brian Kemp.

Statewide, Raffensperger took 756,083 votes, or 51.97 percent of the total, against Barrow’s 648,847 votes, or 48.03 percent of the total, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website.

In Lowndes County, Raffensperger gained 6,313 votes, or 60.46 percent, against Barrow’s 4,128 votes, or 39.54 percent, said Deb Cox, county elections supervisor.

From the Savannah Morning News:

[Chatham County Board of Elections employee Russell] Bridges said absentee ballots had to be postmarked by today and reach the registrar’s office by Friday.

“We sent out 4,000,” Bridges said.

The Democratic Party of Georgia had sued Georgia’s Secretary of State stating absentee were not mailed to voters from over 60 counties until the last week of November. That left only seven days for voters to return the ballots.

From the Brunswick News:

More than 11,000 Glynn County residents showed up at the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots in the runoff election races.

The Glynn County Board of Elections office counted 11,129 votes cast, which is nearly 21 percent of the county’s registered voters.

About 3,780 ballots were cast in person during early voting, said Chris Channell, assistant supervisor of the local Board of Elections.

Absentee ballots are still trickling in to the local Board of Election office, Channell said, and will be accepted until Friday if postmarked for Dec. 4.

During early voting, which began Nov. 26 and wrapped up Nov. 30, board of elections officials counted 721 absentee ballots coming in.

From the Henry Herald:

Neither Raffensperger nor Eaton, however, carried Henry County, a county that went blue during this election.

Barrow carried Henry with 53.36 percent of the vote, or 18,652 votes as of Wednesday afternoon, while Miller carried the county with 54.08 percent of the vote, or 18,829 votes as of Wednesday.

The Secretary of State and Public Service Commission races were the only two races on Tuesday’s ballot, as all other races – including every Henry County-specific race — had been decided on Election Day.

Turnout for the Tuesday runoff surpassed turnout in recent general election runoffs. Henry County saw a turnout of 22.68 percent as of Wednesday afternoon.

“The turnout for the runoff was twice as many as the May 2016 general primary and more than the May 2018 general primary,” she said.

Lunsford said previous runoffs had turnouts ranging from 4 to 9 percent.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

John Barrow and Lindy Miller, the Democrats who came up short in Tuesday’s statewide runoffs, each conceded their losses Wednesday.

“It now appears that the number of uncounted absentee ballots is still greater than the margin of difference, but is so small that there is very little chance of their affecting the outcome,” Barrow said. “I have therefore extended my congratulations to Brad Raffensperger on his victory. He’ll be our secretary of state, and I wish him every success.”

Miller, the Democratic nominee for a Georgia Public Service Commission seat, admitted her runoff loss to incumbent Chuck Eaton on Wednesday but said her run had raised the profile of the commission, which regulates the state’s utilities, including the nearby ongoing expansion at Plant Vogtle.

“Almost 1.5 million Georgians came out to cast their ballots for this race for a third time. We saw unprecedented historic turnout for a runoff election,” Miller said.

Meanwhile, work continues at the two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The placement of a massive “ring” in a steel containment vessel and the last cooling pump for a new reactor are signs of continued progress on two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, a spokesman for Georgia Power Co. said. The site is already the state’s largest construction project at more than 7,000 workers but is continuing to hire, spokesman Jeff Wilson said.

“We continue to make significant progress there at the site,” Wilson said. “We are still on track for the commercial operation dates of November 2021 and November 2022″ for Units 3 and 4, respectively. He said collectively the two projects are now 71 percent complete.

“We’re adding hundreds of craft workers,” Wilson said. “Where we are in the project now, we need electricians, we need pipefitters and other various craft labor. We’re in the process of adding additional craft labor now and into the future. That process continues.”

A Special Election to succeed the late State Rep. John Meadows (R-Calhoun) has attracted four candidates, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Four Gordon County residents, including one who narrowly lost a bid to unseat Chuck Payne in the Georgia Senate District 54 Republican primary earlier this year, qualified Wednesday for the state House of Representatives seat left vacant after the death of Rep. John Meadows.

The special election for the District 5 seat is Jan. 8, 2019. A runoff, necessary if no one receives more than 50 percent of the vote, would be Feb. 5. District 5 comprises parts of Gordon and Murray counties.

Matt Barton, Larry Massey Jr., Scott Tidwell and Jesse Vaughn qualified with the Secretary of State’s office for the seat Meadows held since 2004. Meadows, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, died of stomach cancer in November. He was 74.

