Category: Georgia Politics

1
May

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

On May 1, 1707, the Act of Union with England, passed by the Scottish Parliament brought together England and Scotland and made the Union Jack the official flag of Great Britain.

1200px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg copy

The Second Confederate National Flag was adopted on May 1, 1863.

Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_(1863-1865)

On May 1, 1886, Jefferson Davis visited the Benjamin Hill monument at Peachtree and West Peachtree Streets in Atlanta, having arrived the previous day.

On May 1, 1971, “Joy to the World,” by Three Dog Night was the #1 song in the nation.

Kennesaw, Georgia City Council adopted an ordinance on May 1, 1982 requiring each household to own a gun and ammunition.

(a) In order to provide for the emergency management of the city, and further in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants, every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition therefore.

(b) Exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who suffer a physical or mental disability which would prohibit them from using such a firearm. Further exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who are paupers or who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony.

On May 1, 1991, Rickey Henderson broke the major league baseball stolen base record on the same day that Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, recorded his seventh no-hitter.

The official state tartan of Georgia was designated on May 1, 1997.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Carolyn Meadows of Georgia was elected President of the National Rifle Association, beating incumbent Oliver North, according to Breitbart.

The National Rifle Association board of directors re-elected CEO Wayne LaPierre in Indianapolis on Monday. The NRA board also elected Carolyn Meadows as the new president of the powerhouse organization and granted outgoing president Lt. Col. Oliver North a lifetime seat on the NRA’s executive council.

The board elected Meadows as president, only the third woman ever to hold that position. She has served on the NRA board of directors since 2003, and has been second vice president since 2017. As such, it was expected that the board of directors would eventually elect her to the president’s chair.

Meadows is a longtime political veteran, not only on Second Amendment issues but of other conservative issues as well. For years she was the national committeewoman representing Georgia on the Republican National Committee, and has been in leadership at the American Conservative Union (ACU) and its movement-wide flagship annual event, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

NRA officers serve one-year terms, and the remaining officers were all reaffirmed. The board of directors will vote again on the organization’s leadership after its 2020 annual meeting, which will be held in Nashville.

From Patch.com:

The new president of the National Rifle Association is a lifelong East Cobb resident who lives in metro Atlanta’s 6th congressional district which has already been declared a battleground 2020 election. Carolyn Dodgen Meadows was elected during the NRA’s recent national convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, and in a recent interview, she said whoever eventually becomes the Republican nominee against McBath will get the NRA’s endorsement.

Meadows has worked on dozens of county, state and national political campaigns, including campaigns for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole. She was an RNC national committeewoman from Georgia and served as a delegate for many years.

She has also been active in the American Conservative Union and served as chair of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association Board.

From the AJC:

Carolyn Meadows, newly elected as president of the National Rifle Association, promises to bring the group’s resources to bear when U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath is up for reelection.

She lives in the 6th Congressional District, where Democrat McBath campaigned, drew national attention and won in part on her gun control stances last year.

“Whoever (runs against McBath) will get an endorsement from the NRA,” Meadows said shortly after arriving home from the raucous NRA convention in Indianapolis.

Meadows, 80, is no stranger to political or fratricidal strife. She is a pioneer in Georgia Republican politics. She campaigned door-to-door for Republican Bo Callaway as governor in 1966, when Georgia was deep blue. She ended up on the winning side of Cobb County Republican politics in 1988, when a subset of conservative Christians with eyes on Pat Robertson as a presidential candidate managed to corral power for a while.

She has served as a Georgia representative on the Republican National Committee, helped organize the 1999 state presidential campaign for Steve Forbes, and supported Casey Cagle for governor in 2018, bringing with her an NRA endorsement.

“She has shattered a lot of glass ceilings throughout her time,” Cagle said. “She is a testament to what hard work can do for you, and she never shied away from that. Or from her convictions.”

Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson will run as a Democrat for the United States Senate, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Tomlinson made the formal announcement Wednesday on Facebook — one day after fellow Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams said she would not enter the race against incumbent Republican senator David Perdue.

“I’m running for U.S. Senate in 2020 because I have spent my life ensuring that government makes a positive difference in yours,” Tomlinson said in the Facebook video.

State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero (D-Norcross) has declared herself a candidate for the 7th Congressional District seat being vacated by Republican Rob Woodall, according to the AJC.

In an interview, the Gwinnett Democrat said she would focus her campaign for one of the nation’s most competitive U.S. House seats on improving workforce development and easing student debt while trying to avoid more “Washington dysfunction.”

Lopez Romero said she planned to emerge from the crowded field by recruiting more first-time voters who often skip primaries. The district, which spans parts of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, is home to one of the nation’s more diverse electorates.

“The district should have already flipped – it’s trended Democratic for years,” said Lopez Romero. “We didn’t do well in 2018 to reach out to those potential first-time voters. We need Democrats that have been disenchanted or haven’t been reached, and if we do we can flip the 7th.”

Lopez Romero, an attorney who was born in Mexico, defeated a well-connected party activist in 2016 to become the first Latina elected to the state Legislature. She emerged as a party go-to on immigration and voting rights issues, and a staunch opponent of GOP-backed restrictions on abortions and expansion of gun rights.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr will investigate allegations of the Roman Catholic church covering up child abuse allegations, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia’s attorney general Tuesday has followed more than a dozen state prosecutors by reportedly opening a probe into sex abuse claims against the Catholic Church – this time in a region whose leader heads in a few weeks to take over the scandal-ridden Archdiocese of Washington.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta reported that Attorney General Chris Carr and others have been working on the case since summer, and the investigation itself is just starting, the outlets reported.

Carr told Channnel 2 that his office has been in “open dialogue” with the church and that Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory encouraged them to do the investigation. Georgia has a second Catholic diocese, based in Savannah, which is also included in the probe.

Carr told the Atlanta media that the investigation will be handled by Georgia’s Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council. If any prosecutions come out of the investigation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, they’ll be handled on a local level, he said.

“I heard from those that I go to church with every Sunday,” Carr, who is Catholic, told the Journal-Constitution and Channel 2. “And I saw the level of anger and frustration and distrust. Both on a personal and professional level, this was important to me. I think it’s important that we hold accountable those that have done wrong but also lift the cloud of suspicion from those that may not have.”

Senate Bill 15 by State Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) is under fire from activists asking the Governor to veto the legislation, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The critics, who delivered a petition to the governor’s office, said the bill’s vague language requiring schools to report suspicious incidents to authorities could lead to racial profiling and overpolicing.

“This bill will take something as simple as a schoolyard fight and turn it into, potentially, a criminal record,” said Democratic Rep. Renitta Shannon of Decatur. Shannon said it would be better to focus on common-sense gun control and add more counselors in schools.

Bill sponsor Sen. John Albers, a Republican from Roswell, responded in an emailed statement Tuesday that the bill only requires reporting “a reasonable suspicion of violent criminal activity.” He emphasized the word “reasonable.” Albers had previously said the goal of the legislation is to identify problems before they happen. Albers said he spoke about the bill with parents from Parkland, Florida, where 17 high school students and staff were killed by a gunman in February 2018.

The bill would also require that public schools in Georgia receive a threat assessment every four years and conduct regular violence- and terrorism-response drills. It would create the position of “school safety coach” and a smartphone app that students and others could use to report suspicious activity.

From a separate story in the Valdosta Daily Times:

The bill allows students and others to anonymously report “suspicious, unsafe or unlawful activity” through an app maintained by the state’s counterterrorism agency. And it tasks principals, or their designees, with reporting suspected criminal activity – particularly any potentially violent act – to local law enforcement.

“We do recognize that there are opportunities where we don’t want to get law enforcement involved in our children’s lives too early,” Rep. Trey Kelley, a Republican from Cedartown who serves as the majority whip, said of a last-minute change that attempted to narrow the scope of what principals are to report.

“But when there’s a reasonable suspicion of violent criminal activity, we owe that responsibility to our children and our teachers to address it,” Kelley said.

The anonymous tips would be made through an app overseen by the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center, the state’s post-9/11 agency that gathers counterterrorism and criminal intelligence information.

The bill also requires schools to hold mass casualty drills – with or without students present – and undergo regular reviews to pinpoint security vulnerabilities.

Prospective medical cannabis users face uncertainty in supplies of the medicine, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The in-state production and selling of low THC oil was legalized by Gov. Brian Kemp when he signed Georgia’s Hope Act into law on April 17. But there are factors at play beyond just the simple limitations of plant growth, harvesting and production.

Georgia medical marijuana advocates think it will be one to two years before the first batch of state-sanctioned THC oil is ready for patients. That means many patients who need the oil now still don’t have a legal way to get it in Georgia.

The new law leaves most of the state’s medical marijuana program in the hands of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, an appointed board with broad powers that include issuing licenses to producers and establishing quality control requirements.

Members have not yet been appointed, and the commission must be formed before growing can begin, said state Rep. Micah Gravley, one of the sponsors of the act.

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway will continue participating in the federal 287(g) immigration program, according to the AJC.

Over the past decade, Conway’s deputies working in the Gwinnett County jail have questioned more than 52,000 arrestees about their immigration status. Nearly 15,000 of those questioned have been handed over to federal immigration authorities as part of the controversial program.

“It has saved people,” the sheriff said in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I certainly think there have been fewer child molestations, rapes, murders, robberies.”

Conway says he’ll renew his agency’s participation in 287(g) when the three-year term of the current agreement with the federal government expires in June. And while such renewals have garnered little attention since Gwinnett joined the program in 2009, a growing protest movement is already forming to oppose the sheriff and Gwinnett’s continued participation in 287(g) — with an eye toward making the program a central issue in the 2020 election season.

Two Democrats have announced their intentions to run to replace Conway as sheriff of the state’s second most populous county, a quarter of whose 927,000 residents are foreign-born. Both challengers have said they oppose the program.

An Augusta Commission committee approved an additional $100,000 dollars to fight U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to lower the level of the Savannah River, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta leaders could be getting more ammunition in the fight to save New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam after an Augusta Commission committee on Tuesday approved $100,000 more for experts. Some Augusta residents also said Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis’ taxpayer-funded vehicle needs to keep a city decal on it.

The Augusta Commission held a required public hearing needed before the decals could come off, as Davis has requested out of concern for his safety. Arlene White said Davis can choose what he wants on his city vehicle “as long as he pays for (the vehicle) himself” which elicited laughs and cheers from the audience. There was no action after the short hearing and the commission would have to give its approval for the decals to come off, Commissioner Sammie Sias said.

Augusta Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier had requested the additional money in part because the two expert firms hired by the city, Merrick & Co. and Cranston Engineering Group, had already exceeded the $45,000 Augusta and North Augusta allocated for them by more than $36,000 in the furious run-up to get the cities’ lengthy comment about its objections to a plan proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by the deadline.

Lyle Grant was placed on paid leave as Varnell Police Chief after the District Attorney referred allegations to a grand jury, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant was placed on paid administrative leave on Tuesday after District Attorney Bert Poston said a Whitfield County grand jury will hear evidence from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on May 30 concerning Grant’s providing a county-owned, encrypted radio to a Dalton wrecker service.

Mayor Tom Dickson said Grant is on leave pending a decision by the grand jury. Lt. Greg Fowler will serve as interim chief.

The Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office referred the matter to the GBI in March after Grant gave the radio to Bob Cummings, owner of Bob’s Wrecker Service in Dalton. The sheriff’s office said in a statement at the time, “It was determined shortly after starting the investigation that criminal charges could arise from this incident, therefore the case was turned over to the GBI to investigate.”

“Until the district attorney actually had done something, there had been nothing to say Chief Grant had done something wrong,” Dickson said. “I think what he did was probably not the right thing to do, but did it go to the level of being criminal? The sheriff’s office had made some allegations, but allegations are not charges. The District Attorney’s Office saying they would present this indictment gives it a little more weight. Pending the outcome of that, we will decide what to do moving forward.”

The Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority hired Vanessa Wagner as their new director of business development, according to The Brunswick News.

Wagner has more than 10 years of marketing, sales and business development experience in public and private sector industries. She most recently worked in the Washington D.C. metro area, where she served as the small business and entrepreneurship manager for the Loudoun County Economic Development Authority, the No. 1 county in Virginia for business growth from 2016 through 2018.

“I am excited to bring the skills and experience I have gained in my past economic development and other marketing roles to support the long-term vision for Brunswick and Glynn County,” she said. “During my visit to the area I was impressed with the infrastructure and existing resources for the business community. I can’t wait to help tell Brunswick and Glynn County’s story to help attract new opportunity.”

The Glynn County Commission discussed spending SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds for a new animal control center, according to The Brunswick News.

n SPLOST 2016, the commission set aside $1.5 million for a new animal control facility. After paying an architect — Ussery Rule Architects — to design a new shelter, $1.33 million is left. The architect’s design is estimated to cost $2-2.5 million, depending on how much fat is shaved off.

Building the proposed shelter out as designed would cost an estimated $2.5 million. By changing some construction materials and building half of the dog kennels, the cost could be reduced to $2 million.

