Category: Georgia Politics

11
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for March 11, 2019

On March 11, 1779, Congress created the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

On March 11, 1861, the Confederate Congress, assembled in Montgomery, Alabama, adopted the Constitution of the Confederate States of America. Today the original signed manuscript of the Confederate Constitution is in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries.

On March 11, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur obeyed the President’s order dated February 20, 1942, and left the Philippines.

On March 11, 2005, Brian Nichols shot and killed Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau in the Fulton County Courthouse, leading to a lockdown of the state capitol and a number of nearby buildings. Nichols killed two more before taking a young woman hostage in Duluth; that woman, Ashley Smith, would talk Nichols into surrendering the next day. Nichols was eventually convicted for four murders and is serving consecutive life sentences.

Happy Birthday to former Governor Roy Barnes, who served from 1999-2003, and lost to Republican Sonny Perdue in 2002, and to current Governor Nathan Deal in 2010.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections

President and First Lady Trump arrived at Fort Benning before touring Alabama storm damage, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

President Trump has nominated former Georgia congressman John Linder as U.S. representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The nomination is pending Senate approval but U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., is already praising the choice.

“John has been a public servant, a passionate advocate for tax reform and a good friend of mine for many years” Isakson said in a statement. “In addition to his military service in the U.S. Air Force, John’s 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives will benefit him greatly if confirmed for this new role.”

“As an early member of the House Homeland Security Committee, John has experience working on challenging security issues including prevention of nuclear and biological weapons proliferation,” Isakson said. “He was also a key advocate of expanding our trade relationships with allies in the Asia-Pacific region, supporting Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.”

First Lady Marty Kemp will host a pet adoption day at the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday, March 30th from 9 AM to Noon.

“The Kemps are excited to open our home to promote pet adoption and find forever homes for rescue cats and dogs,” said First Lady Marty Kemp. “Our family has always held a special place in our hearts for animals, so we are thrilled to have so many state and local partners ready to join us in this important initiative.”

Commissioner Gary Black will be with the First Lady at the adoption day. Visitors at the Mansion will also have the opportunity to visit with the Georgia Grown mascot, Georgie, at the event.

“We are excited for this upcoming event and the exposure that it will bring to pets in need of forever homes. The Georgia Department of Agriculture shares the First Lady’s passion for animals, and we are proud to partner with her in this endeavor,” said Commissioner Gary Black.

Anyone can easily register for this adoption event through the First Lady’s website. There are three one-hour time slots offered to visit with the pets available for adoption. All adoption fees and documentation will be handled by the humane societies, shelters, and rescues in attendance. The Atlanta Humane Society and Lowndes County Animal Shelterwill be two of the organizations at the event.

Under the Gold Dome Today

9:00 AM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary (Civil) 132 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 30) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE FINANCE- CANCELLED MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY MEZZ 1

2:00 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 132 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Life & Health Subcommittee of Insurance 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE APPROPRATIONS – TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 132 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS-FISCAL MANAGEMENT SUBCOMMITTEE 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE 341 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY – CANCELLED 307 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SR 266 – Georgia High School Association; assessment of its operations and practices; encourage (Substitute) (ED&Y-8th)
HB 166 – Genetic Counselors Act; enact (Substitute) (H&HS-32nd) Silcox-52nd
HR 165 – Property; conveyance of certain state owned real property; authorize (Substitute) (SI&P-15th) Greene-151st

 

 

 

House Bill 353 by State Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) would create a new crime of stagning a vehicle collision, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Kasey Carpenter, would make it a felony offense to either intentionally cause an automobile collision or attempt to manufacture evidence for a wreck that never happened.

Faking a wreck could land a person in prison for one to five years. But if another person is injured or killed, that could turn into five to 20 years behind bars.

The Dalton Republican said he hopes the measure will deter would-be fraudsters from staging a wreck, saving consumers and businesses money.

“I think this bill will send a message that staging a motor vehicle accident will not be tolerated and, in turn, should reduce car insurance rates for all Georgians,” Carpenter said.

Early votes continue to pour in the Gwinnett MARTA referendum, according to the AJC.

Between Feb. 25 and March 3, the Gwinnett County elections office saw 4,682 votes cast. After satellite voting locations opened in cities across Gwinnett on March 4, the total number of early votes cast in person was 19,118 as of Sunday evening, according to the county.

Gwinnett’s unprecedented three-week early voting period — including keeping polling places open 12 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays — continues through Friday, March 15, and Election Day is March 19. In addition to the county elections office in Lawrenceville, voters can cast ballots at county parks in Buford, Suwanee, Duluth, Norcross, Stone Mountain, Snellville and Dacula.

“The reality is that special elections, standalone issue elections, like this one in the middle of March, have historically had tremendously low turnout,” said state Rep. Brenda Lopez, D-Norcross, at a recent town hall meeting. “If the referendum were not to pass, I would attribute it solely to that reason.”

In the December runoff election for secretary of state and public service commissioner, 103,639, or 19.7 percent, came out to vote. For the current referendum, turnout by the end of Election Day is not expected to exceed 100,000, said Ryan Anderson, the data analyst who runs GeorgiaVotes.com. Gwinnett County currently has about 544,000 registered voters.

“It definitely looks like we’re going to comfortably surpass the runoff early voting totals at this point,” Anderson said. “But the other important point is that over 80 percent of voting in Gwinnett came from day-of voters in the December runoff, versus under 50 percent in the November general.”

Former Georgia Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer is running for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, according to the AJC.

Shafer is the third leading candidate competing to succeed John Watson, who announced shortly after the midterm he wouldn’t run again. Veteran Republican activist Scott Johnson and Bruce Azevedo, a real estate agent who chairs the Ninth District GOP, are also in the race.

A former Georgia GOP executive director, Shafer lost a 1996 bid for secretary of state before winning a 2002 contest to represent his Duluth-based Senate seat. He rose to become the chamber’s president pro tem, one of the most powerful figures in the Capitol.

But his political career was derailed last year when he was defeated by Geoff Duncan in a razor-thin Republican runoff for lieutenant governor.

“The Democratic Party we replaced was a center-right party,” he said. “The Democratic Party seeking to replace us is a radical leftist, Marxist party.”

Democratic former Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves is considering a run for the 7th Congressional District, according to the AJC.

The Democrat filed paperwork over the weekend declaring his candidacy for the 7th District seat soon to be vacated by Republican Rep. Rob Woodall, and he said he’ll formally announce his campaign within days.

Eaves will join a growing field competing for the seat, which last year was home to the closest U.S. House election in the nation. National Democrats see it as one of the juiciest pickup opportunities in next year’s vote.

The runner-up in the 2018 contest, Carolyn Bourdeaux, has already launched another bid. So have Snellville attorney Marqus Coles and Democratic operative Nabilah Islam.

And a trio of Democratic state legislators – Brenda Lopez, Pedro Marin and Sam Park – is considering a run. The Republican side is unsettled, too, though state Sen. Renee Unterman is seen as an early frontrunner if she decides to get in.

Nine County GOP Conventions passed resolutions against House Speaker David Ralston, according to 11Alive.

The counties that passed the resolution to demand Ralston resign included Coweta, Cherokee, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Bartow, Fayette and Camden among others.

Georgia’s timber industry is threatened by storm losses and driver shortages, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

[W]hen Hurricane Michael roared in late last year, it wiped away three-quarters of a billion dollars in timber alone. The state is still counting up the damages from storms last weekend that hit Harris and Talbot counties hard. And then there are other stresses for the industry: it’s hard to find log truck drivers; and insurance, equipment and fuel for them isn’t getting any cheaper.

It takes years just to grow little trees that will be thinned for pulp — maybe two decades or more for the sturdy trees that become, say, telephone poles. In the meantime, there are costs like property taxes to be paid.

An anxious-looking state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black was at the state Capitol in late February, conferring with Gov. Brian Kemp about a proposed federal aid package for areas hit by Hurricane Michael. Those negotiations are still ongoing.

Debbie Buckner, from Junction City, feels for all the people who lost their retirements in Michael. And she’s got more worries about the industry too. She and her family grow timber and her son is a logger.

Buckner is also a Democratic state lawmaker, by the way. She said it might be time to consider some new policies to encourage more people to become drivers, to see what can be done about the insurance rates, about when mills can impose quotas. Especially during times of emergency — when you might have all those trucks-worth of timber on the ground.

Former United States Senator Saxby Chambliss will address local groups in Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Former Sen. Saxby Chambliss will be the center of attention April 5 at the annual legislative lunch, co-hosted by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce, Valdosta Board of Realtors, Home Builders Association of South Georgia and Valdosta Rotary Club.

“Sen. Chambliss brings a wealth of experience from his legislative career,” said John Page, chamber government affairs council chairman. “He served in the U.S. House and Senate, representing our great state. Because of that mindset, combined with his record of service, he can give regular people the deep insight to understand politics and government in a balanced way. A true statesman, Sen. Chambliss is deeply respected by both political parties. He holds his ground when it comes to his deep principles and does not blink.”

Glynn County Board of Elections will hear about progress on HB 316, the voting procedures bill, according to The Brunswick News.

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

The state House of Representatives approved the bill last month, and the state Senate gave a favorable report Thursday, meaning it is likely headed to the floor for discussion in the near future. Channell, who visited the capitol recently to discuss legislative issues, said it seems likely the bill will be signed into law.

“(Former Secretary of State, now Gov. Brian) Kemp was very eager to get this new system in place, so I think that was a priority getting it through. I don’t think he’s not going to sign it if the Senate passes it,” Channell said.

If approved, the Georgia Secretary of State would put out a request for proposal, he said. Polling machine vendors would submit their proposal, one of which would be selected by the secretary.

Camden County Schools Superintendent Will Hardin will retire at the end of 2019, according to The Brunswick News.

The City of Statesboro is considering new transit routes, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Concept maps A, B and C were displayed on poster panels during Thursday evening’s open house hosted by city officials and Connetics Transportation Group, or CTG, in the Honey Bowen Building. Only 21 Statesboro-area residents signed in during the two hours. But 80 percent of the 506 responses to the preliminary survey last fall expressed a belief that public transit is needed in Statesboro, reported Dan Nelson, a CTG senior planner and the consulting firm’s project manager for this study.

The second survey, which lets respondents rank suggested routes by how useful each would be to them and people they know, will remain open online through March 24. It can be found through the transit study link at the top of the “Notices” column on the city’s homepage, www.statesboroga.gov.

This 21-question survey also asks people how often they would use the service and at what times of day. Giving options from 50 cents to $3, it asks what one-way fare, if any, you would be willing to pay to ride a regular route, and whether you would accept a tax increase to support the service.

Columbia County high schools include student life centers to provide wraparound services for students, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Leigh Colburn, a former principal of Marietta High School, established a similar center in the metro Atlanta high school in 2015 after years of trying academic intervention to assist students’ education. After organizing the Graduate Marietta Student Success Center and tackling substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence and other issues with community service agencies, the school began to see results, and schools across the state took notice, including those in Columbia County.

The school system hired Rachel Czerepak to serve as the district’s wraparound support program specialist at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year and created student life centers in all five high schools and the alternative center. The goal is to focus on the whole child, not just academics.

“If you’re hungry, if you’re cold, if you spent the entire night in a van – you’re really not going to care about doing well (academically) even if you want to,” Czerepak said.

Prior to Czerepak’s arrival, the school system conducted a student survey asking what services they would be interested in receiving. Mental health, substance abuse, college and career, financial literacy and suicide prevention were among the top requests.

“They didn’t say things like tutoring or different academic courses,” Czerepak said. “They were talking about pretty heavy stuff that schools have not typically gotten into.”

The Dalton Daily Citizen looks as local municipal projects under a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the ballot for Whitfield County.

With Whitfield County officials looking to spend $18.2 million of the county’s share of a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on a new government services building, the city of Cohutta’s plan to spend $50,000 of SPLOST money on a new storage building may not seem that large.

But if the SPLOST passes on March 19, it would fund that storage building and other projects for the county’s smaller cities, something their officials say has sometimes been overlooked in the discussion of the major projects planned by Whitfield County and the city of Dalton.

“In a $100 million SPLOST, our $575,000 may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a big deal to us,” said Tunnel Hill City Manager Blake Griffin.

Whitfield County residents will go to the polls on March 19 to vote on the proposed 1 percent, six-year SPLOST that would be expected to bring in that $100 million. Early voting started on Feb. 25.