All four candidates are registered as Republican. Qualifying began Wednesday and continues today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Secretary of State’s office in Atlanta. The qualifying fee is $400.

Macon-Bibb County revised its alcohol ordinance, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Macon liquor stores will be able to stay open later after an extensive update to the county’s alcohol ordinance was approved Tuesday.

The extended hours were added to the code in response to some of the increased costs for alcohol licensing fees some business owners will pay. Macon restaurant and bar patrons, however, will not have a slightly higher bill because a new tax on liquor was removed from the measure.

Commissioner Virgil Watkins, who sponsored the updated ordinance, said the new fees will bring Macon closer to the state average, and more revenue will help bring more resources to a struggling business license department, he said.

An initial proposal to charge a 3 percent tax on liquor sold for on-site consumption was removed from the measure. (The tax would not have impacted beer or wine sales).

Brad Freeman was elected Sheriff of Monroe County in the runoff election on Tuesday, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Brad Freeman beat Lawson Bittick on Tuesday to become the next sheriff of Monroe County.

With all precincts counted, Freeman had 4,016 votes, or 56 percent, to 3,101 votes, or 44 percent, for Bittick. The turnout was 39 percent.

Bittick, a lieutenant in the sheriff’s office, was bidding to follow in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather to serve as Monroe sheriff. Freeman, a captain in the sheriff’s office, worked for 32 years under Bittick’s father, who resigned earlier this year to become U.S. marshal for the Middle District of Georgia.

During the runoff campaign, Bittick, 30, advocated for increasing the investigation division of the sheriff office while Freeman, 54, put more emphasis on increasing patrols.

In the general election held Nov. 6, Bittick was the top vote getter in the 6-way race with 3,937 votes, or 31 percent. Freeman was second with 2,974 votes, or 24 percent.

With it being a special election to fill an unexpired term, Freeman will take office as soon as the election is certified and he is sworn in. He would then be up for election again in two years.

The City of Hahira is considering hiring consultants to help prioritize projects to be funded under the next Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Statesboro adopted a new marijuana policy that will prevent the jailing of people accused of possessing small amounts, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Effective Jan. 1, misdemeanor marijuana possession in Statesboro will be punishable by at most a $500 fine or equivalent community service, with no jail time, when prosecuted in the Statesboro Municipal Court.

Under state law, which will still apply in Bulloch County State Court and Superior Court, the penalty for possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.

City Council enacted the new ordinance by a 5-0 vote Tuesday morning, after hearing from speakers on both sides of the issue. Mayor Jonathan McCollar and the council also heard Chief of Police Mike Broadhead express concern that, if the Statesboro Police Department is directed to cite only under the city ordinance, this will excessively restrict officer discretion. His “show and tell,” involving bags of actual marijuana, suggested that there are cases where less than an ounce represents something other than possession for one’s own use.

A preamble to the ordinance states that it is not City Council’s intent to “legalize or otherwise decriminalize.”

Councilman Sam Lee Jones, when he initiated City Council’s discussion of marijuana in June, referred to decriminalization at first. But the discussion even then turned to a “cite and release” approach, and Broadhead expressed support for this as a means to free up officer time for other police work. The previous approach requires booking misdemeanor possession suspects into the county jail.

The goal that Jones and other council members have invoked most often for creating a cite-and-release ordinance is giving young offenders a second chance without creating a record in the state’s court system.

Leesburg City Council Member Debra Long resigned her seat, according to the Albany Herald.

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services is rolling out a new “panic button” for their field staff, according to the Gainesville Times.

On Monday, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services went live with a phased rollout of a new security system by distributing to child-welfare investigators and case managers “panic buttons” that connect to the Click Safe mobile phone application.

“These professionals must go wherever necessary to safeguard children,” Tom Rawlings, interim DFCS director, said in a press release. “They can’t choose the places or situations they enter.”

When pressed, the button on a key fob transmits a signal via Bluetooth to a phone app on the worker’s state-issued mobile device. The phone then silently notifies the agency’s call center where a trained operator contacts the nearest 911 center with details on the alarm, a description of the employee, the location and a request to rush law enforcement officers to the scene.

The system operates silently and out of sight to keep from alerting anyone threatening a case worker that law enforcement is responding, which could make a tense situation even more dangerous.

Engineers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute developed the system at the request of Gov. Nathan Deal.

Three new Henry County Magistrate Judges were sworn in, according to the Henry Herald.