[Commissioner Allen] Booker suggested paying for the money out of the county’s pocket and reimbursing itself with SPLOST 2020 revenue.

The county could do that, or could issue bonds to cover the cost and use SPLOST revenue to pay off the bonds, Mumford said.

Ultimately, the commission decided to hold off on making a formal decision to give [County Attorney Aaron] Mumford time to prepare a list of funding options.

The Rome city school board will discuss transportation at a retreat, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Hall County‘s burn ban begins May 1, according to the Gainesville Times.

30
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 30, 2019

George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States of America in New York City on April 30, 1789. From Washington’s inaugural address:

it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.

In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.

On April 30, 1803, negotiators from France and the United States finished discussions of the Louisiana Purchase, which would double the size of the country.

By the middle of the 18th century, France controlled more of the modern United States than any other European power: from New Orleans northeast to the Great Lakes and northwest to modern-day Montana. In 1762, during the French and Indian War, France ceded its America territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain and in 1763 transferred nearly all of its remaining North American holdings to Great Britain. Spain, no longer a dominant European power, did little to develop Louisiana Territory during the next three decades. In 1796, Spain allied itself with France, leading Britain to use its powerful navy to cut off Spain from America.In 1801, Spain signed a secret treaty with France to return Louisiana Territory to France.

Reports of the retrocession caused considerable uneasiness in the United States. Since the late 1780s, Americans had been moving westward into the Ohio and Tennessee River valleys, and these settlers were highly dependent on free access to the Mississippi River and the strategic port of New Orleans. U.S. officials feared that France, resurgent under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, would soon seek to dominate the Mississippi River and access to the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. envoys agreed to pay $11,250,000 and assumed claims of its citizens against France in the amount of $3,750,000. In exchange, the United States acquired the vast domain of Louisiana Territory, some 828,000 square miles of land. In October, Congress ratified the purchase, and in December 1803 France formally transferred authority over the region to the United States. The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory for the bargain price of less than three cents an acre was Thomas Jefferson’s most notable achievement as president.

On April 30, 1886, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrived in LaGrange, Georgia for the unveiling of a monument to Benjamin Hill.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham‘s announced retirement has drawn two candidates into the 2020 election for an open seat on the state’s high court.

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Sara Doyle was first out of the gate, according to the Daily Report.

“This is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often—for there to be an open seat,” Doyle told the Daily Report Friday.

Both developments are historic for the court. Benham is the longest-serving member—appointed by Gov. Joe Frank Harris in 1989—and the first African American justice. His departure will leave the court with only one jurist of color: Chief Justice Harold Melton. The court also has only one woman, Justice Sarah Warren—appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal last year. Only three other women have served in the court’s history:  Justice Leah Ward Sears, who retired in 2009; Justice Carol Hunstein, who retired last year; and Justice Britt Grant, who left last when when President Donald Trump nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

“I started thinking about this a couple of years ago,” Doyle said Friday. That’s when she finished her term as chief judge, and she missed the administrative and representative duties. In talking with justices she knows, she thought she would enjoy the greater role they play on state commissions and boards. Plus she loves writing opinions and delving into the kind of cases that usually go on to the high court from the intermediate appellate court, she said.

“The things that get you excited are those bigger cases that are usually taken up on cert. Those are the ones that keep you up at night,” she said.

Doyle ran for an open seat to win election to the Court of Appeals in 2008. The former Holland & Knight partner beat six opponents to win the job.

Former Democratic Congressman and 2018 candidate for Secretary of State John Barrow has also announced, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Barrow, who lost a December runoff for Georgia secretary of state to Brad Raffensperger, said in a statement that he hopes to replace retiring Justice Robert Benham.

“When Justice Benham retires, the Supreme Court will lose almost as much experience as the rest of the court combined,” Barrow said. “That’s why I’m running, to offer my experience to help maintain the kind of balance we want in our Supreme Court.”

Barrow said former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Evans will chair his campaign. Evans lost in the Democratic primary to nominee Stacey Abrams.

Barrow’s father was a Superior Court judge who oversaw the integration of Clarke County, Ga., schools in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. He attained his law degree from Harvard Law School, has clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 5th and 11th circuits, and practiced law for 23 years, the statement said.

Democrat Stacey Abrams announced she will not run for the United States Senate against Republican Senator David Perdue, according to GPB News.

In an interview with GPB News Monday night, Abrams said that she is also not ruling out a White House run next year but will also not provide a timeline for any decision on that race. There are currently 20 candidates running for the Democratic nomination.

“What I want is to continue to address the challenges that I see in our state and in our country around voter suppression and making certain that people are counted in the census,” she responded, without missing a beat.

The former state House Minority Leader said she will instead continue to work on two Georgia-focused initiatives, Fair Fight (dealing with Georgia’s elections) and Fair Count (dealing with the census) and find ways to “continue to center Georgia, but think about how we as a state continue to be a part of a national conversation.”

Her next run is likely to be a rematch with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who narrowly defeated Abrams in a nationally-watched race that served as a proxy war over voting rights and the role the state should play in overseeing elections.

Abrams spoke to the New York Times for an article published earlier this week.

“If people I respect legitimately think this is something that could be so,” Abrams said about the possibility of a challenge for the country’s highest office, “and it’s not my mom and sister saying, ‘You should do this,’ then I owe those people the courtesy of thinking it through.”

Do you have self-doubt about anything? I don’t characterize it as self-doubt. I characterize it as evaluation. You should always give thought to what you want and why you want it, and that’s why for me having an unusually public rumination has been a bit discomfiting. These are important jobs. It’s not that I doubt my capacity, but I need to make certain I’m doing it for the right reasons. Yes, I believe I could win a Senate election. I’m determined. I’m a very good campaigner. But the question is: Do I want to do the work of being a senator in the way that I think it should be done? And am I the best person? The answers may be no. But knowing that is not a function of doubt or confidence. It’s a function of: Is this the most effective role for me to play? And: Does it help me do the work that I think needs to be done?

What about self-doubt outside politics? Dating has been this sort of glaring issue.

Welcome to the world. Exactly. I’ve jokingly said I wasn’t good at dating so I stopped doing it. I regret that I allowed self-doubt in that one area to color how I approached an entire facet of my life. I’m working to remedy that, but it’s taken some time for me to get there. So yes, I am capable of self-doubt. It’s usually not in the professional space, but in the romantic-relationship space.

Given how well you did in that election with increasing turnout, what factors explain your opponent, Brian Kemp, doing as well as he did and winning? Georgia’s a very divided state. In the South, and in Georgia in particular, race is the strongest predictor of political leanings.

The white population is still largely Republican, and the communities of color are largely Democratic-leaning. That means you have a divided politics. I’ve never denied that. The issue is, are all of the people speaking up? That has not been so in Georgia. In the 2014 election cycle, 1.1 million Democrats showed up. In my cycle, 1.9 million. That addition of 800,000 voters is emblematic of who wasn’t speaking up before. But what we call attention to are the 1.4 million-plus who were purged and the 53,000 who weren’t processed and the thousands who were given provisional ballots. I do not believe that Georgia has made this dramatic transition to a space where we no longer have conservatives in the state. My point is that I believe we have reached a place where those who share my values actually outnumber those who share the values of my opponent. And that wasn’t made manifest because of his structural racism and how he diminished people’s ability to vote.

I saw that recently you said something like you’d won your election but you just didn’t get to have the job. Yes.

From the AJC:

[Abrams's decision] triggers a new phase of the Senate race, which has been slow to develop while Abrams has deliberated. She plans to stay neutral in that contest, which so far has attracted one candidate who said she would run only if Abrams does not.

In the interview, Abrams said she was tempted by the possibility of challenging Perdue, who she said has struck “an allegiance with Donald Trump that’s not in the best service of Georgians.”

But she’s long favored seeking an executive role, she said, and stuck with her instincts after much deliberation.

“It’s a job. In the hullabaloo of running for office there’s an amnesia about that. People are interviewing for a job and the responsibility is to think through that job. And you have to think about what it’s like in the worst day of that job,” she said.

Even as she closed the door on a Senate run, she pointedly did not rule out a White House bid. She’s stoked that possibility in a string of headline-generating appearances, though she’s issued no firm timeline on her decision.

“This conversation was about the Senate,” she told the AJC. “I have not decided what I’m going to do about other races, but Georgia will always be at the center of my plans.”

Former Bibb County Superintendent of School Romain Dallemand entered prison in Ocala, Florida, to serve his sentence for a tax evasion conviction, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Warner Robins Economic Development Director Gary Lee has been reinstated to the position from which he was suspended after an indictment, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“After careful and prayerful consideration I have come to the decision to reinstate Gary Lee to active service with pay,” [Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Keith] Lauritsen said in the release. “I believe it to be in the best interest of the city to allow the district attorney’s case against Mr. Lee to be resolved, and thus postpone any actions by the city until the outcome of this legal matter is determined.”

The charges against Lee stem from an investigation by the Houston County sheriff’s office into allegations of possible criminal misconduct allegedly made by Lee against another city employee in his department. Lee reported the allegations to Toms. Lee is accused of falsely telling a sheriff’s investigator that he did not sign a document regarding the city’s alcohol and controlled substance policy. The investigator concluded that Lee did sign the document.

Governor Brian Kemp traveled to Savannah to sign legislation renaming the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center as the Savannah Convention Center, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Kemp sat in the building in question before a crowd of about 75 on Sunday afternoon where he signed House Bill 525 into law. He had been in town for a few days for his first 100 days tour. Last Thursday, Kemp announced that a California-based plastics resin company is bringing close to 200 jobs to Pooler.

“Today I’ll be signing a bill that creates the Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority, a new state-based entity right here in Chatham County, to oversee and maintain this building for future conventions, trade shows and economic development opportunities,” Kemp said. “This legislature also changes the building’s name from the Georgia International Maritime Trade Center to the Savannah Convention Center.”

Sen. Ben Watson (R-District 1) said the former name was a mouthful.

“The name was a little bit of a struggle prior to this, and this makes it a little bit simpler. It more accurately reflects the structure of the convention center, so the funding mechanism and the authority that will be governing it now will reflect what will be happening in the future,” Watson said.

The bill was sponsored by Ron Stephens (R-District 164) and initially passed the House in early March. On March 28, the Senate voted to pass the bill with an amendment introduced by Watson to assign the convention center under the Department of Economic Development for administrative purposes along with adding it to the list of state authorities. The House passed the bill on April 2.

The bill gives the governor the power to appoint six of its 11 voting members. Previously, each of six state representatives and two state senators from Chatham County ha[d] the ability to appoint a member to the local authority.

Governor Kemp also signed House Bill 471, which addresses police stops for suspected DUI, according to the AJC.

A new Georgia law prevents police officers from telling drivers that their refusal to take breathalyzer tests could be used against them in court.

The legislation, House Bill 471, changes the language police officers read to suspected drunk drivers when they’re pulled over.

The bill passed the Georgia General Assembly after the state Supreme Court ruled in February that requiring suspects to blow into breathalyzers is a violation of constitutional protections against self-incrimination.

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

Senate Bill 6 by States Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Cobb), to prevent drones from flying over state prisons, receieved Kemp’s signature, according to the AJC.

Gov. Kemp named three new members of the State Board of Education, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced the appointment of Scott Sweeney to represent the 6th Congressional District on the state education board Monday. Sweeney, a businessman, is from East Cobb and represented the area during two four-year terms on the county school board. The Republican was defeated by a Democrat in his re-election bid last year, and replaces accountant Barbara Hampton on the state board.

Kemp also appointed retired Dougherty County Schools Superintendent David “Butch” Mosely to fill the open state board seat for the 2nd Congressional District. Mosely, who retired in 2017, led seven school districts and was named 1999 Superintendent of the Year by the Georgia Association of Education Leaders.

Jason Downey, a lawyer and former Macon-Bibb County school board member, was appointed to succeed Vann Parrott in the 8th Congressional District.

Kemp also named two new members of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, the agency that credentials teachers: Coweta County Schools Superintendent Steven Barker and retired teacher Catherine Jones, now the executive director of the Butts County Chamber of Commerce.

Qualifying has opened in a June 18, 2019 Special Election for Coweta County Sheriff, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Qualifying for the Coweta County Sheriff’s race began Monday morning and runs through noon on Wednesday.

Candidates for sheriff must pay a $2,425 qualifying fee and submit certified copies of their birth certificates and high school diplomas, as well as a fingerprint and background check performed by the Coweta County Probate Court.

The special election for sheriff, to fill the unexpired term of Mike Yeager, will be June 18. It will be the only issue on the ballot.

Early voting for the election runs May 28 to June 14, at both Coweta early voting locations – the Voter Registration Office at 22 East Broad St., Newnan, and Central Community Center, 65 Literary Lane, Newnan, near Sharpsburg. There will be one Saturday of early voting, June 8.

A federal court heard a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Stacey Abrams’s fundraising vehicle nonprofit Fair Fight Action challenges 2018 election procedures, according to AccessWDUN.