The City of Cave Springs is considering revising its alcohol ordinance, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

As Cave Spring voters are casting early ballots on the sale of distilled spirits, City Council members are reviewing alcohol ordinances from across the state.

If the measure passes in the March 19 election, the board plans to meet the next week to discuss the details they want to include when they enact it.

Cave Spring already allows beer and wine sales. Voters are weighing in on four other questions: distilled spirits package sales, distilled spirits by the drink, and extending those sales to include Sundays from 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon to 11:30 p.m. at night.

Early voting runs through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at City Hall. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz announced that the city will create a new “Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” according to the Athens Banner Herald.

MARTA is making a pitch for expansion into Gwinnett County, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“There is a groundswell of support for investing in public (transportation) infrastructure, recognizing the tremendous growth that’s happening in this region,” MARTA CEO Jeff Parker said of looks at transit done in Gwinnett and other metro communities.

“Atlanta has done it, Fulton County has laid out a plan for their expansion, DeKalb is currently undergoing plans for theirs, and Cobb County is just about to begin. There are plenty of opportunities to continue to invest in expanding public transportation infrastructure and that’s going to continue to happen.”

[MARTA Police Chief Wanda] Dunham said the agency has 460 sworn police officers and has been ranked third safest transit system in the nation and recently received an award from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration for its safety and security practices. It has its own 911 center, SWAT Team and bomb squad as well.

One of the arguments made by proponents of MARTA expansion is that they believe it will have economic development benefits for Gwinnett County.

They have pointed to companies such as State Farm and WestRock that located nearby transit lines as examples of why they believe Gwinnett’s economy could benefit from MARTA. State Farm Administrative Services Manager Michelle Pellegrini said the insurance company has seen a benefit from having a rail station right next to the building.

8
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 8, 2018

On March 10, 1734, a group of German immigrants reached the mouth of the Savannah River, from where they would proceed on to Savannah. Today, the Georgia Salzburgers Society works to preserve the Salzburger heritage and traditions in Georgia.

March 8, 1862 saw the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, VA, take ninety-eight hits from Union warships without sinking. Virginia sank USS Cumberland after ramming it, blew up USS Congress, and ran USS Minnesota aground. It was the worst day in US Naval history at that time.

On March 9, 1862, CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, a Union ironclad, fought to a draw in the Chesapeake Bay.

On March 9, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed two pieces of legislation dealing with African-Americans, one recognized their marriages, the other legitimized children born to African-American couples prior to the act and required parents to maintain their children in the same way white were required.

On March 10, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation allowing women to have bank accounts separate from their husbands as long as the balance was less than $2000; an earlier act set the limit at $1000.

On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first speech over his new invention, the telephone.

Thomas B. Murphy was born on March 10, 1924 in Bremen, Georgia and would first be elected to office in the 1950s, winning a seat on the Bremen Board of Education. In 1960, Murphy ran for the State House facing no opposition and was sworn in in 1961. In 1973, he became Speaker Murphy and would hold the post until Bill Heath, a Republican, beat him in the November 2002 General Election.

Murphy held the top House seat for longer than anyone in any American state legislature. He died on December 17, 2007.

Bobby Fischer, the Eleventh World Champion of Chess, was born on March 9, 1943 and is considered by many the greatest player of all time.

Governor Ellis Arnall signed two important pieces of legislation on March 9, 1945. The first created the Georgia Ports Authority, with its first project being the expansion of the Port of Savannah. The second authorized the placement of a referendum to adopt a new state Constitution (in the form of a single Amendment to the Constitution of 1877) on the ballot in a Special Election to be held August 7, 1945.

On March 8, 1946, a conference convened on Wilmington Island, near Savannah, that would lead to the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, commonly called the World Bank.

On March 8, 1946, a special train arrived at Savannah’s Union Station from Washington, holding nearly 300 delegates, government officials, technical experts and reporters from 35 nations. Thousands of Savannahians watched as a 100-car motorcade rolled along flag-bedecked streets to the General Oglethorpe Hotel on Wilmington Island.

Treasury Secretary Fred M. Vinson headed the American delegation; the British were led by John Maynard Keynes, “the father of modern macroeconomics.”

The stakes were enormous.

Two years earlier, as World War II neared its murderous end, the winning Allies pondered the nature of the postwar global economy. The United States was emerging as the leader of the free world, largely supplanting the British Empire, gravely weakened by the war.

The IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (better known as the World Bank) were born at a July 1944 conference in Bretton Woods, N.H., where 44 countries established rules for the global monetary system.

The IMF was intended to promote international economic cooperation and secure global financial stability, providing countries with short-term loans. The World Bank would offer long-term loans to assist developing countries in building dams, roads and other physical capital.

The Bretton Woods agreements were ratified internationally by December 1945. Vinson, seeking a site for the new organizations’ inaugural meetings, sent Treasury agents around the country. “They made some fine reports on Savannah,” he later told the Morning News. He had never visited the city.

On March 9, 1970, Governor Lester Maddox signed legislation setting the Georgia minimum wage at $1.25 per hour.

On March 8, 1982, President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “an evil empire” for the second time, in an address to the National Association of Evangelicals.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT CAP 450

10:00 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 29) House Chamber

House Bill 198 by State Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) failed on a 72-94 vote on the House floor yesterday. From the Dalton Daily Citizen:

A plan to change how Georgia regulates health care services — while also requiring much more transparency from the state’s nonprofit hospitals — was rejected Thursday.

The proposal was backed by several high-profile legislators who sought to update a decades-old program called certificate of need, or CON, which regulates how many health care facilities can pop up in any given area with the goal of controlling health care costs.

“It will be back,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Hatchett, a Republican from Dublin who chairs the majority caucus, said in an interview Thursday evening. “We’ve invested our energy up to this point and we’re going to listen and take up some more parts of the bill and see if we can’t start the process to modernize certificate of need because I really firmly believe in that.”

Certificate of need is seen as a protection from the threat of a new facility swooping in and poaching insured customers seeking more profitable services. In rural areas of state, the program is often seen as vital armor for fragile small-town hospitals.

State lawmakers had originally sought to make sweeping changes to how Georgia regulates health care services. The original proposal would have completely repealed certificate of need and replaced it with a licensing program.

House Bill 481 by State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Cobb) passed the State House, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

During tense debate, several Democratic lawmakers opposed to the bill turned their back to its author, Republican Rep. Ed Setzler. Earlier in the day, some handed out wire coat hangers in reference to unsafe home abortions.

Democratic Rep. Renitta Shannon, speaking against the bill and about her own past abortion, went over time and her microphone was cut off. She refused to yield the floor until colleagues surrounded her and implored her to walk away.

If the measure in Georgia is passed by the state Senate and signed into law, it would almost certainly trigger legal challenges.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion up to 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A fetal heartbeat is generally detectable at around six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

The bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest, but only when the woman files a police report first, as well as when a fetus is deemed not compatible with life.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has endorsed the proposal, and earlier Thursday issued a statement to encourage the House to pass the measure. Kemp campaigned last year on a pledge to sign some of the toughest abortion laws in the country.

HB 481 was assigned to the Senate Committee on Science and Technology.

From the AJC:

Eleven House members either sought to be excused from voting on HB 481, the “heartbeat” bill, or didn’t vote. Eight were Republicans.

Among the excused: Dave Belton of Buckhead, Ga.; Brett Harrell of Snellville; Matt Hatchett of Dublin, the House caucus chairman; Chuck Martin of Alpharetta: Sharon Cooper of Marietta; and Matt Dubnik of Gainesville.

Votes not recorded for Ron Stephens of Savannah and Ed Rynders of Albany.

Republicans voting no: Butch Parrish of Swainsboro; and Deborah Silcox of Sandy Springs.

There were geographic exceptions, but a number of legislators from north metro Atlanta. (One Democrat crossed party lines to vote for the bill: Mack Jackson, a preacher from Sandersville.)

House Bill 84 by State Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) aimed to reduce or eliminate “surprise” medical bills and failed by a 77-78 vote margin on the House floor, according to the AJC.

Surprise billing happens when properly insured patients go to a hospital in their insurance network, for example, but then find out that some doctor or service within that hospital was not in network. Then the patient gets a bill for the full price the out-of-network doctor decides to charge, and the insurance compay may pay little or nothing.

The House bill would have left the burden on patients to find out which doctors in their upcoming procedure were in network. But it would have mandated that when they ask, the information be provided to them. It also would have set up a mediation process.

Responding to a question from the floor on why HB 84 didn’t go further, Smith raised concerns with the constitutionality of bills that force insurance companies to pay a certain amount that they have not contracted to pay. That issue, Smith said, can be heard in a subcommittee of his panel: “We will have a hearing but a hearing only.”

House Bill 525 by State Rep. Ron Stephens would change the governing structure for the Savannah Convention Center, according to the Savannah Morning News.

House Bill 525 sponsored by Ron Stephens (R-District 164), establishes the Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority. It replaces the local authority with a state authority that provides bonding capacity as well as a tax-exempt status for the operation of the facility, bringing the Savannah Convention Center’s operation and governance in line with other convention facilities in Georgia.

The bill gives the governor the power to appoint six of its 12 voting members. Currently, each of six state representatives and two state senators from Chatham County has the ability to appoint a member to the local authority.

Local lawmakers will instead share three appointments to the state authority. Also gone are an appointment each from the Chatham County Commission and the Savannah City Council. The bill retains voting, ex-officio appointments for the president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority and the president of the Savannah Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

H.B. 525 passed the house Thursday, the last day it could do so and stay viable this session. It still has to pass the senate before the governor can sign it into law.

House Bill 530 by State Rep. Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon) was revised by the House Juvenile Justice Committee before passing the House, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“This won’t catch every one,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, said during a Juvenile Justice Committee meeting Wednesday, but he said it will be worthwhile if it saves one child. “I don’t believe it’s significant in terms of numbers but if it’s you, it’s pretty significant.”

House Bill 530 is meant to prevent another case like the one in Effingham County, where siblings Mary and Elwyn Crocker Jr. quit attending public school and were found buried behind their family’s house in the Guyton area Dec. 20.

Under the latest version of the bill, local school districts would be notified when the parents of a child who is no longer attending public school have not filed a notice of intent to homeschool.

The schools would refer the matter to the state Division of Family and Children Services, which would conduct an assessment to determine “whether such withdrawal was to avoid educating the child.”

“The purpose of such referral and assessment shall be limited to determining whether such withdrawal was to avoid educating the child,” the bill reads. “Presentation of a copy of such filed declaration shall satisfy the assessment, and (DFCS) shall immediately terminate the assessment under this code section.”

House Bill 454 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) passed the house and would allow cities and counties to regulate electric scooters, according to the AJC.

House Bill 454 would prohibit users of scooter services like Bird and Lime from parking the devices on sidewalks and other places where they would obstruct pedestrians or vehicles. It also would allow anyone who encounters a device parked in a dangerous manner to move it.

The bill, approved on a 133-28 vote, would allow people to ride electric scooters on bike paths, in bike lanes and on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less if no bike lane or path is available.

It also includes provisions that would protect riders. For example, motorists would be required to yield to riders if they’re operating a device in a bike lane.

Senate Bill 131 by Senator Burt Jones (R-Jackson) would move the H/artsfield-Jackson Airport from City of Atlanta control to the state, according to the AJC.

The measure, Senate Bill 131, passed by a 34-22 vote despite stiff opposition from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. City officials say the airport has become the world’s busiest, and one of the most efficient, under Atlanta’s oversight. And they say any takeover attempt will jeopardize the airport’s finances and trigger a wave of litigation.

It now heads to the Georgia House, where it has a more uncertain fate. Gov. Brian Kemp, who has yet to take a formal stance on the measure, said in an interview that he’s monitoring the debate.

“I’m still where I was: I’m watching the process,” Kemp said in an interview. “I’ve spoken with the mayor and I’ve spoken with (the bill’s Senate sponsor) Burt Jones. We’ll wait and see. We’re still doing the due diligence.”

Jones, made his case for the bill as he unfurled a copy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution featuring a front-page article about the indictment of contractor Jeff Jafari.

“Once again another indictment, charge of corruption,” said Jones, a Jackson Republican. “It always has brought me to the conclusion that someone should look into those instances that have been going on there, causing so much… really embarrassment to the state of Georgia as a whole.”

House Bill 426 by State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Gwinnett) passed the House and would be Georgia’s first “hate crimes” legislation, according to The Brunswick News.