The lawsuit accuses the secretary of state and election board members of mismanaging the 2018 election in ways that deprived some citizens, particularly low-income people and minorities, of their constitutional right to vote. It seeks substantial reforms and asks that Georgia be required to get a federal judge’s approval before changing voting rules.

The suit was filed by Fair Fight Action, an organization founded by Abrams, and Care in Action Georgia, a nonprofit that advocates for domestic workers. Several churches, including Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the spiritual home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., joined the suit in February.

They allege that November’s vote was marred by problems including long waits at polling places, absentee ballots that weren’t received or weren’t counted, missing or erroneous voter registration records, malfunctioning voting machines and poorly trained poll workers.

Lawyers for the state argue that allegations of “unrelated actions by mostly local officials” don’t amount to constitutional violations requiring judicial intervention and that the legislature, not the courts, should set election law.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones on Monday heard arguments on a motion from state election officials to dismiss the lawsuit. He gave the parties a week to submit additional briefs before he rules.

From the AJC:

Kemp signed a bill this month that calls for new voting machines that print paper ballots, extends the time before registrations are canceled and places limitations on precinct closures.

“The system worked,” said Josh Belinfante, an attorney for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “There were concerns raised. … The state fixed them.”

The legal complaint points to long lines on Election Day, erroneous cancellations of absentee ballots and voter registration purges of those who didn’t participate in recent elections. It also cites flaws in election management, including delays because voting equipment ran out of batteries and provisional ballots being withheld from some voters.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods (R) honored two Augusta area schools, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Two Columbia County schools were honored for two separate distinctions by the state school superintendent Monday.

Richard Woods presented a banner to students, faculty, staff and parents at Riverside Elementary School for its designation as a military flagship school by the state of Georgia. The school is the only one in the county to earn the honor, which is awarded for services and programs that cater to students of military families.

Martinez Elementary School became the first in the county to have a state science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, certification. The banner ceremony included presentations of STEM-related projects by students.

Augusta will continue spending to oppose federal plans to change the level of the Savannah River, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta has already spent much more than the $45,000 it allotted to put together a critique of the plan for New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam but the city has built a strong case to negotiate a better alternative with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a city official said.

Augusta’s battle to save New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam needs more funding, but the city has already laid out a strong case against the recommendation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and hopes to begin negotiations soon on an alternative, a city official said. But that request might meet with some skepticism as the fight has become blurred with a potential whitewater park that the Augusta Commission has yet to see.

29
Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 29, 2019

Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his fourth trip to Georgia on April 29, 1926, closing on the purchase of property at Warm Springs, Ga.

Dachau concentration camp was liberated by American troops on April 29, 1945. At least 31,951 inmates died there, more than 30,000 survivors were found on liberation day, and more than 250,000 passed through the camp and its subcamps.

Dobbins Air Force Base was dedicated on April 29, 1950, named for in honor of the late Capt. Charles M. Dobbins and in memory of the other servicemen from Cobb County. Dobbins was shot down over Sicily in 1943 and his family attended the opening of the base.

Hank Aaron hit his first home run in Atlanta against the Houston Astros on April 29, 1966, providing the winning margin as the Braves won 4-3.

Atlanta was selected as the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics on April 29, 1988.

On April 29, 1993, Barry White guest-starred on The Simpsons. I guess that makes today “Whacking Day.”

A new historical marker in Savannah commemorates Mary Musgrove, who served as an interpreter for James Oglethorpe and helped maintain relations with the Creek Indians.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Department of Public Health is recommending measles vaccinations, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Three Georgians were diagnosed with the illness in January, bringing the total number of cases statewide to six.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious respiratory disease. Health officials say it is particularly dangerous for infants who cannot be immunized until they are at least 12 months old and young children who have only received one dose of measles vaccine.

“Measles can be prevented through vaccination,” said Dr. Cherie Drenzek, chief science officer and state epidemiologist, Georgia Department of Public Health. “Keeping immunization levels high is critical to preventing outbreaks or sustained transmission of measles in Georgia. It also provides herd immunity for those who cannot be vaccinated.”

Health officials say people with symptoms of measles should contact their health care providers immediately but they should not go to doctor’s offices, hospitals or public health clinics without first calling to warn about any symptoms. Health care providers who suspect measles in a patient should notify public health immediately.

Governor Brian Kemp discusses his administration’s first 100 days in the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Amended 2019 Budget invested $69 million in security upgrades at all 2,292 schools in our state. By providing one-time, $30,000 grants, local leaders can determine the most effective way to keep students safe in the classroom.

In addition to upgrading security, the Amended Budget for 2019 doubles funding for mental health services in Georgia schools. These two budget items will ensure a safe and effective learning environment – no matter your ZIP code.

To keep our communities safe, we created a Gang Taskforce within the GBI. Led by gang prosecutor Jaret Usher, this highly specialized team will work with federal, state, and local law enforcement to stop gang violence and dismantle organized criminal networks.

During the 2019 Legislative Session, I was proud to partner with lawmakers to pass the Patients First Act. This legislation paves the way for state leaders to craft innovative flexibility options that help lower healthcare premiums, enhance accessibility, and ensure quality outcomes in every part of our state.

I was also proud to champion a carefully crafted, balanced bill that helps patients with chronic, debilitating diseases to get the medicine they so desperately need. House Bill 324 expands access to low THC oil without opening the door to recreational drug use.

Governor Kemp signed House Bill 387, which will allow volunteer fire departments to place liens on buildings owned by non-subscribers after fighting a fire, according to the Rome News Tribune.

House Bill 387 lets volunteer fire departments place liens against non-subscribers who ask for help but later refuse to cover the cost.

Lumsden, R-Armuchee, said about 25% of the fire departments in Georgia are volunteer. Many are nonprofits offering subscription services where no other protection is available.

“A (Georgia State) Firefighters Association representative contacted me about carrying it since I have a public safety background,” the retired Georgia State Patrol trooper said Sunday.

“It came out of an issue common to many volunteer fire departments across the state but also because of a substantial fire in Chatham County,” Lumsden added.

The featured bill at the signing ceremony was SB 77, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, which provides added protection for monuments within the state.

Former Forsyth Mayor Paul H. Jossey Jr., who served for twelve years, has died, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Former State Representative Joe T. Wood has died, according to the Gainesville Times.

In 1965, Wood started a run of 23 consecutive years serving the people of Hall, Forsyth and Dawson counties in the Georgia House of Representatives.

“He was especially strong at veterans affairs,” Jackson said. “We passed a lot of bills in that area.”

The Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville, Ga. honored Wood by naming one of its buildings after him, which is a 150-bed capacity. He also worked to help secure funding for Gainesville College, Lanier Tech and Interstate 985.

Christopher Tomlinson, Executive Director of the State Road and Tollway Authority and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, said rental scooters could become part of transportation, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“For us, we’re looking at transit and wanting to coordinate with both the public sector and the private sector. (Scooter sharing services) Bird, Lime, (plus) ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft, (and) bikeshares,” Tomlinson said. “These are all parts of the region’s transit solutions.”

House Bill 930, which was signed by then-Gov. Nathan Deal in May, created the 16-member Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, also known as the ATL, a new regional authority that will implement transit projects across 13 metro counties and ensure plans connect efficiently across jurisdictions.

Technology will be a key component the ATL will focus on, Tomlinson said, with the board expected to pursue this year policies and standards dealing with electric scooters, colloquially referred to by some as e-scooters.

Tomlinson’s comments follow the Marietta City Council’s unanimous vote in February to ban shareable dockless scooters, applying to rentable scooters provided by several companies, though residents will still be allowed to ride their own scooters.

Georgia’s United States Senators lauded Medicare rules changes, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, both R-Ga., had high praise for President Donald Trump’s administration Thursday after a proposed rule change regarding Medicare reimbursements was announced.

The rule change would allow rural hospitals in lower income areas receive high Medicare reimbursement payments.

“Too many Georgia hospitals have been forced to close in recent years, and it appears that this rule change is consistent with our efforts,” Isakson said in a statement. “If so, this is a huge victory for Georgians and it will help ensure patients have continued access to emergency and medically necessary care.”

Perdue said, “Improving the wage index will help protect rural hospitals in Georgia from devastating reductions in Medicare payments and ensure the long-term viability of our health care network. This is an important step toward leveling the playing field, and Sen. Isakson deserves a great deal of credit for his efforts on this issue.”

Limited broadband access is affecting agriculture in Georgia, according to the Albany Herald.

“We’re creating all sorts of useful data on machines in the field, but if we don’t have a reliable way to get it off the machines, processed and back into the farmers’ hands, it’s not going to be utilized,” Porter said.

Rep. Buddy Carter of Georgia’s 1st District, Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia’s 8th District and Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr met with members of the UGA Precision Agriculture team and stakeholders from the Georgia Cotton Commission, Georgia Peanut Commission, Georgia Pecan Commission and the Flint River Water District on April 17 on the UGA Tifton campus to discuss the importance of broadband access for the future and sustainability of Georgia agriculture.

Porter and UGA agricultural engineer Glen Rains said tools such as auto-steer technology, variable rate irrigation, in-field controllers, smartphone apps, soil moisture sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles are all critical precision agriculture tools they use in their research for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. These technologies help UGA scientists be more efficient in the field, but many of the state’s producers are restricted by the lack of broadband access or poor-quality broadband service.

“We’re sitting on the cusp of all of this new and innovative technology. Most of our farmers have this technology, but it’s underutilized for that one reason,” Porter said.

“We know that information regarding our crops can change, sometimes hourly,” Porter said. “We know we definitely need daily decisions when we’re looking at it. We need the data uploaded and a decision made within a day, maximum. Sometimes we may want it a little faster if it’s a fast-moving disease. We just don’t want the information to be sitting on a controller or field computer for weeks or seasons at a time. The timeliness is gone. There’s very little use for it anymore.”

Three out of four options for the Columbus Government Center include partial or complete demolition and replacement, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Officials estimate around 300,000 square feet will be needed to replace the complex.

A Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is the most likely source of funding for the project. Henderson said during his State of the City address earlier this year that he would ask council to consider the tax once the Muscogee County School District tax for special projects expires in 2020.

Voters would be asked to approve the tax that can only be utilized for capital projects.

South Georgia towns are seeing increased gang activity, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“Gang activity is located throughout the whole state of Georgia,” [GBI Special Agent in Charge Mark] Pro said. “It’s not just in larger cities. It’s everywhere.”The Georgia Gang Investigators Association tried to fill the void by polling local law enforcement early last year. The group tallied more than 71,000 gang members and associates in Georgia, which is a figure that includes prison inmates.

[Governor Brian]

Kemp often cites the group’s findings – and local news reports – when pledging to “stop and dismantle” criminal street gangs.

“All you have to do is pick up your local paper, turn on the television or talk to your law enforcement in your local community,” Kemp said at a recent press conference. “It is a serious issue in our state – one that we cannot afford to ignore if we hope to be the best state in the nation to live, work, start a business and raise family.”

In Lowndes County, the sheriff’s office reported at least 300 active gang members and associates claiming affiliation to everything from Crips to Ghost Face Gangsters and Aryan Brotherhood, the latter being white supremacist prison gangs.

Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk attributed roughly two-thirds of all local crime to gangs. Auto thefts and break-ins appear to be the most common gang-related offenses, but he said a recent murder was also gang related.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mike Hamby spoke to the Athens Banner-Herald.

What is the internal force that drives you in public service?

Hamby: I think the driving force is how can we have a government that provides the tools. It doesn’t necessarily do the work for people, but provides the tools to make their lives better. We need to make sure there are tools in our toolbox that can help people who live here in Athens achieve what they want to do with their lives. I think that is important. You have to think about what decisions you will be making will impact life for someone 10 years down the road.

What are issues facing this council in coming months?

Hamby: First off the bat is SPLOST 2020. This will be a transitional SPLOST. Affordable housing, not only in Athens, but across the country is an issue facing many cities. We have an opportunity with SPLOST to put $40 million into affordable houses. I looked at some examples. Seattle is putting $75 million in affordable housing. Washington, D.C., I think is spending $60 million and Atlanta around $50 million, so $40 million in Athens will take it a long way.

Another key component is a new judicial center. Out courthouse is over 100 years old. The community has grown and the number of judges we have has grown so we need new space that is safe and accessible.

Some Hall County officials still believe a local reservoir will be needed, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority ratified an extension of the letter of intent for the 850-acre county-owned property at its April meeting. The letter is the same from year to year but needs to be renewed annually.

Permitting work on the reservoir stopped in 2016, after the Georgia Environmental Protection Division said the proposed reservoir was not needed to meet the state’s water supply needs through 2050. Judson Turner, then-EPD director, said in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that revised population projections showed slower growth, so the new reservoir would not be necessary.

“We think when you look out to 2060 and you look at the growth, we definitely think it is going to be justified based on what population growth is going to be,” County Administrator Jock Connell said.