 “In 2017, the Douglas County district attorney, a Republican, talked about he desired to charge a criminal offense as a hate crime,” Efstration said. “That’s where 15 individuals were taunting African Americans who were in a park at a child’s birthday party. And as a result of that interaction, a man pointed a shotgun at the party and yelled racial epithets. And the Republican district attorney of Douglas County had to pursue prosecution under the gang statute, because there was no hate crimes statute at the time.”

He pointed to other incidents last year, including swastika graffiti at Centennial High School in Roswell, and mentioned that Gwinnett law enforcement stated there was an increase in “brutal attacks and armed robberies targeted at immigrants.” Efstration recalled one particularly heinous incident involving three men who allegedly attacked Latinos that resulted in one person suffering severe injuries and other — a resident of his district — dying.

“I submit to you that if you honestly search your heart, and you conclude that someone may be more vulnerable to a crime because of being in one of the protected classes where this person could be targeted for an attack, then this bill is needed in Georgia,” Efstration said. “If you honestly search your heart and conclude that hate can be used as a tool for evil in order to undermine the law and order that we take for granted many times in our society, then this bill is absolutely needed.”

Dean of the House Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, said at the outset he enjoyed working with Efstration, crafting the legislation. He also called attention to the speech of former state Rep. Dan Ponder, who made a memorable address in service of the state’s first hate crimes law. The state Supreme Court later found it too broad, and therefore unconstitutional.

“I just think about this — 45 states, 45 states have hate crimes statutes,” Smyre said. “Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Wyoming and Utah (do not). Yesterday, Utah passed it in the Senate, and now it’s in the Utah House. So, I come and ask you very, very strongly to pass House Bill 426.”

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis spoke about downtown parking, the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, and proposed changes to the city charter, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Dougherty County Commission heard from the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, according to the Albany Herald.

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul spoke about the Georgia Supreme Court decision on ankle bracelet monitoring, according to the Albany Herald.

An opinion released on Monday regarding Park v. The State by the Georgia Supreme Court said it affirmed in part and reversed in part the case of Joseph Park, who had been convicted in metro Atlanta of child molestation and sexual exploitation. Park requested an interlocutory appeal to address the constitutionality of OCGA § 42-1-14, which requires, among other things, that a person who is classified as a sexually dangerous predator — but who is no longer in custody or on probation or parole — wear and pay for an electronic monitoring device linked to a global positioning satellite system, or GPS monitoring device, allowing the state to monitor that individual’s location “for the remainder of his or her natural life.”

The high court agreed that it is unconstitutional on its face, as it presented an invasion of privacy issue for someone who has completed his sentence.

The state contended that a lifelong GPS search of an individual classified as a sexually dangerous predator is reasonable because, like a person who is on probation or parole, a sexually dangerous predator has a diminished expectation of privacy with respect to Fourth Amendment searches.

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul said he and his office take a view similar to that of the state, so they plan to see if changes can be made.

“We will work with the General Assembly in fixing this law, or amending it,” Sproul said.

In the meantime, HB 324 has passed the Georgia House of Representatives and is on its way to crossing over into the state Senate. If approved, Georgia would join 31 states that already allow some form of marijuana cultivation so that TCH could be used for medical purposes.

“We have looked at what other states have gone through with this, and recreational marijuana use is (legal in those states),” Sproul said. “We are against that. We may be a year or two away from that (if HB 324 passes). I don’t want to see this happen.

Gwinnett County Public Schools police are working with other law enforcement agencies to determine how explicit photos of a child were circulated, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The photo, which has been shared on Snapchat, depicts lewd acts being done to a young child, according to a Facebook post written by an adult sibling of a Norcross High School student.

The woman wrote on Facebook she saw the image on her sister’s phone and called Gwinnett County Police Department. The Facebook post has been shared nearly 1,000 times.

“Our School Police are working with other law enforcement agencies, trying to identify the Snapchat account holder where this originated, as well as trying to verify the authenticity of the photo and to identify individuals in it,” [GCPS spokesperson Bernard] Watson said. “To my knowledge, no letters have gone home on this. As with any social media issue involving children, we encourage parents to monitor their children’s online activity, talk to their children about concerns, and to be sure that if they see anything that causes concern that they report it to the appropriate authorities and not re-post it.”

Derrick J. Wilson of Snellville is the first announced candidate for Gwinnett County Commission District 3, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Over the years, I’ve sat back and watched how things in our area are just not being taken care of (by) the current county commissioner,” Wilson said. “He’s more of a behind-the-desk kind of leader and doesn’t engage with the community. Most people in my community don’t even know who he is, or if they do know who he is, it’s because of the controversies.

“I just feel like we need more representation in our district, and that goes from Snellville all the way up to Braselton.”

Wilson, who sat down with the Daily Post on Thursday for an exclusive interview to announce his bid for office, said there is a special significance in choosing today to launch his campaign for the District 3 commission seat. It is his mother’s birthday, so he chose to time his announcement to honor that date.

Floyd County Board of Education members and the superintendent visited Washington, according to the Rome News Tribune.

7
Mar

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

On March 7, 1861, delegates to the Georgia Secession Convention reconvened in Savannah to adopt a new state Constitution. A resolution offering to host the Confederate Capitol did not pass.

On March 7, 1965, a group of marchers led by Martin Luther King, Jr., met Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

“I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick… I thought I saw death.”

—John Lewis, SNCC leader

John Lewis, now the United States Congressman from the Fifth District was in the front row wearing a light-colored overcoat and backpack.

GaVoice talked to Lewis about what was in his backpack on that day.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A bribery indictment against an Atlanta contractor could affect the legislation to take over Hartsfield Jackson Airport by the state, according to the AJC.

The indictment of the politically-connected Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari spells out the latest charges filed in the Department of Justice’s three-year investigation of Atlanta City Hall corruption, and officially names him as the person who allegedly paid bribes to the city’s former chief purchasing officer, Adam Smith.

Jafari is also accused of paying bribes in 2014 to an unnamed official in DeKalb County. Federal prosecutors last week issued a subpoena to the county seeking various documents related to county contracts and spending. It’s unclear if the the subpoena is related.

Jafari will fight the charges against him, according to defense attorney Steve Sadow, who provided The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with a statement Wednesday.

The indictment comes at a critical moment for the city-run airport. A planned vote is scheduled for Thursday in the Georgia Senate on a potential state takeover of the airport. Pak said the timing of Jafari’s indictment was coincidental.

National Democrats are preparing for 2020 elections in the Atlanta suburbs, according to the AJC.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it’s staffing up in Georgia’s 6th and 7th congressional districts, a notably early investment as the party seeks to defend and expand upon gains made in the midterms.

The DCCC announced the upcoming hires Thursday as part of a new multi-million-dollar campaign called March Forward. The party said it plans to hire nearly 60 grassroots organizers to help build out its infrastructure in key areas across the country long before the 2020 elections.

The party declined to say how many organizers it plans to send to the north Atlanta suburbs, but its move to hire paid field staff represents the DCCC’s biggest on-the-ground investment in Georgia since the 6th District special election in 2017.

Under the Gold Dome Today

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP
9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP
10:00 AM FLOOR SESSION (LD 28) House Chamber

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

NOTICE OF MOTION TO RECONSIDER:
SB 173 – “Georgia Educational Scholarship Act” (Substitute) (FIN-27th) ENGROSSED

SB 211 – Advertisement and Sale of Meat; representation of nonanimal products and non-slaughtered animal flesh as meat; render unlawful (AG&CA-7th)
SB 216 – Ad Valorem Taxation; local governments to accept prepayments of ad valorem taxes; allow (FIN-53rd)
SB 200 – Georgia Department of Transportation; procedure for appealing the rejection of a contract bid; require (Substitute) (TRANS-51st)
SR 275 – Joint Innovation and Emerging Technologies Study Committee; create (RULES-45th)
SB 225 – Juvenile Code; in conformity with the federal Social Security Act and the Family First Prevention Services Act; bring provisions (H&HS-20th)
SB 131 – “Georgia Major Airport Authority Act” (Substitute) (TRANS-25th)
SB 190 – Child Custody Intrastate Jurisdiction Act; party may bring a counterclaim for contempt in response to a complaint seeking a change of legal or physical custody; provide (JUDY-18th)
SR 264 – Joint Emergency Medical Services Study Committee; create (RULES-53rd)
SB 108 – Competencies and Core Curriculum; computer science in middle school and high school; require (Substitute) (ED&Y-9th)
SB 2 – Public Utilities and Public Transportation; electric membership corporations and their affiliates; authorize; broadband services; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-51st)
SB 58 – Attorney General; written approval that allows for a private person to bring a civil action regarding false taxpayer claims; eliminate requirement (Substitute) (JUDY-48th)
SB 121 – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Data Base; length of time prescription information is retained from two years to five years; increase (Substitute) (H&HS-20th)
SB 171 – Courts, Primaries and Elections, and Ad Valorem Taxation; compensation of various local government officials; modify (Substitute) (SLGO(G)-50th)
SR 237 – United States Congress; call a convention; limit on the number of terms that a person may be elected; United States House of Representatives; request (RULES-46th)
SB 213 – Campaign Contributions; content of and certain reporting times for certain campaign disclosure reports; revise (Substitute) (ETHICS-31st)
SB 80 – Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority; expired provisions; issuance and review of requests for proposals for a new location, ownership; remove (ED&T-26th)
SB 132 – Insurance; modernization and updates; provide; Commission on the Georgia Health Insurance Risk Pool; repeal Article 2 of Chapter 29A (I&L-16th)
SB 138 – Disabled First Responders; certain benefits; provide (Substitute) (FIN-9th)
SB 162 – Local Government; disaster mitigation improvements and broadband services infrastructure; downtown development authorities; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-28th)
SB 110 – Courts; State-wide Business Court; pursuant to the Constitution of this state; establish (Substitute) (JUDY-23rd)
SB 163 – “Tim Tebow Act” or “Equal Opportunity for Access in Education Act” (Substitute) (ED&Y-14th)
SB 167 – Relative Search by DFCS; foster placement for a child adjudicated as a dependent; determine such child’s permanency plan; provide (JUDY-28th)
SB 177 – General Assembly; requirements for consideration of local legislation revising existing districts or creating new districts; provide (R&R-28th)
SB 186 – Trusts; qualified self-settled spendthrift trusts; establish (Substitute) (B&FI-46th)
SB 195 – “Prescription Drug Benefits Freedom of Information and Consumer Protection Act” (Substitute) (H&HS-52nd)
SB 212 – Department of Driver Services; criteria; authorize certain licensed driver training schools to administer on-the-road driving skills testing; revise (Substitute) (ED&Y-9th)
SB 222 – Criminal Procedure; Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform; create (Substitute) (JUDY-23rd)
SB 214 – Barbers and Cosmetologists; the number of apprenticeship hours required; change (RI&U-9th)
SB 227 – Special License Plates; benefit the Georgia Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, Inc.; establish (RULES-9th)
SB 103 – Air Facilities; airports owned by a county, municipality shall not assess any fee to a veteran for motor vehicle parking; provide (Substitute) (TRANS-44th)
SR 67 – Senator Bill Jackson Interchange; Columbia County; dedicate (Substitute) (TRANS-24th)
SB 209 – Individual Schools and School Systems; star rating for financial efficiency; eliminate (ED&Y-10th)
SB 219 – Education; general educational development (GED) diploma; correctly answer 60 percent questions on the US Citizenship Civics Test; require (Substitute) (ED&Y-6th)
HB 92 – Georgia Municipal Courts Training Council; training hours completed by a municipal court judge in excess of those required may carry over to the following year; provide (SJUDY-28th) Rutledge-109th
SB 178 – Specialized Land Transactions; statements of accounts under “Georgia Condominium Act” and “Georgia Property Owners’ Association Act”; provide (Substitute) (SJUDY-9th)
SB 210 – “Quality Basic Education Act”; recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-53rd)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 118 – Crimes and offenses; transmitting a false alarm; revise offense (Substitute)(PS&HS-Morris-26th)
HB 337 – Georgia Peer-to-Peer Car-Sharing Program Act; enact (Substitute) (RegI-Blackmon-146th)
HB 373 – Labor, Department of; employment security; change certain provisions (I&L-Werkheiser-157th)
HB 458 – Fire protection and safety; use of class B fire-fighting foam for testing purposes if such foam contains a certain class of fluorinated organic chemicals; prohibit (NR&E-Gullett-19th)
HB 512 – Agricultural Commodity Commission for Propane; provide (A&CA-Watson-172nd)
HB 525 – Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center; rename to Savannah Convention Center (ED&T-Stephens-164th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 83 – Quality Basic Education Act; recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five; provide (Substitute)(Ed-Douglas-78th)
HB 91 – Hospitals and health care facilities; Federal Bureau of Investigation to retain fingerprints when an agency or entity is participating in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s program; allow (Judy-Welch-110th)
HB 198 – Health; eliminate certificate of need requirements for all health care facilities except certain long-term care facilities and services (Substitute)(SCQHC-Hatchett-150th)
(Rules Committee Substitute LC 33 7901S)
HB 288 – Superior courts; revise the sums that the clerks are entitled to charge and collect for filing documents and instruments pertaining to real estate or personal property (Substitute)(Judy-Powell-32nd)
HB 296 – Superior Court of Hall County in the Northeastern Circuit; revise term of court (Substitute)(Judy-Hawkins-27th)
HB 307 – Abandoned Motor Vehicle Act; enact (Substitute)(MotV-Powell-32nd)
HB 325 – Law enforcement officers and agencies; records of investigation of an officer by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council shall be retained for 30 years; provide (Substitute (PS&HS-Clark-147th)
HB 332 – Agriculture; service of the Commissioner of Agriculture and the president of the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation as ex officio members; revise provisions (Substitute) (A&CA-Meeks-178th)
HB 353 – Insurance; create the crime of staging a motor vehicle collision (Substitute)(Ins-Carpenter-4th)
HB 444 – Dual Enrollment Act; enact (Substitute)(Ed-Reeves-34th)

Structured Rule
HB 168 – Sales and use tax; tangible personal property to certain non-profit health centers; extend exemption for five additional years (W&M-Taylor-173rd)
HB 311 – State government; waiver of sovereign immunity as to actions ex contractu and state tort claims; provisions (Substitute)(Judy-Welch-110th)
HB 502 – Civil practice; continuances for members of the Board of Regents and the Attorney General; revise (Judy-Welch-110th)
HB 507 – Ad valorem tax; criteria used by tax assessors to determine the fair market value of real property; revise (Substitute)(W&M-Wilensky-79th)

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform is looking into Georgia’s 2018 elections according to AccessWDUN.

The committee has opened an investigation into alleged voter suppression tactics.

Fair Fight Georgia, a group launched by Democrat Stacey Abrams – who narrowly lost the 2018 gubernatorial election-is suing, seeking to overturn some state voting regulations. The group has said it is pleased with the launch of the congressional investigation.

“Democrats are bringing out their full arsenal of weapons to relitigate November’s election in preparation for an upcoming election,” [Congressman Doug] Collins said in his prepared statement. “Elections within the state of Georgia are just that – an issue to be addressed by state and local officials within our state. The fact that a U.S. congressional committee is inserting themselves into a statewide issue squarely outside of their jurisdiction exposes their purely political objectives.”

Collins went on to say that Democrats who claim voter suppression after losing elections is a growing trend.

The Georgia House Health and Human Services Committee passed House Bill 481 by State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), according to the Gainesville Times.

a Georgia House committee approved legislation Wednesday to outlaw abortion after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, which is around the same time many women medically confirm they are pregnant.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion up to 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A heartbeat is generally detectable by medical professionals at around 6 weeks.

The House Health and Human Services Committee approved the anti-abortion measure on a party-line vote of 17 to 14. Thirteen Republican men and four Republican women voted for it. Seven Democratic men and seven Democratic women voted against.

The committee approval means the bill could soon move to a vote before the full House, but timing is tight.

Thursday marks a Georgia legislative deadline by which bill must generally pass one house or the other. Any passage in the full House would send it to the Senate.  Gov. Brian Kemp pledged during his recent campaign for governor to sign the “toughest abortion laws in the country”. Kemp’s campaign website says he supports “a ‘Heartbeat Bill’ that outlaws abortions after six weeks.”

From the AJC:

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ed Setzler, told a House panel that the bill represented Georgians’ beliefs.

“I believe in the common sense of Georgians,” Setzler said. “They recognize that science tells us a living, distinct whole human being with a heartbeat living in the womb is worthy of protection.”

One amendment that did make it came at the personal behest to the committee by Cooper, who asked members to “trust” her. Over the objections of witnesses, the committee voted to preserve the ability of women to abort fetuses that doctors say are incompatible with life.

Cooper presented the image of a woman carrying an anencephalic fetus, whose malformed head leaves brain tissue simply hanging in a sac. For some women, being forced to carry that baby through visible late-term pregnancy “would literally put them under psychiatric care,” Cooper said.

House Bill 198 to reform Certificate of Need, will receive a vote in the House today, according to Georgia Health News.

The state House on Thursday will consider a somewhat trimmed-down version of its originally proposed overhaul of the state’s certificate-of-need (CON) laws. The highly anticipated vote on House Bill 198 is expected to be close, experts say.

CON regulates how health care facilities function in Georgia. A provider must get a “certificate of need” from the state to proceed with a major project, such as building or expanding a medical facility or changing what services are available to patients.

Leading hospital groups oppose a broad CON revamp, saying it would hurt existing hospitals, including those in rural Georgia. Proponents say it would spark competition, increase access to services, and reduce health care costs.

The Senate’s version of the CON overhaul has stalled without a committee vote. But the House bill is still alive, and a new version passed the House special committee on health care access on Friday.

The legislation also would provide more rules for the rural hospital tax credit program, which the latest proposal maintains at $60 million, rather than the original bill’s $100 million.

House Bill 316 on elections, passed out of the Senate Ethics Committee, according to the AJC.

On a 7-5 vote in the Senate Ethics Committee, Republicans supported the bill to convert the state to a $150 million voting system that combines touchscreens and computer-printed ballots. Democrats opposed the measure, saying ballots bubbled in with a pen would be more secure from hacking and more accurately reflect voters’ choices.

The legislation was introduced Feb. 14, passed the state House last week and now is set for a vote in the full state Senate.

The legislation now ensures that voters will be able to review their printed ballots before they’re counted and requires audits of election results to be in place in time for the November 2020 presidential election.

House Bill 302 passed out of the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee yesterday, according to The Brunswick News.

The state House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee took a second crack Wednesday at a bill that’s created a significant amount of political heat between localities and homebuilders. House Bill 302 would prevent a number of specifications localities currently have the ability to impose regarding the look of one- and two-family dwellings.

“The way I look at that, and the way the bill’s drawn now — we went back and made a couple of amendments,” said state Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain and the bill’s lead sponsor. “We put zoning back just as it was in the very beginning. We’re not touching zoning, and never were touching zoning, we were just trying to clarify, but we put it back.”

“We also created the overlay districts, which you can go in and lay out that overlay district, have the people in that area of the overlay sign a petition — if you have 50 percent plus one, they do what they want to do in that district. We didn’t touch HOAs or historical.”

Committee Vice-Chairwoman Susan Holmes, R-Monticello, said she wanted local control, and worried that this legislation if enacted would have a detrimental effect on communities, especially rural ones.

“I’m just so disturbed by this, y’all,” Holmes said. “Having been in local government for 12 years, I have been there. I have been from a little city that was absolutely pitiful and dying and dreadful looking, to having those guidelines which were very reasonable, that our local government voted for. See, it makes such a difference in my little city of Monticello, and I’ve also seen what has happened in Madison, Thomasville, Gainesville — cities around the state — Jackson. Cities in my area are just so upset by this, I just get calls and texts and emails about, ‘Please don’t let this bill pass.’”

The bill passed by a vote of 9-7 and moves on to the House Rules Committee. Today is the crossover deadline, however, and it was not on the initial Rules calendar. There is a Rules meeting at 9 a.m. and supplemental Rules calendars can be expected. If H.B. 302 does not pass the chamber today, it will not have the possibility of moving again until next year.

State Rep. Jeff Jones (R-St Simons) said his opposition to the Speaker may have cost his community an appropriation, according to The Brunswick News.

Jones fears his name may have cost McIntosh County a $400,000 allocation for a new visitors center.

Late in February, Jones joined nine other House members in urging Speaker David Ralston to resign after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Ralston, a lawyer, had used his legislative position to stall court actions in cases involving his clients.

Jones believed he had secured a $400,000 special allocation to help McIntosh County remodel a former restaurant into a visitor center in the southwest corner of Exit 49 off Interstate 95. Since he joined the resolution addressing Ralston’s court delays, he has heard no more about his request for the money.

Jones asked for $750,000 and believes there was $400,000 in the budget for the project. He acknowledged Monday night, he can’t say for certain whether the funding was approved before he signed onto the resolution Feb. 28 calling for Ralston to vacate his seat.

Had the sponsor of the resolution on Ralston waited until after Crossover Day, the McIntosh County funding measure would already have passed safely from the House to the Senate. Crossover Day is the point in the legislative session when bills and resolutions must be approved in one chamber to give the other time to act. The Georgia General Assembly has not yet hit that date.

The Dalton City Schools FY 2020 budget contains no tax increase in its first draft, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Spending would increase by just over $2 million but the local property tax rate would remain the same under the first draft of a fiscal year 2020 Dalton Public Schools budget the board of education recently reviewed.

Chief Financial Office Theresa Perry said the “predominate factor” in that increase is a permanent $3,000 a year pay increase for teachers proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp. The budget passed by the state House of Representatives last week lowered that pay raise to $2,775 but also expanded it to school counselors and other staff certified by the state.

The school system budget draft anticipates that salaries would increase to $46.613 million from $44.961 million. But Perry says the majority of that increase should be covered by additional state funding.

“It isn’t completely clear how much they will be funding, but based on the information I have, I expect it will be about 70 percent,” she said.

The Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education approved a new $118 million dollar school, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Statesboro City Council asked the city attorney to draft a “blight tax” ordinance for consideration, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discussed plans for the dam and locks on the Savannah River near Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Corps meeting was part of a 60-day comment period that ends April 16 on the agency’s draft recommendation to replace the lock and dam with a rock weir allowing fish passage but would lower the average pool in the Savannah River at Augusta and North Augusta, as a Corps simulation in February dramatically showed.

6
Mar

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

On March 6, 1857, the United States Supreme Court published its opinion in Sanford v. Dred Scott.

the Court held that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court,and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States. Dred Scott, an African American slave who had been taken by his owners to free states and territories, attempted to sue for his freedom. In a 7–2 decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Court denied Scott’s request and in doing so, ruled an Act of Congress in this case—the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which prohibited slavery north of the parallel 36°30′ north—to be unconstitutional for the second time in its history.

The decision would prove to be an indirect catalyst for the American Civil War and was functionally superseded by the post-war Reconstruction Amendments. It is now widely regarded as the worst decision ever made by the Supreme Court.

One member of the Court that decided Dred Scott was Associate Justice James M Wayne, who was born in Savannah and served in Congress from Georgia from 1829 to 1835.

On March 6, 1946, the Fifth Circuit United States Court of Appeals ruled in King v. Chapman that Georgia’s all white Democratic Primary violated the 14th, 15th, and 17th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Primus E. King of Columbus, Georgia brought the lawsuit against the Muscogee County Democratic Party Executive Committee Chair Joseph E. Chapman.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM HOUSE INSURANCE 606 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS 403 CAP

9:00 AM DOT BOARD ELECTIONS- DISTRICT 6 SENATE CHAMBER

9:00 AM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 415 CLOB

10:00 AM SENATE ETHICS 307 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary (Non-Civil) 415 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY – CANCELED MEZZ 1

1:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY (NON-CIVIL) 415 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

2:00 PM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH – CANCELED 307 CLOB

2:30 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 515 CLOB

3:00 PM SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM – CANCELED 125 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES- CANCELED 450 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR 506 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE RETIREMENT – CANCELED MEZZ 1

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY – CANCELED 307 CLOB

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck is asking the insurance industry to exercise leniency for policyholders affected by storms in south Georgia, according to the Albany Herald.

Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Jim Beck has issued a directive to all licensed insurance companies in the state of Georgia, urging them to exercise leniency to Georgia policyholders who are late with their premium payments due to disruption of services resulting from the severe weather in Grady, Harris and Talbot counties on Sunday.

In addition, Beck urged insurers to consider the nature of Act of God claims when renewing impacted policies.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Georgia, as well as our great neighbors in Alabama, who were hit Sunday night by these storms,” Beck said in a news release. “As we recover, it is essential that we show patience and understanding to those impacted by this tragedy. I urge all insurance companies in Georgia to factor in the circumstances of this severe weather event when processing any tardy premium payments.”