The county is waiting to see what happens with the “water wars” legal dispute between Florida and Georgia, Connell said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Water Control Manual update also could affect the project, he said. The manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin was last updated in 2017, and Corps spokesman Pat Robbins said updates are usually done every five years, depending on funding.

The City of Savannah has issued an RFP to operate Historic Grayson Stadium, where the Savannah Bananas play baseball, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Bananas currently pay the city $20,000 a year in rent, under the existing lease agreement. The new terms in the city’s request for proposals would require the operator to take over field maintenance, which costs the city about $103,000 a year, according to the RFP documents. The operator would also become responsible for providing janitorial services, pest control and paying the stadium’s electric bill. And a $1 surcharge would also be added to the cost of each ticket to help pay for stadium improvements.

In turn, the city would be responsible for capital expenses exceeding $5,000 involving the foundation, structure, roofs, walls, stadium seating, electrical and lighting systems, air conditioners, plumbing, and water heaters.

The city has proposed including $7.5 million for stadium improvements in the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum going before voters this fall. The improvements are unlikely to be included on the final SPLOST list, because of the limited amount of funding and priority being placed by staff and council members on other projects.

The Glynn County Commission will discuss a new animal shelter for Animal Control and a potential 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) vote, according to The Brunswick News.

“We’re going to receive a report on an option that (county) staff has come up with,” said commission Chairman Mike Browning. “They’re looking at every way they can to get it within budget. They came back and said they wanted to present us some options and get direction from the county commission.”

Commissioners set aside $1.5 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 2016 revenue for the shelter, which it plans to build at the county’s public safety complex off the Ga. 25 Spur.

The subject of another penny sales tax first came up in public discussion at a county commission planning retreat in March. Commissioner Mike Browning said most commissioners were “receptive” to putting it on the ballot in the 2020 general presidential election.

Citizens voted to approve SPLOST 2016 during the 2016 general election. It will run for four-and-a-half years, ending in September 2020 or when $71,595,000 in revenue has been collected.

When interviewed in March, most commissioners were in favor of imposing the next SPLOST for the maximum duration, six years.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will host an open house to discuss improvements on the Tybee Island Causeway, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Project recorded the first nesting site of the season, according to the Savannah Morning News.

For the sixth straight year, the first nest was found on Cumberland Island National Seashore. Georgia Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Mark Dodd said the state’s southernmost barrier island has plenty of beach-nesting habitat, a number of female loggerheads that tend to nest there and a particularly dedicated Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative member, wildlife biologist Doug Hoffman of the National Park Service.

But Cumberland is just the start. Loggerheads, Georgia’s leading marine turtle and a protected species, nest on all barrier islands in the state. The season will hit full stride by June.

Loggerheads are already on track for recovery in Georgia. Gains in nesting for the big turtles named for their chunky heads are averaging 3 percent a year. Nesting in Florida and the Carolinas is also increasing.

While laying 1,735 nests in 2018, loggerheads had 2,155 nests in the state in 2017 and a record 3,289 the year before, when they topped for the first time a Georgia recovery benchmark of 2,800 nests.

26
Apr

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for April 26, 2019

Cashew Furever

Cashew is a young female Labrador Retriever and Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Furever After Rescue in Macon, GA.

I need a new family to love me, to comfort me during thunderstorms and those horrible firework things. Yikes!! To be patient and understanding if I’m shy before I get to know you. But then I will surely think you hung the moon in no time!! I’d love to share adventures with you. I love to be on the go and would so enjoy a fenced in yard to play in. I’ve never been crated. I’m leary of little kids, they kinda scare me, but older children are great fun.

I love chasing critters in the yard and they say I’m predatory with cats whatever that means, they’re a no no. Doggie siblings welcome!! Could I be the right match to complete your family? I’m a beautiful 5 year old lab mix who would love nothing more than to snuggle on the couch with you. I’m a real sweetheart and a smart gal, even know some basic commands. I also know to go outside to do my business, am fixed up so I can’t have more babies and up-to-date on these awful shots they gave me and something called a microchip to boot. So, I’m good to go and hoping to find that perfect match!!

Buster Furever

Buster is a young male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from Furever After Rescue in Macon, GA.

I am a 1-2 year old lab mix. I must be mixed with something good because my foster family tells me I’m a good boy ALL the time! I am up to date on all vaccinations and neutered. I’m 100% crate trained and house trained. I’ve NEVER had an accident of any kind since coming into my foster’s home. I get along wonderfully with my fur siblings ( a female and male boxer) as well as my human foster siblings ( 2 boys ages 6 and 17 ).

I’m not sure how I behave around cats because I haven’t been around any but can be cat tested if needed. I know simple commands like sit and lay. I also know what hush means too! ? I love to play AND be lazy so I would be great with or without a house full of children. I would probably most enjoy having a fur sibling to play with because I play a whole bunch with my fur sister, Lucy. We play chase in the yard and love tugging on ropes and toys. If you think I might be a good addition to your family, let’s set up a meet and greet!

Kat Furever

Kat is a medium-sized, female 11-month old German Shepherd and Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Furever After Rescue in Macon, GA.

I am a lean, long-legged puppy and my foster mom thinks I will be less than 40 lbs when I’m full grown. My perfect forever home will be one where I am part of a pack. I need a strong, confident handler who understands real dogs and confident fursiblings that I can run and play with. I love playing with other dogs and have been around cats without a problem. I am good with kids but I am not a “lovey dovey” dog who enjoys lots of petting; I display my affection during play and other ways. I am known to catch my foster family by surprise when I occasionally jump in their laps for some quick one on one time!

I walk beautifully on a leash. I am up to date on all vaccinations and spayed. I am also house trained and crate trained although I prefer to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. I will be the perfect companion for another dog and an active family who is looking to add a low maintenance, loyal pack member. I do not enjoy going to human stores but I had a blast last time I went camping!

26
Apr

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

On April 27, 1773, the British Parliament enacted the Tea Act, granting a monopoly on selling tea to the American colonies.

On April 28, 1776, Colonel Lachlan McIntosh wrote from Savannah to General George Washington.

he concluded his letter with the report that because the South had limited manufacturing capability, the price of needed goods was two or three times higher than in the North, making procurement of clothing and arms for the new recruits difficult.

This last tidbit would prove prescient as lack of manufacturing proved an insuperable problem for the Confederacy. On May 16, 1777, McIntosh dueled against Button Gwinnett, scoring a fatal wound against one of Georgia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. McIntosh was acquitted at trial but forced to leave Georgia and eventually served under Washington at Valley Forge.

On April 26, 1866, the Atlanta Ladies’ Memorial Association held a Confederate memorial observance at Oakland Cemetery for the first time.

In 1874, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation designating April 26th of each year as “Confederate Memorial Day,” choosing the day of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender to Union General William T. Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina. There is no longer a statutorily-recognized Confederate Memorial Day, but it has become custom for Governors to issue a proclamation yearly designating April 26th as Confederate Memorial Day or to make it the Monday or Friday closest to the 26th.

On April 26, 1913, 13-year old Mary Phagan was found dead, having been sexually assaulted, in the basement of a pencil factory in Atlanta. Guilt was pinned on the Jewish owner of the factory, Leo Frank. Frank was convicted, but later his sentence was commuted after Governor John Slaton concluded from his own investigation that Frank had been framed. Frank was later hanged by a lynch mob.

On April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident occurred at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union.

Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the opening days of the crisis, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

On April 27, Soviet authorities began an evacuation of the 30,000 inhabitants of Pripyat. A cover-up was attempted, but on April 28 Swedish radiation monitoring stations, more than 800 miles to the northwest of Chernobyl, reported radiation levels 40 percent higher than normal. Later that day, the Soviet news agency acknowledged that a major nuclear accident had occurred at Chernobyl.

On April 28, 2014, the earliest ever Primary Elections in Georgia began, as in-person early voting started across the state.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Trump Administration put a hold on expanding offshore drilling, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Trump administration is suspending plans to expand offshore drilling, including plans to drill off Georgia, after a recent court ruling blocked drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told the Wall Street Journal.

Bernhardt said the agency would delay indefinitely its five-year plan for oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf as the case goes through the appeals process.

“By the time the court rules, that may be discombobulating to our plan,” Bernhardt told the Wall Street Journal in a report published Thursday. The plans had been expected to be released in the near future.

From the Brunswick News:

A March 29 federal court order invaliding an executive order behind the Trump administration’s offshore energy plans led to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt ordering an indefinite suspension of all those efforts Thursday.

An Interior spokesperson told The Hill after the WSJ story broke, “Given the recent court decision, the department is simply evaluating all of its options to determine the best pathway to accomplish the mission entrusted to it by the president.”

Governor Brian Kemp will today signs a number of bills, including one to expand broadband access, according to the AJC.

The Republican will ink the broadband measures at a signing ceremony in Dahlonega, part of a stretch of mountainous north Georgia territory where residents have long complained about spotty connectivity.

The measures aim to bring more competition to residents with few options.

One proposal, Senate Bill 2, will allow electric membership corporations to sell internet service along with power. And Senate Bill 17 lets telephone cooperatives to offer internet services.

A third measure, Senate Bill 66, allows telecom firms to set up 5G technology equipment on public land. That proposal, however, will primarily benefit large cities that are likely to receive faster cellphone internet service long before rural areas.

Lawmakers tucked about $2 million into this year’s budget proposal for rural internet funding; some estimates project it will cost well over $1 billion to rewire the entire state.

Governor Kemp yesterday signed a number of other bills, according to AccessWDUN.

Among the measures getting Kemp’s signature was a bill sponsored by State Rep. Matt Dubnik of Gainesville. House Bill (HB) 287 amends portions of the state’s so-called PTIP program. (Read more at the link below).

The full list of legislation signed during the ceremony is below. Click on the House Bill number to see full content of each bill.

HB 186 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R – Savannah)
HB 321 by Rep. Jodi Lott (R – Evans)
HB 63 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R – Marietta)
HB 287 by Matt Dubnik (R – Gainesville)
HB 290 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R – Marietta)
SB 16 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R – Marietta)
SB 18 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R – Marietta)
SB 168 by Sen. Greg Kirk (R – Americus)
SB 184 by Sen Greg Kirk (R – Americus)
SB 207 by Sen. Dean Burke (R – Bainbridge)

Senator Chuck Hufstelter (R-Rome) discussed healthcare legislation passed this session, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“This was a huge year for healthcare … About 90% of what I wanted to see happen happened,” the Republican chairman of the chamber’s finance committee told the Rome Rotary Club.

Hospitals will have greater leeway to expand and add services under legislation revising certificate-of-need requirements.

“I’m a free-market person, but health care is not always a free market,” Hufstetler said in explaining the conflict. “There are some people who need to be treated for free and if someone just cherry-picked off the good business, that could leave (hospitals providing indigent care) vulnerable.”

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the legislation, HB 186, Thursday — along with a slew of other healthcare legislation — at a ceremony at CTCA in Newnan. Hufstetler was among the lawmakers invited, but the Rotary Club engagement conflicted.

He also hailed SB 16, which makes it easier for some specialists licensed in other states to get licensed in Georgia, and SB 18, which addresses direct primary care.

“If someone wants to contract with an independent physician — it’s usually around $50 a month — it’s not an insurance issue (anymore),” he said.

House Bill 287 by State Rep. Matt Dubnik was also among legislation signed by Gov. Kemp, according to the Gainesville Times.

House Bill 287 was introduced by Rep. Matt Dubnik and co-sponsored by Rep. Lee Hawkins, both Gainesville Republicans.

The legislation will get rid of an income tax deduction currently offered to physicians who teach future doctors and replace it with a new income tax credit. Registered nurses and physician assistants who train students would also qualify. Only community medical professionals, not those who work in a university setting, would be able to get the tax credit.

The goal is to incentivize medical professionals in Georgia to train the next generation of health care providers, Dubnik said.

“With the primary care shortage in Georgia, this is just another tool in our tool belt to keep those future doctors here in Georgia,” he said.

A Medicaid waiver proposal by the Kemp administration could be modeled on a proposal by Grady Memorial Hospital, according to the AJC.

Clark entered a program that Grady invented in 2017 to lower its emergency room costs by diverting some of its most frequent ER visitors into a specialized clinic. Grady leaders believe their program could be replicated across the state, and possibly across the country, to cover more patients at a lower cost.

As Gov. Brian Kemp explores options for a limited expansion of Medicaid in Georgia, Grady’s program could provide one way to bring more federal health care dollars into the state to cover more people in a cost-efficient way.

Kemp’s research into Medicaid waiver plans is just beginning. But the approach he has mentioned so far, several times, is Grady’s.

“They (the Trump administration) want us to figure out ways to innovate,” Kemp said in his most recent comments, on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB. “Grady has a plan” to better deliver the right health care to people, he said, and the administration wants states to develop ideas that can spread across the country. “People are very excited about this, and I am as well.”