Senate Bill 56 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) aims to reduce “surprise medical billing” by insurance companies, and passed the Senate, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said his SB 56 is designed to keep the consumer out of the mix when there is a price dispute between an insurance company and an out-of-network medical service provider. Currently, the balance is charged to the patient, who could end up thousands of dollars in debt.

“What this bill does is, it gives transparency to consumers,” he said Tuesday in presenting the legislation on the Senate floor.

Hufstetler said 90 percent of surprise bills stem from emergency care — for a trauma or sudden onset of a medical condition that appears to require immediate treatment. A formula in the bill would determine what the insurer must pay the provider, with the patient’s share limited to the in-network cost.

“For those (instances) that aren’t part of emergency situations, it sets up a dispute resolution process,” he explained.

The Georgia State House passed House Bill 324 by State Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Paulding), by a 123-40 vote, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Medical cannabis could be grown and produced in Georgia under a measure that cleared the House in spite of stiff opposition from sheriffs and some in the faith community who decried the move as a step toward recreational use.

The proposal would allow 10 companies to grow and produce medical cannabis oil and as many as 60 dispensaries across the state to sell it. It passed Tuesday with a vote of 123 to 40.

The measure, which would prohibit the oil from being vaped, also calls for a tracking system that follows the product from the time it’s planted to the time it’s sold.

“I’m not asking for this state to endeavor for anything more than to give the people in this state – those who are registered – a safe oil,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Micah Gravley, who is a Republican from Douglasville, said to his colleagues Tuesday.

“These aren’t people who are seeking a recreational high,” he said. “These aren’t people who are seeking to use illicit drugs. These are people who have tried and failed with opioids. These are people who simply want their children to experience less seizures, a loved one to be eased in the pain of cancer.”

From the AJC:

“It was hypocritical to me to pass bills to let this substance be available to the sickest folks that needed it, the worst, and yet we didn’t give them the access to get it,” said Regulated Industries Chairman Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell. “There’s nothing in this bill that will encourage recreational use.”

This year’s legislation proposes that the state license a total of 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, split between large growers and distributors, smaller-scale companies and stand-alone retailers.

Initial licenses would cost $150,000 for large companies, $37,500 for smaller companies and $30,000 for retailers. Businesses would also have to pay annual license renewal fees ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

Licenses would be approved by Jan. 1, and state-sanctioned medical marijuana products would be available to patients within 12 months of the license date.

The oyster industry and environmentalists raised issues with House Bill 501 by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) and Senate Bill 182 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), according to the Savannah Morning News.

[G]rowers say neighboring states manage to comply with less interference from regulators.

Scott Stradley is a managing member of the Great Georgia Oyster Co., a business formed by four military veterans based in Georgia but working at oyster farms in South Carolina. He and his colleagues are frustrated with what they see as unnecessary hurdles in the bills, including a lottery for leases on the state-owned waters to be farmed.

“The lottery is horrible,” he said. “How many businesses start off with a lottery? By the time you get thousands of dollars of licenses and certificates to apply for the lottery, you’re still not certain you’re going to get it.”

Another showstopper for Stradley is that the bills, developed by the Coastal Resources Division of the DNR, don’t guarantee a 12-month harvest that farmers need to be profitable, instead leaving summer harvest at the discretion of the DNR.

“A 12-month harvest is a huge thing,” said Stradley, who spoke at a house committee meeting on the subject Thursday. “There’s already a system in place for public safety with time and cooling requirements in the summer months.”

The house passed H.B. 501 on Tuesday.

The senate passed S.B. 182 on Friday and the house gave it a first read Monday.

From The Brunswick News:

“This bill creates an entire new industry in Georgia — the mariculture of shellfish, or, the farming of oysters,” said state Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, the bill’s lead sponsor. “In Georgia we have about a $1.7 million industry today in wild harvest of oysters and clams, but we do not have the ability today to farm oysters. This bill, very simply, creates the ability for people to farm oysters in the subtidal zones of our estuaries in cages that they will float off the bottom in leased areas off our estuaries that will be determined by the department. It allows a lottery system, where we approve of vetted individuals that will compete for those leases to grow oysters.”

Petrea said the leases would go through a lottery system to make sure Georgia residents and those who already have experience have the opportunity and access to the farming, and that it’s not dominated by large companies from out of state that could outbid local people.

“I can say unequivocally that the bill, H.B. 501, and its companion coming out of the Senate, S.B. 182, do not have industry support,” [State Rep. Jeff] Jones said. “Those two bills do not have the support of the environmental community. Those bills are not good bills, and in fact if we pass that — what I call bad legislation, with so many problems inherent to that legislation — the opportunity for us to open up that code section at a later date is going to be very, very difficult.”

Jones filed H.B. 565 Monday, which he said contains the specifics that should have been in H.B. 501, and was told by people in the industry that they’d rather not see anything pass this year — if it was to be H.B. 501 or S.B. 182 — and instead take another look and pursue a different path with better legislation at another time.

House Bill 346 by State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would protect tenants who report complaints about property owners, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The problem is slum lords, negligent owners who fail to maintain decent conditions in their rental properties, Cooper said. Tenants who face unhealthy conditions often don’t have the money to go to a lawyer. And eventually, the landlord can move another family into the hazardous home, she added.

Susan Reif, an attorney with Georgia Legal Services Program, told lawmakers, “We tell clients that you have to weigh the risk of calling code enforcement, against the possibility of eviction.″

Under House Bill 346, if a tenant were to complain about unsafe conditions, and suffer a rental increase or eviction as a consequence, a retaliatory eviction could be halted, and the landlord could face civil penalties.

The State Senate and House passed separate measures to fix an issue with the “implied consent” provisions of DUI law, according to the AJC.

The Senate voted 46-4 to approve changes to the state “implied consent” DUI law that would allow law enforcement to use a person’s refusal to submit to a blood or urine test against them as evidence at a trial.

The state Supreme Court ruled that a driver’s refusal to take a breathalyzer test cannot be held against them in criminal court.

The Georgia House on Tuesday passed similar legislation, House Bill 471, which would also apply to people accused of hunting or operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The City of Gainesville wants to annex Lake Lanier Olympic Park and take over operations, according to the Gainesville Times.

Mayor Danny Dunagan said Tuesday that the city is willing to take on a greater role in park operations while the county steps back. The park must be annexed in to the city for the city to take on this role, and the state legislature must approve that annexation, he said.

If the annexation is approved, Lake Lanier Olympic Park would become a city park. Dunagan said the Lake Lanier Olympic Park Foundation has developed a master plan that includes several updates to the park, which was built for the 1996 Olympics. The park is north of the city off Clarks Bridge Road.

County spokeswoman Katie Crumley told The Times in an email: “Hall County is working with the City of Gainesville to do what is in the best interest of the future of the Lake Lanier Olympic Rowing venue, which includes annexing the property into the City of Gainesville.”

The Lowndes County Board of Education registered its opposition to House Bill 301, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The board is even calling its representatives and sending a letter stating its position on Georgia House Bill 301, which is an “education scholarship account” that would provide state funds for children to attend private schools or do homeschooling.

It is like a “voucher,” which other states are using. It was introduced Feb. 13.

“(Parents) would be able to access that money for private school tuition or to purchase homeschool curriculum,” Lowndes County School Superintendent Wes Taylor said.

“The money carries over from one year to the next. Upon graduation, if it hasn’t been expended, they could even apply it to college tuition.”

The biggest issue, Taylor said, is it would take away from public school funding.

According to the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, public school districts would lose out on more than $5,500 — what the state pays on average for each general education student — per voucher student.

Lowndes County has a rising homeless population, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Whitfield County Chief Magistrate Haynes Townsend is resigning at the end of the month, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Townsend’s resignation will open up a second vacancy in April on the four-person court. Judge Shana Vinyard has been on “voluntary paid leave” since October of last year and recently submitted her resignation to Gov. Brian Kemp, effective April 1.

Vinyard had been under investigation by the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC), and Townsend said her resignation effectively ends that investigation. Even though he is the chief judge of the court, Townsend has no authority to remove Vinyard from office. The state Supreme Court can remove, suspend, censure or enforce retirement on a judge based on recommendations from the JQC.

The selection of new judges to fill the terms of Townsend and Vinyard rests upon a majority decision of the four Superior Court judges: Chief Judge William T. Boyett, Scott Minter, Cindy Morris and Jim Wilbanks. Court Administrator Brad Butler said his office is accepting résumés through March 15 at 5 p.m.

The only qualifications to serve as a magistrate judge are at least one year of residency in the county, the individual must be at least 25 years old and must have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

John Wagner has been named acting police chief for Warner Robins, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Warner Robins police assistant chief John Wagner was named Tuesday as the agency’s acting chief in the wake of the sudden retirement of Brett Evans.

Mayor Randy Toms said he exercised his authority as mayor to make the appointment, which he expects will be followed by a vote of council and Wagner serving as both assistant and acting chief for six months.

Evans, who has served the Warner Robins Police Department for more than 30 years, is on paid administrative leave until his official retirement date of April 19. Evans could not be reached for comment.

Rob Lewis will serve as Interim Police Chief for Harlem, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The City of Savannah is working toward a cleaner St. Patrick’s Day, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The city is banning Styrofoam coolers, as well as tables and tents, in an attempt to reduce littering and underage drinking at the square, where such issues have been a problem during past parades.

“Throughout the city, we are asking people to step back and say, ‘Is this what we really want our community and event to look like?’ and I don’t think anyone would say yes,” Special Events, Film & Tourism Director Susan Broker said during a press conference Tuesday.

“The sanitation department is going to have 60 to 70 employees out here at 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday [March 16-17],” said John Denion of the city’s sanitation department. “We’re also urging people this year to bring your own trash bags and clean up after yourselves, whether you’re on the parade route, in Chippewa Square or any of the squares.”

“Our main focus this year is to make sure our businesses are in compliance with local ordinances, state and federal laws,” [Savannah Police Lieutenant Shanita Young] said. “We will have help from our Georgia tobacco and alcohol division. Those agents will be coming down from Atlanta and surrounding counties in order to assist the Savannah Police Department.”

5
Mar

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

On March 5, 1735, James Oglethorpe presented a budget to the trustees of Georgia and proposed seeking an appropriation from Parliament, thus beginning the addiction of the Georgia government to Other People’s Money.

On March 5, 1869, the United States Congress refused to seat Georgia’s elected members of the House and Senate.

On March 5, 1977, President Jimmy Carter held the first “Dial-A-President” radio broadcast in which he fielded questions from radio listeners.

Ron Daniels brings you more on the Presidential Q&A from 1977.

Regardless of Carter’s policy positions and his answers to questions, “Ask President Carter” was a truly historic broadcast. Never before had the President been accessible via telephone on a live radio broadcast. And the questions presented to the President weren’t confined to one or two issues that he had been prepared to handle. One can argue that the American people were also fascinated with the concept of calling and speaking directly to Carter; nine million people called into the broadcast trying to reach him.

The President seemed to enjoy the broadcast as well, remarking: “[t]he questions that come in from people all over the country are the kind that you would never get in a press conference. The news people would never raise them, like the Ottawa Indian question. And I think it’s very good for me to understand directly from the American people what they are concerned about and questions that have never been asked of me and reported through the news media.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp toured storm damaged areas yesterday, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

After viewing storm damage of Harris and Talbot counties by helicopter Monday morning, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp did an on-the-ground tour of the damage caused by a tornado in Talbotton and declared a state of emergency for Harris, Talbot and Grady counties.

At the press conference in Talbotton, Kemp said, “The response from the local community from their neighbors down here has been fantastic — everyone pulling together.”

Leigh Ann Erenheim, director of the Talbot County Emergency Management Agency, said on Monday morning there were no reported fatalities for the county and seven injuries associated with the tornado.

“I do consider us very blessed with what we have, unlike Alabama and the things that happened to them, so I consider that the Lord had his hand on us, watching out for us,” Erenheim said.