Since the clinic started in 2017 with a $2 million private grant, it’s enrolled about 250 patients. Some fell out of the program, and others kept up with appointments but didn’t follow directions. Overall, 64 patients have graduated, moving on to regular care teams. Grady estimates the pilot project saved 44% of what the hospital would have spent on their care.

Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton) spoke at a roundable hosted by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

One of the key issues discussed was the chamber’s opposition to the FAA’s so-called “1,500-hour rule.”

The rule requires new pilots to receive an airline transport pilot certificate attesting that they have 1,500 hours of cockpit training, chamber officials said. It mostly impacts regional – rural – trunk carriers where 1,500-hour pilots are difficult to find and recruit, thus creating a pilot shortage and curtailing regional air service.

Another topic discussed at the meeting pertained to issues surrounding the measurements of the Base Realignment and Closure process, which determines the possibility of a military base closing, chamber officials said.

“Congressman Scott is very accessible to his constituents,” [Chamber President Myrna] Ballard said. “He takes the time to listen to the concerns of the business community. These face-to-face discussions with our elected officials are the best way to advocate for our members.”

The Ledger-Enquirer looks at Mayor Skip Henderson’s first proposed budget.

Henderson presented his recommended budget to council during a regular council meeting Tuesday.

The total balanced budget recommended is $282,597,030, which is a 2.64 percent increase over the 2019 adopted budget of $275,340,292.

The proposed budget consists of $152.8 million in General Fund revenue, which includes $34.8 million in Local Option Sales Tax funds, $34.8 million in Other Local Option Sales Tax funds and $94 million in all other operating fund revenues.

The city is projecting a 2 percent increase in the 2020 tax digest (the assessed value of all taxable property in the county) Henderson said, and the budget reflects $2,010,000 in new General Funds revenue.

The Rome Office of Tourism is working to attract part of a Disney film production, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“We’ve been courting a Disney blockbuster,” [Ann] Hortman said. “Filming would begin sometime in the fall and we’re super excited about it.”

Through the first quarter of 2019, tourism-related expenditures tracked by the local Office of Tourism has amounted to $2.1 million, which is down about 3.1% from the first quarter of last year.

The Hall County Board of Elections is considering revising their bylaws, according to the Gainesville Times.

Changes up for a vote include allowing more time for public comment on future bylaw changes and basing party appointments on presidential rather than state elections.

The five-member board currently has two members appointed by the Hall County Republican Party, two appointed by the Hall County Democratic Party and a chairman, the Rev. Tom Smiley, appointed by the Hall County Board of Commissioners rather than a political party.

Current bylaws state that members should be appointed by the two parties that got the most votes in the last election for all members of the Georgia General Assembly. The proposed changes would base members’ parties on which parties’ candidates for president got the most votes in the last election.

“If there were to be a presidential candidate that received more votes than a Republican or Democrat candidate, then according to these bylaws we would seat two members from that party,” Smiley said at the board’s April 9 meeting when potential changes were being discussed.

Savannah City Council voted to hired former Chatham County Assistant Manager Pat Monahan as an interim city manager, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah City Council also approved a management contract for a new arena, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Forsyth City Council approved a new entertainment district that will offer liquor to go, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The City Council on April 15 approved an entertainment district that includes the courthouse square and surrounding blocks. It will allow people in the district to carry alcoholic drinks in designated cups sold by the city.

Mayor Eric Wilson said the idea and policy grew out of a visit to the city of Monroe. Officials there said it had been working out well and there had been no problems.

Open containers will be allowed in the district from 5-11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

The policy will go into effect as soon as the cups come in, hopefully within a couple of weeks, Tammie Pierson, Main Street director, said.

25
Apr

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

James Oglethorpe won reelection to the British Parliament while in America on April 25, 1734.

The United States declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898.

On April 25, 1996, Georgia Governor Zell Miller signed Senate Bill 519 designating English the official language of Georgia.

Click here for the text of the bill.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump spoke in Atlanta yesterday, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Trump on Wednesday provided an update of sorts, including progress in creating and bolstering several federal initiatives to combat the crisis.

There were a record-breaking 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017 and opioids were involved in 67.8% of them, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But these deaths may be on the decline. Complete data has yet to be released, but provisional data from the CDC show an overall 3.2% decline in overdose deaths from September 2017 through September 2018.

He promoted his administration’s border security efforts as part of the solution to the crisis and praised China’s recent decision to schedule fentanyl. Trump also claimed that opioid prescriptions have gone by more than a third since he took office.

“Already during my time in office, we have reduced the total number of opioids prescribed by 34%. That’s a pretty amazing number,” he said.

And at the Justice Department, Attorney General Bill Barr plans to move forward from delivering the Mueller report to Congress by focusing on matters he deems more pressing, including the opioid crisis, a source close to Barr told CNN.

During his speech in Atlanta, the President bolstered his administration’s border security efforts, including a southern border wall, as a great deterrent to drug smuggling — attempting to connect the issue to opioids.

Trump said Customs and Border Protection seizures of meth and cocaine and heroin and fentanyl at the southern border are up 45% in the last two years.

“They’re going up much higher. We are seizing it all over. You probably saw the numbers today. We are detaining, capturing, call it anything you want, more people than ever before,” Trump said.

From WSB-TV:

The president also said he expects to carry the state when he runs for reelection next year.

“I love the state, and I guess they like me, because I’ve done well from the beginning,” Trump told Elliot.

Trump won Georgia in 2016.

“I think it’s in play only for us in the upcoming election, to be honest with you. I know, (Sen.) David Perdue is going to be running, and I’m running, and we’re going to do very well,” Trump said.

Elliot also asked the president about the delay in federal aid for South Georgia farmers still suffering seven months after Hurricane Michael.

Trump blamed congressional Democrats.

“A lot of that money goes to farmers, and that’s what we’re doing, and David Perdue is working very hard, and I’m working very hard, but they’re trying to hold us up, but it’s not appropriate,” Trump said.

From the AJC:

“I made a very strong statement about the border and I was criticized. They said, ‘It’s not that bad.’ Well, let me tell you that statement was peanuts compared to reality,” said Trump, who was introduced at the Atlanta summit by First Lady Melania Trump. “But we are confronting reality and confronting the grave security and humanitarian crisis on our southern border.”

Moments later, the president vented about Democratic opposition to his immigration policies.

“Congress must also act to fix, however, our horrible, obsolete, weak, pathetic immigration laws,” he said. “We could solve the entire problem – I say 45 minutes, but it could go a lot quicker than that, let’s bring it down to 15 minutes – if the Democrats would agree to do certain basic commonsense things with respect to our laws.”

Trump got backup from the state’s Republican hierarchy, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who both greeted him at Hartsfield-Jackson as Air Force One touched down. Several members of Georgia’s congressional delegation praised Trump’s initiative.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson noted the crisis has “touched so many families, including my own.” He added: “Georgia and states across the country, along with our medical community and first responders, now have better tools to fight this epidemic to help more Georgians and Americans.”

By midafternoon, roughly two hours after arriving in Atlanta, Trump was aboard Air Force One again.

From Georgia Public Broadcasting:

During his keynote address, Trump highlighted the initiatives fronted by his administration, including increased funding, drug take-back programs, increased access to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone and supporting faith-based recovery initiatives.

His remarks were punctuated when he asked State Director of Faith-Based Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Monty Burks to join him on stage. The president introduced Burks as a former addict who was ushered into recovery “when two women of prayer from his hometown church helped him get onto a path of recovery.”

The president went on to say that critical to combating the opioid crisis, “is my strong support for faith-based initiatives. America is a nation that believes in the power of prayer and strength of fellowship and we believe in the grace of God.”

In Georgia, government agencies such as the Department of Public Health and the Department of Corrections offer faith-based support programs to help connect community members with resources.

Over the past two decades, researches have become more invested into evaluating the success of faith-based programs with respect to health outcomes. Some studies have reflected the positive impacts that initiatives organized around religious institutions can have.

The promotion of faith-based programs and initiatives is just one facet of the Trump administration’s comprehensive approach to combating the opioid crisis in America. During his speech, Trump also touted the increased funding for medication-assisted treatment programs and targeting ports of entry to stop the influx of illegal drugs from other countries.

From the Associated Press:

The first lady spoke briefly about her visits to hospitals and treatment centers and her meetings with doctors and nurses as part of her own campaign to highlight the “terrible toll the opioid epidemic is having on children and young mothers.”

“My husband is here today because he cares deeply about what you’re doing to help the millions of Americans affected by the opioid epidemic,” she said.

Governor Brian Kemp embarked on a statewide tour celebrating his first 100 days in office, according to 11Alive.

Kemp highlighted what he called a “historic increase” in pay for grade school teachers across the state, a larger investment in mental health services for students and school security, new solutions for Georgia’s healthcare system, along with new overall efforts aimed at safety for communities statewide.

“Working with the General Assembly, we have allocated millions in relief efforts for Georgians still reeling from Hurricane Michael. Republicans and Democrats came together to overwhelmingly pass budgets that fund our priorities while keeping our state’s fiscal house in order,” the governor said.

“By launching the Georgians First Commission, we will make Georgia the top state in the nation for small business. Job growth in our state is beating national trends and companies around the world have Georgia on their mind,” Kemp said. “We have a lot to celebrate after the first 100 days of my first term, but we are just getting started. Together, the next 100 days will build on these successes and keep Georgia moving in the right direction.”

From the AJC:

At Wednesday’s event and other public appearances, the governor has characterized his support for House Bill 481 as a fulfillment of campaign promises, and he said he’s not worried about repercussions from opponents who warn of economic and political payback.

The legislative session will also be remembered for what didn’t pass, most notably a transportation measure that would have given the state more oversight of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, cleared the way for new rural mobility initiatives and expanded a jet-fuel tax break that would primarily benefit Delta Air Lines.

While he stayed publicly neutral on the airport takeover measure, Kemp recently revealed he opposed the changes. But he remains miffed the aviation tax break, which he personally jockeyed for during the final day of the session, didn’t win approval.

“I had a plan that Delta supported that was going to be good for them on the jet-fuel tax and would have provided much-needed funding for rural airports,” he said. “Some in the Legislature, for whatever reason — and I’m still kind of baffled — didn’t agree with that. But we’re committed to working on that.”

Governor Kemp visited Macon on his statewide tour, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Gov. Brian Kemp met with Middle Georgia school district leaders for an education roundtable as part of a statewide tour marking his first 100 days in office.

The governor and school officials discussed a range of topics that included teacher morale, pay raises and dual enrollment programs during Wednesday’s meeting at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport.

One of the highlights of Kemp’s first few months in office was backing a $3,000 pay raise for teachers that state legislators approved. On Tuesday, the Bibb County school board approved a 2 percent bonus for full-time employees.

Kemp said the pay raise is a good start but more can be done to improve teacher morale and retain them for the long-term.

“We have to show a commitment for a number of years to led educators know that we appreciate them,” Kemp said.

 From 13-WMAZ:

He held an open table talk at Middle Georgia Regional Airport with more than two dozen Central Georgia educators to hear their thoughts and questions on initiatives.

Kemp talked about his work to increase teacher pay, increase mental health programs and security in schools, and school testing.

“I feel like as long as people are having that dialogue and they know that we’re listening and trying to do what we can I don’t think they’re expecting a miracle from us, they just want us to be at the table and try to help with the issues they’re facing every day,” said Kemp.

House Bill 53 could impact recess for students in Savannah-Chatham County public schools, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The bill, which the Georgia House sent April 4 to Gov. Brian Kemp, mandates 30 minutes of daily activity or unstructured time for kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary students except in certain circumstances, while the Savannah-Chatham County’s more generous policy mandates 30 minutes of recess for pre-K to fifth-grade students except on certain occasions.

Kurt Hetager, chief public affairs and administrative services officer, said legislators in Atlanta grappled with some of the same issues the Savannah-Chatham County school board did as they discussed House Bill 83, such as how far the lawmakers want to dig down into the details to dictate how schools determine when recess is provided.

Savannah-Chatham County board members and the Wellness Committee discussed the language of the policy last year, especially the difference between the word “recess” and “unstructured break time.” The board purposely used the word “recess” in its policy. The Savannah-Chatham County policy does allow for teachers to withhold recess on occasion for academic reasons, but allows parents to request their children’s recess not be withheld for this purpose.

Savannah-Chatham County’s policy requires principals provide at least 30 minutes of recess each school day for students in pre-K through grade five. It also strongly encourages a “regularly scheduled, supervised recess period” for students in grades six to eight but leaves it at the principal’s discretion.

For students in grades six to eight, local boards of education are tasked with writing policies for who in the district will be authorized to determine when, where and for how long recess is provided, if at all. The local policy also should cover whether unstructured breaks can be withheld for disciplinary, academic or other reasons.

“When the dust settles on this bill, we’ll modify as appropriate,” Hetager said.

The Glynn County Board of Education is working on its FY 2020 budget, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Board of Education met Wednesday to hold one of its first in-depth discussions of the upcoming year’s school system budget. The school board will vote in July to approve the budget and will hold two public hearings beforehand.