Under the Gold Dome Today

7:30 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 415 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY (NON-CIVIL) 132 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 406 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS EDUCATION 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT 606 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE MOTOR VEHICLES 515 CLOB

8:30 AM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 415 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION(LD 27) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE ETHICS 307 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE Judiciary Non – Civil Subcommittee 415 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE JUVENILE JUSTICE 515 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS – CANCELED MEZZ 1

2:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES – CANCELLED 450 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 515 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS – CANCELED MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT – CANCELLED 310 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE CODE REVISION 341 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

5:00 PM SENATE REAPPORTIONMENT AND REDISTRICTING – CANCELLED 310 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 92 – Professional Licensing Boards; refuse to issue a license; borrower in default under an educational loan issued through the Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation; prohibit (Substitute) (H ED-21st)
SB 207 – Georgia Board for Physician Workforce; change name; board’s membership; revise (H&HS-11th)
SB 56 – “Consumer Coverage and Protection for Out-of Network Medical Care Act” (Substitute) (I&L-52nd)
SB 173 – “Georgia Educational Scholarship Act” (Substitute) (FIN-27th)
SB 95 – Local Government; terms for contracts for utility services; change (Substitute) (RI&U-29th)
SB 104 – Resuscitation; parental requirement for consent; revise (Substitute) (JUDY-54th)
SB 122 – Motor Vehicle Franchise Practices; protection of certain consumer data in motor vehicle sales or lease transactions; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-18th)
SB 29 – Waiver of Immunity for Motor Vehicle Claims; definition to clarify sheriff, deputy sheriff, other agent, servant, or employee of sheriff’s office; include (Substitute) (SJUDY-22nd)
SB 135 – Workers’ Compensation; certain provisions; change (JUDY-20th)
SB 77 – State Flag, Seal, and other Symbols; additional protections for government statues; provide (Substitute) (GvtO-53rd)
SB 144 – Taxes on Tobacco Products; issuance of special event tobacco permits; authorizing off-premise sales of certain tobacco products; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-24th)
SB 146 – Alcoholic Beverages; retail package liquor stores conduct tasting events; samples of alcoholic beverages may be served; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-47th)
SB 9 – Invasion of Privacy; sexual extortion; prohibit; definitions; elements of the crime; provide (Substitute) (JUDY-22nd)
SB 161 – Education; weighted scores for certain coursework for purposes of determining HOPE scholarship and Zell Miller scholarship eligibility; provide (Substitute) (H ED-37th)
SB 175 – Teachers Retirement System of Georgia; certain public employers to make employer and employee contributions; require (RET-8th)
SB 176 – Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia; certain public employers; make employer and employee contribution on behalf of retired members; require (Substitute) (RET-8th)
SB 183 – Revenue and Taxation; each person that files FORM 1099-K with the Internal Revenue Service shall also file electronically to the state revenue commissioner on or before federal deadline; provide (FIN-52nd)
SB 184 – State Employees’ Health Insurance Plan; services covered and furnished by a federally qualified health center are reimbursed at no less than the Medicare maximum; provide (Substitute) (H&HS-13th)
SB 188 – Reinsurance of Risks; adequate regulation of reinsurers; incorporation of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners reinsurance model into the Georgia Insurance Code; provide (I&L-20th)
SB 109 – Advanced Practice Registered Nurse; delegation by a physician; order radiographic imaging tests in non-life-threatening situations; authorize (Substitute) (H&HS-20th)
SB 192 – Captive Insurance Companies; definitions; use of a registered agent to receive service of process; letters of credit; provide (I&L-25th)
SB 202 – Title Insurance; lender’s security interest; personal property taken by the lender as collateral for a commercial loan; allow (I&L-3rd)
SB 208 – Drivers Licenses; implied consent notices; revise (PUB SAF-29th)
HR 182 – Property; granting of non-exclusive easements; authorize (Substitute) (SI&P-15th) Greene-151st

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 239 – Georgia Business Court; establish (Substitute)(Judy-Efstration-104th)
HB 253 – Professions and businesses; occupational therapists; update and revise various provisions (Substitute)(RegI-Hawkins-27th)
HB 456 – Local government; elect an annual report in lieu of a biennial audit; increase expenditure amount (B&FAO-Tankersley-160th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 227 – Insurance; discrimination against victims of family violence to include victims of sexual assault; expand prohibitions (Substitute)(Ins-Frye-118th)
HB 367 – Corporate Governance Annual Disclosure Act; enact (Ins-Taylor-173rd)
HB 368 – Insurance; division of a domestic insurer into two or more resulting domestic insurers; provide (Substitute)(Ins-Taylor-173rd)
HB 491 – Insurance; regulation of insurance company holding systems; update (Ins-Taylor-173rd)

Structured Rule
HB 314 – Georgia Uniform Certificate of Title for Vessels Act; enact (Substitute)(W&M-Stephens-164th)
HB 365 – Alternative ad valorem tax; motor vehicles; lower tax rate imposed (Substitute)(W&M-Blackmon-146th)

 

House Bill 324 by State Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Paulding) would allow regulated cultivation of cannabis in Georgia, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

House Bill 324 passed out of the House Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee Friday and the Rules Committee Monday. It was sent back to the Rules Committee before coming to a vote, according to Georgia’s Hope, an organization advocating for medical cannabis oil in Georgia.

In the Rules Committee, “it will hopefully be amended and go back to the floor tomorrow,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post.

The bill, known as the Georgia’s Hope Act, allows up to 10 licenses to be issued to companies that would cultivate marijuana and use it to produce a medical oil that contains up to 5 percent THC, as well as other components of marijuana, including CBD.

The bill allows for up to 60 dispensaries around the state, which would be able to sell the oil to Georgians who hold a medical card issued by the state. Currently, about 8,000 Georgians have the cards, but there is no legal way to obtain the oil, which has been legal for several years.

Additionally, some powerful organizations are lobbying hard against the bill, Wooton said. That includes the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

Thursday is “Crossover Day,” and bills must pass either the House or Senate by Crossover Day to have a chance to become law during the current session. However, wording from bills that don’t make it, sometimes is added onto other bills that have passed.

Senate Bill 221 by State Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) is unlikely to advance this session, according to The Brunswick News.

State Sen. Marty Harbin, R- Tyrone, submitted Senate Bill 221 on Wednesday. By the time it came around to a hearing Monday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the meeting — scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. — was already creeping into the afternoon with nearly two hours spent on other legislation.

“For three years or more, we have been dealing with the issue, and my presentation this morning — or this afternoon, as you would tell me — is probably 20-25 minutes to really deal with the comparison of the federal law versus the state law of RFRA,” Harbin said.

Committee Chairman Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, told Harbin there was still a substantial audience at the hearing, but Harbin said a number of people had already left, and that he would like to work to see if there was another opportunity to present the bill.

“I can’t tell you — as Indiana Jones said, ‘I’m making it up as I go,’” Harbin said. “I’m going to find a way, if I can, to try to make it happen.”

From the AJC:

“I’m going to find a way if I can and try to make it happen,” said state Sen. Marty Harbin, a Republican from Tyrone who introduced Senate Bill 221. “I believe in miracles, sir, and that’s what I’m going to try to do” to get the bill passed.

Harbin acknowledged that it might take until next year for the bill to move through the legislative process, but he said he hoped the bill can at least pass the state Senate this year.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has said he would sign a religious rights bill only if it’s a “mirror image” of a federal religious freedom law passed in 1993.

SB 221 includes the same language as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but it also adds a provision that would allow plaintiffs who win lawsuits against the government to recover their legal costs in religious cases.

The Georgia DOT Board opposes House Bill 511 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner, according to the AJC.

HB 511 would generate tens of millions of dollars for transit by replacing the state sales tax on rides for hire with a 50-cent flat fee for taxi, limousine and ride-hailing rides and a 25-cent fee for shared rides. It also would divide Georgia outside of metro Atlanta into eight zones for the purposes of transit funding and planning.

On Monday, the ride-hailing company Uber issued a statement supporting the legislation.

But the State Transportation Board — which oversees the Georgia Department of Transportation — objected to provisions in the bill that would consolidate state transit operations in a single new agency, the Georgia Department of Mobility and Innovation. Those operations are currently split among six agencies, including GDOT, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Community Health.

On Monday, the State Transportation Board approved a resolution asking lawmakers to keep transit and the SRTA under GDOT’s purview.

The Gainesville Times Editorial Board writes in opposition to state legislation that would limit local governments’ ability to zone properties.

House Bill 302, which has won initial committee approval but has yet to be considered by the full House, would restrict local governments in their ability to mandate certain “building design elements” for one or two-family residential dwellings.

If the bill is passed — and considering the considerable political clout of the governing agencies that oppose it there is no certainty that it will be — cities and counties would no longer be able to dictate that new homes have a certain size, or be made of a certain material, or fit a certain architectural design.

The bill brings to the forefront a couple of different serious philosophical questions about the role of government: How involved should any governing body be in dictating to the public what they can and can’t build; and, should local communities have the right to set their own standards above and beyond minimum building codes set by the state?

It is scary to think that a simple majority of a city council can enact building design mandates on a whim, create havoc with the local housing market and economy, and then change things again after the next election cycle when new members are elected. And yet, we firmly believe that the best government is that which is closest to home, and if local voters are willing to allow that sort of authority to their representatives, shouldn’t they have the ability to do so?

Let’s leave the authority to make community decisions at the local level, then work to make sure local decision-makers, and voters, understand the impact their actions related to home building can have.

This morning, the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee tabled HB 302.

Electric scooters may be a target for state regulation, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

One bill proposed in the General Assembly would ban users from parking the devices on sidewalks and in other places where they could obstruct pedestrians, cars and trucks.

A separate proposal would allow electric bikes capable of traveling no more than 20 mph to use bike paths, but it would ban faster ones from those paths.

The proposed state regulations are being considered as some Georgia cities and counties are attempting to reign in electric scooters and bikes.

Athens-Clarke County commissioners voted late last year to temporarily ban electric scooters.

“All this technology has come out over the last few months,” said state Rep. Kevin Tanner, a Dawsonville Republican. “This may be something we’ll need to address on a regular basis.”

The Georgia Supreme Court held unconstitutional lifetime GPS monitoring of convicted “sexually dangerous predators,” according to AccessWDUN.

The unanimous Georgia Supreme Court opinion published Monday says that violates the Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The opinion says the law amounts to warrantless searches to find evidence of possible criminal behavior after people have completed their sentences and regained their privacy rights, which is “patently unreasonable.”

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is “all in” on working with the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“As the representative for the entire coast of Georgia, Buddy is already at the forefront of this issue,” [House GOP Leader Kevin] McCarthy said in a press release. “Buddy also serves on the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, and I am confident he will provide a knowledgeable voice to the committee.”

In a phone interview Monday, Carter said he accepts the scientific conclusion that climate change is real and that industrial activity contributes to it, though he sidestepped a question about how much humans are to blame.

“Regardless of whether it’s mostly or not, it has to be addressed,” Carter said. “We know that we’ve got to address climate change so it’s just one of those things that has to be addressed regardless of whether it is the primary reason for it or not. Everything is on the table and everything has got to be addressed.”

“You know of all the things we can do in the world, we still can’t control the weather,” he said. “And I’ve never bought into the climate change. I’m not naive enough to believe that we don’t have some impact on it, but to think that we have enough of an impact to really change what is happening naturally, I’m not one of those who has really bought into that.”

“I want to do the very best that I can and I’ve heard from constituents and this is real and this concerns them and it’s something we need to address,” he said. “It’s important to us in Coastal Georgia and I get it and I understand that. Climate change is real and the need to address it is real. So I’m all in.”

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway has endorsed the county’s MARTA Referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“I’ve devoted my life to promoting the safety of Gwinnett’s families, and that’s one of many reasons I’m voting yes on the transit referendum on March 19,” Conway said. “I hope my friends and neighbors here will join me in doing the right thing for Gwinnett’s future.”

Conway’s endorsement comes on the heels of a plea from former Gov. Nathan Deal to voters for a vote in favor of adoption of the plan. State Sen. Brandon Beach, who is chairman of the Georgia Senate’s Transportation Committee, also encouraged voters to cast ‘Yes’ votes during a transit forum in Peachtree Corners on Monday.

But Conway’s endorsement stands out among those others because he is from Gwinnett, has been the county’s sheriff for more than 20 years and is a high profile Republican — which means his endorsement may hold some sway with conservative voters who have not traditionally embraced transit.

“The much-needed transit expansion will take thousands of vehicles off our roads every day, which will lead to fewer wrecks, fewer traffic jams and fewer fatalities,” said Conway. “Studies clearly show that an increase in transit ridership increases road safety.