Total expenditures for fiscal year 2020 are estimated to be $139,469,700, which is about a 5 percent increase from fiscal year 2019’s budget.

Estimated total revenue for fiscal year 2020 is $136,138,600.

Additional funding from the state budget will come in this year to cover salary raises that Gov. Brian Kemp promised to provide to the state’s teachers and other staff.

The state budget included funds to help cover a $3,000 increase in the state salary scale for certified employees. All other staff will receive a 2 percent pay increase.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is predicting a good sea turtle nesting season this year, according to The Brunswick News.

Mark Dodd, head of the state Department of Natural Resources’ sea turtle program, displayed a graph showing an upward trajectory over a significant number of years. While nesting goes in cycles, the last couple years have been above average. Even last year’s number of 1,735 nests, which was below 2017’s 2,187, was above what it could have been.

As it stands, nesting’s growing at around 2.5-3 percent annually.

The pattern tends to indicate this will be a significantly bigger year than last, and some of the people participating in the cooperative meeting pegged it at a record year. Not so much more than 2,500 nests statewide, but topping 3,000.

There were 3,291 nests recorded in 2016, according to seaturtle.org, an online database of sea turtle nesting statistics.

Cave Spring City Council aims to vote on a rewrite of their alcohol ordinance before July, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“We’d like to have it done within 60 days,” Mayor Pro Tem Tom Lindsey said following a Tuesday night work session on a proposed draft.

City Attorney Frank Beacham is using Rome’s ordinance as a template. He’s also incorporating elements that council members like in other Georgia cities such as Ball Ground, Kennesaw, Dahlonega and Acworth. The work session focused on tailoring the changes to Cave Spring — as it exists and as they’d like to see it develop.

“Cave Spring is not like Rome,” Council member Nellie McCain said during a discussion of how close to homes, schools and parks that package stores may be located.

Plans are to meet at least one more time — perhaps two — to vet the draft ordinance, with Beacham making changes as required. A May 7 session is expected to focus on rules for on-premises consumption.

Council members also are discussing the possibility of visiting some of the nearby downtown districts to see how their provisions work in practice.

Doesn’t that last part sound a little like a pub crawl?

24
Apr

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

The Library of Congress was founded on April 24, 1800 and is the largest library in the world today.

Jack Kingston was born on April 24, 1955. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1984 and served four terms and in 1992 was elected to the United States Congress.

“Georgia On My Mind” became the official state song on April 24, 1979, when Governor George Busbee signed legislation designating it.

IBM introduced the Personal Computer Model 5150 on April 24, 1981, though some authorities date the introduction to April 12. It sported an Intel 8088 processor at 4.77 Mhz, a whopping 16k of RAM, which was expandable to 256k, and a clicky keyboard. The initial price tag was $1565, equivalent to more than $4000 today.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will be in Atlanta today for the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, according to the AJC.

This will be the president’s first visit to Georgia in 2019. He made several stops in 2018, including a rally in Macon for Brian Kemp during the governor’s race and a tour of damage after Hurricane Michael struck in October. He also attended the national college football title game in Atlanta.

The four-day drug abuse summit attracts about 3,000 participants, and in past years it has featured public health officials and high-profile politicians. Kellyanne Conway, a White House counselor, talked to the group in 2018.

The visit is expected to snarl traffic around downtown Atlanta on Wednesday and attract protesters to the area.

Trump has allocated billions of dollars in his budget proposals to combating the opioid crisis, which claimed nearly 48,000 American lives in 2017. The White House said the president and his wife will each speak “about their fight to end the opioid crisis.”

Click here to watch the live stream of the President’s address at 1 PM.

Governor Brian Kemp begins a statewide tour today, according to AccessWDUN.

Kemp will participate in round table discussions with educators, healthcare professionals and law enforcement officials in different parts of the state. First Lady Marty Kemp will accompany him.

Wednesday’s schedule includes stops at Dekalb-Peachtree Airport in Atlanta at 8:30 a.m., Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon at 9:45 a.m. and Garden City Terminal in Garden City at 3 p.m.

A press statement from the Governor’s office said other visits are planned and will be announced once a schedule is confirmed.

Government agencies from the federal, state, and local levels will be at a Supermarket of Veterans Benefits in Warner Robins, according to the Macon Telegraph.

At Supermarket of Veterans Benefits, veterans may establish eligibility for state veterans benefits, apply for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care benefits, disability compensation or pension benefits and obtain help in obtaining military medals and records.

Veterans can also find out about education and job training grants, employment opportunities and get information on home mortgage and small business loans.

Additionally, veterans will learn about nursing home care and aging services, burial in veterans cemeteries, military retiree information, and veterans driver’s license and car tags.

Representatives of more than 30 federal, state and local government agencies are expected to be on hand.

[T]he free event is April 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Larry Walker Arena at Central Georgia Technical College at 80 Cohen Walker Drive in Warner Robins.

The Conasuaga Judicial Circuit (Murray and Whitfield Counties) held drug court graduation, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

[Olivia McDonald] gives the credit for the turnaround to the Conasauga Drug Court program.

Surrounded by a room full of family, friends and Drug Court staff members, McDonald and five other participants in the program — Brittani Curl, Samantha Silvers, Jason Chastain, Donnie Ensley and Lamar Hance — celebrated their completion of the program during the 73rd graduation ceremony held Feb. 21 at the Whitfield County Courthouse.

“If you had told me 27 months ago that treatment would have provided my life with so much improvement, I would have told you it was not possible,” McDonald said, reading to the crowd from a letter she had written to Judge Jim Wilbanks, who oversees the Drug Court program. “Hopelessness was replaced by faith, fear replaced by confidence, and anger replaced by peace.”

McDonald’s success story includes earning her GED while in the program. She will take classes at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, seeking a degree as an addiction specialist and social work assistant.

“My goal for this program — and it has been since the beginning — is permanent recovery,” [Judge Jim] Wilbanks said. “Some programs don’t use two words to describe recovery — I do. This is not just about recovery — this is about permanent recovery, so that’s why we focus on core issues. That’s why this is a 24-month program. It takes time just to get the chemicals out of the brain so you can start thinking like a real person again. So we work to get them to that point, and from there we grow with them as they grow in their recovery.”

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson unveiled his first proposed city budget, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The total balanced budget recommended is $282,597,030.00 in revenue and expenses, which is a 2.64 percent increase over the fiscal year 2019 adopted budget.

Big changes include a $1 million allocation for demolitions of blighted properties and pay raises for all city employees.

The proposed budget also includes a 1 percent raise for all full-time city employees hired on or before June 30, 2018 as well as a 1 percent cost of living increase for all employees.

Both of those raises will go into effect in January 2020.

Henderson said his proposed budget does not use fund balance to balance the budget. His budget also anticipates a slight increase in the tax digest.

The Bulloch County Board of Education budget is expected to pass $100 million dollars for the first time in FY 2020, according to the Statesboro Herald.

But much of a projected 5.8 percent, $5.57 million percent overall rise in revenue and a 7.9 percent, $7.39 million, rise in spending will be a pass-through of state funding for a pay raise and related benefit costs for teachers.

Those state-mandated raises will also go to administrators and other school employees with teaching certificates, and Brown and Superintendent Charles Wilson have suggested locally funded raises for all other regular employees.

[T]the state-funded teacher raise, which was reduced and increased again through the legislative process, ended up at $3,000.

The Bulloch County school system will receive a projected $2.55 million from the state to fund this raise. Another $1.1 million in added state money will be a pass-through for additional Teacher Retirement System costs resulting from the raise and from a small increase in the employer contribution percentage.

The American Lung Association released its annual air pollution scorecard, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In the American Lung Association’s latest State of the Air air pollution scorecard, which looked at data from 2015 to 2017, Augusta recorded zero high ozone days and only a couple of days where fine particle pollution was a concern, earning it an A grade on ozone and a B on particle pollution.

Georgia as a whole improved on ozone, with only Atlanta-area counties failing to make the grade. The Atlanta area also did slightly worse in the level of overall particle pollution, according to the group. Those gains could be threatened by climate change and by rollbacks to federal protections that are responsible for many of those gains, said June Deen, the senior director for advocacy for the lung association in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Compared with years past, the air is much cleaner in Georgia, said Karen Hays, the chief of the Air Protection Branch at the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

“Air quality has improved dramatically due to increased controls at industrial sources and power plants, and then also the cars that we drive, the buses that we ride in, even the trains are a lot more efficient and emit less pollution than they did even a decade ago,” she said. “All of those things factored together led to improvements in air quality.”

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division Richmond Hill Hatchery produces fingerlings to stock Georgia waters, according to the Albany Herald.

Millions of sport fish, such as striped bass, are produced each year at nine hatcheries in the state. Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery recently completed a major renovation that includes a new state-of-the-art hatchery and regional administrative facility. The new hatchery building has the capacity to increase fry production by more than 25 percent compared to the old facility, and since the incubation room has a recirculating water system, the new hatchery will also conserve water.

Funding for the hatchery was derived from mitigation funds from the Savannah River Deepening Project and other state monies. Anglers support the operation of the hatchery through their fishing license purchase and through the Sport Fish Restoration Fund by paying taxes on items like fishing equipment and boat fuel. Those tax dollars get returned to Georgia based, in part, on how many fishing licenses are sold. So by buying a license (www.GoOutdoorsGeorgia.com), state anglers can make sure their dollars stay in Georgia.

Scott Addison has been promoted to Assistant Administrator in Dougherty County, according to the Albany Herald.

The City of Sugar Hill opened their new E Center, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The mixed use development includes a multi-use indoor theater, a gymnasium, outdoor gathering spaces, office spaces, and retail and restaurant spaces.

“The E Center is a long time coming and is a direct response to what the community said they wanted years ago: a downtown of our own where we can eat, shop, be entertained and engage with our neighbors,” Sugar Hill Mayor Steve Edwards said.

The E Center has technically been opening piecemeal since last fall, but Tuesday’s ribbon cutting made everything official. Before city officials cut the ribbon on the E Center, they unveiled two plaques that will installed at the E Center and the Eagle Theatre to mark the occasion.

In addition to Edwards, the City Council and Sugar Hill Downtown Development Authority, state Sen. Renee Unterman and Partnership Gwinnett Chief Economic Development Officer — and incoming Gwinnett Chamber president — Nick Masino also helped cut the ribbon to formally open the downtown district. A quartet from the Broad Street Band performed for attendees before and after the ribbon cutting as well.

Right Whales are still in numerical decline after this year’s calving season, according to The Brunswick News.

[T]he 2018-19 North Atlantic right whale calving season was not a baby boom — nothing like it — and ended in seven observed calves born. In fact, the species remains on a path toward extinction.

“Seven calves aren’t great — I think we probably remember the previous season we had zero calves, which was really our worst year ever,” state Department of Natural Resources biologist Mark Dodd said.

The assessment came during a meeting Tuesday morning at the state DNR’s Coastal Resources Division headquarters that primarily dealt with the beginning of sea turtle nesting season, but also involved discussion of area aquatic mammals and shorebirds.

Dodd said that for the population of right whales to stay stable, to simply break even there needed a minimum 16 calves born this season. As such, the past calving season represents a continued downturn.

 

23
Apr

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

William Shakespeare was born April 23, 1564 and died April 23, 1616.

Lucius D. Clay was born in Marietta, Georgia on April 23, 1898, the son of Georgia U.S. Senator Alexander Stephens Clay, who served in the Senate from 1896 until his death in 1910. Clay graduated West Point in 1915 and eventually rose to serve as Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Deputy for Military Government. During the Berlin Airlift, Clay helped keep Allied-occupied West Berlin supplied with food for almost a year after Soviet forces blockaded all land routes into the city.

Hank Aaron his his first home run in major league baseball on April 23, 1954, playing for the Milwaukee Braves against the St. Louis Cardinals.

New Coke was announced on April 23, 1985.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will address the 2019 Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta tomorrow and may be viewed via livestream begining at 1 PM tomorrow.

Northwest Georgia‘s population continues growing, according to Census estimates published by the Rome News Tribune.

Bartow and Paulding remain the fastest-growing counties in Northwest Georgia, according to population estimates released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

But Floyd, Polk and Gordon are showing moderate gains, picking up in recent years, and Chattooga registered a population increase after years of steady decline.

The Agriculture Census shows growth in micro farms despite losses of some classes of larger farms, according to GPB News.

The latest data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture showed Georgia lost more than 1,500 small and mid-size farms over the past five years. But it’s not all bad news.

While the number of small and mid-size farms has dropped, micro-farms, between one and nine acres, have increased to more than 4,500. That’s up from about three thousand in 2012.

Andrew Lucas with the Georgia Farm Bureau said they’ve also seen an uptick in consolidation of farms, which has led to an increase in large farms.

Gary Black, commissioner of the state’s department of agriculture, said overall, he’s pleased by the data, but farmers here still need help recovering from Hurricane Michael.

“I really am troubled to see what these numbers will be five years from now,” Black said.  “And you know, that’s not smoke and mirrors, that’s reality.”