Dalton City Council voted to require a license for outdoor donation boxes, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

“The city of Dalton always has and will continue to support the generosity of its citizens giving to others,” said council member Annalee Harlan. “But these (boxes) should not be used as a space to dispose of household items.”

To receive a license, an organization must provide the city with information on how to contact the organization, and detail how and how often items will be removed from the bins and how many times the boxes will be checked for “general cleanliness, graffiti and litter or other rubbish.” The donation boxes can only be placed in commercially-zoned areas, and can’t be put on empty or abandoned properties. The property owner must certify that permission has been granted to place the box there.

The license fee will be based on what city officials believe it will cost to process the paperwork and City Administrator Jason Parker said that will probably be $25.

Those who violate the law can be fined up to $1,000 and will have their license suspended for up to 60 days. A second violation within a year will bring license suspension of up to 180 days, and three strikes within five years can cause a violator to lose its license for up to five years.

Augusta’s Planning Commission voted against an expansion of a drug treatment center, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Hale House Foundation’s plan to open a drug treatment center in the Green Meadows subdivision found support from Commissioner Bill Fennoy, who said he needed similar services 30 years ago, but the city’s planning commission voted Monday to deny the application.

Supporters and opponents of the proposal filled nearly half the seats in the Augusta Commission chamber at a hearing on an application by Hale House for a special exception to open the center.

Lenn Wood was sworn in as Sheriff of Coweta County, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Floyd County will study its space needs in advance of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax coming online, according to the Rome News Tribune.

County Manager Jamie McCord has been reviewing proposals from consultants who want to lay out the best use of the space going into the future. He said Monday that he hopes to have a recommendation for the County Commission at its March 12 meeting.

An $8 million agricultural center is a cornerstone of the 2017 special purpose, local option sales tax package. There’s also $2,450,000 for a new public works building at the Black’s Bluff Road complex and $5 million for renovations at the Historic County Courthouse.

The county’s projecting revenue of just over $8.2 million a year, but officials could opt to do some projects earlier by issuing SPLOST-backed bonds. The comprehensive space utilization study could help them decide.

“This will give us a perspective on how we prioritize our renovations and new facilities … as well as plan for future expansions, specifically in the Judicial Building,” McCord said.

The City of Marietta may consider allowing open alcohol containers on the downtown square, according to the AJC.

Some Marietta Square business owners would like for the City Council to reexamine the idea. If it passed, it would be the fifth city in Cobb County to have an open container ordinance. Smyrna, Acworth and Kennesaw have open container ordinances, and the Powder Springs City Council is poised to approve its own version.

Open-container districts, also referred to by some cities as entertainment districts, allow patrons to carry out open alcoholic drinks from restaurants operating with a designated area.

Marietta City Council member Cheryl Richardson, a member of the council’s Judicial Legislative Committee that reviewed and rejected the proposal in July 2018, said she isn’t surprised the issue is back in the spotlight, as other cities have made the move to allow residents to sip alcoholic beverages while taking in the sights.

“It would just make sense that it would come back up in Marietta,” Richardson said.

“I think we need to listen to what people want,” she said. “We don’t necessarily need to say ‘no.’”

Richardson said the proposal could come back before the council committee as early as its March 26 meeting. If it gets the blessing of its members, the ordinance will go before the entire City Council at its April 10 meeting.

4
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 4, 2019

On March 4, 1762, legislation was passed by the Georgia General Assembly requiring church attendance on Sundays.

The first Session of the United States Congress was held on March 4, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York City. Congress would not have a quorum for another month.

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as President of the United States.

In his inaugural address, Lincoln promised not to interfere with the institution of slavery where it existed, and pledged to suspend the activities of the federal government temporarily in areas of hostility. However, he also took a firm stance against secession and the seizure of federal property. The government, insisted Lincoln, would “hold, occupy, and possess” its property and collect its taxes. He closed his remarks with an eloquent reminder of the nation’s common heritage:

“In your hand, my fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend it… We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Also on March 4, 1861, the Confederate Congress adopted a first national flag.

Confederate 1st National Flag 1

This flag is depicted with varying numbers of stars – originally adopted with seven stars, by December 1861, a version with thirteen stars was flying.

Confederate 1st National Flag 2

Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis were married on March 4, 1952 in Los Angeles, California.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

More than 16,000 Georgia homes lost power during storms over the weekend, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

In the Columbus area, more than 11,000 Georgia Power residents had no electricity about 4:30 p.m. Sunday. About 800 in Macon were also without power.

Across the state, more than 16,000 residents lost electricity. At least one tornado was reported in Houston County. In other areas, such as Peach and Crawford, the storms left significant damage behind, including downed trees and damaged buildings.

Two-inch hail was reported at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Bibb County but there was no damage.

Governor Brian Kemp will declare an emergency in at least three counties following the storms, according to the AJC.Continue Reading..

1
Mar

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

On March 1, 1778, the Georgia legislature confiscated property owned by 117 people after labeling them traitors.

On March 3, 1779, the British Army met America forces in Screven County, Georgia.

On March 3, 1779, 238 years ago [] , the first major battle of the British Army’s push into the American South took place at Brier Creek at the old road between Savannah and Augusta. According to Battle and President of the Brier Creek Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution Craig Wildi, the American loss resulted in the deaths of at least 200 patriots.

Studies done by Battle in conjunction with other professional organizations have uncovered evidence that some of Georgia’s soldiers who lost their lives in the fight for independence may still lie in graves at the battle site.

“This was the 16th bloodiest of all battle sites throughout the Revolutionary War,” Battle said. “We found so many artifacts under our original permit, Georgia DNR (Department of natural Resources) shut the study down.”

The land around the battle site is public, managed by Georgia DNR as part of the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area. The wildlife management area is about 15,000 acres. Battle and Wildi said they want 500-600 acres set aside to fully study the site, but said DNR hasn’t been willing to dedicate more than about five acres for site preservation and management.

Last year, the Sons of the American Revolution held a commemorative event to place flags in honor of those who died at the battlefield. Because the event was hosted by a non-profit organization, Wildi said Georgia DNR waived the requirements for certain liability insurance policies and other fees for group events. This year, he said they are requiring the group to pay for those requirements; payments the small non-profit says it can’t afford.

During the surveys for and original push for the Palmetto Pipeline, bulldozers and other equipment were brought onto the site to widen roads across it inside the wildlife management area. The proposed pipeline map originally had the right of way slated to cross the battlefield. While both said they were relieved the pipeline was stopped, they say other challenges remain in saving the site.

The Articles of Confederation were ratified on March 1, 1781.

The nation was guided by the Articles of Confederation until the implementation of the current U.S. Constitution in 1789.

The critical distinction between the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution —the primacy of the states under the Articles—is best understood by comparing the following lines.

The Articles of Confederation begin:

“To all to whom these Present shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States”

By contrast, the Constitution begins:

“We the People of the United States do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

On March 2, 1807, the Congress passed legislation outlawing the importation of slaves from Africa or anywhere outside the United States.

On March 3, 1820, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise.

In February 1819, Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced a bill that would admit Missouri into the Union as a state where slavery was prohibited. At the time, there were 11 free states and 10 slave states. Southern congressmen feared that the entrance of Missouri as a free state would upset the balance of power between North and South, as the North far outdistanced the South in population, and thus, U.S. representatives. Opponents to the bill also questioned the congressional precedent of prohibiting the expansion of slavery into a territory where slave status was favored.

Even after Alabama was granted statehood in December 1819 with no prohibition on its practice of slavery, Congress remained deadlocked on the issue of Missouri. Finally, a compromise was reached. On March 3, 1820, Congress passed a bill granting Missouri statehood as a slave state under the condition that slavery was to be forever prohibited in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36th parallel, which runs approximately along the southern border of Missouri. In addition, Maine, formerly part of Massachusetts, was admitted as a free state, thus preserving the balance between Northern and Southern senators.

The Missouri Compromise, although criticized by many on both sides of the slavery debate, succeeded in keeping the Union together for more than 30 years.

On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico.

Texas Flag 1836-39

On March 3, 1845, Congress overrode a Presidential veto for the first time.

The United States Congress passed the first Reconstruction Act on March 2, 1867.

On March 2, 1874, Gov. Smith signed legislation allowing anyone fined for a criminal conviction to arrange for a third party to pay the fine in exchange for the convict’s labor.

On March 3, 1874, Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation permitting persons or companies to lease Georgia prisoners for terms from one to five years, with the Governor setting the rates.

The act required the humane treatment of convicts and limited them to a ten-hour work day, with Sunday off. Equally important, leases had to free the state from all costs associated with prisoner maintenance. Once all state convicts were leased, the law provided that all state penitentiary officers and employees be discharged.

On March 1, 1875, Governor James Smith signed legislation making cruelty to animals a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $50.

Paul Broun, Sr. was born on March 1, 1916, in Shellman, Georgia, and served 38 years in the Georgia legislature.

Broun was first elected to the state senate in 1962 in a historic election that took place after the federal courts struck down Georgia’s long-established county unit election system. Broun was one of several new senators elected in a class that included Jimmy Carter, the future president of the United States; Leroy Johnson, the first black legislator elected in Georgia since Reconstruction; and politicians like Hugh Gillis, Culver Kidd, and Bobby Rowan, who would have a lasting impact on legislative politics.

Broun was elected to nineteen consecutive terms in the senate, where he served as the chairman of the Appropriations Committee and the University System Committee.

Dorothy Felton was born on March 1, 1929, and served as the first Republican woman elected to the Georgia legislature.

Dorothy Felton was the first Republican woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly and eventually became the longest-serving Republican and the longest-serving woman of either party in the state legislature. She also worked for more than a quarter of a century for the right of the Sandy Springs community of Fulton County to incorporate as a municipality, a goal that was not achieved until four years after she retired from elective office.

Felton was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1974 from a district in Sandy Springs.

On March 2, 1950, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the beginning of construction of Buford Dam, which would create Lake Lanier.

President Lyndon B. Johnson attended ceremonies at Lockheed in Marietta for the first C-5A aircraft to come off the assembly line on March 2, 1968.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00 AM SENATE EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB

8:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY (NON-CIVIL) 132 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 403 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE 341 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE Lumsden Subcommittee on Public Safety and Homeland Security 415 CLOB

8:30 AM HOUSE Transportation Resolutions Subcommittee 506 CLOB

8:30 AM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES 606 CLOB

9:30 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 25) House Chamber

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

12:00 PM SENATE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS 310 CLOB

12:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

12:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

12:00 PM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM 406 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE URBAN AFFAIRS MEZZ 1

1:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY (CIVIL) 132 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION 506 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 606 CLOB

1:30 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE REAPPORTIONMENT & REDISTRICTING 450 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY MEZZ 1

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 37 – Statute of Frauds; clarify that a mutual agreement to modify an existing promise, agreement, contract; shall be in writing and subject to statute of frauds (Substitute) (B&FI-3rd)
SB – 182 Seafood; mariculture development; legislative findings; definitions; unlawful acts; permitting; provide (Substitute) (NR&E-3rd)
SB 158 – “Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act” (JUDY-17th)
SB 97 – Self-Service Storage Facilities; limit fees charged and collected by selfservice storage facilities for the late payment of rent; provide (AG&CA-23rd)
SB 120 – “Georgia Tax Credit Business Case Act” (Substitute) (FIN-56th)
SB 133 – Insurance; modernization and updates; provide (I&L-16th)
SB 154 – Georgia Coroner’s Training Council; hearing complaints from outside parties regarding coroners; provide (JUDY-51st)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 279 – Revenue and taxation; certain law enforcement officers may use department vehicles relative to certain approved off-duty jobs; provide (PS&HS-Lumsden-12th)
HB 396 – Crimes and offenses; unlawful for a person with intent to defraud a creditor’s rights to deed or otherwise transfer title to real property to another person without the knowledge or consent of such other person; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Washburn-141st)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 39 – Physical Therapy Licensure Compact Act; enter into an interstate compact (IntC-Belton-112th)
HB 193 – Banking and finance; banks and credit unions to offer savings promotion raffle accounts in which deposits to a savings account enter a depositor in a raffle; allow (Substitute)(B&B-Dunahoo-30th)
HB 281 – Crimes and offenses; pimping and pandering; increase penalty provisions (Substitute)(JudyNC-Anulewicz-42nd)
HB 290 – Health; pilot program to provide preexposure assistance to persons at risk of HIV infection; establish (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd)

Governor Brian Kemp announced a $150 million dollar solar development in Early County, according to the Albany Herald.