Herman Cain withdrew his name from consideration for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, according to the AJC.

“My friend Herman Cain, a truly wonderful man, has asked me not to nominate him for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board,” Trump tweeted. “I will respect his wishes. Herman is a great American who truly loves our Country!”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr appears in a new public service announcement as part of Alcohol Responsibility Month, according to the Albany Herald.

“Underage drinking is not only harmful in many ways to Georgia’s children and teenagers, but it is also illegal,” Carr said. “Parents have the greatest impact on their kids’ decision to drink or not to drink alcohol, so I encourage parents to have conversations early and often about the risks of underage drinking.”

“April is Alcohol Responsibility Month, and as we continue our mission to eliminate underage drinking, we want to remind parents how important conversations with their kids are,” Dr. Ben Nordstrom, executive director of Responsibility.org, said in a news release.

April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month, according to The Brunswick News.

“It’s impossible to prevent something that lives in shadows,” said Michelle Johnston, president of Coastal Georgia. “And it’s difficult to raise awareness about something that you’re not working towards solutions for.”

Open dialogue is necessary, she said, to stop sexual assault and to support survivors. Education, bystander training, access to resources and zero tolerance can help address sexual assault, Johnston said.

“One incident, one situation is too many,” she said.

Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey read a proclamation declaring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The Rape Crisis Center hotline is available 24/7, and the number is 1-800-205-7037.

This week was proclaimed Georgia Procurement Conference Week by Governor Brian Kemp, according to The Brunswick News.

The Jekyll Island Convention Center will host the third annual Georgia Procurement Conference, bringing together more than 800 procurement professionals and suppliers from across the state and nation.

The focus will be on small business, especially in rural Georgia, to help create jobs and grow businesses, said Alex Atwood, state Department of Administrative Services commissioner.

The conference will also feature a video from Gov. Brian Kemp explaining the importance of the state’s procurement efforts and the value of public-private partnerships. The governor has also proclaimed April 22-26 as Georgia Procurement Conference Week.

“The Georgia Procurement Conference is an opportunity to connect small businesses with professionals who are responsible for ensuring that our state secures the best price and best value for goods and services for our citizens,” Kemp said in a statement. “We also are pleased that businesses from every corner of Georgia will be represented at the conference.”

House Bill 374 by State Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta) aims to speed the ability of some hospice patients to receive liquid morphine, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Currently, only a hospice nurse can give morphine to a patient in assisted living. LaHood’s bill was written to allow a certified medication aide at the assisted living facility to administer the medication when a hospice staff member is not on site.

“I consider HB 374 to be compassionate legislation that will enable hospice patients residing in assisted living communities to get the care they need in a more timely manner,” LaHood said.

Vicki Vaughn Johnson, chair of the Georgia Council on Aging, said the bill, championed by LaHood and LeadingAge Georgia and supported by the Georgia Senior Living Association and the Assisted Living Association of Georgia, should help hospice patients avoid long waits for pain relief.

“This is a carefully crafted solution to help those in the last stages of life deal with constant pain,” Johnson said.

LaHood’s bill, which is now on the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp, does not apply to hospice patients in personal care homes. It treats hospice patients in assisted living similarly to hospice patients who are being cared for at their homes.

The Georgia Municipal Association spoke to Hall County municipal officials, according to the Gainesville Times.

State House and Senate bills that would have prohibited local governments from adopting design standards for single-family homes or duplexes failed to leave each legislative chamber in time this year, which [GMA's Michael] McPherson called a win for municipalities.

“It would have preempted the local design standards to the point where only the national minimum would have been in place,” McPherson said.

Another bill that was considered in the House would have prohibited local governments from regulating short-term rentals, or homes rented out through sites like VRBO or Airbnb.

“We can’t roll over and let our zoning be completely defeated by this concept,” McPherson said.

From AccessWDUN:

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan thanked GMA for fighting to preserve local control, allowing cities to decide how they want to handle issues on a local level rather than having statewide mandates that place all 530-plus incorporated cities in Georgia under one binding regulation.

“They’re trying to take away all our home rule,” Dunagan said.  “That’s exactly what they’re doing, little by little, every session.”

McPherson agreed with Dunagan’s assessment, saying some efforts by GMA to get legislation approved or defeated in recent years have seen over 100 lobbyists arguing on behalf of a giant corporation that stood to benefit if the legislation passed.

“Not all of our General Assembly members have local government experience at the city or county level,” McPherson explained.  “And because of that it’s important that we give them an understanding of what cities and counties have to go through day-in and day-out…to insure that you’re meeting the needs of your residents and the businesses in your community.”

Macon-Bibb County is considering decriminalizing marijuana, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The proposed ordinance calls for a fine instead of a jail time as a penalty for possession of less than one ounce of pot. The proposal follows suit with other places in Georgia, including Fulton County and the cities of Atlanta and Savannah, where officials have approved similar decriminalization measures.

The Macon-Bibb ordinance, sponsored by County Commissioners Al Tillman and Virgil Watkins, states that anyone arrested with less than one ounce would pay a $75 fine.

The marijuana decriminalization ordinance is on Tuesday’s County Commission committee agenda.

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis said the ordinance would probably not change how his deputies handle those cases in most instances. It could mean that most of those cases would go through Municipal Court instead of State Court.

“On the enforcement piece, it’s really not going to effect what deputies do that much,” Davis said. “We don’t normally bring that many people to jail on just that charge. They’re typically issued a citation.”

Banks County will need financial assistance in dealing with flooding, according to AccessWDUN.

Banks County officials say state or federal help, in the form of disaster or contingency funding, will determine whether the county is able to properly correct an issue that resulted in flash flooding in the Banks Crossing area Friday.

Duckett said the repairs to Steven B. Tanger Boulevard alone could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The busy road connects U.S. 441/Ga. 15 with and is the main artery serving Tanger Outlets, Atlanta Dragway and numerous restaurants and businesses in both Banks and Jackson counties.

The cost of repairing the two-lane road could be higher, depending on the work that has to be done, including repair to at least one travel lane, Duckett said.

Duckett said a timetable on permanent repairs will depend on whether Banks County can get state or federal assistance with the costs.

A Floyd County Commissioner and the county manager spoke about passing their Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to Whitfield County, after Whitfield voters rejected a SPLOST last month, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

In a work session Monday evening, commissioners heard from Floyd County Commission Vice Chairman Wright Bagby — also a former mayor of Rome — and the county’s manager, Jamie McCord. The pair described the process used by the city and county to the southwest to handle SPLOST requests, which relies heavily on citizen input.

“I can’t tell anybody else what to do, but I can tell you what works for us,” Bagby said. “If you don’t have a strong citizens group vetting your projects and part of the process all the way through, the only ones that we have ever had to fail, we didn’t have that group in place, or the government overruled the citizens. That is just what works for us. We think it is extremely important for citizens to be active in the process before, during and after.”

“The three that failed were years ago, and we saw that was an ongoing issue,” Bagby said. “We empowered the SPLOST citizens committee to help us make all of the selections. We also agreed that whatever they come up with is what we are going to work with. We will not be messing with the projects. Does that mean that 100 percent of what the city or the county wants is going to make it in there? No. We were not going to tamper with their work.”

The last SPLOST measure in Floyd County passed with more than 60 percent in favor. The March vote in Whitfield County saw 57.94 percent of voters opposed to the measure.

Emory Healthcare is considering spending $20 million dollars to move administrative offices into part of the old Northlake Mall, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Augusta Parks and Recreation Director Glenn Parker has resigned, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

ugusta Recreation and Parks Director Glenn Parker tendered his resignation Monday, on the heels of the resignations of two other top city officials and pending wrongful death litigation involving the recreation department.

Parker asked that his resignation be effective May 17 and that he receive 14 weeks’ severance pay, or approximately $28,000, according to his resignation letter, which gave no explanation for his decision.

His resignation follows those of City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson and city General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie last week. The Augusta Commission approved paying Jackson and MacKenzie a year’s salary and benefits to step down.

Suwanee Municipal Court will temporarily move into City Hall, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

22
Apr

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

On April 22, 1891, Asa Candler bought the recipe for Coca-Cola for $2300 and eventually turned its marketing from a “brain tonic” into a plain old tasty beverage.

Adolf Hitler admitted defeat in World War II on April 22, 1945.

The Atlanta Braves won their first home game in Atlanta Stadium on April 22, 1966. The Braves beat the New York Mets 8-4. It’s interesting to look back at how the Braves landed in Atlanta.

During his 1961 campaign for mayor of Atlanta, Ivan Allen, Jr. promised to build a sports facility to attract a Major League Baseball team. After winning office, Allen chose a 47-acre plot in the Washington–Rawson neighborhood for the building site, citing its proximity to the Georgia State Capitol, downtown businesses and major highways. Allen, along with Atlanta Journal sports editor Furman Bisher, attempted to persuade Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, to move his team to Atlanta. Finley was receptive and began discussing stadium design plans with Allen. The deal, however, ended in July 1963 when the American League did not approve the move.

In 1964, Mayor Allen announced that an unidentified team had given him a verbal commitment to move to Atlanta, provided a stadium was in place by 1966. Soon afterward, the prospective team was revealed to be the Milwaukee Braves, who announced in October that they intended to move to Atlanta for the 1965 season. However, court battles kept the Braves in Milwaukee for one last season.

A verbal commitment by an unnamed team brought the Braves here.

The Blues Brothers made their worldwide debut on Saturday Night Live on April 22, 1978. Two prominent Georgia musicians, Ray Charles (born Albany) and James Brown (died Atlanta) would co-star in The Blues Brothers movie.

Former President Richard Nixon died on April 22, 1994.

The Macon Telegraph looks at ten middle Georgia historic sites worth visiting.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Lynne Homrich announced she will run for Congress from the 7th District, according to the AJC.

Lynne Homrich launched her campaign with an ad that featured a string of clips of Reps. Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib – who have fast become the favorite targets of Republicans – before flashing to Homrich.

“That’s the best they can do in Washington? If your kids behaved like these women, you’d ground them. If they worked in your business, you’d fire them,” she said. “We need more women in office with conservative values, common sense and real-world experience.”

She’s one of the first Republicans to enter the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, who is retiring after narrowly winning a fifth term last year. Former NFL player Joe Profit is also in the race, and state Sen. Renee Unterman is likely to soon join.

She was a Home Depot vice president for human resources and founded She’s a 10, a nonprofit that aims to prepare women for leadership roles. She and her husband David, the chief financial officer for Arthur Blank’s for-profit businesses, raised four children, who are spotlighted in her campaign ad.

In her announcement roll-out, Homrich made clear she’ll run as a conservative who supported Donald Trump.

It’s a funny way to have supported Donald Trump by never voting in a Republican primary election and never voting in a Georgia gubernatorial election.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission voted to raise contribution limits, according to the AJC.

The commission voted last week to raise the limit on donations in statewide races — for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, etc. — from $6,600 for a primary, $3,900 for a primary runoff and $6,600 for a general election, to $7,000 for both primary and general elections, and $4,100 for a primary runoff.

Since primary runoffs are fairly common, someone planning to run for governor would be able to raise $18,100, rather than $17,100, from a single donor.

Candidates who wind up in one of the fairly rare general election runoffs could take in an additional $4,100 per donor.

Former United States Senator Saxby Chambliss (R) spoke to the Valdosta Lowndes County legislative luncheon, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Where do you see cyber security today?

Chambliss: “In the 2005-06 time frame, we had this director of national intelligence, a gentleman who would constantly bring this up in our classified briefings. People would say, ‘cyber security? I never heard of that.’ Their eyes would glaze over. Nobody had ever heard of it. They had no concept of it.”

“Well, it wasn’t long after that where we saw the public breaches at Home Depot, Neiman Marcus and other places, and all of a sudden, people all over the world started realizing this is a big deal.”

“There are … groups of folks who are the bad actors in the world of cyber security. You have nation states, primarily Russians, Chinese, Iranians and North Koreans. They are all getting more and more sophisticated, and today they are all very, very good at what they do – not good for us.”

Chambliss: “There is no question that our immigration system in this country is broken, and it needs a vast overhaul.”

“We tried on any number of occasions during my 20 years in Washington to make those changes through a comprehensive bill, and I will tell you that there is not a more emotional issue in America than the issue of immigration.”

Chambliss: “The biggest problem we have with respect to the bipartisan action – that we used to see on a regular basis – is that compromise has become a four-letter word.”

“We have more members of the House, as well as members of the Senate, on the far-right and you have more on the far-left. Their position is their position, and it is the only right position, meaning that’s the only thing they’ll accept. Well, that just doesn’t work.”

Floyd County is considering spending the last of the proceeds from a 2013 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on property for an industrial park, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord said Georgia Power Co. economic development officials helped identify the properties that could be adapted for large operations.

“It’s hard to find a 100-acre site that’s not under conservation,” he said, referring to a tax category that essentially requires the land to remain undisturbed. “You can still do something with them, but there are a lot of hurdles to overcome.”