“While metro Atlanta and other urban areas continue to grow and thrive, we have work to do in rural Georgia. We must create a bright and promising future for all Georgians – regardless of zip code,” Kemp said Thursday. “Through strategic partnerships with private-sector leaders like Silicon Ranch, our electric cooperatives have made great strides as economic development engines for local communities across Georgia. This is a promising first step toward ‘A New Day in Rural Georgia’ powered by the sun.”

Kemp announced that the first of Silicon Ranch’s three projects, a 102.5-megawatt solar farm built in partnership with Walton EMC to help support Facebook’s data center in Newton County, is already under construction in Blakely. Silicon Ranch will hire more than 400 craft workers for the 10-month construction project, the majority of whom are being recruited from the local community and surrounding region.

“This innovative project will result in Georgia-made products providing energy in Georgia communities to power Georgia homes and Georgia businesses,” Kemp said.

The power generated from Silicon Ranch’s two other solar farms in Early County will be sold to Green Power EMC, the renewable energy supplier for 38 Georgia EMCs and provide low-cost and reliable solar energy to more than 30 EMCs across the state.

The Georgia State House passed their FY 2020 state budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Republican Rep. Terry England of Auburn, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the House budget includes $611 million more than the 2019 amended budget, a 2.26 percent increase.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget proposal had called for $3,000 pay raises for teachers, shy of his campaign pledge to raise salaries by $5,000.

The House budget would raise salaries for teachers by $2,775, but it extends that pay raise to more than 9,000 other certified employees including psychologists, counselors, social workers and special education specialists.

England said the raises represent an 8.1 percent increase to the base teacher starting salary, the largest pay increase for teachers in state history.

The budget also funds the state’s Quality Basic Education formula for the second year in a row after more than a decade of cutbacks.

The State Senate will consider SB 182 by Sen. William Ligon, regulating oyster cultivation, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 530 by State Rep. Bill Hitchens would change rules on homeschooling, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Parents who homeschool their children would have to submit attendance and disciplinary records under a bill introduced to address the deaths of two Effingham County children.

State Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, said he and three other lawmakers introduced House Bill 530 Thursday, which would prohibit parents from removing children from public school to avoid complying with laws about attendance, discipline, parental involvement or parental responsibilities.

Hitchens said the bill is still a work in progress. “We have struggled with language and feel certain what was introduced will probably not be the final product,” he said.

Hitchens and Burns have said they are trying to prevent another case like the one in Effingham County, where siblings Mary and Elwyn Crocker Jr. were pulled out of public school to be homeschooled and were found buried behind their family’s house in the Guyton area Dec. 20.

Currently, the only reporting required from parents who homeschool their children in Georgia is a once-a-year notice with the child’s name, age and address.

House Bill 93 by Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville) passed the State House Natural Resources and Environment Committee and would require public notice of some changes to coal ash ponds, according to The Brunswick News.

Dade County Commissioner Robert Goff called out State Rep. Colton Moore (R-Trenton) for actions the Commissioner says could hurt the local community, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Moore, R-Trenton, has made a name for himself in his freshman session by publicly bucking prominent Republicans — particularly House Speaker David Ralston. Moore’s was one of two “no” votes against a resolution to name a new judicial complex after former Gov. Nathan Deal. Ralston sponsored the resolution. Last week, Moore was also one of 10 representatives who signed a resolution asking Ralston to step down.

In response, Dade County Commissioner Robert Goff told KWNTV in Trenton in an email that he worried Moore’s actions could lead to less state funding for the community. In particular, Goff said county leaders could find themselves whiffing on grant applications.

“It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened,” Goff told the Times Free Press on Thursday. ““That’s for sure. It happens all the time when money is to be given out and you’ve got someone fighting the system and the powers. We tried to build a relationship [with state leaders]. And it seems like things he’s done is not helping that relationship.”

Moore told the Times Free Press he does not believe his actions will cost Northwest Georgia state money. In the counties of Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Gordon, Murray, Walker and Whitfield in November, Gov. Brian Kemp earned 82,800 votes, about 80 percent of the electorate in the region.

Statewide, Kemp beat Democrat Stacey Abrams by about 54,000 votes.

“[Goff] needs to remember that there’s a new governor in town,” Moore said. “His name is Brian Kemp. I don’t think the governor is going to leave District 1 or Dade County behind.”

Former State Senator Curt Thompson (D-Norcross) announced he will run for Gwinnett County Chair in 2020, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“I’m running because we need to be building a bridge in Gwinnett to a brighter future — one that works for all of us in Gwinnett, not just some of us, not just those who have been here for a long time but all of us,” Thompson told his fellow Democrats. “We’ve got to make sure that bridge includes all of us.”

After the Democratic Party’s meeting, Thompson said he decided to announce his candidacy early to give himself time to build up grassroots support. He pointed out that campaigns are getting started earlier and earlier now to build up their support bases.

“Partly that is the nature of campaigning these days,” Thompson said. “Also you’re talking about the second largest county in the state. There are over 900,000 people who live here and over 500,000 registered voters … If you’re running a grassroots campaign, you have to start early.”

The former legislator served in the state Senate for years until he was defeated by new state Sen. Sheikh Rahman, D-Lawrenceville, during the 2018 Democratic primary. After that loss, his name began circulating as a possible candidate for commission chairman in the later half of last year.

Columbia County voters will decide whether to renew the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (E-SPLOST) in a March 19 referendum, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Columbia County School System is asking voters March 19 to continue the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to build new schools and renovate existing facilities to prepare for more students. The one-cent per dollar sales tax will generate between $115 million and $140 million for school projects from 2022 to 2027.

The school system is projecting growth of 579 students in the 2019-20 school year with more expected as Fort Gordon prepares for the relocation of the U.S. Army Cyber Command in 2020. Four out of five high schools already struggle with overcrowding, and Army Cyber Command employees are expected to have older children, creating more of a space issue in middle and high schools.

“The continuation of this ESPLOST is critical to our being able to provide proper facilities in Columbia County for our students,” Superintendent Sandra Carraway said.

Voters approved the ESPLOST in 1997 and has been renewed every five years. Since its inception, the school system has built 16 schools.

The Georgia Ports Authority says that a new Hall County Inland Port will help the economy, according to AccessWDUN.

Serving as a hub for both import and exports, the Gainesville terminal will provide access to the direct rail route from the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal.

GPA’s chief administrative officer, James McCurry, said the port will not only better serve Georgia, but will be efficient for the United States in its entirety.

“We call this the ‘Mega Rail Project,’” McCurry said. “It’s taking the CSX and Norfolk Southern railyards that are separated today and combining them,” he said.

According to McCurry, the combination of the railyards gives way for more expansion on the railways, and GPA the access to handle over a million container lifts with additional cranes and overhead capacity.

Former Bibb County School Superintendent Romain Dallemand was sentenced in federal court, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Dallemand’s sentencing to eight months in prison and a restitution payment of nearly $300,000 comes in the wake of his 2017 guilty plea to a lone tax-evasion charge which stems from a tax-filing transgression half a decade earlier. He had faced a maximum of three years behind bars.

Federal prosecutors had contended that Dallemand received roughly $460,000 in bribe payments from people with business interests connected to the school system. He took the stand in October as the government’s key witness. But despite prosecutors’ contentions and Dallemand’s own admissions to accepting bribes around 2012 and later, jurors acquitted the two men accused of paying him off.

In August 2017, Dallemand pleaded guilty to tax evasion for filing that false tax return for 2012 in which he under-reported his income and over-reported itemized deductions.

His guilty plea to the false tax filing came in exchange for his extensive cooperation with the FBI and Internal Revenue Service in their probe of alleged corruption involving the Bibb schools.

Georgia Court of Appeals Judges Ken Hodges and Elizabeth Gobeil spoke in Albany, according to the Albany Herald.

Gobiel was in Albany Wednesday and Thursday with local favorite son Ken Hodges, who was elected to a vacant seat on the Court of Appeals last year and now serves on one of five three-judge panels with Gobiel. She and Hodges spoke at a meeting of the Dougherty Bar Association on Wednesday and mixed and mingled with members of the Dougherty Sertoma Club on Thursday, a first “judge’s road trip” for the Thomaston native.

“Panels on the Court of Appeals sometimes travel outside Atlanta, but Judge Hodges encouraged me to take the opportunity to get out into different communities and talk with the citizens of the state,” Gobeil said of the visit to Albany. “And he was right. This has been really invigorating. I love to learn about new areas of the state.

“The Georgia Court of Appeals is the busiest appellate court in the nation,” Hodges said. Added Gobeil, “From the time I took my place on the bench on June 5, 2018, I believe I heard the numbers that there had been more than 200 filings per judge in 2018. So, yes, even though you have to pay attention to each case, it’s difficult to focus your attention on each case.

Gobeil and Hodges currently serve on a panel that also includes Judge Christian Coomer. Starting next month, the pair will serve on a panel with Chief Judge Stephen Dillard, who makes panel assignments. Both Hodges and Gobeil say they’ve developed a rapport in the short time they’ve served together on the court.

“Elizabeth and I actually have a lot of similarities,” Hodges said. “Both of us went to Emory and graduated from law school at the University of Georgia. And both of us grew up in small towns on the Flint River. We have mutual friends, but we never connected until we were on the court.

28
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 28, 2019

On February 28, 1784, John Wesley executed a document titled “The Rev. John Wesley’s Declaration and Establishment of the Conference of the People called Methodists.”

On February 28, 1827, the first American railroad organized to transport people and freight commercially, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, was chartered. At the time, Baltimore was the second largest city in the nation.

On February 28, 1854, 30 anti-slavery opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would repeal the 1820 Missouri Compromise, met in Ripon, Wisconsin and called for the creation of the Republican Party.

On February 28, 1885, the American Telephone and Telegraph company was incorporated, though some accounts says March 3d.

On February 28, 1991, the First Gulf War ended, as President George H.W. Bush declared a ceasefire and that Kuwait was liberated.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day 24

Continue Reading..

27
Feb

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for February 27, 2019

Jail Dog Copper

Copper is a 1-2 year old, 54-pound male Hound mix who is available for adoption through the Gwinnett Jail Dogs Program.

Jail Dog Bud

Bud is a 4-year old, 68-pound male Pit Bull mix who is available for adoption through the Gwinnett Jail Dogs Program.

Jail Dog benny

Benny is a 1-year old, 20-pound male Terrier mix who is available for adoption through the Gwinnett Jail Dogs Program.

The Gwinnett County Jail Dogs program celebrated 500 adoptions, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Billy Watkins didn’t know, when he entered the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office Jail Dogs program in 2010, how much of an impact it would have on him.

“I think I was the fifth person chosen (for the program) and Scrappy happened to be the fifth dog to come through the program; that’s how we got matched up,” Watkins said. “We made the connection, and him living with me in my cell for three months and me training him up … I regained a sense of responsibility, it gave me some direction in my life and (it was) pure joy.”

On Tuesday, Watkins returned to the Gwinnett County Jail, Scrappy by his side. This time, however, Watkins was a free man, at the jail to share his story about adopting Scrappy after he was released.

“I begged Cpl. (Karen) Pirkle to let me adopt the dog,” Watkins said. “She went to Sheriff (Butch) Conway three different times, and the third time, he finally said yes. Ever since then, me and Scrappy have just shared love and joy. It’s a godsend, it really is.”

27
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 27, 2019

On February 27, 1922, the United States Supreme Court released an unanimous decision holding that the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is constitutional. The case, Leser v. Garnett, arose because of a challenge seeking to strike women’s names from the voter rolls in Maryland and asserting:

  • The power to amend the Constitution did not cover this amendment, due to its character.
  • Several states that had ratified the amendment had constitutions that prohibited women from voting, rendering them unable to ratify an amendment to the contrary.
  • The ratifications of Tennessee and West Virginia were invalid, because they were adopted without following the rules of legislative procedure in place in those states.

It might as well have asserted that sleeping on the couch for the rest of the plantiffs’ lives would be cold and uncomfortable.

On February 27, 1962, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy were tried in Albany for charges stemming from a demonstration on the steps of City Hall.

On February 27, 1982, Wayne Williams was convicted in Fulton County Superior Court of murdering two adult males. Atlanta Police later said he was guilty of at least 23 of 29 child murders between 1979 and 1981. Williams was never indicted or tried on the allegations of child murder and maintains his innocence.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day 23

Continue Reading..