The 2013 SPLOST package contains $8 million to create shovel-ready sites for job creation. No bonds were issued for projects, so they were done as the monthly collections came in.

“Everything was cash-flowed,” McCord noted. “We didn’t have that $8 million until a few months ago.”

His remarks came last week during an update to the 2013 and 2017 SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committees that drew about 50 people to the new recycling center on Lavender Drive. A tour of the SPLOST-funded facility that opened in December followed.

Rome City Commission is considering creating a Tax Allocation District for a former Kmart location, according to the Rome News Tribune.

If the TAD is approved, Rome-based Ledbetter Properties will get started on its plan to redevelop the vacant space at the East Bend Retail Center. The tract consists of three separate parcels totaling 19.7 acres and is currently valued at $3.77 million.

Under a TAD, the base value of a property is frozen for a specified number of years. In this case, likely 20. As the parcel is built out, the tax due on the improvements is funneled back into the project.

The Rome Redevelopment Agency is recommending approval. During a RRDA discussion earlier this month, City Manager Sammy Rich said the Ledbetters already have several retail tenants lined up that would be new to the Rome market.

Sales tax revenue from the planned East Bend Retail Center is estimated at $17.8 million over 20 years, according to the city’s consultants, Bleakley Advisory Group.

Cave Spring City Council is considering an overhaul to their alcohol ordinance, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The alcohol ordinance has been under review since at least February, when city voters approved liquor sales by the package and by the drink.

The vote cleared the way for two investors to move forward with plans to turn a vacant historic property downtown into a craft distillery using water from the city’s famed spring. In addition to making flavored spirits, they’d have a sipping room and store on site.

A City of Augusta administrator and the General Counsel will each receive severance packages after resigning, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The pair resigned Tuesday after the Augusta Commission spent over two hours behind closed doors negotiating severance packages with each. Both will receive a year’s salary and benefits – that’s more than $191,000 for Jackson and $152,000 for MacKenzie, and they’ll keep their insurance for the year.

Few were surprised to see MacKenzie go – the 10-member commission has a tradition of battling with the attorney when his legal opinions pleased some but not others on the panel.

“Andrew has been taking heat ever since I was down there right steadily,” former Commissioner Jerry Brigham said. “He was a lawyer – I didn’t always try to agree with him, but I didn’t try to practice law either.”

The Gainesville Times spoke to some property owners after Hall County adopted rules for short term rentals.

In March, the Hall County Board of Commissioners approved changes to the county’s short-term rental rules that allow homes in all zoning districts to be short-term rentals, or to be rented out for two to 30 nights. Previously, only homes zoned Residential-I were eligible, and they had to be within 500 feet of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ line for Lake Lanier.

While the Platts were not eligible to operate a short-term rental under the old ordinance due to their home’s zoning, they can now legally operate and are praising the changes.

“This is a revenue source for the community,” Keith Platt said. “Not only does it bring more tax dollars in to Hall County and the community, it also brings in more revenue to restaurants, marinas, Road Atlanta, other areas.”

In 2018, the Hall County Marshal’s Office received 10 complaints about short-term rentals and issued six citations, according to reports obtained by The Times. Six of those were in the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ District 2, which includes portions of west and south Hall. Three property owners received citations for operating without a license, and one was cited for cars parked in the right of way.

The Glynn County Board of Elections will begin interviewing candidates for a new election supervisor next week, according to The Brunswick News.

“A lot depends on how many of the applicants we want to talk to and what the board (members’) schedules are,” Gibson said before the April meeting. “I would hope that by our May (14) meeting, we would be ready to make our decision.”

Elections staff sent out notices of three special-called meetings to take place this week and next — 10 a.m. Tuesday, 2 p.m. Thursday and 2 p.m. April 29.

All three interviews are set to be held in closed sessions.

Georgia DOT will institute intermittent lane closures on the Sidney Lanier Bridge as they rehab the structure, according to The Brunswick News.

GDOT spokeswoman Jill Nagel said workers will be doing routine maintenance on the bridge joints starting Monday, replacing parts that need to be replaced.

Lane closures will occur intermittently during daylight hours on weekdays through July. Nagel said lane closures will typically occur only on one side at time, but workers may close a lane on each side on occasion.

Savannah Alderman Julian Miller will not run for reelection this year, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Some Warner Robins residents fear low-income housing will bring more crime, according to the Macon Telegraph.

19
Apr

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

According to tradition, on April 21, 753 B.C., Rome was founded. The one in Italy, not the one in Floyd County.

On April 21, 1732, King George II signed the royal charter creating the colony of Georgia. The King’s signature did not make the charter effective as several additional steps were required.

On April 19, 1775, British troops entered Lexington, Massachusetts, encountering 77 armed Minute Men.

British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun.

Two hours later, another confrontation between the British and American patriots took place in Concord, Massachusetts.

On April 21, 1789, John Adams was sworn in as the first Vice President of the United States.

On April 19, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the blockade of ports in “Rebellious States.”

Whereas an insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revenue can not be effectually executed therein conformably to that provision of the Constitution which requires duties to be uniform throughout the United States; and

….

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, with a view to the same purposes before mentioned and to the protection of the public peace and the lives and property of quiet and orderly citizens pursuing their lawful occupations until Congress shall have assembled and deliberated on the said unlawful proceedings or until the same shall have ceased, have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, in pursuance of the laws of the United States and of the law of nations in such case provided. For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid.

On April 20, 1861, Robert E. Lee resigned his commission as a Colonel in the United States Army.

Union forces skirmished against The Worrill Grays, a Georgia Reserve Militia, at the Battle of Culloden, 30 miles west of Macon on a date generally believed to have been April 19, 1865, though it may have occurred later.

On April 21, 1904, Ty Cobb made his debut in professional baseball for the Augusta (Georgia) Tourists in the South Atlantic League in center field; Cobb hit an inside-the-field home run and a double.

Manfred von Richthofen, known as “The Red Baron,” was killed in action on April 21, 1918, shot by either an Australian gunner or a Canadian. At the time of his death, Richthofen has shot down 80 aircraft in aerial combat.

On April 20, 1982, the Atlanta Braves set a major league record, winning the first twelve games of the regular season.

Former President Jimmy Carter was appointed Distinguished Professor at Emory University on April 21, 1982. Carter holds an annual Town Hall in which he takes questions from students.

On April 20, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation authorizing a $165 billion dollar bailout for Social Security, saying,

“This bill demonstrates for all time our nation’s ironclad commitment to Social Security. It assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago. It assures those who are still working that they, too, have a pact with the future. From this day forward, they have one pledge that they will get their fair share of benefits when they retire.”

On April 21, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Israel. From the press statement released that day,

The MOA reiterates for the public record our long-standing relationship of strategic cooperation with Israel. Strategic cooperation can only succeed when there are shared interests, including the commitment to building peace and stability in the region. It reflects the enduring U.S. commitment to Israel’s security. That commitment will never flag. The U.S. commitment to peace will also not flag. The President knows that a strong Israel is necessary if peace is to be possible. He also knows that Israel can never be truly secure without peace.

On April 20, 1992, Governor Zell Miller signed legislation naming Pogo ‘Possum the official state possum of Georgia.

On April 19, 1995, Governor Zell Miller signed legislation declaring the peanut the Official State Crop.

On April 20, 1999, two students entered Columbine High School in Colorado and killed twelve student and one teacher, and wounded 23 others before shooting themselves.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Democratic Congresswoman Lucy McBath (D-6) told the AJC her campaign returned a contribution to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

The McBath campaign told us this morning that the contribution was not accepted.

Omar is one of two Muslim lawmakers elected to Congress in 2018. She has recently been criticized by Republicans, including President Donald Trump, who allege she recently spoke too lightly of 9/11 during a speech last month. She has also made remarks interpreted by many as anti-Semitic.

McBath’s rejection of the donation is more important than it may sound. The Sixth District has a significant Jewish population – particularly in Sandy Springs and east Cobb County.

Liberal group Better Georgia is closing down, according to the AJC.

Funded anonymously, but with clear ties to former Gov. Roy Barnes, Better Georgia conducted quick-strike ad campaigns (in 2015, to fend off a “religious liberty” measure) and commissioned polls (to encourage state Sen. Jason Carter to run for governor in 2014).

But Better Georgia has now shuttered its doors. The era of Democratic guerilla warfare is done, replaced by the direct assault of a state party now led by Stacey Abrams and her followers.

Democrat Andrew Yang visited Atlanta for his erstwhile campaign for President, according to the AJC.

Yang has a good chance of appearing onstage in the Democratic primary debates, since he says he has raised money from more than 100,000 individual donors — well past the benchmark to qualify for the debates.

Yang, 44, chose Georgia as one of the 15 states on his “Humanity First Tour,” another symbol of the Democratic energy aimed at Georgia ahead of the 2020 election. Several Democratic hopefuls have visited the state since launching presidential bids this year, including U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

Republican Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) spoke highly of Attorney General Barr’s release of the Mueller report, according to AccessWDUN.

The Gainesville Republican, in a statement released shortly after Barr released the report, praised him for working with the special counsel’s team to make “necessary redactions” to a report he is sharing with Congress in “good faith, not by mandate.”

“I look forward to examining the mountain of facts supporting the principal conclusions the attorney general and deputy attorney general shared last month: no collusion, no obstruction,” Collins, the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, added. “I am encouraged by the Democrats and Republicans who have expressed their faith in Special Counsel Mueller’s integrity and ability.”

Republican Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) spoke to students at Brunswick High School, according to The Brunswick News.

Carter spent about an hour Thursday morning meeting with the freshman government classes at Brunswick High, answering their questions and explaining his priorities for the district he represents.

“We’ll see what happens with that [Mueller] report when it comes out in just a few minutes,” Carter said. “The whole world is going to be watching today. This is big. Today’s a big day in Washington, D.C., primarily because of this.”

The students asked Carter what he feels are the most pressing issues on his agenda today, and he said environmental protections and health care improvements are at the top of his list.

“I have been selected and appointed to a committee, a select committee on climate change,” he told the students. “I’m very proud and very happy to be on that committee. We’re dealing with climate change right now.”

Savannah has a $15.8 million dollar budget surplus, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The city ended last year with almost $15.8 million left to spend and is now planning on using those funds to bolster Savannah’s capital improvement program, shore up the reserve fund, and cover a compensation study’s recommended pay adjustments.

The surplus primarily stemmed from expenses coming in about $12.2 million below budgeted amounts after a hiring freeze and other cost-saving measures were implemented, according to a financial report presented to the Savannah City Council during a workshop Thursday.

In addition to investing almost $2.3 million into the city’s reserve fund, the city plans to devote $13.5 million from the surplus for capital expenses. The plan — which goes before the Savannah City Council for consideration Thursday — includes $5.8 million to construct a new base of operations for departments being relocated from the site where the city is building a new arena.

Tybee Island is bracing for Orange Crush, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Last year the city council voted unanimously to implement new traffic control measures that will assist with traffic flow. Those measures were in place March 16 and will be in place Saturday as well as April 27 and July 4. The next two Saturdays are the anticipated dates of the unpermitted annual Orange Crush celebration.

The dates were selected because the traffic flow onto and off the island showed distinctive patterns that correlated with increased demand on city services and increased frequency of drivers under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, said Tybee Island City Manager Shawn Gillen.

“April 20 and 27 present unique challenges because no one obtains a permit,” Gillen said about the unpermitted Orange Crush. “We have communicated in writing with the primary promoters to the effect that they will be held financially accountable for their continued promotions in the absence of any effort to secure a permit.

The traffic protocols are intended to maintain emergency services access to the entire island during times of high vehicular volume, according to officials.

Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar withdrew his application for a license to serve alc0hol, according to the Statesboro Herald.

As previously reported, he and his wife, Adrianne McCollar, plan to operate an event venue there called Peachtree on Main. But at least for now, it will not be licensed to sell and serve alcoholic beverages. After filing the application Feb. 12, Mayor McCollar said in mid-March that they hoped to open the business this week. But the application, like all new alcohol licenses, would have required City Council approval, and it did not appear on the agendas for meetings through March and into April.

“I withdrew it, and the reason I decided to withdraw that is because I didn’t think it was good timing for the city to have to go through this process,” McCollar said last week. “So at this time I just felt it was best to withdraw it and just really focus on the needs of the city.”

House Bill 218 by Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville) changes eligibility requirements for some HOPE scholarship recipients, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

“Sometimes life just gets in the way,” said Rep. Rick Williams, a Republican from Milledgeville, who is the sponsor. “And we need people to be able to have a little more time to complete their education.”

The measure gives would-be students a decade to take advantage of the lottery-funded scholarship program. Currently, they have seven years.

And time spent serving in the military would not eat up a person’s eligibility time.

“Whether it’s starting a family or military service or illness or whatever circumstance, this allows them to go back and get a degree, further their education and participate more in the workforce,” Williams said.

The extension would only apply to those who become eligible for HOPE starting this year, meaning the changes would not begin to have an impact until 2027.